Jan 05 2010

What’s In A Price: The Guidelines For Pricing Web Designs

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By Thursday Bram

Pricing a website design can seem impossible. A good website design can cost anywhere between thousands of dollars and under fifty dollars, depending on the type of site, how you build it and a hundred other numbers. Those numbers can make it difficult to decide where the right price point for your own work is: how do you know what your work is worth when other designers’ prices are all over the place?

All prices are not created equal: while it may seem to the lay person that all websites are similar, differences like the framework the site is built upon and the process the website designer uses can require drastically different prices. A website design that doesn’t require you to do much more than design a new theme for WordPress probably shouldn’t be priced the same way that an e-commerce site that expects to see plenty of traffic should be. It comes down to the question of what’s in your price. In this article, we’ll look at how four web designers set their prices — and how you can learn from their experiences.

Money in A Designers Guide To Effective Proposals And Invoices

The Basics of Pricing

At the most basic, your prices must cover your expenses with hopefully a little extra left over, unless you have another source of income. The standard advice for determining your prices is to calculate what you need to live for a month — and then break that down to what you need to earn per hour. There are some nuances: it’s rare for a web designer to have 40 hours of paying work every week. It’s not impossible for a freelancer to have only 20 billable hours a week, especially when he’s just starting out. The rest of the week may be spent marketing to new clients, handling paperwork and other necessary tasks.

There’s also the danger of underestimating your expenses when you decide on your rates. It’s easy to miss one or two expenses, like health insurance, and wind up with prices that just won’t work. It’s important to build in a buffer when estimating the money that you need to bring in: your income needs to be able to cover savings, emergencies and even price hikes on your standard expenses. These factors mean that the price range you find by estimating what you need to cover your expenses should actually be the bottom end of where you set your prices. Your own expenses are only a small part of what goes into the price you charge for a website design.

1. Deciding Between Per Project and Per Hour

One of the biggest decisions you have to make as a web designer is whether you’ll charge per hour or per project. Most website designers think in terms of how many hours a project will take them to complete, which translates easily to charging by the hour. There are some other benefits, as well: an hourly rate makes it easy to revise an estimate if a client suddenly changes a project or needs an extra round of revisions.

Should I Charge Per Hour?

Screenshot

Mary-Frances Main is a web designer based in Colorado. She chooses to only work on an hourly basis. As Main says:

“We only quote per hour. Very very occasionally we will get a ballpark complete project cost, but rarely… We find that project bids very rarely end up in our favor. It’s too difficult to adjust for design dilemmas or changes in direction or lack of organization from a client. We make up for not giving whole project bids by only charging updates with a base rate of a quarter of an hour.”

The type of client Main usually works with is a big factor in her decision to work on an hourly basis. She prefers clients that need a web designer for the long haul — they need the web designer to handle updates, maintenance and any adjustments the site needs. Because Main charges an hourly rate, she can comfortably handle those updates, while still making enough money to cover her needs.

Charging per hour makes sense if:

Project requirements may change after you’ve already started working,
It’s hard to tell exactly how long a project will take,
You’re handling lots of small tasks or projects as they come up,
Your client wants something beyond what you ordinarily offer.

Should I Charge Per Project?

Screenshot

While charging per hour makes sense for some web designers, it doesn’t always make sense for everyone. There are drawbacks to pricing by the hour, as well. A client who doesn’t really know what to expect in terms of the amount of work it takes to create a website can look at an hourly rate and quickly become concerned. Having a rate of $100 per hour can scare off a client who thinks in terms of people working 40-hour workweeks. If you say that you can have the project done in 3 weeks, you can wind up with a client picturing a bill in the tens of thousands of dollars, no matter how large or small his project actually is. Giving a set rate for a whole project can eliminate that sort of pricing confusion.

Noel Green, a web designer based in New Mexico, takes a per project approach to pricing his work:

“While we have a per hour rate, we prefer to quote per project rather than per hour. After 8 years of doing this, we’re quite good at knowing, approximately, how long a project is going to take us, so giving a client a ‘flat fee’ lets them feel more comfortable with the process.”

Pricing per project has had other benefits for Green, as well. He’s found that clients are less likely to add on to the original project if they know that they’ll have to pay an hourly rate for any changes.

Charging per project makes sense if:

You do this type of project often enough that you know how long it should take,
Your client has a budget that doesn’t allow for an open-ended number of hours,
You want to offer a package deal, such as a website and hosting for a certain price,
The project is relatively short and specific.

Price Per Project And Per Hour

There is one other option, which Dixie Vogel, a web designer with more than 10 years of experience, uses. You can use per hour pricing in some situations and per project in others:

“For larger projects, I price by project (after figuring out a time estimate to multiply against my base rate). I dislike time tracking and the feeling of rushing through work to keep my clients from being overcharged. I’m also frequently interrupted, which made tracking difficult. For small, limited scope projects, I do bill hourly as I tend to underestimate the time on simpler tasks and ended up undercharging. Either way, however, I give my clients a range at the outset and stick very close to that.”

How Low Should I Go?

