How I Increased My Income by Simply Asking for It — and How You Can Too

Two people fist-bumping.

I occasionally take a break from my normal guitar-related content to share pieces of my story. This article details an experience I recently had as a freelance editor and writer (a.k.a. my day job). I hope it inspires and motivates you. -Jon

Can you imagine walking into your boss’s office and having the following conversation?

You: “Hey, boss, I’ve been meaning to talk with you about my salary.”

Boss: “Okay, what’s up?”

You: “It’s just that I’ve been working here for a while now, and as you know, I’ve really provided a lot of value to you and the organization. In fact, people are starting to take notice.”

Boss: “Oh, I see. Please continue.”

You: “Well, the truth is, I’m getting job offers left and right for double what I’m working for you. I’d really like to continue working for you, though, so I’m going to need you to increase my salary so I can justify keeping this job. But I’ll cut you a deal because I do like you — I’ll keep working for you for an 80 percent salary increase.”

What do you think the outcome of that conversation would be? Having worked a decade and a half in the corporate world, I can almost guarantee the answer would look like this:

Boss: (chuckling) “How about you go back to work instead? Oh, and good luck with those ‘job offers.’”

But the thing is, I just had this talk with two of my freelancing clients, and in both instances, the answer I got back was this:

Client: “That sounds completely reasonable. We’ll update the contract to reflect the new rate.”

Mind. Blown.

I’ve been a freelancer for the last year and a half, and let me tell you, it has been a learning experience. You can read my overarching story here, but today I want to share with you what I learned that made the conversations I had with my clients so successful. Why is it that they immediately agreed to my new rates that were almost double the current rates, and how can you as a fellow freelancer learn to do the same?

“That sounds completely reasonable. We’ll update the contract to reflect the new rate.”

Know what clients want — and give it to them

In the freelancing world, clients are really searching for three things:

  • Solutions to their specific problems
  • Quality work delivered quickly
  • Relevant experience in their niche

Okay, so I admit — I copied this list from an Upwork presentation I attended. But these particular items just so happen to be the strengths I was already focusing on as a freelancer.

I have always prided myself on doing excellent work and being professional. I’m meticulous with my own organization, and as a result I simply do not miss deadlines. And I’ve found a few niches in the editing and writing world that I (somewhat naturally) do well.

This ended up being the foundation upon which a productive discussion about rates could be held. Intuitively, I had been providing valuable results to my clients that were meeting their needs. They knew I did top-quality work, I was dependable, and I was always responsive to their requests.

Speak to past results — and give evidence

That being the case, it was easy for me to begin a conversation on hourly rates. I was able to preface my request with remarks in two important areas.

First, I truly do enjoy working with my clients. Almost every client interaction I’ve had has been positive — people just trying to do their best from day to day. No politics, no corporate BS — just doing the job that needs to be done. So it was simple and truthful to start with a compliment: “I truly enjoy working with you because…”

Second, I pointed out the unique value that I bring to their company. For one client, I pointed out that I have the ability to smooth out and polish content written by non-native English speakers (not as easy as it sounds, by the way). For the other, it’s the diverse range of tasks that I can take on for them, from proofreading to writing ad copy and newsletters.

It was simple and truthful to start with a compliment: “I truly enjoy working with you because…”

Pointing out both how much I appreciate them as clients and the unique value that I brought to the table is a natural lead-in to asking for more money. Simply put, I’m showing that my services have worth and providing irrefutable evidence of the fact in a positive, complimentary manner.

Speak to the current situation — and be honest

After reiterating my desire to continue working with the client and providing evidence of my value, the next thing I mentioned was the reality of my situation as a freelancer. I don’t know if the “experts” would tell you to do this, but I’m honest to a fault.

I simply made it clear that over time, my value as a freelancer on the open market had gone up. I was honest with my clients that I was leaving money on the table by continuing to work with them for the original contract rate, and this wasn’t in my best interests. At this point, I also reiterated my desire to continue working with them.

I simply made it clear that over time, my value as a freelancer on the open market had gone up.

And I made sure to speak to this fact in a neutral way. It’s not their fault that the rate I can command today is larger than the rate I could command a year ago. If anything, it’s my fault for waiting so long to bring it up. And as a client, I’m probably not going to just hand out pay increases to my freelancers. I’m going to assume if they are continuing to work happily, they must be okay with the existing rate.

Ask for the right rate — and don’t feel bad about it

At this point in the conversation, I had laid the groundwork by

  • Providing a lengthy amount of stellar service that met the client’s needs
  • Explaining how much I enjoyed working with them
  • Showing evidence of the value I bring to the table
  • Explaining the reality that my market value was going up, and I was leaving money on the table by continuing at my present rate

And that’s when I asked for a rate increase.

For both clients, it was a pretty steep increase — about 80 percent, in fact. They would have to pay close to double the current amount just to keep me around. But the fact is, the amount I asked for signifies what I’m worth.

As a freelancer, I have an eye on my market value at all times. I see all of the proposals coming in from potential clients and the rates they are willing to pay. I have a very good idea of the hourly rates I can command — a much better idea, in fact, than my clients. It’s literally my business to know my worth.

It’s literally my business to know my worth.

And as the CEO of Me Enterprises, I owe it to myself and my family to secure the best rates I can. That’s nothing to feel bad about.

Finally, just to make things easier for them, I calculated my average hours per week and what the difference to their budget would be at the new rate. I wanted to give all of the information I could up front to facilitate a quick decision.

Be okay with the response — before you ask

The final aspect of this conversation is the one that was in my head.

With the first client, I had to get to a state of mind where I was okay with any response. If they agreed to my proposed rate increase, great! If they declined and we needed to part ways, great! They are a good client, and I’m glad we found an agreement, but there are other clients out there, and unfortunately sentimentality doesn’t pay the bills (although I do wish it did).

If they agreed to my proposed rate increase, great! If they declined and we needed to part ways, great!

For the second client, I knew they wouldn’t flat-out reject my proposal, but I did have a “low ball” number in mind if they came back with a counter-offer — in other words, the lowest rate I would accept.

Thankfully, neither worst-case scenario happened, but I made sure to have a plan in case things went south, and I made sure that I was personally okay with any outcome ahead of time.

The incredible power of asking for things

I recently read the book Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang (a truly great book, by the way). In the book, Jiang chronicles his 100-day journey toward overcoming rejection. One of the major lessons he learned was that you can often get more than you think just by asking.

My own experience with my clients bears this out: I was able to increase my monthly income by hundreds of dollars simply by asking for it.

I was too brainwashed by 15 years of corporate experience to think asking for more money was possible — until I experienced the truth that it was.

If you are a newer freelancer like I am, I hope my story can help you understand you may in fact have more leverage in commanding higher rates than you think. I was too brainwashed by 15 years of corporate experience to think asking for more money was possible — until I experienced the truth that it was.

As a freelancer, you can work with your clients to increase your rates, and it can even be a pleasant conversation where both sides leave happy.

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Jon Clemence

Jon Clemence

Medium needs more guitar-related content. I. Am. That. Hero!