One of the most popular blog posts I’ve written discusses how much to pay for a website, which focuses on the client side of web design and development. Lately, though, I’ve noticed a lot of search traffic for things like how much to charge for a website and what should i charge for web design, so I figured it was time to address that end of the spectrum as well.
One of the first things you should know about rates for design and development is that they vary wildly. There is no magic formula, and no one will mail you a suggested rate list if you decide to go into business building websites for other people. That said, there are a few ways to determine what kind of rates are fair based on the client’s needs, your skills, and a number of other factors.
What to Charge for a Website – Questions to Ask Yourself
1. What can I actually do?
There is a huge difference between installing a premade WordPress theme and designing and/or developing a completely custom website. DO NOT exaggerate your skill set when pricing a project for a client – it’s crappy, dishonest, and it won’t earn you any loyal fans down the road when something inevitably goes wrong.
Don’t mistake me; there are plenty of people who will gladly pay someone to set up a hosting account, install WordPress, and slap a $25 theme on it. But if that’s what you do, don’t call yourself a designer or developer because you’re not. (Sorry, but it’s true.) Instead, offer WordPress setup services and realize that you can’t charge thousands of dollars for a service that requires 15 minutes and the ability to read and use Google.
2. What would I expect to pay someone else for the same quality I provide?
Personally, it’s hard for me to imagine paying someone else to build a website since I can do it myself. But when I really think about my own level of knowledge and skill, what value I can and cannot provide to clients, and what problems I can help them solve, that gives me an idea of the range I should be in when I determine my rates.
3. What are other people charging?
The best way to gain a reference point for pricing is to look at the work of other designers, devs, WordPress setup people, or however you define yourself. If possible, try to look at their work in terms of the skill required, rather than thinking, I don’t like the way this site looks and assuming the person does poor work.
I absolutely cringe when I think about what I was charging even a couple of years ago, and I’m sure one day I’ll cringe at the rates I charge right now. But the only way I know what’s fair is by comparing my work to that of other people in my niche. Joining a mastermind group gave me a place to bounce pricing ideas off other people and it has been incredibly valuable.
4. What are my clients willing to pay?
This is a biggie. Once you’ve been building websites for awhile, you’ll begin to see patterns in the type of clients who hire you. In my case, when I did client work, I got a lot of people from the same niche because of word of mouth.
The problem? The niche was personal finance, where people are (obviously) concerned about saving money and getting the best deal on everything. I had many great clients who valued my work, but I had just as many who were obsessed with getting a discount or asking for features outside the scope of their projects.
I realized pretty quickly that I would never be able to raise rates while I was working with clients in the personal finance niche. Eventually I made the tough decision to price myself out of that group completely. And you know what happened? Some other people in that niche began offering cheap theme customizations, filling the gap and taking the clients I no longer wanted. I found new clients who were willing to pay what I was charging. The world didn’t end.
Should you charge by the hour or by the project?
Plenty of people have written articles about whether you should do hourly work or price on a per-project basis. I won’t go into a lot of detail repeating what others have already said, but here’s my philosophy on that.
In most cases, hourly work is unfair. Why should I make less money for having the experience to do things quickly? I can knock out a development project in two days, but does that mean my work is worth less than that of someone who takes a month to do the same work? In most cases, I prefer pricing by the project, taking into account not only the time it takes but the knowledge and skills I bring to the job.
I do have an hourly rate for certain things, like training. In those cases I am literally trading one hour of my time for dollars, and I’m okay with that. But that doesn’t mean all my work needs to be hourly.
For more thoughts on pricing, check out these resources from some awesome people:
Double Your Freelancing Rate (Brennan Dunn)
Why You Should Never Charge Hourly (Freelance Folder)
Are you charging too much for your services?
Rates are such an interesting thing. After adjusting my own pricing many times over the years, here are some signs that you might be charging too much:
- Your proposals are consistently rejected. Rejection isn’t always a bad thing – you can’t and shouldn’t say yes to everyone. But if you are sending out tons of proposals and people keep saying no, your pricing may be too high for the type of work you’re doing.
- You aren’t sending out proposals because no one is asking for quotes. If you list any kind of pricing on your website and get no inquiries, either you’re charging too much or you aren’t getting any traffic to your site. Or a combination of both.
- Your clients aren’t happy with your work. Some clients will be unhappy no matter what you do, but if you get a lot of complaints about what people got for the price they paid, you may need to lower your pricing and/or improve your skills.
Are you charging too little for your services?
Here are a few signs it might be time to raise your rates:
- You’re booked more than two months into the future. When your services are so in demand that people are lining up to give you money, that’s a sure sign you aren’t charging enough. Try a 25% rate increase and I bet no one even notices.
- You charge way less than others who do the same type of work. Charging less can be a good thing in that you always have work to do. But why should you be the one taking on the discount projects when you’re capable of making more?
- You have more work than you can reasonably complete. I’m the world’s worst about scheduling a million projects on top of each other or overbooking myself. But I’ve also realized that, if I’m doing that, it’s because I’m not bringing in enough money. Time to raise rates and make sure I’m covering my time.
Okay, all that info is great. But what should I be charging?
I can’t tell you a dollar amount to charge because I don’t know who you are, what you do, and how well you do it. As I said before, the best way to figure out pricing is to see what people with a similar skill set are charging.
Web Savvy Marketing had a great article last month about selecting the right Genesis developer and what you can expect to charge at each level. Even if you aren’t a developer or don’t work with Genesis, that article gives a good range of hourly rates according to the type of skills a person may possess.
While there is no one-size-fits-all rate for web work, knowing what you’re worth and being able to explain that to your clients is absolutely essential if you want your freelance business to succeed. Don’t be afraid to adjust your pricing if you need to – the good thing about working for yourself is being able to flip switches until you find a system that works.
How do you determine your own rates for the services you provide? Ever run into a situation that made you realize you were charging too much or too little?