By Lina Arshad
Contracting often comes with a lot of freedom and independence, which makes it appealing to a significant number of Microsoft professionals. In fact, our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2023 found that over two-fifths (41%) of permanent Microsoft professionals are considering the switch to freelancing this year. But despite the flexibility in lifestyle (54%) being an important factor behind this figure, the main motivator cited was the higher earning potential (77%).
With contractors able to earn limitlessly—as they can work as many hours as they want at a rate that they set themselves, rather than working to a salary—it can be an appealing option for many. However, to be able to do this, contractors must be comfortable with raising their rates, and being able to justify this appropriately to their clients. But doing so can be daunting, especially if you think you may lose business from it.
In this blog, we’ll be discussing how you can increase your contract rate in ways that will add value to your service and to your clients, while reaping you the fees you deserve for your work.
Before we dive into the nitty gritty of it all, it’s worth considering the reasons why contractors might want to increase their rates. So, if you’ve been on the fence about it for some time now, you can be reassured it’s the right thing to do.
It’s no secret that we all want our money to stretch further, so it’s also no wonder that your clients over time may begin to expect little tasks outside of your agreement picked up here and there. And while you may be happy picking up the odd thing for a loyal client, should this go on for too long, you are well within your rights to increase your rate of service to them—as the service you now provide covers a larger amount of work. Clients can’t expect things for free, and failing to charge them for things outside of your agreed remit enforces the opposite. Plus, it can mean raising rates down the line has a detrimental effect to your working relationship with them, as they may not understand why you’re now charging for something they know you once did for nothing.
However, there are also other perfectly valid reasons why you may want to increase your rate which aren’t directly related to your workload. For example:
Whatever your reasons for increasing your rates, it’s important that you feel comfortable and confident communicating these to your clients—and in many cases, proving they will be getting more from the service than they did, paying you a lower rate. For example, expertise from a more skilled or certified Microsoft professional, or an extra add-on to their existing service.
In the next section, we will be delving a little deeper into some of the ways you can increase your contract rate, to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth from your fees.
Knowing what you should be paid can be a confusing area for many Microsoft contractors—particularly as they don’t want to risk overpricing and having their clients choose other, less expensive contractors. However, failing to increase your rates when you need to can mean you’re letting people undervalue your expertise, and in the long run this can significantly impact your livelihood.
Five ways to increase your rate as a Microsoft contractor:
In the sections below, we’ll be expanding on each of these tips, so you can yield the maximum results nd secure a rate that reflects your value and expertise.
Your rate should be a direct reflection not only of the services you’re offering, but also of the skills and expertise you have. Just as experience from things like degrees and previous jobs can help dictate salary for professionals working as part of an organization, your rate should operate the same way for contractors.
But we know that increasing your rate out of the blue—and without a justifiable reason—can appear sudden and unexpected to clients. So here are five things you can do to justify raising your rates to clients.
Although you may have great proficiency with a number of Microsoft platforms and programs, it can be more lucrative to have a niche that you know like the back of your hand. When you position yourself as an expert in a specific Microsoft product, rather than knowing Azure, Dynamics, or Power Platform to a professional level, you unlock the potential for increased rates that reflect your expertise in the area.
You could also emphasize experience in a specific industry, like the finance or healthcare sector. You might be committed to sustainability, or perhaps you’re a diversity advocate.
Whatever you choose your niche to be, the next hurdle is knowing how to market yourself and your specialism. Potential clients are everywhere, but if you have a limited budget to target them, consider joining user groups and forums online where you can advertise your services for free to a specific audience. Similarly, you could share your expertise on your own social media profiles, using appropriate optimization or hashtags to attract the relevant audience to your posts.
Having a USP can also help—think carefully about what you offer that someone else may not, or what makes you stand out from other contractors doing similar things. When you’re confident that you can offer something different to others on the market, your clients will also be confident in your ability to do it.
All contractors should have a set list of what they can offer, and the rough estimates of the cost for these. However, you should also be willing to negotiate given the unique nature of each client you come across. What one person needs, another might not.
So, instead of offering just one complete package, look to break up your service offerings and add extra ones. This helps to considerably increase your contractor rate. For example, if you specialize in designing cloud solutions, you may also include separate services for building and integrating these.
Something contractors tend to neglect to add to their services is the initial consultations. Loosely speaking, you shouldn’t be putting any of your expertise out there for free—you worked hard to develop your career to the point of working freelance, so ensuring that you’re charging for initial investigations and appointments is crucial. Plus, this can be a way of raising your total rates without having to change the cost of existing services you have already agreed with clients.
If you’ve invested in new skills and training, you can well justify an increase in rates due to you acquiring more knowledge.
Our Careers and Hiring Guide revealed that many Microsoft professionals consider certification to be positively associated with better career opportunities. More specifically, our report revealed that a whopping 83% of respondents believe getting certified makes you stand out in the market, while a further 92% believe certifications make you more marketable.
Whether or not this is true in all employers’ eyes, there’s no doubt that getting certified is a great way of validating your knowledge and having something to prove your understanding of it—which is sure to be a big bonus to clients considering your services.
Above all else, getting certified shows you are dedicated to career development, and that you’ve put the time, effort, resources, and money into ensuring you have the accredited-level knowledge Microsoft recognizes—and we can’t see any downsides to that!
Microsoft certifications are split into fundamental, associate, and expert-level certifications, so if you’re unsure about your niche, they can help you to carve this out and again, verify your expertise with it.
When it comes to actually setting your rates, it can be helpful to look a little further afield to ensure you’re not underpricing yourself compared to other contractors. While you might be tempted to search for the average rate of Microsoft contractors, it’s worth noting that different countries, cities, and states will have distinct benchmarks given the varying cost of living between these areas.
For example, you’ll often find capital cities are far more expensive than little towns out in the suburbs, as their earnings need to be balanced with their high living costs.
To get a clearer idea of what you should be charging, make sure you’re consulting market research that looks at this type of information. For example, in our guide, we have salary benchmarks for key Microsoft 365 and Azure roles for a number of countries. For more localized data, you could consider consulting tools like Indeed’s Salary Checker where data is collated to provide estimates for various regional positions across the world.
Once you have a figure in mind, you can then weigh up the scope for increasing your rates. Although it’s important to note that if you have a USP, you can afford to charge higher rates than others—so don’t take the salary benchmarks as gospel for what your rates need to be!
As humans who are continually faced with different learning opportunities, self-development is absolutely crucial to all aspects of our life—and this is especially true when you’re a freelancer and a ‘walking advert’ for your business.
In order to build a good case for increasing your rates, you need to be able to reference the investments you’ve made in yourself and your business—and always have a plan for the next steps you’re going to take. This is particularly lucrative if it aims to help the ecosystem as a whole, for example, like bridging a certain part of the digital skills gap. This can range from taking specialized courses and certifications, to contributing to the Microsoft ecosystem or even helping to build tools that’ll help make yours and many other contractors’ jobs easier.
Whatever you do, do it with passion and purpose, and the pay check is bound to follow!
Money can be a sensitive topic for many, but when you’ve put time, effort and resources into developing your career in the Microsoft ecosystem, it’s one that must be had. By being transparent, fair, and committed to investing in yourself, you can build a case for increasing your rates that’ll be hard to argue against.
If you need further advice, we’d love to have a chat. Why not get in touch with one of our friendly consultants? Each member of our team knows the Microsoft ecosystem like the back of their hand, so you can have the full confidence they will understand your needs and find you a job that pays in line with your skills and abilities.
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