how much you should charge to build a website
When you’re first starting out as a web design freelancer it can be overwhelming to set your prices. Do you charge hourly? Do you create a package price? Do you start really low… at like $100? Or do you go all in and charge at least $1,000 from the very beginning?
You’ve Googled, “how much should I charge as a web designer?” or “average web design freelancer rates,” or even “how much you should charge to build a website” and you’ve found other web designers on Facebook or through Google and checked out their prices. All that can leave you more confused than ever.
Different Ways to Charge as a Web Design Freelancer
There are two ways to charge as a web design freelancer when it comes to one-time projects. When I say one-time project I mean, building a new website or redesigning a website but not continuing to work with the client after the project is complete.
- Charging hourly
- Charging a flat rate
When you charge hourly, you determine the value of one hour worked, track your hours, and then invoice the client at the end of the project (or in milestones) by multiplying the value of one hour worked by the number of hours you worked on the project.
Value of One Hour Worked (Hourly Rate) x Number of Hours Worked = Total Project Price
Charging by the hour has it’s benefits but it also has it’s consequences. Let’s dive into those below.
Benefit 1: Clients Love It!
Your clients and potential leads will love being charged by the hour because they will only be paying you for your time worked. Your client will know exactly what you did, how long it took you to do it, and will only pay you for what you have done.
Benefit 2: No Guess Work
You won’t have to guess ahead of time how many hours it will take you to complete a project. When you guesstimate up front, you run the risk of under-estimating or worse, you run the risk of spending a bunch of time working on something you didn’t anticipate. By charging hourly, you eliminate those risks and get paid for all the work you do and hours you put in.
Benefit 3: No Free-Loaders
When a client asks you to do XYZ on top of what you’ve already done, you’re guaranteed to be paid for that additional work because you’ll be tracking the hours. You don’t run into a situation where the client paid you upfront for ABC and then wants you to do XYZ for free. If your client asks you to do more work, you track the hours and you get paid for it.
Consequence 1: Nit-Picky Clients
Since you’re providing your client an hourly breakdown, they can see exactly how you spent each minute. There will always be those clients who think you should be building their website faster than you did. You’ll be opening the “I know someone who can design a homepage in 2 hours but it took you 4?” can of worms. This puts you in the position of defending your work and time spent which can become exhausting.
Consequence 2: You’re Only Paid for Your Time
Once you’re done building your client a website, that website will provide value to them for months or years to come. Because you’ve charged hourly, you won’t get paid for that ongoing value. Charging hourly means you only get paid for the time you put in.
Consequence 3: You’re Creating an Income Cap
By charging hourly, you’re setting a cap on how much money you can make each month. There are only so many hours you can work in a day, in a week, and in a month which means once you’ve maxed out those hours, your income can’t go any higher.
Beliefs at Kristen Leigh Designs
I’m a firm believer that you should never charge hourly because of the most important consequence listed above, consequence number 2. Just because your work is done doesn’t mean you’re no longer helping your client. That website you’ve designed is providing ongoing value that you’re not being paid for when you charge hourly.
That is why charging a flat rate is how you should charge to build a website.
Charging a Flat Rate
When you charge a flat rate, you determine a price for the work up front and invoice on a predetermined schedule based off that rate. For example, if your flat rate was $2,400 you could invoice in a bunch of different ways:
- $2,200 up front (I usually provide a discount if people pay 100% up front)
- $1,200 up front and $1,200 right before the website launches
- $800 up front, $800 after the designs are complete, and $800 right before the website launches
Really, the options are endless when it comes to the payment plan!
Benefit 1: You’re Paid for the On-Going Value the Website Provides
Instead of being paid just for the hours you worked, you’re getting paid for the value the website provides your client for months or years to come. The clients they’re landing a year from now, the percentage their email list has grown in the past six months, and even the increase in traffic… you’re being paid for all of that (as you should be).
Benefit 2: Consistent Income
Since you’re not playing the guessing game of how many hours it will take to complete a project, you’re guaranteed to make the amount of money you’ve quoted in the contract. By using a payment plan based off of specific time frames (as opposed to milestones) you’re even guaranteed to be paid on a specific date. Talk about reducing your anxiety levels!
