How Much to Charge for Building a Website?

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If you’re just starting your web designer career, it can be tricky to know how much to charge for your services. You don’t want to overcharge and risk driving away potential clients, but you also don’t want to sell yourself short by undercharging.

Setting a price point that’s fair for you and attractive for your clients is a balancing act, and it requires taking a lot of different factors into account.

Let’s take a look at what these factors are, how much most web designers charge for building a website, and some helpful tips and tricks for starting your career off smoothly.

Summary: How much should you charge for building a website?

  • The current average price that a freelance web designer can charge is between $50 and $80 an hour.
  • A flat fee can range anywhere from $500 for a simple portfolio site to $5,000 – $10,000 for a standard business website.
  • The price you can expect to charge will vary based on factors such as your level of experience, the complexity and scope of the project, where you live, and whether you’ve decided to charge hourly or a flat fee.

How to Set Your Prices for Building Websites: Factors to Consider

When you’re setting the price for your services, there are a lot of essential things to consider.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that will influence how much you should expect to charge your clients.

Type of Website & Customization

First and foremost, not all websites are created equal.

Building a simple landing page is one thing, and building a larger, more complex website with different features such as eCommerce functionality or appointment booking is another.

When a client approaches you with a potential project, the first thing you should do is take into consideration what type of website they want and be realistic about how much effort you’ll need to put into building it.

If you’re going to use a simple website builder tool or CMS like WordPress to build a generic landing page-style website, you’ll likely charge less.

Similarly, you’ll need to charge much more if you’re creating a unique, highly customized website for a client.

You should also factor in the cost of whatever tools you’ll need to build the website that your client wants (and make sure that your client is aware of these added costs), such as:

  • A hosting platform
  • A domain name
  • CMS and/or a website builder
  • Added security features
  • Plug-ins or apps
  • Regular maintenance fees

The last thing you want to do is lose money on a project, so you’ll need to make sure that the cost of any and all tools are covered in your pricing model or in the price you quote to your client.

Your Time

“Time is money” is one of the most common idioms in the English language, and when it comes to freelancing, it couldn’t be more true.

This is closely related to customization in that the difficulty of the project should be factored into the price quote you give potential clients.

As a freelancer, knowing the value of your time is extremely important. You shouldn’t take on clients who aren’t respectful of your time.

Thus, the more time you spend on a project, the more payment you should receive for your labor.

Even if you don’t charge an hourly rate, your time must be factored into your price.

You can do this either by carefully estimating the amount of time needed before quoting a flat fee or by stipulating that the flat fee covers a specific number of hours, beyond which you will charge an additional hourly fee if necessary.

Current Market Rates

fiverr freelance web designers

In addition to your own skills and experience level, you’ll have to take into account the current market rates in your field when you’re pricing your services.

A good way to do this is to look up web designers in your geographical area and see how much they’re charging for similar services and experience levels. 

In the beginning, it can be tempting to undersell the market and advertise your services extra-cheap, but be careful about this:

some clients may be looking to get a website as cheaply as possible, but most will be looking for quality, and might not trust a designer whose fees look too good to be true.

Your Own Cost of Living

These days life can get pretty expensive, especially if you live in a city or large urban area.

It’s a simple fact of economics that goods and services cost more in certain areas than others, and you should take this into account when setting your prices.

The chances that a web designer living in San Francisco will charge more than a web designer living in rural Kentucky are high, even if both have comparable skills and experience.

You may be worried about overpricing or asking for too much, but think of it this way: if you still can’t afford to pay your bills and other living expenses even after completing a project, then what’s the point?

For example, let’s say your monthly expenses are around $3,000, and you plan to work 20 days out of every month. That means that just to break even you’ll have to earn about $150 a day. 

If you charge $50 an hour for your services and work 4 hours a day, then over the course of 20 days you’ll earn $4,000 – enough to put a little towards savings and a little towards fun.

Of course, this is just a hypothetical scenario.

You’ll have to take the time to calculate exactly what your average monthly expenses are and set a price for your labor that allows you to both cover these expenses and put a little aside in savings.

Your Skill Level

This one is a delicate balance.

If you’re a new web designer and haven’t built a large portfolio yet, or you’re still trying to gain experience in the field, then you should very likely charge on the lower end for your services ($50-$60 an hour).

You don’t want to overstate your abilities and end up biting off more than you can chew, especially at the beginning of your career when client reviews will be crucial to building your reputation in the field.

At the same time, you don’t want to give in to imposter syndrome and sell yourself short.

It’s true that you should charge less if you have less experience, but charging too little may make potential clients suspicious about the quality of your work.

As you build your portfolio (and your glowing customer reviews), you can raise your prices.

Experienced web designers usually charge more than $70 an hour, even up to $125-$150.

How Much Do Most Web Designers Charge?

upwork freelance web designers

At present, the average hourly charge for a beginner web designer is around $50 an hour. 

Of course, that means that some designers charge less, and others charge more, with the range being around $25 – $100 an hour.

More experienced web designers with larger portfolios and more comprehensive skill sets will charge more an hour, ranging from $80 – $200.

