How to raise your rates with Amy Posner

Presented live on Tuesday, July 9, 2019

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So here’s the deal. In your freelance copywriting business, there are only two ways to make more money:

  1. Raise your rates
  2. Work more quickly

Over time, you’ll inevitably get faster and better at what you do. If what took you 40 hours to complete last year takes you 20 hours this year, you’ve effectively doubled your rate. And if you charge more for that work a year later…well, you’ve raised your rates even more.

In this live Tutorial, marketing strategist and conversion-focused copywriter, Amy Posner will walk us through:

  • How and when to raise your rates
  • Why it’s necessary, and even expected, that you raise your rates
  • How break the cycle of “Feast or Famine”
  • How to create multiple revenue streams


Wiebe: Hey,
Joanna here from Copy Hackers joined by special guest today, Amy.
Amy, you’re going to talk to us about how to raise our rates.

Posner: Yeah.

Wiebe: Everybody
wants to, but no one knows how. (music plays)

Posner: So
here’s the deal. In your freelance copywriting business, there’s only
two ways to make more money, raise your rates or work more quickly.
And as your career develops, you’ll inevitably get faster and that
will and should benefit you. So if what took you for 40 hours over
four weeks to complete last year, takes you 20 hours this year,
you’ve effectively doubled your rate. And if you charge more for that
work a year later and you’re faster, well voila, you’ve raised your
rates even more.

Wiebe: Yeah.

Posner: And
I think of that as a perk of practicing what you do, right? You
naturally get better and faster, that’s good, but it’s not a strategy
or a way to run your business. And freelancers are often a little
cagey about being in business, either because you don’t like the
business side, you prefer to just write, or you don’t feel
comfortable with the business skill side of what you do, so you just
don’t pay any attention to it. It’s an afterthought. You figure,
well, I’ll get to this eventually, I’ll figure it out, or it’ll sort
itself out or whatever. But, if you’re going to own a business,
you’ve got to be strategic. You owe it to yourself. You’re only
hurting yourself if you’re not. You’re putting in all your time and
effort and you need your freelance business to become sustainable and
at least somewhat predictable, or you’re going to set yourself up for
stress or burnout. And financial uncertainty is a recipe for
disaster. It’s just too stressful to sustain. You can’t do it. And I
can tell you, you can’t always recover from burnout. So it’s not a
risk you want to take. You need to protect your mental health and you
need to be well paid for what you do because as you’ve already
realized, the number in your income, it’s no longer just what you
take home, you have business expenses and a future to plan.

you have to learn to make money. But you also have to learn how to be
a good steward of your money. And that’s why you need to be strategic
about your income and your income goals. And guess what, that means
raising your rates on a regular and planned basis and having the
confidence to know it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s
expected, right? It’s the thing you should be doing. Like think about
professionals you work with. Do you expect your dentist or your
attorney or your hairdresser to charge you the same fee?

Wiebe: No.

Posner: Year
after year. Or would you expect them to raise the rates periodically,
and wouldn’t you wonder if they didn’t, like what’s going on? Why
aren’t they? So the bottom line is this, either you set your rates or
your clients do. Be a pen for hire, willing to jump into projects
with fixed fees, or you can be a professional service provider who
runs the show and commands fees commensurate with your skill and
experience. And that’s what we’re about here, big surprise, right? So
guess what, I’m suggesting you run the show, the entire show. And
frankly that means controlling the client relationship. And I mean
that in the best way. I’m not talking about being manipulative, but
rather directive. So just like any professional, it’s what your
clients are looking for in a pro. You think about anyone you hire,
any professional you hire, you go to them and you choose them because
you have the confidence in their ability to steer you in the right
direction and to take control, right? To take care of the issue at
hand, whatever it is you come to them for. And it’s the same reason
your clients hire you.

so raising your rates, and this may sound weird, but it’s not just
about making more money, although that’s important. And obviously if
we’re in business, we’re in business to make money, but in this case,
for a lot of us anyway, for a lot of freelance copywriters, it’s
about you stepping into business ownership. So it’s about you running
a business versus having a hobby, or sort of doing this thing, or
doing this thing but putting your head in the sand about certain
aspects of running a business. You have to be more deliberate than
that if you want to earn six figures, which to me, it’s not just
potentially career replacing income, but it’s an amount that allows
you to pay your bills, feed your business, and grow your business
strategically over time.

