Business Writing Tips for Raising Your Fee Structure

By Natalie Canavor

Most freelancers hate talking about money. Often, business writing is a good way to do it. You can marshal your thinking points and articulate them more effectively without the person present, and give them breathing space to consider your request as well. Clients typically don’t enjoy these conversations any more than you do, and may blurt out a negative response that’s hard to reconsider.

Many successful consultants sidestep cost questions before presenting a proposal because they can write out all the work involved. Writing also enables them to analyze and define the larger value of the proposed work to the company. This sets the stage for a better conversation.

One challenging need is a request for a fee increase. Most people who hire independent workers are content to continue in the same groove forever. You don’t often hear of any instances where a freelancer was offered a raise. Ask you must, whether your business and living costs are going up like everyone else’s, or because you’ve experienced “scope creep” — that is, you find yourself investing more time than your fee structure covers fairly.

The approach for collecting on invoices also works for this problem. List your possible content points. You will have specifics according to the situation, but here are some fairly universal points to make in framing the message:

  • I’m raising my rate 5 percent.
  • I haven’t increased my fees for three years.
  • My overhead and operating expenses go up inevitably.
  • My work is valuable to you, as proven by …
  • My service this coming year will be even better because …

The last point is optional, but if you can think of something that doesn’t really cost you anything — like a staff expansion or new capability you planned on anyway, an offer to meet more often, or a way to repurpose your work for additional uses — you provide a mitigating factor that inclines the client to agree more easily. She’s spending more, but getting more.

Remember that a message like this will probably be passed up the managerial chain and reviewed by financial people, so supply your connection with information to help him win approval on your behalf. And use an impersonal but still friendly writing style.

When you spell out your basic points first, you spare yourself a lot of agonizing. Just follow the trail!

Dear Jed,

I’m writing to alert you, as a client of many years, that Marsh Sisters will raise our project fee rate by 5 percent this coming year.

I know you’ll understand that just like Tailor Enterprises, our operating expenses steadily increase. We have not raised our rates for three years, and did so only once in the seven years we’ve worked together.

Of course, we want to continue providing Tailor with the best possible service. We were very proud to earn the March Association Award of Merit for the Chancellor Project this past year, and even happier to know our work played a part in helping Tailor increase its Blue Division revenue this past quarter.

We have plans to support you in meeting your business goals even more effectively. We’re implementing a new software system right now that will give you more detailed reports, with even faster turnaround.

All of us at Marsh look forward to working with you this year and together, know we will achieve new heights.

Sincerely,

Maggie