Learn how much you should charge to build a website no matter what stage you’re at in your web design business.
Edited March 2021
I’m not even going to pretend that I knew how to price my web design packages when I first started my business in 2017. Nope.
Back when I first started, I had a list of web designers and business owners that I looked up to written on a piece of paper. I devoured every detail of their website, took notes on what was included in their packages, how their packages were priced, and anything I could find about their processes.
As much as I’d like to say this was helpful to me… it wasn’t. I wasn’t even remotely in the same chapter of my business as these women so while this information was interesting, it wasn’t something I could apply to my own business.
I’d argue that it was a total waste of time and a major form of procrastination that was driven by my fear of being rejected by a lead.
Overwhelming doesn’t even begin to explain how it feels to set your prices when you’re just starting out.
“Should I charge hourly?”
“Should I create a package price?”
“If I charge a package price, where do I even begin?”
“Do I start really low… at like $100?”
“Do I go all in and charge $1,000? Do I even have the skills needed to charge that much?”
“Maybe I should just build a couple websites for free first…”
Hold the phone! Do not… I repeat… DO NOT build a single website for free!
Nearly everything in this world is an exchange of time for money or money for time. You know who does stuff for free? Students who are paying someone else for the time that person is spending teaching them about xy & z.
As a brand spankin’ new web designer your client isn’t the teacher. You’re not paying them to teach you how to build their website (the website would be seen as the form of payment). In this case, you’re both the student and the teacher which means you better be getting paid. You should never, NEVER, give your time away for free even if you have zero web design skills.
Different Web Design Pricing Methods
For the sake of this post we’re only talking about pricing your 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. Projects done, you never need to talk to that client again.
There are two ways to price your one-time web design projects:
- Hourly pricing
- Flat rate package pricing
Charging hourly means you will track the hours you work on a specific project, multiply the hours worked by your hourly rate and then charge your client that total amount at the end of the project or in set milestones throughout the project.
To charge hourly you need the following information up front:
- Your hourly rate (set rate that cannot fluctuate throughout the duration of the project)
- Estimate of the hours it will take you to complete the project (to give your client an estimated project quote)
Hourly rate x Number of hours worked = Total project price
How to find your hourly rate
One thing I hear from my community members all the time is how difficult it is to choose an hourly rate. To them it’s like some arbitrary number that’s being plucked out of thin air. One you’re then stuck with for the rest of your life.
First off, this isn’t the stone age. You’re not choosing an hourly rate, etching it into stone and then being forced to keep that hourly rate for the rest of your life. Pricing can forever and always increase. Pricing cannot forever and always decrease though. Let me give you an example of why:
You land a client named Tasha and charge her $20 per hour. Tasha is so pleased with your work that she refers you to her business owner friend Amy. You decide to charge Amy $15 per hour instead of $20 per hour. A couple weeks go by and Tasha and Amy go out for coffee.
Amy: “Can you believe she only charges $15 per hour for such amazing work?”
Tasha: “Err… what?!?!?!”
Decreasing your prices can cause major problems for you with past clients if they find out you charged them more than your other clients. Not to mention, it can give your business a negative reputation so it’s important that your hourly rate isn’t being decreased over time.
“So, what should my hourly rate be, Kristen?”
Wouldn’t it be amazing if I was your fairy godmother and could give you the perfect hourly rate? Unfortunately, I can’t. Sorry! Here’s why…
Your hourly rate is dependent on a number of factors:
- Cost of living where you reside
- Tax rate where you reside (if you live in the US you definitely have to put money aside for taxes)
- Current employment situation (full time, part time, no employer, etc.)
- Non-negotiable business expenses (ie. payment processor fees)
- Non-negotiable personal expenses (ie. student loans)
- Lifestyle you want to maintain
Charging $15 per hour may work for someone living in the middle of nowhere in Maine where cost of living is low. If that same person moved to New York City, $15 per hour wouldn’t cut it.
Pull out a Google sheet, dump in a list of your expenses that this business needs to cover, choose how much you’ll save for taxes (30% after expenses is usually a safe amount), and start doing some calculations.
Benefits of Charging Hourly
While I never recommend any web designer charge by the hour, there are some benefits to using this method when pricing your packages.
Clients love it
Clients and potential leads love being charged by the hour because they know they’re only paying you for the time worked. It’s basically like you’re a standard hourly employee at a company which is what most people are used to. Since you’ll be tracking your hours, clients will know exactly what you did, how long it took you to do it, and will only pay you for what you have done.
No unpaid scope creep
Almost every web designer has some version of a story where they signed on a client, thought they were finished with the website, only for the client to ask for XYZ to be completed on top of what they’ve already done.
Since you’re charging by the hour, 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.
Consequences of Charging Hourly
While there are a couple benefits to charging hourly, I don’t recommend it for a reason… and that’s because there are a lot more consequences to charging hourly!
