When it comes to a client calling you for the first time, or reaching out to you for the first time, whether by phone or email it takes some time to learn a process that works for you. In my time as a WordPress developer over the last eight years, I’ve learned a thing or two about closing clients and having good ongoing relationships.
Below, I’ll list the five things I implemented, or mistakes I’ve made that I no longer do, that helps me in my business.
Tip #1: Learn to Quote Higher rates
This one was, and is still, scary for me. One thing I pride myself on is being fair and not charging significant figures (maybe that’s why I’m still not a millionaire).
You can sell a nail for $1,000,000 in a hardware store, and it’s not illegal. Not only that but the next day, after someone buys a pin for $1,000,000, you can go back to selling it for 15 cents. Of course, the person that purchased the nail for $1,000,000 may not be too happy with your decision.
Learning to quote higher rates is about continually pushing yourself emotionally. It is not easy to quote higher than what you think you should be charging. Keep in mind that as humans, our ability to make decisions on what something is worth, is in many times flawed. We are not wholly rational creatures. So, when you come up with a price per hour of how much you should charge, many times you are not coming to a sensible decision and are letting unconscious biases get in your way.
Whatever you are charging now, add $5 to it.
Recently I had a client flat out tell me I was too cheap at $50 per hour, and that I should charge at least $80 per hour. After that, I thought: “Well if clients are telling me that…”
The problem is not just charging less or being greedy either. What you’ll find is that clients with money will usually be more comfortable to do business with you, regardless of your rate. There are many reasons for this, psychologically speaking which I won’t go into here. One example is that broke clients tend to be insecure about themselves and can take that out on you. They know they’re cheap, and instead of admitting it to themselves, they put it on you, and it can become difficult. It’s a hard concept to understand, but let’s just put it this way.
If you quote a higher rate and someone doesn’t want to do business with you just because you quoted a higher price, then they’re probably not worth doing business with them the first place.
For an hourly rate, in either case, it doesn’t matter what you quote. An $80per hour in many cases can do what it takes a $40per hour developer 3 hours, to do in 1 hour.
So bottom line, practice getting over the fear of quoting a higher rate. Don’t lie to yourself and say you’re citing a lower price because you’re a good person and don’t want to rip the client off. It is nothing more than fear.
Tip #2: Do Things For Free
This one might contradict the other, and this is something I feel very strongly about. Let me use a simple example of something that happened last night. I got an email from a client that his website was down. He must have updated the BackWPUp plugin because his whole site (including the admin area) was down and he was getting the following error message:
Parse error: syntax error, unexpected ‘$value’ (T_VARIABLE) in /home1/fworks/public_html/wp-content/plugins/backwpup/vendor/aws/aws-sdk-php/src/functions.php on line 36
After quickly looking over the issue (and yes I did use Google, there is no shame in that), I realized it was a simple fix of either disabling the plugin if he could get into the WordPress dashboard or renaming the folder.
Now I have seen memes that go like this:
There are variations of it, but I know a lot of marketing people pass memes like this around. The idea behind that my advice shouldn’t be free. I should charge $1,000 for this fix because I know how to fix it and it’ll probably mean a lot to his business.
I see it slightly differently.
You see, the same people that will say things like “Knowing where to tap – $9998”, are the same people that will spend hours building up a marketing system. Or, they could spend hours automating a part of their marketing or even doing a close process to make a big sale.
My point is: I would rather have my sales process involve helping the client from the start. And here is why:
- By doing work for free, you get access to the website to make the change – which automatically puts you as their default contact person for an issue
- You demonstrate your competence in what you’re doing
- It allows both you and the client to see how well you work with each other
Again I’m not talking about big fixes here, but tiny things that will probably take you 5-10 minutes to do.
The great thing is that, after you help the client, he’ll feel like he owes you something. So, once you go into sales mode, he’ll be more likely to take you up on your offer. It is where you start getting over the fear of charging higher, remember you have a right to do so!
Tip #3: Learn SEO and Get Results
As a WordPress developer, you must earn how to get search results for clients.
The SEO field is such a big opportunity, and WordPress is the platform for SEO. The best thing you can do is to start getting results for yourself and start getting inquiries from your SEO efforts.
For example, my site ranks in the top 4 results for ‘WordPress developer Sydney’. If you do it right, it can get you the bulk majority of leads. I don’t have to do anything, and they just come.
It is something that all my clients want as well and is a great upsell.
Tip #4: Always close on Recurring revenue Or Become the Bank
This one is going to be the big enchilada that changes how you see business. You need always to be thinking in recurring revenue terms rather than one-off projects. When I started, I used to think in terms of “Ok if I charge $500 for a website, and I can just make ten websites a month that’s $5,000!”
That’s silly. Out of those $500 projects you’ll have at least four headaches that are going to do your head in, and you’ll be in a mental hospital within two months.
What you instead want to be doing is focusing on:
“How can I get five $1,000 per month projects?”
Once you do that you can be free. And how do you do that?
Some people will say you should sell WordPress maintenance contracts. There, you can “look after” a client’s site for $x per month. However, I believe many things that are part of maintenance contracts are already being automated, and you are walking on the side of error.
Upgrading plugins and themes is not something that a developer will be needed for, even now, and soon will be a completely automated process. If this is where your bread and butter is, you’re in trouble.
The way I close on recurring revenue instead is: I create payment terms for clients, and here’s how it works.
Let’s say you would charge $5,000 for a big project. So now instead of charging the $5,000 you say “Look, how about we go on a payment plan for $1,000 per month. We’ll do that over the next 12 months, and I’ll help you with your SEO as well.”
From the client’s perspective instead of taking out $2,500 for a deposit, if it’s a project that’ll take a month, they’re only out by $1,000. Even though over 12 months they’ll pay $12,000 because the SEO makes value for them. In a way, you become a bank of some sorts (don’t you know how much banks make?), and charge an interest rate for what you’re doing.
Tip #5: Stay Sane by Not Being So Desperate / Learn Where the Dead Weight Is
Any company is going to have a bunch of clients that are dead weight. The only way to avoid these is to have savings and recurring clients where you’re not desperate to take on work. It takes time (or some savings) and learning which clients are demanding.
The best rule of thumb is that you figure out how you’re going to work with clients in the sales/pre-planning process. If you get a bad feeling from a client from the first inquiry, then don’t think that feeling is going to go away.
A perfect example of a bad client feeling is when someone messages you:
“How much do you charge for a website?”
In my whole career, I don’t remember ever getting an inquiry like that and the project/client relationship turning out well. This is a simple example of a telltale sign of a potentially deadweight client/red flag.
Once you are comfortable with the recurring revenue coming in and have some savings, you don’t have to take on every client. You can take your time to see how they respond and how they treat you during the sales process. Trust your feelings.
So those are the five significant mistakes I made, and how I plan to correct them in the future. I hope you have learned something from my mistakes. Get out of your comfort zone and charge more Practice more to learn to trust your feelings about a client. And lastly, don’t be desperate.
These are the tips that have helped me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether you agree with these, or if there’s something else that’s worked well for you.