My basic rule of thumb is:
Will the client make money from it, or save time from it?
Then charge for it.
But l’d also say you have to balance it. If it’s something that takes you little extra time, but adds value for your clients, consider throwing it in.
But as a bonus!
Make sure they know what it would normally cost.
I see a lot of freelancers going the extra mile, And no-one even knows how big a deal it is.
It’s likely this “little thing” actually took you years to learn.
But if you want to offer a high ticket service and charge more than your competition you have to get used to giving away the kind of value for free that others are charging for…
I’m doing a website for a friend. We agreed on payment but I now find he doesnt have any images, no font nor color palettes. Text is from Wikipedia.
He said that Im free to do whatever I want but If I just throw in some fonts and pick a random color, is that good for either of us?
These things are going to cost extra because I dont want to deliver half baked goods.
Don’t want to end up in yet another situation where Im doing stuff for free.
What would you suggest?
Ooh good one. This is a very common situation!
A lot of web designers will forge ahead, and use their experience and expertise to select fonts, colours, source photography etc.
This is what I used to do.
You find yourself basically giving away a mini branding project for free within the price of a website.
Then you resent the client for the freebies.
But the client probably isn’t even aware.
Your a designer right, you do the design?
Remember this is a natural assumption for the client to make, so you have to do a bit of education.
In future, you’ll know, to always ask these questions during the scope stage:
Obviously, hindsight is a wonderful thing lol.
So the way to handle this is to get back on the phone,
and just explain that this is the quote you gave was based on a scope for web design only.
Simply explain you’ve realised he also needs help from you for other stuff which you need to design the site.
He’ll need copywriting since you can’t reuse content from wikipedia, you’ll get spanked on SEO.
He’ll need brand design as he doesn’t have a brand.
Normally you work from brand guidelines, or quote for brand design.
Normally client provides content, or pays for copywriting. (Though I always include “tweaking” and optimizing client content for conversion and SEO, it’s one of my unique selling poitns)
Brand guidelines usually include a logo, fonts, colours, as well as the brand in use in a variety of uses such as brochures, mockups, promotional imagery etc.
He doesn’t have a brand in place which means you can’t design the site.
You can help him design a brand for his business, but we’ll need to expand the scope to cover branding. Present your branding packages with specific prices and make a recommendation.
Clients sometimes struggle to understand why it costs more.
It’s just ideas, right?
I like to put things in the context of real-world things they can relate to:
Beware, when a client says any of these things:
What they really mean is “I have no idea what I want, and I haven’t bothered to figure it out, so let’s do this by trial and error until you claw your eyes out with frustration”.
Design is about solving problems. You must figure out what the goal is before you can design the solution.
You must tease this out of them before proceeding. You can use different tools for this.
Whatever it takes to get some concrete sense of direction from them.
You may find yourself under pressure to proceed, maybe they are in a rush or have a tight deadline.
But do not proceed without this or you’ll quickly find yourself in a spiralling number of revisions and vague feedback.
I promise you, when it all backfires, it will be YOUR ass that gets blamed for lack of results, not their lack of clarity.
If you have to charge extra or this part of your process, do so, as the client will get a better result.
Part of your service may be helping them figure out what they want or need.
This can often account for half of a project budget, depending on the client.
Ok, Here’s what I would tell you if you were one of my team.
Lifted directly from my team SOPs
I want you to take the time to do good work, I don’t want you to feel rushed.
But timeliness is very important.
It’s critical that we show clients regular progress, especially in the early stages after a project, when money has just been exchanged.
So don’t wait until the deadline to start the project.
As soon as you are given a job, start it.
Set your own internal deadlines to be proactive.
Things will come up, feedback will be delayed etc.
So always be as far ahead as you can.
Time only runs one way,
so if the client comes back with feedback late, we adjust the timeline to give us more time to work on the project.
But if client comes back with feedback early, we don’t bring the deadline forwards.
The client gets the results earlier, but the timeline will stay the same which buys us time for future unforseens.
We make sure the client knows we are ahead of schedule.
But we don’t squander this extra time by waiting;
We move ahead with the project and build ourselves a safety buffer.
We will agree deadlines that work for both of us at the start of a project.
