Why Web Designers Undercharge (and How to Fix it Forever)

Welcome to the Profitable Web Designer Podcast!

I’m your host, Shannon Mattern, founder of the Web Designer Academy where we teach the business side of running a web design business, and if you wanna make a consistent, full-time income as a web designer but you’re struggling with things like pricing, boundaries, mindset and marketing and you’re JUST tired of going it alone… well, my friend, you’re in the right place… because it’s time for web designers to stop undercharging, over-delivering and overworking and create profitable, sustainable web design businesses.

Today we’re talking about why web designers undercharge and how to fix it forever.

Shannon Maffern is helping their clients shift their focus from viewing expenses as costs to viewing them as investments. Full Text: "My mission is to shift you out of an expense mindset to an investment mindset." Shannon Maffern profitable web designer

In this episode, I’m gonna reveal:

  • What undercharging really is (and how to know if you’re doing it);
  • Why I undercharged when I first started my web design business;
  • The 8 reasons web designers undercharge (hint – your thoughts about money and the value of your skills come into play here… but reason number 8 will blow your mind);
  • 9 mindset shifts to make to stop undercharging for good.

Key takeaways from this episode:

  • Spoiler alert: it’s your business and you’re allowed to do whatever you want! That includes charging more for premium services, getting paid while you wait for your client to get back to you and dragging out the project, and holding boundaries.
  • It’s not your job to decide how your client spends their money. It IS your job to empower them to make an informed decision for their business by knowing how long you want to spend on a project and how much time it takes so you can price your services accordingly.

Episode Transcript

Shannon Mattern: Welcome to the Profitable Web Designer Podcast, where we're all about helping extraordinary web designers like you to stop undercharging over delivering and overworking, and finally create the profitable, sustainable, and scalable web design business. You've been dreaming of I'm your host Shannon Mattern, founder of the Web Designer Academy, where we teach the business side of running a web design business. So if you wanna make a consistent full-time income as a web designer, but you're struggling with things like pricing and boundaries and mindset and marketing, and you're just tired of going it alone while my friend you're in the right place.

Shannon Mattern: Hey everyone. Welcome to the very first episode of the profitable web designer podcast. I am so excited to be in your earbuds today because like I said, in the show's intro, I am so serious about helping web designers to stop under charging over delivering and overworking. And today we're gonna be talking about why web designers undercharge in the first place and how to fix it forever. And we are going deep today, my friend, so get ready. I mean, why not just go there in the very first episode of the show? Am I right? so let's dive into what is undercharging? What exactly is it? So the official definition is "to charge a purchaser less than the proper or fair price". So what most people think when they hear that is okay. So if I'm under charging, I need to know the fair and proper price for web design.

Shannon Mattern: Right? Well, the only problem is there is no fair and proper price for web design services that is standard across the entire industry. There is no magic set amount that you can charge or that you should be charging or that you're allowed to charge. You get to decide how much to charge for web design. And then you get to go find clients willing to pay that much. I mean, I know it's a little mind bending, right? It's like, oh, it's that easy? If it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. Right? So stay with me here. So if you get to decide how much to charge for web design, how do you know if you're undercharging now the most obvious way to know if you're undercharging for a project is if you are looking at the level of effort that you spent on the project, the amount of time that you spent on the project, the long term value to the client, and you're feeling resentful and like you didn't make enough money and you're looking at how much you made.

Shannon Mattern: And you're like, it's not making ends meet for me. It's not covering my, how much I wanna pay myself. It's not covering my business expenses. It's not covering my taxes. You are probably undercharging, right? so that's how to know if you are under charging. Another way to know if you're under charging is that you book a project, but you're not, not charging for things that came up in the project that you didn't anticipate that is under charging when you're not charging for additional requests made by your client, AKA scope creep that is under charging when you are letting projects drag on and on and on without getting paid because your client's not cooperating or whatever. The reason that is under charging and not charging for things that come up after a project is over when the client declined to get on like a maintenance plan or a retainer, or they're coming back six months later and wanting some changes and you don't feel like you can charge for that.

