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How to Raise Prices and Charge More for Your Web Design Services

March 1st

Offsprout is the only WordPress website builder for freelancers and agencies.

In the years before our web design agency got acquired, we raised prices twice without any negative effects of losing business.

In setting prices and eventually raising them twice, we learned a lot.

Here is a breakdown of what we learned about how you can be able to charge more for your web design services and get higher paying clients.

A Quick Lesson Learned About Charging More For Your Web Design Services

When we raised our website design service prices for the first time, I was nervous.

I was thinking, “If we raise prices and clients don’t like the new price point, we won’t be able to just change our prices back. It would look terrible and hurt our business.”

I felt like we were taking a bit of a leap of faith in this.

But, in hindsight, we had done everything right.

In fact, when we raised our prices, demand actually increased.

(All of this, everything we had apparently done right, by the way, is laid out in the next few sections)

And, we got more high-end clients while shedding the worse, lower-end ones.

It turned out, our pricing was apparently a problem.

We had done everything right with our proposals and our website and the content we needed to be able to justify our higher prices.

Apparently, the only mistake we had made was that we weren’t charging enough.

Our lower prices were making higher-end customers think that we would not do a good job for them.

Even if the service was going to be the same as it was at a lower price point, because we were originally charging less, clients were getting the impression that lower cost meant lower quality.

And it’s true.

Often, people assume price and quality go hand-in-hand.

When we raised prices, we ended up being mad at ourselves for not having done it sooner!

But, it was not that simple.

We didn’t just raise prices one day and everything worked out magically.

We had to have the right environment – the right positioning, services, and marketing – to be able to make the price increase result in a big win for us.

So, next up is a primer on how we were able to set the right prices that clients were willing to pay, and then eventually get higher paying clients.

How We Raised Prices For Website Design Services Over Time

On Day 1 of your website design business, you will not likely be able to charge high-end pricing for your services.

What this all boils down to is trust.

No one is going to pay you if they don’t trust that you can deliver them a quality website.

And, no one is going to pay you a premium price for your services if you can’t prove that you’re worth it.

To be able to sell a client, you have to prove that your services are worth the prices you are charging.

Early on in your business, you are going to be at a disadvantage.

You won’t have a huge range of examples of work.

You won’t have case studies or promotional materials.

So, charging the prices you want to charge will not be feasible.

But, there are things you can do to change that…

There are different elements, things you can do to build that trust and make clients want to pay you top dollar for your web design services.

Whether you have been designing websites for 10 days or 10 years, there are things you can do to be able to increase the prices you charge your clients.

Here are our recommendations for how you can charge more for website design services that potential clients will be willing to pay for.

Build a Portfolio of Beautiful Client Websites

To be able to justify the prices you want to charge, you will need a sample of work.

Show that your services are worth the prices you want to charge.

Without samples of sites that are worth your prices, your pricing is just theoretical.

Without a portfolio of at least a few websites, a client cannot trust that you are capable of handling their project.

With a portfolio, you can point to sites that you have that are demonstrably worth your prices.

But, how are you going to build that portfolio if you are just starting out or don’t have anyone willing to pay higher prices for your services?

When it comes to clients, it can feel like a catch-22:

No client wants to pay you a premium price for your service until they see you have handled a similar project.

But, you can’t build a premium quality site until you have a client looking to pay for it.

So, how can you build your portfolio then?

First, build a few websites for free, or heavily discounted, to establish your portfolio.

Then, create a portfolio page on your website.

Add those newly created sites to your portfolio.

And now, you have a justification for why you deserve to get paid what you are charging.

I know that no one wants to work for free.

But, consider this a marketing cost.

These websites in your portfolio are the strongest example you will have that you can produce work that is worth the prices you want to charge.

When we first created our portfolio, we did it with a few free websites for colleagues.

And, when we wanted to be able to charge more for our services by doing higher-end work, we offered the higher-end potential client a discounted rate so we would win the client.

We knew that having that higher-end project in our portfolio would open the doors to other higher-end work, so we saw it as a worthy cost for us.