It can be tempting to price yourself below your competition, especially if you can bring in enough income to cover your expenses even at those lower prices. It seems like a lower price would get you more work and more clients. But it’s a temptation you should avoid: not all clients assume that a low price means that a particular web designer is offering a deal. Instead, many prospective clients will think that there is a reason your prices are below other web designers with similar portfolios and skills. Maybe there’s something wrong with your work or maybe you’re a particularly slow worker — a low price could be more easily explained by a problem than by a web designer trying to set a price lower than his or her competition.

Charging For All The Time You Spend

There’s a more subtle version of this problem that can appear depending on just what you charge for. Many new web designers charge only for the time the spend actually creating and implementing a website. When Main first started designing websites, about nine years ago, she fell into this trap. Now, her prices cover a lot more:
We used to have entire email exchanges and design processes that went uncharged, we now log all of that time and charge for it accordingly.
Beyond the actual time you spend on designing a website, you can and should bill your clients for the following:

Revisions: It’s rare for a client to like a design exactly the way you come up with it, but you can bill them for the time you spend revising your designs.

Education: With some clients, you can spend hours going back and forth, educating them on what a website design actually includes. That is time you’ve spent on your project and it’s time you can bill to your client.

Set up: Some designers take care of setting up hosting, if not providing it entirely. The time it takes to get everything ready on the hosting end of things is an expense your client can cover.

Explaining Your Prices

There may be a client or two who questions your prices. It seems to happen more with clients that aren’t familiar with the work necessary to create a website, but it can happen with a wide variety of client types. As long as you can explain your prices — and you remain firm on them — clients are typically willing to work with you. Green has had clients try bargain and barter with him on his rates:

We didn’t budge, so they chose someone else…the client who left because we wouldn’t go down in price ended up coming back to us after the company they DID go with didn’t deliver what they’d promised.

When a prospective client wants to argue prices with you, it can be hard to stand firm, if only because you want the project even if it means dropping your rates a little. But there are a lot of reasons that a web designer can ask for high prices and get them:

You can complete a project significantly faster than an amateur. It’s cheaper to pay your hourly rate and get a good design quickly than to let a non-designer drag out the process for weeks or even months.

You do more than just design — you manage the project as a whole, from creating a design to coordinating content.

You’re a professional. Your clients wouldn’t ask a vendor to drop their prices.

It can be hard for a new web designer to price a project high enough, simply because of a lack of confidence. As you build your skills and gain confidence, it becomes easier to quote higher prices to clients without worrying that the price is too high. Stephanie Hobbs, a web designer based in South Carolina, has increased her prices along with her confidence:

When I started in 2003, my first paying website was $450 for 5 pages. Once I figured out a reasonable time estimate, I offered a four page site for $600. As my skill level has increased and I’ve raised my hourly rate, that number has gone to $800, $1000, and now $1200. My hourly rate started at $40 (I think, it might have been $50) and is now at $75. But I’ve raised my rates because I was very low to begin with because I didn’t have confidence in myself.

When Should I Increase My Prices?

What you charge today isn’t necessarily what you should be charging for it a year from now. As you add to your skills, as well as your reputation, you’ll not only be more valuable to your clients but you’ll be able to demonstrate your worth with a larger portfolio of completed projects. You’ll be able to increase your prices — and you should.

Vogel started freelancing at $25 per hour. She actually considers clients not complaining about prices a bad sign: “If no potential client complains, you’re not charging enough.”

As she raised her prices, Vogel would start quoting new projects at her higher rates, as well as informing her existing clients.

For any rate increases, I’ve always sent out notices to my clients explaining what I was doing beforehand and giving them all plenty of opportunity to opt out. I’ve never lost a single client raising my rates.

Timing A Price Increase

Timing when you’re going to announce your rate increase can be tricky, especially when you have existing clients or you’ve already offered an estimate for a new project. New clients are much easier to deal with: it’s just a matter of quoting your new rate as you talk about new projects. With existing clients, however, you may find that they’ve gotten used to your old rates and aren’t prepared to budget more for your services. There are a couple of times that it can be easier to announce those new rates:

The New Year: With the end of the year approaching, you can simply send out a notice that your rates will be going up on the first of the year. The same approaches works with the beginning of a new month if you aren’t prepared to wait until the end of the year.

New Projects: If your client brings you a new project, it can be an ideal time to make the switchover. You can explain that for future projects, you’ve increased your rates, which provides you and your client a chance to talk about the matter.

Contracts: If you have a contract with your client to provide certain services, like maintenance, on a continuing basis, that contract should have an ending date. That date gives you an opportunity to renegotiate your rates.

Increasing your prices may not always be just a matter of making more money. If you want to be able to offer a discount on your work, as Hobbs does, having higher rates is necessary:

I do offer a 20% discount for people in my networking group, and a 30% discount to nonprofits (which is part of why I raised my rates from $1000… I’m actually making closer to what I intended to make, since many of my clients are from my networking organization).

Prices in the Wild

All the information on how to set prices may not be enough to help you decide what is a reasonable price for your web design work. Actually seeing what other web designers charge is necessary to decide if your prices are comparable.

Mary-Frances Main charges $60 per hour for most web design work. For programming, her rate is $72 per hour and for Flash, her rate is $65 per hour.

