As a freelance web designer, deciding how much to charge your clients can be a challenging task. This is especially true in the freelance world of chances where so much rides on your instincts and the relationship you’ve established with the client. If you make mistakes when pricing your services, you could lose the best of clients and perhaps attract a great deal of projects that will only send you to the poorhouse if not the mad house.
How much should you charge your web design clients? Just think of it for a moment. Let it turn in your head. Given the opportunity, a majority of designers would always go for the kill – an awesome project with a great timeline and plenty of coin.
However, setting your rate depends on a couple of factors as we are about to see. Without wasting another second, how well do you understand your clients?
Understand the Client’s Need(s)
There are those times when a client contacts you asking to know how much building a website will cost. The temptation is to “drop” a flat fee. You know, to “lock on” on the target or impress said target or perhaps just to appear efficient.
Just don’t do it. Don’t.
According to Craig Buckler,
A good [web designer] will assess the client’s business requirements to ensure they don’t under or over-pay for the [website] they need.
Unless you understand what the client is asking for, you cannot set a “mutually satisfying” rate.
Be proactive and ask questions early on to determine exactly what the client needs and, this is important, whether the client is the right fit for you.
For instance, you can seek to draw out answers to questions such as:
- What kind of features does the client need?
- How much will the website cost you to build? (You don’t ask the client this)
- Do they need a specific type of website? e.g. basic brochure versus a mammoth community site
- Do they have the initial artistic design work?
- How are your bills looking?
With these and other unanswered questions, you can’t just cough up a flat fee. Treat each client individually and charge according to their needs. After doing it for a while, you will estimate rates off the top of your head. Like a true web design Jedi.
Ask the client questions to understand their needs and the scope of work. Take this chance to reach out to the client as a a fellow human being, not just another
jerk geek trying to get to their money.
But all of this is only applicable if you qualified the client earlier. That’s right, there are people you don’t want to work with. Ever.
The Type of Client
Just because someone made contact via your website, it doesn’t mean you will shake hands and hug and pop champagne. Part of earning great wages from your trade involves choosing your clients carefully.
There are great clients who will let you do your thing. They are usually very helpful along the way and the relationship is marked with so many emoticons and awesomeness. Say what? I’m I about drop names?
Great clients usually pay well and pay on time. They value your time as much as you value theirs. You’re compensated accordingly for every second you spend on their project.
Then we have the other type of clients, who hire you but then won’t get out of your hair long enough for the creative juices to kick in. They thrive on micromanaging (and breathing down your neck haha). You know them well. Calls-at-the-middle-of-the-night-bat-s**t-crazy kind of clients.
Those calls and other unnecessary interruptions caused by a poor-quality client can end up eating up a lot of your personal time. Working with this type of client means all kinds of crazy, including crazy rates. Since you will be sacrificing a lot of personal time should you take on a bad client, you should consider slapping what Meredith Lepore calls the a**hole tax on top of your rate.
How Much Is the Client Able/Willing to Pay?
If your hourly rate is set at $100 per hour, but all the client can spend is $50 per hour, you can choose to say yes or no. One way or another, the much a client is able to pay has an influence on how much you can charge that client.
Another example: A blogger looking to redesign their website might not have the financial might to commission a huge project but the same cannot be said of a huge e-commerce store. Should you charge the e-commerce store more than the blogger, or should you stick to a standard fee that locks out either of the two?
Moving on… Clients in your chosen niche might love your work, but their spending ability might lead you to lower your rates. What to do? Should you stay in your chosen niche and charge the lower rates or should diversify and try your luck elsewhere? Many people opt for the niche that pays the bills. We recommend you do the same.
At the end of the day, you should should only choose high quality clients: friendly people who are able and willing to pay your rate in full and then some. However, before we get carried away, we have to remember that the rates you earn are tied to the value you bring to the table.
The Value You Bring to the Table
You simply can’t charge more than your skills are worth. That’s thievery. It’s not right and you will pay down the road. You have to be honest with the client (and yourself) about the experience you have with various types of web design projects.
If you’re a beginner, you will need to gain some experience (through practice) to charge higher rates. Experienced web designers will generally complete projects faster than beginners. This means an experienced web designer can take more projects at great rates. Experience pays in the long run. Anyway, we learn on the job and the more projects you do, the better you become and the higher your rates.
