You Get What You Pay For

Yesterday I went to meet a new potential client who sells a very high end product (upwards of £70k per item) who also wants to produce a website for each product that is sold, to essentially give the purchaser a turn-key solution from the word go.

My job would obviously be designing the sites that get sold onto the clients.  When the initial enquiry came in we had a chat over the telephone and I asked how much he was currently paying per site, he said “£400”, to which I said that I would be considerably more and would he still like the meeting, he said ‘yes’ so I went and had a face to face chat with him.

Without going into too much detail, as I truly do not believe this is the clients fault, I’m just seeing an increase in this across the board, the client in question was thankfully a web savvy client who knew the difference between a table based and div based website, albeit all of his websites contained tables used in the wrong context but that’s by the by for the moment, he was very easy to chat with regarding the best solution for his site(s). I certainly came up with an excellent solution to his problem that would provide him with an superb selling point to his customers and also considerate of him making a nice profit on each site too, solutions which no other web designer had suggested to him.

Back to the office, write the proposal, send it. Wait.

Wait some more. Phone rings. It was the client calling to let me know I was too expensive and that if I could negotiate down on price..

Somewhere in the region of £400, like we’re currently paying…

He would be able to use me. I should point out here, I have the utmost respect for clients who have the common courtesy to call/email to say “Thank you but we won’t be using you for x,y,z reasons” – as normally, as we all know, a proposal gets sent with out so much as a “Thank you” to be had, let alone a response if you haven’t quoted what they thought you should.

The price point however, is of course an issue. After posting to Twitter I realised there’s a small minority of people “making websites” who just don’t understand pricing on the web, this small group don’t realise how much harm they are causing our industry.

I had quite a few messages sent to me on Twitter, including:

forward this to @**** he would knock out a website for that price.. plus hes good.


pass that site to me … i will look on it ..

And I sent back the same response to both, saying they are not understanding my point. If I wanted to I could “knock out” a website for £400, I could “knock out” a website for £10, unless I’m needing to licence something, my only outgoing cost is my time, therefore anyone could do a website for any cost, but there’s a reason we don’t and this is the big black hole many people are just not grasping. What we do isn’t easy folks, we take it for granted because we know it inside out and this is our professions but for many people, turning on a computer is about as far as they go, let alone all the many things we have to do to produce a site – just like any other service industry (solicitors, physiotherapists etc. etc) , we have specialist knowledge of our sector but a small minority are completely undervaluing that knowledge.

It’s all about integrity, integrity for what you do, integrity to the web community. By “knocking out” websites the care and attention to detail ultimately must suffer and in turn, give web designers a bad name as inevitably, the client is going to come into problems later down the line and turn to someone for help, and then expect that person to be super cheap too.

It’s about value for the client, how much is that website worth to them? Not a lot if someone down the road will produce it for £400.

Apple are a great example of brand and price point awareness, the products are high end, they do their jobs spectacularly and the price points are the same across the board, you won’t find Apple stores with differentiating prices and they never have a sale. They have a product they know consumers want so they have no need to drop the pricing substantially – people will still buy.

As web designers, we are holding the largest marketing portal in the palm of our hands and yet people still don’t understand it’s value.

It’s up to the designer/coder if they want to accept £400 for that job.Some people don’t have the luxury of turning down work – a response to my tweet


i got your point …i am saying that send that project to me … send that client mail to me …

No one has the luxury of turning down work – even web designers who are busy and booked up obviously still need a stream of enquiries to enable us to carry on into the future.

Put it this way, if the Yellow Pages, (the traditional printed book) 10 years ago said to everyone “You can have a full page colour advert for £10 per year” can you imagine how big the book would be? They didn’t, because this would devalue their product. This is a very basic way of me trying to get across what some web designers are doing to our industry, only it’s worse because it’s starting to filter through to clients who we then have to work with.

Let me go back to a quote from above regarding Apple:

They have a product they know consumers want so they have no need to drop the pricing substantially – people will still buy.

We have a product consumers want, we have the ability to pretty much set the pricing based on the value to the client however, it needs to be done by every single web designer. If the price point was, for arguments sake £1000 + to build a basic site, clients would get to know this and everyone would gradually see budgets increase to make allowances for this, yes including you Mister “I will produce a site for £400”.

There’s so much more to this argument than I can even get into now however, let me just check, you want me to plan, project manage, design, develop, jQuery, cross browser test, validate, seo and respond to the countless emails you are bound to send me, all minutes within you sending them, for £400?

Sorry, but I’d pay £400 to keep my integrity.

  • Good points and it seems a lot of people still don’t get the amount of work and time that goes into creating a website. Its also not just a monetary matter its about providing a solution for their business but constrained by how much the client can afford to pay.

    I couldn’t create a website for 400 quid because you are not building a website for the client depending on their content or business goals or branding, you are building it solely on price which means you are just trying to make their content look pretty. Point them in the direction of a template website and tell them that they will not achieve anything from it.