Noel Green charges between $2,500 and $5,000 for a complete website, guaranteeing a 4-week turnaround on projects. Projects at the upper end of that range typically involve more complex features, such as shopping carts.

Dixie Vogel charges between $60 and $80 per hour for most web design work.

Stephanie Hobbs‘s rates start at $1,200 for a 4-page website, add to her estimate for larger projects and sites with extra features, like Flash.

These prices differ due to factors like the designer’s location, their experience and even the type of clients they prefer to work with. But, in each case, the web designer in question has thought through not only what he or she needs to earn but how comparable those prices are to other designers and where the prices can be increased.

About the author

Thursday Bram is a full-time freelancer who has been working on her own for more than seven years. She writes about the business side of freelancing and maintains her own website at ThursdayBram.com.

About the Author

The jungle is alive: Be it a collaboration between two or more authors or an article by an author not contributing regularly. In these cases you find the Noupe Editorial Team as the ones who made it. Guest authors get their own little bio boxes below the article, so watch out for these.

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Comments and Discussions
  • Trandi, 05 January 2010

    Nice article, maybe i will become a freelancer

  • versak, 05 January 2010

    i am not charging nearly enough…

  • Lucian, 05 January 2010

    Funny, at the beginning of the last year I started out as a freelancer with $15/hour, unsure which were the prices in industry. Now I charge 4 times more and I still feel I can go higher. I am very good at estimating my time so I prefer providing fix prices to my clients. In case they need new features I re-estimate based on my hourly rate. The article gives a very good idea about a freelancer should charge normally.

  • Adam, 05 January 2010

    No offense but the work of those four freelancers is awful. Their websites are horrendous and they should not be charging what they charge…

    • DjaVu, 05 January 2010

      You might be right Adam but I personnaly think that maybe they invested more time on their client work and/or they invest more time in advertising/getting clients. The last point if you are really good at it you only need basics skills to make most of the clients happy…

      • leigh ann, 05 January 2010

        im sorry but i have to disagree. if you are a good designer – that is not something that gets thrown out the window when you dont have time. YES, something you rush on wont be as good – but it wont be BAD either.

      • Mark, 05 January 2010

        OK so lets put aside the design element of the examples and look at just their technique… One doesn’t even declare a doctype and another doesn’t even use css for layout. Instead they chose to use tables… Very outdated and charging the amount they are is really just, in my opinion, unethical. If they don’t realize they are doing it then they need to read up on modern practices and compliance. Sure my dad did web design when I was in high school but I wouldn’t trust him with one of my clients sites now. Times change and the client deserves the most up to date technology…

      • Christian, 07 January 2010

        Unethical? Isn’t that a bit of an exaggeration? I highly doubt there is any malice here, it’s simply a few people trying to make a living just like everyone else.

      • Erica, 10 January 2010

        I don’t know if I’d say it’s unethical. If there are clients willing to pay that much for a website that looks like it arrived on a time machine from 1999, then that’s on them, not the “designer.” They should do a little more homework before settling on someone. Of course I agree that many clients wouldn’t know good design if it smacked them in the face anyway.

        I think one of the biggest problems in our profession is that the term “web designer” is defined so broadly. There’s a “design” firm in my town that is really more of a web host/development outfit. To say they have disdain for designers who come from an actual design background would be an understatement. Their idea of a good designer is someone who has mastered PHP. To my mind, a person who programs and makes the site functional on the back end is a developer; a person who makes the site usable and aesthetically appealing on the front end is a designer. Few people do both well which is why when I’m working on something that requires more than HTML, CSS, and basic Javascript, I subcontract to a programmer to do the heavy code lifting.

    • jennifer, 05 January 2010

      ^ oh my goodness, i was thinking the same thing. 1990s web design, anyone? yowza. also, I am def not charging enough.

    • Amy, 05 January 2010

      Adam I would love to see some of your work. Great post by the way!

      • nashwa, 15 February 2010

        Yes Adam me too want to see your work; Thanks for this post

    • J, 05 January 2010

      I completely agree with you. BUT if they’re able to do it, way to go! I know plenty of AMAZING designers who have a hard time making ends meet (myself included from time to time).

    • Marina, 05 January 2010

      Normally I’d say whether someone is good or bad is subjective, but in this case, I tend to agree. Maybe they spend more time on their client sites than on their own.

      But considering two of them charge $60 an hour, and it doesn’t take much time to make a site like theirs, they are pretty reasonable and cheap.

    • Laia, 05 January 2010

      I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks these 4 designers are not very good examples…

      • Teren, 07 January 2010

        Agreed. The pictures provided in the post look much better. It would be nice to see them be able to update or refresh their sites.

        But I guess, in reality, as much as I hate to admit it, if it works then it works – regardless of standards and what not.

    • Kirsten Wright, 05 January 2010

      Absolutely 100% agree Adam – if you can’t create a stellar website for yourself, why would anyone want you to do theirs? I know that many designers claim not to have time to work on their own stuff, but you are really just shooting yourself in the foot if that is what your site looks like.

    • Eric G, 05 January 2010

      Alas, Adam, there are good designers that don’t charge enough. If those ‘awful’ designers can get work at their rates, God bless ‘em. Really.

