Negotiating freelance rates can be a daunting concept for beginners and experienced freelancers alike. It’s not easy to ask someone to give you more money! But in this guide, I’ll provide my top tips for coming out with a win-win situation when negotiating your freelance rates.
My 7 winning tips for negotiating freelance rates are:
- Calculate your minimum acceptable rate
- Research industry standard rates
- Craft persuasive proposals
- Sharpen your negotiation skills
- Create flexible pricing structures
- Define clear scope and deliverables
- Leverage value-added services
- Nurture client relationships
Following these tips will make it easier to ask for more money in the future. I’ll go into more detail on them below, and I’ll also list some things you shouldn’t do when asking for more money. As a bonus, I’ll also give you 3 freelance negotiation email templates as well!
7 Tips To Negotiate Higher Freelance Rates
1. Calculate Your Minimum Acceptable Rate
Before you dive into rate negotiation, it’s crucial to know your baseline. Your minimum acceptable rate (sometimes referred to as your MAR – but who needs more initialisms!) is the bottom line below which you refuse to or even can’t afford to go. You likely defined this in your initial freelance contract, but it will obviously fluctuate over time as your situation changes.
Calculate this rate by considering your basic living expenses, business costs, and the income you aspire to earn. It’s a simple sum of what you need to bring in to afford what you need to pay out while keeping some for yourself.
By understanding this number, you’ll have a solid foundation for any negotiation. It ensures that you don’t accept offers that would leave you struggling financially. Or otherwise just generally unhappy (it’s okay to want more money!).
2. Research Industry Standard Rates
One of the keys to successful rate negotiation is knowing your industry’s standard rates. Research what other professionals with similar skills and experience are charging for their services. Many online platforms and industry associations offer valuable data on freelance rates (forums can help too).
Armed with this information, you can confidently quote a rate that is both competitive and fair. Keep in mind that your rate should reflect your expertise and the value you bring to the table. Don’t look at the rates of those with 20 years of experience if you just started freelancing 2 months ago!
3. Craft Persuasive Proposals
A well-structured proposal can make all the difference in securing a higher freelancing rate. Start by addressing the client’s specific needs and challenges, then outline how your skills and experience uniquely qualify you to tackle those challenges.
Use language that emphasizes the value you bring to the project. Show the client that you understand their goals and have a clear plan for achieving them. A persuasive freelance proposal not only convinces clients of your capabilities but also sets the stage for a more favorable rate negotiation.
4. Sharpen Your Negotiation Skills
Invest time in honing your negotiation skills. Learn about techniques like anchoring (starting with a higher initial offer), mirroring (reflecting the client’s words and feelings), and objection handling (addressing concerns and objections with confidence).
But be prepared to walk away if the terms aren’t in your favor (within reason). A willingness to walk away communicates that you value your work and are not desperate for any project. This can often lead to better offers, and it shows the client that you are confident in your abilities.
Note: As I’ll discuss later, threatening to walk away doesn’t guarantee the client will give you what you want. In reality, there are lots of other freelancers out there that’ll do it for less than you’re asking. So it’s important to make it clear why you are of particular value to them.
5. Create Flexible Pricing Structures
Recognize that clients have varying budgets, and being flexible with your pricing can be a strategic advantage. Offer tiered pricing or packages that cater to different needs and budgets. This approach allows clients to choose a level of service that aligns with their financial resources while ensuring you’re compensated fairly for your work.
Flexibility can also lead to long-term relationships with clients who may initially have limited budgets but value your services enough to invest more in the future.
6. Define Clear Scope And Deliverables
Clarity is your ally in freelance rate negotiations. Clearly outline the project’s scope, deliverables, and timelines in your initial proposal. Avoid vague language that can lead to misunderstandings. When both you and the client have a shared understanding of what’s expected, it’s easier to negotiate rates based on the work involved.
Any changes or additions to the scope should be discussed and agreed upon separately to prevent scope creep. This is when the project requirements change as time goes on, meaning you end up doing more work for the same amount of money.
