What would be the ideal work process for you? Is it handling the design division of a large client of yours, or to work with several small business owners and help them accomplish more – or maybe partner up with a designer while taking care of the technical infrastructure?

You know what you’re capable of and you can assess your perfect client. So focus entirely on them – revamp your website and portfolio in a way that is attractive for that target group, build relevant content for these customers, and network with them as much as possible.

The $200 Client

There is always a $200 client asking you to build their website. Even though you are not going to work with them under these terms, eventually they will find a college student or a junior freelancer who would be willing to build it for them.

Why would you decline their offer in the first place? Because you know your way around WordPress, and you know what a regular website needs in order to shine: you need to set up decent managed hosting; build a beautiful custom theme (or find a well-coded one); set up the right environment; make sure that the usability and sales funnel is right; help with their content marketing; and optimize the site for speed and security – the list can go on.

You wouldn’t risk working for this client because you know how much work is involved in the process. But if they ask for a $200 website, they will get it – someone will simply install WordPress with a basic theme and there we go – the site is up!

In reality, it’s no one’s fault that this collaboration didn’t work. This is not the right fit for you, nor for that customer.

Cost Against Value

Let’s add some more details to our $200 customer – say, it’s a small shoe shop in your neighborhood. What would the cost of building the website that the client asked for be – $1500, $3500, $7000? Is it really $200, or is $20,000 more realistic? Can you estimate the number of hours for building that site?

It doesn’t matter.

That number is irrelevant. Because while our client asks for a website, what he needs is more customers. And whether it’s a simple WordPress install, or a well-coded website by yourself, they will likely get zero attention.

Their brand isn’t there. It is a local shop with several buyers a week. At the same time there are several larger shops nearby and a shopping center with several outlets. People know the other brands and buy there instead.

Regardless of the website price, our client will probably get no ROI (Return of Investment). Even worse – if they work with you, they will likely lose a lot more. They may as well go bankrupt without getting the right result.

Beware Of The Bad Investment

seo-roi-chart-mozcom There are specific services out there that require a certain cost and time frame to start with. If you don’t comply with those rules, you won’t get any results – and even worse, you would be wasting money on a lost cause.

You know how SEO works – you build content regularly, optimize it, link it internally and externally, and grow the number of your social media followers; the aim being for Google to rank you better with time. The process is systematic and requires time and money.

If a local SEO agency charges $20,000 for 10 months of active work that will position you well and increase your traffic, would you get a tenth of the result in exchange for $2,000 in a month? No – even if you pay $10K for 5 months, you’ll likely see no results.

Occasionally there is an initial investment required for a business to start growing – Uber had to invest in their drivers and in marketing in order to get riders on board. Production companies often start in their garages before they receive a large enough purchase order to automate that process from a factory.

The same goes for other business-related areas – marketing, sales, or advertising. If you test a campaign and put $4,000 in Adwords, you might win some customers that pay a total amount of $15,000. But paying for a $40 campaign will not result in $150 worth of sales. It’s not a linear ROI, and it can’t be measured this way.

The Right Exposure

In order for our $200 shoe shop to get the right exposure, they will still need a professional and fast website. But capturing attention depends on plenty of other services as well, such as:

  • a content marketing strategy
  • social media marketing work
  • paid ads on Facebook or Google
  • running a competition with the potential to go viral
  • promoters in their local area
  • branding for their shop

In six or nine months the small shop would probably be the friendliest and coziest shoe store in the area, with increased sales and happy local customers. However this would require an investment of $30,000 – $60,000, or more depending on their location. The gap between $200 and $60,000 is 300 times!

Value Driven Pricing

A client with the right offline exposure and branding wouldn’t require that much work. They can easily generate $40,000/month revenue from a modern website, a social media marketing strategy and a few landing pages. If the overall job would take you 80 hours at an hourly rate of $100/h, that would be a $8K gig. For them, this change would bring them close to half a million dollars a year in increased revenue, thanks to positioning the offline brand properly on the Web.

That’s pretty much the same work that you would do for the other client, but your service would  not generate any leads for our small shop without investing in everything else discussed before since the traction is missing – and it takes time and money to build a brand to the point where your effort can take it from there and skyrocket the revenue.

The latter example has everything else in place apart from the online presence. You can step in and generate $500K/year for them, but it’s only fair to ask for $50K for that work.

And suddenly the hourly work has nothing to do with the customer value. Your rate would hurt our first client, and yet you could comfortably charge 6 times more and spend more time on your better client, which would generate hundreds of thousands in revenue for them.

So, where would your focus be?

Grow With Your Customers

The important lesson here is that your services are not universal. Your skills are applicable to certain projects. Your expertise is helpful for a specific group of customers. Your personal network can help to bring natural leads to some clients, but it’s not helpful to everyone.

 You won’t be satisfied with the communication and the feedback from a customer, and they will be annoyed with throwing away money without getting what they actually need – much higher revenue.

Follow this quick 3-step framework and never lose your your true north:

  1. Find your ‘better group’ of customers
  2. Use your competitive advantage to help them grow – in traffic, leads and revenue.
  3. Target customers that are just a bit larger than you can handle – you’ll be able to sign a rewarding offer, be truly dedicated to their success, and learn from your experience during that journey.

You grow their business, and they help yours. Everyone is happy, plus you’ve learned more and improved your skills. You are ready to take on the next customer, grow your portfolio or team, gain more experience and take the next step towards the big brands.

Sooner or later, you will reach them. Just know your values and target the right customers.

Mario Peshev is the Founder and WordPress Architect at DevriX. He has been building software solutions for the past 10 years. Mario is a technical trainer at universities and large international corporations, and he is a co-organizer for WordCamp Europe. Being zealous about Open Source and distributed work, he usually spends his days in Coffices.