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How I Sold a $6,000 Website to a Non-Profit Using Value-Based Pricing

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There are several well-known non-profit organizations that serve college students across the country. Recently, one such organization asked me to redesign their outdated WordPress website.

The organization held 3 main events each year and used their website to share information with students. After a brief conversation, it became clear that there were 2 main goals for the new website:

  • To encourage more students to attend these 3 main events
  • To make important information more accessible to students and staff

I used their existing website to reveal that each event cost an average of $250 per student. I also learned that many students attended weekly club meetings to hear about the events. This is where they would be most attentive, but the website was not mobile-friendly. This made it difficult for the students to find relevant information in the context they heard it.

The Proposal

I used all of this information to write a value-based proposal for the organization. That means I was selling them on the value of a new website rather than how many hours it would take me to complete. We never discussed hours, features, number of pages, or any other “standard” topics. As a result, my proposal was concise, void of legal jargon, and offered 2 possible options for my prospective client to consider:

  • Option 1: Redesign the existing website
  • Option 2: Redesign the existing website and make it 100% mobile-friendly

In the proposal, I explained that option 1 would highlight the main events while giving students easier access to information. This would help increase traffic and event attendance. However, option 2 would allow students to register for events from their seats during a weekly meeting. Then, I emphasized that a mobile website would further increase event attendance.

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The Value/Price-Anchor

To illustrate the value of this solution, I explained that if the new website could encourage just 20 new students to attend any of the 3 events, the organization would see an increase of $5,000 in the first year alone (20*250).

If just 5 additional students continued to attend over the next 2 years, that number would increase to $6,250 (25*250) and $7,500 (30*250) respectively. That’s an extra $18,750 in the first 3 years after launching a new website!

I confirmed that an increase of 20 students at any of these 3 events over a 1 year period was completely realistic.

You’ll notice that I didn’t just stop at the first year. I wanted to show them what the solution looked like for years to come. Doing so reinforced the fact that this is a one-time investment in return for years of financial increase.

The Cost

Then (and only then), did I outline the cost of each solution:

  • Option 1 would cost $4,000 and take 2 weeks to complete
  • Option 2 would cost $6,000 and take 3 weeks to complete

At this point, my prospective client could easily deduce that my rate was $2,000 per week. If I had told them that upfront, they may have balked at the estimated price. But when I anchored the $4k and $6k prices against a $18,750 financial upside, they were happy to pay me 100% upfront even though I charged a premium rate.

It’s important to remember that anyone who spends money on a website is ultimately looking for a return on their investment. Put another way, they want to get more money out of it than they put in. So, even though my client didn’t tell me the goal was to make money, the proposal still felt familiar to them.

Why not use a ~$50 WordPress theme?

I could have! If I found a good template to use as a base theme and save myself time, that would’ve been awesome. Better yet, my client wouldn’t care because I didn’t sell them my time. Instead, I sold them a solution that would increase event attendance and make information more accessible. A pre-made theme could have done this, but I chose to do a custom design to help maximize event attendance.

How multiple options helped

I could have pitched only one option, but non-profits are often hesitant to spend money. Offering 2 options gave them financial flexibility and made them feel like they were in control. It also encouraged them to compare my options to each other instead of comparing my prices to another freelancer.

Offering a single option would have demonstrated a take-it-or-leave-it approach and built a barrier between myself and the client. So, while option 2 was more expensive, it was most closely aligned with their goals. After showing them the financial upside, option 2 was the clear winner.

You can do it too

It’s all about how you position yourself. Most freelancers waste time justifying their rates and selling experience, but a simple shift in your positioning can lead to a lucrative career. They key is pitching value instead of time, even if you still have an hourly rate. Want to learn how that works?

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In summary, here’s the approach I used to write winning proposals and close deals at premium rates:

  1. Ask the right questions to understand the goals
  2. Identify/deduce the problem
  3. Identify the financial upside
  4. Anchor your price against the possible outcomes
  5. Write a concise proposal with multiple options

It won’t take long for your freelancing business to flourish when you understand how to position yourself and your services. If you liked this post, please share it with your network.

Have a question? Send an email to matt.olpinski@gmail.com.

Last updated on April 15th, 2020

About Matt Olpinski
Matt runs his own web design and development company Matthew’s Design Co. and teaches thousands of freelancers how to succeed through his personal blog, newsletter, and community for freelancers — The Freelance Institute.
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