From $500 to $4500 for WordPress Websites in No Time At All: My Story

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Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

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I remember being on the phone with a client that would be my biggest paying customer yet.

Here I was talking with an agency from San Francisco looking to outsource some work.

The words came out of my mouth with a tiny little quiver and that “yelp” sound you hear from boys who just started going through puberty.

“For projects like that, I start at $4500.” I told the person on the phone hoping and praying I hadn’t gone too high.

“Sounds good! Let’s get started right away.”

I hung up in disbelief.

The payment I would get from this project would be the most money I’d made per hour…in my whole life!

I’ve since gone on to raise my rates again. But, this was a monumental moment. It was a moment I realized that I could make a good living on freelance web design.

It was a moment I realized I was going to be able to put away money for retirement and help pay for my kid’s college.

This was a moment that I realized my life had changed by learning how to build WordPress websites for clients.

The road to get there wasn’t always easy but it was probably a lot less tumultuous than you might think.

There were a few key things I did to make sure I could charge good rates for WordPress websites as a freelancer.

1. Treat Every Project You Work on With White Glove Care

The journey making good money building WordPress websites for clients didn’t start out awesome.

In fact, for my first site I got a $100 gift card. It was more than I had asked for, actually. I was just trying to get 1, JUST 1, website to my name to start showing other people I could actually do this stuff.

So, I didn’t ask for anything and they graciously decided to give me something anyway.

Then, for the next 4 websites, I averaged about $850 each.

The point in all of this is you have to start somewhere. You can’t come out of the gate expecting to make $10k per site.

It takes a while to build a good business. Brad Hussey, says “Good business is like good bar-b-que. The longer it takes to cook the better it tastes.”

If you want to make it for the long haul you have to be prepared to lay a good foundation for your freelancing web design business.

Do you want to know where I got that $4500 project from? It came from another client who hired me almost a year before that when my rate was only $45 per hour.

A guy name Kyle Wai Lin hired me to help with his personal site. He went on to get hired at a firm that needed help building websites.

Since I had done a good job on his site AND since he knew I built WordPress websites for clients, he suggested they hire me for this project. And, they did.

BUT, that all started with a job that I wasn’t making nearly as much.

The point is, you’ve got to take everything seriously in the early days. There is no such thing as a small job.

You never know when an opportunity will turn into another opportunity. But, you’ll never have that chance if you’re not willing to start small and knock it out of the park no matter how much you’re getting paid.

2. Increase Your Rates After Every Project

My theory was this: if I was working on a project and someone else approached me about a new project I would quote them double what I was making on my current project.

After all, I didn’t need the work right away. So, if they said no it wasn’t a big deal.

And, I knew I could get paid at least the same amount as I was getting for my current project on my next one.

So, it wasn’t a big risk to ask for double. And, the cool thing was people kept saying yes!

So, I kept doing it!

Eventually, it capped off. Potential clients started saying no a lot more times than they said yes.

When that happens your gut reaction is to lower your prices again. And, to be honest, that’s what I did…a tiny bit.

BUT,I would learn later that a better response is not to drop your prices BUT to figure out how you can add more value.

3. Add More Value to Your Clients

It’s pretty simple. If a client feels like they are getting more FROM you than they are GIVING to you, they will most likely hire you.

There are two ways to add more value to the clients you build WordPress websites for:

  1. Communicating your value better
  2. Increasing the value you actually add

If you can’t communicate the value you’re actually adding to a client than it doesn’t matter how much you’re ACTUALLY adding. It’s going to be tough to get projects from anyone.

You might be the best WordPress freelancer who’s ever existed. If you’re unable to convince anyone of that then good luck.

A lot of freelance web designers I talk to have this problem.

One of the keys to my success early on was being able to tie what I was doing back to the client’s success. That’s not as simple as you might think.

Not every client will be motivated by money. Then again, that’s all some clients will care about.

But, the only way you know that is by asking.

So, start out each project with a fact-finding session. Ask them questions like:

  • What does success look like for this website redesign or first-time build?
  • If your website could only do one thing for you what would it be?

You’re trying to get to the heart of the matter.

Then, once you have a good idea of what they’re truly hoping to get out of the project think about ways you can connect the dots for them with what you do.

For instance, if you have a client that is hoping to make more sales from a redesign, tell them how research has shown that people are more likely to purchase from sites that are more aesthetically pleasing.

Then highlight your design skills.

Once you’ve learned to communicate your value it’s time to start thinking about ADDING more value.

How you do this will depend a lot on your preference but here are a few ideas.

  • Add branding and messaging along with your full package.
  • Focus on optimizing their SEO
  • Dig into conversion rate optimization (CRO) a little bit more and track google analytic goals to see how well their site is performing.
  • Add security or site speed features with a paid plugin

There are a number of things that you could do to add value that are relatively easy to implement.

You don’t necessarily have to go and learn an entirely new skill. But, you do have to think in terms of adding more to the overall package of what you do.

4. Give Your Clients a “Wow” Moment

In the book “The Power of Moments”, Dan & Chip Heath explain that if you really want to leave a lasting impression on a customer, you have to do something unexpected.

None of us are floored when we go to McDonald’s order a burger, pay for it and get one 3 minutes later. That’s what should happen.

You don’t walk away raving about how you got exactly what you ordered.

And, you’re definitely not texting your friends encouraging them to go to that same McDonald’s to have their very low expectations met as well.

The same is true for the freelance WordPress clients you serve.

Doing what you said you would for the price you asked within the time frame you agreed ARE THE BASICS.

If you want to have clients that can’t stop talking about what you did for them then you have to do something unexpected.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to work an extra 40 hours on the project. It could be as simple as sending them a thank you note.

I once did that for a client. 3 days later he called me and told me he had been doing business for 15 years and had never once gotten a thank you card from anyone.

The next thing he said? I’ve got another job for you.

What can you do to create an unexpected “wow” moment for your clients?

Do you send them a bottle of whiskey on the day they launch their site?

What about adding a feature they didn’t ask for and not charging them?

Listen, I know there are tons of people out there that will almost militantly tell you NOT TO DO ANYTHING FOR FREE.

I don’t know. To me, that’s not good business. I don’t like the idea of everything being so transactional. And, if I’m the one that has to suffer a bit at the end of it, so be it.

And, in all the years I’ve been freelancing as a web designer I’ve never lacked for business. So, I can’t imagine I’m doing something wrong.

So, why not go the extra mile and doing something above and beyond for your client? It’ll come back to you eventually.

The Journey of Making More Money Building WordPress Websites for Clients

It takes time to go from making $500 to $4500 on the WordPress websites for clients that you build. But, it’s doable. And, probably more doable than you imagined it to be.

The first step is starting where everyone else does: at the bottom of the food chain. Don’t be afraid to build websites for less money than you hope to make one day.

You won’t stay there forever but you have to start somewhere.

Then, once you get more momentum, start doubling your rates after every project you get. The worse that could happen is you keep getting paid the rate you’ve already proved you can get from your last project.

If you don’t find yourself inching up in pricing as you’d like, it’s time to start adding value to what you’re doing. You do this by what you have to offer and by how you communicate.

And, lastly, leave your customers floored by the unexpected things you do to go above and beyond.

It’s not rocket science and it certainly isn’t impossible. If you find yourself getting stuck at a price point, keep trying out different methods.

Make slight adjustments here and there until you figure it out.

Trust me, if I can do it, you can too.

Now, get out there and sell a website for a higher price than you’ve ever asked for before.

Man walking up stairs to symbolize how raising rates on wordpress websites for clients


Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.



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