Since you’re providing your client an hourly breakdown of how your time is spent, your client has the opportunity to scrutinize how long it took you to do every single little thing.
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.
Only paid for your time
Websites provide ongoing value to a business for months and years after they’ve been launched. Charging hourly means you won’t get paid for that ongoing value and instead will only be paid for the time you put in. You’re making a difference in that business owner’s life for a looooong time – you deserve to get paid for that!
Creating an income cap
Charging hourly sets a cap on how much money you can make each month because there are only so many hours you can work in a day, in a week, and in a month. Once you’ve maxed out those hours, your income can’t go any higher with hourly pricing.
Flat Rate Package Pricing
Flat rate package pricing requires you to determine a price for the project up front and invoice on a predetermined schedule based on that rate.
For example, if your flat rate was $2,400 you could invoice in two different ways:
- $2,200 up front (I usually provide a discount if people pay 100% up front)
- $1,000 deposit, $700 one month after the start date, and $700 two months after the start date
How to set your flat rate package pricing
There are two web design pricing formulas you need to take into consideration when setting your flat rate package prices.
Formula 1: Overhead costs + (hours you’ll be working x hourly rate) = package price
Formula 2: Pricing = 10% experience, 5% features, and 85% messaging
Something you must understand is that you most likely won’t be able to launch your web design services with $5,000 packages. $2,000 packages might even be a bit of a stretch. That’s okay though! It’s totally normal.
The most important thing to understand though is that you can quickly raise your prices once you have the foundations in place. Here’s more info on what you need to know about charging $5,000 for a web design package.
Benefits of Flat Rate Package Pricing
Paid for the on-going value the website provides
Instead of being paid just for the hours you work, with flat rate package pricing you’re getting paid for the value the website provides your client for months and years into the future.
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).
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!
No income cap
Flat rate package pricing keeps you from capping your weekly income at 40 hours times your hourly rate. You can take on as many projects in a single month as you can comfortably balance and make more than you would have by charging hourly.
Hourly pricing example:
(40 hours x $25 per hour) x 52 weeks in a year = $52,000 per year
^The only way to increase your yearly income would be to increase your hourly rate and at a certain point, clients will be hesitant to say yes to a rate they don’t see as “normal.”
Flat rate package pricing example:
One $4,597 package per month x 12 months in a year = $55,164 per year
Two $3,000 packages per month x 12 months in a year = $72,000 per year
Clients who sign on at a flat rate are typically overall better clients because 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.
Consequences of Flat Rate Package Pricing
But of course, just like hourly pricing, flat rate package pricing also has it’s consequences.
Potential freeloaders and scope creep
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.
Reduces your pool of clients
There’s a large chunk of people out there who prefer to pay hourly because it’s what they’re used to and because they don’t see the true value of a website. Those people 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.
Benefit to this = better clients!
How Much You Should Charge to Build a Website as a Brand New Web Designer (less than 1 project under your belt)
Remember, I never recommend building websites for free. But, 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, you can’t start out the gate charging premium prices. That’s the quickest way to kill your business.
Would you pay a business coach $10,000 if they had zero proof they could help you grow your business? 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.
And if you’re about to list a handful of people who have launched their businesses with high priced packages, let me ask you this… 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 doesn’t mean they always have.
My first project I charged a really low flat rate 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 was my best ongoing client for nearly 3 years!
When To Raise Your Prices
The simple answer: raise your prices 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 $4,597.
Now, let me clarify: you can’t raise your prices if your marketing and social proof isn’t improving as well. In order to raise your prices like I did, you need to understand the value you’re providing and have proof that you’re actually providing that value.
How To Use Value Based Pricing as a Web Designer
Step 1: Create Your Packages
Pull out a piece of paper or create a new Google sheet and write down everything you want to include in your packages. 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. This will help inform how much you should charge to build a website.
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 behind each feature makes it easier to assign a value price.
Take a look at each feature and think about the value of each feature. Why is creating a custom coming soon page 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 and Value Price
Now that you have both hourly pricing and value pricing assigned to all the features, you simply 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.
Need help with your pricing? The 4-part web design income system has a strong focus on pricing your web design services correctly from the very beginning. Forget about taking on projects for free to build your skills and confidence – you’ll get paid for the very first website you build! Learn more about the web design income system in our free on-demand training by clicking here.
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 or haven’t mastered the art of communicating their value have to continuously monitor and adjust their prices to remain competitive.
If you’re one of those web designers but you’re no longer “new” to the web design world, you may be reducing your prices to under $500 just to remain in the game.
Yes, you need to learn how to differentiate yourself. Yes, you need to learn how to properly communicate the value you’re providing. But even if you can’t do either of those things right now, please for the benefit of all web designers out there… 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.