Getting Clients For Your Portfolio

So, where to find the potential client?

Presumably, anyone would want a free or discounted website.

But, hopefully you’ve read our recent post about finding the right niche for your web design business.

To better start, market, and grow your web design business, you should have a niche.

Which means, you will need your example websites to be businesses in that niche.

So, go looking in your chosen industry.

See if a colleague or friend needs a new website.

Someone who you will be able to work with, who will be amenable to following along with your vision.

Remember – the portfolio website you design is not just for their benefit, it’s for yours too.

You are only offering this free / discounted site so you can get a portfolio piece, and they should understand that.

This client can’t be fussy with you about the site.

You will want the website to look a certain way because you know what your portfolio should look like.

If the client wants to drastically alter your concept, then it totally messes with your portfolio.

And if they want to be fussy about the website and demand significant changes from you, they can pay full price then.

You will be doing them a favor giving them a free site, so make sure they understand and respect your creative vision.

You can approach them with a simple pitch (this is for if you are starting anew):

“Hey [name],

We are starting up a web design business and looking to build up our portfolio.

Would you be interested in a free [or heavily discounted] website for your business?

The only catch is, since this site is going to be for our portfolio, we will need creative license on the design. We will want your input to make sure you are happy with the design, but we need to make sure that the design is one we think our other potential clients would like as well.

If you are interested, please let me know.

I’d be happy to speak with you further at your convenience.

Best regards,

[your-name]”

Once they’re on board, get the content you need and get to work.

Get Testimonials

This is more along the lines of the portfolio.

The more your website visitors trust you, the more they will want to work with you.

You can say on your website how great you are…

and no one will believe it.

But if clients say that you are great…

that you are responsive, reasonably priced, and a pleasure to work with…

that sells your services better than any of your messaging does on its own.

How can you get testimonials?

Ask!

But, ask at the right time.

The best time to get a testimonial is when a client is at their happiest and most willing to do you a solid favor.

Generally, that is when the site launches.

Ask them how they feel about the website.

If they love it, follow up with them. Say:

Hey,

I am so glad you are happy with how your website turned out.

It was a pleasure to work on.

Would you be willing to share a testimonial we can feature on our website or materials that we can share with other potential clients so they can know what it’s like to work with us?

I would appreciate any feedback you could share.

Get a Case Study

As you are looking for higher-end web design projects to work on, testimonials and portfolio pieces may not be enough.

You might need to whip out the big guns: a case study!

A case study is basically a write-up and recap of a particular client project. It relates the experience of a client similar to one you want to work with.

It walks the client through the entire process, ending in a positive measured result, which ultimately justifies the work that you do at the price point you charge.

The case study generally starts as a narrative, like:

Joe came to us because he hated his restaurant website that another company had made.

It did not reflect the aesthetic he was going for.

It was not mobile friendly, but much of his traffic was coming from mobile devices.

And he knew he was losing out on potential reservations and customers.

Then, you step in:

Then, we stepped in and built his mobile-friendly website that met the aesthetic Joe was going for.

Don’t forget how you met the initial objectives:

Since the launch of the website, Joe has seen reservations go up by 40%.

Other things your case study should include:

  • Quotes from the client about what it was for them before they were working with you, what the process was like, and how they felt about the result
  • Metrics, if you have any worth sharing
  • Visuals and graphics

The case study should be designed with a particular type of client in mind. Your case study client should be a client that other clients can identify with.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

If you have a case study for a restaurant website but you are trying to target clothing stores, clothing stores will not care about the restaurant project you worked on.

But, your restaurant case study will make other restaurant potential clients feel comfortable knowing that you can work on their type of project.

Develop a Better Proposal

This next recommendation is something that took us awhile to learn, unfortunately.

When you are starting or growing your web design business, it’s not a bad idea to see what your competitors’ web design proposals look like.

Why?

A few reasons.

  1. Knowing what your competitors send clients helps you craft a proposal that can compete against theirs
  2. You can frame your proposal so clients can more easily compare “apples to apples” so they don’t get the idea that maybe you cannot do everything that your competitors can

Let’s break these down.

