This week the Norn Iron web designer Grace Smith scored a very palpable hit with an excellent blog post, Why Web Design Doesn’t Cost £40, where she tackled a problem common to many web designers: clients who assume that the costs of professional web sites are determined by DIY software and third-world outsourcers, not full time trained practicioners in their own cities.
Her post tapped into a vein of utter frustration which runs through the whole profession. It seems that if we are not being expected to do bespoke design, SEO, and e-commerce sites for prices which would not pay the council tax, we are losing potential customers to designers who are willing to do so. These “competitors” work to lower technical standards, lower levels of professional integrity, and lower expectations. And still, the customers keep rolling in for them.
But here’s the thing.
As a professional web designer, you are not competing against the £40 web designers.
In fact, they are doing you a favour.
Like all sectors, web design has an up market, a middle market, and a bottom market. You do not want the bottom of the market for clients. And they do not want you for a designer.
Think about it: do you really want to stake your business on people who think £40 is a reasonable price to spend on business promotion?
Do you really want to build a portfolio on businesses which do not value themselves over £40?
Do you really want to spend your billable time explaining concepts as basic as copyright law, contractual liability, and for that matter, the minimum wage?
Do you really want to be engaged in a constant dumbing down of your prices, your skills, and your abilities to compete against people using rainbow hit counters, table layout, and no contracts?
Of course you don’t. That is not what you went into web design to do. And yet so many of us feel slighted when we lose business to overseas outsourcers and package deals. We should not feel that way; in fact, we should feel just the opposite.
If a potential client goes with a third-world middleman outsourcer instead of you, do a jig.
If a potential client taps their nephew to make them a site on a “free” service covered in banner ads instead of you, praise your deity of choice.
If a potential client chooses a restricted package deal specifically because your pricing offended them, breathe a sigh of relief.
You have dodged a bullet. You are free from suffering headaches at a wage that will not earn enough to buy the aspirin to fix them. You are clear to hone your skills and your services for clients who really mean business.
Your real competitors are the local design firms who are charging more than you. They are the ones getting the better customers. They are the ones making more on one project than you earned in your first year of business. They are the ones building relationships based on continual up-selling, not projects based on restricted packages. Yes, we mock those design snobs working in glass offices with “contemplation pods”, but they didn’t afford that city centre mortgage by catering to hobby businesses and clueless dreamers.
These are the firms you should be aspiring to compete with – and perhaps, one day, join. These are the firms who should cause you grief when you lose business to them. Not no-name, no-face, no-balls nobodies.
Set your pricing structure so that it frightens away the bottom of the market. Low pricing structures only appeal to low-value businesses. Medium to high value businesses look at a low pricing structure and run the other way. They expect to get what they pay for, and they won’t hire someone who values their abilities at a hobbyist rate.
Sharpen your professional and personal brands. Make it clear that you are somebody. You are not merely an automaton pushing pictures around a screen. If they want someone to do that, they know where to go.
Become someone whom others compete against. The best part? You’ll become a damn fine web designer while you’re at it.