The economy is booming.
Businesses are growing.
Everyone around you seems to be making more, and spending more.
An effective online presence is more important than ever for businesses. It’s no longer optional to have a business website. It’s a requirement.
This should be the perfect environment for growing your own web design business. The demand is out there. All you need to do is find the clients and close the deals.
Sounds perfect, right?
Well, maybe not.
While some agencies and freelancers are in fact killing it in this environment, most are either:
- Struggling to find clients
- Unable to get clients to pay them the kind of money they deserve to be making
The solution to the first problem requires a combination of marketing, networking, relationship building and luck. It’s a huge topic that has been dealt with in hundreds of articles, books and podcasts — and it’s a topic that I’m not going to deal with in this book.
In this post I’ll show you exactly how to write your web design proposals to get higher prices and make more money — the kind of money you deserve to be making.
I’m not going to waste your time by including a bunch of SEO filler content defining what a freelancer or consultant is, whether they are different, how many of you are out there and a whole bunch of other statistics.
You already know who you are and that you need to make more money.
So let’s cut right to the chase.
First I’ll go through the challenges that you’re facing in pricing and closing web design deals, and try to offer solutions that you can implement in your own business.
Then I’ll show you how you can price your web design projects to make more money.
Part 1 – Challenges and Solutions for Web Design Proposals
Why are you so afraid to charge more for your services?
One of the main reasons why web designers don’t charge more for their services is because they’re afraid of getting a no and losing the potential client.
There are lots of different reasons for this fear.
Different reasons might be valid for different people.
The common denominator of them all is that these fears are standing between you and higher paying projects.
If you can overcome your fear, you’ve got a darn good chance of getting higher paying projects, and making more money.
This is probably the toughest challenge out there, which is why I’m tackling it right off the bat. If you desperately need money NOW to pay rent, buy food, pay your mortgage, buy diapers (you get the idea), then you will be terrified of losing any potential work, and you’ll be willing to work for much less than you would under less stressful circumstances.
I hear you brother!
I’ve been in that situation myself and I feel your pain. So let me be very clear — if you desperately need money, then by all means take any gig you can get to get some cash to pay your bills.
But just because you are willing to take anything does NOT mean you cannot ask for the amount you actually want — particularly if you have built some sort of relationship with the potential client or can negotiate during a meeting.
In cases where you are simply sending out a price quote that will be thrown in a basket with a bunch of other quotes, then you probably will want to present your lowest price right off the bat and hope that you win the race to the bottom.
But if you have some sort of relationship with the client, and can present your proposal in a “face to face” meeting (in-person, video, phone), then you have the opportunity of presenting an initial price and seeing the client’s reaction.
If the client doesn’t push back on your initial price then you’ve scored a big one. But if you get some push back you can negotiate by either adding value or discounting your price.
Don’t be afraid that the client will never want to speak to you again just because you quoted them a reasonable price that they felt was too high. That’s how business works. People bargain and negotiate on pricing.
On the contrary, the fact that you initially quoted a higher price might give you more credibility and make you seem more valuable in the client’s eyes and give you more negotiating leverage.
In addition, everyone loves a discount, especially if they gained that discount through bargaining. So the client might feel like he’s getting a better deal by getting a discount off of your original price than if you gave him the same discounted price right off the bat.
Another benefit of negotiating is that you can move your pricing down in steps. For example, if your final price is $2,000 and your initial quote is $10,000, you can first drop to $8,000 and see what happens, then drop to $5,000…$3,000…until you hit your bottom. So you’ve given yourself another 4 possible price points that the client might accept before you hit your rock bottom price.
Note: When discounting your pricing just remember that just because a client is paying you next to nothing does not mean that they will not take up as much, or more, of your time than a client paying full price.
Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid to ask for your ideal price and then negotiate down, if you have the opportunity.
Some freelancers are insecure about their ability to get the work done. It could be that the project is bigger than they think they can handle or that it includes certain requirements that they don’t think they can execute.
