WordPress Professionals: How To Pitch, Land & Work With Small Business Clients

Last Updated on February 21, 2023 by 13 Comments

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WordPress Professionals: How To Pitch, Land & Work With Small Business Clients
Blog / Tips & Tricks / WordPress Professionals: How To Pitch, Land & Work With Small Business Clients

If you’re a fan of fishing, you’ll know what I mean when I say everyone’s always looking to land “the big one”.

And it seems that the same mentality holds true for WordPress professionals. It’s this idea that bigger clients are better. Not so big of course that you’re having to deal with a committee – because that can cause some serious headaches. But big enough that one client can have a major impact on your bottom line.

Then we have the small businesses – the “mom and pop” or solopreneur types. There’s often the feeling that these types of clients can be harder to land and are equally hard to work with.

I’m going to work to discount some of these concerns – at least to a certain degree. Yes, small business clients can be more difficult to land initially and they can sometimes require more work to keep satisfied.

But there is a huge opportunity to grow your WordPress business by working with small businesses. Not only is it a large market, but once you’ve built a strong relationship with a small business owner, there can be a degree of loyalty and respect that is hard to find with bigger clients.

The Small Business Opportunity

Business Opportunity

The Small Business Business Opportunity – image by jesadaphorn / shutterstock.com

If you going strictly by the numbers, then the definition of a small business is fairly broad. Often companies with 500 employees are still considered small according to the Small Business Administration. For the purposes of this article, I’m generally referring to those businesses where there are fewer than 10 employees and often it’s a case of those who are self-employment with no additional employees at all.

According to statistics compiled by Docstoc, there were approximately 28 million small businesses in 2013 and over 22 million of those were self-employed businesses who had no employees. Additionally, over 50% of small businesses are home-based.

If you stop to think about it for a second, you’ll realize what a huge opportunity this presents. I’m not suggesting that all 22 million of these are great opportunities – not by a long shot. But you can rest assured that there are more than enough small businesses out there who, as clients, are capable of helping you grow your WordPress business.

If you’re willing to spend time figuring out how to sort the wheat from the chaff and how to attract the small business clients that you actually want to work with, then there is opportunity abound.

Pitch What’s Valuable

Figuring out how to pitch small business clients isn’t as hard as you might think. There’s a good chance that your WordPress business falls into a similar size category as the potential clients you are pitching. All you need to do is approach the situation from the perspective from which you would want someone to pitch you.

We hear a lot of talk about the importance of providing value. But what is value? It doesn’t matter whether you’re providing basic WordPress maintenance or you create custom WordPress database solutions for small retailers. In one way or another, you can provide value to your clients.

The exact definition of value will depend upon your client. And the easiest way to pitch small business owners is by discovering what they find valuable.

A recent survey conducted by Constant Contact contained some pretty revealing statistics about the sacrifices that small business owners feel they make. Let’s take a look at just a few:

  • 56% felt that they could never be away from their business.
  • 43% accepted that vacations simply won’t happen anytime soon.
  • 43% found wearing many hats to be difficult.
  • 66% cited finding new customers as a major concern.
  • 56% cited not having enough time as a major concern.
  • 40% found customer retention to be something they worried about.
  • 32% were concerned about paying their bills.

Breaking down those thoughts and concerns, we can see that there are three common threads running through all of them:

  1. Not enough time
  2. Needing more customers
  3. Needing more money (either revenue or cash flow)

If your WordPress business is focused on providing any one of those items to small business clients, then there is a good chance you’ll be perceived as providing value.

When it comes time to present your pitch, either in person, on your website or through an exchange of emails, these are the areas you’ll want to draw attention to: time, customers, and money.

For example, too many WordPress designers focus on selling beautiful websites. It’s all about the design – bold colors, beautiful typography, and knockout photography. Those things are important, sure. But ask yourself how many small business owners actually want a website? Few to none would be my guess.

A website brings hosting fees, maintenance, updates and hackers, just to name a few. Does that sound like something you’d want? No, it doesn’t

What your clients want are new leads, new customers, increased revenue, the ability to lower their advertising costs. These are the things that are important to them. Show them how their website can help to deliver some or all of these items and you’ll be seen as a rock star.

Alternatively, if you’re selling WordPress maintenance services or small business blogging, show your clients how much time you’ll be able to save them. Demonstrate how your services will let them get to bed an hour earlier or allow them to spend an extra weekend each month with their family. That’s real value and the kind of things that business owners are happy to pay for.