    • Lindsey Lohan, 06 January 2010

      Get over it! It’s a free market enterprise out there. What matters is that their clients, not you, are satisfied. I they like, let them charge $200/hr. That’s their cup of tea. They should be applauded and we should emulate.

      Simple, short and sharp.

    • Joe, 06 January 2010

      Those sites are a little dated, but if they can get the kind of money they are charging then it should be easy peasy for people with better work.

    • LindaB, 06 January 2010

      I agree,1200 for a 4 page website that looks like that, wow. the others were just as bad, backgrounds off, ugly graphics, what the heck?
      I’m not super genius programmer, but I know what looks good and none of their work did. I don’t understand the reasoning. I am honestly and truly puzzled.
      LindaB

    • Christian, 07 January 2010

      Although I can agree that the rates are really high compared to the quality level of their work. I can agree that the work is dated in appearance and quality, and is not modern and sleek design with good UI, etc. etc.

      The point I want to make is that as people, we need to respect each other and there are much nicer ways to phrase things. Your comment is unprofessional, and downright mean. These designers aren’t acting maliciously, or out to rip anybody off. They’re trying to make a living just like anyone else. And if they can get paid the rates they want AND make their simple little clients happy, no harm no foul. We need to be much kinder to each other, and you could have phrased your thought in a much more constructive way than “awful”. Just think about it. Where is your portfolio? We’d like to see it… and if anyone is a jerk to you, I’ll definitely stick up for you as well.

      • Michael, 07 January 2010

        I don’t see how calling these designers clients simple is respectful.

        Those who live in glass houses…

      • Christian, 07 January 2010

        Not sure where you’re going with that glass houses thing. But I was commenting on Adam’s statement:

        “No offense but the work of those four freelancers is awful. Their websites are horrendous and they should not be charging what they charge…”

        I thought that was pretty rude. How do you think they’ll feel if they see that?

      • Gerg, 10 January 2010

        Like these people care what anyone thinks.
        Designers should not be emotionally attached to their work anyhow.

      • Angela, 22 July 2010

        everyone is emotionally attached to design work….no one has it all figured out….except for 5 or 6 of these comments all I see and hear are a bunch of pompass people upset they don’t get paid as well or who think their designs are so much better….not interested in getting any help from any of you, thank you! If you are this arrogant in real life, that may be the reason some of you have problems getting clients.

    • Genuinechris Johnson, 13 January 2010

      Dixie is on my team. I can’t speak for the rest, but I can speak for you: you are exhibiting cowardly, jealous, unethical, envious and controlling behavior.

      How dare you say what someone else can charge? How dare you call it unethical when someone freely negotiates a rate and gets it? Maybe you’re terrible at selling. Maybe you’re not charging enough.

      She puts her work out there…and more than anyone I’ve dealt with on the web (and I deal with loads of folks), she’s got integrity and she’s got the backs of all the clients that she’s dealing with.

      Picking her apart because you can’t sell is jealousy. THe green monster will kill your business.

    • Johnny B. Truant, 13 January 2010

      Haha, what the fuck. If a person quotes X and gets X and the client is happy, that’s all that matters. There are no real ethics about pricing in an open free market where there is no outright deception, because NOBODY IS FORCING ANYONE TO HIRE ANYONE ELSE.

      If you think a person isn’t worth the fee, don’t pay it. But complaining about what anyone “should” charge people that aren’t you is moronic.

      • Johnny B. Truant, 13 January 2010

        P.S: I work with Dixie all the time and she’s awesome. Her customer service alone makes her worth her rate.

    • Rachel, 22 June 2012

      Couldn’t agree more, Adam

  • Ingus, 05 January 2010

    Really great article. Being that I just started freelancing part-time I was charging per project, now I may try both per project and per hour.

  • Brandon Diaz, 05 January 2010

    I’ve been working with an hourly estimate system. Basically I say, “I work for X an hour, and I estimate this project will take Y hours.”

    In my contract I fill in a spot saying I won’t bill over my estimated hours, that way it reduces any uneasiness about me taking my sweet time.

    • Bryan, 06 February 2010

      If you are telling your clients that you won’t bill past your estimate, you may as well just charge them a fixed price.

      If you go way past the estimate, you’re not going to make any more money with the hourly approach or the fixed price.

      If you get done sooner, you just make that much more profit.

  • Dan Redding, 05 January 2010

    Thank you for discussing actual numbers in this article. Many blog posts on the subject remain very vague.

  • ipwa, 05 January 2010

    Hahaha I knew when I saw Mary-Francis Mane’s website that it was table based design and I was right! A professional web designer shouldn’t have her portfolio on a table based layout, no way. Nothing against her, I bet she’s a lovely person and her clients love her.

  • Dana, 05 January 2010

    Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve always wanted to know what other people charged and how they went about doing it. It also reaffirms that when clients freak out about anything over $500 (yes, I’ve had those clients!) that I’m not out to lunch!

  • RackWire, 05 January 2010

    Great Article seems like any way you go the client will always want more work or features that the initial scope so hourly helps at times for the small projects.

  • rg, 05 January 2010

    ************************************
    What the hell is going on ???
    ************************************

    Thursday Bram – are you joking?

