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Why Paid Discovery Leads to Better Projects

Looking for Better Projects? Ask Clients to Pay for Discovery.

Discovery is a process of using your expertise through a series of questions across 4-5 meetings to uncover your client’s business pains and goals so you can develop a course of action to solve/achieve those goals.

Paid discovery is charging for this.

Doing good discovery takes time. And if you’re like most web professionals, you’re thinking, “I don’t have time for 5 meetings before starting a project! I need to get paid today!”

I hear you.

But what if I told you there was a way to get paid today and vet clients more thoroughly?

What a lot of web professionals don’t realize is that you can charge clients for this discovery time. And more often than not, it leads to better projects.

If you’ve never considered charging potential clients for the discovery process, here are my top three reasons you should be:


The most logical reason for doing paid discovery is that your time is worth money. If you still haven’t realized that, go read this post.

I spend 5-10+ hours on discovery, so as a professional, I should be billing for it. If not, I am generally not as invested in the project and neither is the client. When given for free or cheap, you devalue your brand and the importance of your services. Don’t dilute your work it by offering it for free.

Paid discovery has eliminated the time I spend on tire kickers (people who are looking for someone with the cheapest prices). Charging for discovery not only eliminates the tire kickers, but results in me being able to invest more time in my business, leading us to focus on better leads, closing better projects and generating more revenue.


For me, discovery is not just about asking a set of questions. We dig deep in our sessions, often providing an outside perspective that brings the client a ton of value through new revelations.

An example of this added value happened when we met with a multimillion dollar company with 60+ employees. They’ve been in business for nearly 20 years, so one could assume they’ve heard it all.

Yet, as we went through paid discovery with them, they were blown away by the questions, insights, and analysis we brought to their project.

They quickly realized the value and importance of the discovery sessions and paused several of their business development and marketing initiatives to ensure they were aligned with the customer persona’s we were developing.

Positions you as an expert:

Often times, web designers/developers are looked at as a commodity. By taking your client through the discovery process, you clearly show them you are not just building a website. You’re considering their needs and pain points, and leveraging their competitive advantage, ensuring the messaging connects with their ideal customer.

Your discovery process not only gives you clarity about the client’s project needs, but it enables you to present a vision of how you can meet those needs.

Why Paid vs. Free?

I hear it all the time: “I just don’t feel comfortable charging for a conversation.” You’re going to have to get over that.

It’s not just a conversation. It’s your expertise. It’s your brand. It’s your livelihood!

When we feel like clients are reluctant to pay for the discovery process, we often explain it to them in the form of a question. “If you had cold symptoms, would you want a doctor to prescribe you chemotherapy drugs?”

Obviously not.

Discovery is an exclusive service that enables us to effectively diagnose the situation and prescribe the right solution to ensure the end result serves the desired outcome.

Some consumers believe that “more expensive” means “better.” We have found this to work in our favor.

Here are a few tips I will leave you with when attempting to execute paid discovery:

  • Focus on asking the right questions to the right client. Don’t follow a generic/generalized discovery process.
  • Look for the biggest pain points or opportunities and keep asking, “Why?”
  • Determine a client’s priorities by asking, “If you could only choose 1 of the 3 pain points/opportunities to address, which would you choose? Why?”
  • Get them talking by asking open-ended questions that start with Who, What, Where, Why, When, How and Which.
  • Ask questions that can be used to establish key performance indicators (KPI’s) or measure ROI. Here are a few: How many new leads do you currently get each month? What is your average cost per lead?  Where are the sources for your leads?
  • Don’t just send them the questions in an email. They are paying you as a subject area expert. Present and execute accordingly.

Based on our results – both for our business and our client’s businesses – we have decided to double down on paid discovery as we start a new year. This will ensure we are delivering even more value and charging a premium for our services.

I wish you the best as you embark on your next paid discovery!

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