All tasks and subtasks will have deadlines set in Clickup.
I will try very hard to make sure that you are not rushed in your work, that you have plenty of time to think about things, and that the pace is relaxed. Good work can’t happen in a rush 😊.
Once a deadline has been set we need to meet the deliverables for that deadline.
Please note deadlines in Clickup are client deadlines.
“due dates” are the final dates by which the phase should be complete, so includes feedback, mistakes, revisions etc.
You should be working to “review dates”.
Internal review dates are about halfway between formal client review dates.
The review date is the date by which you should have progressed as far as you can,
and then you share the work with me for internal feedback.
There may be informal reviews or feedback needed before that deadline, so please factor this in, and don’t leave work until the client deadline, as this may be too late.
If you’re working by yourself, you can set internal dates for yourself to keep yourself in check:
If you think a deadline is too tight
Please tell me so I can factor this into my communication with the client. I don’t bite. 😁
I would much rather you told me a task will take 4 weeks and complete it in 4 weeks, than tell me that a task will take 2 weeks and instead take 4 weeks to complete it…
Sometimes the client is slow to respond, people get sick, and you might have creative block.
If you feel you will be unable to meet a deadline or feel you are falling behind.
Please let me know as far in advance as possible so I can adjust my response to the client, and adjust any future deadlines to suit.
The earlier I know, the earlier we can find a solution or manage client expectations. 😊
If you plan well, optimize your process,
and set internal deadlines well in advance of the actual deadline then you should rarely miss a deadline.
Unforeseen stuff comes up. Always make sure the client knows about it, why, and what the new timeline is.
This way you’ll always be ahead of schedule.
Always underpromise and overdeliver.
That’s how you get happy clients that keep coming back for more.
The one thing that propelled me from 5 to 6 figures?
Here’s some topics to explore that can really shape you from a frantic freelancer to a sytemized solopreneur:
🧠 Reading books on human behavior gave me priceless insights into understanding people…
Understand your team, your clients, your audience, yourself.
When you understand how people tick and why they do what they do…
💼 Sales and business books became my mentors.
You don’t build a solo business by doing things the way everyone else does them.
The foundations don’t change much, but you have to think differently and figure out new ways to do things.
Luckily someone else has probably done it first.
Learn from the greats.
💡 And then there’s philosophy.
The OG life coach in my opinion.
Helps you deal with all the curveballs that get thrown your way,
AND helps you stay happy once you’ve made it.
In my opinion, Stoicism is something they should teach in school to help with…
Now, let’s talk about reading every day for 15 minutes.
If you can make time, in 6 months you won’t recognize yourself.
Your mind is your biggest weapon, train it and feed it. 💪
Don’t know where to start?
These books helped me shortcut my journey from 5 to 6 figures in a couple of years.
Here’s my 6 figure reading list for solopreneurs
Working by itself has its advantages. But teamwork is something that suffers.
Any design is usually improved by input from multiple different perspectives, which can be hard to find when you work for yourself, by yourself.
Peer feedback is really important because it’s hard to see the trees when you’re thick in the forest.
You start second-guessing your own design choices, or worse,
become blind to your own mistakes and become stagnant.
No-one is perfect.
You’ll make mistakes.
You’ll miss things, and even the best output is still based just on your own perception of reality.
Designers will start with the exact same brief, and come up with a completley different design.
Criticism is the way we get better.
So first, ditch the defensiveness and embrace feedback and criticism.
You don’t need to action every bit of feedback you receive, it’s your design, and you have a thought process that (hopefully) makes sense.
But every piece of feedback has the potential to either improve the design,
or pen new avenues of thought.
Here’s a few techniques I use to combat this as a solopreneur.
If you’ve hit a wall, leave it, sleep on it.
Your brain will continue to work on things at rest,
You’ll come back to it with fresh eyes and all sorts of new ideas.
After I finish a project, I always go backwards.
I reread the brief to make sure I’m on point.
It’s easy to wander throughout the creative process until your way off brief.
I self-critique my own work from a super critical point of view.
Do a bit of roleplaying, I put myself in different shoes…
I like to put myself into a specific frame of mind, and approach the design in a few different roles.
