General Question

nashish's avatar

How much should I charge someone to create a website for them?

Asked by nashish (196 points ) February 3rd, 2009

I’m a designer fresh out of college, and I have no idea how to price things if I were to do freelance work. I understand there is a text called something like “Guidelines and Ethics for Graphic Artists.” One of my professors had the book in his office. Are there any similar texts I could use?

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16 Answers

funkdaddy's avatar

There’s a lot of questions that go into pricing… without knowing more about the project unfortunately the only guidance I can give is to make sure it’s enough to keep you motivated on the project and doing your best work.

Some important questions to ask yourself and your client if need be…

What are you delivering to them, an image of how the site will look, or a completed site?
How large is the site, how many pages are you designing? A lot of this goes back to what you are delivering…
How long do you think it will take you?
What do you feel like your worth per hour and per day at this point?
Are you doing it for the cash, or the experience primarily?
Do you care if they walk away?
What is their time frame, can you comfortably complete the project in that time?
Do you need to hire someone to help you?

I try to figure out how long something will take me to actually produce, then add 50% to that for client interaction, revisions, and the inevitable few additions that come along during the project. I take that and multiply it by an hourly rate to get the cost of the project.

Usually I overestimate my speediness so I end up eating the 50% that I added anyway, and I think that works out in the end.

Good luck with it and congrats on graduating school.

Grisson's avatar

You could come up with a similar idea for a website and call around for prices. See what other designers are charging.

nashish's avatar

@funkdaddy Thanks for the tip. The website will be for a psychology practice. My old fiction writing professor likes my design work and wanted to know if I could help. Does that give any idea to how much it could cost?

I’d really like a fictional model with numbers if you could provide one. Let’s say I’m making the psychology practice site and it has three pages: contact, about us, services….

Grisson's avatar

How long would it take you to create that?
When I was just starting as a web developer I charged $25/hour. That was probably low, looking back on it, but I felt good about it at the time.

nashish's avatar

@Grisson That’s a good start :) I know if I were just creating a model, it wouldn’t take too long, depending on how much information the client wanted.

In school wn didn’t go into HTML much at all, so now that I’m done, I’m teaching myself. Using Fireworks and Dreamweaver to create sites felt extremely inefficient.

steelmarket's avatar

@nashish – I’d suggest looking at Joomla. You can get a decent site up and running for almost nothing.

funkdaddy's avatar

@nashish A theoretical run through for me personally, I’ve tried to include a bit of justification

Let’s say we’re delivering three completed pages, where the design will change a bit to fit the content, a few custom graphics explaining key points of their business, a contact form and maybe a bit of animation.

A good page design typically takes me 6–10 hours to hammer out, so we’ll say 6 hours, plus 2 for the changes in the other pages (this is assuming they go with the first design you produce, a big assumption) add another 2 for the custom graphics we talked about… so 10 hours design time….

Actually coding the pages up (HTML/CSS) would probably take 4 hours or so…
I typically charge 2 hours for a well thought out and integrated contact form (non-generic error message delivered in a way that’s integrated with the design, complete validation, and whatever sort of notification they’d like to receive on their end, etc) I have a couple templates I pull from, then customize them to the site… so we’ve got 6 hours for coding up the design

A little animation, this could be a slide show, moving around content based on the user’s interactions, or just something to add interest… we’ll call it 2 hours but it could be anything…

So we’ve got 18 hours that I think it will take me if I just sit down and grind it out… add the 50% for everything not involving me and my computer and you’ve got 27 hours. Multiply that by your hourly rate (I think Grisson is dead on with $25/hr to start) and you’ve got $675.

If I were you, and the project scope was as it is here in the theoretical, I’d bid the project $750. The hours you put into everything will vary though, you might be able to knock out a design in 4 hours, but coding might take longer since you’re not familiar with it, or the other way around.

Tell them it will take you a week once the design is signed off on, and you’ll need a week to get them an initial design. The stuff that happens in between those two is mostly up to them, so it’s hard to gauge. If they demand an exact time frame try to get some sort of commitment for turnaround time on their end and a hard limit to revisions on the design.

That’s just my thought process, everyone does it a little differently and some say pricing is the hardest part of the job. It tends to define the work you get, which defines the portfolio you build. As I said originally, always make sure it’s enough to keep you motivated and doing your best work.

The only projects I regret taking are the ones I’m not proud of at the end.

fireside's avatar

Really well thought out responses, funkdaddy.

Here’s what I would do since it is your college professor and since you are just learning how to program, which will be a big issue (don’t forget to check for cross browser compatibility before you launch the site):

Website Design (5–10 pages)
8–10 hours
includes two revisions, if he doesn’t like the design or some of the elements
$150

Programming (keep in mind that you can’t charge for your learning curve)
16–20 hours
$300

Meetings and Misc.
$100

Total
$550

This is for a basic site, charge more for things like flash animation, interactivity on the page, etc.
Make sure that you get a complete sign off on the design before going to programming because you don’t want to be changing the layout too much once you have started coding the pages.

kullervo's avatar

Also remember that more and more your CV/references are your portfolio rather than any certificates you have. This means having a strong portfolio with many quality sites is one of the biggest factors in you getting work in future – whether than be freelance, as an employee or trying to get clients.

