There’s no need to tell you there are so many tactics you can implement to increase your income. Even simple tasks like negotiating for higher-paid contracts. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to increase your revenue relatively quickly.
Of course, it’s easier said than done. Sure, you’ve done great work for your clients—heck, they’ve showered praises in your inbox—but it feels nerve-wracking asking for more. Or you’re negotiating a contract with a new company and are afraid if you ask for too much, they’ll turn you down
The truth is, you may get rejected—the point is to keep trying. That’s why you need people rallying around you to calm your nerves and keep you motivated so you can make the ask and secure those contracts.
How my network helped me triple my income
When I started freelance writing full-time, I felt lucky to be able to get any contracts. I felt insecure and intimidated about the fact that I wrote mainly about finance topics when I didn’t have the “proper” credentials. This led me to settling for any price a client offered, even when I knew in my gut I should have asked more.
A few months later at a conference, I met a few women who would later become some of my closest business besties. Both of them were open to talking shop and found out we wrote for many of the same clients.
One of them mentioned how much she made with a client I also worked for, and it was twice the amount I got paid. After I picked up my jaw from off the ground, I decided to be bold and ask about other common clients we had.
Turns out, I was grossly undercharging for my work.
After admitting how much I made, these two women encouraged me to ask for more. One even offered suggestions on how I can phrase my emails to increase my chances of getting a higher rate. Thanks to her, I was able to make more with a client a few short weeks later.
From then on, I started being more open about how much I was making, going as far as hosting regular Skype meetups to talk with other freelance writers, including rates and fees we were charging. Other conversations also centered on contracts and what we can do to negotiate better ones—from shortening payment times and how we can enforce late fees.
One of the most memorable stories was when a fellow writer emailed me asking if a certain company reached out about writing for them. When I said yes, she looped me into a Facebook Messenger chat with two other writers who were currently negotiating a contract with them.
We all discussed when chatting with this company, we’d offer to work for them at a rate we all liked. After agreeing on what that was, we all said the same thing to this company. The good news: We’re all still writing for this publication.
It was through dozens of these conversations that led me to be more bold in asking for more, leading me to tripling my income within the span of a year.
How to form your own “negotiation support group”
I want you to be able to increase your rates so you can grow your business—that’s why I’m so passionate about teaching others to form their own support groups. It can seem awkward to start talking about money (in many circles, it’s still a taboo subject) but doing so benefits everyone.
Besides, most business owners want to talk about money, but aren’t sure how to approach the subject. They’ll be happy you came along and initiated the conversation.
Like the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats, so let’s take a look at how you can form a negotiation support group.
Tell everyone you know
Be bold! Seriously, being shy isn’t going to help you. As a business owner you need to advocate for yourself, so this is your opportunity.
Start by turning to trusted friends, family members, and fellow business owners and let them know what your intentions are. Frame it in terms of your desire to help yourself and others thrive in their business. Of course, in many cases you need to increase your revenue to do that.
You might be pleasantly surprised at how people will respond.
Turn to social media
I get that we don’t want to get distracted by cute dog videos on Instagram, but social media has a treasure trove of business owners who are just as open about talking about money as you are. Do a search and you may find places like existing Facebook groups that already help business owners with negotiating rates or tactics to increase their income.
To start, you can scroll through posts or comments to see whether it seems like a welcoming space. There’s no need to start creating your own posts if you don’t want to. Reading other people’s accounts may be enough fodder to help you increase your rates.
If you’re still nervous about revealing your identity, feel free to create a pseudonym for the time being. You may want to be a bit more transparent when inviting specific people to form a smaller group though.
Go to networking events
Both virtual and in-person events (well, at least until it’s safe to do so) are great ways to meet people with common interests — aka increasing their revenue.
Don’t feel like you need to pressure yourself and find a business bestie right away. You can say hi, chat a bit, exchange contact details, and go from there. It’s a great way to suss each other out to see whether there’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
Take a course or join a paid community
People who take the same course tend to already have common interests, so this can be an “in” to starting a conversation with someone. Many courses have an interactive component like chat groups where you can’t help but talk with other students. It also tends to be a smaller group of business owners, which can feel less scary than going to a networking event and trying to introduce yourself to as many people as possible.
Same goes for paid communities. Joining ones specifically for business owners is helpful because its very purpose is to interact with each other. Who knows, maybe there are groups or forums dedicated to talking about raising rates so you don’t have to find your own. They can also be more heavily monitored than social media groups, meaning members are more likely to be both supportive and transparent about their business.
Host your own event or meeting(s)
Even if you’re part of a great group, there’s nothing wrong with hosting your own event. It gives you a chance to have even more intimate conversations about money and negotiation.
To start, reach out with an individual invite and be clear about what the intention of your group is—i.e., what are the rules, expectations, and guidelines? Try to limit your group to fewer than five people to start, otherwise your meeting or event may run on too long.
As for how to structure your meeting, give everyone a chance to update everyone on their business, share a win, then discuss a question or concern. That way, everyone gets to take away something from each encounter.
Patience is the key
It’s natural to want to be able to have types of conversations right away, but the truth is that it can take time. There are many business owners who are still uncomfortable talking to others about money, and that’s OK. It may take time—just keep being helpful, and someday you’ll find a group of people who are there to support you and vice versa.
Sarah Li Cain is a finance writer and a candidate for the Accredited Financial Counselor designation whose work has appeared in places like Bankrate, Business Insider, Financial Planning Association, Investopedia, Kiplinger, and Redbook. She’s the host of Beyond The Dollar, where her and her guests have deep and honest conversations about money affects their well-being, and Podcasting Q&A, a branded podcast from Buzzsprout.