How much I charge for a website this new year and why it is not that expensive
This new year I decided to re-think the way I charge for my designing and creations. I’m focusing on two main fields now, WordPress websites and Brand identity. I might still produce static websites or pages and charge accordingly, but along with this article I wish to address how I ended up deciding on the final price for a genuine design and production for WordPress.
I am going to clearly state my fee and final prices. I’m also interested in knowing if you would agree that I’m still reasonable, even competitive on such a saturated market. I will appreciate if you will find time to leave a comment at the bottom.
First of all, we should take into consideration that what we define as web design has changed dramatically over the last years. I do believe in the potential (and ethical aspects) of free software. WordPress came to maturity as a solid, rocking CMS (along with many others) and it all still comes at no cost. Like other excellent CMS’ out there, you can install it in minutes, ready to rumble without having to pay a cent (well, that’s if you are fine with the default set up). Anyway, a similar system years ago would have cost you a fortune!
Platforms like WordPress have at their disposal tons of “state of the art” plugins, most of them released under the same license of the CMS. We’re speaking of MIT and GPL licenses, which fundamentally grant you permission to do what ever you so desire with the code.
More and more, we designers can draw, hands down, from rich collections of icons and pre-made graphical materials to embellish our final product. Website like 365psd and Design Deck (to cite two as example) dramatically cut down the necessary time to design minutiae in a template.
So, in the end, we can design faster, better, and so much cheaper! Open source and the free software philosophies boost and spin the web at an incredible pace.
And here it comes a paradox. As a customer you may think that you could get an awful lot for the cost of a coffee. It’s hard to understand why a professional service in web design would still quote double your monthly income.
I understand the perplexity of the customer. I was confused myself for a long time, but being a freelancer means two very important things: you’re good enough to stand out from the masses; you know how to make a living out of your talent.
C’mon, give me the price!
So here we are. Let me state and justify my prices.
Entering into 2012, I rose my hourly fee to 500 DKK plus moms (67 euro or 87 USD, plus taxes). In the city where I live at the moment (Copenhagen), I’m still competitive, designers can easily charge up to 1.000 DKK. In the States one can charge up to 100 USD and still be reasonable. So you see, I’m still not expensive here… for this year (^_^).
My new offer is quite simple, isn’t it?
Having defined how much I require for a hour of work, I decided to simplify my offers on two levels.
- Entry Level
12.000 DKK (1.614 euro or 2.100 USD)
Average website for a small company which mainly provides a honest visibility on the net.
- Full WordPress Design
around 22.000 DKK or more (2.960 euro or 3.852 USD)
Not necessarily strictly a blog, it may be a magazine; This kind of product requires dynamic future proof pages and sections which has an impact on the time that it takes to develop.
All prices are before taxes. I should also add that a Full WordPress Design can include so many aspects that in regards to the final price, the sky is the limit.
Damn, isn’t that crazy?
So, what you get for such a stellar price?
Let’s begin from the Entry Level. Who would accept a copied design for their image on the web? We know how fundamental is to have a strong brand for securing success in business. In order to produce an genuine design, a designer necessarily has to dedicate time to regularly meet the client so that to have a clear mind about how a website will benefit her particular business. It takes time to research competitors and to sketch and layout a graphic template that has the ability to effectively respond to precise needs and goals.
For all of the above I calculate eight hours of work. The creative process isn’t straight forward. I wouldn’t charge for the long minutes I will stare at the blue sky in search of inspiration, or for my coffee break, or for other similar minutiae. Still, for that budget I commit myself to provide an excellent graphic layout, and I grant my client with one revision. After that, if I did not score, usually there are two options: terminate the project covering the cost of this initial phase (I will address this aspect in another article); hold on and keep going, eventually charging for the extra efforts. But if you sincerely did your job while investigating the client’s business model, you usually get very close to the optimal solution with the first design saving her and yourself precious time (and money).
It all boils down to the time factor
You might agree that eight hours is barely enough time to end up having a decent graphic layout for Homepage, Contact, About and possibly few more pages. Each of them need to be coherent, polished and hopefully striking. It is not that expensive at this point. You should keep in mind that a program like Photoshop costs around 1.500 USD. To work decently we also need an up to date computer (usually more than one), and few other programs. Indeed, do you expect your rocking designer to deliver something less than a high quality template? Nope, right? Cool, we designers need to amortize those expenses during the process. The government still doesn’t give us money for free. My granma isn’t around anymore for a Christmas tip. So, I’m sorry, we’ll have to get a little bit from you, then.
Let’s proceed into the coding
Now, let’s say that you, as the customer, are super happy with the graphical proposal. Excellent! it’s now time to proceed into the coding phase. Here I like to make clear that I don’t charge for WordPress or any other thing I received at no cost. Seriously. I don’t. I’m still charging only for the time it *more or less* takes me to code the whole theme for WordPress.
A dynamic website now a day does not cost more than a static one. Indeed, it might be easier to realize a website in WordPress than to realize a static version page by page. The price is consequently not that different. With “the difference” being that if the pages are static, how will the client manage them without having to call (and pay again) for a designer?
So, once again, I charge a forfet, ten hours for coding a basic website (I remind you, Homepage, Contact, About, simple stuffs, no more than five, six pages, probably less).
