How to Charge for Websites in a World of Wix and Squarespace | Digital Masters

Episode #31

How to Charge for Websites in a World of Wix and Squarespace

charging for high value websites

“Web design is a dying business.”

“Why would I pay you that much when I can do it myself with SquareSpace?”

“How do you expect to make money building websites now?”

Have you heard any of these in the last few years? As “user friendly” website builder programs like Wix and SquareSpace have grown in popularity, it probably feels like it’s almost impossible to find someone willing to pay more than a few hundred dollars for you to build them a website. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

In fact, I consistently charge clients thousands of dollars to build them a website and I rarely get pushback on my prices.

Want to know how I do it? Of course you do!

I’m going to walk you through the common objections you’ll face from prospects and how to answer them; what you’re actually creating for them (hint, it’s not necessarily a website); how to work for the right clients, and how you can communicate your overall value to capture those prospects.

Ready to dive in?

Charge for the Value of the Website

“Why do you charge that much when I can do it myself?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that over the last few years as I expanded my website agency. While I don’t try to attract the clients that don’t want to pay, I certainly got referrals from other happy clients. Unfortunately for me, my referrals didn’t always explain my pricing or how it all worked. Inevitably, I’d be sitting in a meeting with someone who was gobsmacked that my website design prices started at $5,000.

Why would they pay for that when they could go do it themselves with Wix or SquareSpace?!

Well, frankly, I often told them that they could do just that. And sometimes that was the end of the conversation.

But most of the time, they wanted to know why I could charge what I did and how I was so cavalier about my price points.

Here’s roughly that speech:

“Look, you could go and try to create a website by yourself and that’s totally OK. But what takes me 10 minutes can take you two hours because I do this every single day. And I’ve been doing this for 17 years. You have your expertise and I have mine. So while yes, you could go to SquareSpace and create a decent website, it’s probably going to have user experience issues, not be properly set up for Search Engine Optimization, and you might miss vital pieces that would lead to sales. But yea, you could create a decent website on your own and it might work just fine for you. But really, is that how you want to spend the next few weeks or months? Toying around with a website and trying to figure out how that all works? Or would you rather I take care of that for you and guide you through the entire process?”

That’s it. I acknowledge that they can create a website and it might work just fine, even well, but what is their time worth? Honestly, what gets most of my prospects to go from objection to signing a proposal is knowing that they’ve already been overwhelmed creating a website. Often, they’re coming to me for their second website and maybe they or a family member built the first. It’s already not doing what they want and they know that.

More than that, their first website didn’t do what they wanted or expected, so why should they pay me thousands of dollars to build the next one for them? Can a website really do that much for their business?

You’re Creating a Marketing Solution, Not a Website

Here’s the big thing though, you’re not just building a website. You’re building them a marketing solution. Frankly, if you’re just building a website, you really can’t charge thousands of dollars for that.

But, if you’re designing and creating a website so good that it can become the foundation of that business’s marketing, then the value of what you’re creating for that business is almost incalculable. I dug into the 10 steps you need to take to build a marketing machine website in episode 15, so feel free to jump there after you finish this episode if you need a refresher.

The overall concept though is that you’re helping your clients to create a vital component of their marketing. Something that will help them get a return on their investment and drive revenue in their business.

Let’s look at some real numbers. I once had a prospect balk that I wanted to charge him $4,000 for a website (this was about 4 years ago). I asked what he expected the website to do for him. Basically, he was hoping to increase his eCommerce sales to $10,000/month. And yet, he didn’t want to invest $4,000 upfront to get to the $10,000/month! Isn’t that crazy?

If you have a client that comes to you, ask what they’re getting out of their website each month. Real numbers. Some may not know, especially if they sell a service that is a little harder to track direct sales from. But if they’re hoping to earn say $5,000/month in their business, a website that costs $6,000 and works for them for 2+ years isn’t a large investment at all in the scheme of things. Especially if that website can automate some of their processes (saving them time) and increase their revenue over time.

