What's a Reasonable Hourly Rate for Drupal Work?
November 6, 2009 12:32 PM   Subscribe

What's a Reasonable Hourly Rate for Drupal Work?

I am interested to know what is the going rate for drupal programming now that we are semi-out of the recession.

A few more details:

Assume US citizen programmer is US-based independent contractor working on 1099 basis with modern 4 core setup, legal copies of windows, CS4, etc. Assume programmer works from home, does all own work, has been working with drupal for 2 years, overall programming for 10 years with a 4-year degree in the field. Programmer is responsible for setting up drupal internals, and also for doing some graphics work like making logo, and also css, etc. Programmer sometimes modifies modules, often makes custom themes, views in views module and php code, and formats with css, sometimes also some unix system administration is required and accomplished.

posted by peter_meta_kbd to Technology (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm paying a consultant $50 an hour for some Drupal work. Arizona, talented guy. I'd be happier at $35, though, but I'd probably pay a bit more, depending on the urgency.
posted by disillusioned at 12:34 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well it really really depends on who you're consulting for.

A mega-corp probably won't bat an eyelash at $80-100/hr or even more. Then you'll run into small businessmen of the "I could just get a student from the local JC" school, who will want to lowball you with something absurd like $15-20/hr.

I would say $50-60 is a decent median to charge to a smaller business with an understanding that you get the quality you pay for.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:40 PM on November 6, 2009

Honestly, setting up hosting, templating, and modifying already existing modules is pretty basic stuff. I wouldn't expect to pay more than $30/hour for that kind of work (nyc prices).
posted by shownomercy at 1:00 PM on November 6, 2009

There's really quite a large range of numbers that could be considered "reasonable". It will depend a great deal on what sort of coding you need -- "modifies modules" could be something that anybody with a week or two of PHP under his belt could handle, or it could require someone with a lot more skill and experience, depending on what you're actually talking about.

That said, the range that drjimmy gives above isn't too far off as a ballpark, absent any more specific information.

Just FYI, there are a few things about how you seem to be approaching this that, for me at least (longtime web dev contractor) would raise some huge red flags, and would mark you as someone who would probably make a poor client:

Programmer is responsible for setting up drupal internals, and also for doing some graphics work like making logo, and also css, etc.

You'll be much better off, in almost all cases, separating these into different roles; most developers are not good designers, and vice-versa. It rather sounds like you're looking for one single person to do absolutely everything related to your site; while individuals with the complete set of skills you're describing do exist, they are fairly unusual (and when you hire them they're generally called "founding partners.")

overall programming for 10 years with a 4-year degree in the field.

Hiring a contractor is not in any way like hiring a full-time employee; you'd do well to stop thinking in terms of "this person has a degree and X years experience", and instead look for a solid portfolio and demonstrated knowledge. Many of the best developers I know don't have degrees. Most people with a decade's worth of experience are, I suspect, going to be out of your reach (besides which, after the first few years it isn't that meaningful anyway: someone with 3 years working at 3 different startups is probably going to have a hell of a lot more actual experience than someone who's spent a decade sitting at the same desk doing the same repetitive tasks.)
posted by ook at 1:35 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would do basic stuff as a lump sum and have two billing rates for customization. $30-35 for stuff you know how to do and $50+ for stuff you don't know how to do. I would also bill service work at the lower rate unless it is critical (rebuilding a database at 3 in the morning). If you start getting busy you can up your low rate, but you're not pricing yourself out of a lot of work in the beginning by just having some high rate.
posted by geoff. at 1:39 PM on November 6, 2009

the range that drjimmy gives above isn't too far off as a ballpark
I forgot I wanted to emphasize the "you get what you pay for" part. Sure, you might be able to get a version 1 website at $20/hr, but when it comes time to work on version 2 you'll be kicking yourself for not having hired the $60/hr guy who actually knew something about maintainable code.
posted by ook at 1:42 PM on November 6, 2009

I regularly charge $125-150 per hour for Drupal work here in Portland, and nobody complains. This is work for government and small/medium business. I do have twenty years of extremely varied programming experience, and I'm aggressive. Price is much more elastic than you might think.

You couldn't get me to return your email for $50/hour. If my rates were that low, I'd go bankrupt quickly, and/or go insane from the overload.

Do consider splitting the graphics work from the programming. I subcontract that to a graphics buddy for $100/hour.
posted by Invoke at 1:43 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have completely misunderstood the question, haven't I? Sorry, please disregard; I thought you were looking to hire a contractor, not set your own rates as a contractor.
posted by ook at 1:45 PM on November 6, 2009

Freelance/contracting rates come down to two things (in my experience) - how badly you want a gig (either for the money or for the experience) and what you honestly believe your time is worth. Realistically you probably have to factor in what other developers in your market are charging, but even then, I'm not a believer in the "race to the bottom" mentality of bending over backwards to get a job that you wind up barely breaking even on.

I've never done full-time consulting, but I've taken on "nights & weekends" projects outside of my day job over the years. My rate has climbed steadily with my experience and confidence in the quality of my code. I don't have quite as much experience as Invoke, but I've been mucking around with this web stuff for 13 years and bring all of that experience to bear when building sites with Drupal. My time is worth something. I don't mean that in a boastful way, just a being-honest-with-myself way. I'm not interested in competing with all those anectodal nephews-in-high-school who always seem to be in the bidding, and confidently quoting a professional rate is one of the quickest ways to set myself apart.

Someone asked me what my Drupal rate was not too long ago and I quoted them $100/hour, which felt a little bit low to me, but also felt more likely to get a nibble in that particular case.
posted by usonian at 5:22 PM on November 6, 2009

Seriously, the hardest part of getting $150 an hour is saying it with a straight face.
posted by Invoke at 8:18 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

ook, I didn't phrase it one way or the other, so thanks to you and invoke, usonian, and all, for the excellent information. if you consider yourself a drupal developer, what percentage of your css are you writing yourself, vs. have a theming specialist do it? i ask because as many here have mentioned the conventional wisdom of the design/graphics is generally a different expertise, so the photoshop is usually out of scope, but wondering how as a 100-150/hr drupal specialist, how css does or does not fit into or outside your typical share of responsibility/action. thanks again for your excellent help. also, do you have to have a nice car and a nice suit and appear in person to ask for 150/hr, or do you think that you could pull off asking for 150/hr with a straight face if you drive up in a beater and look like a semi-reformed 'nam vet?
posted by peter_meta_kbd at 2:35 PM on November 7, 2009

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