Starting out in any industry can be challenging, but it’s especially brutal for freelancers. You have to set your own rates and understand how much time a project will take before beginning. This is especially true when trying to figure out website design pricing.
While you can look online to quickly find that the average cost of building a website is somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000, it can be hard to finalize a price. Yet you have to, and customers won’t wait very long for you to set that price.
Today, we will cover what factors to consider when deciding the price of your web design services.
Website Design Pricing: Hourly vs Fixed Rates
There are two main ways that freelance web developers charge their customers, hourly and fixed. With that in mind, let’s take a look at each one of these to see their pros and cons.
Websites, like anything else, take time to make. But the amount of time a web developer may spend on a project can vary wildly. For this reason, a web developer may try to work at an hourly rate and on average charge $75 per hour.
This ensures the web developer is paid for every second of time they spend on a project. This also helps make the customer aware that any changes they decide to make to the scope of the project or last-minute additions will add to the total price.
After all, that takes time.
Yet, we have only looked at this from the freelancer’s perspective. What about as a customer? Well, hourly is not a desirable option. Why?
Customers like to know exactly how much a job is going to cost them. And when a project will likely cost several thousand dollars, knowing that price is very important. It’s also very difficult for them to actually know how long it took you to set up a website.
Seriously, you could say it took 100 hours, but they really have no way to verify that.
Instead of looking at the amount of time you spend to complete a project, a fixed rate is where you decide the price tag at the start. Thus, before you begin writing a single line of code, you need to decide how much it will cost to build a website based on what the customer asks.
This is by far the most common method that freelancers use as a basis for web developer rates. An experienced web developer has a solid idea of how long any given project will take and knows the questions they need to ask before coming up with a figure.
Of course, the main problem is if you get a customer that keeps making changes. Since you already agreed to a specific rate, well, you’re locked in.
However, while that is a negative for the freelancer, it’s a positive for the customer. They know exactly how much a job will cost, and they have more freedom to make changes without influencing the price.
And because it favors the customer, that is why fixed rates have become the standard.
Factors That Should Determine Your Website Design Pricing
Building a website is complicated. There are a lot of moving parts, and each one will have a direct influence on website design pricing. Figuring out what should influence web developing pricing and what shouldn’t isn’t always set in stone.
Let’s take a look at a variety of factors to consider.
1. Experience Level
While there are certainly exceptions to this rule, the longer you’ve been in an industry, the more money you should be making. That’s true even in the freelance market to a certain extent. And let’s face it, having a lot of experience is a great selling point.
But the real question is, how much extra is that experience worth?
Well, it really depends. If you are targeting a niche market without much competition, a lot of experience can easily tack on an extra 10% to 50%. The fewer options customers have, the better the position you are in to charge more. Yet, the opposite is also true.
The bottom line is someone with 10 years of experience should charge more than an amateur. But in a crowded market space, the amount can’t be drastically that much higher because of the sheer amount of competition.
And that’s exactly the kind of market web design is in.
2. Scope of the Project
The next biggest factor is the project itself. This is the most obvious component of determining web design pricing, but it’s far from simple. Obviously, building a website from scratch with HTML vs using a platform like WordPress are completely different animals.
However, sometimes the project isn’t building a new website. Instead, you may just be updating an older one. You can try to argue that updating an older website with a fresh design still requires a similar amount of work, but customers won’t buy it.
You also need to factor in what is accepted as the norm.
For instance, we are well past the days of being able to charge extra to make a website mobile-friendly (responsive). That is a given in 2022, thus, it needs to be included in the base price.
Other similar things include setting up the Google Search Console or additional integrations.
3. Your Customer
This might be the most important factor you need to remember; the value of the work you provide is not worth the same to every customer. You might think that your service is worth X, but the customer will not believe that for a second.
For instance, there’s clearly a difference in value between building a restaurant website that allows customers to order online and building a personal blog. The restaurant owner will be able to use the website you build to make a lot more money and expand their business.
Yet, a personal blog is not likely to earn any money for months or even years. Thus, the price tag needs to be different.
However, this isn’t a bad thing. This gives you a better excuse to charge more for business sites that will earn the customer a lot of money in the long term. Trust me, you are going to need to take on big and small projects, so understanding the earning potential matters.