    What were your sources for this article? Where did you find it? Or when did you write it? Ten or more years ago?

    You’ve given us ridiculous prices or you live on other planet. I don’t know if you are familiar with these “webdesigners” but if you are, you should change the gang.

  • Martin Riley, 05 January 2010

    Great article! I’m based in the UK and market rates are slightly different over here but this article has given me a lot to think about.

    And I agree, the work of those designers is not that great, and I usually think everyone’s work is better than my own.

  • Chris, 05 January 2010

    Great post, the majority of blogs do avoid the actual numbers and it’s good to have a few to compare.

    I also offer discounts to non-profits and certain associates and have the same process with setting prices.

    It would be good to have a post like this with UK prices, not 100% sure that the $ to £ conversion is 100% accurate with exchange rates at the moment…

  • Steven, 05 January 2010

    I have always used the local auto repair shop rate for websites. It takes into consideration things such as cost of living. If you are doing everyday Ford websites charge what the Ford dealer charges. If you have the skills and do specialty sites with a lot of programming, then charge as the exotic auto shop does.

  • Wow these are great! I am definitely bookmarking this page for Future Reference

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Chris Turnquist, 05 January 2010

    I think that if an individual is using current standards and is moderately skilled in programming and graphic design, the prices discussed sound extremely low. The designers that are discussed aren’t using current design/programming standards. You have to account for the time it takes to meet with the client and make revisions. You also have to account for your office overhead, even if it’s a home office. Please stop selling yourselves short people. This isn’t India.

  • Jeromy, 05 January 2010

    Great article.
    I have had both good and bad experience with developing websites. I currently don’t have the budget to hire someone full time, so I generally farm out by project. I like to be very specific about what I want, I have learned the hard way, it is easy to go off track. Lately I have found that with wordpress and all the themes out there, I can get my basic layout figured out myself. So, for the most part, I now only hire graphic guys, and the same principals are required when selecting any outsource service. I figure the ultimate best way is to have your own in house team, graphics, coding, design, etc. Then you get consistency and you build relationships with your team. That said, I hire the same guy through elance for much of my work, and in this way I am still building the working relationship.
    Cheers!
    Jeromy

  • Rob, 05 January 2010

    Great article! Thanks!!

  • Ben, 05 January 2010

    If you are charging much less than $5,000 for any website project, you either are a) a beginner, b) suck horribly, c) trying to destroy our industry.

    A larger agency nearby STARTS at $15,000. I’m a small business with only two people in a small town, so we can get away with the $5-$15000 market. You will get burned trying to do a good job on smaller budgets.

    • Joe, 07 January 2010

      Great article.
      I think more web designers and devs need to post their prices, it will really help people just starting out and I think it will keep rates in our industry up. Often times when people under quote they don’t know any better. It is so hard to find pricing guidelines out there.

    • Bryan, 06 February 2010

      I tend to agree with you, Ben, but it depends on the Market.

      Certainly in New York, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, etc. you are probably in the right ballpark for pricing. A designer in Billings, Montana most likely won’t be able to get away with those fees however.

      It also depends on the competition in the market. Regardless of what city you are in, you have to bill relative to what the competition charges. If you’re going to charge $10,000 for a brochure site, and the other major players in town are charging $1,500, you’re either going to have to be a hell of a salesman, or you’re going to be in trouble.

  • Max, 05 January 2010

    I do both. At the same time.

    I charge per project (which is a rock solid plan fixed in contract), however my clients are responsible for and crazy ideas they encounter for extra per hour charge.

    This way I a) can clearly answer “how much?” from the very beginning b) cover any risk of sudden mind change of my existing clients.

    I also charge “procrastination tax” if client “forgets” to provide materials or answer my mail.

    My advise is to always remind your client that you’re not the only person responsible for project success.

    • Buddy, 06 January 2010

      Max,

      I do the same, but never thought of a “procrastination tax”. That is great. It is my single biggest frustration when a client wants a site done in 10 days then takes 2 weeks to approve the initial design or get website copy to me. Genius!

  • Graham King, 05 January 2010

    Based only on their rates, I would guess your four designers live on the east or west coast of the US.

    I have gotten hourly quotes for web design all the way from $5 (Malaysia) to $125 (Bay Area, USA).

    From two adverts on authenticjobs.com, each garnering 100+ responses here’s the breakdown:

    - India and Eastern Europe are ~$20-30, with some really dodgy portfolios, and much templating.
    - South America is ~$25-40, with many excellent portfolios.
    - Mid-West USA and Southern Europe are $40 – $60. Mid-western designers seem to have lots of church websites in their portfolios.
    - Coastal USA and UK are $60+ with no real upper limit.

    This is all for individuals, agency bids are usually way higher.

  • Fred, 05 January 2010

    when client pay me for chunks of time, i charge $60 per hour or more, but when its a project that I do from my home office, i base it on perceived value as much as time. I build CMS for some clients that take 3 hours, plus client conversations (2 hours) and i charge them by the product, 3500.

    it balances out the other types of projects that arent as clearly defined. so try to productize, either youll be able to charge more for the reusable product or the volume will make up for it.

  • Glenn, 05 January 2010

    I have to agree about the four examples being rather disappointing.