Wiebe: Yeah.

Posner: By
reinvesting in it and in essence you’re reinvesting in yourself. But
to do this well and to earn six figures, you need to be on purpose
about what you’re up to. And that includes raising your rates. So if
you’re not already convinced or the thought of controlling this
aspect of your business makes you uneasy, consider this, raising your
rates, even just controlling them to begin with, you setting the
rates instead of the client. It puts you in control because are
dictating the fee. And so this is a really important part of the
relationship that it’s up to you. And not up to them, right? What you
make in your business and what you get paid is up to you. It’s not up
to your clients. So even if you’re not great at first in controlling
the situation and dictating the terms and the amount, you’ve got to
start somewhere, and there’s some really compelling reasons to do
this, right?

how you take control of your business. So you generate predictable
income, which, as I was saying earlier, is critically important
because if you don’t control your income, something else is
controlling you. And that’s not sustainable. So you want to make sure
your earnings are up to you. And this is also the first step away
from this feast and famine cycle. This’ll kill a nascent business in
its tracks. Feast and famine, it’s really hard to live with. It just
is. It’s what we want to avoid for you. Because this uncertainty,
it’s difficult to live in and it’s not sustainable. Humans don’t do
well with being out of control, so you want to feel in control and
have money to invest in your business. When something comes along
that would benefit you, you don’t want to be all dewy eyed and
dreaming and like, oh, someday I’ll be able to afford this thing.
You’ll be in a position to just do it, to just make a decision.

came along for me last week. It was absolutely not in my plan, but it
happened to fit in perfectly with my plans for the next 90 days and
it was $2,000 and I’ll tell you, there are years where that would’ve
required some thinking, maybe even some discussion with somebody
else. And in this case I just decided, like almost the last minute.
It’s like, you know what, I think this will be good. And as much as
it felt great to be able to just get the support I needed, it feels
really good not to have money be your deciding factor, right?

Wiebe: Mmhmm.

Posner: I
wasn’t deciding based on whether I had the money in my bank account.
It was, is this right for me? And it does let you get away from this
having to check with your spouse about financial decisions that have
to do with your business.

Wiebe: Yeah.

Posner: And
when you have to do that, you really feel disempowered. It’s just not
empowering as a business owner to be thinking all day, how am I going
to present this? How will I get buy in? When you have more cash flow,
these are just business decisions, right? They become less important,
less fraught, less weighted. And so it’s a really good reason to make
more money. And also, controlling the situation brings you more
confidence. It just makes you stand up taller in your business boots,
which is a critical piece of charging what you’re worth, right?

can’t overlook opportunities to increase your confidence because
these little stress tests that we go through all the time with
clients, it’s what builds your confidence. Every time you assert
yourself, it’s a win. And those assertions build on one another, and
before you know it, it’s like, uh, I’m confident, I can control these
situations and they don’t control me anymore.

Wiebe: Yeah.

Posner: And
it’s that belief that enables you to ask for higher fees. And the
other thing is you can make business and life decisions based on
what’s right for you. Not that some day perspective. Face it,
engineering your life is one of the advantages to being in business
for yourself, right, but too many of us get in business and we either
let the business or our clients dictate our days and our lives, but
you’re in business, you’ve planted that stake in the ground so why
not go all in?

working hard. Why not work hard for 12 or 15,000 a month instead of
working hard for 3 or 4,000 a month, or 5,000, right?

Wiebe: Can
I just pause to high five you on this one? Like, yes. Everything you
said is, yes, that’s a tweetable. Yes.

Posner: Yeah,
that’s good.