Preferred Payment Model
There are four types of payment models you can use to bill clients. You can charge clients:
- By the project
- Per Package
- By the page
The first two are fairly common but the last two are not.
Charging by the Hour
As far as earning decent rates is concerned, charging by the hour can work for or against you.
Let’s say you’re fairly experienced in web design and can complete in a day a project that will take another designer, say a newbie, a whole week. If you are charging $100 per hour and work for eight (8) hours, you will make $100 x 8 hours = $80 bucks. If the newbie charges $20 per hour and works for five (5) hours per day for 7 days (one week), he will make $20 x 5 hours x 7 days = $700!
That’s not the end of it. If the scope of the project changes or you need more time to research a couple of options, you cannot add the extra expenses to your hourly rate.
Moreover, unless you’re well experienced in a specific project, it’s difficult to estimate the hours it will take to complete. This can lead to overcharging or undercharging or, worse still, a world of hurt for you and the client both. Charging by the hour model is useful when you’re actually trading time for money e.g. training clients and providing on-site support.
Charging by the Project
Charging by the project on the other hand gives you an alternative that keeps you from getting burned. You can base your rates on the hours or skills you will expend on the project. You can also base your rate on what the current market can bear.
No matter how you look at it, you have plenty of leeway when working with the Charge By Project model.
Charging by the Package
So, what’s the difference between charging by the project and charging by the package? Well, the latter involves setting up pre-determined sets of services designed for specific type of clients.
You can have more than one package, each with it’s unique range of services including after sale services. The client is free to choose a package that works best for them. Charging by the package works well for some freelancers since clients view packages as “actual” products as opposed to just being services.
Charging by the Page
Some web designers, especially many beginners, charge by the page. But you can immediately see why this could spell trouble especially if the client needs a website with pages that require different skill sets. How are you going to charge for those pages?
If you are building a simple website (e.g. a brochure site), you can charge by the page and get away with it. The same cannot be said of script-intensive e-commerce sites.
Personally, I prefer charging by the project to all the other models. Choose a payment model that works for you, and of course your ideal client.
How Much Other Web Designers Charge
How much are other designers in your niche/skill level and above charging? This can be a good reference point to use when setting your best rates.
Join or create a group of web designers you admire. This will give you the opportunity to “…bounce pricing ideas off other people”, which can be incredibly useful. If the lowest hourly rate in your niche is $40 and the highest $100, endeavor to set your rate somewhere around the average ($70 per hour).
Before you’re done gathering your mastermind group of web designers, you can work with the averages listed below:
Average Web Design Rates
- A corporate website costs anywhere between $1,000 (if outsourced offshore) and $55,000 (US-based design firm). Freelancers in USA charge between $2,500 and $25,000 but these figures depend on complexity and specific needs of the clients
- Interactive database websites cost between $10,000 and $300,000 depending on the amount of back-end programming that goes into the project
- Corporate brochure (basic online presence also known as online brochure and meant for advertisement purposes only) costs about $2500.
- E-commerce stores – Usually, web designers charger between $5000 and $300,000 depending on the type of website the client needs.
- Freelancers generally charge between $100 bucks and $2000 for 10 hours of web design work. That’s 10/hr to $200/hr.
And here, a real rates from the horse’s mouth
- Dream Dezigns (dreamdezigns.com) from India offers several packages i.e. Starter ($399), Gold ($599) and Titanium ($899) among others. Their packages factor in things like number of pages and other services such as hosting.
- TGS Communications charges $100 per hour, which is usually higher than their usual rate, according to the firm. Depending on the project, they can charge hourly or by the project.
- Isqware.co.uk charges $80 bucks per hour. Their rates go down to about $40 per page if the project has more than 50+ pages.
- Machine Language Charges $100 per page for mildly complex websites. They also charge for initial artistic design work if you don’t happen to have your drafts.
- Web Creative Enterprise in Laos charge $28 per hour and will take roughly three (3) weeks to build a simple 5-to-7-page website.
With those example rates, we get to the end of today’s post. In order to set the best rates for your web design business, it’s important to understand your clients’ needs and know your worth. Ask around and you will know how much other web designers are charging for their services.
Don’t be shy, and never, ever undercharge. Always charge higher every time and keep at it – the sky is the limit. That’s how much you should charge your web design clients. Cheers to your success!