I relaunched my website recently. The site was only 18 months old, but my strategy had changed, so it felt like the right time to do it.
A common discussion amongst freelancers is: should I display rates on my website?
I hadn’t displayed rates on my site since the first iteration years ago. I had reservations about doing so.
Your budget is only £XX?! lol bye
Freelancers display rates on their site to bat away ‘low value’ or ‘lowball’ clients. I have a problem with this attitude, not least the growing trend of freelancers internet-shaming potential clients.
If freelancers in the same sector can’t agree on a ‘going rate’, it’s a little much to expect clients to have an understanding of how much things should cost. Unsurprisingly, the freelancers complaining about ‘low ball’ clients often don’t display rates on their sites.
Not only is client shaming unfair, it damages the freelancing industry as a whole: how many agencies have ever published client correspondence in that way?
And let’s not forget: clients with small budgets today might have bigger budgets in the future. But don’t let that get in the way of a temporarily viral tweet…
More genuine concerns
There are genuine reasons not to advertise rates on a site, though. For instance, displaying a rate will make it difficult to increase rates periodically, or charge different rates to different clients (a perfectly legitimate thing to do).
If you’re packaging services together, that can take a lot of work and planning. The effort needed can be hard to justify, especially if each package needs tweaking to fit the brief.
It took a long time to plan and decide on my WordPress maintenance packages. Packages may not be appropriate for what you do or you may have a problem with the productisation of valuable services.
Then there’s the issue of price-anchoring: this was the main sticking point for me. Website costs wildly depend on a wide range of factors and, quite rightly, clients often don’t have the technical know-how to judge the complexity of a project.
Assuming clients are able to effectively judge the scope of a project can unintentionally lead to them anchoring to a low price point. Moving them upwards from there can then be a hard sell — “we’re only talking about adding a little shop!”
On top of this, there’s the idea that usually the best starting point is the client’s budget and this isn’t because you’re trying to ruthlessly extract every penny from them. Unless they have a blank cheque, the budget can be used to scope the project, allowing you to make the most budget-appropriate recommends given the available cash.
A need-to-know basis
Omitting rates from a website means potential clients have literally no idea how much you charge. This will lead to some clients not getting in touch.
I used to have that mindset, too: if a freelancer’s site didn’t give any indication of their rate, I’d move along.
Not displaying rates puts another barrier between you and a potential client. Not only do they have to make the effort to get in touch, but they’re also exposing themselves to the possibility of having to (awkwardly) excuse themselves if their budget isn’t the right fit.
Well, if they don’t have the right budget, they’re not my client anyway!
That may well be true. But there could be clients not getting in touch because they assume you charge much more than you do.
What’s more, every enquiry you receive through your website will be totally unqualified (from a cost point of view at least)
Beating about the bush
I was aware of all of this but didn’t display rates on my website for five years. This was ok with me because I had a couple of clever little hacks.
Hack #1: Hint at ballpark figures in the contact forms
This is a classic. A not-so-subtle required dropdown field with labelled “What’s your project’s budget?” with a minimum price of £X,XXX.
That should give potential clients an idea of the range, right?
It might, but this assumes they even get to your contact page and look at it. Quite the assumption.
Hack #2: During the first contact, drop a minimum project cost
“Projects start at £X,XXX — if that sounds ok, let’s discuss it in more detail.”
Again, this assumes that the client makes the effort to get in touch. I would bet that many don’t.
As it happens, I still deploy both of these tactics, but they’re a reinforcement of the rates shown on my site, double-checking that a client is a good fit.
To display or not to display
I wasn’t sure whether to display my rates on my new website and, just before launching, decided to pop it on. That’s the beauty of the web: you can experiment with things like this and it doesn’t cost you a penny.
But how do you give an indication of your rates in a way that:
- Isn’t presented as a package or fixed-cost
- Doesn’t lock you in
- Demonstrates the range of costs to a client
Tough one. It’s something I thought long and hard about.
On Andy Clarke’s Unfinished Business podcast, he talks about his method of working. He books work in a minimum block of one week and focuses on a single project at a time.
This working method appealed to me because it solves the issue of dividing attention between too many projects. It’s cash-positive, too.
But it’s not problem-free. I knew I’d need to leave time for maintenance tasks and smaller design projects that wouldn’t be appropriate for this structure.
My solution was to adopt a weekly booking system but limit project time to 20 hours per week. The rest of the time could be dedicated to smaller client projects, side projects or admin.
As for trying not to anchor clients to low price points, I’ve given some broad examples of how much different projects are likely to cost. For instance, a small business site might take 2–4 weeks.
This sets the expectation that despite projects falling into the same category and/or appearing to have similar requirements, the specific needs of a project can have a considerable impact on the cost. This gives me flexibility in quoting as clients aren’t anchored to a fixed price.
I still ask clients about their cost expectations so we can maximise the use of their budget.
In the first week of the new launch I received five qualified enquiries through my site.
Without prompt, they all mentioned that my rate was ok or had been pre-approved. That could be interpreted as a sign to increase rates, but it was a revelation: showing the rates meant clients could more confidently get in touch.
Of course, a just-launched site is bound to draw more attention than a post-launch site, but I’ve noticed two things:
- I receive more enquiries through the site than I did before
- The enquiries are more likely to be qualified, at least in terms of the budget
- After publishing articles, I receive more enquiries through social media
The first of these is likely down to the redesign and positioning, but displaying a rate has a role to play, too.
We’re not talking about large numbers of enquiries. The previous site generated a few enquiries across the year. To receive one or two relatively qualified leads a month is a significant uptick, particularly given that I might be booking work a month or two in advance.
If you don’t display rates on your site, it’s something to consider. If you can find a way to give an indication of what you charge without fixing yourself to specific price points, there’s nothing to lose.