Wiebe: All
true, I remember… and I just want to pause because I remember back
when I made a mental shift. I used to say to a friend that my bills
were the boss, when he was, oh, you’re self-employed. And I was, no,
my bills are the boss. And then that shifted to my goals are the
boss. And that was a really big change for me. Wait, it’s not about
just getting to, my bills are 3,000 a month, so I have to make at
least 3,000 a month.

wasn’t there at all. It was, what are your goals? Then suddenly
you’re, whoa, I need to make more. Goals are much bigger than that.
So anyway, I didn’t want to interrupt it, but I was thinking so much.

Posner: Yeah,
and so much of it is mindset too, right? It’s how that money feels to
you. $3,000 to pay your bill seems really big. And then you hit that
and it’s, oh, well why not make twice that?

Wiebe: Yeah.
Have a $30,000 month, yeah.

Posner: Yeah.
But let’s look at the logistics behind raising rates, right? Cause
we’re going to be practical about this. So I’m going to state the
obvious, which is to raise your rates, you need to know what you’re
making right now. Right? And that sounds obvious, but I can’t tell
you how many people that we coach in the 10x Freelancer, who have no
clue how much they make each hour.

Wiebe: Yeah.

Posner: I
mean they don’t.

Wiebe: Even
in the mastermind, people think 10x Freelancer, oh well, in the
mastermind they must have it all together. No, you had to report your
rates, like how much you earned at the end of each month. And some
people were, I have no idea that’s what I earned. Yeah.

Posner: Yeah.
And, so it’s not even how much you make. Right? So when you first
created your prices and you’re thinking how much you’re making or you
have that, oh, it’s $3,000 to pay the bills. There’s all of these
other things that are happening in a project. And so what I mean is
how long is each damn project taking you? Every piece of it, down to
the minutes and hours, right? Because this is where the slippage
occurs. This is where it’s really, really easy to lose money.

Wiebe: Yeah.

Posner: And
it’s not only hard to sort this out, but it’s really critical because
your income is on the line and you have to know how long things take
you. So you do it by timing your projects down to every last minute
you spend. You have to do this periodically. You can use a digital
timer, use Pomodoro or a pad and paper. But what you do is you
literally clock in and out for every minute you spend on the project.
And ideally you document each part of the project so you know where
you’ve spent time, but at least the big picture overall, so you can
calculate an hourly rate. Because once you know you’re rate, you can
control and adjust it. If you don’t know, well it’s a crap shoot. So
I mean how long does it take you to do the research?

long does it take you to write? What else is part of your process and
how long does it take you? And you’ll be shocked when you start
tracking this. You’re going to be shocked how much longer things
take, and how not aware you are of the time you’re spending. But once
you know what you make, you can monitor your income, you can make
sure you’re scoping correctly and you can use that as a jumping off
point for a base rate. So you can see if you consistently perform at
that rate. Now listen, this is an internal rate only. When I say base
rate or hourly rate, never bill by the hour. You never want clients
to know what your internal rates are. Your client gets a project

that. But internally, if you’re charging $10,000, is it taking you a
hundred hours? Is it taking you 10 hours? Is it taking you 20? You
need to know so you know what you’re making per hour. And this is a
really critical metric to nail down in your business. Because that’s
the only way that you can reliably predict what you’re making, is to
know what you’re making. I know it sounds weird, but a lot of people
just don’t know.

Wiebe: Yeah.

Posner: So,
say for example, you want to make $150 an hour, and you know it takes
you 20 hours to complete this certain kind of project. You now know
$3,000 is the lowest price you can charge, right? That’s it. Period.
That’s your base price. And I hate to say this, but a big part of
getting what you want is asking for it.

knowing this formula and knowing what you’re asking for relative to
what you do, it’s a more comfortable position to be in. But when
you’re scoping, you want to make sure that you factor in all the time
that you’re spending on a project. Because eventually you can get
paid for writing proposals and all that extra time that you spend,
whether it’s in meetings or the extra interview or two that pop up. I
always pad my scopes by a few hours, and I always use that time, but
it allows me to feel really good about that extra mile time, offering
to do this or that because I’m being paid for it.

