One of the most stressful things you can do as an agency owner is raise your prices, especially for your most loyal clients. What if your new price pisses them off after all you’ve done to win them over?
And yet charging more for your services is also one of the best ways to grow your business—when done right.
“Agency owners think, ‘if I raise my rates, clients are going to leave,’” says Griffin Roer, founder of Uproer, a search marketing agency for SaaS and eCommerce brands. Now, brace yourself for this next part: “maybe some will,” he says, “but there’s a lot you can do to mitigate that.”
More importantly, “if this decision is in the best interest of your company, then you’ve got to trust your instincts to know that there may be some short-term pain for some long-term gain,” Roer says. Done right, charging more for your services can mean bringing in the same revenue for less work, or better yet, retaining your clients at higher rates so you boost your bottom line. Ka-ching. (Related reading: 11 agency experts share how to surpass your business goals)
How to charge more for your services
Here’s how to do exactly that, with Wix Studio's step-by-step guide to raising your prices without compromising your hard-won clients.
Step 1: Do your research
First, make sure your services are competitively priced in the market. “You should have a pretty good feel where you stack up among competitors,” Roer says. “If you're talking to a prospect and they seem to see you as the cheap option, that’s one signal to start charging more.”
Of course, what you charge depends on what you’re offering. You never want clients to feel like they can get more bang for their buck elsewhere, so you may want to change your offer to better match industry standards. Get a sense of the market by asking in online forums. The Wix Studio community is perfect for these kinds of conversations.
Step 2: Reconsider your pricing model
There are different ways to charge your clients: hourly, monthly retainers or long-term contracts.
Nat Miletic, founder of Clio Websites, an SEO and web design agency based out of Calgary, Canada likes to charge month-to-month because of the perceived flexibility on the client side. “It doesn't lock the clients in, so there’s an interhent comfort level from their perspective because they're not trapped,” he says. “But it's also fine for us, honestly, because the cost of switching from one provider to another is kind of high for those types of services anyway, so it’s unlikely.” Plus, “our pricing mode communicates that we’re confident in what we provide.”
This could be a great reason to consider a monthly model as you raise your prices—many clients can wrap their heads (and budgets) around trying it out since the commitment feels low.
One exception Miletic makes at Clio is for SEO services, where clients will need more time to see results. “In cases where projects need a longer runway, we don’t want clients abandoning our agency if they expect immediate results, so we communicate that and write up a six month to year-long contract instead.” (See also: How to get more recurring revenue)
Step 3: Time the price change right
Before you raise your prices, first determine whether the timing makes sense. “The right time is when you have enough work and a steady stream of new clients coming in,” says Miletic.
A caveat: “The timing of any rate changes must make fiscal sense for your clients,” says Roer. “Most clients like to budget out their fiscal year ahead of time based on their costs of services in their contracts, so your changes should align with your clients’ contract renewals.” The worst thing you can do, he says, is raise prices mid-year. “This would upset your points of contact and create strain on your client's businesses.”
Step 4: Feel out your pricing with new clients
Miletic says the best way to approach sensitivity around price increases and fiscal calendars is to test your pricing with new clients first and keep your existing clients at the former rates (for now). You want to treat your pricing like a test: raise your prices until you start seeing drop offs in conversions.
“Once you have enough new clients to sustain you, then you can start raising your prices with your long-standing clients,” says Miletic. “This way, you honor both your business growth and your long-term relationships.”
Step 5: Give a heads up, then schedule a chat
When you’re ready, Roer says to give existing clients a heads up that changes are coming, typically one or two months in advance. You’ll also want confirmation that your clients’ key decision makers know about your rate increase.
Just keep in mind: emails can feel cold, Roer says. “We've always had these conversations in client meetings, face to face or virtually face to face, and I think that goes a long way in demonstrating respect for the relationship, as well as being immediately available to answer any questions or concerns.” (More expert advice: Leading an agency in the age of AI, with Ogilvy Paris’ David Raichman and Mathieu Plassard)
Step 6: Shift the conversation from price to value
Of course, with much ado about dollar signs it's important to shift the conversion from what clients need to pay to what they get in return. Discussions around value always beat price when convincing clients to pay more.
“So much of the conversation about raising prices revolves around cost, but cost is only relevant to what you're getting in return,” Roer says. “Come to those conversations with evidence of past success that demonstrates your value.”
Miletic agrees.“Your price increases should always be justified,” he says. “It could be because of the growth and experience obtained by hiring new people, or because you’re growing your agency’s toolkit, but you need to make it clear that it’s in the name of better serving your clients and that you’re not just offloading your costs to your customers.”
Ultimately, the price of a service is what agencies get, whereas value is what the client gets. Steer the conversation towards the latter topic to help clients understand why your new costs are worth it. You know they are, and with these strategies, they will too.