How Much Do I Charge Clients for a Website?

Whoa! Easy there, hard charger. Let’s take it step by step. Maybe you can buy me a cup of coffee first?

OK OK. You want to be a website builder person. But you don’t know how much to charge people. Let’s break it down a bit. You have to work backwards to find the project price point.

To start, you should ask: How much do I need to make per week/month/year?

Yes, you want to make $100,000 a year. Maybe you will! But to start, with your first client, let’s be a bit more modest. Think about your monthly living expenses, how much cash you need to fix your sweater, eat, have some fun, rent out a micro-apartment in NYC, etc.

Then you figure out: How many billable hours do I plan to work each week? ProTip: Many freelancers don’t hit 40 billable hours a week. Maybe you will! But listen, I know one guy who bills only 7 hours a week (and he is a great developer with lots of clients!). Usually, I am happy if I hit 20.

As a freelancer, you are not just working on projects. You are also doing marketing, networking, paying your own bills, buying manilla envelopes at the Office Box Store, driving your mom to her doctor’s appointment since-you-don’t-have-a-real-job. And so on. You can always adjust later.

Then you do simple division and come up with an hourly rate (Amount You Need to Make / Billable Hours = Hourly Rate).
i.e. I want to make $800 US a week / 20 hours = $40 Hourly Rate.

Next, you estimate how many hours it will take to complete a project. More math: (Estimated Hours x Hourly Rate = Project Cost). Your time includes all client meetings, managing resources or subcontractors, market research, testing, feedback cycles, and of yes, of course, doing the actual coding and programming work.
i.e. 50 hour project estimate x $40 - $2,000 Project Cost

OK not done yet! Now add in any additional costs, like special software licenses or resources (like the rights to use those great photographs you found online) or subcontractors (like a web designer) you must have to complete the project.
$2,000 project cost + $100 license fee for photographs + 600 web designer sub contractor = $2,700 Project Cost

Great. Now you have a perfect solution to a clean, perfect project in an awesome, perfect, heavenly world.

But then you must awake from your dream and realize we are in a broken world with real people who have all sorts of things whizzing around that can really. Complicate. Life.

At this point, some freelancers will take the Project Cost figure and just double it.

This helps them account for the inevitable unexpected things that life and clients toss at you. Should you do that? I dunno. You will have to examine your own skills at estimating costs and see if you are on target or sorely under target. Get a few projects under your belt to get a good sense of your project planning skills here.

If you realize later that you were sorely underpaid – look at the bright side: you made a client happy for cheap and they just might refer someone else to you! If you were overpaid – well … think about scaling costs down to remain competitive. Or just make it rain!

So, is $2,700 a realistic price for a website project? I can’t answer that. It all depends on the project requirements- it’s simplicity or complexity, the platform you are using to build (or time to build from scratch), how you value your time, the client’s project budget, the timeline (you betcha rush jobs cost more), existing assets (can you responsibly use components you already own?), and so on.

But Chris! Forget all that! Seriously. How much do I charge clients for a website!?

Well, in my experience, I’ve seen single website project price tags at $350,000 and $30,000 and $400 and free. You aren’t out there to rip anyone off (amirite?). You want to give clients a great product that you can be proud of, and you don’t want to burn any bridges. Until you are really established, it can be difficult to say, “this is my set price no matter your circumstance.” You can say that later, when you are at the point where you can pick and choose clients, and your overhead is stricter. But when you are just starting out, you will need to flex to the budget needs of the people coming to you because, most likely, they are friends of friends and referrals from cousins and neighbors and folks close to your personal network. If you need to do some $400 sites, then do them. Does that mean you are stuck in the $400 market? Not at all.

All that said, the ultimate factor is whether the client agrees that the price that works for you also works for them. If you’ve said, “this is the price” and the client said, “OK.” Then, go forth and build them some webby awesomeness!
Collision between two engines, Bay of Quinte Railway, ON, 1892