    I’m just really starting to learn to build sites and figuring out pricing has been a real struggle.

    CleanCutNC.com is the first website I sold. It was a simple 4 pager for $500 built entirely from scratch. I have no idea what the price should have been and some opinions and critiques would be greatly appreciated.

  • Asinox, 05 January 2010

    But, you don’t have another’s freelance’s example???

  • Jordan Walker, 05 January 2010

    This article is very helpful for designers and developers alike. I choose to charge by the hour, but not round. Every minute I work, I bill. The most important factor is delivering to your clients as list of completed tasks in 15 minute intervals. They then know exactly what they are paying for, instead of a ball park “website updates”.

  • Eko Setiawan, 05 January 2010

    I finally have a guide now … this article really helped me, as a beginner…Thanks..

  • Kevin Donnigan Designs, 05 January 2010

    Fantastic post. It reaffirms me that my prices are competitive as I am still trying to make it into the freelance realm.

  • underpaid, 05 January 2010

    WTH, I had no idea that i was was charging so less until i saw those “talented web designers websites and rates.”
    Even ARPANET’s first interface design was better.

  • kailoon, 05 January 2010

    I think I charge waaay to low, if comparing to their rate and the quality I CAN see from their sites… Pretty dumb…

  • Charly programmer, 06 January 2010

    I am new to freelance world. I think I need estimate how much hours cost any project. It is my choice.

  • Ivan Miši?, 06 January 2010

    Nice post. Werry helpfull.

  • Stefan, 06 January 2010

    Hahaha, funny examples you got there. They should PAY me as a client if I wanted anything made by them… really, thats AWEFUL.

  • Nelutu, 06 January 2010

    Good article :)

  • Amy Irwin, 06 January 2010

    Nice article! It’s interesting to see how other people set their rates. Thanks!

  • Jamie, 06 January 2010

    great article! This answered a lot of question I have been having lately.

  • Ivo, 06 January 2010

    Pricing is something which relies heavily upon the project details. Every project is different, and requires a different amount of resources to complete.

    My hourly rates range between $35 – $50 / hour, although I do prefer pricing per project.

  • RustyDog, 06 January 2010

    This is an interesting post. I’m glad to see hourly rates mentioned, but am a bit disappointed by the design that goes along with each of these hourly rates. I’m no rock star designer but I can see that these design examples aren’t up to par with current design and [front-end] development trends. So, this leaves me confused as to whether I’m not charging enough… or if it’s just a distinction I make between myself and others who call themselves freelancers. I operate under an assumed company name rather than just my own name. I feel I can charge higher rates because I classify myself as a small “agency” rather than a work-at-home “freelancer”.

    My rates vary by task and I, too, charge for individual things such as Client Communication, Discovery (of the clients’ industry), Design and Development. But those prices are only from $40-$120/hr. I group design with front-end development because I feel it’s necessary for any “web designer” to have XHTML, CSS and JS skills.

    @Graham King – I think your observations are entirely accurate. Most big-city web people charge upwards of $150/hr.

    @Jeromy – Sorry to say, but your Elance escapades are sadly disappointing. I think it goes against what this article is trying to convey. However, I digress.

  • Gregor Colnik, 06 January 2010

    Wow great article

    Now i have something to show to those unbelieving “how can you charge so much for a web site” folks :)

  • Daquan Wright, 06 January 2010

    Those designers probably know how to market and “sell” themselves to their clients. Regardless of what you think, this article is proof that knowing how to market (reputation) > than a few pieces of eye candy (not that I think it doesn’t count). I didn’t really see any dazzling designs on their site, but I did notice they list various server-side technologies as their expertise (which adds a lot of value). Perhaps most of the people with good portfolios just aren’t marketing to their full potential?

    I’ve spent my time learning HTML, CSS, and PHP. I intend to charge $300 for simple websites and raise that rate as my experience increases. I find that fixed rates are better for beginners or short projects when you know how long it’ll take. Right now I don’t want to worry about a deadline and I figure hourly rates are better for people who know their shit true and blue. Bad idea to be charging hourly rates when you aren’t proficient in the technology yet. Fixed rates give more room for marginal errors and I find the client usually relaxes during the process. Rushing won’t help your portfolio either.

    Rates are never going to be the same, mainly because of a difference in experience and in locations. India is going to charge a lot less than United States (even if it’s the same project, which means location > project) and a lot of clients would argue that they can go over there. If they do just let them walk. I feel it’s great to do something you’re passionate about…unless you can’t make a living. If you value yourself and your precious time, then don’t allow anyone to put you down and make sure you’re well paid for your services. You don’t argue with the tech guy when he comes over your house to install something, now do you?

  • Oleg, 06 January 2010

    The article is great, the content is really good, indepth and helpful. The examples of freelancers at the end are of course below average however this does not change the fact that the article itself is extremely well written and very useful.

  • Irene, 06 January 2010

    I’m pretty good and get better all the time with quoting on a per project basis but I go through a lot of discovery, q&a, etc. to find out exactly what the client wants, knows, thinks, etc. I always give my hourly rates and then maintenance, training, updating, etc. is by the hour.