A High-End Proposal Makes Your Services Seem High-End

When we started out, we just made a proposal that made sense to us.

It was not sexy or exciting.

It was pretty bland, actually.

Over time, our proposals got better.

But, in hindsight, our proposals were appropriate for a more “entry-level” service.

Then, we found out that some competitors were doing rich multimedia proposals that made ours look cheap in comparison.

In comparison, it made our services look cheap.

Even if our work was better than theirs, their proposals looked flashier, and wowed clients better.

Investing in a better proposal helped considerably.

Don’t just make your proposal simple because it’s easy for you to do.

Put some time into building your proposal template.

You will need to eventually make it so your proposal is easily replicable, so you can fire off proposals quickly as you are getting more inquiries.

But, your proposal template itself should be high-quality.

You may want to consider investing in a graphic designer to design your proposal template.

Make it so your proposal stands out from the pile of price quotes that your clients are getting from vendors.

Remember: A better-looking box makes what’s wrapped inside seem more valuable.

A Good Proposal Helps Compare Apples to Apples

If your potential client is doing their due diligence, they will probably seek out many proposals from different vendors.

Some of the proposals will look similar to each other.

Some will look completely different.

The elements of some proposals may seem completely out of whack.

Some proposals might charge by the hour and offer an estimate, while others charge a flat fee or a la carte pricing for different site elements.

But, you want your proposal to put you on the same playing field as the other proposals.

You’ll see their proposal come in with a punch.

By knowing what the other proposals will likely have in them, you can dodge and counter-punch their proposal.

Position Your Services Better

Aside from the proposal and your portfolio, your website and your business have particular messaging for your services.

Hopefully you are positioning your business as experts in your particular niche.

But, depending on what’s on your website, you might be coming across as a business that caters to clients that you don’t necessarily want.

If your website has a ton of cheesy template-y stock images, your services won’t stand out.

If your website says things like “affordable” or “turn-key” or mentions templates, you might come off as entry level.

On the other hand, if your website says things like “Premier Websites” or “Aggressive Online Marketing” or “Design Agency”, it suggests you are providing a higher-end service.

To be objective about this, have colleagues and friends visit your website.

Get honest feedback.

Ask them what sense they get of your business and the types of clients you serve.

If what they say does not align with your intentions, something might need to change.

Or, you might realize that the market you want to move into is not the market your site is currently addressing.

To better position your services as higher-end to be able to charge more, seek out higher-end competitors.

Get some inspiration.

What do your competitors do that conveys that they are worth a higher price?

Spend a lot of time on this.

Your website, content, and branding all reflect the quality and level of your services to clients.

If your positioning appears to be misaligned with the audience you want to address, you will never get that audience to want to work with you.

How to Raise Prices

Now that you have an idea of the things you will need to change to be able to charge more, how do you eventually go about charging more?

In raising prices, there is a right way to do it.

This needs to be planned out one to two months ahead of time, ideally.

It is not meant to be a spur of the moment thing.

Why?

Because you are not just changing prices.

You are also announcing the upcoming price change to your email list and existing audience.

If you just change prices one day, some of your existing sales prospects might get pissed off or walk away.

It could come off as arbitrary.

But, if you have a plan, you can end up netting a ton of new clients during the price change transition.

Raising prices is a powerful marketing weapon.

Raising prices creates a huge sense of urgency.

“If I don’t sign up now, I will have to pay more for this service I want at a later date.”

Executing it poorly is a huge waste. So, make sure you do it right and plan it out.

First, you need to map this out.

Like:

  • Price change is on January 1 (or whenever)
  • What is the freebie offer?
  • On X dates, email blasts will go out about the price change; this should be a series of a total of about 7-12 emails
  • Notify your current “hot” sales prospects, and press them to sign before the price change
  • Hit up your old sales prospects telling them they need to get up and act now
  • On X dates, social media posts will go up
  • 3 days before the price change goes into effect, more aggressive email blasts go out
  • “24 hours left” email blast goes out with 1 day to go
  • Prep your marketing materials changes – website, proposals, etc.

