I get many questions about running a design business. The most common questions I get are: “how much should I charge for a website?” or “how much does a website cost?” I never give an exact answer.
I see budding entrepreneurs getting bogged down with service lists where they want to specify exact tasks for exact prices. I think publishing these service lists is a complete waste of time and potentially damaging to their business – I’ll explain why…
Every client is different
One thing I’ve learnt from doing graphic and web design as a business since 2006 is that clients will always surprise you. Just when you think you’ve been asked for everything by clients, you will be asked for something that completely blows you out of the water.
Publishing a list of services is arbitrary and therefore pretty useless. Sure, I have a list of tasks I always complete for every website I create. They are included in my web design contract and web design proposal templates. But most clients don’t know what an XML sitemap is so there’s no need to give them this information. Just tell them the site will be indexed by the search engines.
So specifying such services is a waste of time. But adding a price to this list of services is as well and could also be damaging.
Why you shouldn’t publish your fees
This is going to sound terrible but I’m going to tell the truth. As I say, every client is different. Some clients have more money than others.
Quite simply, if a large Fortune 500 company and an independent entrepreneur ask about a similar type of service, I will quote two different prices. Yes, I will charge the richer company more money for exactly the same job. I feel no shame in doing this whatsoever.
I don’t care who reads this either. My clients that are Fortune 500 companies won’t be reading this blog and my clients that are independent entrepreneurs will.
List your services and prices in private
By all means, compile a list of all the services you offer and the prices you wish to receive for delivering these services. Keep them in a text file on your hard drive and don’t expose them to the general public.
But don’t pour hours and hours of hard work creating multiple service strategies and rack your brains to attach prices to them. Because you can never pre-empt clients in this business. They are bound to ask for something that is not on your list of services. And, if they do, you have to appear ready to take on the challenge instead of saying, “oh, that’s not on my list.”
The list of services will restrict you in the eyes of the client.
Blog, blog, blog
At the end of the day, who spends any time at all on your “About us” or “Services” page? No one.
Nine times out of ten, people will arrive on your blog having searched for something very specific or having clicked on an interesting-looking link from social media.
The blog is where all the eyeballs are and where the engagement happens. Blog about the bits of your job you are specifically interested in.
The exception to this rule
The exception to the rule is when you sell digital products on your site generating passive income. In this case, obviously, you should always publish your prices. But, your graphic and web design fees? Your hourly rate? Your consultation fees? No, never!
You can do it
You can sell your services via your website and run your own online business. But keep your cards close to your chest when it comes to money.
Interesting thoughts Rob
I am just tackling this issue at the moment as I prepare the services pages of my new site.
I think I will tend to agree with you and only put rough descriptions of possible services and leave the rest to fate.
Rates are of course flexible, and I agree that some are charged more than others. Just as you pay for the same item with a different label or brand because it is perceived to be better. Even though it is made in China along side a cheaper brand.
Rob Cubbon says
Hello Ashley, I think it’s a good idea to only give rough descriptions of your services to make sure you don’t pigeonhole yourself into one area so potential clients don’t get put off by thinking that you might not be able to do something for them. And make sure you charge designer label prices! 🙂 Hope you’re well.
Jack Morrell says
Hi Rob, an interesting article and like Ashley I’ve also been considering whether to publish my rates recently.
I agree somewhat with your article in that it is not always sensible to charge the same prices to different size clients. However, I chose to publish “Starting from…XXX” rates on my site in order to give clients a rough idea of the fees I charge and to reduce the number of inquiries from potential clients looking for bargain basement prices. By providing a “prices starting from” type sentence, I think it prevents time-wasters, whilst not revealing your exact fees.
A good read though, thanks!
Rob Cubbon says
Hello Jack, thank you for your comment. Yes, publishing Starting from XXX rates on your site is another way to give you freedom and flexibility with your pricing. As you say, it could weed out time wasters! Thank you 🙂
Interesting point of view, but I respectfully disagree. I’ve tried it both ways: having prices on my site and not having them. I’ve found that providing ballpark price RANGES is the best course of action for me, because it weeds out tire kickers and others who are looking for a $50 logo. It also affords me some flexibility. Yes, every client is different, which is why I provide ranges and then after the briefing give a more accurate quote in the form of a proposal.
This article really gave me pause and made me think showing prices is the best course of action: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/5-reasons-your-content-marketing-must-address-price/
Rob Cubbon says
Hey, Sheila, you’re going along with Jack above who advocates publishing a rate range or a “starting from … ” figure. Fair enough.
However, looking at that SME article, I actually don’t agree with it. Look at the first point they make “Discussing prices is good for SEO”. Abso-bloomin’-lutely! That’s what I’m doing here! One of my best clients found me by Googling something like “how much does a freelance graphic designer charge” as I had written an article about general pricing (not my pricing) in the industry. So you don’t have to publish your prices but, by all means, discuss pricing. That’s what I think. 🙂
I can see your argument that publishing high price ranges helps with time wasters. Thanks for your comment.
I started off listing my fees for freelance blogging but even from a practical sense its too hard to manage as each job is different, let alone each client.
I have a rate a quote but its negotiable and can depend on the real amount of work involved.
Charging according the value you can offer is the place to get to, but I’m not there yet.
Rob Cubbon says
That’s exactly what I’ve found, Joe, from a practical sense it’s too hard. Thank you so much for your comment. Please feel free to share your highs and lows here. It’s not easy to work from home as a designer but it’s great fun when it works. 🙂