How NOT to Sell Web Design Services (10 Mistakes to Avoid)

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What do you do when your business is so successful, everyone starts copying you? How do you fight off all of the copycats and wannabes?

You make you part of your product. is a billion-dollar online shoe retailer. A pair of sneakers at Zappos is exactly the same as a pair at any other shoe store.

But Zappos differentiates itself by making their customer service their biggest priority. Why customer service? Because their CEO, Tony Hsieh, is obsessed with it.

Zappos requires every single new hire, regardless of department, to spend their first 4 weeks taking customer service phone calls. There are no scripts or time limits on conversations. And the call center is located right beside their HQ, not halfway around the world.

It’s this obsession with customer service that sets Zappos apart. And it all came from the man directing the ship.

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As a web designer running your own agency, you can have this same powerful impact on your business. Your skills, passions and personality can set you apart from all other web designers out there.

And you can also inspire the exact opposite effect, torpedoing your web design business with terrible planning and lazy execution.

Here are 10 of the biggest mistakes web designers make when trying to sell web design services:

You don’t listen to them

“To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt (First Lady of the USA)

I’m not just talking about the words they say either.

I’m talking about reading between the lines. Listening to the meaning and context behind the words.

Part of your job as a web designer is to provide expert consultation and advice. How can you do that if you don’t fully understand what your lead is looking for?

Your lead often won’t know how to explain what they want in a website. They’ll even ask for features, bells and whistles that they don’t actually need.

It’s your job to determine what the goals and objectives of their new website are, and then manifest that into a website that accomplishes those goals.

Ask questions. Listen to their answers. Read between the lines. Know their goals inside and out. If you still don’t understand, tell them. Then ask more questions.

Align your lead’s vision with your own. Only then can you start building.

You take on projects you can’t handle

“Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer in the world. And yet, he has a teacher.” – Steven Pressfield (author)

It’s been weeks since you’ve had a new client.

The rent is due in 5 days.

You’re desperate for any work you can cling to.

Finally, a new web design lead comes in from your website! You leap into your keyboard and furiously type your near-instant reply. You’re already thinking about how much you’re willing to discount your work in order to land the project.

But your heart sinks when you find out what it is they need done. Someone needs to build a mobile app for their new vegan/gluten-free/meditation community.

And you have no idea how to build mobile apps.

With that looming rent payment nagging in your mind, you gladly take the job. Your next step is to hit YouTube to learn how to build mobile apps…

This is a mistake. And an all-too-common one at that.

If you don’t have the humility to recognize when you don’t have the skills and resources to take on a large project, and choose to take it on anyway, you do everyone a disservice.

This project is doomed from the start. Your lead thinks they’re going to get exactly what they’ve paid for. Once it becomes clear that they’re not, they’re going to be very unhappy.

By the end of this scenario, two things will happen:

  1. You’ll have wasted another human being’s time and money to satisfy your own greed/desperation.
  2. You’ll have damaged your (and your brand’s) reputation.

As hard as it may be, the right thing to do would be to tell them that you are not able to help them with this particular project.

Trust me, this pays off in the long run. They will be impressed with your humility and honesty. They may even return to you one day to hire you for a job you are capable of doing.

Trust. Is. Everything.

BONUS POINTS:The only possible alternative to this scenario is to take on the project, then hire a freelancer to do the work for you. This does come with its own risks, however. You will need to ensure that the person you hire actually knows how to do it, or if they themselves are making the poor choice of being dishonest with you about their abilities. You’ll also need to budget the project in a way that you still make a profit even if you hire someone else.

You use fancy web design jargon

Pop quiz time! Which sentence do you think will make more sense to someone who knows nothing about web design?

“Sure thing Veronica! I can optimize your site’s UX by deferring your Javascript, reducing the server ping time, compressing your header images and simplifying your HTML. Let me know when you’re ready to get started!”


“Sure thing Veronica! I can increase your Google rankings by improving your website’s performance. I’ll clean up some of the coding, reduce the size of your images and choose a better website hosting company for you. Ready to get started?”

I think the answer is pretty clear. Don’t you?

And yet, I see so many web designers use this type of language with their web design leads. I guess they’re trying to impress them with their knowledge? Or something?

KISS (Keep it simple stupid.)

You communicate poorly

When someone reaches out to you to ask for a web design quote, remember that they’ve done the same with dozens of other web designers as well.

You’ve instantly been tossed into a competition.

If you take days to get back to them with a response, you will lose. Every time.

Honestly, anything more than a few hours is going to put you at risk.

Our instant-gratification-obsessed world has conditioned us to expect what we want when we want it. This is even more true in an industry like website design, where dishonesty, confusion and mistrust run rampant.

Stand out from the pack by communicating quickly and efficiently.

Your pricing is confusing

It’s nice that people have tried to simplify web design pricing by productizing their services into simple packages.

But many have done it poorly.