    As far as the designs above…as long as the client is happy, I think that is what matters. I have client designs that I personally hate…but that’s what they wanted and they loved the results.

    With the economy I lowered my rate but this year, I’ve raised them again. Yippy! Happy New Years!

  • Buddy, 06 January 2010

    Good article. I love reading the comments so I can gauge where my prices are at with the rest of the industry. I normally charge per project, estimating my hours and multiplying by $100, but often give discounts to non-profits and churches, as well as agencies that refer me business on a regular basis.

    My hourly rate for updates and maintenance is $75 and I bill only for the time worked, down to the minute.

  • Sacha, 07 January 2010

    I’ve charged $50/hour up to now but for the new year I’m going to start charging $60.

    But I do things a little bit differently than most people: I let clients buy a small number of work hours first. For example they buy 5 hours of my time (no matter the total length of the whole project). When those 5 hours are exhausted, I show them what I have and they can decide if they want to commit for more hours or leave it at this.
    This way the client has only spent $250, I haven’t worked for nothing, and everybody is happy.

  • xRommelx, 07 January 2010

    this article is very useful, but here in Costa Rica, the client pay 8-11 USD per hour :S

  • Allen, 07 January 2010

    Well I’m glad someone took the time to write an article like this to give a ballpark of how you should approach a project and what you should sell yourself at price wise.

    I know far too many freelancers who charge way under what they should be, either for the fact of they don’t believe in themselves and feel asking for $60+ an hr is way too much, or they just haven’t been educated to how to sell their time, work, and self. It bugs me to no end when I go to bid and I see so many low bids, I use to try and compete and cut 10% here and there, but usually my work speaks for itself, and I know I’m worth what I put as my bid. If the client isn’t willing to even consider paying more than ‘gasp what do you mean it can cost $5000 for a site’ then odds are they will be a pain throughout and after the project anyways. The one thing I convey to them is you are selling your company, so it will only be worth and viewed to what you put into it. You can clearly pick out a fresh out of the box freelancer vs. one that has been around the block a few times. I’m one to not publish my portfolio either, if asked to see it I’ll give a secure login for them to view and control what they can see.

    Good write, if I could do it all over again I’d be a Dr. though… anyone want to help to pay for med school?

  • Bill, 07 January 2010

    Thanx it was really helpful, I was having this kind of trouble lately: how much such I charge. But one thing I notice you talked about hosting, but didn’t put any further detail about it. For a simple web page for example, how much should I charge? I thought about 5$ per month, but can I really ask him 5$ per month, while it’s around 15$ per month? reply is appreciate, tx in advance.

  • Kreas, 07 January 2010

    I personally built my pricing based on recurring revenue. With Design I always host the site, no exceptions. With that being said there is a hosting fee involved. I bundle hosting with a maintenance fee which comes up to about $350 a month with a one year contract. That may sound like a nice chunk of change for hosting but with that I also provide minor content updates, analytics and some light SEO.

    The minimum cost to start a project is $1500 which includes design and initial content with cap of 50 hours. After the site goes live or the cap is met I then charge $125 per hour for overtime and feature updates.

    Using that model my average site brings in at a minimum $5700 with the average being between 8k and 10k with a recurring annual revenue of $4200.

    • Neil, 07 January 2010

      Seriously though, I don’t think I could find 4 example websites as bad as provided in this example?!

      I’m sure the people themselves are lovely but the work is what we are judging, and it’s baaaad, new designers wash your eyes out after viewing those examples!

      I charge both hourly and per project, I have an hourly rate of $80AUD+GST with a basic xhtml web design and build starting at around $2500AUD+GST, with CMS’s they start at $5000AUD+GST.
      As Kreas said managing a clients hosting is also a great way to get passive income, I would recommend doing this.

  • Rishi Luchun, 08 January 2010

    Great article, some good tips here, thanks

  • Robby, 08 January 2010

    You should never charge by an hourly rate. Hourly rates should only be a gauge by how you determine the price of the project. Here is the reason why…

    As your experience and skill sets improve, your time involved in certain tasks will get shorter (more so on the development side, vs design side).

    If you charge $75/hr, a project that took you 20 hours last year to complete, now only takes you 10. By billing hourly, you have now cut your profit in half.

    Pricing is one of the hardest things to develop as a freelancer. I typically figure out my estimated time involved. Add 20% – 30% for unexpected delays, and stick to it. If a client can not afford the entire cost up front, you can then leverage splitting up the payment over time (ie. 1/4 over 4 months).

    The best skill I can suggest for a freelancer to develop is trust. Do what you say you are going to do, do it when you said you would do it, and answer the damn phone / emails. If you do those 3 things, you can charge what you need to charge, and clients will return back to you.

  • Jesse, 08 January 2010

    Great article. Very informative.

  • Deepz, 09 January 2010

    Hi,

    Am based on India,a Frond End Developer/Designer,usually am working for the clients from US,UK and AUS ,very rarely am getting projects from Europe.But if my clients know that am based on India they paying me very less if it is hourly rate 30$,for development and design.Even for 5 Page static website with custom made design also they ready to give me 200$-400$.When i read this article i simply feel ashamed of me what am getting as pay from my clients.

