Increasing service rates is something every entrepreneur thinks about at some point, and it's not easy to implement. Some people fear losing existing clients and not being able to close new ones if they don't maintain lower rates. Others have a difficult time accepting higher fees for their services because they're not used to earning so much.

Increasing your service rates is different from generating more income by increasing your average order value. It's easy to sell upgrades and add-ons, but it takes constant work. Raising your rates is better leverage, but it's often a difficult task.

It's not uncommon for SEOs to realize they're working really hard and are constantly busy, yet they're still earning less than minimum wage. If that sounds familiar, it's time to raise your rates.

You can command higher fees with two actions

To successfully raise your fees for SEO work, you've got to do two things. First, you need to thoroughly qualify your clients before accepting them. This gives your clients a reason to take your relationship seriously. It also gives you the opportunity to choose clients who can afford your fees. Then, you've got to increase the value you provide - even if all you do is market your existing value better.

Exceptional value and professional expertise are the reasons large SEO firms make it to the top ranks. Their clients are happy to pay thousands of dollars each month because the value they provide doesn't cut corners. Most of these firms keep their work in-house and work with a full team of experts to deliver comprehensive results.

The highest paid SEO companies aren't a one-person show. However, that doesn't mean you can't make it alone. You'll just need to work a little bit harder.

Qualify your clients from the beginning - even for free consultations

If you've been in the entrepreneurial scene for a while, you've probably seen consultants in various industries require people to apply for a free consultation. When you don't understand the reasoning behind this, it seems silly. Isn't the free consultation supposed to be the qualification process? Yes and no.

The biggest reason consultants require people to apply for a free consultation is because they value their time. An application eliminates the obligation to consult with anyone and everyone. A good amount of people who request a free consultation won't have the intention of becoming a client.

"Sometimes a prospect is on a "fishing expedition," says Karen Swim from Solo PR Pro. Karen points out that sometimes a prospect has no intention of hiring outside counsel, and are looking for free advice.

Being able to sift through applications helps eliminate obvious mismatches.

For example, if you create an application, you can ask for an applicant's personal and business goals, what business they're in, any perceived blocks they want help with, and their annual income. These factors will help you eliminate people you don't want to work with. Maybe you don't want to work with people in the food industry. Or, perhaps you only want to work with people who have clear goals.

Qualify your clients based on income

Raising your rates is easy. Getting paid isn't.

If you want to get paid, you need to qualify clients based on their income. If you're hesitant to raise your rates because you already have clients who don't pay on time, it's either because they can't afford you, or you haven't set the right expectations.

You'll also need to give up the habit of designating arbitrary fees for clients who can't afford your services.

Does your marketing represent your true value?

Sometimes raising your rates needs to be accompanied by an upgrade in how you present your value. Raising your rates will make people wonder if they're going to get more value. If you're not adding value, but catching up with your industry, you need to explain that to your clients.

Increase your level of accountability

Here's a pro tip: if you've been late with your deliverables, or have inconvenienced your clients with breakdowns, regenerate your relationship with them by committing to a higher level of reliability prior to raising your rates. Clients understand breakdowns, but when you transform the way you handle those breakdowns, that makes you even more valuable to your clients.




Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.



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Search Engine Guide > Jayson DeMers > How To Legitimately Command Higher SEO Fees Just Like The Pros