How to improve your web design sales 1000% by earning trust

We see freelancers asking the same questions again and again.

  • “I’ve reached out to dozens of companies and nothing. Nobody wants my service.”
  • “I’ve done 200 cold-calls, nobody wants to talk to me. How do you get past the gatekeeper?”
  • “I’ve sent 1000s of cold emails and got no response. What subject lines do you use?”

All of these activities won’t help you much if you don’t focus on getting something else right first. That thing is earning enough trust for the sale to happen. Most new or struggling web designers don’t inspire enough trust for business owners to use their services. Business owners don’t know who they are, if they are legitimate and trustworthy, or if they can offer anything of real value.

Their sales pitch is dead before it even has a chance.

We covered the topic of trust last week, but let’s go into things in even more detail.

Why would I trust you?

Most web designers who can’t sell bigger projects don’t have a sales problem, as much as they have a trust problem. If other business owners found it easy to trust them, then they would be getting way more sales.

How often do you give money to people you don’t trust?

The key principle when starting a web design business is this: focus on building trust first, before you focus on selling.

If you don’t want to waste hours upon hours of your time, then emailing, cold calling, and all other lead generation activities should come later.

Where do I start with building trust? 

You start by building a strategic portfolio.

Not just any portfolio – that’s what most of the web designers do (and don’t get anywhere).

The common piece of advice shared online is to build websites for imaginary companies, and then use them as portfolio pieces. It’s a total waste of your time. You won’t solve real-life problems this way, it won’t help you to build trust faster. Sure, you practice your design skills, but they alone won’t get you far, remember?

You need to focus on finding and completing strategic portfolio projects instead. 

These are the projects that will show the value that you can bring, help you grow, and build lots of trust fast as a result.

Think from the perspective of a business owner

Let’s do an exercise for a moment…

Let’s say you run a big, successful business in the construction and property industry. It’s been around for a long time. It’s established. You’ve got a lot of projects, a lot of staff and equipment, and you’re making good money.

You are happy to invest in your business when you see a good opportunity. You want to keep expanding, to win bigger projects, to keep growing and staying ahead of the competition.

Like most business owners, you know your business very well. You know how it works, how it grows, you know your current challenges, and all sort of business operation type of things.

But… you’re unsure about the Internet. You hear people sell through the Internet, you’ve seen it done, maybe you’ve sold something yourself. But you don’t really get it. It’s not your thing and you never wanted to focus on it.

You’re unsure about what to do when it comes to online business. You might have had a website for a few years. It doesn’t do much, but it’s there. You’ve got to this point without thinking about it, so why bother?

The above scenario is exactly where most business owners are at…

They understand their business, but not how the Internet and digital marketing work.

They might be willing to do “something online” for their company, but they don’t know who to trust.

They decide the best thing to do is just wait for the right person to come along.

Back to our exercise…

Let’s get back to the owner’s perspective. Within a month two different web designers happen to contact you. The first one calls your office and speaks to your assistant. They’re polite and friendly enough, so she puts them through to you.

Two different web design sales pitches

You hear two different sales pitches.

Sales pitch #1 – a typical web designer

It’s a particularly quiet day, so you decide to take the call and see what they’ve got to say.

They give you their usual web design sales pitch. They tell you that:

  • your website is old (which you already know);
  • they want to build a new one for you;
  • it’s gonna be responsive, load fast and be beautiful;
  • it’s gonna be cheap and they can start right away.

As a business owner, you don’t really think about the money at this point. You rather focus on how it’s gonna help your business.

You’re still unsure how that website would help you in any way. The website isn’t the business, and your focus is mainly on the business – you want to satisfy your clients, secure new projects, and improve sales in general. You haven’t heard anything about that.

You might ask the designer directly how the new website would help the business. Why should you get it? Why should you spend the money? What would that change?

They, in turn, say that the new site will look great, will be responsive, have a modern design, load quickly… They show you their past projects (aka portfolio) they’ve done for their friends, relatives, other clients…

At this point the sale is dead.

You’re thinking that you’re wasting your time. You don’t know who this person is, or if you can trust them. These past projects – you don’t know who those people are. You just want to get back to your duties and tell them to call you back in 6 months (or you say you’re not interested).