This problem usually affects web designers who haven’t done many projects or who have done very basic sites and now are trying to land larger, more complex, website projects.
The first thing to realize is that everyone in the web design and digital marketing industry is constantly learning, or at least should be. That’s because the tools, platforms, capabilities and standards of the industry are constantly evolving and improving.
In this business, years of experience carries much less weight than in other, more traditional, industries. On the contrary, too much experience with tools and platforms that have given way to newer technologies can be a major negative when competing against newer competitors who use newer “cutting edge” technologies.
The best way to conquer your feelings of insecurity is to keep learning new tools and techniques. Set aside some time on a regular basis for professional development and stay on top of the “cutting edge” technologies in the industry.
If your feelings of insecure stem from a lack of projects in your portfolio, then start building websites for yourself. Clients want to see the work that you’ve done so that they can be confident that you’ll be able to complete their project. They don’t care who you built the site for. They want to see the finished product.
Buy some domain names and create some websites that you can then feature on your portfolio page. Your potential client is not going to research who you built the website for. They just want to see the sites. So build them.
What if you’re feeling insecure about taking on a project that might be too much for you to handle or that includes some requirements that you don’t know how to get done?
Not a problem. You can always outsource parts of your project (or even the entire project). Finding freelancers to outsource too has its own challenges, but with a little effort and due diligence you can find the right help.
If you are going to outsource some or all of your project, just make sure you price the project accordingly. The last thing you want is to price the project too low and then end up with no profit after paying your freelancers.
You can always get someone to do the work for you. The challenge is getting the client at the right price.
If you’re good at closing the deals, you might never have to actually do the work again — if you don’t want to. But if you’re reading this I’m assuming that getting too many good paying projects is not your problem :)
The truth about insecurity is that it’s a feeling that you impose on yourself. No one can make you feel insecure, if you aren’t. You alone control your feelings. So if you don’t want to feel insecure…then just don’t.
Yeah, I know that sounds simpler than it really is, and I agree. But I’ve seen the stupidest, untalented, guys close deals (and outsource the work) just because they portrayed confidence to their potential clients. Not having the experience or skills to do the job did not make them feel insecure and stop them from getting the work.
Bottom Line: Don’t let insecurity cripple you. Control your feelings. And remember that you can always outsource work.
Let’s face it. Building a website is not rocket science.
Sure, there’s a huge difference between a website built by a professional web designer with years of experience and a newbee who’s built a few Wix sites.
But the fact remains that a fast learner with a bit of an eye for design can build a site on Wix or Squarespace that will satisfy lots of small business clients who aren’t too picky and just want something done quickly and inexpensively.
And the truth is, that if a client can get something that she’s satisfied with for cheap, then they should.
So, if you’re targeting clients that don’t have money and don’t care that much about the look of their website, then you will be competing in a race for the bottom with a ton of people, local and offshore, that will do the job really cheap.
It doesn’t get any less competitive if your shooting for clients with bigger budgets and higher quality standards. There’s a ton of competition at just about every level of the web design pricing ladder.
Yes, as you move up the ladder the competition thins out significantly, but there will always be competitors for you to beat out for work.
The first instinct for most web designers when faced with competition is to try to present the lowest price.
And that’s the problem.
You should not put yourself in the position where you are competing solely based on price.
That usually means that you’ll need to give up chasing the kind of clients that I described before — those with no budget, looking for the cheapest solution.
Unless you’re willing to work for cheap (and there’s nothing wrong with doing that if you need to pay the bills), you have to develop some way of qualifying clients before pitching them.
Take this posting for example:
“Looking for someone to build simple business website. Could be college or high school student.”
You’re a web designer and you see this posting in your local community newsletter. You’re thinking, “Ok, they want to build a business website. That’s what I do. I should contact them asap.”
Now, if you want to shoot them an email and roll the dice, I’m not going to stop you. But just be aware of the signals that they’ve been nice enough to send you.