If you are getting those objections, make sure you’re focusing on the value that the website you’re building will bring. It’s also not always about money, but we’ll cover that a little later in the episode.

WordPress is More Flexible & Long-Term

If you’ve been with this podcast any length of time, you probably have been waiting for me to talk about this. Can you really provide your clients value if you, the designer and developer, are building them a website in Wix or SquareSpace yourself?

Well frankly, not a ton. You can’t charge as much for a website built on a platform like that for a lot of reasons, but for me it’s about the lack of value.

When you want to provide a true marketing machine for your client, give them the most value out of their website, and something that’s going to last and actually earn that ROI – you have to build it at least in WordPress.

You could certainly custom code a solution, though that price point would be wildly different (aka much higher). WordPress gives your clients the ability to change and update content on their own and have something that’s flexible.

Why WordPress though? Here’s just a few reasons:

  • It can live anywhere; they’re not stuck with Wix or SquareSpace for hosting.
  • WordPress is far more flexible and can better grow with a business.
  • SEO is just better, by far.
  • It’s cheaper to maintain over time and cheaper to add on to.
  • Flexible enough to add eCommerce or Learning Management Systems to.
  • They can fully own the website.
  • It’s a lot easier to sell the value of the website when you’re not using the same exact tools your client could use on their own.

The thing that matters most to me and my clients though is that they own the website. If they spend several thousand dollars with me and then SquareSpace then went down or out of business, I look like a charlatan. With WordPress, their website can outlive any issues with WordPress itself and can move to any host they choose.

WordPress also lets me sell hosting services for added recurring revenue. So really, it’s a win-win for me AND my clients. They get to talk just to me and no one else and that’s how most of them like it.

Work for the Right Clients

None of this really matters if you’re just not working for the right clients. And believe me, that can feel like the hardest part of starting any business, but especially a high-value web design business. Where do you find people willing to pay the kind of prices that you want to charge?

I promise, this does get easier over time. I’ve personally had a lot of luck networking in Facebook Groups where my ideal client hangs out, answering questions and eventually being able to pitch my services when someone posts that they’re looking for a new website. I’ve made connections through some in-person networking in my local community, too. Once you’ve had a couple happy clients, you’ll be amazed at the referrals that start coming in. Not all of them will be the right fit (like the couple I mentioned earlier), but they will be the right ones.

One thing that has helped me though is to include my prices right on my own website. I know, I know that can sound crazy, especially when my prices start at $5,000. But it weeds out the referrals who go to my own website to check on me first. That prevents me from wasting time with people that I simply will not be able to help. It also gives the right clients an idea of where their custom price point might be.

You also have to be good at saying “No” to projects that don’t serve you. “No” to the people that haggle and argue on your prices. “No” to the people that want a bunch of stuff for free.

And you need a solid contract that prevents you from being taken advantage of. You need to lay everything out, have clear definitions on revisions, out-of-scope items, and how you’ll handle additional requests.

But most importantly, this is not a race to the bottom.

Cheaper is Never Better

Here’s the secret – the clients that want to haggle you down and get down to the lowest price are the ones that will be your worst clients. It’s true every single time. They’re the ones that will try to slip in extra work, argue for things that are way out of scope, and want 1,000 rounds of revisions.

The higher-priced clients, the ones that are willing to pay for the value of what you’re bringing that business, however, are the ones that hardly request any changes. They’re the types of clients who have a few tweaks and keep a project moving.

Want to know what the real difference is with those two kinds of clients?

One doesn’t believe in the product they’re being sold. That’s why they wouldn’t pay for it to begin with.

The other? They trust your expertise and understand the value you’re bringing to the project. That’s why they didn’t haggle or bargain too much during the pricing phase. They already got it.

You Don’t Need to Niche, But You Can

One thing I often see other website business experts say is that you have to niche down to really find the right clients.