    Its not just about supply and demand its about a tailored solution to solve the problem they have, that could be informational or getting people to buy their product. All of which requires a little thought.

    Everyone needs to start out and if they want to build a website for 400 quid, fair play but the client needs to understand why that cheap website will not work for them or maybe they are happy taking advantage of people starting out just as people are happy having 14 year old kids serving you a mcdonalds.

  • Sarah,

    It’s supply and demand. In economics, the supply curve is slopping up, meaning there are a few people who will provide a service at a low price, and an increasing number of people willing to provide the same service as the price increases.

    In any industry, there will be people undercutting the competition in an attempt to gain market share (or website jobs). That doesn’t devalue your particular product because what you offer is much better than the person who can “knock out” a website.

    Think of yourself as the Apple of web designs. Even though customers can get a decent PC for $600, they’re willing to pay over twice that for the quality of the product.

  • one thing that frustrates me and a couple people have mentioned it, including Paul:

    “Sorry guys, but I do have a right to be irritated by designers who claim to be professionals and charge obscenely low rates for their services.”

    Who is in the position to be judging what good designers are and what makes them a “professional”?
    There is no body of organisation that can accredit a webdesigners skills, or experience or quality of work.

    One reason the market is so loaded with webdesigners is quite likely because there is no barrier to entry. As I said before, you can’t just walk into someone house and fiddle with their electrics without being trained, certified, insured etc, but there’s nothing to stop anyone tinkering with, breaking and ruining a clients website / prescence.

    A part of me would like to see some form of organisation that could provide some base line of quality, so at least a client know the webdeveloper they’ve hired will at least be using decent, valid HTML, they know what a CMS is, is aware of the basics of security etc…
    but the other part of me doesn’t as I don’t know if I would have gotten into this market if there was one.

    I personally think I make good websites that are worth the money we charge and represent a good value for money, but it would be hard for me to objectively quantify that statement, as it would be for someone to disagree with my statement in a similar way.

    About the use of Apple tho as an example, Apple also have years of experience, a massive marketing team and a very strong and unique reputation – they can quite easily ask the price they charge (across the board) and people will still buy them and feel they got value for money because they have the standing to do so.
    For those of us that are starting out, we don’t have the equivalent reputation that can ask for those figures, and we have to make do with what we have and work hard to build on it and work towards those kinda of figures.

    Personally I think Apples are over-rated, over-hyped and over-priced, so I don’t buy em and am very happy with my very stable, very capable, vista toting PC i bought from (highly recommended!), but thats a another matter…!

  • The ‘professional’ argument comes up again and again in these debates and I don’t buy into the logic. Just because someone can afford to charge less than you does not automatically make them less professional.

    It reminds me of the way the American and European automotive industries chose to ignore early competition from Japanese car manufacturers. Their attitude was that those newcomers could only offer inferior products, their customers thought otherwise.

    There could be many reasons someone can undercut your price, the obvious one is if they are operating from abroad, the other is if they intend to put fewer hours is. However they may also simply have fewer overheads, less expenses, lower living costs, more frugal life style. They may simply have a loss leadership strategy using capital to acquire clients at the expense of short term profit.

    Many people want to create barriers to entry, now they are comfortable, they want some sort of accreditation put in place that suits their situation. To me this is monopolization and has dubious ethics. Regardless it wont stop customers shopping around.

    The Web design industry is just so easy to get into, those that don’t diversify their skills or find a lucrative market niche will only find it becomes more saturated in time.

    The answer is to stop expecting the industry to change and start raising your profile with skills and values more in line with your target customer profile. Once you’ve done that you can start dictating your terms with new enquiries such as stating minimum project sizes for new customers.

  • Dan

    This stance on this issue bugs me, and here’s why.

    I’m not a professional website designer but I do make the odd site. I don’t claim to be the best at it but I won’t give people total shit either (I understand and care about web standards, browser support and accessibility etc). I do it on the side to earn a little extra income to pay for things like TVs and holidays. I tell the potential clients this up front. I tell them that’s why I’m doing the job for the price I quote them. I tell them my limitations and if they still want me to do the job then I’ll take it. I’ll, hopefully be making one for a local tradesman soon. I’ll be doing this work, with the steadfast goal of giving him a functional, good looking website but I’ll place a large bet that I’ll charge him a price that you would scoff at.

    But enough about that, there’s two reasons this stance rubs me up the wrong way. First off, let’s take your Apple analogy. I don’t see how you can realistically apply that to the web design industry. Apple are the only ones (along with a closely regulated group of resellers) that sell those products. They have exclusivity. That’s the reason they fix their prices and never have a sale. Web designers don’t have exclusivity on a single god damn thing. Anyone who can learn to do the job, and do it as well as you, can offer the same product you can. It’s simple business seen in pretty much every industry; one of the most effective ways to get more people to choose you over your otherwise identical competitor is to beat them on price. We’d all like to live in a world where it’s the highest quality product that has the most success but we never will. It just doesn’t work that way.