Ask myself some hard questions as…
Usually, this brings my work up a notch, preaddresses issues and skips a few rounds of revisions or bouncebacks.
Find someone else in your niche, and swap about, ask and offer feedback when needed.
You will people in the same situation and stage as you on social media or other community groups.
I guarantee they’ll have the same problem and would welcome the chance to trade ideas and inspiration.
This a big solopreneur move which will help you stop seeing your peers as competitors, and start seeing them as partners or colleagues.
It doesn’t just stop at design.
I have a selection of peers I like to trade ideas with once a month.
It takes 5 minutes per person
I like to find…
Having an echo chamber like this leads to so many breakthroughs, and is beneficial for all parties.
Here’s some questions you can ask:
Just because you’re a solopreneur, it doesn’t mean you have to work alone.
You can have partners without having business partners.
You have access to an unlimited number of designers at your fingertips on social media, and in online communities.
Constructive criticism is something to embrace, not fear.
As a rule of thumb do a rough calculation of how long you think each stage of the project will take then add 20% for safety and another 15% for admin and communication.
There isn’t a formula sometimes you have to know how much the project will cost you so you aren’t operating at a loss, then throw a price at it
If you have a well defined offer:
1/4 or 1/3rd value of promise
If you haven’t done it before.
My policy is if you have less experience, treat it as being paid to learn and go cheaper.
Don’t try to charge high ticket prices if you aren’t confident of the results.
Long term relationships are more important than a quick buck.
The honest answer is if you’re doing a project which involves something you haven’t done before it’s a risk.
You have to make a best guess.
Sometimes you’re going to lose because it took more than you thought to provide a result.
But now you know how to do it next time.
Your estimates will get a lot more accurate to the point where when someone approaches you with a problem you know how to solve it and you know how long it’ll take to solve it. with more and more experience it’ll get easier to provide an accurate calculation.
Here’s all my thoughts on sales at random.
It’s a big topic. I hope you get value from this.
The key to sales is…
Never really sell
Talk about prices early, but not too early.
Throw in some ranges or ballparks
Don’t talk about prices too early.
Have a conversation not a sales pitch.
Give them lots of advice freely.
Even tell them the best way to shop about for a web designer
This allows you to warn them subtly about all the other cheap digital cowboys or horror stories you’ve heard.
Tell them the kind of things they’ll want to look out for in a web designer (do they pick up the phone, do they stay on the phone more than 20 mins, do they know what they’re talking about etc.)
By the end of the call they will start treating you more like an advisor than a web designer selling them a website.
At that point they will be looking to you to tell them how much they should be spending, instead of the other way around.
They must have these to buy
Ask good questions
the one who gets the job is not the one who can solve the problem best,
it’s the one who can define the problem the best
when they say they need a logo, they don’t, they actually need to stand out from their competition,
so they can make more money,
or so their ego can be inflated by success.
get to the CORE pain point,
and present your offer as the solution,
that’s how you set yourself apart from your competition,
and stop competing on price
Sales call formula
they must believe they have a problem
they must believe they can’t fix this problem on their own or it will be time heavy to do so
doing nothing is more painful than time/ money to fix the problem
must believe solving the problem will allow their business to grow
must have resources and willingness to solve the problem
must believe that we will support them to fix the problem
do they believe our methods will work and see our solution as superior and unique to what they’ve tried in the past
Qualifying questions you can use
“I’m going to ask you a series of questions that I ask all my enquries”
What do you do?
Who is the target customer?
What sets your brand apart?
Who are your competitors?
how much do they make?
to find this out ask how much each customer is worth.
ask how many leads they get a month
how many leads do they convert
What is the customer lifecycle?
*start dropping in figures to get them comfortable with a larger spend
Get a small commitment
I can definitely help you, but I’d need to know what stage your at, are you serious about make this reality?
“So what stage are you at, if we can tick all the boxes for you, are you ready to commit to growing your business today?”
We’re not like other web designers, we work long term with our clients.
I believe firmly in plain speaking and brutal honesty.
Other Web designers and Graphic designers will tell you whatever you want to hear because they are like car salesmen; they only care about selling a single product, like a website etc.
We don’t do that because we’re interested in the results.
We don’t do the hard sell.