You totally can! There’s nothing wrong with that. I work with an agency actually who’s main clientele are in the aviation industry and they do really great business because of that niche.

But me personally? I’d find that very boring over time. I like variety and I like the challenge.

Honestly, the best practices are the same no matter what industry my client resides in. The what and who might change a little bit, but the how and why tend to stay the same regardless of who the client is.

If you want to grow your business quicker, focus on a specific industry. It can definitely help. But you really just need to get clear on who your own customer is to grow. I know that I like working with small businesses that typically have 1-5 team members on staff. I have clients with bigger teams than that, but personally, I like to work directly with the business owner. It’s their vision, their baby. I get to do far better work when I can communicate their vision.

Drill down on who you want to work with and you can just create a good picture of that individual. It doesn’t have to be industry specific.

How Do I Communicate My Value?

All of this is great, but where do you start with communicating the value that you’re going to bring clients?

I’ve often found that there are two most important points of contact within the sales process to do this – the initial proposal meeting and the proposal itself.

You can continue to showcase your value throughout the project, but they’re already sold at that point.

In your initial meeting, make sure you’re listening to the client. Don’t jump in to sell right away. In fact, I barely “sell” in my meetings.

Are you an Office fan? Remember that episode where Dwight and Jim can’t figure out how the other sales guy – played by Timothy Olyphant – can continuously beat them so they set up a sting? What they discovered is that Danny was actually letting the clients sell him. He was focused more on whether or not “they’d be a good fit” to work together then he was about getting the contract immediately.

This is precisely how I handle my meetings. I listen, I ask questions about what they feel is working in their business and what’s not, and find out why they want a new website to begin with. I ask a lot of “whys” and dig deep into what they feel isn’t working.

And then I turn it on them.

Once I know their why, it’s a lot easier for me to answer that back with what I’d be doing for them.

And you know what? The “why” is almost always wanting to earn more money and save time. They can want to save time with decreasing time wasting emails and phone calls, make their website easier to update, create more blogs faster, automate some processes in their business. They can want to increase their revenue not just with direct sales but with more email list subscriptions, more lead forms, more phone calls, better candidates applying for jobs, etc.

When you can break down what they want, you’re going to be able to tell them exactly how their new website can get them there. Don’t just talk about it in your first meeting either. Reinforce the value you’re going to bring – answering their stated needs – right at the beginning of the proposal.

Using Social Media to Pre-Sell Your Web Design Experience

One thing that you can do to help attract the right clients AND pre-expose prospects? Show off your expertise on social media!

Focus on posting on platforms that your ideal client spends time on. Share educational and entertaining posts that showcase you know what you’re talking about. Mix in testimonials, website showcases, case studies, and other social proof from previous clients that show off that your websites help to get results.

I’ve had a few clients come to me from social media, so it’s definitely worth the time investment. But it also helps to reinforce your expertise during the proposal process. You can direct a new prospect to learn more about you at your own website or your own social media before your first meeting.

If you’re not really sure where to start with social, I highly recommend you focus on telling your story, which I cover how to do in episode 20. You can also take Hubspot’s free social media marketing course that will get you started if you’ve not done a lot of social media training before.

Want to know a secret? A lot of web designer and especially developers really kind of suck at social media, so this is a place you can shine.

What if I Only Know How to Build a Basic Website?

You can still make money charging to build a website even if the only thing you know are the basics. But the fact is that you need to provide more than just a home on the internet for a business.

If you want to charge the high prices and provide value for your clients, you have to provide the value in return.

One way you can learn the things that make a website better? Listen to this podcast every week! I cover all the various things you need to know how to create websites that actually add value for your clients, how to help them get ROI, and even the digital marketing tactics that you can sell to increase your recurring revenue.

It’ll take you some time and learning, but you can get there. Start small and with lower budget projects and build up your experience and expertise. You’ll be charging high ticket for websites in no time!

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