Shannon Mattern: That is under undercharging. I was a chronic undercharge back when I first started my web design business. So how do I know if , if you're probably undercharging because not only did I was I a chronic under charger, almost everyone that comes to work with us or explorers working with us inside the Web Designer Academy is a chronic undercharge. My story is that when I decided that I was gonna take this skill of web design that I had cultivated and developed over oh 10 years at the time that I decided to, to start over solving business problems at my day job and learning WordPress and using it to build websites that made my employer hundreds of thousands of dollars. When I decided to start doing freelance web design work on the side, I was like, oh, I'll just charge what I make it my day job.

Shannon Mattern: I'll just take what my salary here, divide it by, you know, the number of hours that I work. I think it came out to be like $25 an hour at the time. And I was like, oh, I'll charge $25 an hour for web design. And if I can get 40 hours of work every single week, that'll replace my day job income and I'll be able to quit my job. And then it'll be amazing. Oh my gosh, that is not how that works. So stick with me in this podcast make sure you subscribe so that you can really understand how to really figure out how much to charge. But I, one set my rights way, way, way too low two. When I would have co like the conversation with my client would go, something like this, Hey, I heard you're a web designer. I need some work done.

Shannon Mattern: Are you available? Sure. What do you charge? Well, 25 bucks an hour. Awesome. Here's everything I need. Okay. And then I would just start working, right? They're like, how long do you think that'll take? And I'm like, I don't know. And I'm thinking like how long it would take me if the client was not involved, how long it would take me if I was just like doing it at my own direction. Right. So I'd be like, I don't know, like 10 hours probably. And they'd be like, awesome. That sounds great. 250 bucks. Sweet. And what would happen is that I didn't ask enough questions. I didn't have a full understanding of the, of the project. They didn't share enough information with me because we both just didn't know what we didn't know as we were kind of like digging in because I had no processes at all.

Shannon Mattern: okay. So what would happen is things would come up that they didn't tell me in that initial conversation or things took longer than I thought they would, or there would just be other things that we needed to build based on they're like, oh, I want this, I want this, I want this. And I didn't feel like I could charge more than the 10 hours that I told them it was gonna cost because I had an employee mindset. So I didn't charge for additional requests. I didn't charge for revisions upon revisions, upon revisions. I didn't charge for when they're like, oh, wait, my son wants to take a look at it. Oh, he wants to draw me a new logo. He's giving me a new logo. I wanna change everything. Oh, wait, I need to run this by the committee at our company. And the committee has 7,000 changes.

Shannon Mattern: Right. I didn't charge for any of that, cuz I didn't think I could. I thought it was my fault for underestimating. I didn't know how to go back to them in the early days and tell them like, this is what we talked about in the beginning. This is how it's changed. Here's the difference? What's the difference between this and that. Here's how much this will cost. Do you wanna move forward with these changes? I didn't know how to say that. And so I massively was undercharging and I hon I just honestly didn't think I was allowed to, to ask for more. And so I had no idea that I could do it differently. And that is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about making this podcast for you and showing up here every single week, because it's not just me. It's hundreds and thousands of web designers that I have talked to over the years that have thought the same things.

Shannon Mattern: And when we can shift your mind around what you are quote, unquote allowed to do, because spoiler alert, it's your business. You're allowed to do whatever you want. everything will change for you. We talked about how to know if you're undercharging and you're gonna hear so much more about my undercharging throughout this podcast. But let's look at some really common reasons why web designers, undercharge. And these are reasons that I hear over and over and over again from people I talk to who are looking to join our Web Designer Academy, who come to our workshops, participate in some of our Q and a all of the things. So the first reason I hear is that they're looking at what everyone else is charging. So you're doing some light internet stocking. You're looking at other web designers that you're looking at their website, you're going to their pricing page.