The first clue is “simple”, which you should read as “cheap”. They’re telling you that they don’t need someone who has a lot of experience or skills, because they just want something “simple”. If that wasn’t enough of a red flag, they go on to inform you that they want something so “simple” that even a “college or high school student” can do in their spare time.
I see these types of postings all the time, and at first I would respond to them, until I finally got the message. Now, if it’s someone you know and you want to help them out, then by all means do so. I have. But if you are looking for projects that price in the thousands $$$, then you should move on.
Again, I don’t want to dissuade anyone from going after any type of business to pay their bills, but the purpose of this guide is to help you get higher priced projects and make more money.
Also, trying to make money from clients that simply have non (or at least not for a website), is draining and demoralizing. It can really get you down and shake your confidence, which is the last thing you need.
Now that I’ve moved you away from chasing clients with no budget, you’re still going to have to deal with competition. The main way to do that is by differentiating yourself.
There are several ways to differentiate yourself from the competition:
As the saying goes, “the riches are in the niches”. If you can present yourself as the expert in a specific niche, you will usually beat out competitors who are generalists. You’ll also be able to charge a premium, because you’ve removed the competition.
The exact playbook of how to find and position yourself as an expert in a specific niche is beyond the scope of this guide, and there’s no shortage of content out there on the subject.
If you can pull this off and position yourself as a niche expert, you’ll be able to beat the competition and charge a premium in that niche.
Most clients appreciate good customer service. Some will pay a premium for it. These are the greatest clients to work with, because they are willing to pay a lot more as long as you can take away their pain so that they can focus on their core business. If you keep them happy and untroubled, they will pay whatever it takes.
Speed is also a factor that some clients will pay extra for, if they have a deadline to meet.
If you can offer better service, you can put yourself above competitors and charge a premium.
Some clients want to work with someone local. They want to meet face to face and be able to know that they can get a hold of you when needed. By focusing on clients in your local area, you can use your location as an advantage over competitors.
Of course, being able to blow them away with your work is a competitive advantage, if you can do it.
This is probably the most important one on the list. People do business with people. They value working with people that they can trust and depend on.
Developing a relationship with a potential client will give you an advantage over competitors that don’t have that relationship. While price might still be a factor in the client’s decision, a small price difference will usually be trumped by the value of the relationship.
Bottom Line: Qualify your clients to avoid those looking for the cheapest option, and differentiate yourself from the competition.
Challenge: Client Perception
Some clients who have never done a website project are often under the impression that website design is cheap.
They’re heard from friends and random people (who are also clueless) that websites can be built for a few hundred dollars by high school students or by offshore freelancers.
The fact that they have no idea how to find these folks is besides the point. But they know that they exist and, therefore, they are under the impression that professional web design is super cheap.
When you quote them your price, they look at you as if you’re out of your mind. They’re like, “WTF — there’s no way in hell that I’d pay $5k for a website!”
The solution to the “false perception” problem is the same as the one I suggested for the “Competition” problem.
You need to qualify your potential clients to avoid those who think that web design shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred bucks.
Once you’ve broken out above the lowest level client pool, you find that clients will have much more realistic expectations regarding web design pricing.
There still might be some sticker shock, but you’ll deal with that by differentiating yourself (as we discussed above) and by highlighting your value (as we’ll discuss later on).
Since we just discussed pricing perception, it’s only natural that we mention DIY.
There are some great tools for DIY website building. Some of them, like Wix and Squarespace are targeted towards small businesses.
Clients without, or with very small, budgets will try to use these DIY services. While it’s possible to come out with a nice product, the overwhelming majority of DIYers will end up with a mediocre site at best. More often, the site will be horrible.
But it’s only $10!!
You shouldn’t compete with DIY sites. The clients that choose to use them are NOT your target. If they fail at their DIY efforts and realize they need to pay a professional, then you can take your crack at them. Until then don’t waste your time.
