How to change – “I want a $500 website” to “I want you”.

We’ve all been there.  Ready to strangle someone when they say

‘but my cousin/friend/dead psychic got their website made for $500.

Normally we have 2 reactions.

  1. Go to hell or
  2. Here are the 100 reasons why that $500 website is going to be crap.

Neither one of them will change your customer’s mind.

So what does work?

Would you believe that just asking them 1 question could change their minds?

Don’t get me wrong, finding that question may take a little time, but once you do, you can actually see your client’s minding working hard to fight not to, then understand, and then start to change.

Before we get to the question, we need to understand why so many people think that web development is cheap.  That creating a website, producing good copy, maybe even a new logo, should all cost $500 or less.

  • First – we see it everywhere.  Someone offering cut rate services for just about everything.
  • Second – everyone has heard about someone who has gotten a great website for cheap, even if it is always a friend of a friend.
  • Third – the repeated belief that our South Asian counterparts can do exactly the same job for ¼ the price.

With this information being thrown at our customers from every corner, it becomes so familiar that most people accept it as true.

Even if you counter with,

  • I will build something better,
  • And I will be more accessible,
  • And there will be an ongoing maintenance plan,

they can’t grasp what that really means to them, so they stick with what they do know, what you are offering is cheaper elsewhere.

If your customer cannot easily see how your work is worth 10K, they will answer the closest question they do understand.  I can get it cheaper.

Yes, I know, we can see the holes in this logic, and it is obvious to us that the service we provide is worth every penny we charge.  But who is hiring who?  If the customer doesn’t get it, you don’t get the job.

But how can one question turn a ‘I need it cheap client’ into a high value one?

Our brains are funny things yet amazingly complex and pretty damn cool.  We are constantly taking in information, processing it, and deciding whether it is of any value to us.

Due to the massive volume of input, our brains are great at taking short cuts.  We don’t want to take the time or energy to analyze every question we are asked.  What we end up doing is answering something our brain thinks is close enough.   The problem with this, is that our brains are very often wrong!

What if I asked you, ‘Is Leonardo DiCaprio an honest person?”

What’s is your first thought?

Chances are you do not know Leonardo personally (or if you do, lucky, lucky you!) so there is no way that you can answer this question accurately.  But, you probably have an opinion about him, you either basically like him, don’t like him, or are neutral.

So what was your answer to Mr DiCaprio’s honesty?  Was that pretty much the same answer as your general opinion about him? Most likely.

This is what our brain does, it answers hard questions (or questions we really don’t know the answer to), with the answers to the easiest question related to it.

Now apply this to web development.  How many customers actually know what is involved in creating their website? Or how they can use their website to really bring in more customers? Exactly, next to none.

Why don’t you think about your last client that mentioned they wanted a website but it had to be cheap.  How did you respond?

I hope you didn’t do what I used to do and ask ‘what is your budget’.  I could smack myself in the head for this.  I”ve done nothing to change their mind that what I do could be done more cheaply.  I’ve set  myself up for the project to always be a money discussion.

Or did you counter with “Do you need this functionality, do you want your website to do this?” Resulting in them thinking you are too expensive and what you offer is way more then they need, and most likely being confused by your technical jargon.

Think of all the different ways you have responded to potential customers, how many of them put your client at ease or made them understand what was involved in the process better?  Yep, I thought so.

While you are asking these questions and making your points, this customer is thinking…

Websites are cheap, I’ve seen it, heard it, know it.

So what can we do about it?

I suggest a good smack to knock some sense into them, or possibly a less aggressive approach. One that would surprise them out their laziness.  Instead of trying to create justification around the cost of your work, ask them –

Why do you think I charge 15x as much as those $500 sites?

Whoa… wait, what’s the easiest answer to that one?  Hrmm. you’re a con artist?  You have an inflated sense of your own worth?  Most likely, they will have to stop and think.  This is where the tide starts turning.

Ok, let’s pause here.  This is a great question, that can be made better.  How do we do that? By getting to understand the client just a bit more.

Starting with empathy.  It’s a big word for saying listen and nod your head.  Don’t argue, offer solutions, just bob your head likes those nodding dogs.  As I explained at FTFP, “I need it cheap doesn’t always mean what you think” the client who says they want it cheap probably have other things going on.  Here are the most common underlying issues when someone says cheap.


