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


Joanna 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.

Amy Posner: Yeah.

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

Amy 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.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah.

Amy 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.

So 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?

Joanna Wiebe: No.

Amy 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.

And 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.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah.

Amy 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?

It’s 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.

Something 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?

Joanna Wiebe: Mmhmm.

Amy 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.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah.

Amy 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?

You 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.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah.

Amy 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?

You’re 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?

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

Amy Posner: Yeah, that’s good.

Joanna 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.

It 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.

Amy 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?

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

Amy 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.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah.

Amy Posner: I mean they don’t.

Joanna 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.

Amy 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.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah.

Amy 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?

How 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 price.

That’s 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.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah.

Amy 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.

So 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.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah.

Amy 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.

And 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?

You’ve 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-

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

Amy 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.

But 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.

It 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.

Affiliate 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.

And 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.

Group 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.

You 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.

Money, 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.

If 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 here.

We 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 enemy.

You 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)

Speaker 3: It’s the ’90s.

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