Whether you work at a design firm or as a freelance designer, finding the perfect amount of clients to pay the bills and do the quality of work you desire can can be a huge challenge. One tactic many designers forget to take full advantage of is upselling. However mastering the art of upselling can take your graphic or web design business to the next level. You don’t have to be the world’s best salesman to upsell your design project. You just have to have a good understanding of what your client needs, establish a relationship of trust with the client, and have confidence in your work. This article will explain what upselling is, why you should consider it as a viable part of your design business model, whether it’s the right choice for you, and how you can do it most effectively.
What is upselling?
Essentially, upselling is an age-old sales technique where the salesman (or designer in this case) informs the client of upgrades, additional services, premium opportunities, etc. thus making the sale more profitable. Upselling involves informing the client of services or opportunities they didn’t know about previously. As a designer, upselling could mean offering discount printing to graphic design customers, hosting to web design customers, and more. We’ll explore a lot more options at the end of this article.
Why would I want to upsell?
While the answer seems a little obvious, let’s explore the real reason you may want to attempt to upsell your next design project. When you find a new design client, they may have an initial plan they hope you can accomplish. Maybe they hired you because they appreciate your talent in logo design, for example. It’s possible, this new client has no idea that you also offer web design, print design, or photography services. Adding any of these services to the bill will not only help your client be more successful, but will also make the overall project more profitable.
Is upselling ethical?
As always with ethical issues, there are two sides of this coin:
Advocates for upselling your design project would argue that business is business. While running a business is more about building relationships and learning, in the end, you’re in it to make money. Upselling is simply a tactic used to get the most money possible out of your clients.
Critics of upselling would argue that such a strong focus on money can damage relationships and goodwill: the foundation of a healthy business. Yes, you might get more money out of a client for this job, but they are much less likely to return to you for their next design project.
The answer to the question of ethical upselling can go either way. Here’s my two cents: upselling is perfectly fine as long as you keep your client’s best interest in mind. Never offer to do work for your client just because you can. Frankly, if they don’t need a web site, don’t offer. If they only want to spend enough money to get a good brochure out of you, don’t push the issue. Timing, trust, and patience are everything when it comes to effectively upselling. Inform your client of other services so they can call you in the future, but if they aren’t in a position to increase the bill now, don’t push it!
Tips for upselling your next design project
Now that we have discussed the pros, cons, and meaning of upselling your design project, let’s talk about a few ways you can effectiveley upsell your next project. Below are a series of suggestions. Not all these steps are necessary in the upselling process, but in my experience, upselling a design project goes much more smoothly when attempted as follows:
1. First, establish a relationship of trust with the client. Become somewhat of a mentor for your client. Guide them in their design decisions and take time to learn about their company and its needs. As you genuinely care about the client and their needs, you will find the best way to upsell the next design project.
2. Second, Begin by offering friendly suggestions instead of pushy sales pitches. Not every upsell has to be pushy. You may just choose to casually mention another project you are working on, diverse ways you can help your client, or additional services you offer. Phrases like “I just thought you might like to know for the future…” work great and come across more casually than pushy.
3. Third, only push services that the client really needs. Remember that, while you are in the business to make money as a designer, it should never be at the unneeded expense of your client. Never offer to provide services for a client just because you want to make a few extra dollars.
4. Learn to accept ‘No’ for an answer. Sometimes when you upsell, you should settle for simply informing your client in case they need help in the future. Never push an issue too far. Your client knows what they can handle budget-wise and what their company needs right now. Never become pushy or you will most likely never be working with that client again.
Have you tried it before? Share your experience
Do you have an upselling story to share? Maybe questions about the best way to approach this tactic? Contribute to the conversation by adding your thoughts.