Landing Small Business Clients

In some ways, landing small business clients can be more challenging than going after big clients. Small businesses present less red tape than large corporate clients, but the process of building connections with small business owners will take more effort and require a more personalized approach.

There are two areas that deserve the bulk of your attention:

1. Building Your Reputation

Assuming you’ve figured out how to pitch the value of your WordPress services to prospective small business clients, how do you get them to actually make the decision to work with you?

There is more to landing clients than simply providing value. Value is important, but it’s not enough.

If you were searching online for someone to help you optimize your WordPress site, assuming you understood the value component of a well-optimized site, what other factors might influence your decision?

Chances are, you would put the individual’s or company’s reputation near the top of your list of considerations. The reputation you build with existing clients and within the small business community can have a dramatic impact on your ability to land new clients.

Where figuring out what value you are providing might take as little as one day, building a reputation can take months or years. It’s not unlike a snowball rolling down a steep hill. It starts out slowly – small and unnoticeable. As you gain momentum, you’ll start picking up clients here and there. As your reputation grows, you’ll be in a position to build more relationships and landing new clients will become easier and more frequent.

Building your reputation isn’t difficult. The easiest thing you can do is work hard for your existing clients. Prove to them that the success of their business is important to you. Whatever role you are playing in their business, whether it’s design, development, optimization or maintenance, put your best foot forward.

When you get a little further down the page there is a list of things you can consider doing with your clients. Virtually all of them will contribute towards building a strong reputation.

2. Network with Other Small Business Owners

Small business owners are usually more likely to refer business to other small business owners. If you’ve ever been a part of a networking group like BNI, Toastmasters, or your local Chamber of Commerce, you’ll know how effective networking can be when it’s done right.

Networking with small business owners is about more than just landing new clients. It can also help to improve your visibility, establish a connection within other networks, meet other professionals within the WordPress field and share knowledge with other business owners.

Working With Clients

Working with Clients

Working with Clients – image by Dooder / shutterstock.com

Working with small business clients often means you have a direct line of communication to the top of the company – interacting closely with the owner or founder.

In contrast to working with someone who is just an employee of a large corporation, small business owners rely heavily on trust and strong relationships. If you are able to build that trust, you stand a good chance of developing a long-term client.

In many ways, the points discussed below are the most important ones in the whole article because they come into effect after you’ve landed your client. Landing a new client takes work, but once they’re on board, you want to keep them.

Communicate Your Actions

As someone who works with WordPress all day long, you probably take some of your knowledge for granted. Failing to realize just how little some small business clients actually know about the Internet, WordPress or digital marketing.

Never assume that your client knows something just because it’s old-hat to you. Small business owners especially, will appreciate that you share your knowledge and expertise with them.

Offer Your Expertise

Most WordPress professionals have a certain degree of skill-crossover. If you notice your client doing something that could be changed or improved upon, point it out – even if it’s not a service you provide.

Maybe your clients spend a large portion of their advertising budget on newspaper advertising, oblivious to Facebook ads or Google AdWords. Maybe they’re still using a telephone to book appointments instead of integrating a booking plugin in their WordPress site. Your expertise in these areas can put you in the position of being a trusted adviser, instead of just a service provider.

Be Flexible

Of course, scope-creep is a concern but to a degree, it’s also a reality. It’s also more of a problem with small businesses simply for the fact that owners are themselves, accustomed to wearing many hats. Out of habit, they often expect others to do the same.

While it’s fine to set boundaries, it’s also in your best interest to remain somewhat flexible. Your clients will appreciate it and as long as they are respectful of your time and capabilities, it can result in a win-win scenario.

Be a Problem Solver

The quickest way to frustrate and annoy a small business owner is to create new problems. It’s the last thing in the world you want to do. And by problems, I’m not specifically suggesting doing something wrong, I just mean creating work for anyone other than yourself.

We’ve already talked about the statistics and how small business owners wear too many hats. They never have enough time and feel like they can’t step away from their business. If you’re successful in adding to these problems, you can rest assured that your contract will be short lived.

Look for ways that you can improve their website, make their business run smoother or add more value. All of these things will be appreciated, especially by small business clients.

Be Available

I’m not saying you need to make yourself available 24/7 or that you should make weekend phone calls a habit. What I am suggesting is that you make yourself available to clients when they need talk to you. As well, do so in a way that is convenient to them. If they hate email, don’t shrug your shoulders and say “too bad”. Instead, offer a convenient solution.