Benefit 3: No Income Cap
By using a flat rate, you’re charging for more than the hours worked. This means you won’t be capping your weekly income at 40 hours times your hourly rate. You can take on as many projects as you can comfortably balance and make more than you would have by charging hourly.
Benefit 4: Better Clients
Clients who sign on at a flat rate are typically overall better clients. They were willing to sign on at that rate and don’t care about the number of hours you work. Because of this, they are typically easier to work with and are less nit-picky.
Consequence 1: Potential Freeloaders
Clients may ask you to do more work than agreed upon in the contract and expect that the flat rate they’re paying you will cover it. This is why your contract has to include exactly what is included in the package for the predetermined price. When a client asks you to do XYZ but XYZ aren’t covered by the contract, you can kindly point that out and provide them a quote for the additional work.
Consequence 2: Reducing Your Pool of Clients
There’s a large chunk of people out there who prefer to pay hourly because they don’t see the true value of a website. They want to only pay for how long it takes you to design and build the website, they don’t care about the ongoing value. By charging a flat rate, you’re removing those people from your audience.
Beliefs at Kristen Leigh Designs
Reducing your pool of clients and dealing with potential freeloaders is something worth accepting to be paid what your services are actually worth. The smaller audience you are speaking to will be better clients overall and with a contract in place that clearly states what you will and will not be doing for the agreed upon amount, you can keep yourself from doing free work for your clients.
It’s better to be paid what you’re worth and that includes the ongoing value the website you are designing will provide to your clients for months and years to come!
Why You’re Not Charging Enough to Build a Website
Now that we’ve covered the two ways to charge as a web design freelancer, let’s talk about how you’re not charging enough, why that’s not good for you or the rest of us web designers, and how to fix that using value based pricing.
how much you should charge to build a website as a Brand New Web Designer (Less Than 1 Project Under Your Belt)
If you’re brand new to web design, maybe you haven’t even built a single website yet or you only have one under your belt, then yes… start by pricing hourly or use a really low rate. This may be an unpopular opinion but let me break it down for you.
Would you pay a business coach $10,000 if they had zero proof they could help you grow your business in 4 months? If they didn’t have a single past client in their portfolio or any data to back up that they could in fact help you reach consistent $10k months, would you gladly hand over that amount of money? No, you wouldn’t.
Would you pay that same person $200 – $500 for 2 months of business coaching with the expectation that they would go above and beyond because they want a really good testimonial from you? Probably. I know I would.
You can’t start out the gate charging premium prices when you have zero experience. That’s the quickest way to kill your business.
And if you’re about to list a handful of people who have done this, let me ask you… do you personally know them? Do you know for a fact that they didn’t take on free projects or charge low prices when they first started out? Just because someone is charging premium prices right now and all you see on their social media is how successful they’ve been, and because they say they started out charging high prices… doesn’t mean they actually did.
Beliefs at Kristen Leigh Designs
When you’re starting out and have 1 or less projects in your portfolio, charge a lower hourly rate. Chances are you’ll spend way more time designing and building the website than you will once you have a couple sites under your belt. It might feel like you’re giving work away for free but it’s the best way to build your portfolio. Obviously don’t cut yourself too short, I mean… you do need to pay your bills! But don’t charge $40 an hour…
You can also charge a lower flat rate based off the number of pages that will need to be designed. Be prepared to work more hours than you planned but remember… you’re just starting out!
My first project I charged a really low rate of of around $200 (maybe even $150!) for a simple blog. My second project, I charged around $550 for an eleven page website. When all was said and done, I made less than $15 per hour. But this client is my best ongoing client now!
when to raise your prices
The simple answer: after every single project. As you get experience you’ll have proof in your portfolio to back up your raising prices.
Here is how I raised my prices as I signed new projects:
- $200/$150 (Web Design)
- $550 (Web Design)
- $670 (Web Design)
- $3,565 (Web Design + Branding)
- $2,597 (Web Design)
- $3,597 (Web Design – multiple projects at this price)
- $4,597 (Web Design – my current web design price)
You’ll notice I went from $670 for a website to $2,597 for a website. That’s a $1,927 increase in price! My next project I signed for $1,000 more and then I stayed at that price for a few projects before increasing my prices to $4,97.
