There are some really big changes taking place right now in the web design world especially when it comes to pricing WordPress projects. There are two fundamentally different approaches to pricing. The reason I wanted to kick off the new year talking about pricing is because the price you charge for your work represents your mindset more than anything else. Your mindset – the big picture of what you're actually doing – is the most critical component to your business because it impacts everything you do. Your mindset not only dictates your pricing but it determines your marketing, how you introduce yourself to people, what you say on your website, how you show up for client meetings, the types of referrals you get… everything. Now, more so than ever before we have two drastically different approaches to pricing WordPress projects. One leads to everybody losing while the other leads to everybody winning.
Selling Websites vs. Serving Clients
Ultimately, the two different approaches for how to price WordPress projects comes down to whether you believe you are selling websites or whether you think you are serving your clients. It used to be the case that selling websites was the same thing as serving clients, but today there is a huge distinction between the two. And, yes, I believe they are mutually exclusive in a high-level sense. In other words, given the changes that have taken place and where things stand in 2020, simply selling websites is not serving clients.
If you feel like you disagree with this, hear me out because once we look at the mindset behind selling websites versus serving clients I think you'll see what I mean.
How To Sell Websites In 2020
I talk to thousands of WordPress developers and web designers every month. By far the most common question I get asked is how to find clients who are willing to pay higher prices. I really appreciate people who have the courage to ask that question because there are so many snarky people out there who are quick to say that you just need to improve your skills or just get out there and work hard. Of course, you need good skills and a tenacious work ethic but I get this question from people who have degrees in graphic design and have been honing their skills for years. They are talented professionals and they still are having a hard time finding clients at the prices they want to charge.
The reason for this has almost nothing to do with their skills. The problem is that the economy has changed. Today it's easy, fast and very inexpensive to get a website. You can download WordPress for free. Then use a page builder like Elementor or BeaverBuilder along with Astra Sites and within a day you can have a great looking site without ever dealing with code. Or, if WordPress isn't your thing then use Wix or Squarespace. If you're not into building your own website that's fine too. If you've got a budget of around $500 you can find plenty of people on Upwork, Fiverr, or even Craigslist who will spin up a surprisingly decent WordPress site for you.
So, if you're out there trying to “sell websites” but you're charging $5,000 while all these other options are only $500 or less then you're going to have a hard time selling your websites. This is why your mindset makes all the difference! What are you really doing? Are you really just trying to sell websites? Because if you are, then you're going to need to set your prices under $1,000. Otherwise, you're going to start hearing your clients say things like:
- Why does it cost so much?
- Why are you so much more expensive than everyone else?
- That price is way outside our budget!
- I can't afford that!
The bottom line is this. If your ultimate goal is to “sell websites” then charge about $500.
The Difference Between Selling and Serving
Before we go any farther, let me clarify how I am defining selling and serving.
Selling means you have one or more skills to offer and you're essentially setting up a buffet for your services. You want people to come and pick one or more of the things you can do and then hire you. Then you show up doing the best you can to make sure the client is happy with your work. I want to underscore that there is nothing immoral or wrong with selling your services. The point to understand, however, is that the burden of success for the project as a whole is entirely on the shoulders of the client and whether or not they can ask you for what they actually need and whether or not they can generate success for their business with what you deliver.
Serving means you lead your clients to a level of measurable business success that they would not be able to achieve apart from you. Simply giving them a beautiful website is not enough because the website itself is not the end goal. Getting a website is never the client's end goal. Therefore, delivering a website is not a measure of success. If you're not delivering success then you're not serving the client. Serving the client means helping them reach their business objectives.
A Real-World Example Of Selling vs. Serving
Let's demonstrate the difference both in terms of value and in results with a real-world example but in a different context, rock climbing.
It's a cool spring day and you're walking through the mountains with a friend. You're not a rock climber. You're just out walking the trail enjoying nature and having a good time. You have spent the afternoon having a picnic in a small clearing near the top where you feel like you can look across the entire earth. It was a beautiful afternoon and now you and your friend are walking back down the trail returning to your car to head home.
Suddenly you hear a rumbling sound behind you. You and your friend both look back and to your horror you see several large boulders rolling down the trail and there's nowhere to go to get out of the way. To your left there is a steep face to the mountain and your friend is already trying to climb up and out of the way. To the right is an almost vertical drop off. You have no choice. The boulders are about to crush you so you start sliding down the cliff. Miraculously, about 20 feet down the cliff your backpack snags on the root of a tree and stops your fall.
You're OK but you're 20 feet down the side of the mountain, night if falling and you have no way to get back up to the trial. Your friend was able to run up the side of the mountain high enough to get out of the way and is safe. The dust settles. You look up and your eyes meet. You're both OK but you are stuck 20 feet down an almost vertical drop off and it is getting dark.
What do you really want right now? Let's consider two scenarios. In one scenario your friend says, “Hey! I've got a rope! I can throw it down to you if you want it.”
Or, what if your friend said, “I've got a plan! I'm going to take this rope, and tie one end to the trunk of this tree. Then I'm going to run the rope through a pulley that I'm attaching to a sling. I'll lower the sling down to you. When you get it, wrap the sling behind your back and under both of your arms. When you're secure in the sling I'll pull you up.”
Which option would you choose? Obviously option two, right? Which option would you pay the most for? How much more would you pay?
Both scenarios feature a rope as the primary tool used in the rescue. But, in the first scenario, it's all on you to figure out what to do with the rope. Even if it was the best rope in the whole world, what are YOU going to do with it? You don't know how to tie any mountain climbing knots. Furthermore, you really need more than just the rope. You need the tree, the pulley, the sling, and your friend. For your rescue to be safe and successful, you need someone with experience using the tools. For example, by adding the pulley into the mix your friend only has to pull 50% of your weight up the cliff. If you didn't know how pulleys work and that you need to attach the pulley to yourself (not the tree), you'd be stuck trying to lift 100% of your weight.
The first scenario is just selling ropes (or websites). The second scenario is serving the client. Nobody just wants the rope. They want the results that come from using the rope effectively and that involves more than just the rope. It includes additional tools, knowledge, and experience.
Why Selling Websites Is NOT Serving Clients
The rock climbing analogy illustrates very clearly why selling websites is not serving clients. Yes, you're giving the client a tool that is critical to their success. Perhaps it is even the most important component. But it's not ALL they need to reach their real objective of winning more clients or generating more sales. They need the full plan, some additional tools, and they need YOU.
Now we are getting to the heart of the matter. Today, with all the tools, plugins, and platforms available for digital marketing building a successful online presence involves far more than just building a website. Of course, there are all the technical boxes that need to be checked like making sure the site is running over SSL, you have a good mobile experience, off-site backups, fast loading servers, etc. But you also need the marketing and business development component as well. Where are the leads going to come from? How are you going to nurture those leads until they become customers? How do you keep customers coming back? If those questions aren't getting answered then you are not actually serving the client.
How To Price WordPress Projects In 2020
The key to building a successful web design business in 2020 is to stop “selling websites” and price your projects in a way that enables you to serve your clients. That means you're going to have to charge a LOT more than if you were just slapping together a quick 5-page website because you're offering a fundamentally different service that includes three major components:
- Your technical and design skills
- Your digital marketing skills
- Your business development consulting
If you're a self-employed WordPress consultant running your own web design business, I usually recommend that you price your projects between $3,000 and $10,000 so that you have the time to do all of the work necessary to develop and execute an effective plan. This is an affordable price for small to medium-sized local businesses. As your skills grow you begin to feel more confident will start winning projects over $10,000.