An Argument for Transparent Pricing in Web Design

May 12 2014 by Casey Ark | 13 Comments

If you’ve seen a lot of web design agency sites lately, you might have noticed that they all share a few common traits:

  • Needlessly vague wording (if I have to hear "integrated solutions" or "innovative solutions" one more time, I may break).
  • Clean design.
  • Absolutely no pricing details whatsoever. Prospective clients are forced to fill out a quote request form to get even a general price range.

The last point is what I’ll be talking about.

Example of a quote request form found on the Foundation Six contact page.

Somewhere along the line, someone must’ve told all the web designers in the world that publicly disclosing our prices is a terrible thing to do.

The thinking goes a little like this. If you market yourself on price, you’ll get clients who only care about price. If you advertise yourself as a service or as in investment then you’ll get clients who will pay whatever it takes to achieve their design goals.

Makes sense, right? When I founded my web design business, Plato Web Design, I certainly thought so. And, for years, we kept our pricing details under wraps.

Then, last year, we decided to make a simple change: We started openly showing our prices on our site.

And not in some tucked away pricing page either. We placed our prices right on our site’s home page.

Transparent pricing displayed on the home page of Plato Web Design.

Our reasoning behind this is pretty simple: Eventually you’re going to have to talk about costs. Why not get it out of the way early?

Results

Being completely open with our web design prices has led to:

  • 15% increase in revenue
  • 20% more returning clients
  • An incredibly simplified sales process

Let me talk about some of the biggest benefits we’ve gotten from transparent pricing.

We Save Loads of Time

In the past, we spent the majority of our days having fuzzy discussions with prospective clients that, as we’d later find out, didn’t have the budget required for our services.

With our pricing now openly listed on our website, we entertain far fewer clients outside of our target market, and we know that the leads we do receive have seen our prices, and are comfortable with them.

In other words, we’re able to prequalify our leads, saving us a lot of time as well as allowing us to focus on clients that are more likely to work with us.

We Make More Money

We improved our average revenue per client by about 25% and total revenue by 15%.

When you’re pitching to a client that has a vague budget range, you’re forced to play a guessing game: You can either go for the big sale (with lots of services included) and risk scaring them off due to sticker shock, or you can go for the lower-priced, but more guaranteed, sale.

But there’s no need to play this guessing game, because most clients are willing to tell you how much they’re willing to spend.

Once we’ve gotten a cursory understanding of what a client wants, we come up with a fast ballpark figure and run it by them. Something like: "That’s probably going to run you $4,000-$6,000. Is that comfortable for you?"

If they say "no", we come up with a pared-down solution. If they say "yes", we know we have some leeway to work with.

When we’re more aware of what clients intend to spend on their site, we’re able to fit our offerings to their budget.

We Stopped Scaring Potential Clients Away

Good design firms have sites that look amazing. And when you put in that much time and effort to make your site look awesome without disclosing your prices, you can give potential customers the wrong idea that you’re way out of their price range, even if you aren’t.

We Build Trust Early

When you’re upfront and transparent about the costs of your services, something strange happens: Your clients start to thank you for it. Being open with our prices helps earn the trust of our clients.

The art of on-boarding new clients is about building trust and finding a way to make their life easier. Transparent pricing helps do both.

When we openly disclose our prices, it gives clients the idea that we’ll also be transparent and straightforward with everything else we do.

The Bottom Line

Being transparent with our prices gives us more qualified leads, generates more revenue, and helps us develop trustworthiness very early in the project cycle.

It may not be right for every business, but if you’re in web design, I really believe it’s a no-brainer.

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About the Author

Casey Ark is the founder of Plato Web Design, a custom web design agency located in Harrisburg, PA. He’s also a newspaper columnist. Casey has over 9 years of experience in web design, development and print design.

13 Comments

Richard

May 12th, 2014

I completely agree with the “saving loads of time” part. In my experience the early sales process took around a week putting together a quote, chasing the customer, amending the quote and generally waiting for the customer to decide.

Tim

May 12th, 2014

One other thing I hate is when web companies use buzzwords/phrases like, “handcrafted beautiful code” and “bulletproof SEO.” There is absolutely nothing beautiful OR handcrafted about code. Handcrafted means that it is created in the physical world be human hands. That doesn’t mean you type something into a virtual universe. There is also nothing bulletproof about anything on the internet. I’m sure we can all agree on that after the past couple months.

Andy Birchwood

May 12th, 2014

Quite a persuasive article thanks Casey. This is great idea if you work with SMEs on promotional brochure sites with similar functionality. Unfortunately, none of the projects that I work on could be priced in this way. When you work with larger companies, there are costs that you can’t estimate without knowing something about the client, their expectations and their technology platform. Your services scale to their requirements, which is why agency sites are so vague.

I think while you have improved sales, you may also be limiting growth by being so specific.

If I were working in a marketing department in a big brand, I’d want to get the best I can get for my budget, which even on a small campaign is ten times what you charge for an entire site. Your price is a big indication of quality.

Jesse

May 13th, 2014

I agree with Andy on this. Your pricing seems to turn web design into a commodity. And each project has different requirements, features, business goals and user goals. One size cannot fit all. Your prices also don’t seem to factor in value added.

Gareth

May 13th, 2014

It’s an interesting point, it’s always hard to pin point an exact cost without fully understanding a clients requirements and these requirements can constantly change. Maybe the only question you need to ask upfront is budget.

If their budget is not in the ballpark for what they want then it’s just a simple task of managing expectations and not spending time putting together a proposal for something they cannot afford.

Martijn

May 13th, 2014

We create websites and webapps ranging from $3000.00 to $100,000.00 US. You can imagine which clients we scare away when we only have those two pricing options. :D

Scott Boyher

May 13th, 2014

There are many good points in this articles but this method will not work for everyone. I would really like to price things this way but I get too many calls where the customer does not know what they want.

If you were a construction contractor could you quote a prospect if they asked, “I need my kitchen remodeled, what will it cost?” I could not really point them to a pre-packaged deal.

saqib ahmad

May 14th, 2014

Really like the article! Pricing options are good choice to show and build trust among the clients. Definitely more people will attract doing this!

Angelina

May 14th, 2014

In my experience the early sales process took around a week putting together a quote, chasing the customer, amending the quote and generally waiting for the customer to decide.

Thanks for sharing!

Jay Doubleu

May 14th, 2014

The biggest “plague of our industry” is the commoditization of services. You deliver a service, the residual is a product. The concept of an “as you like it” only exacerbates this glaring issue.

Simply put: not all websites are created equal. Commoditization only assist in the proliferation of this great misconception that you can base your decisionmaking solely/heavily on price.

Paul

May 15th, 2014

Great article Casey! It is very much about building with your clients and having transparent pricing is key! As a web design agency we work on the basis of package pricing so the client pays a deposit upfront and then the rest is paid once the site is built and ready to go live.

This has worked well for us for over 4 years now.

Steven Hughes

May 16th, 2014

Based on the comments here, people still not getting it. Way to be different Casey, and the results don’t lie.

Liam Potter

May 29th, 2014

@tim agree with you on your bulletproof point, but not the handcrafted one. When a carpenter works on a new piece, they’re not actually carving things with their hands, they use tools. The keyboard is a tool just as sandpaper is.

As for sticking your prices up front, as other have said this turns web design into a commodity, soon enough it will be for the smaller sites (squarespace etc). We’re not going to put a pricing list together including the £100,000 jobs, too may variables involved and if you are going for 100k projects, it’s doubtful the company spending that amount of cash is looking for a pricing table such as the one posted in your article.

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