UPDATED APRIL 2018
Have you been pitching to large brands with no luck, or looking at fellow WordPress consultants who successfully attract high paying clients, building impressive portfolios along the way? It’s time to turn that around and start building your own impressive list.
Working with big brands is an attainable goal, but there is a pinch of science behind it. There are certain specifics you need to be aware of, as well as minor adjustments to be made to your portfolio and sales process in order to scale up. At the end of the day, it’s all about solving problems for corporations by focusing on their unique needs and finding niche channels you can leverage to generate outstanding results.
Here is a practical and actionable guide that will help you to attract high paying clients and establish a renowned WordPress consultancy that will organically bring in more business.
The Differences Between Low Paying and High Paying Clients
It doesn’t matter what kind of client base you currently have or who you’re looking to target in the future. All clients--large or small--want the same thing: outstanding service, expert guidance, and rave-worthy results. Those basic needs must always be met.
However, if you’re looking to attract high paying clients to your WordPress business, a change must occur within your approach to handling them--and it will mainly be in the form of how you communicate with key stakeholders. As you might imagine, the small business owner looking to launch his or her first website is not going to be of the same mindset or personality as the CEO in charge of a corporation with thousands of employees, generating millions in revenue.
So, as you make this shift from low paying to high paying clients, here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to woo decisionmakers from larger organizations and reputable brands:
Expectations of You
Finding the right talent is challenging, and small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners often have no clue what a WordPress consultant is capable of in terms of assisting their business. What can hope for, however, is to get their money’s worth in this investment they’ve made in you.
At the other end of the spectrum, entrepreneurs and CEOs have a lot to lose if they hire the wrong consultant. Essentially, what they are hoping to gain here is a reliable partner that will deliver results and then help their business continue to grow.
Number of Decision Makers
When you work with an SMB, you’re likely going to have one point of contact. If it’s a brand new company, that will be the business owner. If it’s been around for a bit, it may be the marketing manager or equivalent. Either way, the amount of feedback you receive usually only comes from one source.
With the higher-paying enterprise, however, it’s a different story. You may end up having to report to what resembles something of a boardroom of members with each phase, each update, each round of QA to review with them. And, likely, that means the CEO is going to stay out of it and allow other executives, employees, and even third-party consultants to step in and collaborate with you.
This is not necessarily a problem, but it’s definitely a different game than working solo. It requires more communication, aligning milestones, discussing requirements together, and making compromises due to various business specifics.
In general, business owners don’t speak the same language that we do. They’re thinking about business growth and profit margins and maximizing productivity. (You know this because you think this way when it comes to your own WordPress business.) However, as a WordPress consultant, your brain isn’t on that same track. You’re focused on completing various project milestones and building a website that’s up to modern design standards.
Which is why language can be problematic whether you deal with the low or high paying clients. But there is a difference.
When you speak to a small business owner, you’re likely going to hear them say things like, “I want a responsive website” or “I need SEO”. If they’ve read about websites before, then they’re going to have a basic sense for these kinds of terms. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they understand what any of it is or the implications behind it.
As you speak with the small business owner, you can use this kind of terminology with them, but you should also be more patient and willing to educate them on what it is they need and what it will mean for their website in the end.
Now, in terms of the large business owner and entrepreneur, they’re already fluent in those terms. As I mentioned before, they’ve done their research. So, when you talk to these decision makers, speak to them intelligently and matter-of-factly. Yes, their websites will be defined to align with Google’s mobile-first indexing initiative. Of course, their USP will be consistently utilized throughout the site. You can even discuss your projections for CRO once it’s all done.
Startups will come to you looking for a quick and affordable way to get a good-looking website online. More often than not, paying a huge amount of money for a new website isn’t going to be worth it for them as it could take anywhere from six months to a couple years before they start seeing results. Even with an incredible marketing campaign, they need an established reputation in their field before generating serious traction and conversions online.
On the other hand, long-standing businesses already have websites that generate a solid amount of traffic and want to increase their conversions. If they’re looking for a WordPress consultant, they’re either looking to:
- Give their website a facelift to align with modern design trends.
- Rebrand it as the enterprise moves into a new phase of growth.
- Hire an actual consultant to provide guidance on strategic moves with the website. For instance, focusing instead on A/B testing, content marketing plans, and more.
The established CEO doesn’t need a quick-and-dirty website, which is why they’re going to be willing to pay you more.
