I usually quote a total for the entire project, not an hourly rate. It’s just a personal choice, and I have no particularly good reason for it, other than that I think it makes the client feel more at ease that I’m not going to “pad my hours” or work slowly. If I tell them “I will build the website we discussed for $900”, then they know what to expect on the final bill and won’t sweat every time it takes me an hour to reply to an email.
But how do you determine that entire project quote? Some of it will come with experience. You need to know how long it takes you to build a certain kind of website. If you quote $500 for an ecommerce site, and it takes you a month working full time to build it, you just made $3.12 per hour on that site. On the other hand, if you quote $500 for a tumblr theme design, and you finish it in 5 hours, congrats, you just made $100 per hour! But you’re not going to get too many $500 tumblr clients.
Once you have a good idea of how much time a site will take, I typically multiply it out at $75 per hour. This sounds like great pay, but remember, a lot of time working on sites is spent waiting for content from the client, waiting on emails back about various color and font choices, etc. So while you might only bill for 10 hours of work, those ten hours are going to be spread out over two weeks. Suddenly that $75 per hour is only grossing you $375 per week. That’s not going to pay the bills.
Also keep in mind that if you’re freelancing, your workload won’t be consistent. Some days you’ll be swamped, other days, you’ll spend every waking hour on the couch catching up on NCIS. It happens. And you need to budget and charge appropriately to make it through the slower periods.
Additionally, business sites should cost more than personal sites. Personal sites might pay dividends in nice aesthetics and ease of use, but business sites will pay dividends in sales and new clients. That’s valuable, and you should charge accordingly. I always quote business/ecommerce clients higher rates than personal clients.
All that said, to remain competitive and profitable, you should aim to charge between $50-$100 per hour. Just, again, keep in mind those hours will be spread thin across many days/weeks.
Finally, a few things to keep in mind during the price quoting stage:
- Clients will usually find a LOT more for you to do than you originally agreed to. Be certain to state your quote is for the discussed work only, and any additional work, or any more than three major revisions (that’s my rule) will result in additional charges (usually at an hourly rate, and a high one, to keep the client from “forgetting” to mention big requests at the beginning).
- Get half of the cash up front. Don’t work for equity in the company (unless you helped write the business plan and your name is on the LLC paperwork filings). Don’t work for “if you build my site for free, I’ll paint your house for free this spring”. Work for cash. And always get half up front, and the other half upon completion of the work. This shows you the client is serious. And it motivates you to finish in a timely manner.
- Make sure you factor in any additional expenses you might incur while working on the project. Do you need to travel to take photos for the site? Do you need to license stock photos/footage? Do you need to hire a developer to write a custom plug-in. All of these things cost money. And that should be factored in to your final quote. Don’t spring those costs on the client later, they will not be happy, and they will not give you more work in the future.
If you are currently taking freelance jobs, I’d love to hear some of your war stories. We can all learn from each other’s experiences and maybe we can help keep others from making some costly mistakes. Comments and the Ask box are open.