Web Design Pricing at Desk

Web Design Pricing Formula

As you know, I’ve been freelancing for over 15 years now and my web design pricing has evolved significantly since the beginning. To be honest, I’m still not charging clients what I should be—but I’ve come a long way.

For me, there have always been three nagging factors that influence the quotes I deliver:

  • Uncertainty
    If you don’t know the market rate for a website build, you could be leaving money on the table. Luckily, the blog post you’re reading right now is intended to educate you on fair and competitive pricing.
  • Lack of Confidence
    I do not see myself as a salesman. Any talk of money is uncomfortable and should be escaped from—not basked in. Charging a client for weeks of work? Nah, I wouldn’t wanna be a bother. It’s crazy how much my lack of confidence has cost me in my freelance career. Until we shift our mindset from service provider to VALUE provider, we’ll be forever suffocated by our own pricing hesitancy. You have a high-demand skill… OWN IT. Charge what you’re worth!
  • Desperation
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve quoted a project for $1,500 because “it would be good to have $1,500 right now.” More often than not, the quote should’ve been 3X that price and I end up losing my shirt in labor. It’s impossible to grow your business if you’re behind the 8 ball on hours and income. Don’t fall into this trap like I have so, so many times. It’s never worth the upfront cash infusion.

There are designers who would scoff at what I quote for WordPress development; tell me it’s a fraction of what I could be asking. Heck, Chris Do charges $20K for logos without flinching! On the other side of the coin, I also realize there are newbies reading this article who think they could never in a million years quote someone what I do for a site build.

Your pricing comfort level is dictated by your experience. Plain and simple. However, these considerations just might help nudge you in the right direction…

Charging Hourly

Invoicing clients for time spent on their project is a touchy subject in our world. It’s not for everybody—but it’s treated me well personally. The fine people at CSS-Tricks say the average hourly rate for website design is $75. Let’s take that number and align it with how long it actually takes to build a new site. In my experience, even if you use a page builder like Enfold, you’re looking at 40-60 hours. That doesn’t include time spent on the phone, video calls, in-person meetings, researching, tracking down assets, searching for media, testing, etc. Charging hourly is nice if a project starts to creep outside the original scope of work. It’s not uncommon for a client to try and sneak in new tasks here and there. That gets awkward if you agreed upon a flat project price. With the hourly model, you just keep the meter running.

Even when I do provide a flat quote, I still use the estimated hours as a baseline against my hourly rate ($95) to arrive at a fair number.

Flat Rate Web Design

Charging a flat price for a web design project is often appealing to both the client and the freelancer (you) because everyone involved knows what to expect in terms of financial investment and income. In this scenario, you are free to structure payments however you feel most comfortable.

When asked for a flat project quote, you should start with your hourly estimate but don’t stop there! Think about all the factors that might have an impact on your project. Everything from potential scope creep to difficult client personalities can affect your bottom line in the end. Factor it ALL in!

Let’s say a project is gonna take me around 60 hours and my rate is $95. That total may be $5,700 but I’m not clicking send on the proposal just yet. Now, I start stacking all of those elements and unknowns that could make this build not worthwhile for me. According to FreshBooks, the average cost to set up, design, and create content for a basic business website is $6,760.

Other Web Design Pricing Considerations

As I touched on earlier, after you’re in the freelance game for a while, you start to pick up on signals that tip you off to how smooth a web design project will go. In fact, there are several subjective factors that might weigh on the quote you throw out there…

Project Size

There’s a certain point where your hourly rate needs to be discounted or the project won’t be financially feasible for the client. If you estimate the engagement lasting months and months, something will have to give. In the end, it could still be a very lucrative project for you given the amount of money at hand.

Business Type

I’m sure you have a general idea of the kind of money certain niches or industries are working with. Even if we don’t know exact numbers, it’s safe to assume a law firm is bringing in more bucks than a homemade jewelry maker. Don’t be shy about raising your prices when you smell dough. These larger companies are actually more likely to be turned off by a too-low quote than a more substantial figure.

Client Relationship

You’re a nice person so you would never charge your family’s dog walker full price for a website design… right? Quote requests can come from any number of sources—so consider the relationship when coming up with a number. After all, you wouldn’t want Beatrice from grandma’s book club telling the whole condo village you’re unreasonable.

Personal Interest

If I’m really not excited about a particular business or if my upcoming work load is a bit overwhelming, I sometimes throw out a crazy number. This way, it’s win-win for me; they say no and I’m absolved of the project or they say yes and I’m paid handsomely.

Will You Need Help?

I recently designed a chalkboard menu for a restaurant (which isn’t my wheelhouse) and ended up having to hire out the entire thing. In the end, I lost money on the project. Think about that… I actually PAID to take on a project. If that sounds as asinine to you as it does me, make sure you anticipate if you might need outside assistance with custom development, specialized art, etc. and how much that will cost you.

Trouble Ahead

Bad clients can really ruin the fun of freelance. I’ve had my fair share over the years and can now spot red flags early on. If you sense that a client might be “extra” throughout the web design process, it’s in your best interest to jack the price up to compensate.

The topic of web design pricing is quite the rabbit hole so we’ll let it all digest for today. To me, the absolute most critical factor here is the value you provide to a client’s business—buhat is a whole can of worms and you have plenty to get started for now.