How to Win Web Design Clients by Mastering Your Project Process

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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.

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

If I were to ask you, “what sets apart a really professional freelance web designer from a newbie?” What would you say?

Some people might say it’s, “all about the quality of the design!”

Others might tout the web designer’s ability to communicate their ideas or hit deadlines.

But, none of those things really separate the pro’s from the rookies.

So, what is a tell tale sign of a truly professional freelance web designer?

It’s all about their process.

A real pro will have a process for completing projects that they have built over time. This process will walk customers through a step-by-step system and get the absolute best outcome.

Want my free web design client process template? Sign-up below

What Having a Project Process Can Do for You as a Web Designer

The best part of having a killer project process is that it’s one of the MOST EFFECTIVE WAYS to win clients.

And, there’s an added bonus of using the process to keep the project on track. It’s guard rails for you and your clients.

It can save you from scope creep and missed deadlines alike.

This isn’t something that’s just a good idea that you should get to later. It’s something that is important to implement right now at any stage in your freelance web design career.

Thankfully, Michal Janda is back with us this week to go over how he teaches freelancers to sell their web design services with their process.

Dialing in your process is something that can take a while as a freelance web designer BUT it will be well worth the effort.

Creating a Process and Delegating It

Then once you have a process, you can hire other people and train them to follow your process. Your work doesn’t suffer once you’ve created a process and delegated it to people you’ve hired.

It’s as if YOU are the one doing the work. ONLY, you don’t have to be the one doing the work ☺️

This episode is full of amazing gems. I know you’re going to get a ton out of it!

You’ll Learn

  • How to refine your project process over time 
  • How to delegate things in your freelance web design business that you’re not good at
  • How to know when to charge an hourly rate or fixed price
  • How to get over the fear of not charging the right price


Chris: [00:00:00] If I were to ask you what sets apart, the professional, freelance web designers from the newbies, what would your response be? Some of you would probably say, well, it's the quality of their work. Others would say, it's the way that they communicate, or maybe hit their deadlines that really sets apart the pros from the rookies.

But. I would like to propose that what really sets apart the professionals from the newcomers is not any of those things and facts. It is quite simply the process through which they did take their clients to finish their projects. That's what we're talking about today with Mr. Michael. Janda. Are you ready?

All right, let's go.

What's up everybody. Welcome to another episode of the self-made web designer podcast. My name is Chris. I am your host, and I'm so excited that you are here with me again, and we have a repeat, we have a part two with Mr. Michael Janda last week. He was with us and he was talking all about pricing. If you haven't heard that episode, I want to encourage you to take a second and go back and listen to it because it is one of the best that I have heard about pricing. I'm saying that not to brag because I honestly didn't talk very much. Mr. Michael Janda was doing the talking and it was fantastic. And this week we are piggybacking off of those ideas.

And Michael is talking this week about the process that you take your web design clients through and how that can actually help you set yourself apart as a freelancer and convince clients who might not have had the budget that would have allowed you to work with them to increase their budget. So not only are you going to get a really effective system for taking clients through a project, but you're going to have a tool that's going to help you get even bigger, better clients.

As you grow, it's going to be fantastic. And I have a freebie to go along with it. That's right. I am giving away my process. Something that I have developed over the years, working with freelance web design clients to you. 100% for free. There is a link in the show notes, wherever you are listening, or you can come to the self-made web designer website, find this episode there and they will be a link for it as well.

I take you through all the steps that I take every single one of my freelance clients. Through, I've got a Trello board that I track each of the milestones from discovery to designing a mood board, to creating some goals for the clients, to designing wireframes, to designing full ups, to then going on to development and quality assurance and onto launching even to post-launch it's all in there and it's going to help you.

Help your clients and help you set yourself apart. So go to self-made web Find this episode page, and you will be able to download it right away. All right. Are you ready to hear from Mr. Michael Janda on how to win design clients by mastering your project process? It's a lot of, and a lot of P words.

So I'm sorry for those mic explosions everybody who is listening.

Okay. Let's go.

Michael: [00:03:39] The cost of the best alternative is something that we're comparing against. So a client is looking at you working with you for $5,000, and then they have the cost of the best alternative is somebody at $500. So now they're looking at it.

You have to somehow sell them on $4,500 more value than the person at $500. Even if in the end, you both do similar amount of work. They they're undercutting you by a dramatic margin. So you've, you've got to play that game. And the best way to approach that is to make their decision not have to do with price.

