Everyone in business tells you the easiest way to make more money is to increase your prices. That, or you need to sell more (which for most service based businesses isn’t possible – we only have finite amounts of time to utilize each day).
Upping your rates isn’t that simple though. There are of course many, many business who do charge too little for the services they offer (ours included for many years). And for that, I believe the easiest to swallow strategy (for everyone involved) is to increase your rates project on project until you get to one that actually works for you.
Outside of that, if you’re already meeting the market and your prices are fairly decent for what you offer, how do you move up to the next level?
You need to become more valuable.
You need to add more value to your projects that your clients deem as valuable and that they will pay more for.
For us, we often ran two projects in the early days. Either visual branding work, or website design & development projects. Over the years we garnered more and more skills through projects and as our projects grew that demanded more of us. With training and past experience I was able to incorporate these into our work. We implemented new, valuable things slowly.
For our website work, we started by working through content structures before we began any work. This led to information architecture which was hugely helpful not only for us and the effectiveness of the project, but for our clients to implement workflows and understandings of the full picture along with developing a strategic plan for this. As we began integrating or creating so many systems and workflows into projects we then overlaid these maps with agnostic technology requirements and then system specific layers. We created user workflows and backend processes.
Combined with having played in the startup world quite a bit and learning deeply about methodologies, customer development & user research, this is in turn led to learning more about customer journey mapping and workshops we started to make a key component to projects. Digging into that led us to empathy mapping, prioritization matrixes and user story boards. This work therefore became incredibly strategic beyond just the visual design. It also showed us the need for low & medium fidelity wire framing and testing before the interface designs (rather than simply sketching and going).
Each component created more value. We sometimes made mistakes with the projects we took on in that they no longer were a good fit for our working structure and goals (i.e. a very small business without an admin/maintenance person or at least a couple of staff to implement makes our job unsustainable) but in general each project was a small step up from the one before in terms of skills and expertise required.
Eventually you look back over a few years and realize you’ve gone from $5,000 web projects to $30-$50k projects. And you find yourself at a strange corner where you realize it’s now time for the next level of work that you want to pursue (or to break those projects into smaller phases but with similar value for each to what was previously combined).
Moving up levels, working on bigger projects or with better clients, whatever you want to call the next stage you want to move to, is all about creating more value. This usually means learning new skills and practices and digging deep, very deep, into those specific areas.
A lot of people ask me how they can get those projects to do that with when they’re not doing it now. There are many ways but the easiest way I’ve found is to simply do it in your current projects where it’s appropriate. Don’t charge for it so you can use it as a case study or if you think they’ll be open to it and they’re getting a lot from it, have this conversation with them up front and essentially treat that component as a beta-service at half cost for example. Test how valuable it is to the project. Listen to feedback regarding that component or ask. See how it influences your way throughout the rest of the project. Experiment with the best way to do it. Is it what you like? Do you believe it really helps the outcome or business goals? Will you enjoy doing this?
Use it as a case study, or a portfolio item. Once you’ve done a few you’ll understand how it works in reality and can continue tweaking it. And of course, charging for it.