Automating Processes is a Crucial Element of Successful Businesses
We had a client who employed 30 content writers and editors. Their flow was complex, so we built a custom tailored editorial system that saved each of those writers 2 hours a week. That resulted in 250 hours a month savings for the business, which allowed them to produce more content, in less time, with fewer resources. This translated into incredible traffic growth with lower costs for publishing more content. A huge result!
Low paying clients usually understand what it is they’re getting from you in terms of quality. That’s not to insinuate that you would do any less of a good job for them as you would for a high paying client. It’s more in terms of how much work you put into a WordPress site that costs $5,000 as opposed to one that costs $15,000.
Which means with low paying clients you can get away with more automation. This means:
- Relying heavily on WordPress themes to establish the base design of a website.
- Utilizing WordPress plugins to add functionality you might not have the time or desire to code by hand.
- Spending less time on keyword and competitive landscape research.
- Eschewing certain phases that won’t matter to them (e.g. storyboarding, wireframing, stress testing, etc.)
To automate within WordPress is obviously not a bad thing--especially if it does more effectively help you execute a goal or lay a base framework from which you can really grow the website from.
However, “automation” is not the kind of work your enterprise clients are going to be excited to hear. They’re paying top dollar for a custom-built website. If you don’t have the skills to code the site from the ground up, or you can’t justify why a $70 theme isn’t just a way to cut corners, then you may not be ready to take on the high paying clients.
Speed of Communication
While there are plenty of small business owners who disappear for months, the dedicated and committed ones work tirelessly, striving for perfection in exchange for a limited investment. It’s a smart move in order to grow further without burning cash too early.
But this also makes working with lower-paying clients a bit of a gamble. The ones who disappear become costly as you spend more time trying to track them down and get the project back on track. The ones who are fully entrenched in the project, instead, have a tendency to be overwhelmingly present. And it’s that kind of micro-management and oversight that can also slow down your progress and introduce the unfortunate scope creep to your budget.
Large organizations can cause slowdowns too; most notably by taking a long time to approve feature requests or changes--even the simple ones. There are various decision makers involved over numerous departments, a board of directors, investors, or even other consultants who have to chime in and approve a change.
That said, you can expect these higher paying clients to be more understanding of milestones and maintaining the right level of communication. They have very little time to spare, so they want whatever time they do give you to be worth it--which means you need to be prepared to talk about progress, hand over deliverables, and and keep up with the pace.
Standards and Procedures
When you work with smaller businesses, you’re likely going to be working on your own. This means you need to be able to confidently say, “This is the plan, this is what we will do, and this is what you will get.” You’re basically responsible for laying the groundwork for this business’s online identity.
Working with an established business, however, typically means having to utilize its long list of protocols, guidelines, and even tools. It’s the only way businesses of this breadth can keep the team aligned with business requirements while ensuring consistency as the business grows and new staff (or freelancers like yourself) are hired.
Some of these requirements may be obstacles for delivering high results in a shorter amount of time--a time-killer for your productivity. However, this is usually paid for; you’ll just need to deal with a lot more paperwork instead of getting your hands dirty in every billable minute.
How to Get High Paying Clients for Your WordPress Business
Look, there’s nothing wrong with continuing to work with low-paying clients—especially if you want to get in on the ground floor of something innovative and grow your business alongside theirs. But sometimes you want to get paid a rate that’s more on par with the quality of work you deliver. And you can’t always get that from startups and SMBs.
Landing the first couple of large consulting clients is tough, but not impossible. It gets easier later on with more impressive projects in your portfolio, but you will have to hustle for a while until you land one or two of these kinds of jobs.
I do want to quickly note here, however, that getting high paying clients for your WordPress business does not always mean looking at big brands and well-established enterprises. There are others who are willing to pay top dollar for a WordPress website--and those are the clients who understand the true value of one. That is what you should ultimately be searching for here.
Here is a brief plan that will help you connect with the right kinds of clients, so you can start charging what your services are really worth:
1. Dispose of the Low-Hanging Fruit
I know this sounds terrible… but firing bad clients is something you absolutely have to do if you’re trying to attract a higher quality of clientele. It’s not just about appearances either. This is about what these kinds of clients will do to your WordPress business in terms of productivity and quality of output.
Think about it like this: you started your business and were willing to work with pretty much anyone so you could generate revenue and make a name for yourself. However, there are a lot of business owners out there looking to take advantage of someone in your shoes. You’ve run into them. They’re the clients who:
- Abuse you.
- Disappear for long stretches.
- Set unrealistic expectations.
- Refuse to pay or won’t pay in full because they’re dissatisfied (despite you offering to fix whatever was wrong).