    My other problem with this stance is that you price out the little guy. Take the client I mentioned above that I’m in talks with. He’s just starting out in his business and I’d wager that the price you’d quote him would be one that he simply couldn’t afford to pay. You’re forcing a brand new BMW on them when all they realistically need is a 2 year old Mondeo. Now I understand that you have a solid pricing plan that you want to remain true to, that’s totally fine. What I don’t like is that you seem to be coming down awfully hard on others for no other reason that they are prepared to be less expensive.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I totally believe in giving the client quality. But I think it’s more than a little blinkered to say that just because someone is less expensive they’ll give their client something that isn’t totally right for them. I wrote a post a while back about this (oddly with near enough the same title as this one) and while my opinions have become more refined in the time between then and now, my core beliefs remain the same.

    While this reply might seem strong, please don’t interpret it as me bashing you in any way. I have the utmost respect for you and your work, I just needed to get my opinion out there.

    Keep the great posts coming.


  • Here, here @Dan.

    I think we should also remember the true meaning of the word quality. It’s not what one might think, in fact it means “fit for purpose.”

    A website that costs £400 and is completely fit for the purpose that the client needs, is indeed a quality website. If it serves their needs (or more specifically their customers needs) and they are thrilled with it, then job done.

    I’m quite perturbed by the notion that this industry is becoming devalued. It isn’t, it’s just more diverse than ever. Maybe it’s true that there are more low cost solutions being created for low budget clients than ever before. Notwithstanding the fact we’re in recession: So What? Everyone in this game has to ramp up their offering to remain competitive. That’s how you stay in business.

    Let’s stop complaining about the “devalued” industry and instead find the clients we want to work with and show them why we’re worth the higher price. If we can’t do that, we should probably be doing something else.

  • Pingback: » Wertschätzung — cne _LOG Archiv()

  • Just to say that I don’t take any project under 2500.00$ CAD… And for this, it’s a basic website, 4 or 5 pages with a contact form, branding included sometime…

    Under 2500$, I feel like abused.


  • Shantharam

    Got to agree with what Dan has said. Not intending to cause an issue but there are people from all over the world who do designing and development and £400 is valued differently all over. It may be just 400 bucks in England but when you convert that amount to what it is in my country it comes to 30,163.301 and unless you are really really experienced you are not going to get that amount. Being new to the web development community it is always difficult to start off at that rates, so people do cut down to even below that. Out here i know people who do work for 12000 bucks that is $260. Also sometimes it goes as low as $40. It is all a part of getting in.

  • Pingback: You get what you pay for « Chicago Mac/PC Support()

  • Sometimes, to mix things up a little bit I take on sites for very little money. Why? Plenty of reasons. Sometimes I want a relatively quick project to break the pattern. Sometimes I really want to help the client out. I can make a big difference to their business and I’ll be honest here – I make a good living from this industry, I can afford to take on jobs that are nowhere near the usual budgets from time to time.

    So what does that client get for their money? Well, almost the opposite of what you describe. Rather than finishing up with a sub standard site produced by some cowboy, they get a site that is way beyond the money they’ve paid. Surely that’s a good thing? What do I get from it? A sense of pride. I don’t think it compromises my integrity at all – quite the opposite I would say.

    I’m in the fortunate position of being able to pick and choose my projects to a certain extent. No-one forces me to take those sites on from time to time. Sometimes I just want to.

  • in relation to this post, see:

    I keep this blog unrelated to Northern Web – it’s where I rant about the industry and clients!

  • Sarah,

    What a wonderfully written article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, along with a few of the (albeit absurd) twitter comments you received. I am still technically an in-house designer working my 9-5, but have ventured in to the land of freelance. And pricing myself accurately is something that’s still hard for me to do. But this was a like a big boost of confidence to stand up and admit that what I do is valuable and worthy of more than just a few hundred bucks.

    On a side-note, have you thought of increasing the font-size for your body content? Either that, or making the contrast a bit easier on the eyes. Just my 2 cents. Take it or leave it.

  • Dan

    @Shantharam – I wasn’t actually talking about exchange rates. =/

  • Pingback: You get what you pay for… | skysoclear()

  • Unfortunately you meet clients like that, I met with one that wanted 72 unique one page designs for £100 each!

    You get what you pay for and a few months down the line, the same clients that baulked at your quote end up coming back to you and asking you to re-work/remake their site as the cheap designer they used has done a poor job 😉

  • Pingback: Hi, I’m Grace Smith » Why Web Design Doesn’t Cost £40()

  • To be honest, generally ‘You get what you pay for’ is true, but due to the competitiveness of the web design industry, currently the clients getting a bit more Bang for his Buck at the moment and good designers are willing to do alot more work for less money!


  • Pingback: The Cost of a Decent Web Designer | Webgoddess Designs()