  • Fear – whether of technology itself or from a previous bad experience
  • Doesn’t understand value or how you can add it
  • Reaction – they want to see what they can get away with


If you approach your next question with a little understanding about your client, changing their mind will be a no-brainer.

A great question to start off with is..

“Did you have a previous bad experience with your website?  Can you tell me a little bit about it?”

This immediately makes your customer feel heard.  It will also give you valuable insight into how to approach the questions that will make them think twice about cheap.

But what if you think the customer’s issues are around value? Or most likely that they can’t imagine how a website can be anything more than a paid advert.  Try this question.

If your website could create 50 more leads a month and 5 of those leads turned into a customer what value would that be to your business?

Wow, suddenly they start thinking about their website as a way to make money, not cost them money.

What about the last one?  The person who is always trying to find things cheaper?  It may be a game, or they may just be a terrible person to work with.  How can you tell?  Maybe ask.

Who was the last person you hired to work with your business and how did that go?

Chances are if they give you a long list of things this person did wrong, they will find a similar list with whatever work you do. AVOID, AVOID, say NO!   If they sing their praises or simple state the facts, this ‘cheap’ person may just be hunting for a deal.

Ok, you are now armed with a little more knowledge about what this leads ‘cheap website’ means. Using this information you can ask your question that won’t be so easily associated with ‘everyone else does it cheap’.

You can stick with the single question from above that works a lot of the time or you can try and be more specific.  The more specific you are, the more the customer engages with you and is willing to change their mind.

Question for they had a previously bad experience.

What guarantees would make you want to work with me?

Or even..

What are the qualities of your perfect website designer?

Now you have them thinking about what they do want, not what they don’t.  These questions are also very rarely asked, which then really works to help change their mind.  It is taking the idea that if we force clients to stop, think, and then respond, they will stop going to the easy answer of ‘I need it cheap’.

Questions to use if they have never thought about their website as having a real return on investment.

Will a $500 website get you more customers?

Or even better…

If I could promise you 5x your return on investment would you still go for cheap?

These questions will again cause your customer to pause and think.  It is really important to get them to think about their website creating abundance, not costs.  Remember, most people only see the expense of paying for your services.  This is how you start to show them  true value.

So what do you ask if they complain about the last person they worked with?

I consider this a loud alarm bell.  Take the conversation as a whole, but in general walk away.

What if they have nice things to say?  Try to dig deeper.

What would you expect to get from $500 developer?

Or even..

What is your favorite type of client/customer to work with in your business?

Both questions ask your client to think about a working relationship.  Instead of focusing on an end product – ‘website’ you are moving the focus to the person you are working with.  It’s much harder to label someone as cheap than to label a thing as cheap.  This will also show them that working with you should have a similar positive experience as working with their perfect customer.

Remember, sometimes we are working on the long game.


Let’s keep something else in mind when we are trying to change people’s minds.  I know you might hate to hear it, but, sometimes we are working on the long game.

There are certain customers that will get what you are saying after the first question, but in many circumstances they will need some time.  Let it brew.

We have all had a boyfriend/wife/partner that one day makes a suggestion with a beaming smile waiting for your acknowledgement that they are so clever for thinking of it.  While inside you are fuming and wanting to kick them because you suggested the exact same thing 6 months before and they brushed it away.

A smart person doesn’t take the brush off as the end of the game.  You take the no and learn to reframe your question or suggestion into different ways to get your significant other to consider it in a new way.  Possibly more relevant to them.

But finding good clients is hard….

I know you are thinking that this is hard, I don’t have time, I need work now. It get’s easier and quicker.

The more you ask these questions the easier it is to the pick the right one the first time.  You can meet a new client and within 5 minutes you can get a handle on what their mindset is and ask the perfect question to get them to change their mind.

The process becomes quicker because you begin to recognize the good from the bad like Willie Wonka’s squirrels identifying the bad nuts.  One little tap on the head (with a relevant question) and you will know whether they need to be thrown into the garbage shoot or kept…

Over to you.


These are questions that I have found work for me.  Do you have any questions that you use? Or better yet any suggestions of better questions?  Please share in the comments below.

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