7. Leverage Value-Added Services
Finally, set yourself apart from the competition by offering value-added services. These could include additional consultations, ongoing support, or unique expertise that few others possess. These extras can help you justify higher rates, as clients see the additional value they receive when working with you.
Demonstrating that you go above and beyond to meet their needs can make clients more willing to pay a premium for your services.
How Do You Ask For More Money As A Freelancer?
Negotiating for higher rates as a freelancer can be a nerve-wracking experience, but it’s a skill you must master to thrive in the industry. If for no other reason than the price of everything else is always rising, you need to continuously grow your income in the long run. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to ask for more money:
Timing Is Key
Choose the right moment to discuss rate adjustments. Typically, this should be when you’ve successfully delivered on initial expectations and established a positive working relationship with the client. Don’t do it after delivering just one job for the client, unless, after delivering it, it’s clear that the initial rate wasn’t fair.
When requesting a rate increase, highlight the value you’ve brought to the client’s projects. Mention any significant achievements, improvements, or additional services you’ve provided since the project began.
Use Research To Back You Up
Conduct research to support your request before asking anything. Show how your current rates align with industry standards and explain why your skills and experience warrant higher compensation. Don’t go into negotiations without doing this or you might quote rates well out of sync with what the client knows the market rates to be.
Approach the conversation with confidence. Be clear, concise, and professional in your communication. Avoid sounding desperate or apologetic about the rate increase.
If the client hesitates to agree to your proposed rate, be prepared to offer alternatives. This could include a phased increase or bundling additional services to sweeten the deal. The client may have their own concerns or limitations, and a willingness to find common ground can lead to a mutually beneficial agreement.
Document The Agreement
Once you’ve reached an agreement on the new rate, document it in writing. This ensures clarity and prevents misunderstandings down the line. You can use a contract creation tool like Bonsai to do this.
Deliver Quality Consistently
After securing your rate increase, continue to deliver high-quality work that justifies the client’s investment. Consistency is key to maintaining trust and securing future negotiations.
Remember that asking for more money is a normal part of freelancing, and most clients expect negotiations to happen. By following these steps and approaching the conversation professionally, you can increase your earning potential as a freelancer while maintaining positive client relationships.
Next, let’s look at some freelance rate negotiation email templates you can use to discuss your own rate increases with clients.
Freelance Rate Negotiation Email Templates
Feel free to adjust and use the templates below. Obviously tweak the details so it’s personalized to your clients, and change the tone as required. For example, you may be on friendlier terms with some clients, which might warrant a more informal tone.
Template 1: Requesting An Initial Rate Increase
Subject: Rate Adjustment Request
Dear [Client’s Name],
I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to express my gratitude for the opportunity to work with you on [Project Name]. It has been a pleasure collaborating and contributing to your project’s success so far!
As we continue our partnership, I’ve been reviewing the project’s progress and my role in achieving your goals. I believe that the value I bring to the table has grown significantly since we first agreed on my initial rate.
After careful consideration and research within our industry, I would like to discuss the possibility of a rate adjustment that better reflects the current market rates for freelancers with my level of expertise and the unique value I provide to your project.
I’m open to a constructive discussion about how we can align my compensation with the increased value I bring to your project. I respect and value our working relationship and I am committed to ensuring your project’s continued success.
Please let me know a convenient time for you to discuss this further. I’m open to any questions or concerns you may have.
Thank you for your understanding, and I look forward to continuing our work together.
Template 2: Negotiating A Rate Increase After Delivering Exceptional Results
Subject: Rate Adjustment Discussion
Hello [Client’s Name],
I hope you’re well. I wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation for the collaboration we’ve had on [Project Name]. It has been an exciting journey, and I’m proud of the progress we’ve made together.
I understand there have been some significant achievements and improvements as a result of my contributions. I believe these outcomes demonstrate the high value I bring to your project.
