How much should I charge for Divi websites?

Have you ever heard of a “client from hell”? You know – they’re the ones that call at 1:00 AM to discuss urgent changes for the following morning, the ones who text you their change requests because you accidentally called them from your cell phone (just once!); they’re the clients that send you vague change requests like

Mark, I really need the design to pop!

(Seriously, what does that even mean? Do they need computer screens to spew thousands of diamonds at their visitors’ faces?)

These “clients from hell” are the ones who expect to pay rock-bottom prices for a top quality site (not to mention, done fast) – while they second guess you on every decision.

And chances are, if you’re getting these clients, it’s not actually their fault: it’s because you haven’t positioned yourself correctly. Luckily, I’m writing a (hopefully enjoyable) series of posts that can show you how to attract quality clients that you actually enjoy working with.

The topic of this article is the first part of the equation: making money.

Making Money

A lot of designers are scared to price high, especially in the Divi market. But in the end, pricing your services should come down to two things: (1) the value you can provide to your client, and (2) your own ability to disregard your own fears and quote a high price. The second part is especially hard for people who have never done it before.

In the beginning, I was scared that my clients would experience “sticker shock” from any high price and turn away, so I always quoted them super low prices. This, in turn, attracted ridiculously cheap clients who wanted to operate their business services on consumer-level pricing and didn’t actually value me as a designer.

Most web designers tackle jobs for businesses, but they have trouble understanding business pricing. Here are the basics: businesses aren’t people; they’re entities that are created to make money. To a business, a website is an investment that can either make them money or save their money.

Making the client money

Businesses make much more money than people, so it’s hard for designers to understand how “thousands of dollars” might actually be a small expense for a business. For instance, you might help a local landscaping company book $10,000 worth of customers by adding a targeted Facebook marketing campaign and corresponding landing page to their design package; even if you charge $3,000 for this service up front, they’d be able to cover the cost of your service if the campaign helped them land just a couple customers.

Most designers would pitch this kind of a service like this:

My Facebook marketing services last one month and cost $3,000. They can really make your landscaping business a lot of money. Would you like to add this to your package?

Bland, right? It sounds like they’re regurgitating a teenage cashier’s pitch from the last time they were asked to sign up for a rewards card. Instead, just make a few changes in wording and focus on value instead:

I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve taken some preliminary steps to research your situation on Facebook. I see a huge financial opportunity for you with Facebook ads. The landscaping season is about to start, and the timing is just right to make a big impact and get directly in front of your target audience.

(…explain Facebook ads and show him projected revenues…)

If you want to take this on, I can have the whole thing running by the end of the week. I expect the revenues from this service to cover my cost within a week, and everything for the rest of the season will be pure profit for your business.

Obviously, the second approach takes more work – you need to make sure you can back up your claims. Never sell a client something you can’t provide – but do push yourself out of your comfort zone by forcing yourself to do great, new, and inventive work. If you’re a complete beginner to the world of “online business strategies”, try researching the podcasts and blogs of Nathan Barry, Paul Jarvis, Marie Forleo, Cap Watkins, or Pat Flynn, and apply the small principles you learn to your clients’ websites for additional value.

Saving the client’s money

For us techy folk, automation is the name of the game. It’s not all code, either – sometimes, it’s just the setup and simplified instructions for a reliable, battle-tested WordPress plugin. In the past, I automated much of the paperwork for a new client registration process which saved a business about 10 hours per week of wages. The employees who used to handle this job were free to work on more meaningful projects that actually generated more revenue for the company. Here’s what I saved their company (wages are estimated, but accurate according to their profile on Glassdoor.com):

10 hours per week saved * $20/hour = $200/week saved
$300/week saved * 52 weeks in the year = $10,400 per year saved

When doing something like this, you can ask for a fraction of the $10,400 savings as payment. The savings don’t end for the business there, either – they continue year after year and scale easily as the business takes on more work. I can’t explain it, but this just feels good, and it really brings joy to your clients when they realize how much you’ve just saved them.

Mindset

Your practice is either a Toyota or a Ferrari, and you get to choose. Go above and beyond for your clients and don’t feel bad to charge them more than “consumer pricing” for it. After all, they’re running a business, and they’re going to make money from what you’re offering.

Let’s illustrate another example: say you made an extra $50,000 per year right now: how would you feel? Would you be more relaxed? Could you have more fun with clients’ projects? Would the stress relief allow you to do better work and to help more people? I’m a strong believer that designers can do a much better job with their craft if they’re not eating ramen and worried about paying the rent. (Although, for the record, I still really like ramen. It’s delicious.)

