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How to Get New Clients AND Raise Your Rates (Win!)

This is a guest post from the always-ossum Sharon Hurley Hall. Great advice that I’m honored to share with you here, check it out:

Boba Fett Was A FreelancerThere are two issues that many freelancers struggle with. The first is how to get more clients. The second is how to put their prices up to the point where they don’t feel like getting shafted every time they write. The good news is that it’s possible to do both of those things – and sometimes you can even do them at the same time.  Here are a few examples of how that might work.

Typically, new freelancers spend a lot of time bidding for work and promoting themselves when they need work, then stop marketing once they get busy. We all know that’s a mistake, but many of us feel we don’t have time to market. The good news is that even if you’re not sending out a weekly marketing blitz, there are subtle ways to attract clients.

Subtle Marketing Method #1

One of my favourites is the humble e-mail signature, which is a good way of keeping the work you are doing in front of the clients you already have. The way I look at it, I’m going to be emailing those clients anyway, so why not show off some of the work I’m doing for other clients?  That’s why I usually include a link to a recent piece of writing that I’m really happy with as part of my e-mail signature. This is marketing at its most passive but it can lead to clients seeing what else you can do and recommending you to people who need your services.

Subtle Marketing Method #2

Another subtle way to get clients is by using Facebook – and I don’t mean by using a fan page. (There are plenty of other people who can do a better job of advising you on that.) I’m talking about occasionally – and I do mean occasionally -  sharing some of your best work on your personal profile. I do this from time to time and sometimes my friends reshare my work. I sometimes include a comment about how much I liked the gig and why I’d like to do more of the same – the kind of remark you might naturally make to your friends in face to face conversation. Out of 150+ friends, there are probably at least a couple who will share your work and recommend you to someone else. Don’t underestimate how powerful this type of recommendation can be.

In-Your-Face Marketing

Subtlety is all very well and good, but sometimes you have to hit potential clients over the head with a virtual club and drag them back to your cave. I’m talking about letting them know you want them by:

  • saying that you are available for work via your social media channels and specifying what type of project you are looking for.
  • putting case studies and examples of the work you have done on your professional blog (you do have one, right?)
  • asking current clients for testimonials and, when you get them, sending a note of thanks which includes your interest in working with people like them. Recommendations from satisfied clients are pretty powerful sales tools too.

Raising Rates for New Clients

Once these marketing methods have brought new clients through the door, then it’s time to think about how to get the kind of remuneration that makes you happy – something many new freelancers struggle with. There’s lots of advice around on pricing your services, so I won’t cover that here. But once you find your target figure, how do you get it?

It’s particularly easy with new clients, because they have no pre-existing expectations of your rates. (That’s how you do both at the same time.) Now, let me be clear: I am not a fan of gouging clients. However, I’m a big fan of earning a fair rate for writing work. Basically, you have nothing to lose by adding a bit to your regular rate when you quote for a job, especially if you already have lots of work in hand. If you don’t get any pushback then you know that you’re in the right zone for the client’s budget (and they may even have expected to pay more). Do this enough times and your overall basic rate will go up, pushing you ever closer to your ideal income target.

Meeting Clients Halfway

Sometimes you will have a new client whose budget for writing services is lower than you had in mind. You can either decide not to work with them or negotiate a compromise.  I recently took the second option with a new ghostwriting client. I wanted the gig because it got me into a new area of writing with a company from a different country, which are both good for my career. So I agreed to do a batch of posts on project management at the top end of their budget. When it was time for them to book the second batch, I asked for an increase on the basis that they had seen the quality of my work and loved it. And I got it, too! It never hurts to ask.

Raising Rates for Existing Clients – Increase Your Offering

Raising rates for existing clients can be more challenging, because they are already accustomed to paying you at a particular level. One option is to provide additional services for your client that mean that they get more value. These don’t have to be huge. It could be something like doing a press release for an ebook you wrote for them, or agreeing to give their posts some social media love. There are a few more examples in this post on DoNanza’s BossLess blog.

Raising Rates for Existing Clients – Just Tell Them

Sometimes, though, you don’t want to provide additional services, but you still have to bring those rates up. I’ve found that if you don’t raise them too often, clients accept a rates rise.

Although I don’t have to spell it out, my reasons include:

  • additional expertise in the writing business
  • additional expertise in meeting their needs
  • an inflation increase (if I were employed I’d get a cost of living increase at least every couple of years)

Ignoring the Demons

There’s one final thing to say about both clients and rates. Sometimes you think that if you turn a client down it’s the end of the world, because surely it’s better to have a crappy writing job than none at all. I’m not going to lie to you – there are times when you just need some money coming in. But a measured approach where you swap out those low paid jobs for better paid ones will bring your income up and allow you to enjoy freelancing – and isn’t that what it’s all about?


Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has also included stints as a journalist, academic writer and ghost writer. She mentors other writers on Follow Sharon on Twitter at @shurleyhall.


Photo by  Scott Beale


Sharon, so many good ideas you've given me. See, you really <i>can</i> teach an old dog new tricks. ;-)


Nice - well thought out, Sharon and I'd never thought of using social media and just stating I'm looking for ghostwriting work... to obvious... going to try it and I'll let you know.


Thanks, Lori. You definitely have to tough it out sometimes and hold out for something better, and it usually comes along. 


Great minds think alike, Sharon. I just told Samar that first point in an interview!


Super post. Love the "Ignoring the demons" advice! It's so easy to say "I'll work for five bucks because I need five bucks." Much tougher to say "I won't work for five bucks because I'm worth a hundred bucks and I'm going to go find that now, thankyouverymuch."



Great post Sharon!


I publish my rates online so I have a simple two step process for raising rates.


I put up an update on my Hire Me page that rates would be going up with a 1 month notice so that new clients can hire me on my current rates.  Retainer clients will get those rates for 6 months before they'll be raised.


For existing client, I send out personal, individual emails letting them know that my rates would be going up and give them 1 month notice with the option to book me for more work and pay  in advance if they want to take advantage of my current rates.


I don't do it often though. And have an internal rule of only raising my rates with a client once - unless that relationship exceeds a couple of years.


 @AnneWayman I see a lot of people stating their availability on Twitter, Anne, and there also used to be a site (called something like Tweetjobs) that helped people search for gigs that way. I figure you have nothing to lose. :)


 @Samarowais That's a great approach, Samar. And I think existing clients don't mind rate increases if they don't happen too often.


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