Wiebe: Yeah.

Posner: And
the client feels really great because they’re getting killer service.
So it’s a really good way to go. And one more little thing about that
and then I want to talk about some specific things you can do to make
more money right now. But I never send a scope that hasn’t sat
overnight… Well, I have done, and I’ve regretted it. So whenever
you scope, if you can let it sit. And inevitably, the thing feels
worth more the next day. It just does. I’ve never woken up and looked
at something and thought, oh, I should make that less. And I almost
always… Looks like it should be more.

it’s important because you can add thousands of dollars to something
that you would’ve missed out if you’d send the scope the day before,
when you were more emotional or more really wanting the project and
more into it. And so if you’re looking for a number here too, in the
10x Freelancer, we suggest and boldly suggest I might add, that you
raise your rates at least enough to increase your income a thousand
dollars a month for six months, and then at least $500 a month for
the next six. Unless you get in the groove at that thousand, and you
want to keep going up a thousand, that’s even better. But if you’re
looking at it for a benchmark of how much, even after you figured out
all your hourlies and so on, that’s what we suggest. And I think,
once you have your project dialed in, you have everything dialed in,
you know what you’re earning and what you want to earn, and now you
have the numbers in alignment, right?

got your client projects dialed in, you know what it takes you, you
know you’re making, or at least you’re bidding for a number that’s
fair to you and robust. Now you can start thinking about branching
out. You’ve got that thing nailed, it’s dialed in. The next thing to
think about is multiple streams of income because it’s a really smart
way to position Your business, right? It puts you in control because
whatever… Some people say, well, I don’t really want to do anything
other than client work and that’s cool. Client work is great and if
you’re loving it, that’s brilliant, but you just never know what’s
going to happen, right? How you’re going to feel about your business,
what’s going to change in your life-

Wiebe: Health
issues. Your family has health issues. You want to take care of your
mom or something, yeah.

Posner: Yeah.
I mean so many things. Yeah. And you just want to have the
flexibility and the choice, you just don’t want to put yourself in a
position where you’re backed up against the wall. So how do you
diversify your copywriting income? And this is the fun part because
as a copywriter you’re like perfectly positioned to diversify, right?
We have the skill that moves business and that makes launches
successful, that sells widgets, it gets subscriptions, you get
continuity. We have the skill that moves the money needle. So why not
use the skill for yourself? It’s that simple. You could create your
own products. And when you think about getting anything out there in
the world, copy is usually the biggest obstacle and biggest expense,
right, to getting things out into the world.

you’ve got that handled. So you’ve got that internally. So what other
kinds of things can you diversify into? Let’s just run through that
pretty quickly here. So productized services, this allows you to set
a price for a specific service that client can purchase directly from
your site. So you’ve got no negotiating, no scoping, no back and
forth thing. They see what you offer and they buy it. It’s turnkey,
it’s simple, it’s predictable. So if you want to make $10,000 and you
offer a $2,000 service, you know you need to sell five of them,
right? That’s your goal. It’s predictable. You can get there with
your list, you can get there with paid traffic. But if you’re in a
hurry to bring in some extra cash, you’ve got this predictable
system. You know how much time it’ll take you. It’s service with
fixed parameters.

has a structure. There aren’t all these variables to deal with. So
once you get that flow going, you have a simple, straightforward
secondary income where you’re not worrying about scope creep or my
newest term, scope twist, or confusion. It’s all spelled out for you
and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.

revenue. The more work you do with clients and the more you’re around
the copy and marketing spaces, building your authority, the more
people are listening to you and taking your advice, even asking for
your advice. So there’s really no reason not to recommend products
and services that you trust and believe in that will benefit them and
earn you ongoing income. It’s not always a lot of money, but it can
add up over time and surprise you. Years ago I had a passive referral
income in five figures every month and it was all added up. There was
all these little bits that added up and I actually got this thing, a
box report this deep about where I got… how this $20,000 added up
from $2 here and $4 there, and it’s like, oh.