Bottom Line: Real companies that pay reasonable prices do not use DIY tools to build their websites. Don’t waste your time with companies that do.
Challenge: Lack of Urgency
Many businesses don’t need websites to survive. They understand that in today’s day and age a business needs to have a good online presence, but they aren’t pressured to make that happen.
This is especially true of traditional, “old school” businesses. For example, a manufacturing company that produces machines that they sell to other companies doesn’t need a website to make sales. They’ll never sell anything online.
So although a good website will enhance their image and get them a bit more exposure, it probably won’t make a significant difference in their income statement.
When there’s no urgency, clients tend to move slowly and look at lots of different options and solutions. They might eventually end up paying a premium for their website to the company that has built a relationship with them.
Or they might go with the cheapest option.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to inject urgency into a client that doesn’t naturally have it. The best you can do is try to build a relationship and nurture them until they finally are ready to pull the trigger.
Finally, the greatest challenge to pricing a web design project is client budget, or lack thereof.
There isn’t anything more to explain about this one. It’s pretty clear.
No budget = No $$$ for you
When faced with a client who has insufficient budget, here are your options:
- Pass on the project.
If you can afford to do that, it’s probably the right choice in most cases.
- Discount your price.
While this is usually not the preferred option, it could be the right one if you think there’s potential for more work from the client down the road. In that case it’s worth getting your foot in the door and doing the project at a discount, because, assuming you do a good job, you’re guaranteed to get the additional work.In other words, look at the lifetime value of the client instead of just this one specific job. You might end up making more money in the long run by discounting initially to get the client for the long term.Here’s a real life example of this:I once met with a prospective client who needed a simple WordPress site built in a rush. Time was “of the essence”. The site was only a few pages and they had all the content they would need ready, so I new it wouldn’t take be more than possibly ten hours, including all the client “back and forth” and approval.I told them that I usually don’t do sites for less than 10k, and certainly nothing for less than 5k. This was a face to face meeting at their offices, and I could see on the client’s face that she was probably not going to go that high and that she’d probably shop around for a better deal.
I did not want to lose the client because I could see that there would be more work coming down the pipeline in the future. So I told her that since it was a rush job and I wanted to work with them I’d do it at the discounted price of $4,000.
I executed the project quickly and to their satisfaction. Over the next couple of years I got another $10,000 of work from them, and they continue to come back to me whenever they need anything related to digital marketing.
- Offer payment options.
If the client is just starting out in business, you can offer to break your fee up into smaller payments, as long as you keep control over the site so that you retain leverage to make sure he pays the entire fee.Or you can offer to let the client pay by credit card instead of check, which makes it easier for them to pay off in small sums while you get your money (minus the cc fee).Offering creative payment options instead of discounting is my favorite :)
Bottom Line: Discounting is ok when the lifetime value of the client justifies it. Offering creative payment options is even better.
Part 2 – Web Design Proposal Pricing Models
How to price a web design project.
Now that we’ve discussed the challenges web designers face when pricing projects and offered some solutions, it’s time to focus on how to actually price a web design project to make sure you make more money.
Let’s say there’s a company who wants you to build them a new website. How do you charge for the project?
There are several different pricing models you can use. Some of them should be combined while some should not be used at all.
Let’s go through each pricing model and decide whether, and how, to use them.
In the time based pricing method, you’d estimate how many hours it would take to complete the project and multiply that by your rate. If it will take you 25 hours to build the website and you charge $100 per hour, then the total price will be $2,500.
Here’s why I don’t like using this method.
If you’re an experienced designer and your building the website on WordPress (which is a common scenario), then you’ll probably be using a template that you’ve used many times before and are super familiar with.
That being the case, there’s no way it’s going to take you more than 10 hours to build the site. In fact, if your creative engines are flowing, you might be able to do it in just a couple of hours. At $100 an hour, that’s way below the original $2,500.
