The Joomla! Community Magazine™

How can you charge that? Joomla! is free, right?

Written by | Friday, 01 October 2010 00:00 | Published in 2010 October
“I looked up that Joomla! CMS that you said you were using for my project. I saw that I can download it for free. How can you charge me $XXXX? Joomla! is free, right? I just want you to install Joomla! and make it look good for me.”

Believe it or not, I’ve heard that from a potential client.

When we’re putting together a quote for a client and going through our presentation, we explain that Joomla! is the content management system that we choose to use on the majority of our projects, because of the enormous benefits and value that it adds to their website. Usually about that time they get very excited and eager to begin. In order to continue with full disclosure, we then explain to them about Open Source software and how Joomla! is freely available. And that’s about the time they begin to question why we are charging them for it.

The Perception Problem

A major hurdle that often arises when utilizing Joomla! in a business proposal is the general sense that since Joomla! is free, the work you provide as the designer/developer should be relatively inexpensive. Often times, the less educated a client is about Joomla! and Open Source software, the more they devalue the time and effort that is required for a high quality web project. This can become a problem when pricing a project for a client who is not expecting to have to pay for the work developed on a ready-made CMS framework such as Joomla!.

In my company, we’ve come across this numerous times. But in the process, we have found ways to show the client that building on an Open Source already established framework does not diminish the time and attention their website will require. One example of this occurred recently when we were building a custom ordering system for a Joomla! customer. The customer had no idea of the number of hours that were going into the system to build a smooth flowing order process and make sure it was fully integrated with the Joomla! custom template design we had built for them. They expected to see changes the same day they provided the information, and they were completely unaware of the amount of time those changes required.

In cases like this we show the client the number of files we’ve created. Sometimes we’ll even break out some of the code to show them just how many lines have been written to perform some of the functions. In this case, once the client realized how much time and effort was being spent to put code in place that would make for a smooth, seamless order process, they were blown away. And suddenly they felt that the cost associated with the project was a steal! A complete turn-around from their initial feelings that we were over-charging.

Nowadays almost all clients want the ability to manage their own content and website, which means that some type of CMS must be in place to allow them to do this. Building a CMS from scratch can take enormous amounts of time and money, well beyond what most clients have budgeted for their project, and in the end, they receive a product that can only be supported by one company. It can help to show your client the numerous benefits to utilizing Joomla! as their CMS (as mentioned above), including the fact that they can receive post-development support for their site from whomever they choose (even themselves by making use of all the great Joomla! tutorials available). This translates to saving them much more money than you’re charging them for their web project, and gives them security in their CMS at the same time.

How to handle pricing

You will have to keep an eye on the market because it will dictate the type of price range you’ll be expected to charge. However, one thing I can say from experience and with certainty, do not give in on your pricing. Sure, you want to work with each client as best you can, but do not cut your pricing to the detriment of your company or your own livelihood. You know your costs and what sort of deal you can afford to give. Do not sacrifice quality or the level of support you offer just to land a project. It can be tempting, especially when times are tough, but it almost never pays off and you end up bitter that you’ve not charged enough, offering sub-par work, and the client ends up dissatisfied with the end product.

We have a specific set of steps that we go through with each new client to show them exactly what is involved with their project. I have had clients time and time again who have been completely shocked at the number of steps involved in a successful project, and once they have been educated about what we are providing they become much more understanding of our pricing. Client education is important. One client recently commented,"Wow! I had no idea. That's amazing!" when I explained how things were being built 'behind-the-scenes' on his project. In this case, a little education with him went a long way, and now he returns to us whenever he has additional work. "You're the technical experts, if it's something you think I should have — do it." That's the type of customer you want. The type of customer you can build a business on.

At the end of the day, you should have a good reason for your pricing and be confident when submitting your proposal. If you’re offering high-quality work, reliable support, and a smooth headache-free process for the customer, they will see the value of the effort your company will provide, and will be satisfied with the prices you set.

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David Hurley

David Hurley

David is the Community Manager for Joomla! and member of the Production Leadership Team. He is one of the CMS maintainers and also a framework maintainer. He is co-founder at WebSpark and has produced several well-known extensions for Joomla! CMS (CRMery, Banter, JForce), as well as an open source standalone CRM Cobalt.