How to raise your design rates without losing clients

Do you get anxious at the thought of having to tell your clients that your design rates are going up? Is your biggest fear that you’ll lose all or most of your clients, and ultimately fail?

You’re not alone. Many freelancers and businesses are afraid to increase their rates, thinking that even loyal clients will walk away if they start charging more.

But that’s just not the case. At least not if you’re confident with the value you provide to your clients. In fact, increasing your rates is a sign of healthy growth for your design business. After all, businesses in all industries have annual fee increases so why shouldn’t yours?

With the New Year quickly approaching, this is a great time to revise your fee strategy and ensure this time next year your business will still be there and thriving.

So how do you go about raising your rates and talking to your clients about this difficult and uncomfortable subject? Here are some ideas that you might useful.

Have a plan

Before you send an email to all your clients informing them that you’re raising your rates starting next month, take some time to come up with a plan.

Start by asking yourself this question: if you lose 50% of your clients or a specific client that brings in a significant amount of your income, how will it impact your business? If it would leave you desperate for cash, you may want to hold off.

At the same time, you should try your best to never be in a situation where the loss of a single client would mean the end of your business.

Get new clients

So what can you do if you’re currently in a situation that’s making you too afraid to even suggest a small fee increase to your clients?

Simple. Get more new clients but at a higher rate.

This approach helps you achieve two things:

  1. You get to test the waters and see whether new clients are ok with paying your higher rate in exchange for your services.
  2. You’ll feel more confident about raising your fees with your current clients. That’s because you’ll know that that there are other clients out there who appreciate the value you bring to the table and are willing to pay the price you’re asking.

Check out some useful tips to attract new clients. Even if the advice is dedicated to attracting first clients, most tips work just as well for whenever you need new business.

Now, before reaching out to potential clients, we also suggest you to update your portfolio, especially if you haven’t done that in a while. Read this post as we walk you through the steps to improve your portfolio and ensure you showcase your work in the best possible way.

Email your existing clients and ask how you’re doing

The next step is to reach out to your current clients, one by one, and ask how they think the relationship is going and what you could improve or do better.

While you probably receive at least a quick feedback for most of the design work that you do, this type of general feedback is important too.

Why? Because it’s when you’re more likely to find out that a client thinks they can’t rely on you because you take too long to finish tasks or to reply to emails. Or, on the contrary, you may find out that they’re very pleased with the huge positive ROI they’re generating as a result of all your ideas and hard work.

Tell them you’re raising your rates

Now’s the time to let them know you’re increasing your fees. Even if the feedback was not 100% positive, use any complaints or suggestions for improvement to justify your higher rates.

For example, say a client complains not about the quality of your work but about you taking too long to finish tasks. You can tell them that the reason you’re charging more is so you can collaborate with fewer clients that you enjoy working with and be more available to meet their needs and requirements.

In other words, you’re charging more so you can be more responsive and deliver work faster.

Now, if there’s one thing you should avoid doing at this stage, it’s to apologise to clients for increasing your fees. You don’t see other businesses apologising to you or to other customers for raising their prices, so why should you?

The problem with apologising is that it can do more harm than good, as it can show lack of confidence and undermine the fantastic value of the service you provide to the client.

Provide a grace period

For some clients, an announcement of higher fees can come as a surprise, especially if you’ve not raised your rates in a while or ever.

That’s why it’s recommended to provide a grace period where you continue to offer your current rate and allow your clients enough time to revise and adjust their budget. This is usually between one to three months.

If it goes well, make sure to wait six months or a year before you touch your design rates again.

What if they say no?

If you used data to demonstrate the added value you provided and the positive ROI you generated for the business, and a client still refuses to continue the collaboration, you have two options:

  1. Offer a discount but only if it’s a loyal client that you’ve had a smooth and enjoyable collaboration with, and you’re keen on keeping them on.
  2. End the collaboration. If you’re confident with the value you provide, then perhaps the lost clients are not the greatest loss in the world.

In many cases, the clients who walk away are the ones who never appreciate the value you provide. So maybe it’s best to just say goodbye and move onwards and upwards.

In conclusion

Talking about raising your rates with your clients is a difficult and uncomfortable conversation. But if you’re confident with the value you provide, then it’s one that you need to have on a yearly basis. Why? Because every year that you’re in business, it’s one more year of added knowledge, skills and experience that you’re offering to your clients. If you know it, then make sure your clients do, too.

What are your experiences with raising design rates for existing clients? We’d love to read your tips and advice in the comments section below.


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