There’s a lot here to break down. So, let’s take it one by one.

The Date

Pick the date you want to raise prices.

It should be the end / beginning of the month, otherwise it will seem arbitrary.

From whatever day today is, give yourself at least a calendar month. You will have work to do – writing out an email series, following up with all your sales prospects – make sure you have enough time to do it all.

The Freebie

One way to lessen the shock of a price increase to your audience (provided you have a good-sized email and social audience) is to throw something new in for free that is now part of the regular package.

For example, a simple logo, or a page of custom-written content, or a website integration with a third-party app.

With a free additional product or service, you can frame the price increase as you providing more value.

This way, it does not seem like an arbitrary price increase, but it shows that you are investing more in your services and what your clients get for their money.

 “We’re Raising Prices” Email Blasts

You should have an email series planned out.

Think of this email series as basically a promotion or a discount email series.

When you send out emails to your audience, you can start out the series with the theme of “We’re now giving free logos [or other freebie] with site designs.”

It shows that you have an upgraded service to offer with more value than before.

Then, over time you can change the tone of the emails to be like, “We want to keep investing in tools and services like free logos and providing value to our customers, which unfortunately means that every now and then we need to increase our prices”

So, now you have a reasonable justification for the price increase.

And, you can hone in on the urgency…

“Get your website at $X price, including a free logo, before it goes up to $Y price”

Creating urgency and sharing that deadline with your audience will compel them to act quick.

You’ll find that this urgency makes people on your email list and your sales prospects much more likely to respond to you.

Ultimately, this should be 7 – 12 emails total.

Here’s a recommendation on the order:

  1. We have a new addition to our web design service package
  2. Recap of the last email and more details
  3. More about the value of the new service, plus a client testimonial
  4. “Now for the bad news” – though we are including new things in your services, there’s a price increase
  5. “We’re increasing prices so we can invest more in our services and provide you better ROI”
  6. Client testimonial
  7. Price increase in 3 days
  8. Price increase tomorrow
  9. Today’s the last day

Notifying Your Sales Prospects

Hopefully, your web design sales prospects are getting your marketing emails and know the price increases are coming.

But, you should still follow up with all your existing sales prospects to let them know about the impending price increase.

Urgency!

This should help you figure out which potential clients are serious about hiring you and which aren’t.

Because, if a price increase will not motivate them to make a decision, they will probably never hire you.

Reach out to your prospects, let them know a price increase is coming and that you want to get them signed up at the lower rate.

Be firm with your sales prospects.

Your hands are tied, you can’t give them the better rate after the first of the month, so they have to sign up with you ASAP.

Also, be sure to reach out to former sales prospects who maybe didn’t have the right timing for whatever reason.

Maybe they were not ready to hire you a few months ago. People get busy. Things happen at work. But, this price increase might give them a push.

Changing Your Marketing Materials

Don’t forget to change the pricing page on your proposals and website!

Create new drafts ahead of time so you don’t forget to do it later.

Then, once your deadline passes, swap out the old website pricing page (if you post your pricing publicly), and archive your old proposal template.

And that’s mostly it for creating a price increase.

As you see, there is a lot that goes into it.

You will probably spend a good amount of time following up with sales prospects and writing out the email series. So, leave yourself enough time.

Also, be sure that you can devote the time to your sales pipeline during this time. So, for example, don’t take a vacation or go to a conference just before the price increase.

You should be busy selling to people who don’t want to miss out on your old pricing.

Put the price increase date on your calendar with enough lead time, and then take these above steps to put everything into place.

Conclusion

Increasing the pricing for your web design services can be an incredibly successful move for your business.

But, it’s important that you take all the necessary steps to ensure it will go well.

You will need to be able to justify that higher price to your audience, via elements like a portfolio and marketing elements.

You will also need the right structure in place to successfully increase your prices.

You will need a good email series and process for working your sales prospects to get them signed up before prices go up.

Have you ever increased prices at your web design business or have you been thinking about it?

Is there anything we left out?

Share your feedback below.

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