Hourly rates for web design?
May 12, 2009 8:50 AM   Subscribe

As a soon-to-be freelance web designer, how much should I charge hourly for one-off projects?

I know this has been asked before, but some of the pertinent questions on AskMe are a few years old.

A few notes about my experience:

-I've been designing websites for 10 years

-I design web layout/front-end/aesthetic mockups, plus write valid standards-compliant markup and CSS

-I'm good at integrating with CMSs like Expression Engine and WordPress

-I have been working until recently for a firm that charges $110/hr

As a freelancer, I'm thinking about charging $80/hr - does this sound right? Are there any advantages to trying fixed pricing?
posted by anonymous to Technology (7 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Less than what everyone else is charging? Provided you have a strong portfolio, I think you can push at 80$ if you can say, "It will take me no longer than x hours", with a minimum pay in the contract. So, say, 80 bucks an hour- 10 hour project is a max of 800, but maybe you contract for 600, minimum?

Also, push the idea that via CMS stuff once it's done, it's done- One of the big complaints our company had was that we got our project done on time and on budget, but there were a gazillion tiny things that added up very quickly.
posted by GilloD at 9:03 AM on May 12, 2009

More than what everyone else is charging?

Why would you want to start out defining yourself as a bottom-end choice? Get less work for a higher rate, come out with the same money and more free time.
posted by rokusan at 9:17 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

More than what everyone else is charging? Why would you want to start out defining yourself as a bottom-end choice?

If you're not offering your services to clients you already know, I'd advise going with the lower price model. What's your justification for charging more?

Your firm commands that price for you because it comes (presumably) with certain expectations and reassurances about (a) quality and (b) meeting deadlines. Until you can establish that you can deliver both of those things and what a large company cannot (high-touch, personal service), I can't see you attracting new clients by charging more than an agency.
posted by mkultra at 9:27 AM on May 12, 2009

Depending on locality, your rate may be a little low. After all, your previous emplyer charges $110. You may be able to go lower than 110 due to lower overhead (support staff, office space, etc.) but I wouldn't try to be the bargain basement of web design. People will happily pay for quality work.

I would stick to your hourly rate for whatever projects you are doing. There's no need to discount it right out of the box. But as GilloD says, informing the client that CMS might let them do updates themselves is a good idea. ("Might" because some clients don't want to update their own sites no matter how easy.)

Rather than lowering your price right out of the gate, a better tactic might be to discount some invoices for your repeat or long-term clients. This engenders good will without making you look like your price really isn't your price. For example, I might show a "Preferred client discount" of 10% - 15% on the 3rd or 4th invoice for a long term client or an ongoing project. This might be a couple hundred dollars on a $1500 invoice. Important: I never tell them about the discount until I give them the invoice. And I always show the correct total, then apply the discount afterwards.

Another note about price: Some people want to know a price just so they know what to budget. Others want a price so they can compare. When I am asked to work out a price, I write up a "Draft Proposal" which takes into account the information they have given me, plus my recommendations for the project. But, at the top of the first page, I include a line that says something like "This is a Draft Proposal and not a competitive bid. As a Draft Proposal, the estimated charges are based on the current information available about the project, along with my recommendations. The final charges can vary based on the actual scope of the project. If you require a competitive bid, I will need more detailed information about the scope of the project." This (hopefully) prevents losing a job over "apple-to-oranges" cost estimates. ("Your price was $2800. But my cousin's husband's nephew said he can do a whole website for $500.") I also make sure to discuss this point verbally.
posted by The Deej at 9:57 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Use an hourly rate to help you estimate, but go with a fixed price quote. If you want help in calculating an hourly rate, there's a self-link to a lengthy article in my profile. But you'll really get ahead by charging by the project, since your efficiencies will be rewarded. Looking at hourly rates is really a distraction.
posted by acoutu at 10:07 AM on May 12, 2009

Unless you have a built in client base, lump sum contracts can be really dangerous for both parties. A lot of companies do not have the in-house marketing expertise to know what they want in a web site. If it were me I would definitely set it up with deliverables and progress payments if I were going the lump sum route. Let them know that anything outside that, any change orders will be billed hourly or a fixed priced price to be determined.

I say this as someone who has had to deal with disasters on the client end of web design billing. I would personally charge more and be very fastidious about record keeping and nice, detailed invoices. When you show people a flash / photoshop mockup and they don't have a clue about the technology behind it, they might think you're done and just need to "put it on the web," and I'm completely serious. If you have a good design proposal that lays out the workflow and deliverables, time estimated, etc. there's a lot less leeway for them to argue.

This might be less of an issue if you're clients are very sophisticated, and if they are you can presumably charge less.
posted by geoff. at 12:14 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Charging by the project is not dangerous if you outline all the deliverables and terms. You'd also want to tie payments to milestones along the way.
posted by acoutu at 12:51 PM on May 12, 2009

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