Shannon Mattern: You might even be like signing up for a consultation, like getting on their email list to see like, if you can like creep on their pricing. Right? And so you're looking at what everyone else is charging. And you think that if you can get your pricing, quote unquote, right? That no one will ever tell you that they can't afford you or that you're charging too much. And you're looking outside of yourself for someone to tell you what you can charge or what's okay to ask for or to get some kind of gauge of what people will pay. All right. We'll, we'll come back to this in a little bit. So they're looking at what everyone else is charging. Another reason is that you're worried about what clients can and can't afford. This was a big, big, big one for me. And it's a big one for a lot of, a lot of our students inside the Web Designer Academy.

Shannon Mattern: You're so worried about like charging too much or clients having sticker shock or them telling you that you can't afford it. Or if you're worried or if you're like me, I had this thought that like I'm taking money from someone like I'm taking it from them and taking it from them could harm them. And what if they're not successful? And what if they don't go do their business? And like, you know, then they lost this money and it's my fault. I had all kinds of thoughts like that. And what I realized was that like I was accepting responsibility for things that are not my responsibility, the decision to invest in a website and the decision to utilize it after it's built, that's not my responsibility. That's my client's responsibility. So we'll talk about this in a minute. But like my only job is to make sure that they have all of the information that they need to make the best decision for them.

Shannon Mattern: And it is not my job to save them money. It's my job to create a tool for them that empowers them to make more money. But I undercharged because I had it all wrong about what my role is in their business and their bank account. I was all up in there and I did not need to be all up in there. So another reason why web designers undercharge is this. They straight up having hate having money conversations or they straight up fear conflict. They're worried that they're going to say a number and that someone is going to like negotiate or be like, how dare are you charged that much? Or you're way too expensive. I could go on another freelancer website and go find someone to do it for a fraction of the price that you're doing it. And they're like, I don't want that to happen to me.

Shannon Mattern: And I don't know what to say. You pick a price that feels safe so that you avoid conflict. Right? Another reason why web designers undercharge is that they just want the money, any money like, I just need money. And so we had a conversation in the Web Designer Academy recently about someone wanting to like buy a certain number of hours of time from them. And we advise against selling hours of your time at a certain price, even if it's $200 an hour or $300 an hour for so many reasons that we'll be covering throughout future episode of this podcast. And she didn't want the project, but she needed money. And there were all kinds of red flags and so many things that she was already feeling like she was being pushed around and different things. But she also, at the same time wanted them to accept her proposal.

Shannon Mattern: And so she was willing to break away from her boundaries and lower her price just to get the money. And one of the things that we don't consider in the early days is like at what cost, right? What is it going to cost me to undercharge? It's gonna cost me time. It's gonna cost me future revenue. It's going to cost me sanity when I work with the wrong clients for the wrong price. And so there's some trust that needs to be built up with ourselves, that we can go find clients who are a great fit for us, who are willing to pay what we want instead of us settling for any money. Okay. So that's one of the reasons why we under charges. Like we feel desperate and we feel like, unless we do what anybody wants us to do, that we're gonna like not get the money.

Shannon Mattern: Right? And so that leads me to the fifth reason that web designers undercharge is that they're operating from an expense mindset. You yourself, fear losing money. You yourself think I can run outta money and they'll never be anymore coming, ever again in the future. And that's scary. Like our brains are designed to want to keep us safe. And if you feel like you are going to do something, that's going to harm your ability to have food and shelter in a livelihood. It's gonna make sense that you're not gonna do it, right? So you fear losing money, fear, wasting money, you fear spending money. And because of that, you personally wouldn't invest quote, unquote that much in your own business or pay that much for web design. So if you don't feel like you would spend that much, you have a hard time charging other people that much.

Shannon Mattern: Right? And so that's one of the reasons why web designers under charges, cuz they're also operating from an expense mindset. And another facet of that that will talk about throughout this podcast is that you think your results are out of your control. this is one of those ones where I'm like, all right, friends, we're going deep. And you know, people say, how do I attract clients and how do I get clients? And it's like, you, you don't, you create clients, you go do a bunch of work to get them. And all of that is within your control. So we need to shift you in our mission over all of these episodes of this podcast is to shift you out of an expense mindset and start having you create a hybrid mindset and then an investment mindset. And if you wanna know what the heck I'm talking about, go to https://webdesigneracademy.com/Pricing, enter your name and email.

