Pricing and selling web design services

How much should you charge?

What to charge for your web design services depends on a number of factors:

  • Your costs
  • The expertise, experience, and skills you offer
  • The perceived value of your services to your clients

Your costs

The cost of running your business varies country by country. Make sure you’re clear on the actual costs of running your own business.

Your clients are not just paying for the hours you put in. They should also be paying for your education, training and experience, as well as your hardware, software, time spent on research. If they don’t cover those costs, you have to.

You’d be doing no-one any favours by underestimating what it costs to run your business. If these costs mean you can’t continue to run your business, you’ll lose out but so will your existing clients.

The expertise, experience, and skills you offer

Even if you charge by the hour or day, your clients are not just buying the time you put in. They’re also buying the benefits of your experience, expertise, and breadth of skills.

You may also be delivering other benefits, such as strategic direction, marketing advice, or assets that will be used in other media. Think about the value of these things too.

The perceived value of your services to your clients

This is the most relevant factor. Consider the value that a client will get from what you offer. How will it affect the image or profitability of their business? Remember, this is what you’re delivering, not simply time spent.

Value is not dependent on whether you’ve spent one hour or a hundred hours on a piece of work.

You may have some prior knowledge, a contact, or some existing code that lets you achieve something valuable in a short time. Should your client not pay for your contacts, prior knowledge and prior work?

By the same token, if take a day to learn a new skill that interets you, and also happens to apply to your client’s site, should your clients pay for all that time?

Perceived value varies according to where your clients are in the world. Research your actual competitors, not just other web designers in your area. Who is actually working for the companies you want to serve?

Discount, but don’t devalue

If you need to reduce your prices on occasion (e.g. to win a strategically valuable job), then it’s important to show your discount. e.g. Don’t simply halve your price, show the full price with a 50% discount.

(If you do a free job for charity, quote the full price with a 100% discount, and let your client tell other people how supportive you have been, and what a good deal they got.)

The reason this is so important is that the price someone pays for a service is equivalent to the value they place on that service.

The more a service costs, the more you expect it to deliver.

Avoid cheap clients and cheap jobs

It can be very tempting to cut your prices in order to close a difficult customer – but think very carefully before you do it!

In a service industry, word of mouth is your most important marketing channel. You get to choose your reputation and brand through everything you do in business. Do you choose to be known as a cheap web designer?

If a client isn’t happy to pay full market price for what you offer, do they really need what you offer?

If a client is willing to pay your proper fees, it means they respect your skills and will expect to get appropriate perceived value. In our experience, full-paying clients make better clients, because they actually expect us to do our job properly. In these situations, we tend to find our client gives a good brief, then listen to our advice and look forward to working with us.

However, when we’ve cut prices to suit a client’s budget and expectations, we’ve found clients who just don’t want to hire experts – just someone to make a web site they think they want. These jobs tend to take up more time and create more tension, produce less successful results, and even pay less promptly.

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