WRITING | FREELANCING
Beyond Sticker Shock
Why writers should demand their worth and how to do it
As writers, we’ve all had that moment with clients: the one where you mention your writing rates and they suddenly suffer from sticker shock. Sometimes your rates aren’t even that high, but the total you will charge for the whole project makes clients balk. Or maybe you have an existing client whose rates no longer match your current minimum.
When you’re new to freelancing, this is usually the moment where you dial down the figure that you want to give the client a number they can live with. The result? Your client might be happy, but you certainly won’t be, because you’ll feel undervalued. Long term, you’ll lose your self-respect and you won’t feel good about your client, either.
“Don’t dial down your rate. You’re not helping anyone by subsuming your needs to your client’s wallet.”
The truth is, you’re not helping anyone by subsuming your needs to your client’s wallet. In my experience clients can suffer from sticker shock whether you are charging $50 dollars or $500 an article. To get the rate you’re worth, you need to move the conversation away from price and towards the value of your writing services. Here are some ways to do that:
1. Work out what you need to earn
Don’t share this figure with your client; this is for you. This is a starting point for working out your rates and determining at what rate a particular writing job is no longer worth doing. Use the free freelance project hourly rate calculator from All Freelance Writing to help with this.
“When you visit the doctor you don’t pay for the 10 minute consultation, you pay for the time spent building up their skills to give you the right health advice.”
Remember to include the time you spend on tasks like:
- Reading and research
- Drafting interview questions
- Thinking about how to illustrate the article — this is an additional service
- Client communication to get the parameters of the job clear and to smooth out anything that needs fixing after your first draft.
- Article revisions
2. Add a premium for your skill
The most important thing that some writers forget — and their clients do too — is that writing is a skill. The more you do it, the better you get. If you have been writing for a certain number of years, have developed expertise or contacts that benefit your client, or have a huge social media following, then you bring more value to the table.
“Social media promotion has a value for your client — and that value must be reflected in your rate.”
As I’ve said before, when you visit the doctor you don’t pay for the 10 or 20 minute consultation, you pay for all the time they have spent building up their skills to give you the right advice on your health. That’s the analogy to use to convey your value to your clients.
3. Itemize what’s included
Every time you write an article, blog post, white paper or other piece of content, you do things that have value for your clients. When you quote, let clients know what these are.
For example, when I talk to people about my blogging work I itemize tasks such as: research, idea generation, writing, internal and external linking, search engine optimization, formatting and more. I also include image sourcing, ghostwriting in the right voice, and uploading posts (including SEO).
Remember to include social media promotion. While you may choose to do that for your own reasons, (such as promoting yourself to other prospective clients) never forget that this has a value for your client — and that value must be reflected in your rate.
4. Show the value of what you love
Another thing I do is use my interests and attributes as sales tools. I tell clients that my interest in everything makes me a great researcher and that my love of web tools makes me the right person to recommend tools both to them and their clients. I’m sure that you have interests that you could use in the same way.
5. Pre-empt the conversation
Sometimes you don’t want to have that sticker shock moment at all. Use your website to pre-qualify clients. After years of keeping my rates firmly in my head, I decided to put guide prices on my website and send anyone looking to hire me to my services page.
There’s also lots of information on the site about my skills, my business values and my previous work. The result is that people wanting to work with me already know where the price floor is and even those who try to negotiate don’t go as low as they did before.
The strategies above work well for new clients, but what if you want to raise rates for existing clients? Let’s face it, you gain writing experience all the time and there’s inflation to think about, too!
Here’s an edited version of a template I’ve used successfully a couple of times.
When I started writing for [website name], we agreed we’d review my rate after a few months.
I’ve now been contributing to the site for more than six months and I think you’d agree that I deliver value in the shape of:
- quality research and writing
- providing good screenshots and illustration
- an in-depth knowledge of SEO
- lots of writing experience
I also share posts widely to more than 4000 followers on various social media outlets, extend the reach of your content.
As such, I’d love it if you’d consider raising the rate per post to something closer to the [insert target rate] I get from other clients for that quality of work. I’d be happy to discuss this in more detail .
The first time I used it, I got a 75% rate increase (yes, I was undercharging); the second time, I got a 10% increase. In both cases, I was pretty happy.
The point is that if you know your value, can articulate it and refuse to accept less, you can move beyond that sticker shock moment to work with clients who value great writing. What strategies have you used to negotiate your rate upwards?