That being the case you should be looking to:
1) If a project is going to be good for your portfolio consider doing it cheaply to ensure you get the job. Also in some cases it’s worth doing more than the client has budget for if things go well so that it looks even better in your portfolio

2) A lot of clients will haggle so have a 2–3 tier pricing system. If you pay $X you will get the basic site. If you want I can add feature A and B for $Y and if you want the ultimate set up with feature A-Z then I can do it for $Z. All of them will love to have the ultimate one but only want to pay the minimum and so they tend to negotiate down from the top feature and you can remove features as they reduce the price rather than doing more work for less. Also more likely to get client to go for a more feature packed site which will be good in your portfolio

3) Whatever you do, do it well. It will get you referals and repeat business and of course means you only have quality work in your portfolio.

4) Don’t undercharge too much as people treat you badly if you are cheap as they think you/your work is worth less. If you register on a IT project bidding site like guru.com you can see the sort of prices projects go for. International sites like guru have really cut-throat prices though as you are competing against people from all of the world including places where the cost of living is considerably lower so they can afford to work for less so consider the average price not the lowest and price your self just above that.

nashish's avatar

I’m really impressed with the answers you guys have given me. All of your answers have been very specific and comprehensive. I’ll consider all these things and get a price quote to the client.

@kullervo My professor told me about guru.com too. I’ll be sure to check it out; I have it bookmarked.

cwilbur's avatar

I echo what @kullervo says: one of the best ways to be taken seriously as a designer or consultant is to set your fees as if you expect to be taken seriously.

I’ve been a self-employed contract programmer in the past. When I said ”$25/hour,” clients dickered and haggled, and then argued with me over things I knew and they didn’t. When I said ”$100/hour,” clients paid it without complaint, and believed what I told them.

I’d also advise against doing extra work for the fee unless the client knows you’re doing this. “I would like to use this site in my portfolio, so I’m going to do extra work on it, which I’m not going to bill you for.” Otherwise, when the client comes to you later with more work and you’ve already got a strong portfolio, his or her expectations will be unreasonably high.

@fireside: it looks to me like the billable rate you’re aiming at is between $15 and $20 an hour. A serious designer should be able to look his clients in the face and charge double to triple that without shame. Remind yourself: plumbers charge $80 to $100 an hour. Car mechanics charge $80 to $120 an hour. Why should designers, who need to be at least as skilled as a plumber or car mechanic, charge only 20% as much?

Also, you’re far better off with a time & materials contract than with a flat-fee contract. When you’ve spent 100 hours putting out three versions of the website and your client decides he doesn’t like that shade of green and he wants the navbar on the right, if you have a flat-fee contract, you’re screwed. If you have a time & materials contract, you can smile at him and say, “Okay, that will add another 20 hours at $40/hour to the contract.”

And this is all easier if you document, document, document—after every meeting, email the client and say “This is what I took away from that meeting. I’m just putting it in writing to make sure I’m clear on everything. You liked the shade of purple I used in the second set of comps, but you want the font to be Comic Sans like I used in the third set of comps. Also, you want a draft of the site to be ready on Friday the 13th so you can show it to your executive team.” That way, when he decides he doesn’t like that shade of purple, you can go back and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I must have been confused, but as I said in my email of the 2nd, that’s what I took away from that meeting.”

Also, weekly status updates are key – they give you a chance to update the client on what progress has been made, and they give the client a chance to bring up any concerns about the way things are going. If the client is going to have a fit about the shade of purple, it’s better to find that out one week into the project, when it’s easy to change, than six weeks into the project, when you need to redo all the graphics.

fireside's avatar

@cwilbur – I definitely agree that the skills are valuable, but this is a first project out of school. it is a portfolio piece and a possible good recommendation.

if it were me, I would be willing to eat the added cost that a “professional” would normally charge in exchange for the chance to build out my portfolio and have someone help subsidize my programming education.

Definitely agree about documentation (solid contract, exact specs on the number of pages and features, client expectations and the deliverables), plus you want to be sure to put a clause in the contract somewhere that says you have a right to use the project as a portfolio piece.

Even though a good mechanic charges $80 an hour, I wouldn’t be willing to pay that to a neighbor’s son who was just learning how to fix cars.

Basically, expect to spend a lot more time than you think and make sure you document the lessons learned about how to estimate your time and charge appropriately in the future.

jayson's avatar

have a look what other designers would charge. Perhaps get a quote. An acceptable amount is anything from £15 – £25 depending upon talent and size of client / project.

frugalbinx's avatar

I started working on websites about 6 months ago, and have managed to land myself a couple jobs. My main client is a non-profit that is paying me $25/hr, and I have a couple of projects for friends and they are paying me $15/hr. It’s definitely on the low end of the spectrum but they all know that I have very little experience and am using the gigs to learn as I go. (For reference, I’ve taken a couple of college classes in graphic design but have taught myself all of the web work as I go).

cwilbur's avatar

@fireside: I’m not saying that he shouldn’t charge less because it’s a first project and a portfolio-builder, precisely. (Although I think $15/hour for someone who actually has the skills is way too low.) More that he should quote $80, but then offer a discount in exchange for being able to use it in a portfolio.

fireside's avatar

@cwilbur – Most of the contracts I’ve seen just include the rights to use the work for portfolio and promotion without assigning a discount for it.
But it’s not a bad idea to establish a higher rate off the bat in case the professor comes back for more work and expects the lower rate. Or if he tells other people that he got it for that rate. Maybe set a higher rate and then offer the discount for some other reason (first project, alumni privilege, early adopter…)

@nashish – This was a while ago. What did you end up doing?

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