You don’t see the value, you don’t see why you would trust the person, you don’t see the point of moving forward. It’s not even about the money. Why give it a focus, time and energy when there’s no clear idea on how it can improve your situation?

This is what happens to 99% of web designers reaching out – whether it’s cold calling, cold emailing, or talking in person. Although they do their best, they never get a chance for a sale.

Sales pitch #2 – a designer with a strategy

Back to the owner’s perspective. It’s a week later, and you got busy with a new project. You told your assistant not to let any more sales calls through. You don’t want any web designers calling you anytime soon. You just got too much to think about right now.

One evening though you notice an email with the subject line:

Just finished working with McAdams Construction – might interest you”.

You know McAdams – they are a big-time property business in the next town over, and they always seem to be closing tons of new deals.

You decide to click and check it out.

“Hello <your name>

Just a very quick email – I’ve finished helping out McAdams with selling some new units on their new Apple Acres project in Beachville, and I thought you might be interested.

The project was sold out fully in about 40% of the time it usually takes, with over half of those sales coming from new online prospects.

I believe you are about to launch some new projects of your own soon. I wanted to see if a quick call was possible. I can show you what we did to generate these new online prospects, and how you could easily be doing something similar to yourself.

If you want to check it out here… AppleAcresProject .com.

Also, Susan who runs their marketing said she would vouch for me “forever!”. Here is her number – XX-XXX-XXXX.

Would love to talk this week – just let me know what time is good.

– Jack ”

Now, this sounds good!

You are keen to hear more. You know McAdams is legit – they are your competitor from a distant city. You can see that the project was a big success. The website linked to looks great, and the person seems to be genuinely willing to help you.

You get super curious about what that person can tell you, and what it would mean for your business. You go ahead and look at when you have a free hour to talk to them.

Postgame breakdown

Web designer number one never had any chance. They couldn’t get any traction to start selling from the very beginning.

Web designer number two though is going into that sales call with a lot of the groundwork already done. With just a little sales magic it won’t be hard for them to start pitching some great possible ways to work together with this business. The business owner is already picturing a great future in his mind. They are off to an amazing start.

What does make a difference?

If you want to be like designer #2, who’s able to sell big projects a lot easier to the right sort of clients, you will need one thing.


Trust in who you’ve worked for.
Trust in the project you’ve worked on.
Trust in what you’ve done for the business.
Trust that it has gotten them real results.

What does matter a lot less now?

How long you’ve been doing web design.
Where you are based and what your background is.
What technology, system or gear you use.
Your age, experience, sex, nationality or race.

Once you have a high level of trust based on great real past results, you can start to sell at a new level. And once you see the business owner trusts you, believes you and is open to listening to you, the sale will be way easier and more satisfying for both of you.

Forget the shady sales tactics or memorizing cold calling scripts.

Having that high level of trust gives you the golden ticket you need to play the game of profitable web design.

Without enough trust to kick start a sale, you will be fighting a massive uphill battle from the moment you reach out to potential clients.

Stage one of the challenge ends here

Congratulations! You now finished stage one of this challenge – learning what you need to know before you start taking action.

The right preparation is crucial. A lot of people get into web design, and rush straight into cold calling, cold emailing without the right foundation. They don’t get any results and wonder what is going on.

From completing this first stage of the challenge, you now have a really good idea of how to strategically approach starting your web design business. 

Coming up in the next stage of the challenge

  •  We’re gonna start taking action!
  • We’re going to start reaching out to businesses and landing those first few projects that will help you build a lot of trust.
  • After that, I’m gonna show you how to use this trust with some specific selling techniques to land big, profitable deals.

Stay tuned, and if you know anyone that needs this sort of skills, please share the challenge with that person. It means a lot!

Read other articles in the 1K Challenge series now:

  1. How a website can help a business?
  2. Core skills a web designer needs to know now.
  3. Why do most web designers struggle to make sales?
  4. How to find the perfect web design client.
  5. A simple 6-step process to land portfolio clients.
  6. When should I work for free as a web designer
  7. Confused people don’t buy – how to control a sale in 3 steps.
  8. How to prepare for a sales meeting? (With a template and my notes.)

The Fox Web School $1,000 Website Challenge

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