The easy way around this is to simply quote the client the number of hours that gets you to the number you’re looking for. So you can say the job will take 40 hours at $100 an hour for a total of $4,000.
The problem with the time based pricing quote is that it leaves you open to having the client question your time estimate or rate. The client might say, “there’s no way that it’s going to take you 40 hours to build a website” or “$100 an hour seems a bit high for a web designer” — and she might have a point.
So now you’re in a position where you have to prove the veracity of your numbers, which you might or might not be able to do.
I don’t ever want to be in that position, and neither do you.
The fundamental flaw with time based pricing is that it doesn’t take into account your level of expertise and experience.
For example, let’s say you’re hiring a singer to perform at a concert for 1 hour. You reach out to James, the local wedding singer, and to Billy Joel. They’re both singers and they’ll be performing for the same 1 hour. Do you think they’re price will be the same? Of course not!
The same is true for web design. The reason you can do a project in just 5 hours, which would take someone else 25 hours, is because you have a decade of experience and learning behind you.
You are the Billy Joel of web design, so the fact that a gig takes you an hour is irrelevant. You need to be paid for your experience and expertise, not just the actual time spent on the project.
You should never charge by the hour or give an hourly estimate. And if the client asks you simply explain that you don’t charge by the hour because you’ve been doing this work for a long time and have a lot of experience, which allows you to work much more productively and quickly than others.
But in most cases you won’t have to explain yourself, because just saying that you charge by the project and not by the hour should be sufficient.
In competitive pricing, you find out what your competitors are charging and charge the same or less.
The only way to do this is if you can find out what your competitors are charging for the particular project you’re vying for. And the only way to find out is to ask, if you get that opportunity.
The problem with copying your competitors pricing is that unless you know exactly what services and deliverables they are offering for their price, you can end up charging way too little for way too much work.
And the only way you’ll find out exactly what they’re offering is to see their proposal, which is extremely unlikely to happen.
You also don’t want to get into a race for the bottom, as we discussed earlier.
However, using your competition as a guideline for your own pricing is a useful tactic (if you can get that information) and should be integrated into your pricing strategy.
Since we’re discussing competitive pricing, I think it’s a good time to talk about client budgets.
You always want to find out what a client’s budget is, or what they’re expecting to pay, for the project that your bidding on before giving them a proposal.
The best, and really only, way to find out is to ask — “What is your budget for the project?”
If they say they don’t know or don’t have one, you can give them some options like, “are you thinking of 10k or more like 50k?”
You can also ask how much they paid for their current website (if they have one), to give you some perspective. Or you can ask if they’ve gotten any other quotes, and what the range is.
If you push a bit, in a nice way, you will get an answer.
Here are a couple of examples from my own experience:
I was meeting a potential client for the first time and pitching them on our web design service. It was a company that had a website but wanted it totally rebuilt with a new look and functionality.
After I had heard everything they were looking for I thought to myself that I would quote them around $12k, maybe $15k. Luckily, I kept this to myself and instead, asked them what their budget was. They replied that they didn’t really know and wanted me to tell them how much it would cost. So I asked them how much they paid for their old site and…bingo, they said $24k. Hello!!
Once I heard what they spent on their old site, I knew that I could charge at least that much. But since I wanted to close the deal asap and avoid competing with other firms, I quoted them $20k on my proposal and won the gig.
Had I not asked them about their budget and what they had paid for the old site, I would have left between 5 and 8 thousand bucks on the table (for the same work).
I pitched to a large real estate company looking to redesign their website. It was a significant amount of work. The meeting went really well. My initial thought was to charge around $25k, but I knew better to go with my instincts alone…so I asked, “What is your budget for the project?”
They said something like, “in the tens of thousands, but not hundreds of thousands.” They even told me that they had gotten a quote on the high end for over $100k. That was exactly what I needed to hear. I gave them a proposal at $65k.