Shannon Mattern: I'll send you a link to our pricing framework, our profitable pricing framework, where I break down what those mindsets are and what they mean and how they show up in our business and how you can start making that shift if you have some of those thoughts. So another reason web designers undercharge is that you undervalue your skills. okay. This was me. I'm sure it's a lot of you. I'm sure. And, and I'm sure it's a lot of you that like, you know, work with page builders and don't code from scratch. And you're like, but this is so easy. I just open up WordPress and I install element or divvy and I drag and drop and I point and click and yeah, I have to like write a little bit of code here and there to like get things looking the way I want, but like generally or square space or show it or web flow or, or whatever Shopify, whatever platform you use, right.

Shannon Mattern: That you are using page builders and things that are like already done for you. You're like, this is so easy. Why would anybody pay, ever pay me to do this for them? I feel like I'm ripping them off if I charge them. If I charge them more because like, it's so easy, you don't recognize the value of not only your willingness to learn the amount of time you spent trying to figure out how to move that line over for pixels when you can't drag it. , you know, all of the things that you have learned along the way, your persistence and willingness to figure it out, your lack of fear of like willing to break things, all the things your I for design your just every, every and every little unique thing that you bring to the table. That's part of your value. But because it's so easy for you to build a website, you don't think it's worth that much.

Shannon Mattern: And I can tell you it is worth so much. And we'll talk more about that over the course of the podcast. Seven reason. Why web designers under charge imposter syndrome? This is a huge one. I'm self taught. I don't know enough yet. I haven't worked in with enough clients yet. I don't have a portfolio. I have never done X, Y, and Z before. They're asking me to build this functionality and I've never done it before. So imposter syndrome is a major reason. It's like, well, if I don't charge 'em that much, then if you know, it doesn't work out, then no harm, no foul because they didn't pay that much. Anyway. It's like that harms us as web designers so much and also harms your clients. So we'll talk about that too. And number eight. This one is one that when I say it, people are like, oh my gosh, that is me.

Shannon Mattern: I didn't even know that's crazy. So number eight, the eighth reason why web designers under charge is fear of responsibility. Okay. So what I mean by that is I'm not gonna charge you that much and I'm gonna like keep you at a distance because I don't have any boundaries. And if I don't charge you that much, then you won't have that high of an expectation of me. Right? You won't expect that. I will answer your calls on evenings and weekends. You won't expect everything to be perfect. You won't expect that I'll be able to deliver at a high level because I fear the responsibility of all of that. Even though on the surface, you feel very capable, deep down. You don't wanna hold that level of responsibility for the client. And so you think things like what if they pay me and then they don't get the results that I promise and all of the things.

Shannon Mattern: So you're like, well better to charge them less. So that, that they're not out that much. If it doesn't work out right? If that one resonates with you, I want you to go to web designer, academy.com/podcast, find this episode and tell me if that resonates with you in the comments, because that is, that's one of those, like under the surface things that we didn't even know that we're thinking, and then we're like, oh, but if I charged $10,000 for this, that would mean that I'm like beholden to this client. There would be so much pressure on me. It would be too much. So I can't charge that much cuz it's too much pressure. So we get to, if that feels like you, we get to unwind that because that's gonna hold you back from charging profitably and sustainably every single time. Okay. So the bottom line is that if you're undercharging for any of those eight reasons, it's because you are too focused on yourself.

Shannon Mattern: okay. You're like I'm self taught. I can't handle that much pressure. I don't have the skills. I wouldn't invest that much in my own business. I just need the money. I'm afraid of conflict. I'm worried I'm taking from my clients. I don't know if I can charge that much, right? If you're undercharging for any of those reasons, you are too focused on yourself. And the good news is that the fix is super simple and totally within your control, put the focus on your clients and what they are going to be able to create in their own lives and their own businesses as a result of working with you. Okay? That's the mindset shift that we are gonna be working on over all of the episodes of this podcast that will ever be okay. This is, it's not about you. It's about your clients.

