Twenty Two.

When it’s time to put your rates up.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Detective Joe Wolf (i.e. anonymous). ‘She’ says:

“As we hurtle towards the start of a new year, I’d really like to know how best to word a ‘I’m raising my prices’ email.

Having done some competitor research, I’m definitely undercharging some of my customers. I know I did it initially because of imposter syndrome but now we have a good, ongoing relationship I think it’s about time I started to feel like I’m being paid for my years of experience.

Do you need to say why you’re raising your prices? Do you need to offer a reduced rate for current customers? How do you do it without being apologetic?”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:57] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:06] – Steve
Yes. Hello. Look at that!

[00:01:07] – Frankie
We’re back! We’re back.

[00:01:09] – Steve
Unless, of course, you’re binge listening to this in the future and you never notice that we’ve gone. But, we were, and now we’re back. And, each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids Community, do our best to answer it, and then we ask for your comments as well, because we like to add those into the following week’s episode.

Last time the question was… oh, about being busy and the hustle. I don’t think we’ve really genuinely got any comments.

[00:01:36] – Frankie
Most of the comments were basically, “Yes, Frankie, fuck the hustle.”

[00:01:40] – Steve
Yeah, that was it.

[00:01:41] – Frankie
Gifs that said, “This.”

[00:01:42] – Steve
So, anyway, we’ll take that as a, “We answered that one all right.”

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:04:40] – Frankie
This week’s question is anonymous.

[00:04:43] – Steve
I’m sorry, we need to instigate the anonymous rule. Google ‘Fantasy name generator’, ‘names for all your fantasy characters’. Here we go…

No, I’m not sure I want to accept your cookies, to be honest.

Male names or female names? Female names.

[00:05:02] – Frankie
Don’t know. Not sure.

[00:05:04] – Steve
Detective name. Detective name. Let’s have a detective. Joe Wolf? Jenna Matthews? Kate Robinson?

[00:05:11] – Frankie
I quite like Joe Wolf.

[00:05:12] – Steve
Joe Wolf. There you go. Detective Joe Wolf.

[00:05:15] – Frankie
Okay, this week’s question comes from Detective Joe Wolf, i.e. anonymous. They say:

“As we hurtle towards the start of a new year-,”

In fact, I’d just like to add, it’s the start of a new DECADE, just for the record.

[00:05:28] – Steve
It really is.

[00:05:29.990] – Frankie
Detective Joe Wolf asks,

“As we hurtle towards the start of a new year, I’d really like to know how best to word a ‘I’m raising my prices’ email. Having done some competitor research, I’m definitely undercharging some of my customers. I know I did it initially because of impostor syndrome, but now we have a good ongoing relationship I think it’s about time I started to feel like I’m being paid for my years of experience.

Do you need to say why you’re raising your prices? Do you need to offer a reduced rate for current customers? How do you do it without being apologetic?

Thanks very much.

Anon, Detective Joe Wolf.”

[00:05:59] – Steve
Now, this is interesting, though, right? Because you did this, this year, right?

[00:06:03] – Frankie
I did. Yeah. Beginning of the year, wasn’t it? Was it January? I can’t remember. No, it’s when I went back to work. So it was, like, March.

[00:06:11] – Steve
Was it a little bit different? Like, did you have existing clients who you had to tell that to?

[00:06:15] – Frankie
So my context is different in that I’d been on maternity leave, so it felt like a good time to do it. But I’d equally argue that January is also a good time to do it. New year. I mean, it’s not necessarily your financial year, it might be.

Yes, so it’s a bit different in that respect. So I had that as a platform to say, “Look, I’ve got two kids now, they’re going to be in childcare.” I mean, I didn’t say any of this, but the context of that is, you know, “I’m growing a family, my rates are going up.”

