ASH AMBIRGE

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How to Raise Your Rates (Without Pissing Anyone Off)

In: Client Nightmares

Money: Love making it. Hate asking for it.

(Unless the Tooth Fairy's involved, in which case it's all PAY UP, ASSHOLE.)

Money talk makes us sweaty and uncomfortable and fidgety—mostly because we're all trying to pretend money “ain't a thing” when, in reality, it is a thing, and it's called shoes.

But just because you'd rather talk to a stranger about your period than ask a client for more money, the time comes when you're going to have to, ahem, ask a client for more money.

A prime example: This coming January when you really want to raise your rates but your upper lip hairs tremble uncontrollably at the thought of having…THE CONVERSATION.

YOU: Um, so, I was wondering if, um, well you see, I, uh…I RAISED MY RATES PLEASE DON'T YELL AT ME!

CLIENT: You did WHAT?

YOU: I, well, I, uh…

CLIENT: Despicable. Who do you think you are? You raised your rates? Well I, for one, am not going to stand for this abomination. I'll be going to…your competitor.

YOU: No, no, you misunderstood!

CLIENT: *raises eyebrow*

YOU:  I said I like to lift weights! Please come…spot me?

CLIENT: *snarl*

YOU: *drags lifeless body back to desk*

Fortunately, that scenario isn't a likely one—no matter what tomfoolery is going through your imagination. And even though you're worried asking for more money will make you seem selfish / greedy / slimy / ungrateful / Paris Hilton, making the ask only works in your favor: You communicate you're in demand, earn the client's respect, and ultimately, they'll value your work even more. When it's done right, they'll view you as a confident professional—not a con artist.

So how do you make the ask—without sounding desperate, grubby, or in layman's terms, stupid?

Don't make a polite ask.
Make a professional statement.

  1. You're in charge of your business and your rates–not your client.
    So act like you're in charge. That means communicating the information directly and with confidence as if it were the most natural thing in the world—and your client will have confidence in your decision. Communicate with hesitation, however—meekly asking what they would think if, or how they would feel if—and the client will see it as an invitation to negotiate.
  2. When you have to deliver a blow, pad it with generosity.
    By offering the client a special deal to get a lower rate if they book now, they feel valued and it lessens the ouch! factor. Bonus? You get extra cash flow. A great example of this just happened to me the other day; Adobe sent a letter saying their database had been compromised, and it's possible that sensitive information—like my credit card number—was leaked. So how did they lessen my ouch! factor? By gifting me a free year of identity theft monitoring with Experian. Coming from a PR background I can say this is pretty standard practice, but it's not always common practice. Good work, Adobe.
  3. Let 'em know well in advance, and set the expectation ahead of time.
    Don't wait for the client to email you in March, and then spring a rate increase on them. Then the client will get snarly. Rather, make it a habit to give early warning, and even better? Get in the practice of sending out a standard yearly rate & fee card – perhaps coupled with a fun note, gift card to Starbucks, or other unexpected pleasantry. This way, you train your clients to expect rate increases as a normal part of doing business—and not something they take personally. When I used to be in advertising sales, we'd send clients a beautiful magazine-like rate card well in advance—and not only did they learn to expect it, they started asking for it. And guess what? This practice doubles as a way to say, “Hey! Remember me! Hi!” to clients you haven't worked with in a while.

Asking for money you deserve isn't always the most comfortable, but it doesn't have to be uncomfortable, either.

Worst case scenario: You lose a client.

Best case scenario? You gain a business.

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