Raising your rates is something that a lot of Virtual Assistants worry over. What do you say? How do you do it? What will the reaction be? Will you lose all your clients? …
And if you manage to get over all those thoughts and worries, the next bunch of questions can be equally hard – what should you increase your rates to? What time period should you increase them within? How much notice should you give existing clients? Should you give those existing clients a discounted period for their loyalty?
And so on …
But it doesn’t have to be this hard.
You do a good job for your clients, right? In fact, you probably do an awesome job for your clients – am I right?
You work long hours; sometimes working in the evenings and at weekends for these clients; at a moment’s notice when they’re in a pickle; all with little thanks, and most likely, littler praise.
So don’t apologise for increasing your rates. After all, you’re in business too.
Just formulate a plan and carry it out.
Why raise your rates?
Buying a new car, heading off on hols, or wanting the latest Burberry handbag, are not valid reasons for upping your rates!
Providing added value to your clients is.
Here are three main reasons for increasing your rates:
- You’ve improved / increased your skill set: Perhaps you’ve recently completed a course in a niche / speciality i.e. bookkeeping, web development, etc. Your increased knowledge allows you to undertake that specific work with improved performance, benefitting your clients in terms of quality and efficiency.
- You’ve gained experience: Perhaps you’ve been in business a year or more and have nurtured your existing skills that you now naturally provide better value to your clients.
- You’re booked solid and still getting enquiries: Perhaps you’re in the fortunate position of being bombarded by new enquiries with not enough hours in the day to complete the work you already have.
Of course there are other reasons that are perfectly valid also – wanting to work shorter hours, wanting to reposition yourself in the market place, offering complimentary services, etc.
The point is, as long as your reason is legitimate and not frivolous, your clients should understand and be accepting.
How to raise your rates
It’s much easier to raise your rates for new clients than it is for existing clients. Fact. So let’s start there.
Update your website pricing page so that all new queries will have already seen your new rates.
If you meet any resistance from those new enquirers, as long as you can justify your rates then you should be fine. If you still meet resistance, then that possible new client might not have been right for you anyway.
Next we come to the slightly harder task – letting your existing clients know that you’re raising your rates.
But fear not, I’ve found a simple plan that seems to do the trick:
Step 1. Ask for their feedback: Check in with each of them and give a kind of X month review i.e. recap what you’ve worked on with them and reiterate what the outcome of each of those projects were, or what their feedback was at the time.
Then ask for their thoughts on how the work has been going over the last X amount of time.
Most clients will appreciate your proactive-ness and it gives them an opportunity to feedback anything that may have been niggling them.
The importance of doing this at the beginning is so you get some valuable insights in to how they feel about you, the job you’re doing and the value you’re providing them and their business.
Step 2. Outline your own business plan: Explain that you’re at a point in your business where you want to be more selective with the clients you work with. You want to be able to provide those select few clients with an excellent service by being able to focus more clearly on them and their business needs.
You continue by letting them know that they are in this elite group of clients who you want to continue working with – they don’t know that you may be saying that to all your clients. But by doing this, you’ll make them feel special. Appreciated. Valued. And it’s likely to make it harder for them to question your forthcoming rate increase.
3. Offer them a loyalty period: Now we get on to actually informing them of your rate increase. The simplest way to do this is to announce that you’re raising your rates, but that you’re giving them a 90-day ‘loyalty period’ to adjust.
You may find a lot of delayed projects get the go-ahead so they can take advantage of the lower rates, but that’s no bad thing. As long as they can see the great work you do, they’ll probably accept the increase as part and parcel of business.
In fact, they may have wondered why you haven’t done it sooner (and thank their lucky stars you hadn’t!).
4. Offer to refer them: Remain professional and let them know that you’re not forcing them to agree to your rate increase. If they can’t or don’t want to accept your new rates after the loyalty period, offer to point them in the direction of another VA who may be able to help, if possible.
What will your clients say?
Most are very likely to accept your rate increase. Many were probably expecting it.
But remember, ultimately it’s better to have fewer clients paying more, than many who pay less.
So for those who don’t stick with you, brush them off as quickly as you can and move on. Give those that remain the improved value that was promised and continue marketing yourself and networking to attract new, higher paying clients.
You may initially see some natural losses as your rates increase, but eventually all your clients will be paying your new rates … at which point you can repeat the cycle!
Oh and remember, there’s a school of thought that says if you aren’t losing 20-30% of enquiries to price concerns, you’re likely priced too low.
What are your tips or techniques for increasing rates?