With this in mind, I would like to discuss the possibility of a rate adjustment that reflects the exceptional results and added value I have provided. My current rate is below the industry standard for professionals with my level of experience and expertise.
I’m eager to continue contributing to your project’s success, and I believe that an adjustment in compensation would be a fair acknowledgment of my dedication and the quality of work I deliver on a regular basis.
Could we schedule a brief call or meeting to discuss this in more detail? I’m open to your thoughts and any suggestions you may have.
Thank you for considering this request.
Template 3: Proposing A Rate Increase With Alternative Options
Subject: Discussion of Rate Increase
Hi [Client’s Name],
I hope you’re well. It has been a pleasure working with you on [Project Name], and I’m excited about the progress we’ve made together so far.
I have been reflecting on our partnership, and I believe that my contributions to the project have been instrumental in achieving our objectives. I’d therefore like to discuss the possibility of a rate adjustment that reflects the value I bring to your team.
I understand that budgets can be a concern, and I want to offer some flexibility in this discussion. I am open to exploring alternatives such as a phased rate increase over the next few months or providing additional services that align with your project’s goals.
I value our working relationship and I am committed to ensuring your project’s continued success. Please let me know a convenient time for you to discuss this further, or if you have any alternative suggestions.
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to finding a solution that benefits both of us.
How Not To Ask For More Money As A Freelancer
When it comes to negotiating for higher freelance rates, there are certain pitfalls you should avoid. Here’s a guide on how not to ask for more money as a freelancer:
Don’t Make Demands
Approaching a client with demands or ultimatums is a sure-fire way to sour the negotiation. Avoid statements like, “You must pay me more,” or “I won’t work for you unless you increase my rate.” Such a confrontational approach can damage the client relationship and lead to an impasse – or they might break things off entirely.
Avoid Emotional Appeals
While it’s essential to express your worth and enthusiasm for the project, don’t rely solely on emotional appeals when requesting a rate increase. Phrases like, “I really need this raise,” or “I’ve been working so hard,” might evoke sympathy, but they won’t necessarily justify a rate increase based on merit and value. They might just make you seem desperate for more money, rather than motivated to earn it.
Don’t Compare To Others
Avoid comparing your rates to those of other freelancers you know or have heard of. Saying, “My friend gets paid twice as much for similar work,” can come across as unprofessional and may not be relevant to your unique skills and circumstances. If you’re going to compare yourself to your industry average in general, be sure to match it up with others of your experience level.
Don’t Be Vague
Being vague about why you want a rate increase can hinder your negotiation efforts. Instead of saying, “I think I deserve more,” provide specific reasons, such as your improved skill set, additional responsibilities, or extra services you can provide.
Don’t Threaten To Leave
While it’s acceptable to mention the possibility of seeking other opportunities, threatening to leave abruptly can backfire. Freelancers who communicate that they are willing to walk away without any negotiation can damage their reputation and lose potentially valuable clients.
Avoid Being Too Confident
Confidence is essential in negotiations, but overconfidence can be a detriment. Don’t assume that your client will automatically agree to your rate increase. Maintain a respectful and open dialogue, acknowledging that the client’s perspective and budget also matter.
Don’t Forget To Prepare
Negotiating without proper preparation can lead to missed opportunities. Don’t go into a rate discussion without research, a clear understanding of your value, and a well-thought-out proposal. Being unprepared can make you appear less credible.
You could of course unknowingly ask for too much and not get it. Or worse – you could ask for too little!
Don’t Burn Bridges
Finally, even if a rate negotiation doesn’t go as planned, avoid burning bridges with the client. Maintaining professionalism and respect, regardless of the outcome, can leave the door open for future opportunities or referrals.
Asking For More Money As A Freelancer Doesn’t Need To Be Scary!
Hopefully my tips above make it clear that, with some solid preparation, asking for more money as a freelancer can be a win-win situation! Your clients continue to work with a motivated and fairly compensated freelancer, and you earn more money for your hard work.
Still unsure what to charge as a freelancer? Check out my guide to setting your freelance rates.