No, we did not get the gig, but it was not because of pricing. In fact, they went with a more expensive agency because they had some capabilities that we didn’t.
The lesson is clear: always ask clients about their budget and expectations before quoting them a price.
I discussed finding out what the client’s expectations were related to paying for a web design project in the previous section. But I want to go one step further with how client expectations should affect your pricing.
Individuals, sole proprietors and really small businesses expect to pay as little as possible for a website (and any service). Larger businesses expect to pay more for stuff. In fact, the larger and more corporate the organization, the more they expect, and are willing, to pay.
Therefore, if you’re pitching a project to a company with revenue in the millions and above, you need to jack up your prices just to seem credible. If you are too cheap, they’ll disregard you as either being too small or inexperienced.
If you’re pitching even a basic WordPress website to a larger company, you should not price it for less than $10,000. Trust me, they won’t bat an eyelid.
The bigger the company, the higher you should price your services.
The only caveat to this is that you must present yourself in a highly professional manner to back up your price. Corporations want to work with skilled professionals who will get the job done efficiently and effectively — and they’re happy to pay a premium for that.
If you can’t look and act professional, then you should stick to the $1,000 websites. The bigger money is for professionals who can inspire confidence in their work and abilities and can provide clients with an efficient and non stressful high quality experience.
Value to Client
Another pricing strategy is based on the value that you are providing to the client. In other words, how valuable is the website to the client’s business?
Websites that generate revenue for a client are going to be more valuable than brochure or informational sites.
That’s why ecommerce sites, in addition to their greater complexity, can be significantly more expensive than non ecommerce sites.
If you’re using WordPress with Woocommerce to build an ecommerce site, it might not take you that much longer to build than a regular site. But the fact that it is an ecommerce site and will generate revenue allows you to charge much more for it, because the client clearly sees the value in having it. The site will generate tangible revenue, as opposed to a corporate site that might have long term benefits, but no direct revenue.
As another example, a website for a business that is solely online has more value to a client than an informational site for a brick and mortar.
Taking the value of the website to the client into account when pricing your project is definitely a practice you should incorporate into your pricing strategy.
Part 3 – Adding Value
At this point you should have a better idea of how to price your web design project by using and combining some of the pricing strategies we’ve laid out.
But at the end of the day, even with the greatest pricing strategy, there’s only so much that you can charge for a website. That price will vary greatly depending on the type of client and complexity of the project. But if the only service you are offering is web design, you will hit a price ceiling that you will find almost impossible to break through.
Clients are not stupid. They know how to use Google (at least most of them do).
It isn’t very hard to Google how much a website should cost and come up with dozens of posts with various prices. Or they can look at the sites of other web design agencies that have price quotes for all to see.
Of course you can’t expect to be held to price quotes from offshore agencies, and every project is unique and there are lots of other factors that clients need to consider.
That’s all true.
However, it doesn’t change the fact that clients can easily get a ballpark idea of what the price range is for the website they’re looking to develop. And unless you are a major, brand name, design agency, you’re going to have to play within that general range in order to be in the game.
Clients are also usually going to get multiple quotes. If those quotes are ranging between $1,500 and $3,000, you’re going to have to make a compelling case of why you want to charge $5,000 or $10,000.
In this section I’m going to show you how you can charge $10,000 for a website that others are charging $3,000 for.
It’s really quite simple and intuitive: adding value.
Most of the US based web designers out there that are charging low prices are providing only one specific service — web design.
Well, isn’t that what the client wants — a website?
When a client asks for a business website, what they are really looking for is a tool to achieve their business objectives.
In the case of an ecommerce site, that objective is clear — to sell more product.
The goal of a corporate website could be to enhance the reputation of the company or to provide customers with relevant content or to get more exposure via search.
In order to charge more for building a website you need to provide the client with the elements necessary to help him achieve his business objectives.
When you do that, you become able to charge not only for the web design, but for all those other elements that the client needs.
