Web Designers. How to be Confident with What You Charge - Self-Made Web Designer

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Web Designers. How to be Confident with What You Charge

Chris Misterek

Pricing is one of the biggest sources of anxiety for web designers.

There have been so many times in my 5 years of freelancing that I came to the end of a project only to realize I had way underbid. And, I’m not talking about scope creep where the client keeps adding features we hadn’t agreed to.

I’m just talking about simple, plain ole underpriced websites that I should have charged more for.

Sometimes it’s tough to gauge just how much a site is actually worth. Sometimes it’s tough to gauge how long certain aspects will take to finish. Sometimes it’s tough to gauge how difficult a client will be.

But, despite all of that there are a few things I’ve learned to bid on projects with confidence.

  1. Start at the End

    This might be tough when you’re first getting started. But, eventually, you’ll be able to determine how long a project should take.

    For me, I estimate about 10 hours for a landing page and about 70 hours for a basic site. This could be more or less depending on what’s needed. But, I generally end up somewhere around there.

    Knowing it takes me that long if I charge $700 for a website I would be making roughly $10 per hour…less than minimum wage. No thanks.

    You’ve got to determine how much it’s worth it for you to spend your time building someone’s site. The answer to that will be different for everyone and it will change over time.

    When I first got started $20 per hour seemed awesome. Now, it seems criminal.

    So, figure out what your time is worth to you and work backward.

  2. Demand

    Ahh, the law of supply and demand. It still kind of confuses me. But, you should still use it as a web designer to your advantage.

    If you’re a good web designer it won’t be long before people start finding you. Trust me there are tons of people out there willing to pay good prices for websites.

    But, you’re only one person. Unless you build an agency you’ll reach a limit of how many websites you can actually build in a year.

    So, when the demand for your services goes up and your ability to supply those services stay the same, it’s time to raise your prices.

    In the beginning, every time I was working on a project I would double my rates to prospective clients. My thinking was this:

    “I don’t need the work right now. BUT, if someone wants to pay me double what I’m making on this site then I’m willing to put in the extra effort.”

    The crazy thing was this method worked for almost 2 years. Eventually, I got to a place where I had raised my prices to high and clients stopped calling.

    This was the sweet spot of pricing for me at the time…I’ve since raised my prices again. You can read about it here.

  3. Client Neediness

    Another factor that you will absolutely want to consider is client neediness. This is a bit tough to determine but if you have some good safety rails at the beginning of the conversation it can help you figure out just how much hand-holding you’ll have to do.

    The first thing to determine is how clear of an idea they have of what they’re looking for. Red flags you’ll hear are, “I don’t know what I want but I’ll know it when I see it.”

    This means they want to pay you to do the leg work for them. You don’t necessarily need to turn down a scenario like this. You just need to charge them more.

    And, if they’re unwilling to pay you more for doing more work THEN you should run for the hills.

    Another way to combat this is to cap a limit on revisions and charge extra when they go above that. I always offer 3 revisions. I give the client the opportunity to make sweeping revisions if they want but once a round is done, it’s done.

    If they’d like to make more revisions I’m happy to oblige but it will cost extra.

  4. Feel it Out

    There are ways to talk about what their budget is without actually talking about what their budget is.

    Let’s be real. Most of the time you can’t go right out and ask them how much they’re looking to spend.

    The client will instantly shrink back and either finish the conversation or turn it right back around and ask you what your going rate is.

    BUT, there are some things you can do to get a feel for where they might be.

    You do this in the fact-finding conversation.

    Ask them things like:

    – How long have you been in business
    – What do your sales look like
    – How much are you hoping to grow in this next quarter/season

    If someone is just getting started, hasn’t made a lot of money just yet and doesn’t have an idea of how much they’re looking to grow you can almost guarantee that they won’t have a huge budget.

    On the other hand, if they’ve been around for a bit, have a decent amount of sales and a clear idea on what level they’d like to reach next, you can probably aim higher in your bid.

    Truthfully, some bigger companies that make plenty of income are stingy when it comes to web design.

    But, if you find out they’re pulling in $10 mil a year and only want to give you $200 for a brand new 30-page website you can almost guarantee it won’t be worth it.


Getting pricing down takes time and experimentation. I wish I could say there’s a science to it. BUT, there’s really not.

So, be patient. Try out different methods and eventually you’ll come to a place where you’re comfortable with how much you’re charging.

How about you? Tell us about a time you absolutely underbid on a project.

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