You've got to convert a price. Decision-maker a price-based decision maker into a value based decision-maker or into a quality-based decision-maker or into a. Um, customer service based decision maker. Now, there, there are various reasons why somebody buys from you. The, the ultimate reason is because they trust you more than they trust the other person.

So they choose the person they trust the most. That's the reality of, of why somebody is going to make that purchase decision. If you can't convince the person to trust you more than the lower cost alternative. They're going to pick the lower cost alternative every single time. So the way to get them to trust you more is all through that sales process.

And what I would do at my agency. I would start with a qualification phone call. We're talking through the needs that they have. We're having a 15 minute call to get to know each other a little bit. And then I would transition that to, okay. This sounds like a project that we're a great fit for. We love doing this kind of work.

Let me get a discovery call set up with you, me and Sally from my agency. And we want to walk you through the process that we're going to take to execute on your project. And the client says, okay, that's great. Okay, good. So now I'm bringing Sally to the table and now we have one hour in-person or a one hour zoom call where we walk the client.

Through our process and we show the client the methodical way that we're going to operate and the way that we're going to arrive at what they're buying from us. And when we walked them through our process, by the end of that, they're sitting there so often thinking, man, I want this. There's no way that this isn't going to.

Deliver for us. So organized. I've never seen an agency so organized because we visuals and we gave them a step-by-step phase one. We're going to do this phase two. We're going to do this phase three. We're going to do this. And in phase three, we're going to watch out for this and we're going to do some user testing and blah, blah, blah.

And we walked them through that process by the end of that, the clients so often is not sitting there thinking. Oh, they better come down in price. The client is sitting there thinking, I hope that I can afford to work with them. Their price is going up, up, up as they go. I just had somebody do this to me last summer and I loved it when it happened.

And I don't think that they knew exactly that it was happening, but we bought a new house last summer. And we wanted to completely re overhaul the landscaping had a tiny backyard and we were used to a huge backyard. We bought it because it had a small lot. It's a big house on a small lot. That's perfect for me as I head into the next phase of my life and hopefully live here until I die.

So we wanted a small lot, but we also wanted a really nice. Lot of nice yard that we could enjoy. So we hired a landscaper or we, we met with the landscaper and my budget at the start was 30 grand. That's what I wanted to spend on my yard. So they take me through the sales process and the sales process to them was come to our yard, meet with us, talk about what we want.

We walked through it. We said, well, we really want this. We had this at our last house and we want this blah, blah, blah. And then he went back and I don't recommend pitching design. I don't like that. Um, but they did. And they showed us, he made a little 3d model of what. Our yard could look like, and he put in water features and a built-in grill and all this stuff and showed it all.

And by the end, he goes and prices it. And it was three times what my original budget was, but I loved it. So much. And so I go, um, back to him and I was like, okay, well originally we were hoping to spend like 30 grand had to redo this yard, but what can we get? Can you, can you design the $50,000 version of the, of what you showed us?

What is the $50,000 version look like? And so he went back to his little 3d model and changed out some plants and made the fireplace smaller and made the. Over the pergola smaller. And he, you know, he made things smaller and it looked like crap. I was like, man, I don't want that. What did we end up doing?

We ended up spending three times our original budget, and I didn't even talk to any other landscapers. I was so sold on what he envisioned for our yard and what he sold me on that I didn't even ask anybody else for other prices. I wanted him. To do it. And I wanted the design that he showed me and at the cost of triple what I originally had budgeted.

So this is an example of changing a price shopper into a value shopper. And that's what he did to me. I wanted. I wanted the vision that he painted for me. Uh, and I was willing to increase my budget to make that happen. Yeah. So you got to do the same thing when you're coming in, you've got this competitive world, low costs, your costs.

How do you transition them? You've got to paint the picture that you're going to be so much better than the cost of the best alternative. That there's no way they're going to choose that person. And that's, that's one of the keys to unlocking these bigger engagements that tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollar engagements is.

Doing that sales process right.

Chris: [00:10:30] I think a lot of what you're talking about with pitching the process, um, you know, it's, it's a lot of project management. It's a lot of, um, it's something that you have to develop over time. And so what did that look like for you when you were first getting started, developing your process and then being able to communicate it effectively?