- Drain your time and resources by calling, emailing, and texting way too often and usually unnecessarily.
There are any number of ways bad clients can manifest their true colors, but you can’t make time for it anymore. It will only lead to a compromise in the quality of work you do for others. So, cut out the bad apples now (even if it means less revenue), so you can focus on getting those good clients.
2. Define the Ideal Client
You know what a bad client looks like. Now it’s time to envision what your dream client looks like. It can’t just be their fat wallet or well-known brand name you’re after either.
What industry are they in?
Who are the primary decision makers?
Is there a specific kind of website you want to build? Ecommerce? News sites? Multisite networks?
What size website do they need?
Who is the website of this audience?
How much time should be dedicated to the creation of this website?
What is their work style like? (Lots of cooks in the kitchen? Hands-off, minimal micro-management? Weekly meetings?)
Really think about who it is you want to work with going forward. It will make selling your services to them a whole lot easier if you’re prepared for them.
3. Increase Your Pricing. Now.
Don’t wait until you sign that first enterprise client to set your prices. This isn’t something you should make up on the fly. If you want to attract better clients, then you need to be a better businessperson yourself.
Your WordPress service offering should already be well-defined and packaged up into tiers based on the needs you anticipate for this new, higher-paying client set. Develop each package based on what you know about this ideal client of yours. What do they need? What would they like? And what else can you give them? Each package should go up incrementally in price as well as in value.
And don’t be afraid to shoot high in terms of cost. Remember what we’ve discussed earlier--big brands communicate a lot, require a ton of back and forth; deals take a while to close and you will need to work with various processes and stakeholders. It won’t be as easy as it is with a small client, so that extra overhead should be accounted for.
4. Establish Yourself in a Specific Niche
Due to their popularity, big corporations get tons of requests all the time--both by people applying for a job and service providers who want a piece of the pie.
A successful track record in one specific industry and an understanding of the business specifics are essential for providing consulting to a given business. As such, being an expert in a specific field could be a very strong selling point when pitching.
For the enterprise decision maker, this means less time they’ll have to spend educating you on their unique selling proposition and audience. Instead, they can focus on handing you the tools you need to get the job done and letting you get to work. After all, time is money.
5. Update Your Website
Which leads me to this next point: your WordPress site needs to be updated before you undertake any of these efforts to land high paying clients. There are a couple reasons for this.
To start, there’s the matter of your portfolio. CEOs are going to need proof that you have the skills to back up what you’re saying. A portfolio with well-rounded examples, plentiful images that demonstrate what you’ve done in taking a website from the “before” to the “after”, as well as case studies that explain the quantitative results is essential. And, if you do have a niche specialty, your portfolio must be built around that.
Your WordPress website itself is also a tool you should be using to sell your clients on your capabilities. It should be modernly designed and utilize the types of design techniques and quality of coding clients would expect on their own websites.
6. Build a Team Around You
Low paying clients may be satisfied with five- to ten-page websites that utilize stock photography and a premium WordPress theme. High paying clients, on the other hands, may want things like:
- Long-tail keyword optimization
- Persona building
- Wireframing and prototyping
- Internal link building strategy
- CRM integration
- Stores with hundreds of products and a globalized payment gateway
- And so on
The possibilities are endless, which means you need to have a plan for addressing their unique needs. Realistically, this means it can’t all depend on you anymore. You are going to need to build an internal team or outsource certain specialized tasks to external vendors in order to get this kind of work done.
7. Provide Outstanding Solutions
Quality of work is absolutely mandatory when working with high paying clients. Small businesses don’t need sloppy work either, but missing a few details on an architectural level may not be crucial.
That said, you can’t afford to hand over a website a client just paid a lot of money for, only for them to discover broken links, forms that lead to nowhere, and a slow-as-f*** payment gateway. Quality controls need to be firmly in place in your process before you ever enter into any contracts with a high paying client.
This means introducing the following into your workflow:
- Contracts: to clearly define all terms of the project with the client
- SOW: to explain the project brief, set expectations, and establish a timeline
- Collaboration software: this is where you will control your workflow internally as well as externally with the client; all communications will take place here
- Project phases: in order to more adeptly manage the scope of larger projects while also getting paid for major milestones
- Rigorous research: these kinds of sites require a lot of research regarding the user persona, UX, UI, competitors, keywords, and so on
- Communication schedule: high paying clients will expect regularly scheduled updates on project progress
- Workflow documentation: this is for internal use to ensure that every step is completed
- Testing: tools and checklists to ensure you review every piece of the website prior to delivery
- QA: various rounds of QA will need to be built into your process; ideally, prior to delivering each milestone to the client
- Handoff and post-mortem: this will detail how and what you hand over to a client after completing a project
8. Create a Support System
High paying clients are paying you for a premium service, which means you need to provide premium support as well. Being available to take their phone calls or answer their emails won’t suffice either.
