6 Elegant Ways Freelance Writers Can Raise Their Hourly Rates - Make a Living Writing

6 Elegant Ways Freelance Writers Can Raise Their Hourly Rates

Carol Tice | 24 Comments

Note from Carol — I’ve always considered late November to be the ideal time to ask for raises for 2012 from existing clients. And you can do it without begging, like the guy on the left there. So I was happy to get this guest post from Syed — enjoy!

By Syed Ali Abbas

When I was quite young, my father was a university lecturer at the government college. He would get a raise in his salary every year or two – courtesy of the government.

The day when he would be given his first increased salary was nothing less than a Christmas day. Mum would prepare the best foods, papa would bring our favorite gifts, and in the late afternoon we’d go to a local park or a cinema.

But the most extraordinary thing regarding that day, I still remember, was the face of my pa, glowing with serenity and honor. That’s what a raise in pay can do!

I am a freelance writer and I love my occupation. I love the flexibility to snooze and wake up whenever I want, to go for lunch break whenever I feel hungry, to visit the fitness center when it is not jam-packed with those who have just gotten off work, and to opt for R & R whenever I desire.

Nevertheless, the best thing is that I can grow my pay whenever I wish. Unlike my father, I don’t have to wait for years. You simply cannot put a price on that.

As a freelance writer, setting your hourly rate is rather baffling. Increasing it is even more confusing. I also suffered from the same dilemma before I discovered these six ground-breaking points:

1 – Say goodbye to freelance bidding sites

The freelance bidding portals are the biggest harm to a freelancer’s hourly rate. Though these websites arrange for a lot of easy connections to clients, cutthroat competition among the providers forces you to excruciatingly lower your price.

If you are at the very first stage of your freelance career, you should definitely consider these as an option. But it would be a miracle if you succeed in getting more than $20 an hour. If you want to cross this threshold, the best place to offer your services is through your own website or blog.

2 – Don’t kill the goose to get all the golden eggs at once

Client retention is a lot easier and hassle-free than client acquisition – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t increase your rates. However, when you do it, be careful.

If you increase your rate 100 percent instantly, your client might have the shock of their life. It is better to raise it in smaller proportions over time, so that your client hardly notices it.

Remember, your client is loyal because of your high-quality services, NOT your low rates!

3 Increase your rate for every new client and new project

The easiest way to increase your hourly rate is to raise it for every new client. Remember, you are gaining more experience by completing each project — which means now, you deserve more. On the flip side, changing your rates frequently might offend some buyers, so once you’ve quoted a rate, stick to it for a while.

4 – Publish a range of fees instead of a fixed fee

Step 2 and 3 will be hardly of any use if you have published a fixed hourly fee on your “Hire Me” page.

Why would a client pay even a single dollar more than you have stated? The sensible approach is to provide a range of fees. Tell prospects you will give them an exact quote once you know more about their project.

5 – Revolutionize your business/website

This can be a game-changer for your freelance career. When you believe you have learned all the essential tricks of the trade, go big. You could join up with another proficient freelance writer to make a crew of pros offering versatile services.

Revamp your website and give your client a pleasant surprise the next time they direct their browser to your homepage. If you are able to impress them, you can increase your price considerably.

6 – Work your heart out

Last but not the least — work like a horse, deliver like a postman and complete the project exactly as your client requested. Go the extra mile to oblige them. Your top-quality output will leave no room for the client to moan against your inflating rate.


Whenever you raise your price, present the news with confidence. You should have explanations to satisfy clients as to how they will get added services now or what makes you worthy of more pay. Be sure to highlight your growing familiarity with their publication or business, and any additional training or qualifications you’ve gained.

One vital tip:

As there is no lower limit to freelancing rates, there is not upper limit as well. So you can aim for the sky.

Do all your customers vanish after you increase your price? Then it is the time to honestly weigh your price tag against your skills and market rates. You can also get a second opinion from a fellow writer.

After the analysis, there are two possibilities: if you are satisfied with the results, then the lost client was no big loss. Alternatively, you should consider refining your knowledge  — or maybe take your foot off the gas pedal a little!

(One more note from Carol: Don’t ask a client you can’t afford to lose for a raise. Once you tell a client rates are going up, you need to either get the raise or walk away. Otherwise, if the client refuses to pay the higher rate and you stay, they know they can take advantage of you at low rates forever.)

Syed Ali Abbas is a freelance ghostwriter. If you liked this post, don’t miss any of his upcoming, inventive notions which he shares on his Writers Blog. You can also follow him on Twitter @NextGen_Writer.

Will you ask a client for a raise this year? Leave a comment and tell us why — or why not.

24 comments on “6 Elegant Ways Freelance Writers Can Raise Their Hourly Rates

  1. Madison Ruppert on

    So you would recommend setting an hourly rate above a per-word or a per-page rate? In my experience most people want to pay you per-word or per-page rather than per-hour unless you’re working in-house. How do you get clients that will pay you by the hour to begin with?

