Pricing is a real problem for web design companies and freelancers.
We often have these things running through our heads:
- If I charge too much, I could end up scaring people away
- If I charge too little, I might end up working for peanuts
- I have to stay competitive
- I don’t want to look cheap
- Why would somebody pay me more when that guy is doing it cheaper?
I’ve been there myself with my agency. I was seriously undervaluing my services, charging too little and working all hours to find new clients. It was horrible.
So what should you do?
The truth is, most web designers struggle when it comes to pricing their services. I certainly did for the first few years. I tried to use my competitor’s pricing to guide mine, but that was the worst thing I could have done.
So, around a year ago, I decided enough was enough, and I DOUBLED my prices.
I wanted to spend less time looking for new clients and more time with the clients I had.
Since doing this, I’ve been able to help more of my clients build and grow a successful online business. Win/Win.
This is why I wrote this article.
I wanted to share exactly what I do to attract more of these high paying clients in the hopes that you can do the same.
I stick to these 5 simple principles that allow me to position myself differently and comfortably charge a higher rate.
1. Stop taking orders - You’re not McDonald’s
The biggest shift for me was positioning myself as a business partner, not an employee. I accepted that my clients don’t always have the right answer.
So, I saw it as my job to point out when they were wrong or when things could be done better.
Yes, they understand the ins and outs of their business, however, you are the expert in building websites. You have the knowledge and experience to make that website a success. But you have to be confident in telling them something’s not going to work.
I know it’s tempting to be agreeable and smile and make sure you get the client. But if the website turns out to be ineffective because you did exactly what they asked, it’s going to look bad on you.
Here’s an example: I was meeting a prospective client. Everything was going well and he seemed keen to get the ball rolling. Just before we started talking about price he said, “Oh, by the way, we don’t want a lot of text on our website, nobody reads text anymore.”
Now, I could have just said: “Of course, no problem, whatever you want, the customer knows best.”
But instead, I went on to explain how important website content is and why. I explained that by working with us, we’d be able to give him more advice like that throughout the process to ensure he has a highly effective website at the end.
He understood the point I was making and agreed.
Two things happened during this discussion:
He knows I’m not a yes man, and I’ll pull him up if he’s wrong about something. A good place to be from the start of the relationship
He sees me as knowledgeable and is likely to value my services more
This type of guidance could save your clients a lot of time and money in the future, and they don’t mind paying for it.
SO stop taking orders and don’t be a yes-man or yes-woman. If you do, you end up turning yourself into a commodity.
2. Increase your knowledge (outside of web design)
The more you learn, the more you earn. Sorry for the cliche but it’s true.
Following on from the previous point, the more knowledge you have when it comes to helping your clients, the better you can help them.
I’ll be honest, I quite enjoy learning. I take a lot of online courses, I read a lot of books, and I go to quite a few events.
Over the past couple of years, most of this learning has been around marketing. I’ve stepped outside the realms of CODE to broaden my skill set.
This has allowed me to help my clients in many different ways, such as:
- Understanding Google Analytics
- Understanding email marketing
- How to record better videos
- How to do keyword research
- How to write better content
- How to create better landing pages
There is so much you can learn to help your clients be more successful. You don’t have to be an expert in all these areas, but it’s good to answer questions when they pop up. It will give you the edge over your competitors, and your client won’t mind paying for it.
3. Teach more
When you finally accept how knowledgeable you are, why not share it? Share what you’ve learnt over the years and help educate your potential clients.
- I spend around 20 hours per month teaching people what I know to help them get better results with their websites.
- I write in-depth blogs posts on my website
- I appear on podcasts
- I write guest posts like this one
- I appear on webinars as a guest
- I speak at events
- I run online workshops
- I’ve started my own podcast which will be going live very soon
I do all this for free. And although I enjoy it, I do it because it delivers customers.