Stuff like the image above actually does more harm than good. Most potential clients won’t even understand half of it, and the ones that do won’t bother to read through the list of 20+ “features” in each box.

You need to simplify it even further. Your call to action needs to be crystal clear.

The vast majority of people and small businesses want to get online fast and affordably. Can you do that for them? Great! How much will it cost?

Then tell them what’s included in the quote. Keep it to no more than 5-10 features. And only the stuff they actually care about.

Stuff like responsive web design and SSL certificates are mandatory nowadays. They don’t need to be mentioned.

Give some real thought to how you want to charge for your web design services. All with the goal of making it dead simple for your clients.

You look and sound the same as every other web designer out there

Stop me if you’ve heard this before:

“We will build you a professional, beautiful, custom WordPress website that will bring in traffic, sell to more customers and rank well in Google and and and zzzzzzzzzz” – Every Web Designer Ever

Why should I work with you? What do you bring to the table? Who are you?

Everyone does responsive web design. Everyone offers SSL certificates and domain names. Everyone promises to improve your Google rankings and help you get more leads.

What makes you special? What’s your story? Is your brand any interesting?

You have a ton of competition out there. You need to find ways to stand out. Get creative!

Your website’s appearance isn’t attractive enough

Beauty is subjective. I get that.

And there are varying levels of necessity when it comes to website attractiveness. If your main clientele is small businesses with tight budgets, you don’t need to have a website that is pitching Fortune 500 level quality websites.

But it’s stunning to me how many web designers are still building websites for a version of Google that hasn’t existed for years. Cramming hundreds of keywords into dozens of pages to try to rank higher is an antiquated strategy that will backfire hard.

The website for your web design agency should be no more than a handful of pages. Mine is actually just one. (if you don’t count my blog, social network and podcast of course)

This will help you fine-tune your message and emphasize only the most important information.

  • Use lots of imagery.
  • Ditch the cheesy stock photos and use high quality stock photos and videos.
  • Incorporate custom icons and illustrations.
  • Make liberal use of “white space”.
  • Go easy on the text. No one came to your site to read a book.
  • Make an animated video to tell your story.
  • Guide visitors to a clear call to action.

Follow those simple steps and your website will be prettier in no time.

Your website loads too slow

Website performance is one of the most crucial aspects of telling Google your website is worth visiting.

Most people browse the web from mobile devices, and often over cell towers and tight data plans.

If your website is bloated with content that is too resource-intensive, it will affect the loading speed, and visitors will leave before they even get a chance to browse your site.

Just because you can use a cool background video in your main header, doesn’t mean you should.

If your website takes more than a few seconds to load, it’s time to get serious and trim the fluff.

You use annoying popups and chatbots

Live chat and chatbots are my new target of disdain.

Like most things, when they’re done with balance and restraint, they can be effective.

Annnnd as with most things, most people do not show restraint or balance.

Let me make one thing crystal clear: There is zero reason to offer up any popup of any kind the second a visitor lands on your website.

This goes for live chat as well.

Do not harass me to “talk to us right now!” or “chat LIVE!” when I don’t even know the name of your company yet.

And, if you’re going to promise live chat, it sure as heck better be LIVE CHAT. If your visitor engages with the chat and asks a question, they need to get a response within 60 seconds max.

It is not another excuse to just grab someone’s email and reply to them hours later.

So, because most web design agencies don’t have the resources to hire full-time staff to sit around and wait for live chats to come in, you simply shouldn’t be using them.

Not to mention they create yet another resource-intensive feature that will slow down the loading speed of your website.

You don’t have a clear call to action

Alright, you’ve managed to get me to visit your website, you’ve pitched me your services, I like what I’m seeing and I’m ready to act.

What do I do now?

It’s crazy how many web designers don’t understand the fundamentals of great user experience design.

Every single page you ever build needs to have a call to action. It’s your job as a web designer to determine what that CTA is, and then make it as easy as possible for your visitors to get there.

That’s it. That is great website design in a nutshell.

If I’m getting lost in pretty visuals and confusing layouts, I’m leaving your website to find one of your competitors. Completely subconsciously.

Be the change you want to see in the web design industry

“To ensure quality, then, excellence must be an earned word, attributed by others to us, not proclaimed by us about ourselves.” – Ed Catmull (founder of Pixar)

There are so many lost and frustrated business owners out there who desperately want to get a website made.

They’ve been burned too many times and don’t know who to turn to.

This is your opportunity.

If you see any of these 10 problems in your web design agency’s website, business model, customer journey or user experience, get to work fixing them now.

And if you see some of these problems in yourself, such as poor communication, start with fixing those problems first.

They’re not complicated to fix. But they do take considerable time and effort. Are you up for the challenge?

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Patrick Antinozzi

This post was written by an organic being with the help of AI. Pretty wild that I have to disclaim that, eh? I'm just trying to provide value. It's not always the prettiest or the most succinct.

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