Shannon Mattern: And when you make that shift, everything gets so much easier and so much more fun. Okay. How do you stop undercharging? Okay. I think you can see that this is more than just a math problem, right? It involves some serious mindset work. And we go through this mindset, work in depth inside of our Web Designer Academy program. But I'm gonna go through with you, how to stop undercharging one. You must value what you do more than anyone else. You cannot let other people tell you the value of what you do. You get to decide, okay? you get to decide how much that is worth. All right. Number two, you stop comparing yourself to other designers. First, when you go and creep on other designers, you see it cute like something that you're like, Ooh, I like that on Instagram. And then you like tap under your link and you go to their website and you're like, oh my gosh, their website's gorgeous.

Shannon Mattern: And they must be doing so good. Like you're making an assumption that they're successful. That they're happy that they're getting clients that they're making tons of tons of money. You really have no idea. I cannot tell you how many applications I have gotten for the Web Designer Academy that I've clicked onto their, their website. And I'm like, I can see why I'm like, I see what they're doing wrong in their packages, pricing, positioning, and how they're selling, how they're presenting things. But their website is freaking gorgeous. And if you didn't know, what's under the iceberg in terms of the strategies of getting clients and marketing and all the things you would look at that, and you'd be like, they're doing amazing. Oh my gosh, I have to do what they're doing. And I bet that's going really well for them. And spoiler alert. It's not, like for some people.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, absolutely. But for a lot of people, you're just making an assumption and you really have no idea. So because of that, you get to stop comparing yourself to other designers. Just stop, just stop creeping on other people's stuff and stay in your lane. And you get to decide how much you wanna charge based on your life and your goals and what you want. Three, you learn how to have money conversations with clients and you practice them so that they become second nature, right? You practice to get more confident at doing things. You probably don't have a whole lot of money conversations with thousands of dollars involved in your day-to-day. So because you don't being able to practice that and practice that and listen to the thoughts that come up when you're about to say that'll cost $10,000 and you start to sweat and you get nervous.

Shannon Mattern: And then like noticing what are all the things that you're thinking about that number and writing those down and working through them and then practicing some more practice. You learn how to have money conversations. Okay? Number four, you stay out of your client's wallets. My business coach Mariah, cause always says this. She's like, stay out of your client's wallets. Make no assumptions about what they can and can't afford. It's not your job to decide how they spend their money. I love how she says that it's like disempowering to people to look at them in their business and where they're at in their life and make an assumption about what they can and can't afford or what they are. And aren't willing to spend it like reminds me of that scene. I'm pretty woman when she walks into the store and they won't wait on her, cuz they think that she doesn't have the money to spend.

Shannon Mattern: Okay, don't do that to people, give them all of the information to make their own, their own decisions about what they can and can't afford their bank account is none of your business. Okay? How do you stop under charging five? You know your own numbers, you know your project timelines, you know how much you wanna work, right? You know how much you wanna pay yourself, how much you you'll need to set aside in taxes, how much you wanna invest in back in your business and in business expenses, right? Know all of those numbers. And then know how much time you have to work on your web design business every week. Know how long your projects take and price accordingly, right? Price accordingly. If you wanna work less, you get to charge more to make that happen. And we'll talk more about that. Cause people have a whole lot of thoughts that charging more means working more and I wanna work less.

Shannon Mattern: So how's that gonna work? And it doesn't compute in their mind. So stick with me, subscribe to the show cuz we're gonna break that all down for you. Okay. And then the next thing is that we already talked about this a little bit. You dismantle your own expense mindset and actively cultivate an investment mindset. This is the most important advice that I can give you is that you have to start changing the way you think about money. If you're going to have a profitable, sustainable, scalable web design business, more clients at low prices does not equal more freedom. more clients at low prices equals less freedom, more admin, more stress, more requests of you. Okay? So you get to raise your prices. Work with less people, work less and cultivate the mindset to do that. Okay. Number seven is that you do deep self work on your imposter syndrome and work to fundamentally shifts those beliefs about yourself internally.