Michael: [00:10:50] It was a lot of years of not having the process documented and. And clients just buy in from me because they liked Mike and they trusted Mike and Mike would just jump in and the clients I never sold what the process for like the first five years, six years of my agency. Now, when I made the big shift is when I read the book, the E-Myth and I've talked about it a ton of times, but in the book, Michael Gerber talks about systems run the business.

People run the systems. I had this epiphany moment. Oh, I get it. That's how somebody can get hired at McDonald's at noon today. And by two o'clock they're making the entire McDonald's menu because McDonald's is so systemized that you can bring in an employee and have them trained up in an operating how the business operates right out of the gate.

So where I went first, when I started hiring people, this is a couple of years into my agency. I started hiring employees. Um, I was like, okay, I got my, my objective is to replicate me. And if I'm going to replicate me, I've got to teach my people how to do things exactly the way that I do them so that the client has the same experience.

Whether they're working with Nate or they're working with me, the client has the same experience. And so I started documenting systems to train my people, how to do things the way I did them, because it was building, that's how it made me successful. So I had created enough demand off of my. Work quality that I needed to hire people.

Now, if I wanted to create more demand, they needed to operate the same way I did because it was working. And once I had those systems in place, then it was the, um, within a few years of that, it was like, Oh, I get it. Now I've got to teach the clients how to be a good client. And if I want the client to be a good client, then I got to teach the client what the system is so that the client can follow that.

And the amount of bad clients, I, you know, the bad clients still happen all the way to the very end of my agency. But it was almost always because I either had missed something in the contract or I hadn't held the contract. I hadn't held up to the contract. Um, if we held the client to the contract and we, and we had a good contract in place, the structured contract, then we didn't have bad clients.

It's when there was, when people fall out of the system is when things start to blow up. So anyway, the answer to that is create the systems and structure, and then. Teach your employees, how to operate that way and then teach your clients how to operate that way. And it aligns expectations with everybody everybody's on the same page.

Everybody knows. What happens next because you sold them on it right at the beginning?

Chris: [00:13:43] For me and maybe a lot of people listening. I don't want to project my own weaknesses on to everybody else who listens to the podcast. Uh, but I, you know, I, I obviously I'm in a creative freelance position. I do well with creative stuff.

I do well with strategy. I do well with implementation. I don't do well with things like systems and organizations. So was that your same experience and how did you overcome that?

Michael: [00:14:08] You know what? I am a detail oriented, fortunate to have both sides of the brain working pretty balanced and. I do believe that that contributed a lot to the success of my agency, because it was more structured than the typical, messy haired, creative stereotype out there.

Um, so, uh, my answer to you is. If you lack something in business, the step number one is be self-aware and you just mentioned it and you are self-aware. So you're, self-aware, you're not super organized and systematic and that's fine. There's nothing wrong with that. Some people have a predisposition to that, and some people don't big deal, but you're self-aware that that's something.

That is missing in your life flow or your career flow. Now you have two choices. You can either delegate against it. Meaning you hire a project manager. And that project manager is the super systematic person and they handle all the structure and processes. Meanwhile, you can be the, the mad scientist in the back corner, just making the cool stuff because you delegated against your weakness.

That's option. Number one, option. Number two is you can humble yourself. I'm not saying you're prideful, but you can humble yourself and realize, okay. That needs to be part of my business. I know that because every business book that was ever written talked about that, so I need to be more structured. I need to be your systematic.

I've got to learn how to do it and change my behavior. That's that's really it. You can either delegate against the weakness or change your behavior against the weakness, but the weakness is not going to go away. Over time in, and it will inhibit your ability to grow past a certain threshold that you'll never be able to eclipse because you never solved that big.

Chris: [00:16:18] Wow. That's, that's awesome. That's awesome insight. Thank you for that. And uh, and I will take it. I will humble myself and I will.

Michael: [00:16:24] There you go. Well, that's one of your options. It's up to you. It's up to you. I delegated, I delegated against a lot of my weaknesses. I delegated against those. I. Um, you know, I didn't love going and doing the meet and greet glad-handing people I'm really sociable now, but like on a one-on-one thing.

But when I would get in the room of a hundred people at some networking event, I had to have like an outer body experience to go and start mingling with people because it was so not. My nature. Uh, so what did I do? I hired somebody who loved doing that stuff. And then I hired another person who loved doing that stuff and they would go to those kinds of events and distribute.