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Madison —

      Interesting question! The ideal way to get paid in my view is by the project on a flat fee. But however you get paid, it always really works out to an hourly rate, which you should track in any case. And your hourly rate is what really matters, since time is your most precious resource.

      Some projects usually end up charged by the hour such as rewrites or editing, because it’s difficult to estimate them for a project fee.

  2. Miguel Leiva-Gomez on

    Very good read! #1 I’ve already done. I don’t think I can do the others, since I just started with my clients a month ago since I left DMS.

    I plan to stick to my rates as long as running costs and living costs don’t rise so much. I reserve a day every 6 months to re-assess the budget.

    That last note you wrote is definitely some well-thought-out advice. I have one client that doesn’t pay very high, but he’s my bread and butter. I prefer to just keep the client, but I am going to negotiate a raise in a few months. The entity already made it clear of its appreciation for my work and the timeliness in which it’s finished (usually, much sooner than expected and above expectations in quality), so why not raise the bar a bit later on?

    By the way, Carol: I just got a new client that pays pretty handsomely. He answered right in time for Thanksgiving, and I took some of the advice on this site in consideration to nail the job!

  3. Cori Padgett on

    So glad you clarified that at the bottom Carol.. it’s definitely a fine line and when you ask for higher rates, you have to be prepared they will say no and you have to be prepared to let them go if they do. Otherwise you set a precedent and they realize that you might need them more than they need you, and the position of power becomes reversed. You become subject to what THEY think they should pay you rather than what you feel you deserve. Great post, mucho enjoyed!

  4. Cathie Ericson on

    What a fantastic new years resolution! Thanks! It’s what I strive to do each day, but I love the message!

    “work like a horse, deliver like a postman and complete the project exactly as your client requested. Go the extra mile to oblige them. Your top-quality output will leave no room for the client to moan against your inflating rate.”

  5. Joni on

    I like the idea of #3 but have been reluctant to follow its advice since most of my clients are referrals. I am always afraid I’ll quote a price for Client Y only to have them say, “Well, you charged Client X less.” Not sure how best to respond to that.

    • Carol Tice on

      This is the Universal Client Conspiracy Theory — that they’re all talking to each other and telling each other everything.

      And what if they do? Then you say, “Oh, yeah, well, I got on with them way back a couple years. My rates have gone up since then.”

      • Cathie Ericson on

        And furthermore, in a way, it’s kind of nice to ‘reward’ your first clients, the ones who provide ongoing work and referrals, with a lower rate as a thank you for taking a chance on you.

        • Carol Tice on

          Hmm. I feel I reward my clients by delivering kick-ass articles, blog posts, etc. I do not feel inclined to reward them with lower rates than my norm, except maybe a bit for ongoing, steady work. That saves you marketing time, so to me that justifies a bit of a discount.

          But in general you want to be OUT of the habit of thinking up reasons to give lower rates, and INTO the habit of thinking of reasons why you deserve a higher one.

  6. M. Sharon Baker on


    No. 3 has been a great way for me to test the market – I think about the size of the company and what they should be spending on marketing, and then bump my price up accordingly. New Clients let you know right away if you’re too high, and if you aren’t, instant pay raise.

    This is also a good way to get to a fast No, and screen out too small clients. If you think the price is reasonable but the client thinks you are way to high, then you need to determine whether this is a client you want or not.

    @Kellie, so, what did you do when he said “Budget?”

    It sounds as if you didn’t say a thing, and just let him set the rate.

    What you didn’t do is say, “It sounds like this might be in the ballpark of X, is that within your price range, one you are comfortable with? Most likely he would have said yes.

    Instead, you let him think back to earlier days and offer a price that you just accepted. You could have said, how about X, adding that when you first worked on his project you were just starting out and now with more experience, you are now charging Y.

    Hope this helps you for next time.

  7. Kellie on

    Sometimes clients just don’t get this, though. I recently finished some big projects and inadvertently found myself client-less. I decided to approach one of my old faithful clients to see if he had any work for me. He did, and when I asked him his budget, he replied, “Budget?”

    Then he remembered what he paid me last year as a newbie and devised a figure based off that pay rate. He came in about 70 dollars short per piece than I wanted.

    • Ali on

      Sharon has already given a good, comprehensive answer. Clients don’t get it very easily so you have to talk some sense into them 😉

  8. Susan on

    I’m all for earning more money and some people may disagree with me on this, but I don’t think it’s necessary to post rates on your website. Even with a range, publishing rates locks you into that range. But if you negotiate with each individual client, you can adjust up or down based on each situation, which gives you more flexibility.

      • Ruth - Freelance Writing Blog on

        Not only do I not post rates, but I tend to quote more per project than hourly.

        I do have a fairly fixed hourly rate that is only adjusted under certain unique circumstances (and rarely do I time my work and invoice on that basis). But project fees DO provide flexibility. They allow me to customize my rates based on the scope of the project, my anticipated time, my relationship with the client, etc.

        I do apply the principles noted in this post (all good), but quote more per project gives me leeway to adjust my fee schedule without feeling pressure that I’m locked in one way or the other.

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