Shannon Mattern: Okay? There is no good. That's gonna happen of you going around thinking, I don't know enough. I'm not good enough. Who do they like? Who do I think I am? I'm self taught. If you keep thinking those things about yourself, you're not gonna go out and market yourself. Cause why would you, why would you go out and market yourself? If you thinks someone's gonna find out that you're a fraud. So you hold yourself back from doing the things that it actually takes to get clients. When you believe those things about yourself, I'm guessing if you're here listening to this podcast, it's not true. , I'm guessing that you actually do know what you're doing. You do know how to figure things out. You do know how to Google. You do know how to watch YouTube. You do know how to ask for help. That's all that's required.

Shannon Mattern: Okay? You have to deep self work on your imposter syndrome. You also get to define your own boundaries and practice holding them. Even when it's uncomfortable. That's how you stop under charging. That means letting a client know that you're happy to take care of that request for them. And here's how much it's going to cost and letting them decide and letting them decide that they don't wanna pay that much for it. Right? So you get to define your own boundaries. You get to break out of the employee mindset. You get to decide, oh wait, I get to run this business and decide what this business looks like. And I get to communicate to that to my clients. Even when they might be upset or disappointed or fire me and go find someone else, you get to define your own boundaries. Okay. And then the ninth thing to do to stop under charging is stop trying to go it alone and get support.

Shannon Mattern: This stuff is really, really hard to do on your own because sometimes you don't even realize like what you're doing, what you're thinking what's possible for you ask me how I know I'm like a recovering loan Wolf. Okay. I'm a recovering people. Pleasing imposter, lone Wolf. my determination got me really, really far, but burnout was right on the other side of that. Okay. So when I stopped trying to do it all myself and figure it all out myself and I got support, everything changed for me. And that's exactly what our Web Designer Academy clients experience every day. So if you are ready to transform what you think about how much you can charge, raise your prices, work with your dream clients. Then I wanna invite you to apply to work with us inside the Web Designer Academy, simply go to web designer, academy.com, click on that big gold apply to work with us button, tell us where you're at now and where you'd like to be.

Shannon Mattern: And if we look at all of your stuff and we think your strategies are a good fit, our strategies are good fit for your goals. We'll invite you to learn more about our proprietary pricing frameworks. You'll hear directly from our students on how we work with them and empower them to create 10 K revenue months. There is zero application, zero pressure. We teach and live the exact opposite of pushy and salesy. So filling out that application is simply a chance for you to find out what unique opportunities we see for you in your business and for you to get all of the information that you need to decide if working together is right for you. Just to recap under charging is to charge less than the proper or fair price. You get to decide the proper and fair price and it gets to be profitable and sustainable for you.

Shannon Mattern: If you are overworking and not making enough money and resentful and at the Beck end call of your clients, you might be under charging. And we covered so many reasons why web designers, undercharge and talked about how to stop undercharging, which really involves a commitment to noticing how you're thinking now and getting uncomfortable to shift how you're thinking so that you can transform that. And we would love to help you do that inside the Web Designer Academy. And next week, we're going to dive into, into why web designers over deliver and how to stop over deliver.

Shannon Mattern: That's it for this week's episode. And we've linked up all of the resources we talked about today in the show notes. So you can go to web designer, academy.com/podcast to get your hands on those. And we'll be back next week with another episode designed to help you up level the business side of your web design business. So be sure to subscribe to the show, wherever you're listening. And if you like today's episode, we would be so grateful if you would share it with all your web designer friends. And if you're feeling extra generous, we'd love for you to leave us a rating in review so we can get in front of even more web designers and help them transform their businesses and their lives. So simply scroll up on this episode in your podcast player and tap that, leave a review link, or go to web designer, academy.com/review. And it'll take you to the right spot. Thank you so much for listening and I'll see you right here next week. Bye.

A person is smiling for the camera.
Hi, I'm Shannon!

I’ve been coaching + mentoring web designers on how to package, price, market and sell web design for over 7 years… it’s time to forget everything you think you know about selling web design projects!

If you’re ready to stop undercharging and overdelivering and finally create a profitable, sustainable dreamy web design business, get my free Profitable Pricing Training and change everything you thought about how much you can charge for your web design services.

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