What's the going hourly rate for building complex web apps?
February 8, 2005 11:46 AM   Subscribe

What's the going hourly rate for building complex web apps these days? An acquaintance asked me if I could help them add functionality to their existing web app suite. (More details inside)

They want me to crank out a new app, but also use this as a proof-of-concept for how to improve their existing technical architecture. One of the reasons they want me is that I know the subject matter well, or at least better than any random freelancer they can pick up elsewhere.

I have a hard time finding rates on the web, and I haven't consulted for several years, so I don't know what the market is like these days. Any input would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Triplanetary to Technology (8 answers total)
I would check the HTML Writers Guild's Rates FAQ -- even though it's targeted to HTML writers, the equations are suitable for any profession.

Rule of thumb -- as a starting point -- take what would be a fair yearly salary for this position, in thousands, and that could be your hourly rate. So, hypothetically, if you figured $50,000/yr would be fair, $50/hr would also be approximately fair. But, you may as well go through the formulas to get something more specific to your situation.
posted by Handcoding at 12:15 PM on February 8, 2005

Within my company, web application developers are charged out (to other departments) at $85/hour. These are mythical internal budget dollars, so the rate might skew slightly from what one would charge a retail customer. But hey, data point!

"So, hypothetically, if you figured $50,000/yr would be fair, $50/hr would also be approximately fair."

I know you're speaking purely hypothetically and using the figure for illustrative purposes, but as a reference point you'll never find a competent web application developer willing to work for $50k unless they're straight out of school and totally unaware of their own worth. HTML monkeys can be had for far cheaper, though.
posted by majick at 12:36 PM on February 8, 2005

You might never find a competent web application developper willing to work for $50k, but you'll find tons of incompetent ones. Most businesses I've talked to don't seem to care about competence much, they just settle for a good price and get bad software. Most of them don't care, some just don't know. So, really, depending on who you're dealing with, you might have to accept a lower rate to get the job just because the company will be willing to accept an incompetent developer at a low, low rate.

Mind you, I haven't dealt much with companies that depend on a web app for their business. I suppose those might have more stringent guidelines on competence. Still, I feel this industry is all out of whack insofar as "clients" recognizing the actual worth/competence of their hires in the technical field, so I feel that you'll deal more with this company's idiosyncracies (and the quality of the tech workforce in your area, etc.) as far as hiring and rates go.

Or, you know, 42. Whichever is best for you.
posted by splice at 1:18 PM on February 8, 2005

i believe the company i work for bills out $75 an hour, but we're not independent contractors, so there's more overhead.
posted by fishfucker at 1:35 PM on February 8, 2005

When we hire sub-contractors we pay between 6 - 800. per day depending on experience. But these are projects for very large companies with a hefty profit margin figured in. So you may want to consider the size of your acquaintance's company and budget before you name a figure. Also, I wasn't sure, but are you going be involved in requirements and technical design as well as development? If so, you can command more $$.
posted by idest at 1:36 PM on February 8, 2005

(the $75 figure is for coding ASP/CFM or whatever. On the low end of the scale, I've contracted out with some colleagues in India who'll do the same sort of work for $15 an hour.)
posted by fishfucker at 1:38 PM on February 8, 2005

It's hard to find rates on the web because they vary so much.

You can have one guy charge 25 bucks an hour to do the work, and the next guy could quote you 125 bucks an hour.

I currently do this sort of work, and I charge anywhere between 65 an hour and 125 an hour, sometimes using multiple rates for within the same job. Of course, each rate corresponds directly with the sort of work that gets done, and everything is spelled out fairly explicitly in a contract beforehand.

Realistically, you need to take a look at what you're providing to the company for the rate you'll be charging. Any time you can provide a service that is either better in terms of quality, or unique, then you can charge a little more.

Personally, I've never had a real problem with my rates once my clients understand that all my work is warranteed to the specifications of any design documents & specifications that get drawn up. I provide all of this documentation free of charge, and it can be pretty time intensive to put together. But, then again, I'm charging them 125 bucks an hour to do the work.

The fact that you've got specialized skills that directly deal with the subject matter at hand, that has to improve your rate to some degree.

Not knowing what your specific skillset is, nor what other things you bring to the table, I would look at the 70 - 90 per hour range as a starting point.

The other important thing to remember (and you may already know this since you've consulted in the past) - once the rate is decided, it becomes a statement and not a question. (I've gotten lots of quotes from subcontractors where it doesn't even sound like *they* know what their rates are. Unprofessional -1.)
posted by icey at 1:45 PM on February 8, 2005

Uh, I almost forgot the most important thing - regardless of what you end up charging, make sure that you give them their money's worth.
posted by icey at 1:49 PM on February 8, 2005

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