We’ve all been in the position of wanting to get in touch with someone in customer support and the feeling that comes with waiting. It’s not really an experience that small business clients have the time or patience to deal with.

Ask for Feedback

One of the best things you can do when working with small business owners is to ask for feedback. Ask them how they feel about your level of service and how they think you could improve.

Anytime you’re able to get input directly from the owner of a small business, you can usually count on receiving constructive, and actionable feedback.

Wrap Up

As a WordPress professional, it’s easy to be attracted to hunting for big clients. And why not? Just one big client can account for a half-dozen or more small business clients. You’ll end up dealing with fewer people, less invoicing and you won’t have to spend so much time prospecting either.

It’s absolutely true, small business clients can take a little more work to land simply because they don’t yet understand the value you are providing. Being higher maintenance is common as well, primarily during the onboarding process. But small business clients also come with a lot of positive aspects, including:

  • They present less red tape. Small business is about taking action.
  • You’ll likely develop a much closer relationship with the owner.
  • It’s easier to develop a long-term client if you provide value.
  • There are more opportunities to provide value.
  • Once you’ve built a reputation and established trust, referrals are highly likely.
  • You’ll have an opportunity to grow with the company.

It’s a pretty strong argument in favor of giving small business clients more attention. Wouldn’t you agree?

Here are three questions for the community. Please feel free to share your answers in the comment below:

  1. Do you prefer working with small businesses clients, and if so, why?
  2. Do you find small business clients more challenging to land and work with?
  3. If you provide WordPress services to small business clients, how do you manage scope creep?

Article thumbnail image by vige.co / shutterstock.com


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  1. I have found that pricing is actually the easiest part of my process. The reason is because I make myself as an expert in my field the same as they are an expert in theirs. They would not want me to pay less for their service so why should I allow you to pay less for mine. If you provide that confidence to them they will respect that and be more acceptable to your services. Also when my clients come to me they have a one stop shop. The can get everything for their website and ads completed with me so not having to go anywhere else is also a bonus they are happy to pay for.

  2. Is the docstock statistics you mention wordwide or in the us? It’s important to have in mind that Elegantthemes.com have readers from all over the world.

  3. Awesome tips to deal with small business clients. In last four years, I helped many small businesses to get attention from people about their products/services by publishing free guest post on my blog.

  4. I find it very easy to “land” small business projects. I hardly have to try at all. They seem to find me. Just because they seem “small” doesn’t mean they can’t afford your fees. My fees are pretty low anyway and hardly ever do I get someone who can’t afford them. Also, the smaller businesses are more apt to give you referrals. I can understand that for a new web designer this is not happening for them yet but hang in there because it will. I’ve been in this business for 14 years so I’ve built up a good reputation. Keep in mind also that small businesses have the same level of playing field when it comes to a website. You can make them look “big” if you like. I posted my fees on my website and that weeds out the ones who can’t afford my fees. I recommend you do the same. Don’t worry about deterring clients, you won’t deter any serious ones. They know it costs money and takes time to develop the best website for them. One other benefit of small businesses, as mentioned above, is you mostly deal with one or two people only and decisions about design or features for their website don’t need to go through some committee first so things move along much faster. I love my small business clients, I’ve developed great relationships and even some friendships with them. They are loyal and they love me back. Plus the biggest benefit for me is that mine are all local so I get to meet them in person before I get started, which is a lot of fun! I love meeting new people and hearing how they conduct business and learning about their industry. Oh, and just like Roberta I also offer free advice and I always give the potential customer the option to check out some other web designers as well if it makes them feel more comfortable. The thing is, as soon as I tell them that they say, no we want you! 🙂 The more open you are with people, including about your pricing, the more they will trust you. This is another reason why I put my fees on my website.

  5. I love that you mention BNI. I’ve been a member for just over a year and have found it to be very valuable for networking, as well as getting me out of my shell! 🙂

  6. Good article but I think it lacks a fundamental thing:

    We run a small web development business ourself and what i find a lot of other developers and designers lack is sales training. Web developers and designers needs to learn how to sell their products directly to clients. You can be the best designer in the world but if you don’t start telling people you get a problem really quickly.

