I’m a firm believer in working smarter not harder. And that means charging my worth for a given task, for the time I’m working. My worth as a trainer isn’t the same as my worth as a business coach, which isn’t the same as my worth as an attorney. So my rates are all different.
For most of us, we’re at capacity time-wise. We already work early morning, late nights, weekends, holidays, all of it. We can’t work more, so we need to work smarter. To me working smarter means:
1) working on projects that further my career interests and business objectives, and
2) being compensated appropriately for my time.
Without a doubt, the number one topic of discussion between me and clients is money. How much should I be charging? How do I make more money? How do I raise my rates? What if my clients leave me for charging more?
Most of us have this nasty little habit of undervaluing ourselves. It’s scary enough working for yourself and when setting rates we want to appear fair, empathetic and accessible. The result? We end of low-balling ourselves initially.
Most creatives realize this early in their career. They offer a rate, and the client says yes instantly. Another client comes to you for that low rate, and you agree so you can secure more work. Suddenly your schedule is full and you’re just relieved to be working. But you KNOW in your heart of hearts that you could be making more....you’re just afraid to ask for it.
You know what my mom taught me? IF YOU DON’T ASK, YOU DON’T GET. If you want more money, ask for it. And if keep on reading, I’m give you my top tips to get setting new rates, raising your rates, getting your clients to agree to them, and getting you more $$$.
Step One: Where Are You Today?
Quick - how much is your time worth per hour? NOT how much you charge for this is or that; NOT how much you want to charge. How much do you think your time is really worth?
Compare that to what you’re making teaching, training, blogging, influencing, photographing and doing all those other creative endeavors of yours. How do those numbers compare?
Now that we know what you believe you’re worth per hour, and how much you want to be making, let’s set your realistic rate.
Step Two: Know Your (Realistic) Relative Worth
If you’re a personal trainer, how much do other PTs with similar education, skillset and background make? For my studio owners out there- what are the comps in your city for a similar (or the same) workout? Pro tip: most studios post this on their websites for quick reference.
If you’re a creative like a blogger or influencer, you might want to look at the number of followers or subscribers you have, your engagement, and any previous paid partnerships. There are even online tools out that there will generate your going rate based on engagement alone. In sum: who are you, who are your peers and competition, and how much are they charging? Find a nice wide range by testing the market’s temperature.
Now - SoulCycle can get away with charging $35 a class because they’ve built an empire. The
Kardashians get tens of thousands of dollars to promote products on their social media because they have millions of followers and insane engagement. I however, usually just get comped products and the occasional small payout, less than $100.
You might be a personal trainer with 20+ years of experience, multiple degrees, endless certifications and you can guarantee results with your foolproof training. You see that Ben Bruno is charging clients $500/hr and because he’s your “equal” in experience, education and results so you decide you want to charge that too. But you don’t have the following, famous clientele or awesome sweatpant collection that he does. (Ben Bruno if you’re reading this, you’re my idol, and please be cool for me using you as my example). So be realistic and scale appropriately.
Things that matter in setting your rate: social media engagement, endorsements + partnership, education, experience. Things that (unfortunately) don't: everything else.
Step Three: Set Your New Rate
Alright, you’ve decided on a new rate. It’s a raise for you, it won’t break your clients’ banks, and it’s fair based on the comparison above. Make it official.
If you have your rates posted on your website - update them. If you have any marketing with your old rates on it - get rid of it. And of course, tell your clients.
I recommend talking to each client individually (depending on how many you have), though you can also send a personal and professional email through your subscription. Explain in VERY simple, concise terms that rates are changing. These are the new rates. If they have any questions, you’re happy to answer them. DONE.
Do not have this exchange over text. And worse, do not not tell them, and then invoice them at a higher rate.
If you’re anything like me you have a pit in your stomach at the thought of delivering the news to clients and of client’s reaction. But know - you don’t owe them a long-winded explanation, a math equation, anything other than the facts. “I’m raising my rates to match my product, experience and skills. I believe this to be an incredibly fair rate for the (photography, consulting, branding, training) I do with you.” PERIOD STOP TALKING.
Step Four: Stick to Your Guns
You will get push-back from clients when you raise your rates. If you don’t, WOW were you under-charging. ()r just living in the friendliest town in America. Where is this place and can I come!?).
Common push-back and my recommended response:
Client: “Danielle I can’t afford your raised rates. Thanks so much for our work together. Do you know anyone else who will (train, partnership, blog, sing, photograph) cheap?”
My answer: “I’m sorry to see you go. I don’t know other’s rates, but seeing as my is incredibly fair and consistent with the market, I can’t imagine you’ll find anyone less expensive for the same result/outcome.”
*Let them stew in that sentiment. Chances are, they’ll be willing to stick with you, especially if you’ve been working together for a while
Client: "Danielle that’s ridiculous, I’m not paying that. (You’re not worth that. No one I know pays that for your service. You have no right to raise your rates.)”
My answer: “No problem. I’ll be disappointed to lose you as a client now, but hope our paths cross in the future”
*Always take the high road, even if it sucks. Also, unless you’re in a contract with this client, you are one thousand percent entitled to raise your rates whenever the heck you want.
Client: “Danielle, I just can’t afford to keep working with you at that rate. I really want to, but my budget is __.
My answer: *sigh* This one is hard. I absolutely will work with someone’s budget when setting my rates for a project or determining the scope of work. Especially if I know the person, or know they will be a low-maintenance client. I don’t make a habit out of it, and I don’t recommend making accommodations for just anyone. But, there are genuinely good people, cool projects and rewarding experiences that are worth taking a *small* cut for on occasion. And these people end up being my number one repeat customers and referers of new clients.
Step Five: Work Smarter, Live Better
Here’s the reality of it. If you raise your rates X%, you can actually afford to lose a few clients and still come out on top.
For example: I used to charge $50/hr. I would work with 8 clients a day, and make $400. I raised my rates to $65 and see these same 8 clients and could make $520. I could lose two clients and still be making almost the same amount, but working less hours.
So you’ll either have more money (win), or a few free hours temporarily while you pursue new clients or new ventures (again, win).
I hope this helps all of my creatives and fitpros out there. If you’re feeling inspired about raising your rates, but don’t know where to start, I’d be thrilled to walk you through the process. And if you DO raise your rates after reading this, please send me your success stories so I can celebrate with you!