Bid proposal for freelance web development?
June 17, 2005 1:02 PM   Subscribe

I have the opposite problem of blakeleyh's question. I don't know how to create a proposal or what a reasonable price to charge is for freelance web development work.

Someone has approached me to do a complete web site from the ground up -- everything from registering a domain name, finding a host site, showing them how to update the site. Everything except writing the content for the site.

I've done each of these things individually for people in the past, but have never built an entire site. I just don't know how to go about putting together a proposal for doing this as a professional endeavor rather than as a favor for a friend.

Are there resources online or books that could help me figure out what to do?

(I realize that this may be a completely insane thing to even think about taking on. )
posted by INTPLibrarian to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For small contractors, this sort of work is usually billed on an hourly basis (the going rate seems to be about $50 / hour, more if you're very good.) It sounds to me like your problem is that, due to inexperience, you're unable to estimate the scope of the project. If so, then you may want to consider taking a project management course specifically tailored to web-development work. You might also try getting quotes from your competitors to see what they'd charge.
posted by randomstriker at 1:18 PM on June 17, 2005

Nah, it's not insane. It's actually a lot of fun, and the only way to learn is to, well, do it.

The general way to figure things out is to figure out how long it will take you. What you're really selling is your time, with a premium on it for your skills. I tend to charge $65/hr if it's just me working on something in my spare time (I'm a horrid designer, but I do code nicely), and anywhere between $75-100 per hour if it's my company working on something, and I'm hauling in outside consultants and designers.

When I was first doing this, I was working full time for a company. It didn't really matter how long it took me, and I could get a good baseline for the amount of time things take. In your case, if you have the time, do a dry run with a small, fake site, developing the whole thing from the ground up. Use this to develop a framework of a 'to-do list' of all of the things you need to accomplish.

Turn this to-do list into what we call a 'specification' or a 'statement of work' -- list out what you're doing, what day it will be done on, and how much each part will cost. (I generally do the costs per 'segment' i.e., "Design - do a, b, c, get approval, do x, y, z, complete by 26Jun05, $1200.") The specification or statement of work (which are very different documents, but in this field kind of blur) should also say what standards things are to be developed to, i.e. "Section 508 compliance" or "XHTML 1.0 Trans compliance" if you're required to do any of those things.

Once you've specified all the work that's to be done, make sure your contract has a clause allowing you to charge the customer additional when you're requested to do something additional, and that also specifies a process. I frequently have conversations with my clients during approval stages that go along the lines of (slightly more diplomatically), "Wouldn't it be cool if we did this this (insert more expensive way to do things here) way?" "Sure, but that will cost more..." "But we already signed off on the budget for this project." "Yeah, but it's additional work. I'll email you over a change order later today to adjust the budget and timeline, fax it back to me, and it's really no problem to do it."

Don't expect to be spot-on with your estimates the first time. A good rule of thumb is to multiply your time estimates by 2.5 times what you think... you might come close. I'm cocky and I know it, so I usually multiply things by 3 times.
posted by SpecialK at 1:25 PM on June 17, 2005 [3 favorites]

metafilter: I'm cocky and I know it.

Seriously, good advice from SpecialK.

If you're not sure you can estimate reliably, try pitching it as a straight hourly, and see if they bite. Sometimes clients like having the flexibillity... *shrug*

Or bid it one stage at a time. e.g. setup the domain and hosting, close the bill on that, THEN bid the next step. That way if you're way off on the numbers, you can correct before the next stage--possibly even build in some padding to cover your losses on the previous stage.

Just keep the paperwork real simple for the client if you do it that way, so they're not scared off by a noticeable amount of extra hassle.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:10 PM on June 17, 2005

What's the typical breakdown between up-front payments and the balance on delivery?
posted by kirkaracha at 3:31 PM on June 17, 2005

What's the typical breakdown between up-front payments and the balance on delivery?

I'll typically cut a payment schedule into thirds, with 1/3 of the project rate being due at inception (even if hourly), another 1/3 after a "comping phase" or somewhere in the middle of the process, and the final 1/3 on delivery.
posted by FearTormento at 3:44 PM on June 17, 2005

Since you asked for a book, here's an intro-level book that's a good start for someone in your position (despite the book's misleading title--ignore that):

You can download most of the chapters and forms at the accompanying website:
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:02 PM on June 17, 2005

What's the typical breakdown between up-front payments and the balance on delivery?

Depends greatly on client. My long-term clients pay when I deliver. Otherwise, half in advance.
posted by SpecialK at 7:52 PM on June 17, 2005

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