Is It Time To Give Yourself A Raise?

It’s that time of year again when your 9-to-5 friends are having their annual reviews and raising a glass to their new raise, promotion or holiday bonus. It’s a milestone freelancers sacrifice in their choice to pursue self-employment but not one that we have to skip out on completely. One of the best parts about freelance life is being your own boss and with that status comes the ability to give yourself a raise when you know you deserve it. But how do you know it’s time to up that hourly rate? Here are a few reasons to give yourself a raise as a freelancer.

You’ve Been Undercharging Your Value

How many of you reading this used our freelancer hourly rate calculator and realized you’ve been undercharging your value all of this time? While I personally will never encourage you to settle for anything less than you’re worth, I understand that sometimes we take on work at a lower rate because we feel the “need” to take on clients just to have some form of income. This is especially true for newbies but I’m here to tell you that it’s time to charge your clients your value and if you’ve been delivering excellent results (which I’m confident you have), your client should have no problem paying you what you deserve.

You’ve Advanced Your Skillset

Did you take a class to learn a new skill or tool this year that sets you apart from other freelancers in your field? Do you have a niche focus and a smartphone full of contacts for a field that only a small amount of people are experts in? Maybe you handled your first client crisis or negotiated an international deal and want to take on more advanced opportunities in that direction. If you’ve advanced yourself with continued education, honing your expertise or taking on more senior work - these are all great reasons to up that hourly rate of yours.

You’d Be Promoted If You Were Full-Time

Another reason to validate giving yourself a raise is if you’d be up for a promotion if you were working in a full-time capacity. When I was working at a PR agency, my manager would share the milestones I would need to reach in order to qualify for my next promotion. Throughout my freelance career, I’ve used that knowledge to help shape the kind of projects someone with my level of expertise and years of experience should take on to help progress myself forward. Remember to never let yourself get too comfortable as a freelancer. Work should always be challenging, even if it’s the kind of work you love to do.

Now that you know when to give yourself a raise, here’s how to let your clients know.

A big factor into talking yourself out of a raise is that you’re afraid it will cause you to lose your existing clients. Truth be told, you may have clients who don’t want to pay you your value or try to haggle you down. Don’t be thrown off by this. It’s just business. Remember, your clients go to you because of the service you provide. You make their lives easier and that comes at a cost. Freelance ain’t free!

If you are in the middle of a project or on a retainer with an end date, see it through to the end at the rate you originally locked in. (Unless you’re delivering above and beyond the scope of work you agreed to, then that’s a totally different conversation. And also, stop doing that.) I usually like to start talks for negotiating the next project two to three months before the end of the current contract. Bring it up on a check-in call to see what your client’s future goals are and be ready to share how you can continue to provide value. Then when you negotiate the next agreement, you can let them know that your rates will be increasing in the new year and that you’re excited to continue to work together. If you get backlash, be prepared with the qualitative and especially any quantitative results you can provide. For example, “I was tasked with increasing social media engagement by 10% and engagement has risen by 30% across all accounts.” Deliver the FACTS.

If you’re not on a retainer but work strictly on an hourly basis and are ready for a raise, I would send a note to your clients letting them know of your increase at least one month before the effective date. This gives them time to prepare and for you to potentially find new clients should they no longer be able to afford or willing to pay your premium services.

If you’re afraid of losing clients, I get it. But don’t let that deter you from charging your worth. If clients leave, it’s only allowing you to open yourself to better, higher paying opportunities.

Planning to give yourself a raise in the new year? Let me know any questions you may have in the comments below.


Audrey Adair is the founder of ‘The Scope’ and a seasoned freelance communications professional. She started ‘The Scope’ to provide resources and community to freelancers and the self-employed. Connect with Audrey on Instagram and LinkedIn.