The enquiries I get from all this are red-hot leads. They already know me, they know I’m knowledgeable, and they don’t mind paying a higher fee because I’ve already built up a lot of trust.
I also offer hourly coaching on my website. If someone needs help or they want to pick my brains for an hour, they can click on a buy now button and pay me for my time. Aside from being a nice little earner it also positions me as an expert.
How many web designers do you know who offer online coaching? It allows me to set myself aside from my competitors and show my website visitors that I am different.
4. Be picky about who you work with
When you first start out as a web designer you need customers. You’ll pretty much do anything you can to get some money coming in.
You might reduce your prices to get a sale, you might change your processes to fit what the clients want, and you might end up making unlimited revisions just to make the client happy.
This is NOT fun. But yet we all seem to go through it at some point or another. Clearly, this is not ideal, and it’s not what you want you be doing long-term.
As quickly as you can, try to implement a “Velvet rope policy.”
This means you want to STOP taking on anyone and everyone who has money to spend and be very specific about who you work with.
This will allow you to pick and choose the type of client you want and repel the clients you absolutely do not want.
Before taking on new clients, explain to them that you don’t work with everyone. Here’s how the conversation might look:
“Before we start working together I want to make sure we’re the “right fit” for you. Because we only work with a small number of clients at a time, I want to be completely sure we can help you before we get the ball rolling.”
This isn’t a sales tactic; this is so they know you are serious. If you feel as though it’s not going to work out, you are the one to make that decision. Ultimately, this is going to benefit both you and your client. If they fit within your culture, then you’re going to work well together, and the whole process will be much better for the both of you.
If not, then don’t work with them, it’s simple.
5. Talk about your prices on your website
This is a sensitive topic, I know. But I wholeheartedly believe in it.
If you want to sell more, you MUST have some pricing information on your website to attract the right customers.
Too many people hide behind their “contact us for a quote” button and wait for someone to get in touch.
I’ve tried it myself. All it does is waste everybody's time.
5 out of 10 people might not be able to afford you, and, meanwhile, you’ve spent time gathering information and creating a business proposal. All that time has been wasted if they only had $500 to spend.
Instead, you should be confident in your pricing structure. Even if you are more expensive.
Take a restaurant, for example, the most expensive restaurant in your city doesn’t shy away from being expensive. They own it.
You should do the same.
Don’t give set prices
I’m not saying you have to have a pricing table on your website. How could you when every project is different?
However, you could say things like...
“Price depends on your needs, every project is different, however a typical website starts around $5000.”
“The cost of your website can vary dramatically based on what you want. Our typical client pays between £5,000–£20,000.”
“If you are looking for a cheap website, we might NOT be the agency for you. Our prices are set based on the value that we deliver, and we don’t compete on price. Clients usually pay more with us because they want results.”
As you can see, all of the options above show that you are not a one size fits all agency and the price may vary. But you have also positioned yourself differently because you have been honest and upfront.
By doing this, you won’t waste as much time, and you’ll get more of your ideal customers.
How to raise your prices
Check out this post on how to write a price increase letter to your clients.
So there you have it, my five ways to position yourself differently and charge higher fees for your services. The biggest benefit of doing this is that you get to spend more time doing what you love. For me, that’s helping my clients build a business, not just a website. But doing that takes time and knowledge, so I need to price highly.
Being part of my client’s success and watching them gain a return on investment makes me confident in what we charge. I now thoroughly enjoy running my business and spend my time working with better customers.
If you struggle with words, a great way to make your work do the talking is by having your own web design portfolio. With time and practice you'll get better, don't worry.
Over to You
Do you think you’re charging enough for your services? If not, what’s holding you back? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments below. Teach
Really excellent and useful article. Thank you.
Thanks very much @yannickduguay:disqus Glad you found it useful!
Wow...really nice post
Wasting time on proposal before you discover that the client's budget isn't good with you is always a great pain.
Thanks for the tips. Martin welldone!
Very useful tips.