The, my agent would see what's called riser. They do distribute the riser name throughout their conversations. One-on-one or one on three and a clap and pitch meeting. I could kill that, but I didn't like the glad-handing thing. And, uh, so I delegated against it. A lot of other stuff I had to learn, you know, I would learn it and figure it out.

Chris: [00:17:30] I wonder if we could maybe pivot back to pricing a little bit. I know you've got, um, uh, a lot of good content on hourly versus fixed price. So talk a little bit about that and how you encourage freelancers.

Michael: [00:17:44] Way too many freelancers are charging based on an hourly rate and it is so detrimental to you. As a freelancer to be charging by the hour.

And it's detrimental for a couple of reasons. Number one, um, it penalizes you for working fast and somebody like me who has been had a 20 plus 25 year career almost already, uh, I can work super fast, man. I got keystrokes that are like embedded in my. My muscle memory for the last 20 years. So my production speed is really fast.

Now, if I charge by the hour, I'm totally penalized for how fast I can work. Uh, take another person. Who's the design savant. Uh, let's take Paul Rand, for example. So Paul Rand design, um, Genius of logo design. One of the biggest names in graphic design history, and he could charge a million dollars. I don't know what he charged for logos, but he could charge a million dollars for a logo because his reputation was so good.

Now, what if the logo only takes him an afternoon and he's charging even a high rate, say he's charging $500 an hour. And it takes them an afternoon, four hours to design a logo. Does that mean he should only charge the client $2,000 for that logo? No, because when he redesigns ABC's meatball logo and it has such iconic visual to it that has been used for decades.

That has huge brand value. So working by the hour is so detrimental until to you because it devalues the work that you're creating for the client. And it just says it's only worth the trade of your time. Uh, one of the best examples in history is the Nike logo. The, the girl was, uh, a student of the. Shoe dog dude, who started not a Nike night.

And, uh, anyway, she designs a Nike logo and they don't know, we don't know all the exact numbers, but it was a super cheap, you know, hundreds of dollars for the logo. And then Nike's brand blows up and becomes what it became. So 10 years later, um, Nike at least had a heart and decided to. Compensate her with an undisclosed amount of stock in the Nike, Nike publicly traded company.

Uh, so they made things right, but that's one of the few examples of, uh, of a business that made things right on such a scale. Now she just charged her. Maybe it was by the hour, she just charged Pitt pittance of what that the value of the work was going to be. Okay. So that's, that's the hourly thing and a lot of things that.

Um, designers think is that the client is going to prefer paying by the hour. Now, if you think about the psychology of that and the way that you can pitch against the client, who thinks that they want to just pay you by the hour is to help the client realize that paying you by the hour, subconsciously motivates you to take longer on the project.

Because the longer you take, the more it's going to cost. And so you want to make the most money you can. So when the client says, well, okay, can't you just charge us by the hour? I would say you don't want us charging by the hour because it's going to motivate us to take longer. And that's not what we want to do.

We don't want it to cost the most. It can cost to you. So let's just agree on a fixed price that you know exactly what we're going to do and exactly what you're going to get and exactly what it's going to cost. Let's agree on that. And then we can go into the project and we'll take the risk on whether we do it.

It takes long time, takes a short time. Doesn't matter. We've agreed on a price as a fixed bid. And now we're all in the same. Motivation of here's the deliverable and the goal is to make the best deliverable. And we all know what the price piece is going to be so hourly. There are certain rare circumstances that hourly makes sense.

Almost every project you do should be a fixed bid price, and it should factor into account. The client's budget, your cost to produce the work, the market value of what other people charge the end value of the work. Like the Nike logo, just for example, could have, should have been thousands of dollars, not hundreds of dollars when it was first designed.

So take into account all of those things when you're creating a fixed bid price,

Chris: [00:22:56] Especially when you're first getting started. You know, now, now that you have a ton of experience, you can get something done in a fraction of the time then when, when you first started out. But the, the opposite of that is true for people who are listening, who are like, I'm new to this.

I remember the first website I built. It probably should have taken me a couple of weeks. It took me three months. And so if I would have charged an hourly rate to my client, That would have been a disservice to them. I'd actually be ripping them off.

Michael: [00:23:23] I did the same, my first, my first website that I ever did freelance, it was like, 300 bucks or something, man.