And, I didn’t do like a big swooping email to everybody, which I get the impression Detective Joe Wolf is planning to do? It was more, I don’t know… I feel like that’s a bit more scary or a bit unnecessary, I guess? Unless you know that all of those clients are going to be booking you loads in the future. Maybe they are. I don’t know, I don’t know how your structure works with the people that you work with. But, for me, I did it more in a… when existing clients contacted me about new work, I’d say, “by the way, my rates have gone up to X”.

[00:07:11] – Steve
I guess, really, this becomes an issue more when it is about those, kind of like, regular clients, retained clients.

[00:07:16] – Frankie
Yeah, ongoing.

[00:07:18.0] – Steve
So I hire some people who, just every month, we just keep working with each other for years. I would say, for those people, the first thing you should do is give them notice. So, rather than saying the prices are going up now, maybe give them, I don’t know, two months notice? What’s fair? Three months notice? I mean, you could even say, “Prices are going up now, but for you, as a lovely, valued, existing client…”

[00:07:49] – Frankie
That’s a good idea.

[00:07:51] – Steve
“I’m going to delay it by three months,” or whatever. Then, maybe, you don’t even have to give a discount, but rather the fact is you’re giving them enough warning.

If you do choose to give a discount to an existing client, I would say, I just think, don’t screw yourself over.

[00:08:10] – Frankie
Yeah, you could do the classic… Like, if they’re a friend of somebody I know, or like they’re a charity or whatever, there’s a reason that I want to give them a lower rate — then I’ll send them a quote at the full rate and then it will have a big red discounted line so they know how much I should be getting paid and how much I’m charging them, so that going forward they are knowledgeable about what my rates actually are and don’t learn to expect a cheaper rate. And equally, hopefully, appreciate the fact that I’m giving them a discount.

So, it’s a really small thing. Rather than sending them a quote for just the rate you’ve agreed, you send them that rate in relation to what you would actually normally charge people.

[00:08:53] – Steve
Such a good point. You just want to make sure that your new price is high enough that when you give a discount, say 5%, 10%, whatever it is, that it’s still the money that you want to be earning. It should be a genuine discount, so that, if that person were to find out what your new fees for new clients are, they don’t feel like you’re scamming them. It should be a genuine discount, but you just need to make sure that those new fees are high enough that the discount is still worth it for you.

[00:09:24] – Frankie
I guess the key to all of this is raising your rates without losing clients, right? Because the fear is they’ll go somewhere else. You want to make it easy for them.

[00:09:34] – Steve
Yeah. Which is why people feel like they want to apologise and explain themselves.

How do we feel about explaining ourselves?

[00:09:42] – Frankie
I think it’s unnecessary. I mean. I was going to say — do you get an email from Sainsbury’s saying your cucumber’s going to be more expensive this week? No, you don’t. But you do get emails from some suppliers, like, things you pay monthly for.

[00:09:57] – Steve
Yeah, like Dropbox, Google.

[00:09:58] – Frankie
Yeah. They often do lengthy explanations about why that’s happening, don’t they? I don’t know.

[00:10:03] – Steve
No, I don’t think they give explanations, do they? They just say, this price change is happening.

If you feel like you want to give a reason, you could do it in a more subtle way. So, signposting some of the value that you give to them, and the fact that you love working together, and, “look what we’ve done over the past year”, or blah, blah, blah, and, “looking forward to another year of doing that. Just to let you know that this is happening…”

[00:10:31] – Frankie
That just feels like a shit sandwich, though, doesn’t it?

But, yeah. First of all, I’d like to think, Detective Joe Wolf, that your clients already massively appreciate the amazing work you’re doing. Whatever your rates are going to be — they’ll still stick around. But, at the same time, there might be some clients you have a niggly feeling about, for whatever reason. And, yeah, maybe just bringing home all the amazing stuff you’ve done for them — particularly the end-of-the-year retrospective kind of emails are really around at this time.

But when I put my rates up… And I don’t know about this particular person’s situation or actually even what they do, so it’s hard to say…

[00:11:08] – Steve
But they’re a detective!