    An article about pitching and landing small businesses that does not mention picking up the phone and start cold calling prospective client is in my opinion lacking a key success factor. Yes, you guys are web developers and not tacky sales reps. But every successful venture I have heard about have had guys and girls on the phone from 08-18.00 trying to sell their product. Digital marketing is for us a pleasant added way of getting more clients. But being out there lifting the phone 150 times a day and knocking on doors is key.

    Here is what I recommend:

    1. Make yourself a list of 1000 potential clients
    2. Write a good sales pitch and rehears this until you know it.
    3. Try the pitch on friends and family. They will give you good feedback.
    4. Make yourself a good looking and informative presentation that you can send clients that want more information.
    5. Get your portfolio set up for them to brows through.
    6. Make an understandable price plan. Small businesses needs some price to relate to. And most of them just needs a quick presentation of their company. So an easy job for both parts.
    7. Start calling. The first 100 calles will probably be horrible. But that just means you are one client closer to a sale. Are you selling within your local area, ask for a meeting. People agreeing to a meeting is very interested in your services.
    8. Remember to follow up / call back people that wanted more information. no one will every reply to your e-mail. On the bonus side here they now know you a bit and the 2nd call should be easier. Answer questions and ask questions.
    9. Don´t quit until you are done with the list.

    Voilá – Everything in life is sales – Dating, teaching and especially business. You are trying to sell a web page, web app, etc. – You are probably good at making it, now you need to be good at selling it.

    Added bonus: Picking up the phone and call is basically free and also a very direct way to learn on how to improve your product, price and pitch.

  7. Small businesses are the bread and butter of most freelancers I know. I know a few who focus on larger clients, but most of them are extremely established–as in a decade or three in the field.

    Easiest way to manage scope creep is simply to be up front with clients about what they’re getting for whatever quote you give them.

  8. I only work with small businesses, particularly start-ups. Part of my service is to research sources of local funding that start-ups can get to pay for the website set up, and help them apply for it.

    As for scope creep, I don’t try to do everything a client wants. I talk with them first and get a feel for how ambitious they are with their vision for a web presence before I decide if I’ll take it on myself or refer them. Even if I can’t do it for them I’ll offer free advice.

  9. I LOVE small business clients! They are so invested in their business. It’s their baby and they are nurturing and growing it. Working with small business owners I get great satisfaction out of helping them to bring their best self forward in a way that sometimes they themselves don’t even see.

    The challenge is that many small business owners are cash poor and a website is the last thing they think they should be spending a lot of money on. So I find it helpful to “coach” them on how the website will fit in with their overall Sales & Marketing plan — even if that means helping them to develop a rudimentary one if they don’t have one at all.

    A wiser person than me once told me that not everyone is as ethical in business as I am, and so it becomes necessary to provide a rock solid contract to hold other people up to my standards of business ethics. I spell everything out in a contract that I review with the client and make sure they understand before I start any work on the project. And I always collect a sizeable deposit to start as well!

  10. Does Elegant have a blog post from the client side? Tips on how to hire and budget for a WordPress developer? Specifically a WordPress plugin developer.

    I have an idea for a premium plugin which I’ve specced out in detail, but I have no idea how much it would cost to hire a developer.

    It would be great to have some tips on this before venturing out to a place like Elance (or whatever they’re called now). Thanks.

  11. I’m always struggling with pricing when it comes to small businesses. You want to be a problem solver but you also have to charge them for your services (and this may be the problem for some).

    • I have found that pricing is actually the easiest part of my process. The reason is because I make myself as an expert in my field the same as they are an expert in theirs. They would not want me to pay less for their service so why should I allow you to pay less for mine. If you provide that confidence to them they will respect that and be more acceptable to your services. Also when my clients come to me they have a one stop shop. The can get everything for their website and ads completed with me so not having to go anywhere else is also a bonus they are happy to pay for.

  12. This is a valuable learning lesson for anyone who is trying to accomplish just that. I have started my web design business about 5 months ago and it sure is creeping. But, it is important to do your homework and finding the best places to start looking for work. My suggestion would be to visit all the city Chamber of Commerce websites. They all have business directories and attach their websites to their profiles. Try visiting websites and find if they need improvements. After you find they do need improvements, make a call. Offer them solutions like the article states. You never know who might be interested.

    One thing I think should have been more discussed is getting into the overall problem I see everyday, money. If you are starting out, offer a discounted reputation factor. Start low where you can keep going, but not a ridiculous amount which a long lasting designer will charge down the street. Stay competitive, but also be valuable, even if you have to sacrifice time.

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