There isn’t an exact science for how to raise your prices, when to do it, and by how much. It’s more of a feeling and how good your marketing is. But to help you create your package prices after you’ve got those first couple of projects under your belt, you can use the value based pricing model below.
How to Use Value Based Pricing as a Web Designer
Step 1: Create Your Packages
First you want to create your packages by writing out EVERYTHING that you want to include. Write everything down on a piece of paper or using Google sheets and notate which features will be included in each package. Don’t leave anything out – if there’s something you do for your client, write it down.
Step 2: Determine Your Hourly Rate
Choose your hourly rate. How much money do you need to make to pay your bills? $20/hour? $35/hour? $40/hour? Whatever it is, determine it and write it down.
Then write down the number of hours it takes to complete each feature of your package. Don’t look at the package as a whole. Look at each individual feature.
Here are some examples:
- Create a custom coming soon page = 30 minutes
- Design 2 versions of 5 pages = 4 hours
- 2 rounds of edits = 6 hours
Once you have the hours assigned to each feature, multiply the hours by your hourly rate.
Continuing with the examples:
- Create a custom coming soon page = 30 minutes x $35/hour = $17.5
- Design 2 versions of 5 pages = 8 hours x $35/hour = $280
- 2 rounds of edits = 6 hours x $35/hour = $210
Step 3: Determine the Value Price
After you’ve determined the hourly rate for each individual feature in your package, it’s time to assign a value price to each feature. The value price is hard to back up by data. But knowing the value/benefit behind each feature makes it easier to assign a value price.
So take a look at each feature and think about the benefit of each feature. Why is creating a custom coming soon page, for example, valuable to your clients? Maybe it’s because it allows new businesses to start generating traffic and collecting email addresses before their entire website is live. Or maybe it’s because it allows their website to stay live in some capacity while you apply the new design to their website.
Whatever the benefit is, apply an amount to that. How much do you FEEL that is worth?
Continuing with the examples:
- Create a custom coming soon page = $200
- Design 2 versions of 5 pages = $799
- 2 rounds of edits = $599
Step 4: Combine Your Hourly Rate an Value Price
Now that you have hourly pricing assigned to all the features and a value price assigned to all the features, you want to add everything together.
Continuing with the examples:
- Create a custom coming soon page = $17.50 + $200 = $217.50
- Design 2 versions of 5 pages = $280 + $799 = $1,079
- 2 rounds of edits = $210 + $599 = $809
- Total Value Based Price = $2,105.50
Voila! Now you know how much you should charge to build a website. If you don’t feel comfortable with your final value based price, start a little lower and work your way up to this price as you continue to land projects.
How it Hurts Other Web Designers When You Price Too Low
We live in a world where it’s easy to price shop. Playing the comparison game is easy to do as a consumer which means businesses that haven’t differentiated themselves have to continuously monitor and adjust their prices to remain competitive.
Unfortunately, this means that if you haven’t differentiated yourself as a web designer but you’re not longer a newbie, you may be reducing your prices to under $500 just to remain in the game.
Before I continue, you NEED to differentiate yourself. What do you do differently than other web designers out there? There has to be something, even if you think there isn’t… look again, there definitely is. And once you’ve figured it out, plaster that on your website so it’s known! That will help you get out of the price comparison black hole. Haven’t figured it out yet? Join Web Design Classifieds and get the skills to differentiate yourself!
But if you haven’t figured out how you’re different yet, raise your prices anyway. Stop charging people $500 for a 5 page website. You’re devaluing web designers and making it really hard for web designers to make a living. If we all collectively raised our prices, people wouldn’t expect to pay dirt cheap prices for a premium service. People would expect to pay premium prices for a premium service.
When you lower your prices, you’re forcing other people to lower their prices (or figure out how they’re different – which like I said, you all should be doing!).
But on the other hand, think about those businesses who want a premium service and are willing to pay for it. They aren’t going to hire someone who is offering a premium service at $500 because it’s too low. They won’t trust that the service is actually premium – because who in their right minds charges such a low price for such a high-end service? You’re selling yourself short and turning away high-end clients by pricing too low.
So jump on board… raise you prices… and get paid what you’re worth!
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