How to ask your client for a raise

I was chatting with a copywriter earlier this week who had a question I’ve been asked dozens of times before. “How do I increase my fees with a current client?”

That’s a tough one. After all, you don’t want to lose the goodwill you’ve built up with that client. Nor do you want to jeopardize any future work that might otherwise come your way.

So how do you ask for a raise?

Say, for example, you landed a client five years ago when you just launched your writing business. Your rates were low back then — perhaps too low. (Hey, you were just starting out!)

But now your fees are much higher. And you want to do something about that older client who continues to benefit from your services at bargain-basement prices.

There are a few things you can do.

First — and this may surprise you — you could keep the rates for that client just as they are. That’s right. Don’t change a thing.

I have a client who started with me eight years ago. My rates have increased considerably during that time, but I’ve never raised his rates. He pays the same today as he did eight years ago.

And he knows it.

I’ll probably never raise his rates. The work is still profitable for me. And the client is so loyal that I expect to be working with him for another eight years.

Why would I mess with that?

That being said, you still might want to increase your rates with a current client. If so, here’s a strategy that tends to work well.

  • First, let the client know that your rates will be increasing on such and such a date. (Make “such and such” at least two months away.)
  • Then, explain that because he’s such a valuable client, you’re going to give him a two-month extension. (So his rates won’t actually increase for four months.)

That’s it. A very simple strategy, I know, but effective. In fact, assuming that your price increase is reasonable, most clients will be fine with it — and appreciative of the extension.

“How much of an increase is reasonable?” you might be asking. In my experience, most clients will accept a 10-15% increase in fees. Maybe even 20%.

But not much higher.

Most clients will balk at a 100% increase, for example, even if the higher fee is justified. (Imagine how you’d react if your babysitter announced her rates were doubling!)

So, plan ahead, keep your fee increase modest, and use the above technique. In most cases, you’ll get the “raise” you deserve.


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