Here are some of those elements:
Planning and Setup
You need to meet with your client for one or more discovery sessions to understand their objectives and what exactly they’re looking for in a website. You might also need to inventory their assets, like logos, images, written content etc.
This stuff is a given to you, but it needs to be broken out as a service you are providing. Your time is valuable and you should be compensated for it.
Every website must be based on a marketing strategy that defines the client’s business objectives and how the website can help achieve them.
It should include things like customer persona, competitive analysis, content and functionality requirements.
You should be offering marketing strategy as part of your web design package.
Every business wants to get found more on Google, and SEO is the way to make that happen. Most designers ignore SEO. You shouldn’t because it’s something that clients will find valuable and be willing to pay for.
The elements of SEO that you should included in your web design package are:
- Keyword Research and Selection
- Competitive Analysis
- Onpage SEO for each page
- Google Business Page
- Bing Business Listing
- Basic directory links (you can use an outside service for this and charge extra for it)
A website without good content is worthless. Most clients don’t know what content they need and how to structure and create it.
Recommending what content they should have and structuring that content on the website is something that most web designers can’t or don’t do. By doing that you are adding value to your service, which you can charge for.
If you’re capable of doing so, you can also offer to write the website content, or at least edit the client’s content.
Any functionality that the client wants to add should be charged for, even if all you need to do is add a plugin to make it happen. The client doesn’t need to know how easy it is for you to do. All they need to see is the final result.
Some common functionalities that are pretty easy to implement include:
- Live chat
- Email capture and adding to list
- Content upgrade
- Exit popup
- Interactive form
Adding social media sharing and liking capabilities to the website might seem like a given to you since it’s pretty much just a matter of adding a WordPress plugin, but clients see it as an added value, and they don’t know how hard or easy it is to implement. They just want it done, and will pay for that.
You can also offer to create their social media profiles on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter etc.
Every website should be mobile responsive. Doing so should be part of your normal operating procedures. But it’s not always easy to implement and involves planning and skill. Not all web designers are careful to implement mobile compatibility. But you are.
Clients understand the importance of mobile compatibility, and are willing to pay for it.
You should be developing your client website on your own development server or host so that you maintain full control over it until you get your final payment.
When you’re ready to launch, and get your final payment, you’ll need to move the site over to the client’s host — unless you’re providing hosting as an added service.
Moving a site to a different server could go smoothly, or could be a nightmare. That’s why you should be charging for it.
You need to teach them how to use their new website admin. This can be done in person or via screencast.
Post launch support
You’ll be there to fix anything that’s broken because of your work and to answer their questions. If they want an ongoing maintenance plan, you can give them one as well.
Now that we’ve gone through all of these value added elements, let’s see how it affects your pricing.
Here’s one example of how a $2,500 web design project turns into a $10,000 project:
I do NOT recommend showing the client this breakdown unless he specifically demands it.
The reason for that is that I don’t want to give clients the opportunity to start bargaining with me by trying to delete individual services. That’s because I believe that every service I’ve listed is integral to the building of a website.
You can’t have a website without SEO or content or strategy or optimization etc. So if a client tries to say, “Ok, get rid of the SEO” I’ll tell him that it’s going to be detrimental to his business and take much of the value out of the site — and that for those reasons I don’t build websites without SEO.
Breaking down a website project by its tasks and services makes it easier for you to justify your pricing to yourself. Then you can more confidently present your total price and explain the different components that you include in a web design project — without giving him the specific prices for each line item.
Here’s how a conversation might go after you present the client with a $10,000 quote:
Client: This is way more than other designers have quoted me.
You: How much have they quoted?
You: I also charge $2,500 for design. But to create a website that is a tool to achieve your business objectives, you need more than design.
You: You need strategy, content, SEO, functionality, mobile etc. I don’t just design websites. I create marketing tools that help you get more business.
Client: Ok, I get it now.