[00:11:11] – Frankie

[00:11:12] – Steve
Detective Joe Wolf. The clue was in the title.

[00:11:14] – Frankie
But pretty much all my clients were like, “Fucking hell, Frankie, it’s about time!” Do you know what I mean?

[00:11:22] – Steve
I think I’ve mentioned before, our window cleaner didn’t put their prices up for about eleven years that we were living in this house. To the point where we were feeling bad about it. And, when they did, we were like, “oh, thank God!”

[00:11:35] – Frankie
Yeah, the guilt is gone.

[00:11:39] – Steve
Bear in mind that if a client does kick off, or they choose to leave, then maybe that’s fine?

[00:11:47] – Frankie
I’m with you.

[00:11:48] – Steve
And, that will free you up more time to get other clients, who are new, and just accept those new prices straight away. And, if they say they’re going to leave, just let them go because you don’t want to go, “oh, okay, I’ll drop my prices.” Just stay firm and keep them, and what you might find is that…

[00:12:05] – Frankie
They come back?

[00:12:06] – Steve
Yeah, they might go off and try somebody else who’s cheaper and they’re not a patch on Detective Wolf. And then, they come back and they’re like, “Actually, okay, fine, I was wrong. I went to this first agency and they were really expensive, and were rubbish. And then, I went to this next person who was really cheap and they were really cheap and rubbish and actually, I wish I’d stuck with you.”

So, yes, stay firm, and who knows, they might come back! And so if you’ve kept everything friendly and gone, “Okay, well, that’s fair enough. I totally understand that you don’t want to stick around.”

What you can do as well… If you really like the client, you feel bad that you can’t do the service for them anymore at that price. I’ve had this — you can offer them somebody who might be a few years behind you where you were when you started, and you know, they have lower rates and that they might be able to keep them happy. And so they still like you, they might still refer stuff to you. They don’t feel like left in the lurch.

[00:13:05] – Frankie
I like that idea. We’re obviously both all for freelancers supporting freelancers, but, yeah, the idea that you’re passing the baton on to somebody else who’s a bit further behind so they can get that experience, that’s nice. Then everyone’s a winner! I mean, you lose a client ultimately, but everyone’s a winner.

[00:13:22] – Steve
You’re losing a client who doesn’t want to pay what you need them to pay.

[00:13:27] – Frankie
Yeah. So when I put my rates up, one of the positive, well, lots of positive things… I now work less hours for more money, ultimately. But, one of the big side-effects of, positive side-effects as well was that, my clients are just, like, better. They’re just less stress! They totally get my style.

So, I’m a graphic designer, for anyone that doesn’t know. They come to me for my style now. And I don’t know, I just feel like the quality of my client has gone up a notch.

And also, because the clients I do get are paying me more money, I have the luxury of being able to turn down clients that are like massive red flags, or I know are going to be a pain in the bum. And I’m not just scraping around for coppers all the time, I can decide to not work with some people, and that is such a good feeling. Oh my God, do it, Detective Wolf. Do it!

And actually, whatever you think you want to raise it to — push it up again, 25%. Go on, dare you!

[00:14:24] – Steve
It’s interesting, you said about, like, doing it in January. I’m thinking, I definitely had a copywriter that I worked with last year — who knows, they might even listen to this…!

[00:14:34] – Frankie

[00:14:35] – Steve
I’m now thinking, I’m pretty sure they had sent me a message. I’m not sure which way round this went, but I remember getting a really lovely, generous Christmas gift from them. Like a client gift, but I also got a, “my prices are going up” thing. Now, clearly, I wasn’t going to ditch…

[00:14:53.780] – Frankie
Was it like a mug with a bit of paper inside saying, “by the way”??