IF you want to achieve a certain result like business growth,
we’ll tell you the best way to do it, and how much it’ll cost you to get that result.
we only offer a service if we think you’re going to make money out of it.
little decisions lead to big decisions
Get them to start designing or planning parts of the website or brand.
“From what we’ve talked about…
Based on previous section, you now know all their problems and pain points.
Make up their package, if they don’t understand their own brand we need to address that first.
set date to follow up
“we’ve talked about a lot of stuff on the phone so I’ll drop you a proposal which as all the terms set out in writing, everything you need to know.
we only have a few slots in work calendar left, which could fill at any moment.
would really need a commitment before next week.
If you want to go ahead just reply to let me know you accept the proposal.
I’ll then send a link for you to set up your bank details and make your first payment which will secure your place in the work queue.
Examples of sounding out Qs
Emphasize the Solution
rephrase and summarize all the problems they mentioned back to them.
present your service as the solution
but emphasize the RESULT and BENEFIT not the service
❌ “I’ll build you an amazing looking website”
✅”I’ll build you a website which will reflect the quality of your business online”
❌ “my booking websites are really powerful and good”
✅ “I’ll build you a powerful booking website which automates your admin, saves you hours every day”
❌ “I’m a good web designer”
✅ “A stress free service and we’ll guide you through it one step at a time.”
make sure to give examples of projects you’ve done where the client got the results you’ve just sold to the client.
make sure to emphasize the great ROI they got.
don’t make it up, it’s all about real results.
if on a video call, (you should always try get them on video) SHOW them the sites you’ve done. show them the back end, show them analytics or whatever to prove it.
Offer / Pitch
Ask “what level of budget do you have to invest in this project?”
the phrasing of that is key
you’ll often be blown away at what they thought they were going to pay.
adjust your prices on the fly accordingly.
IF they won’t give you their budget give them a range.
say “well the budget can vary depending on your needs and scope, I’ve done projects like this before anywhere between X and Y, where do you fall in that range?”
Gauge their reaction to see how much they are expecting to pay,
adjust your prices on the fly accordingly.
Finally present your service as a product which fills all the needs they already told you about at a price that they will accept and still feel is valuable for the result that they will get. Say something like
“based on what we’ve talked about, If i can build an amazing booking website which reduces your admin time and takes seamless bookings online, would you be happy to proceed based on a budget of £X…”
When you tell them your price then go silent and wait for them to accept
they ramble and hesitate to proceed, ask them openly “what are your concerns at this point?”
answer those concerns, you might need to draw the concerns out of the client at this point.
once answered any concerns you can basically repeat your closing line.
Once closed make it as simple and easy as possible for them to proceed.
If you send an email proposal make sure there is a link or button which lets them make their first payment to commit.
You don’t want any friction at this point.
The only difference between an agency and a freelancer is the way they talk about thsemselves.
Design Hero, my 6 figure solo business, is a “micro agency” with only one employee.
But I present as an agency and I pitch at the same level as many agencies with 20-30 employees.
“Agencies” will always be able to charge more simply because of the perception.
You must convince the customer that your size is an advantage.
and it is.
You don’t need 40 ponytailed creatives sitting about on beanbags, eating avocados and playing table tennis…
A small team of experts will usually get a much better result.
The way do it is to be the agency for one speciality,
and you are the individual who runs the agency, with a personal brand as the expert for the niche.
So the answer:
People buy from people, not companies.
For social media, you’ll want a personal brand. It helps build rappor, and future proofs your brand, by not being tied to one thing.
IN your business, branding as an agency will help you charge more, as it lends you legitimacy.
So present yourself as an agency for higher pricing. But be the face of the agency to sell.
You could join a group like Chamber of Commerce or BNI.
But vet these groups carefully before joining. MAKE SURE THEY ARE ACTUALLY PASSING LEADS.
Far too many “networking groups” are just coffee clubs for people playing CEO who have too much time on their hands. 😂
To network effectively you have to seek out the movers and shakers.
The best strategy is not to seek customers;
Instead seek people who know many of your ideal clients.
These are known as superconnectors.
Write, refine and practice a 20 second, 60 second and 5 minute pitch for your business value offer.
Don’t get caught off guard if someone asks on the fly.