    Any way now onwards i like to charge me clients like normal as said in article.

    Nice Article !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Chris, 09 January 2010

    I think what this really shows is that it’s all about your marketing and how you find clients. I’m not the best designer/developer in the world by any means but I get more work than the good designers I know.

    Same could be said for these folks. It’s the difference between a talented designer/developer and someone who is just good at business. Usually you’re not great at both.

    Best of luck to all the freelancers out there. We need it, clients are cheap, lol.

  • Chris, 11 January 2010

    Customers buy for their reasons, not yours.

    We can all sit here and wonder how these designers are charging so much for such ugly sites (design and code-wise), but in the end customers choose to work with people they know, like, and trust.

  • Walt K, 12 January 2010

    Dumb simple trick that works wonders:

    If you quote a project fee, always make a quirky number. $1870. $2344. $6720. It sounds like it’s based on something concrete, rather than daydreamed up. Same with hourly rates. $67/hour for CSS changes. $132 for illustration, whatever. (Incidentally if you are UNDER $100 USD you are probably giving your stuff away. Sounds scary,but you work more efficiently and more profitably, once you convince yourself you’re worth it. It’s a head game. Learned this the hard way.)

    And language counts, too. NEVER say “I charge. . .” or “The cost is . . .” “I require an upfront fee of. . .”

    Talk about what they get: “Building the new section would involve between $3300 and 4700 so depending on how many products you want to include. . .

    “I can see a way to recast the entire site for $2750, which would include new templates for your customer stories and a blog section for your technical team.”

    It sounds trivial, but it changes the entire tenor of the discussion. From ‘You pay. . . to You get.’

  • JJ, 01 February 2010

    What a fabulous article! Thank you. However, the example sites were disgraceful. There just isn’t a nicer way to say it! Kind of spoiled the article a bit for me. You can’t talk credibly about pricing professional web design work and then quote people who seem to be far from professional grade. Being in the business of designing websites does not a web professional make :( At least I feel very comfortable with my rates :)

  • monica of hola!design, 14 April 2010

    I have to charge more! Great article… I specially enjoyed reading the comments. I think is better to charge by the project.

  • Hitesh Mehta, 06 May 2010

    Great Tips! Thanks for sharing.

  • Nicole Martin, 22 July 2010

    I have worked with Stephanie Hobbs of Pixel & Paper Design for years. I have an awesome site and could not be more thrilled with it. I get a ton of comments on my website all the time. People love how fun it is, how easy it is to navigate and how much information is provided.

    Check out my website at RaspberryMoonST.com to see some of her work.

  • Wilson Tinoco, 07 November 2010

    Is definitely blogengine as good as wp somewhat? Should be since it is starting to be popluar these days.

  • QuiZick, 10 April 2012

    I want to go on recored as saying “procrastination tax” I want to say 1st off very good article. 2nd I have been delighted by some the comments and upset by others. I cannot believe some of you guys are using terms like I can get away with charging $15,000 for a website. You may be very talented and your sites may be worth that money however it scared me when you said you can get away with charging that as a minimum. I deal with people all the time who have been burned by web designers. I hope we are talking about corporations websites or sites that took you the time to be worthy of the money you charge. I have been the owner of 3 companies they are all still in business and only this has anything to do with web design or marketing. I have seen this from both viewpoints. Fact is you should never rip off your client. If you can get a large amount of money easily from somebody just because you can don’t it will most likely come back to bite you. I built my other companies on doing the right thing put in more work than you charge for obviously you need to make a living I’m not saying don’t give them a high bill but remember if you have truly deserved the amount of money you’re getting did you put that amount of work into the website more over is it that good is it worth what you are charging? If it is to feel proud you have nothing to worry about. If it is not and you are a company that believes they have the right to overcharge others I have seen too many people tell me exactly what they paid for their site who did what and if they felt the work was worth the cost. Today content management systems rule the pure web developer is somebody I hold a lot of respect for. I would never tell my customer well I can do this for you sir offering up a handmade beautiful website for way more money than it should cost if I could save them some money making it on WordPress or many other platforms. I would much rather make a customer happy and inform them so they are going to refer me or come back to me. I also think that everyone here either understands SEO or at least will admit their site new matter how beautiful they make it without being listed well in Google is almost worthless to the customer. I am not saying get into marketing but buddy up because selling people a beautiful website is only half of the deal. I would rather take half for the website and say give me 6 months if your return on investment is not double then pay me nothing. If it is doubled I have a agreed to set fee. People need to pay attention to other businesses many of you are just one guy or 2 who never been in business.

  • NicoDavila, 23 June 2012

    Nice article!
    I live in Argentina, and we have one more reasons for increase the prices besides of the reasons you post: Economy Inflation

    That is all the things you buying “yesterday”, today it cost the double. Sad but real.

  • Josh W, 07 June 2013

    Wow! You weren’t kidding. Those example designer’s sites are terrible except for Noel Green’s Park East site, which I imagine has been updated since this article came out in 2010. I’m amazed at how bad the other three look, especially now that it’s 2013.

    Thanks, Ms. Bram, for this article. I’m in the early stages of really getting started in web design and need a solid pricing structure. This article was definitely great insight.

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