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How to Make More Money as a Web Designer

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Mick Gay
July 12, 2017

Mick Gay
Mick Gay has written 1 articles for DomainInformer.
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One thing that a lot of freelancers in the web design industry seem to struggle with is maintaining a steady, monthly income. The reason for this can often be pinpointed on the nature of the work (a once off project gets you a once off fee). While an initial, large sum of money can really help out a lot when it comes in; what many web designers don’t realize is that this is a poor way to run a business. You will find yourself in a bit of a catch 22 situation; where you are cash rich but time poor (so not looking for new clients / taking more projects on), or cash poor and time rich (desperately looking for new work so you have income coming in).

The way to solve this problem is by setting up a recurring income stream from the clients that you bring into your business. The best way to do this is to look at how much you make in a year, roughly, through doing stop/start work. I’m going to use a live example here just to make things clearer:

Let’s say your fee is around $3000 for a site which takes you a week to build. Let’s say you get 10 of them a year to build, some good months and some dry months. 10 x $3000 = $30 000. The other problem is that you could have had 20 websites this year if your prices were $1500 a website, as half the businesses you meet with were put off by the price.

There is one way to solve this sales problem, and increase the amount of money you actually make in a year per client – and that is by setting up a monthly retainer of 10% of your normal website fee. Let’s have a look at the pros:

  • You are more likely to sell it to the client as they have a lower upfront investment.
  • You are more likely to sell it to the client as you offer more long-term support than a traditional web designer. You can offer unlimited changes and revisions, hosting and support in this retainer - which let’s be honest, they wanted anyway and didn’t think they would be paying for it.
  • You can set up a monthly standing order with your clients, meaning you will get your money on time every time from your clients. If they don’t pay they don’t have a website – same as what a hosting company would do (In fact, picture yourself as a hosting company that builds awesome websites).
  • Once they have got used to paying you monthly, you can upsell them services like SEO (and outsource it if you don’t know it); which also will increase your income.
  • Your clients will be paying in year two and beyond, which means if you make $30 000 in the first year, and sales stay the same – in the second year you will have made $60 000.
  • You are always fresh in your clients’ minds, so you can ask for recommendations etc.

I think the above heavily outweigh the cons, but in the interest of full disclosure here they are:

  • You don’t get as much money upfront when starting/completing a project. This can be very hard in the initial few months of setting it up if you have nothing saved.
  • Some clients won’t see out the full term / will leave you / close down before you reached the amount you will have got in a lump sum.
  • You will sometimes be taken for a ride by someone who wants more than what they are getting in the $300 a month.

If this is something that you want to do, here are some tips to help you on your way (I run my own web design agency in Manchester which follows this model, so trust me):

  • Set up a standing order on your clients’ accounts. You are going to be too busy to be chasing up money – and one of the most important things about this whole process is reliable regular income. You should be able to use PayPal to do this (which will notify you if someone cancels the order, rather than you having to chase for money), or do it the normal bank way / take their credit card information.
  • Manage your hosting costs. Look into reseller hosting so you have one, the simple cost to deal with every month.
  • In order to convince your clients that the monthly deal is worth it, explain it like you’ll finance their website – which also comes with unlimited web and email support, redesigns of the site, hosting, backups, SSL and so forth. These things will cost relatively little to you, but all added up it looks like a better deal to the client.

I can attest that this model actually works and makes good money, and is good value on the client end (which is the most important thing at the end of the day!). From here you should be able to figure everything out yourself, good luck!

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