Most Web Designers Suck At Communication (Here’s Why and How to Change)

Oct 13, 2022

I confess, I am going to make somebody mad with this piece. Maybe you. 

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The reality is, many of the clients who do business with my company find our communication style to be a night and day difference from their previous experiences. 

This is sad. While we do focus on communication (particularly because it is both the right thing to do and sets us apart), it seems communicating well with people who’ve paid you money is not all that complicated. The fact that this is a marketing strategy for us is sad. 

If you want to keep communicating poorly, ghosting customers, failing to hit deadlines and meet expectations, please go ahead. More business for us. If you would like to learn from your mistakes, move forward, and craft new, exciting experiences for your clients, then keep reading. 

THE problem: The Pay-to-Care Communication Ratio

Admit it: when you think about it, it’s quite mystifying why web designers have such issues here. 

Now, I already know what you’re thinking. “But Steve, I’m an INTROVERT! Introverts hate talking to people, especially about money and business. It’s too uncomfortable.” Blah blah blah. 

Do you think your clients care about any of that? If you can’t handle conversations about business or money, then work for someone else, collect your paycheck, put on your headphones in your dark room, and be done with it. 

Why is that so hard? 

Why are you in business if you don’t want to run one? Why do you take your clients’ money, knowing full well you are going to do them a disservice in this area? Why do you keep marketing your services to new clients, only to continue letting your current ones down? 

During a conversation about this with a colleague, we stumbled upon what is probably the correct answer. I call it the “Pay-to-Care Communication Ratio.” 

It goes like this:

As an introverted person who wants the freedom of entrepreneurship but not the responsibilities, you are likely too afraid to charge well for you work. 

But—and here’s the kicker—you spend all of your spare time watching YouTube videos, reading blogs, and listening to podcasts about your craft/entrepreneurship, half of which are virtually screaming at you: “RAISE YOUR PRICES!!”

(Am I right?) 

This creates a sort of “cognitive dissonance” in your thinking, which means you are trying to hold two mutually exclusive ideas in your brain at one time. And the conflict between these ideas is so great that you simply shut down. 

The two ideas are: 

  1. You should be charging double, triple, or MORE than you are for your work, and you darn well know it. 

  2. But you’re too afraid to do it, so your current clients suffer. They will never be good enough for you. 

But it’s your fault

And you say, “Steve! They’d have said no if I charged them those prices!” 

You’re probably right. But they’d also have said no if they knew ahead of time you were going to treat them second rate, if that. 

A story: 

Today, literally today, one of the oldest clients on my subscription web design plan cancelled his website. He wasn’t upset in the least, he was just going through a life transition that rendered the website unnecessary. 

Guess how much he was paying? (This is anonymous, so I’ll tell ya.) $75/month. Today, we charge a minimum of $297/month. We have a 6-person team. The old pricing is unsustainable. 

And yet, we kept his rate the same because frankly he didn’t ask for much and always paid on time, communicated well, etc. 

But just because he was paying less than 99% of our other customers, given the circumstances, does not mean we treated him second rate, cared about him less, left him hanging, etc. 

He’s a successful entrepreneur and relatively young. Do you think he’ll ever need a website again? Do you think one of his friends might need a website and tell them about us? Absolutely. 

Will that happen if he perceives for one moment that we do not care about him or his needs? Absolutely not. 

Trust is everything. In this—and every—business, your business will only grow insofar as it finds new people to trust you. This happens in many areas, but as you probably well know, word of mouth is one of the most important. 

And if you break communication with a client, your word of mouth is gone. Don’t let that happen. 

So, how do you fix this problem? 

Simple: Charge more money and feel good about it. Then, act like you charged more money, and communicate! 

As for your current clients—treat them as if you charged them more money. Because regardless of what you charged, they expected good, honest business from you. So if you need to pretend they’re paying you 10x, then do it. 

A second story: 

Another client, from around the same era, paying nearly the same price, reached out last week. She is getting ready to ramp up their operation and needed some work done. The exact opposite scenario. 

Of course, none of the details changed on my end. The reality is, I used to be a one-man show, and I now have roughly six people working any given project. Different ballgame. 

So, what did I do? Here’s an idea 💡! I was honest with her. 

Basically, the convo went down like this: 

“Client, all of this sounds so exciting, and it looks like a huge opportunity! I’m so happy for you! There is one matter of business to discuss. As you know, our team has grown, and there is now a gap that needs to be filled. We must strike a balance between honoring our commitment to you and providing the same service we always have, while recognizing that I cannot afford to pay my team with our current price arrangement. In fact, to get you where you’d need to be, it would be $X/month. So I want to propose a deal: Perhaps we could work to get you to that place over the course of a few years, and beginning January 1, your new monthly would be $Y. What do you think?”

I’ll be honest, I was nervous about mentioning it. (Remember the part about being introverted and hating to talk about money? Yep. Guilty. See how that’s not an excuse?

And guess what? She completely understood, was happy to hear about our growth, and she agreed to my proposal. I am happy with the arrangement, have already figured out my profitability on the work we’re going to do, and that’s it. Easy-peasy. 

The Lesson

It’s just never okay to fail to fulfill your commitments. No matter what. If your problem is pricing, fix it. Have the conversation. Fire the client. Pretend. 

Whatever you need to do to (1) keep the trust factor high, (2) do the right thing, and (3) maintain your reputation, you must do. Your business—and your life—depends on it. 

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