As businesses grow and have more money available to reinvest, they begin to look at ways to improve their image, branding, and marketing.
And it’s only a matter of time before they consider upgrading their website.
But, most of the time, they have no idea how much they should pay for a new website and end up looking for the cheapest option.
This is an opportunity, as an agency, for you to step in as the expert and provide guidance.
Help them understand what factors will give them a return on their investment (and are worth paying more for).
With the amount of options that exist in 2015, help them feel confident about their decision to choose you. Make sure your pricing structure is value-based and easy for potential clients to understand. That’s often easier said than done, especially since building a website is a creative process and takes a different amount of time for every customer.
The best way to do this is to create a set of parameters and process that allows both you and the client to be clear about what to expect. We’ve been working to refine such a process over the last 3 years and have created one that works extremely well. And we want to share it with you.
Setting Expectations with Clients
The key to the process lies in a written agreement that outlines the process (as well as the initial conversation between you and the client) in detail. Reiterate and outline all points that were discussed in the agreement.
Lead the conversation with something like this:
By putting this parameter on the project, you’ll be able to quote a very reasonable rate – and one that makes sense to the client. And then, make sure they understand that, should they require additional rounds of revision requests, you’re happy to accommodate at an hourly rate.
Here’s what our process looks like:
- Design & Development Questionnaire (Client fills out)
- Initial Outline Call (We review the questionnaire to gain a firm understanding of what client needs)
- Homepage Mockup and Client Approval (up to 3 rounds of revision requests – 20 items per request)
- Homepage Build + Internal Page Template Mockup and Client Approval (up to 3 rounds of revision requests – 20 items per request)
- Internal Pages build-out with either dummy content or content provided by client
- New Content Population and Development
- Internal QA/Cross-Browser Testing and Final Client Review
- Final Launch
During Step 3, we take the time to ask, “Are we on the right path with this design?”
The goal of this is to eliminate the possibility of getting two or three mocks into the homepage and having the client say, “You know what? I don’t like this at all.” If the client initially agrees that the first mock is on the right path, we move on and there is no going back. If they say no, we start over again from scratch until they sign off that we are on the right path.
Now, how do you know how much to charge per hour?
The biggest determining factor of price (among many) is whether your client chooses a template-based design or a custom design. Custom designs will take more time and so will cost more.
Custom designs are also more valuable to the customer and you should highlight that value. Help them see why it will get them a higher return on their investment. The greater the value you’ve proven you provide, the more you can charge. So, it’s important to highlight the value of the various pieces of the design. Then charge hourly based on that value.
Here are the typical components of any website project broken down with their value explained and then the typical 2015 value included.
Template-Based Design or Custom Design
A template-based design is cheaper than a custom design. How much cheaper depends on many factors. One of the first and most important is copy.
Copy – the words on a website – are often considered an afterthought.
Your clients are often thinking something like,
That’s content. Not copy. And you don’t want to offer just another website that will blend in to the pack with words that merely describe your client’s business.
Content describes. Copy captures attention, hits on emotions, and motivates people into action.
You want your clients’ websites to move people.
And the design of their website should be built around the copy, not the other way around.
All the pages need to work together and the words on each page need to guide your potential client to an action.
For good copy, you can charge anywhere from $350 – $1000 / page. For a full website of high-quality copy, you can charge around $3000, just for the copy alone. If you don’t have one on your team already, make sure to bring in an experienced copywriter.
This will give your client a clearly-defined identity and make them stand out from the pack.
And offering them this strategy will help them see your value, see you as an expert, and help them understand why they shouldn’t skimp out on their new website. (If they do just want content for the first round, it’s common to charge $75 – $200 / page. )
What to Charge: About $3000.
“Responsive design” refers to the ability of a website to automatically adjust itself for various screen sizes. There are over 200 screen sizes in existence in 2015 and the majority of people now spend more time browsing the internet from their phone than they do from their desktop.
If your client’s site isn’t easy to use on mobile devices, their clients won’t spend very long on the site and will seek out a competitor instead.
That’s why having a responsive design is crucial for your clients.
The good news is there are plenty of templates in existence today that are built to be responsive. So you can still offer a cheaper template-based site for clients on a budget – and have it be responsive.
However, with the number of websites growing by the day, more and more people are going with the “cheap solution” of building their site using a template. And it’s a sure-fire way to blend in. Subconsciously, people know when they’re at a template-based site simply due to the fact that they’ve seen so many of them.
When potential clients come across a custom design, it subconsciously feels fresh, new, and different to them – engaging even – which already gives you a leg up on the competition.
Also, when they pay for a custom-designed site, you should create custom designs for tablet and phone screen sizes from scratch instead of just an automatic variation of the desktop design. Optimize the user experience on all devices.
What to Charge: Template vs. Custom
If you will offer template-based design (built with a service like WordPress or SquareSpace), how much you charge will depend on how much you want your design team to customize the template. While it will still feel like a template, small customizations allow you to make it your clients’.
It’s common to charge anywhere between $1000 (not responsive) and $4000 (responsive with small customizations).
Custom designs commonly cost anywhere from $5000 to $15000.
Those costs are based on a basic website without any complicated features, e.g. an online store. They do include the responsive versions of the website for various screen sizes.
In general, a website that costs less will have less features.
