35 Thoughts on When and How to Raise Your Freelancing Web Design Rates

by Laura Spencer

November 1, 2013 in Business/Freelance

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Freelancing rates are one of the most emotionally charged issues that we freelancers discuss online. People have all kinds of opinions when it comes to rates. But it’s a topic that often comes up during this time of the year. Many freelancers naturally want to increase their rates when a new year rolls around.

If you plan to raise your rates in January, now is the time to start planning for your rate increase.

Most new freelance web designers struggle to figure out what to charge for their services. As a result, they often end up charging too little. Of course, there are some basic pricing principles you can follow to determine how much you should be earning.

But what if you started out wrong? What if you’re already earning far less than you should be earning? What do you do then?

In this post, I provide 35 thoughts on when and how to raise your freelancing web design rates. I’ll provide clear signs that it’s time to raise your rate. I’ll also list some strategies to help you earn more money.

Clear Signs It’s Time for a Raise

How can you tell when it’s time to increase your rates? Here are some signs that you should be asking for more money:

  1. You’re very busy. If you have more clients than you can handle, it’s time to charge more. A rate increase won’t scare off your best clients.
  2. Your rates are substandard. When you rates are less than rates charged by other freelancers, it’s a sign you can charge more. Compare your rates to published rates for your field. If yours are significantly less, it’s time for a raise.
  3. Your client offers you more. When your clients tell you that they would be willing to pay you more money, it’s a good sign that you should raise your rates.
  4. You focus on volume. If your main focus is on volume of work (such as how many websites you can set up) instead of on quality, it’s definitely time to raise your rates and shift your focus.
  5. It’s been a while. If many years have gone by since you started freelancing and your rates are still the same, you are overdue for a raise. Your goal should be to earn more each year.
  6. You have measurable success. If you’ve made a quantifiable difference for a client, it’s a good time to ask for a higher rate. An example of this might be designing a landing page with a high conversion rate.
  7. Too much overtime. If you’re constantly working overtime and on the weekends just to make ends meet, it’s time to charge more. Working extra hours should be the exception, and not the rule.
  8. You’re struggling. It’s time to raise your rates if your own costs and expenses have gone up. You have to make ends meet, just like everyone else.

Strategies to Help You Earn More

Are you ready to start earning more? Here are some strategies to help you raise your prices:

  1. Make an announcement. Announce on your website that you will not accept projects below a certain dollar amount. Then stick to that limit.
  2. Specialize your services. Specialists can generally command a higher rate than generalists can.
  3. List your achievements. If you’ve gotten an award, make that part of your marketing and explain how it adds value to your services. For example, include wording like “…over 200 clients have used our award-winning design services, and you can too…
  4. Ease into new prices. Decide which clients will receive the new pricing. Some freelancers only charge their new rates to new clients and continue charging their old rates to existing clients. This is not a good strategy if there is a large difference between your old and new rate.
  5. Set a date. Implement a deadline when old pricing will no longer be valid and stick to it.
  6. Only increase some prices. You can also decide to raise your rates for certain services only. Some services are more time intensive than others. These services should cost more.
  7. Add high-end services. You can add new premium services to what you offer to your clients. A premium service might include such extras a social media promotion or adding special features to a website.
  8. Upsell. Another way to raise your income is to think of add-ons to package with your services.
  9. Use testimonials. Prospects are more likely to accept a higher quote when they can read about the experiences of satisfied clients.
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  11. Offer a prepayment discount. Raise your rates, but offer a discount to clients who pay your entire fee in advance. At least this way you don’t have to worry about reminding the client to pay you and there’s no risk that you won’t get the money.
  12. Use the client’s budget. Find out what the client’s budget for the project is and price your services accordingly. Usually, the client is willing to pay more than you realize. The best way to get this information is to ask for it.
  13. Charge extra for rush work. Rush work is an inconvenience for you, but a convenience for the client. They should have to pay for that convenience.
  14. Charge a late payment fee. If it’s allowed where you live, charge a late fee for clients who don’t pay promptly. This has two effects. It encourages the client to pay on time and it gives you a small amount of extra money when they don’t.
  15. Stop letting the client set your rate. Don’t ask “what are you willing to pay?” Instead, get the details about what they want done and quote a price to them.
  16. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to lowball offers of work. It may seem like that’s the only work out there, but the truth is that if you work at marketing, you will find higher paying gigs.
  17. Be confident when you present your prices. You are good at what you do, that’s why you freelance. There’s no reason for you to accept substandard rates.
  18. Explain the details of what you will do. Most clients underestimate the amount of work that goes into a project. Providing details helps.
  19. Target different clients. If you are consistently earning far less than you should be earning, you may be targeting the wrong clients.
  20. Improve your skills. Having some specialized skills can be worth extra money. Learn what types of skills are worth more money in your field and take a class to master them.
  21. Weed out any low paying projects. Are you already spending a lot of your time on low paying projects? If you are, start replacing these projects with higher paying gigs.
  22. Make sure your contact pool is large. But don’t just build up a large number of contacts. Stay active. Communicate with your contacts on a regular basis. A mailing list can be a great way to do this.
  23. Put an expiration date on proposals. You don’t want a client coming back years later and asking you to work for an old rate, do you? My quotes usually expire after about 60 days.
  24. Re-evaluate your high maintenance clients. Even a seemingly high paying client can be high maintenance. Keep track of how much time you actually spend working for these clients and calculate what your hourly rate on these projects actually is. If the actual number is too low, it’s time to let the high maintenance client go.
  25. Learn to manage your time. If you can cut back on the amount of time you waste, you will be more productive. Higher productivity means you can take on more clients and earn more.
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  27. Consider a percentage increase. This works well if you work for clients at various rates and the jump to your new rate would be too high for some of your clients. Try increasing your rate on future quotes by 10% for each client who pays below your hourly goal until you are earning your goal for all clients.
  28. Just do it. Don’t make a big deal. The next time you quote a project, base it on your new rates. Don’t apologize. You don’t even have to announce it if you don’t want to.
  29. Take on a side project. Consider a side project such as selling premium WordPress themes or affiliate sales to increase your income.

Your Turn

Do you plan to raise your web design rates any time soon?

What strategy will you use to raise your rates? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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About Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.

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