Rome was not built in one day
Now, honestly, do you really expect your web designer to deliver your website in one day? When exactly did this ever happen the last time? Fine, let’s be realistic. I will probably spend more than just ten hours addressing minimal issues, spotting bugs, crashes, little experimental solutions in the efforts to be cutting edge with new trends and technologies on the web. You see, ten hours isn’t that much. Again, coding isn’t a straight process. I may be exhausted, I might need to meet you and discuss a detail in person, I might need to find a solution at an ado you created with a specific request (I like being challenged). Or I just wish to relax, and clear my mind. I don’t usually charge for all of those events. Still, I need to ask for a reasonable payoff.
At this point the budget is set at up to 9.000 DKK (1.210 euro or 1.576 USD) plus taxes. You would probably agree that I’m still being reasonable. But, wait a moment, you might ask, how do we reach 12.000 DKK?
Completing the quote
Well, indeed. I left out things like setup and installing WordPress on the customer’s web space (one hour, sometimes it takes 10 minutes, other times you have to deal with terrible customer service), setting up various plugins (15 minutes each, more or less forfeit, since some take a little and some take much more time to properly set up. Also you need to know where to put your hands into, right?), cross browser testing (2 hours, indeed time consuming plus it requires proper tools and software), moving the website to the final domain (2 hours forfeit ‘cos again some web hosts are just trouble).
When all of this is done, I might apply a discount to the final price if all of the above went just sweet and smooth. I reserve the right myself to judge if that is the case or not.
That’s it. The final price has been reached and I did not even happen to mention that if you’re an expert in your field (make sure you are!), you’re probably faster and better than average. It’s likely you even enjoy your job! Oh gosh! That’s so wonderful! …but does this mean you have to charge less? What do you think?
Let’s get high
Regarding the second package, a Full WordPress Design, as I stated above, 22.000 DKK (2.958 euro / 3.841 USD) is just a minimal quote. A serious project would likely need dedicated and genuine illustrations, photo sets, graphical elements, copywriting, marketing, eventually, it’s gonna be an eCommerce which opens a totally different scope.
For a more complex website a designer has to address way more elements, dynamic pages, archive, categories, custom posts, custom taxonomies, videos. All the pack should then be easily administrable by the final user. For all these aspects the designer needs to prepare sketches, flowcharts, graphical layouts, set regular meetings with all the people involved, eventually cover additional costs and finally coding those parts, testing, probably configuring more than just four plugins and eventually creating new plugins.
Then you may start to realize why a kick ass website costs reasonable amount of money. You get what you’ve paid for, after all. Savvy business men are well aware of this, especially if they represent a big company. Tell them you’re gonna charge 3.000 USD for their presence on the web and they will probably smile and walk you to the door. A minute later, they’ll call a real professional.
Is it legit to charge for what you’ve already developed?
Let me challenge you with a silly example. If you enter in a shop to buy a table that’s undoubtedly already made, would you expect to get it at no cost? Or would you accept to consider the cost of material, production, design, transport and package, (and the shop’s running cost) defining the final price? So why should a designer give their craft away at a minor cost what he had already developed? He had expenses while producing it, time, tools, knowledge and creativity. Developing is often an investment. Nothing really comes at no cost in Nature. A client rarely has the opportunity to see the real cost of, for instance, a plugin. So often we designers don’t even bother trying to explain.
I repeat, I don’t charge for what I get at no cost, but I charge for the time it costs me to discover and analyze those materials or to modify something, or shaping and developing a brand new one. Even if the original item came at no cost, it might need to be re-styled, improved, re-factored. In the end, I charge for the time, and time is the most precious thing everyone of us has at their disposal.
Sadly perhaps, your price defines your value
Let me report to you a joke that a friend shared with me the other day. A tourist visits an Indian reserve and decides to buy a little souvenir. Nearby he spots a tiny market where locals sell objects of various nature. He approaches a tepee and asks for the price to buy a little statue. The indian says “One dollar!”. All right, our man kindly thanks the Indian pondering that the price is surely excellent. Still he doesn’t want to commit to any impulsive purchase. To take his time he approaches a second tepee. Here he sees the same kind of statues. Indeed it’s exactly the same model! Pleased by the discovery, again he asks for the price. This time the answer of new sellers is “Five dollars”. Shocked, our man, eye-rolling, questions the price. “But it’s the same exact statue that I saw at the other tepee and there it costs only one dollar. How can you ask me for five bucks?”. The Indian without loosing his aplomb excuses himself and thanks to a life spent in marketing his little statues, he pontificates “Some want to pay one euro, others prefer to pay five euro for the same thing.”.
Now, you should ask yourself, which one of the two Indians do you want to be? It’s a dynamic we experience on daily base but it is also misleading. If you sell your product under priced for too long, you will consume vital resources. If you’re a freelancer, you need to understand very well the value of what you’re offering. Underpricing will likely cost you the capability to deliver the quality you aim for and in the end, your career.
Now, it’s up to you
I’m sincerely curious to know your opinion about all the above. What do you think? Are you a designer? Do you charge differently? Are you on the other side? Do you think I’m reasonable, or am I being arrogant? I’m very sure about my position but, please, feel free to comment and refute. Thanks for having read all the way up until this last line!
Kindly revised by Maria Fazzingo