Every social event is a networking event.
You never know where you’ll meet your next client.
Never sell to one person at networking. ever. people can smell desperation.
Ask about their business. listen. If they have a problem that you can solve offer specific advice on how you would solve their problems.
Don’t worry about “giving it away for free”. The more you can give away, the more likely they are to want you to do it for them.
Remember networking is a place to find clients, yes, but it’s mostly a place to find partners.
partners will allow you to expand your offering, solve bigger problems and feed each other leads.
Social media is networking. People forget this. don’t just post.
Speak to people get to know them, chat like you would in real life.
Deliver a really great service. Over-communicate. You don’t need to be the best designer, you just need to offer the best experience.
Most often the best-paid designers are just the best at communicating.
Then set up an automated email journey after a project is complete to request reviews.
I recommend an automated sequence with x3 emails:
At the end of a project always schedule a “debrief” to hand over final assets and ask them questions about how they found your service.
This should be a live video call. be sure to record.
Ask them about the results, how it will help them, how was communication etc.
You can shorten the handoff call into a video testimonial (with permission of course)!
Presto, video testimoinal!
Controversial opinion about contracts for design services
Contracts are a complete waste of your time unless you’re doing projects over £10k.
I used to spend hours trying to get clients to sign a contract before we kicked off work.
Most of the times the only thing a contract did was prevent me making a sale.
Here’s why contracts are a waste of time:
Contracts are not enforceable anyway without paying for a lawyer.
If your fee is less than £10,000…
you are unlikely to recover enough money to make the stress and costs of a legal battle worth it.
Been there, done that , had the heart attack haha 🤯⚖️
The legal system (in the UK) is geared towards protecting the guilty.
the process is so onerous that it makes it a waste of time to try.
Even if you had a contract, and you went to court because someone owed you money,
you still have to pay fees to get the money.
Even then you would probably would struggle to get money off them.
Here’s what to do instead:
✅ Always communicate how your service and payment system works.
✅ Send a “contract” or proposal in writing to cover your arse, and say by your engagement means agreeing with your terms.
✅ Break your fees into phases
✅ Make sure your work doesn’t outpace the payments
Better to avoid getting into this situation in the first place by managing clients properly.
which is a whoooole other post
Signed contracts are a waste of time unless your project value is over £10,000 and will torpedo your ability to sell.
A bit of both….
When I started DH whenever a client asked me if I offered a service, I would say yes then quickly go learn how to do it and offer it to other clients:
Mastering a skill takes time, but I find if you focus properly, you can usually learn the broad strokes of most skills pretty quickly.
You only need to learn enough that your better at it than the customer.
But now that I run my own business I don’t have time to do that anymore.
Nowadays I find someone better than me and pay them to do it.
My goal for you is to become the owner of your own business,
the only way to do that is to eventually get “off the tools” and onto higher-value work (sales, managing clients, setting up systems, lead generation)
I try to reduce my core services to offer 3 basic services which complement each other. Brand => website = SEO.
When it comes to tools…
I stick to ONE platform or ONE tool and get really familiar and quick with it.
Example, for web design, some people use Shopify, some Webflow etc.
Personally I use WordPress and Elementor and I’ve mastered those.
So if someone wants a E-commerce website or a booking website I know exactly how I’ll achieve that, what plugins to use, how they work etc.
HOWEVER skills are different.
Marketing nowadays is complex.
It’s absolutely essential that you pick up the basics of other fields that complement your niche.
You don’t need to master them but being good at copywriting is going to aid your website design.
Knowing a bit about SEO and keywords is going to help your websites rank.
Knowing a bit about email marketing will help you create a good E-commerce website and so on.
The best strategy is to try to be a T-Shaped marketer ;
Be a master at a few skills, and a novice at multiple skills that amplify the benefits of your core skill set.
Honestly, your tools don’t matter.
They will all change in 5 years anyway.
There are a huge no. of tools available in every field,
and the ease of these tools and templates available makes it too easy to run before you learn to walk.
Instead, spend time on learning the foundations.
I see a huge number of freelancers never learning the fundamentals.
If you’re a designer, focus your time on learning about hierarchy, composition, balance, contrast etc.