4. The Current Market Rates
This should go without saying, but your freelance service is a business. And as all business owners know, you need to make sure your prices are in line with the competition. You can try and charge $10k to build a website, but if others are willing to do it for $5k, that’s where customers will go.
And unlike a local business, you really can end up competing on a global scale. This might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s the truth.
You do not have to meet clients to discuss business in person. Most of this is conducted through emails, phone calls, or even video chats. And with websites like Fiverr, Upwork, or even the Facebook Marketplace, it’s easy to see what others are charging.
Your prices need to match the competition. Always be open to negotiations, especially when starting out. Figure out what others are charging for a website at your experience level and what they are including.
5. Is It A Niche?
You can definitely argue that considering the niche is part of understanding the scope of the project, but I think it warrants its own consideration.
Let’s face it, there are some pretty niche websites out there. For instance, there is really a blog about basket weaving, including the underwater variety. Now, this wouldn’t differ from a standard blog, but many can, and that is a factor to consider.
How many web designers are familiar with the niche? Not many, then you can definitely charge more. The point is, when the customer doesn’t have many options, you have a lot more freedom when it comes to price.
However, the point about market rates still applies.
Website Design Pricing: When to Ask For Payment
As a freelancer, you are free to make your own rules, but there are three main ways this will typically go down.
1. Upfront Payment
By far, the most common practice is to have the customer pay you the full amount upfront. Obviously, you must decide on a fixed amount for this to be applicable.
There are multiple advantages to this. First, it ensures that the customer pays you. Unfortunately, as a freelancer, your payment collection options are limited. Getting the money first is very important because the customer could try and renegotiate later on.
And since the work is already done, you’re not in a very good position.
Another advantage is that some features may cost you money. For instance, if part of the project was picking out a web host or installing a premium tool on the website, well, you need to pay to have that covered, which is typically included in the full price.
Wasting your own funds to build someone else’s website is unacceptable.
2. Payment Upon Completion
This really only applies when a web developer chooses to use hourly rates. Obviously, the number of hours you work on a project can’t be determined until it is over.
That said, sometimes you can still require a downpayment for working the minimum amount of hours the project may take. And that is a very good practice to consider if you are set on working hourly.
The real issue with this is that the customer could simply take the work and run. That doesn’t really leave you many options. You could try going to court, but then you would have to pay for legal help, and the result isn’t guaranteed.
3. Half Now, Half Later
This is really more for amateurs or smaller projects, but some customers are not comfortable paying everything upfront.
And to be fair, everything that applies to customers running away without paying works on the flipside with contractors taking money and skipping town. This is not a bad arrangement, but it’s ultimately up to you.
No matter what option you decide upon, make sure you discuss payment before starting any work.
Remember It’s Not Hard For Customers to Build Their Own Website
Now, I know what many of you are thinking,”there’s no way a customer can build a website on par with what I can do.”
However, think about what you just said, “on par with what I can make.” You just acknowledged they could make a website. And frankly, it’s not hard to do. In fact, that’s a big reason why the overall cost to design a website has shrunk over the years.
There is an abundance of tools and tutorials online that can help anyone build a website. And even more pressing, business owners and enthusiasts are becoming more tech-savvy.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that a middle-schooler could build a website with WordPress. In fact, a lot of schools are pushing for this in certain classes.
Today, you can build a website without writing a line of code, and it can still look pretty good. As good as a professional? Probably not, but good enough that a small business will choose to do it themselves and save $5k.
In reality, many are beginning to lay the groundwork themselves to hire a professional down the road to make the website more presentable. That said, web design isn’t a dying career.
It’s the opposite, businesses that are doing well will splurge to improve their website.
Fair Website Design Pricing Means More Customers
Creating a website pricing system that is fair is a sure-fire way to attract more customers. And if you do a great job, they will most likely use your services again in the future. So not only is it directly related to your success, but it’s also a marketing tactic.
The good news, or bad news, depending on how you look at it, is that web design is a very crowded industry. You can easily figure out what other freelancers are charging and attempt to match the price.
And frankly, you should.
Getting customers is always more important than getting them at a specific price point. The only way you can really lose money is if your acceptance of one job means turning down another.
How much extra do you charge for having a lot of experience? Are there any other factors that you consider when deciding on website design pricing?