you know what’s fun about that? $4 drops out, who gives a rep? It’s
easy to replace, so you’re not dependent on one person, one client,
one project. You’ve got revenue sources from lots of places. A
tripwire, or a low cost product. Create an inexpensive offering
that… 29 bucks, 49 bucks, get people in the habit of buying from
you and deliver this incredible experience for that price and then
they’re going to think, man, if I get that for $49, what am I going
to get if I spend $490? You establish the value at the low price
point, plus you get some cashflow.

or private coaching. What are you expert at that you can help other
people with? It’s a great way to leverage your time, switch from the
one-to-one model to the one-to-many model. Gives people an affordable
way to access your expertise, gives you another stream of income. A
couple more things. Mid Range training program. Again, unless you go
to the one-to-many route, share what you know with other people and
you can start small, find your feet and build out a program over
time. That’s something that doesn’t have to be huge and elaborate to
rollout. Or premium course. If you have the experience and the vision
of sharing what you know and helping other people, a course could be
just the ticket for you. Can be run over and over. You can have live
components, you can evergreen it to stand alone.

can improve and iterate as you go and have this thing be producing
for you for years. So those are a few simple ways to create
additional streams of income. And I went through them really fast. So
I have a couple more things but I’m not going to go into a little
breakneck speed here and finish up. So overall, your rates control
the outcome of your business and your ability to grow and scale and
also to enjoy your life. And this is the lesson I’m just learning, so
I’m teaching it to you so I can learn it about enjoying life. But
money isn’t everything, right, but the things that money is good for,
there’s nothing else that replaces it. And so if you have any
negative connotations about money or you don’t feel friendly toward
it, I know a lot of us do.

it’s a really complex and deep subject and some people are nervous
when they’re talking about it, they’re uncomfortable with it. But I’m
going to suggest that as a business owner, you try and make friends
with money and feel good about it and see it as an exchange of value
or a symbol of appreciation, and consider too, there’s a lot of money
out there in the world, right? Your job is directing some of it your
way, but money can be used for good or evil if you want to call it
that. But you get to decide. Do you want to earn big and help people?
I really believe money magnifies who you are. If you’re an asshole,
you’ll be an asshole with money who can promote your asshole agenda.

you’re a good person who cares about other people, you’ll do more
good in the world and you’ll have that power. But don’t you want to
have that choice? So, that’s the cool thing to me about being in
business, because you have that choice. If you’re going to work for
yourself and invest the time, I feel you should be as richly rewarded
as your talent calls for, and you should be able to earn well and
call your own shots. You were bold enough to throw your hat in the
ring. You deserve that. So let me leave you with a final thought

want you to earn well. There’s so much money in this space and it’s a
really cool place to be. It’s really fun. In the 10x Freelance
Copywriter, we lay out a curriculum to do that, but the thing that I
want to leave you with is to remember that clients are people, and
the good ones are good people. And our job here is not to get as much
money from them as we can. Our job is to do great work at a price
that allows us the time and space to do it right and do it well. But
clients aren’t the enemy. They’re not a paycheck. They’re usually
business people, just trying to get along and do their best, with all
their crazy humanness just like us. And I tell you, because I want
you to think of these clients as colleagues, as people that you’re
helping to succeed, right? They’re not the adversary. They’re not the

get paid to invest in their success. So don’t try and get as much
money as you can for the sake of the fee. Charge well, but be fair
and go the extra mile, treat people well and you’ll earn well, and
you’ll have a business you can be proud of. You’ll get great
referrals. You know, you’ll eat well, you’ll earn well, and hopefully
be a force for good, wherever you are in the world. So see what
increasing your rates can do. It can just do everything. That’s what
I have to say about increasing your rates today. (music plays)

3: It’s
the ’90s.

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