Fair, honest website prices
October 11, 2010 4:29 PM   Subscribe

What's a fair price for a website, these days?

I've been doing web development for years, either as a fulltime employee for one particular organization or another, or doing subcontracting work for marketing agencies.

Tomorrow, I'm meeting with a prospective individual client, and have no idea what to throw around as a number. This is my first individual client in a long time, and I want to make sure that the price is fair to both of us.

I like the model of a flat fee, with a defined scope... hourly seems to give people more sticker shock than flat-rate, and because of *when* I'd be doing the actual work, hourly pay won't exactly work (I don't want the added stress of keeping track of 20 minutes here and there).

This guy has nothing in terms of web presence, so I'd be doing design, backend progamming, a contact form; the works. He is a Feldenkrais clinician, if that would help you suggest a price range for that industry.

I know its difficult to answer these types of questions. I guess I'm hoping for answers like "I did a site for a and it had x pages and I charged y", or "I am a and my web guy charged x but I got ripped off because y". Although more general guidelines are good, too.

posted by fvox13 to Work & Money (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Not specific to your field, and you may already know this, but here goes: start with a calculation, based on your hourly rate, and the amount of time you think it will take, and form an estimate based on that. You know, if you think it'll take you 100 hours at $100 an hour, then give him the flat fee of $10,000; or, come up with a number (higher or lower) based on that. This is pretty much how all flat fees are calculated, by thinking about how much money you would make if you were working hourly, and translating that over. I would recommend coming up with a liberally high number first, then discounting it to a number that sounds more fair.

I think that it is common that, even if you charge a flat fee, you still charge an hourly rate for extra revisions (meaning revisions after your one or two free revisions) and for maintenance after the site is active. This will cut down on a lot of the regrets that many contract designers have.

I don't know offhand how much a person with your experience usually makes an hour for the type of work you plan on doing.

Note that the number you give this guy may be considered the opening offer in a price negotiation.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:46 PM on October 11, 2010

Best answer: I cannot emphasize this more: agree on the *complete* scope of the project to the best of yours and the client's ability, particularly if you're charing a flat rate. A complete scope means at least a full wireframe of the site and agreed upon deliverables.

I would also suggest the deliverables be tied to payment, like 25% up front, 25% on acceptance of scope/wireframe, 25% at initial launch and then 25% after a couple of reasonable revisions.

There is much potential pain on the path of fixed bid software/design work. Tread cautiously.
posted by hominid211 at 5:18 PM on October 11, 2010

*charging. d'oh.
posted by hominid211 at 5:18 PM on October 11, 2010

Describe for your client a defined scope of work, perhaps something as simple as a sitemap.

Make a list of ALL the activities you will need to perform, and things you may need to purchase, in order to deliver against your scope of work. Subcontractors, out of pocket, everything.

Estimate the amount of time you think you will need for each of those activities.

Add it up and multiply by the rate you want to earn. There's your total cost with a definition of scope.

Should your client want to add on to the project, you'll have a baseline scope to refer to.

FWIW - 50% or more of my time on a website project is planning.

It's a bit snarky, but whenever someone asks me how much a website costs, like a jeweler for instance, I usually reply with a question like "how much does your jewelry cost?" The correct answer of course is that it depends on the scope.
posted by bricksNmortar at 5:27 PM on October 11, 2010

Best answer: Sorry to keep chiming in, but I've had some experience with this topic.

Without knowing your particular strengths, I would be sure to consider overbidding the parts of web development that are both your strengths and your weaknesses. For instance, I would have to overbid the part where I do the design because it's not my strong suit and would want to overbid, say, designing the database schema because I know I'll end up revising it myself anyway because I really enjoy that part of the job. So, add a 50% buffer in time*hourly rate for your strongest and weakest suits.

I don't know what the going rate for custom web-design is in your area, but here in my mid-sized metropolitan area of the US, if you're for real and have experience, it's at least $125 an hour. Figure out a ballpark hours of your life this will take, add 25% and multiply by $125, that's your first bid. Then, negotiate to a point you're comfortable.
posted by hominid211 at 5:39 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Fixed bids work best in situations where you have a repeatable model to get the work done (meaning you have a pretty good idea of exactly how much work it will take) and feel confident in managing your clients expectations. Clients like them because it gives them budget certainty and an easy way to compete the work. Because of the general trickiness of doing this for IT projects, people usually scope a time and materials quote (which already has a profit margin baked in), and then add a risk premium on top of that (e.g. 30%). If this is your first outing, I wouldn't recommend the fixed bid approach.

What I would recommend is a time and materials approach. You don't need to give your client an estimate at the first meeting; get some requirements, then go work up a formal proposal for him to look at. If you know people in the business, ask someone if they'll let you use their proposal template (and ideally whether they have a boilerplate contract you could use). If you've been subcontracting as a 1099 already, that would be a floor for your hourly rate. If you are trying to make a living doing this, there are plenty of other expenses to fold in. You'll also need to scope out the work enough to get a reasonable estimate of the number of hours. That is your up front risk, if the client turns the proposal down, those hours working on the proposal are lost. You'll need a formal change process so that if the client asks for something additional, you have a way of documenting that and adding it on to the bill. You'll need a contract that has been tailored for you or a lawyer to review their contract if they insist on using their own paper. As you are probably gathering, there are a lot of project-managementish tasks here that you may not have encountered in your previous work. However, all of this is well understood and you can learn plenty about how to do it from googling.

You mentioned that you don't want the added added stress of keeping track of 20 minutes here and there. People doing fixed bid projects still track their actuals. In a time and materials situation your client is going to expect to be able to see what you are doing for him, this sort of detail is usually included in the invoices you'll send. You'll want to figure out an effective time tracking system (automated, Excel, paper, whatever) and reconcile yourself to the fact that if you are in this business, you are going to be tracking your time from here on out. Good luck with the gig!
posted by kovacs at 6:06 PM on October 11, 2010

Best answer: Unless you are doing some sort of dB integration work for him, odds are you can build a very decent web site in Wordpress in less than 15 hours. Granted, he doesn't need to know that, and there is no string that connects price and cost, so the fact that web dev costs are way down (in terms of time it takes) does not mean your prices have to follow. There are plenty of people willing and capable of tweaking Wordpress themes and turning out perfectly respectable sites fairly quickly at $50 a hour. If that is all he needs and wants, it's going to be hard to win as a totally custom job. Of course, all bets are off if he has unique needs that require a real developer. However, most small business web sites don't require a real multi-talented web site these days.
posted by COD at 6:11 PM on October 11, 2010

Best answer: No one seems to have given much idea about what a fair price might be. Since I've had a full website design set up for me fairly recently (2008), here's some anecdata. The project included logo design, a website with about 6 info pages, a stock photo header, a scrolling portion on the landing page, and a contact form. (You can check the site out for yourself by following the link on my mefi profile.) The designer also switched me over to a different web host and set all that up for me. It cost me $1350. Her business expertise was more in graphic design, though, so YMMV.
posted by DrGail at 8:41 PM on October 11, 2010

Best answer: The best explanation I ever saw on this point is the following:

posted by dgran at 6:56 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

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