How much should I invoice for this site?
March 5, 2010 12:19 PM   Subscribe

How much should I invoice for this site? How much do you charge per hour?

So I'm creating a website for a prominent institution, and I'm not sure how much to invoice for. The reason I'm not sure is that I've been rapidly working on larger and larger projects, and I'm not sure how to manage this current one.

The website will involve some pretty complex Drupal/php/css/jQuery stuff, will be coded pretty well and IE6 compliant and so on so forth. Design/functionality-wise, they're asking for an absolutely polished, refined discussion forum -- but with ajax submission/updating, media support, personal profiles, rss feeds, anonymous caching, https logins, etc.

I'm designing and developing this thing inside out from scratch, and am fairly confident in my skills. If I had to guess accurately I'd say that the site would take about 80~100 hours total of pure work, plus maybe about 20 hours a month of general maintenance/moderation.

How much would you charge? Thanks AskMe!
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
How much is your time worth?
posted by outsider at 12:24 PM on March 5, 2010

Honey, where in the world are you? Rates differ a great deal between Cambodia and Hawai.
posted by oxit at 12:49 PM on March 5, 2010

posted by jeffamaphone at 12:51 PM on March 5, 2010

Figure out each task that this requires, from start to finish. Think about reasonable chunks - like designing, IE6 fixing, forum development (forums in drupal, I'm afraid for your soul...). Assign each a hour estimate, and then assign your hours a price. Time your work and be moderately strict about not going over hours and charging for what you do.

Also refine your plans of the hand-off; maintaining websites is, for many people, much less profitable per tear than building them. There are lots of groups that maintain Drupal sites, and it's also a great, great, great idea to sell training and documentation so that there's a member of their staff who knows a module from a theme when it's handed off.
posted by tmcw at 12:53 PM on March 5, 2010

How did you get the gig without quoting them some type of price? I need more customers like that.
posted by COD at 12:54 PM on March 5, 2010

Wow. I think $130 is SUPER high, for an ajax discussion forum. Media support, rss, profiles, security certs, etc., are not advanced features, not to mention you are using drupal which has modules for all of that already.

I would say given your estimate of time to completion, and the fact that you don't even know what to charge, you keep it WELL under $50/hour. This is assuming you live in a major metropolitan US city.
posted by shownomercy at 1:47 PM on March 5, 2010

Everything that tmcw said. When you break everything down and figure out how long you think it will take you to accomplish all of this, pad that figure by 20%, seriously. I forget who said this about Drupal, but it's been absolutely true in my experience: You get about 95% of a site built in 5% of your budgeted time, and then spend the next 95% of your time polishing that last 5%, especially when it comes to user interaction. Unless you've built sites with similar feature sets before, it almost always takes longer than you think.

But the single most important thing about building a web site of any kind, especially a larger one, is: define the scope up front, and make it absolutely clear to the client that if they start asking for changes or new features during development, it is going to 1) Take more time, for which you will bill them and 2) Derail their estimated launch. Be firm, and when you get one of those inevitable "we were thinking about adding a blog with embedded video and a separate RSS feed for each taxonomy term, but the feeds should only work on leapyear weekends" requests, gently suggest that you start a collection of improvements/changes to be considered after the initial launch.
posted by usonian at 1:47 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've run a little contract Web/DB development shop for, jeez, 17 years, and I think you're going about this wrong. You can't tell them now how much time it will take, because you don't know. You want to have a detailed specification, and ideally a prototype, before you offer them a flat fee bid for the work — and there's no reason you should do the work of gathering requirements and writing the specification for free.

Offer them an estimate — not a flat bid — for this first phase, based on some hourly rate, which gets them a specification and a flat bid for development, which they can then accept or shop around. ($130 is about what we get, but we're in NYC, and have been doing this a long time. In the '90s we got $250 an hour with no questions, but recently we've charged as low as $75 for small clients.)

There are two ways to price the bid for the development phase: either cost-capped, or cost+overage. In the first, your bid is based on your estimate of the time necessary, plus some amount to protect yourself from overruns; you can be quite open about that, since you're offering to cap their costs. In cost+overage, you are offering a flat bid to develop to the specification, and an hourly rate for any extra work incurred.

In my experience the cost-capped method leads to a better relationship, since there are always changes made and extra features added to the spec, and this way you don't have to either eat the costs (which makes you look like a sucker) or ask for extra money (which holds up the work while you argue about what's in the spec.

Finally, your bid for maintenance should be a slightly lower hourly rate, since they are contracting for some number of years of work and saving you the cost of sales. However, it should be a retainer — they're paying you for the availability of 20 hours each month, not only for hours they use — with no roll-over of unused hours from month to month; and it should cover only bug fixes and server and site administration, specifically excluding new-feature additions which you'll be happy to bid as new projects.
posted by nicwolff at 3:02 PM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Along the lines of what nicwolff said, break it down into chunks, with a flat fee for each. For example, requirements, prototype, site hosting, site backend, site frontend, optional maintenance and further work. Development is hard to charge by the hour.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:32 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow. I think $130 is SUPER high, for an ajax discussion forum. Media support, rss, profiles, security certs, etc., are not advanced features, not to mention you are using drupal which has modules for all of that already.

I would say given your estimate of time to completion, and the fact that you don't even know what to charge, you keep it WELL under $50/hour. This is assuming you live in a major metropolitan US city.

What makes a rate "reasonable" depends on a lot of factors; the region you're in, the developer's experience, their reputation, their working relationship with the client (or potentially the mutual contact who introduced them), whether the client is shopping the job around to other developers in the area, or offshore, et cetera. And of course, the client's budget... maybe mostly the client's budget. I forget who said it in another AskMefi question about hourly rates for PHP work, but it was basically, "The hardest part of getting a client to pay you a $150 an hour is asking for it with a straight face."

(Which is not to say that you should gouge clients whenever possible... just that if you believe your experience is worth something, you have to talk the talk - and then walk the walk to demonstrate that your time is worth as much as you say.)
posted by usonian at 6:24 AM on March 7, 2010

I've had prices quoted locally for Drupal sites, both flat rate and hourly. However, the flat-rate ones were conditioned on providing specific parameters (similar to what you out line above but more detailed) and pretty simple. For a simple install and design to specs it was about 1500 over a couple of days. On an hourly basis in general and over/above the original spec, it was $80 an hour.

For creation that price sounds reasonable - for maintenance with out changes (I mean, not making something totally new again) - things like patches, content update, et cetera - I'd say charge a flat rate under 20 hours a month, then a slightly higher rate of the 20hrs/per price hrly rate. so if the maintenance works out to $40 an hour, then $50 an hour when the work goes over 20 hours.
posted by tilde at 3:35 AM on April 29, 2010

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