I’d spend 80% of my time learning Typography, this is the quickest way to elevate your designs to the next level.
Time saving cheat:
Take the time to actually recreate what they’ve done, and unpick it, reverse engineer it:
When it comes to tools…
Don’t be distracted by the latest shiny object.
You don’t need to be proficient in Adobe premiere, capcut, Filmora to edit videos.
pick one software which gets the job done and do it.
The short answer is you do have to do a hell of a lot of learning.
At the start, you’ll need to learn all the skills that a business normally has staff for.
You’ll spend half your time doing the work, half the time on “support tasks” that run the business and find the work.
So there’s the project work itself, having some kind of marketing strategy (which you’re always improving), sorting out background admin like contracts and invoice etc.
Once you reach a certain level of retainer income you can invest that regular income to get a VA.
This is a game changer which will free you up to focus on big-picture thinking instead of “doing”
In the meantime systems and automation are the way.
If you’re going to do something more than twice, then spend a little extra time to figure out a system or a way to automate or reduce the steps.
Use templates for everything.
Create template emails for onboarding, feedback request etc.
I’m going to expand this later…
There aren’t really any. Here’s why:
You might fail and then you’ll feel shitty for a few weeks before you get back on the horse 😆
You might fall out with clients and get stressed about it. Stress won’t kill you.
The biggest risk is you don’t make enough money. Then you can always get a job!
So not much risk at all haha
You don’t need an office you don’t need staff. All you need is a laptop.
It depends on what country your in, in a 1st world country most people have a laptop but if a laptop is beyond your means, you can use a local internet cafe to get started.
You’ll need to be able to demonstrate skill and ability to stand out.
This is tough if you haven’t had a job in this area first.
If you can’t find paying clients, take on personal projects.
The only way to stretch your skills is to take on real-world challenges and constraints so find a fake design brief online, and create as many different things as you can!
These personal projects can become your portfolio, which will be a stepping stone into your first paid gigs.
There are several routes for you for paid work:
You can find a job to get some experience,
Or you can start freelancing.
Both have their own challenges.
A job means secure monthly payments and not much responsibility.
There’s an attraction in this.
But a job isn’t as safe as it used to be.
Most small companies can’t afford to pay juniors the money they need to meet rising costs of living.
Larger companies don’t really want juniors.
I don’t believe that jobs are the long-term “safe option” they used to be.
I myself have been fired from a job only the day before I was going to ask for a raise.
The second option is freelancing, or starting your own side hustle, is tough.
Freelancing means working for many years for not much money.
But with freelancing, your earning cap is potentially unlimited.
You will also have a LOT more freedom to live the life you want.
But it’s a lot of pressure.
You have to learn to do literally every job role yourself.
You have to bring in your own work.
In the end, you have to decide what’s right for you.
Of course, you can find a job AND freelance as a side hustle, which is what most folk do these days.
It’s a safe way to go as there’s not much risk to freelancing when you have a job to pay the bills!
It can be really tough getting your foot in the door as a junior.
My advice is just keep trying.
Speak to friends and family and so some favour jobs to build experience of working with real clients.
Get on Upwork and start doing you own thing to.
On Upwork you’ll need to be prepared to work for very little in order to build up reviews and cred first.
My advice on this is quantity over quality.
Do lots of tiny small jobs, be honest in your proposal and say your new and looking for experience and reviews, and in exchange offer a much lower price than the competition.
Trade time for reviews.
Of course to get reviews you have to offer a great service.
This doesn’t mean being the best designer or developer,
It means being the best communicator, making sure your client has a good experience.
Of course you’ll want to provide a good result too. But experience is as, or more, important.
One thing I like to do is go above and beyond.
If you quote for redesign of a homepage, do some design changes on the about page and let them know you’ve thrown it in as a bonus extra 🙂
Then as your profile and success rate grows, you can start charging your worth and increase over time.
Somtimes I get asked stuff about how I run my life and business. If the answer has value to other people, I post it here.
If you have a question, submit it below and I’ll notify you if it’s published.
If I don’t know the answer I’ll ask someone who does.
I hope this is valuable to my audience.
Things people ask about 👉
Your contact details will be private. The answer to your Question will be public so other solopreneurs learn from it.