If the client says he doesn’t care about any of that other stuff, and that all he wants is a website, you can either do the site for $2,500 or move on to bigger and better things. The choice is yours.
But if the client has the budget and is serious about business, he will get the message.
He might still try to negotiate, at which point you can press your value case, offer a discount or a payment plan. But you will be negotiating from a place of confidence.
Beyond the specific services and deliverables you are offering, your value case should be based on your professionalism, integrity, experience and customer service.
Good clients are willing to pay a premium for a provider whom they can trust and depend on to complete the project and be around to support it.
Research shows that people like to have options. It gives them a sense of control instead of feeling forced to either accept or reject a single offer.
I recommend that, whenever possible, you give the client 2 or 3 pricing options in your proposal.
Option 1: Basic website package without extra functionality – $10,000
Option 2: Website with additional functionality – $13,500
Option 3: Option 2 + additional SEO and support – $16,000
You can play around with the options and pricing to come up with something that works for you.
The point is to make the client feel like he’s in control of his destiny.
In most cases the client will go for the middle option, or you might even get lucky and get option 3. But if you price it properly, the worst case scenario will be pretty darn good for you as well.
You win either way and the client feels like he won too.
I believe in pricing options so strongly that I integrated it into my proposal software Propfire. So when you create a proposal on Propfire, you can easily add pricing options.
Here’s an example:
As much as we all want to win new business, in some cases it’s probably to your benefit to pass and move on.
I know, it’s really hard to pass up a new client.
From my experience, the clients that are willing to pay your full price without too much of a fight are usually not going to pose a problem.
It’s usually the ones that bargain you down and force you to significantly discount your price that end up being the most trouble.
So before you cave in and agree to do a $10k website for $2,500, please take a moment and think carefully about these things:
How easy is it going to be for you to work with this client?
You can usually see the warning signs right off the bat. Working with an asshole is not fun. It will drain every ounce of your strength, destroy your wellbeing and make you miserable. No money is worth that.
Is the client indecisive?
If the answer is yes, then you should probably pass because you’ll be asked to make design after design while she continues to tell you that she isn’t sure that it’s right yet. The process will be endless and even if you specify limits in your proposal, you’ll find yourself working on the same project for years. Literally. Are you ok with that?
How enthusiastic is the client about getting the project done?
If a client doesn’t really care when the project gets done then he will get busy with other things and not be responsive to your requests for assets (like content, images etc.) or reviews and approvals. He might even disappear for a year or more before reappearing again … maybe.
When a project drags on for months (or longer), it can have a significant negative effect on your ability to manage your time and plan and work on other projects.
Is taking on this client going to benefit your overall reputation and brand?
I once met with a potential client who reached out to us about doing some digital marketing work. It turns out that the client owned several men’s spas — the kind where treatments “end happily” (wink wink). There was plenty of ongoing work to be had — all paid in cash, of course.
We actually did a small project as a test — and getting 12 crisp $100 bills didn’t hurt one bit. But after some serious discussions and soul searching, my team decided that we just couldn’t get involved with this kind of work. Besides the moral hesitations, we also didn’t want to become branded as the agency of the “underworld”.
The money might have been great, but it’s not the direction we wanted to take, both on a personal and business level. So we passed on the happy ending with that client — but we’ve never been happier for making that decision.
Bottom Line: Just because someone is willing to pay you for work, does not mean you have to accept it. Think carefully about how the client will affect you personally, and your business, before accepting any work that comes your way.
I hope you’ve gotten some useful guidance and practical tips about how to price your projects to make more money.
Choose the strategies and tactics that work for you, and implement them on your next potential client. You can always discount your prices if necessary.
But if you’re confident in the value you bring to the project, and you clearly communicate that value to your client, there is a great chance that you’ll get the price that you want, or close to it.
You do great work and have invested a lot to acquire valuable skills and knowledge that clients need.
It’s time you started getting compensated appropriately.
Use the strategies and tactics you’ve learned here to make that happen!