How to clinch the freelance hourly rate you deserve

So you’ve calculated your hourly rate as a creative industries freelancer, but you still don’t fancy your chances of getting the client to agree to it without a fight, let alone ever pay it!

How clinch the freelance hourly rate you deserve

Well fear not, writes Emilie Heaney, founder of Start Up Marketer, there are three things that all financially-savvy self-employed people can do to help clinch their optimum rate.

Mostly, this trio should be deployed before you show your worth to a prospective customer, allowing you to whip out two of them out at a strategic moment. And that moment is probably when their umming and erring over whether they can really afford you!

1. Assemble and ready a portfolio

Part of knowing your worth and convincing hesitant clients that they should pay you the rate you want comes down to how you can demonstrate your abilities.

This means every freelancer can benefit from having concrete case studies to showcase their expertise to clients. Even if you have no previous experience in the industry you’re hoping to work in, you can build up a convincing portfolio from scratch. The aim is to create examples of your work that will help your clients appreciate that you are worth what you are asking for. Put your best foot forward by using graphics, examples, excerpts, charts, screenshots (and the like), to show you’re on par with how much you’re requesting per hour.

2. Build-in your brand

Alongside having an impressive portfolio, you also need to think about your individual brand as a freelancer or business. Spending some time on your marketing efforts can help you to approach possible clients in a more professional, polished way. As a freelancer, you do not have the benefit of a big firm’s reputation behind you, so your own unique branding and how you present yourself (and everything related to your freelance operation, ranging from your website to your headed paper), is especially important.

Building up your brand as a freelancer can start with creating your own website. Such a portal showcasing your services should be thought about as your ‘shop window.’ It will invariably be the first point of contact many prospective clients will have with you.

As well as a sleek website, it’s also a good idea to work on your social media presence. A good tip for you here is to start with at least one platform, and then work your way up to more platforms if you have time. But crucially, bit by bit, make sure you align your freelance enterprise’s ‘look and feel,’ starting with your website potentially and extending right up to your own printed business cards.

When built-in to your pay pitch, these small but significant marketing tactics can lend legitimacy to your brand. They can also help to give you and crucially, your would-be client, more confidence that you and your clearly fully-fledged freelance business are right for this job -- at the price that you’ve set.

3. Use the market to make your client rate-aware

This is the one thing of the three in this piece that freelancers ought to do to clinch their desired rate once the work has actually begun, not before. And it’s this – leverage market or rival opportunities.

Remember, the rate you’re currently working on, or agreed to start work for, is not set in stone for eternity. Look out for opportunities you can cite to renegotiate your rate and request an increase where it’s deserved.

Timing is important here -- one week into the project is not a good time to ask for a rate increase! However, if you’ve established a good relationship with your client and they are pleased with your work, or there’s been a marked improvement in their business thanks to your input or services, you should consider asking for an upward revision of your current rate.  

Know before you go (on working for them)

I should issue a final cautionary note, directly related to knowing your worth as a freelancer, and that is ensuring that you get paid on time! And in full.

Unfortunately, many freelancers struggle with being paid by their clients and chasing outstanding invoices can be a hugely time-consuming and stressful experience. If your clients are repeatedly paying late or refusing to pay at all, you probably need to reevaluate working with them. You deserve to be paid for the work you do!