As we are about to enter a new year, this is the perfect time to raise your rates. If you feel like it is time to increase your fees or feel that maybe your rates are a little too low the new year is when you'll want to change that.
Now, I'm not sure that notifying clients is absolutely necessary, because 1) you shouldn't be raising the rates of in-progress projects for current clients (see below) and 2) you can cross that bridge with past clients if they contact you for a new project. However, it could work to your favor to notify them because it could generate new business.
If you were to send clients a letter that you are raising your rates, it puts you and your business in their thoughts and consideration if they have interior design projects they could do around their home. You can create a new fee schedule, an updated list of services and packages to include in your holiday card or end-of-year newsletter: Happy Holidays! My rates are changing on the first of the year, but for all my wonderful clients I am honoring my current rates until the end of January if you begin a new project before January 31st. Or something similar with the dates that work for you.
Providing a cushion for past clients to get your current rates before they increase is nice, but not necessary. The cushion is an opportunity to make your past clients (or certain special clients) feel taken care of and give advance notice. It can show respect to clients with whom you have long-standing relationships.
Now, if you have clients that you are currently working with - you have a signed contract - then you can't really raise your rates unless it is explicitly detailed in your contract. In fact, your contract could say that rates won't increase while working on their project, but if there is a 6 month lapse or longer then they will be billed at the current rate.
It is important to honor your contract and price with integrity. However, if some time has passed, don't be afraid to charge your old clients your current prices.
Many of us charged very little when we started and your past clients may expect your rates to remain the same. If you get an email from a past client inquiring about a future project and your rates have increased you can say something like: I am thrilled to hear from you and look forward to working together again. Since we last worked together, my rates have increased. I've included my current schedule of fees. When are you looking to begin?
It is your choice whether to raise your rates and when to do so. The end of the year is a convenient demarcation to raise your rates. Notifying your clients of your rate increases is not required, but is encouraged. And don't ever be apologetic about charging clients for your services!
Not sure about your rates? Check out my free Pricing Strategy Course.