4 min read

The Freelancer's Guide to Giving Yourself a Raise

As a freelancer, you're the boss, the employee, and the HR department all rolled into one caffeinated, slightly frazzled package. The good news? You don't need anyone's permission to give yourself a raise. The bad news? You actually have to figure out how to do it.
The Freelancer's Guide to Giving Yourself a Raise
Photo by Alexander Mils / Unsplash

Remember the days of working for The Man, anxiously waiting for your annual review to see if you'd get that coveted 3% raise? Yeah, me neither. (Okay, I do, but let's pretend those memories are hazier than they actually are.)

As a freelancer, you're the boss, the employee, and the HR department all rolled into one caffeinated, slightly frazzled package. The good news? You don't need anyone's permission to give yourself a raise. The bad news? You actually have to figure out how to do it.

But fear not, my fellow freelance warriors! I'm here to share some tried-and-true strategies for bumping up your income without resorting to begging, sorcery, or selling a kidney on the black market. (Please don't do that last one. You need both kidneys. Trust me on this.)

The "I'm Not Getting Paid Enough for This" Audit

Before we dive into raise-getting strategies, let's take a moment for some self-reflection. When was the last time you actually looked at your rates? If you're like most freelancers, the answer is probably "Uh... when I started freelancing?"

It's time for an audit, my friend. And I promise it'll be more fun than a tax audit. (Low bar, I know, but work with me here.)

  1. Calculate your effective hourly rate
    • Take your monthly income and divide it by the number of hours you actually work (all work, not just client work).
    • Prepare to be shocked. And maybe a little sad.
  2. Compare your rate to industry standards
    • Check out freelance job boards, ask fellow freelancers, or consult industry reports.
    • If you're charging less than the going rate, it's definitely time for a raise.
  3. Factor in your expertise and experience
    • Have you leveled up your skills since you last set your rates?
    • Are you still charging intern prices with expert-level experience?

I'm Actually Worth More Than This—Mindset Shift

Here's a hard truth: If you don't believe you're worth more, neither will your clients. It's time for a mindset makeover.

  1. List your accomplishments
    • What results have you achieved for clients?
    • What new skills have you acquired?
    • What challenges have you overcome?
  2. Gather testimonials and case studies
    • Nothing boosts confidence like proof of your awesomeness.
  3. Practice saying your new rates out loud
    • Seriously. Stand in front of a mirror and say, "My rate is $X per hour/project."
    • Keep practicing until you can say it without flinching or giggling nervously.

Pro Tip: Create a "Hype File" with screenshots of client praise, successful project outcomes, and any other evidence of your freelance superpowers. Review it whenever you need a confidence boost.

Stealth Wealth Strategy: Raising Rates for New Clients

If the thought of telling your existing clients about a rate increase makes you break out in hives, start with new clients.

  1. Set your new, higher rate for all new projects and clients.
  2. As you take on higher-paying work, gradually phase out lower-paying clients or projects.
  3. Use your success with new clients as leverage to raise rates with existing ones.

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The "My Prices are Going Up" Email Template

Okay, deep breath. It's time to tell your existing clients about your new rates. I promise it's not as scary as it seems. Here's a template to get you started:

Hi [Client],

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to let you know that as of [date], my rates will be increasing to [new rate]. This increase reflects [reason for increase - e.g., increased expertise, market rates, etc.]. I've greatly enjoyed working with you and am committed to continuing to deliver high-quality work that drives results for your business. If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out. I'm happy to discuss how we can continue our partnership under these new terms. Thank you for your understanding and continued support.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

Pro Tip: Give clients plenty of notice (at least a month) and consider offering to lock in your current rate for a limited time if they book projects in advance.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Sometimes, giving yourself a raise isn't about charging more—it's about making more with the same amount of work. Consider streamlining your processes. You could invest in tools that automate repetitive tasks or create templates for common deliverables.

Another way to work smarter is to specialize in high-value services. Identify your most profitable types of work and focus on getting more of those projects. Or you could offer upsells and package deals. "Would you like fries with that?" works for McDonald's, and it can work for you too.

Commit to Continuous Improvement

Here's the thing about giving yourself a raise: it's not a one-time event. It's an ongoing process of increasing your value and adjusting your pricing accordingly. You need to invest in your skills. Consider taking courses, attending conferences, and make sure you read industry publications. The more you know, the more you're worth.

Set reminders to review and adjust your rates regularly. I recommend every 6 to 12 months. And it's not just about your existing rates! Always be on the lookout for ways to add more value. Can you offer a new service? Solve a different problem for your clients?

Remember: You're not just a freelancer; you're a business. And businesses that don't grow stagnate.

You're Worth It

Giving yourself a raise isn't just about making more money (although that's a pretty nice perk). It's about valuing your work, respecting your expertise, and building a sustainable freelance career.

So, take a deep breath, crunch those numbers, and take the leap. Your bank account will thank you. Your stress levels will thank you. And your future self, the one sipping a fancy latte while turning down low-paying gigs? They'll definitely thank you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go practice saying my new rates in the mirror.

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