And I spent weeks, I can't, I probably spent hundreds of hours on that thing because I wanted to, because I wanted to make it good. I wanted the client to be happy. My cost of living was so low. I just wanted freelance work and I wanted a portfolio piece. So I went and made it and I learned a ton. On it, but if I was charging by the hour, it would have been an astronomical price.

Even at like 10 bucks an hour, it still would have been okay. Thousand dollar plus instead of 300 bucks that I ended up charging

Chris: [00:24:05] A lot of Freelancers deal with a lot of, a lot of fear when it comes to pricing. And they're, they're either, they're either afraid they're going to ask too much and, and, and lose it.

Or they're going to ask too little and, and be taken advantage of. And I know you've done a great job of kind of outlining your process, but at the end of the day, no matter how much data you have to support the reason for you giving a price, like there's always still that last little bit, like, you know, the Indiana Jones taking a step onto the invisible bridge kind of thing.

So how do you encourage people to get past that?

Michael: [00:24:42] you know, if you, if you love what you do. If you're providing value back to the client, if the client will say yes to your price, and if you know that the price is profitable to you, because the first variable you looked at was your production cost variable.

Then don't overthink, don't overthink any of that stuff. Uh, just go into the project and say, okay, this is great. I had some projects that were hugely profitable and I had others that were. Break, even in plenty that were unprofitable mostly because the contracting was bad and that made for an unprofitable project.

But the, the, the average of all of the projects is what you got to look at, not the profit per project, but look at the average of the 20 projects that you did this year. What's the average profit per project. That's a more important assessment than the profit per project itself. So I think the, the, the fear goes away a little bit when you're just sitting there thinking, all right, I'm doing this.

I love what I do for a living. I love this project that I'm working on this fun project. It's going to be a cool portfolio piece for me. And the client said yes to my price, and I know my price is going to be profitable for me. And it's, don't, don't, don't overthink anything beyond that. Just look at it and say, that's great.

Don't look at it and say, Oh, should I have charged 700? They said, yes, to 500. I should have gotten it. Should have done it for 700. Or they said yes, to 5,000. I should have done it for 7,000. Who cares about any of that stuff? Enjoy your life. Don't overthink that kind of stuff. As long as you know, that you're profitable.

Or at least break even on the project, then just enjoy the journey of learning to be an entrepreneur. And as I, as my agency grew, I started to understand pricing better and better. I started being able to sell bigger engagements to bigger clients. Now, my early years it was a big project, was 12 grand for me in the early years.

By the end, we were doing half million dollar projects, 300 and multiple $300,000 projects. And you're sitting with a client. And you're walking them through your process. And then the sticker at the end is $340,000. Well, you, you don't just go from doing $500 logos to $340,000 websites overnight. It organically happens over time and that journey of your prices increasing and your confidence level at bigger numbers increasing.
That happens organically over time and just let the process take its course. Uh, you'll learn it and you'll feel it as you get more and more confident, pitching bigger numbers and doing bigger engagements as you go.

Chris: [00:27:40] Well Michael I so appreciate your time and, and such, such awesome nuggets of wisdom that, uh, you just dropped. So, uh, if somebody is looking to connect with you online, where would they go?

Michael: [00:27:52] More Janda? M O R E J A N D A on all platforms. Instagram is where I focus last couple of years. Uh, but I'm shifting my focus to YouTube. So I have a ton of great content plan for YouTube. And then you can always go to my website, Michael,

Chris: [00:28:10] man, that is such fantastic insight from Mr.

Michael Janda. I want to encourage you if you haven't already. Go check out all of Michael's [email protected]. You can find them on YouTube at more Janda and Instagram as well. He is consistently dropping nuggets of wisdom, dropping little gems that you can build your freelance web design business with.

You will not be disappointed by, and I want to encourage you. Go check out the free web design process template on Trello, you can use that on all of your web design projects, and you can share that with your clients as well to show them that you are the real deal, because I know it.

And you know it now, you just got to show it. I'm just coming up with rhymes like that. I'm not even trying. Maybe my next episode is just going to be nothing but a poem. Now I'm not going to do that. But the next episode. Is going to be fantastic and we're going to do it together. It's going to drop Wednesday night at midnight.

It's going to be a lot of fun. I can't wait to see you there until then have a great week. And don't forget if you don't quit.

A man walking upstairs


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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