A hands-on experience working with Website clients has shown on numerous occasions that budget is often the foremost factor when choosing a Website Designer / Website Developer. After going through the extensive planning process through the delivery of a client proposal, the price sometimes comes as a surprise. In most cases, this is not a case of a failure to manage client expectations but rather a combination of factors surrounding the client. With best intentions, these often include client naivety, unfamiliarity, project creep and, at the extreme, clients who are simply trying it on. Of course, it could also be that your pricing is off, or you haven't demonstrated that a Good Website is an investment, not an expense. Of course, 'good' is the operative word here, as bad website design is often worse than having no website presence. So, good website design is an investment; conversely, bad website design is a cost not to burden the client. And for the sake of semantics, it is understood that a website is technically an 'expense'. Still, we are conveying a reframing of mindset and not an accountancy term.
The value of a Good Website
While website designers and developers intrinsically understand the value of a good website, the client's lack of experience, know-how, and understanding of jargon and acronyms may make it feel like a minefield. The job of a good web designer is to explain the peculiarities of website design and development in layperson's terms and consistently convey the process's benefits to the client. Success in this area will maximise the chances of a successful website, and this outcome will bear fruit when realised. A good website can achieve more than an army of workers, including: -
- build and strengthen a brand
- strongly convey a message
- enhance and open new markets
- engage with customers
- save time and resources
- sell, sell, sell
These core benefits of a good website should make converting clients relatively pain-free. Still, as we know, things don't always go according to plan. This occurrence is perhaps most noticeable when a client likes the proposed project deliverables but not the price.
What to do when your client tells you your website price is too high
When a client returns to you and tells you that the price is too high and not what they expected, how you act will define whether the relationship is a win-win. At this juncture, you should clearly express that they should view their Website as an investment, not an expense. Allowing the client a moment to reframe the value of the Website as an extension to their business should stop it from becoming a 'sell' based on price. A website is a tool that opens doors and that works for the client 24/7, even while they are sleeping. A good website is, of course, an investment. However, you have options if the client isn't on-board with the pricing.
Explain the benefits of the Website
Rather than focusing on the 'features', convey more clearly the 'benefits' of a website to the client. For instance, a feature of a Webflow-based website could be that Webflow Hosting is cloud-based, lightning-fast and ultra-reliable. The benefit of Webflow to the client is that they can focus their time on everyday business operations without having the hassles associated with other platforms. Such annoyances include ftp, continual update requirements, hacking and slow website speeds. Similarly, it could be that with the features built into Webflow, the designer can maximise the Website outcome. The benefit to the client is a good website that works and entices more clients, putting more money in the client's bank.
Explaining the value-added benefits to the client may help swing the balance in your favour to get the go-ahead. If this isn't enough, you can still counter website pricing objections.
Re-assess your Website pricing
We should always consider that, despite a standardised pricing formulation, the client may have grounds to question the overall project rate. Take on the client feedback and spend some time revisiting the vital price determinants of the Website Project:-
- Number of Pages
- Content level on pages
- Design & Layout Complexity on the pages
- Graphic Design & Illustration input on pages
- Skill level required
- Anticipated levels of Client input
- Expected hourly rate (worked against anticipated project time)
If you have reviewed your essential pricing elements and are wondering whether to shave anything off, then only do so within the scope of your pricing policy. Don't reduce the price below your absolute base level for each page/component, and certainly don't reduce the project rate so that it falls significantly below your expected hourly rate. In instances where your expertise and limited resourcing could be compromised, the best thing to do is hold firm. That is the price for the Website solution as it stands and as the best outcome for the client.
Offer to take elements out of the proposed Website Solution.
If the client still cannot see the Website's value or it is beyond their budget, then offer to take elements out of the current project scope. If your pricing is on point, then this is often better than providing a discount as you can: -
- Maintain the value of your work
- Free up your limited resourcing for additional work
- Do the removed website aspects as Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3 etc
- Build up an ongoing client relationship
Here you are giving the client practical cost-saving options by removing elements to cut down an initial outlay that is hitting the bottom line. For instance, perhaps they could add the News Section and less essential pages as Phase 2 and initially proposed functionality in Phase 3. The overall outcome will be the same, but hopefully, the client is agreeable that it's shifting timelines, not deliverables.
Propose a Contra deal
A contra deal is a rarely proposed, seldom used, and potentially undervalued tool in business relationships. A contra deal works when parties exchange goods or services without any payments. However, contra deals only work when:-
- Both parties have something the other wants
- Both parties can exchange goods or services of equal value
- Both parties will come good on the exchange
If trust is in place to perform a contra deal, then if budget is an issue for the client, offer to make up the difference with an exchange of service for the shortfall. For example, if a Printing client's budget is £3000 and the shortfall is £300, then ask for business stationery of that value. A case like this is clean-cut, as the printing company's pricing should be transparent. The website solution has realised its project value, and both parties can be satisfied with a favourable outcome.
Of course, a contra deal agreement could be for the entire Website Solution but tread carefully on these all-in arrangements as they are prone to conflict and disappointment. Often a contra deal weighs more favourably in one party's favour regarding price, quality, volume and time expended. It is invariably better to stand firm on pricing to keep a traditional exchange of goods or services that avoids inequity and client relationship breakdown.
You must be prepared to walk away; exercising this right could come before you spend additional time with the client. From the point of first engagement, planning and forming a client relationship, we can gauge the client. Suppose you have made a project offer to the client, and they have come straight back with strong objections to the price. In that case, you must determine if this relationship is worth progressing, especially if your gut tells you it will be difficult. If prospective clients view a good website as a cost, they are unwilling to pay. Rather than drop the price to accommodate unrealistic expectations or desires, you can always avoid the hassle and walk away. Walking away is hard, but it's not a sign of weakness or a lack of ability to please a client, but instead, solid business sense. Walking away lets you focus your time on existing clients, and it's always worth noting that 20% of clients equate to 80% of revenue, so don't expend any further energy. And remember, if you feel a desperate need for the business, the prospective client may read that as a carte blanche of discounts, unrealistic demands, and expectations you will regret. Here, the client is missing out on the investment in a good website, not you.
In Conclusion, a good website is an investment
It seems strange that anyone could view a website any other way, but a good website is indisputably an investment. Clients should always prepare to pay a fair price for the knowledge and expertise of a professional web designer and developer. They offer the opportunity to advance a client's business; in many cases, the increases are exponential. While we must acknowledge that budgets come in all shapes and sizes, clients should be able to gauge project parameters appropriately. It's up to the Website Designer / Developer to guide and keep these parameters in check. To do so, they should convey that a good website should is as an investment, not an expense. There are pricing options if the client does not understand the value of a good website or has an insufficient budget. However, if these options are exhausted, the Website Designer / Developer should be prepared to walk away.