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“How do I raise my rates without making it awkward?”

In: Communication Skills

Well isn't this the motherloving question of the year.

It gets asked a lot sometime between the stages of that time you started your business and worked for peanuts because you were feeling wildly insecure about your worth and holy bananas I've been doing this for years and I'm still barely making rent even though I work around the clock, my armpits stink, and I haven't seen the outside in days.

You've come to the sobering reality that your rates are embarrassingly low…but you haven't had the guts to raise them just yet. Why? Probably one of the following:

  • I have no idea how to have the conversation with my clients
  • I don't want to seem like a greedy schmuck
  • I don't know how much is too much?
  • I don't have any justification for the price increase
  • Everything feels willy nilly
  • What if I lose clients? I can't afford to lose clients
  • What if nobody ever hires me again at the higher rate?
  • It's too complicated; I'll put this on the back burner for now while I put out 40 other fires

There's just one problem: Your business is ta-ta-tanking in the meantime.

Here's the deal:

Raising your rates is a natural part of doing business—like breathing, only with less moisture. (Or something.)

And even though it feels scary? Your clients are probably wondering why you charge so little.

Every single pricing decision is a statement about your brand. Just the other day, our boat charter company got a call from a prospective client and said, “I like you guys, but…how come you're priced so low? Is there something wrong with the boat?” (We were running a special promo which is why rates were significantly lower than usual.)

The good news? If you've been thinking about raising your rates for a while now, the new year is the perfect time to do it. When I worked in advertising, I'd send clients new rate cards every year like clockwork. It wasn't this big, hairy deal; it was a part of our process.

And that, right there, is the key.

How you present the rate increase to your clients is far more important than the rate increase itself.

If you approach it like you feel bad, the client's going to feel bad about it.
If you approach it like you're sorry, the client's going to feel sorry, too.
If you approach it like it's a big deal, the client's going to think it's a big deal, too.

Your clients feed off of your behavior. When a child skins their knee, do you run up to them and scream bloody murder? Or do you act calm and totally at ease, in order to make the child feel calm and totally at ease? (Not to compare clients to children, but if the shoe fits…wink.)

It's about telling your clients professionally, rather than asking them politely.

This all goes back to managing expectations.

And if you freak out about it / dread the moment / aren't sure if you should / are convinced it's going to go poorly?

Then maybe the first person's expectations you need to politely manage…are your own.

Need more help with this? Check out Unf*ckwithable Words!

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