Additional Features, Ongoing Support, and What to Charge
Professional photography is extremely important to set your clients apart from all of their competitors who use stock images. It also allows them to connect with their customers through high-quality images of themselves throughout their website.
For a professional photo shoot, you can charge anywhere from $200 – $1500, depending on the length of the shoot, the number of “costume changes,” and the number of shooting locations.
Find a professional photographer you love to work with and use him (or her) for all your client projects. When you start giving him a lot of work, you may get some discounts.
This is yet another opportunity for you to stand out as an expert.
What to Charge: $200 – $1500
The domain name is what goes in between the “www” and the “.com” of a website address. It is your clients’ distinct address on the internet. It is their brand. It is often the name of their company. If they don’t already have one in mind, make sure to work with them to choose it wisely. Bring in a branding expert if necessary.
Then purchase the domain for your clients through a hosting websites like Hostgator or Bluehost.
What to Charge for the Branding Expert / New Name: $400 – $1500 / year
Cost of Domain Name Itself: $5 – $15 / year
Speaking of hosting – once they have the domain, they’ll need to “host” it somewhere. You can offer to host it for them or they can choose a hosting company to “rent space from” on a server for a yearly fee. All their website files will be stored on that server as long as they keep up with the payments. Depending on what hosting provider they choose and how many years you commit to up front, the cost will vary.
This is how we position hosting with our clients:
We build all sites on our server under a development URL. If our clients want to host with us once the new site is ready, there is no additional cost to launch the website (just the $25/month on-going hosting fee). If they do not wish to host with us, we can either
A) Provide you with the website files and database for you install wherever they’d like
B) Install the new site on whatever server they’d like for a fee of $150. We do not host email accounts and we encourage all clients to host their email through Google Apps/Gmail.
We established this policy because, in the past when we would agree to build sites on a client’s Godaddy account or set up a client’s site wherever they wanted at no extra cost, we would run into all sorts of weird hosting scenarios. We’d end up spending a few hours on the phone with their host’s support figuring it out, which ate into the margin of the project.
So learn from our mistakes.
What they’ll pay if they do it on their own: $70 – $200 / year
What to charge if you’re hosting it for them: about $300 / year
If their website requires a shopping cart or online store, that will be an additional cost on top of the basic website cost. It requires integration with several sites.
What to Charge: $500 – $5000
It’s super useful for anyone that happens to stumble on it. And because of how useful it is, it will result in massive amounts of profit for the owner. The problem is, it’s very rare that people find it. Things like SEO and Social Media Marketing can help the people who need your site find your site.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. And, as its name implies, it optimizes websites to show up at the top of search engine rankings, if done right. There are 2 types of SEO:
1. On-page SEO
2. Off-page SEO
On-page SEO involves tactics that can be done on your clients’ websites to improve your search engine ranking, including but not limited to:
- Consistent blog post writing that integrates “keywords” people are likely to use to search for them on Google.
- Metadata and Schema Markups: Check out a blog post we wrote about this and how to optimize it.
Off-Page SEO involves building links to sites on external highly influential sites with large amounts of visitors. You can do this by having your clients guest post for sites like The Huffington Post or Elephant Journal and linking back to their site. As an agency, make sure to offer these services and offer other suggestions as well. This will add a tremendous amount of benefit to your clients and also allow you to have a monthly retainer and the opportunity to continue to build the relationship with your client.
What to Charge: $300 – $1500 / mo
Ongoing Website Maintenance
Another opportunity to continue building the relationship with your clients while offering massive value and receiving a monthly retainer is to offer ongoing maintenance. Keep their site updated with their latest products and features, maintaining interest and search engine ranking for their site. A website alone means nothing. And most people don’t realize that. Help your clients realize it:
What to Charge: $500 – $1500 / yr
It is most important that a client understands what to expect when paying for a new website so there is no confusion down the line. Set expectations, be an expert, and explain value and “return on investment” and you will have happy clients.
For a client to really understand what to expect, go through the following steps up front:
- Provide the parameters around your process of designing/building a website.
- Review your portfolio with clients after they understand the parameters. This gives them the chance to ask, “I like this site you created. Did that client require any additional work outside the normal parameters?” and “No? So this person paid the same as what I’m being quoted, correct?” The client could actually contact that person to verify. Transparency is key to get started off on the right foot.
- Content or Copy (or Neither)? Make sure it’s clear if content/copy will or will not be included in the quote. And be clear if “content/copy” includes images that will be featured in the design. Or will images be extra? (We include any stock imagery that we use in a mock at no additional cost.)
- Hosting – Make sure they understand your policy on hosting. Let them know about any setup fees.
- Let them know at what stages in the project they can expect to be billed. (We bill 40% up front, 40% once all pages are built out with dummy content or copied content, and 20% once the site is complete.
- Make sure to clearly understand what features they want included with their website and that they understand any additional costs associated with those features.
If you follow the guidelines outlined in this post (that we’ve developed over the last 3 years), not only will you be charging a fair amount for websites (for both you and your client) but you’ll be fostering a relationship built on trust with your client.
That relationship can turn into an ongoing and lucrative relationship where you are giving them the results they need – instead of the design they thought they wanted. Remember to be the expert and always recommend the best for your clients, not what will cost the least or most.
And then work with them to give them the best solution within their budget if they have a tight one.