Instead, look at how you can use your own WordPress website to build a customer portal and support system within it. For starters, it will make it a whole lot easier for you to manage all of your client support requests, invoicing, and what-not from one central locations. It will also give your website and business an air of sophistication. You aren’t just some random WordPress consultant trying to make a lot of money. You’re providing full, white glove service.
9. Get in Front of Them Online
Now that you have your WordPress business and website sorted out in order to attract the high paying client, let’s talk about what you can do to actively go after that.
The first thing to do is to be wherever they are online. Which social media platforms do they frequent? Do they have certain websites or blogs that they subscribe to? How about forums and comment boards they frequently engage with? The best way to get their attention is to demonstrate your authority and expertise, and let them take notice.
This translates to things like:
- Establish an active presence on social media--and not just sharing your own content or liking only their posts. Those kinds of shallow interactions won’t help your cause. Make it meaningful and share something insightful.
- Participate in social media groups that they’re in. This doesn’t mean just joining groups for other WordPress developers or web designers. This means really digging into your niche and joining groups for banking professionals or restaurateurs or whoever you are targeting.
- Start writing blog posts for websites you know they will read. If they’re the head of a major enterprise, this may mean sites like Inc., Forbes, Entrepreneur, etc.
- Craft a long-form piece of downloadable content like an ebook or white paper that talks about something no one else is writing about. If you can include data from your own research and studies, that would be ideal.
- Film a video or webinar. Then promote it on social media, specifically targeting that audience group.
- Create a course that demonstrates your skills as a WordPress consultant. This may not necessarily get you in front of these decision makers, but it will be great as leverage later on when they want to know what you’ve done and to see proof of it.
10. Get in Front of Them in the Real World
I know hundreds of startup owners who provide solutions in specific industries and only gather at startup events, WordCamps, hanging out with other freelance business owners like themselves. While building a network or a mastermind group of other entrepreneurs is important, this won’t introduce you to new prospects.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Where can I meet my potential large company decision maker?
- Who is the right point of contact for that business?
- Do I have the best elevator pitch when I meet them?
You need to define the right point of contact and have a simple, yet powerful declaration of your solution that would make a difference for them. The next step is to target the events they attend and ensure that you can coordinate your schedule with breaks and networking sessions where you can meet them.
Think of trade shows, meetups and other conferences specifically designed for that type of customer.
11. Reach Out to Your Network
Talking to your friends, family, fellow students and other folks in your network is a good place to look, too. You never know what you might find. Many of them probably work in large organizations, consult big brands, or simply know people that they can introduce you to.
Big businesses always look for talent since they develop products and services for different departments and need to scale them by hiring new developers, designers, marketers, sales representatives, conversion rate optimization experts, SEO specialists, etc. Onboarding new talent is a long-term process, and many of them already work with third parties who handle different areas of their portfolio for them.
Since the personal and culture fit is a priority for many successful businesses, meeting managers or other influential employees through a referral would cut down on your pitching and validation process.
12. Start a Referral Program
And don’t forget about your professional contacts either. Just because you’ve only worked with smaller businesses up until this point doesn’t mean they don’t have high-profile contacts within their space or outside it.
Plus, once you do start signing up high paying clients, this referral program would be a great way to keep the ball rolling. As you prove your skills to one high paying client, who knows how many of their peers they’ll send your way? And, then, because you’re offering a bounty or discount in exchange for their patronage and referral, you’ll be able to hold onto their business for longer. It’s a win-win.
The Final Outcome
If securing high paying clients is your ultimate goal, then landing your first few big fish will add credibility to your portfolio and certainly boost your confidence. Delivering services for small businesses is one thing, but being able to keep up with the changing progress of a successful organization and increasing its exposure will strengthen your authority and influence in your chosen niche.
Your increased experience and knowledge in this area will assist in generating high-quality leads, higher revenue, and business expansion. While the initial hassle of working with larger clients can sometimes be stressful and time-consuming, hang in there because the long-term benefits will be the defining point of your business success.
If you’ve had success landing big clients, we’d love to know how you did it. Did you follow some of the strategies I mentioned in this article, or do you have a few tips of your own you can share?