While you don’t have to do it this dramatically, here’s how I fixed my own “I’m scared to charge people higher prices” mindset: I took a phone call from a potential client. She was the founding partner of a law firm – talk about intimidating – and I forced myself to quote triple my usual rates. I was standing in a parking lot, wearing jeans and muddy tennis shoes (and shaking with fear) as I upped my rates into multiple thousands of dollars.

She began to sound displeased with how much I was asking for. She started questioning me – and believe me, there’s nothing like being questioned by an angry lawyer. I tried to explain my value, but she would cut me off with long, awkward pauses and interject with more arguments. This went on for 10 long minutes. Then she told me she had to go, and she would reach out to me if I got the job. She hung up.

I breathed a sigh of relief and leaned against a tree. I was still shaking. There was no way I was going to get the job, but I had stood up for myself and quoted a potential client triple my usual pricing. What’s more, airplanes weren’t falling out of the sky, there wasn’t lava spewing out of the ground, and my head didn’t blow up.

I got an email from her 15 minutes later. The general message was:

You sound like a quality designer. If you’re still up for it, my firm is excited to work with you and we can’t wait to see how this turns out.

In the end, this is business. The client gets what they pay for, and it’s your job to help them get the best website they can afford.

Clients

Here’s my last example: there are two potential clients.

Randy is the CEO of a small company. He’s obsessed with cost savings – he wants to get everything as cheaply as possible. He wants a designer who charges him rock-bottom rates.

I’m going to come right out and say it: Randy doesn’t care about your expertise. He doesn’t even view you as an expert. He thinks you’re a monkey who knows how to use an Internet-enabled typewriter. He’s going to call you at 1 AM to ask for a free change request because he has a big idea he wants to present to his investors tomorrow. When you tell him that his other request (probably something that has to do with red, italicized, or underlined Comic Sans scrolling on a marquee banner across the top of his website) isn’t so brilliant, he criticizes you and says “I’m the one paying you, so do it”.

Here’s another example of a client: Alex is the CEO of a medium-sized company. She’s obsessed with expertise and quality – she wants to make sure things are done right. She chooses to work with a designer because she views them as an expert in their topic. Alex knows her business, and she trusts that her designer knows theirs.

If you’re her designer, Alex is likely to call you and say, “I heard about ______. Could you give me some guidance on how this could help my company? What are your thoughts? Could you handle this for me?” Alex is the client who respects your opinion when she requests to make her logo take up the whole screen. “Ah, after you explain it like that, it makes sense. Let’s keep the logo the same size like you suggested.” Alex is willing to pay you more than rock-bottom prices because she values your expertise.

What’s more, the type of clients you attract will give two entirely different recommendations that control your future trajectory. Cheap Randy is likely to tell his network that he got a website from you for cheap, since to him, that’s your defining characteristic. On the other hand, Expertise-Loving Alex is likely to tell her network something like, “This designer knows what they’re doing and my results have never been better. They’re the only designer I’ll ever work with again. They’re definitely worth the price.”

What kind of recommendations do you want?

Tradeoffs

There’s no doubt that pricing higher will turn away some clients. A mom-and-pop shop isn’t going to pay you $10,000+ to design a new website for them. However, a powerful industrial company CEO isn’t going to be interested with someone who designs $200 websites for pawn shops. There’s a tradeoff.

And when it comes to your own living situation, what do you want to do?

10 clients if you charge $5,000 per project = you make $50,000/year
10 clients if you charge $500 per project = you make $5,000/year

12 clients @ $4,200 per project ~ $50,000
250 clients @ $200 per project = $50,000

Doing great work for a few clients sounds much more manageable than designing 4.8076 websites per week, for 52 weeks straight, with no vacations.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with designing for smaller companies as well. Some of my best clients have been single-person businesses! However, you can’t sustain your practice on clients who pay next to nothing for your work, so you need to choose your clients wisely.

Where do these magic clients come from?

Hopefully, you understand a little bit more about the mindset of charging businesses for your work. In the following weeks, I’ll be covering much more such as How I Find Clients (in my own introverted way), Setting Expectations (to help maintain control of your projects so you don’t have a 1000 pixel logo or an abundance of italicized red Comic Sans per the client’s request), Communication (preferably without phone calls, as they’re a time drain and take you away from doing the stuff you love, which is designing), and Payment (which is really, really simple and helps keep your dream going).

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