[00:14:58] – Steve
So, I don’t think it happened simultaneously and I can’t remember the order. But what I do remember… I wasn’t thinking of not working with her anymore anyway, but, what I do remember thinking was, “ha, that’s kind of smart,” because now, I almost feel, or I would feel guilty about ditching you because you’ve been so lovely!

[00:15:15] – Frankie
Gone to the effort. Yeah.

[00:15:16] – Steve
You’re such a lovely person to work with.

[00:15:18] – Frankie
Mind games.

[00:15:19] – Steve
Yeah. And they probably weren’t even playing that mind game.

But, yeah, I did in my own head… I tend to deconstruct the way these things work because as well as being a client, I’m also thinking of my relationship with my clients.

You’re right about that shit sandwich. She was saying, should we give reasons? And so, I was kind of basing that on that — giving evidence and showing your value. But do you know what? They should hopefully kind of get that, anyway.

[00:15:47] – Frankie
The fact they’re still hiring you means they get that.

[00:15:48] – Steve
So, just simply, I think if you do that, you start to make more of a meal of it. Just the same as, I think, if you phoned them up or if you called for a meeting, it would be making a big issue of it. Whereas, if you just send an email saying, “As of this date, my prices will be going up, blah, blah, blah,” and don’t say, “I hope we can continue working together.”

[00:16:08] – Frankie
No, definitely not.

[00:16:09] – Steve
Don’t give them any outs! It’s just the way it is. And, whatever email you end up writing, do not say ‘sorry’; or, any word like that. You’ve got nothing to apologise for.

That’s the thing. Everybody in a normal job expects to get a pay rise at least. Most people get a pay rise and everything else goes up in price. I mean, see the yearly story about the train ticket prices going up…

[00:16:33] – Frankie
I don’t know what age your kids are, but my nursery isn’t about to stop increasing their prices. That’s crazy money. Crazy money!

[00:16:42] – Steve
So true. If there was one final bit of advice, I would say maybe think about putting up your rates annually so that it just becomes the norm? And so, ongoing clients know that you do it every January or every February or whatever. And what it means is that that annual increase doesn’t even need to be that much, and it won’t feel like such a big deal.

Yeah, it’s just that thing where if you make that small step change every single year, you’ll end up taking a bigger leap forward, rather than in five years time going, “oh, I haven’t done it. I’m going to have to put them up 20%” and scaring people off.

[00:17:18] – Frankie
Also, freelancers can be a bit weird about talking about how much they charge, right? For the record, I’m £40 an hour.

[00:17:25] – Steve
For now. In January, she will be 50.

[00:17:30] – Frankie
Yeah. So, it’s worth approaching other freelancers in your industry and trying to get in — if you’re mates with people — trying to ask them whether they’re willing to tell you how much they charge. But if not, there’s the internet, which is quite useful for… there’s various surveys for different industries about how much people are charging. There’s a big illustrator one that Ben does, for example.

[00:17:50] – Steve
Pro-Copywriters do one for writers.

[00:17:52] – Frankie
Do they? Yeah.

[00:17:53] – Steve
And Motion Hatch do similar sort of things for motion designers.

[00:17:57] – Frankie
And then, there’s the Major Players one that they do every year. The salary survey. Have you seen that? It has like, salary rates versus freelance rates in different industries for different types of job title. It’s really useful, it’s really comprehensive, and they update it every year and it’s free to access. Just got to give them your email. So, that’s quite a good one to look at. It covers, like, most jobs that Doing It For The Kids people tend to be doing. We’re a creative bunch.

[00:18:19] – Steve
Major Players?

[00:18:20] – Frankie
Major Players.

[00:18:21] – Steve
Major Players sounds like one of our made up anonymous names.

[00:18:24] – Frankie
It does a bit, doesn’t it?

[00:18.25] – Steve
Detective Wolf, have I introduced you to Major Players?

[00:18:29] – Steve
Okay, we would love to hear your comments on this. There must be loads of us who have put our prices up. Let us know your thoughts.

What would your advice be?

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