As for charging a flat fee, this will depend on the kind of project you’re undertaking.

You may charge as little as $200 for a simple portfolio website, or up to $10,000 for a more complex business or eCommerce website.

Which brings us to the next important question: should you charge by the project or hourly?

Should You Charge by the Project or Hourly?

This is a question that all website builders have to face, and the answer can seem opaque.

Although there are benefits to both options, it’s generally better to charge by the project.

Why?

Charging by the project ensures transparency. When a client first comes to you with a project, you’ll examine exactly what is necessary to build and maintain their desired website from start to finish.

You can then make a price quote and explain the breakdown of the price to the client.

This keeps everything clear and makes it so that both you and your client will know exactly how much their website will cost and what they’ll be getting in the end.

On the other hand, charging by the hour can get tricky if the work takes longer than you (or the client) expected. 

Clients may be unhappy with paying more than they anticipated, and you may end up in the unpleasant situation of having to defend or retroactively explain how you spent your time and why the website building process took as long as it did.

This situation isn’t ideal for you or your clients, and charging a flat fee is a good way to avoid suspicion and misunderstandings.

Tips for Selling Your Services as a Web Designer

If you’re just starting out in your career as a web designer, entering the field can seem daunting.

To make it a bit easier – and to improve your profits – here are some helpful tips.

Tip 1: Increase Your Profits With Extra Services

To increase your profits, you can offer extra services to your clients after their websites are complete.

For example, most web designers offer monthly maintenance, including bug checks and regular updates, for an added monthly fee.

Many businesses don’t want to conduct website maintenance themselves (and hiring someone else to do it is unnecessarily costly), so this can be an easy way for you to continue to earn a profit off your work.

Additionally, if you have a great reseller or agency web hosting account, you can provide them with that hosting and earn some extra cash.

Tip 2: Avoid Scope Creep With a Documented Proposal

Regardless of what field you’re in, managing client expectations is a delicate but crucial skill to develop. 

As a website designer, one of the most common problems you may encounter in this area is “scope creep,” or the tendency of a project to slowly become bigger than what you originally agreed to take on.

For example, maybe you agreed to a simple landing page, but in the middle of the process, your client decided they want to add eCommerce functionality

This may not be a problem if you’re getting paid hourly.

However, if you’ve agreed to be paid a flat fee, it’s easy to see how this kind of scope creep can quickly get out of hand, leaving you with way more work than you’ve been paid for.

The best way to avoid this is by writing a documented proposal.

This means that, rather than relying on email or in-person communication alone, you type up a project proposal based on your client’s requests at the beginning of the project and ask your client to sign if they agree that what you proposed is indeed what they envision.

That doesn’t mean that the client can’t change their mind later, of course, but having a concrete project proposal makes it easier for you to either:

a) refuse to expand the scope or b) charge for the extra labor necessary without any risk of miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Tip 3: Dealing With Unreasonable Clients

Even if you do everything right – write up a documented project proposal, set a fair price, communicate clearly and give regular updates, etc. – you still may find yourself dealing with unreasonable, even hostile clients.

There are a lot of reasons to love working as a web designer, but just like in any field, a “bad apple” can really spoil your day. 

And unfortunately, if you’re a freelancer, you don’t have a boss or manager to refer client complaints to.

It’s all on you, which means you’ll have to get used to dealing with unreasonable requests and expectations.

Here are a few helpful tips:

  1. Always be as clear as possible, and keep clients in the loop. 

No, you don’t have to send them an email every time you write a line of code – that would be annoying.

But you should make sure they have a general idea of what you’re working on at any given time and any changes you’ve decided to make, particularly regarding frontend design.

  1. Don’t email while angry. 

Sometimes an email comes in that just makes you want to tear your hair out. Maybe a client refuses to pay for something or asks you to make unnecessary changes for the hundredth time.

And maybe you have the perfect, most epic burn of a response all planned out in your head. 

Don’t send it. 

Take a deep breath, go for a walk, and wait at least an hour before responding. Remember that it’s your responsibility to be the professional in the situation, and you don’t want one person’s negative review to damage your reputation in the field.

  1. Know when to walk away.

Let’s say you did everything right: you communicated clearly, kept your client in the loop, and didn’t take the bait when they sent you annoying or aggressive emails, but the situation still seems to be spiraling out of control.

Unfortunately, sometimes things just aren’t meant to be, and it’s better for both you and your client if you go your separate ways. 

Keep things as civil as possible, try to make sure that you get paid fairly for any services you’ve rendered up until that point, and wish good luck to the poor web designer who has to work with that client next.

The Bottom Line

Knowing how much to charge for your services can be tricky, especially when you’re first starting out in the field.

Many web designers charge hourly (usually between $50-$60 an hour for beginners and anywhere from $70-$150 for more experienced web designers).

But you can also choose to set a flat fee for your work (anywhere from $500 to more than $10,000, depending on the type of website).

Setting a flat fee allows you to manage your clients’ expectations by being upfront about the cost of your labor right from the very beginning.

It also allows you to calculate the project's overall cost and ensure that you’re being paid fairly and making a good profit off your work.

When deciding exactly how much to charge, make sure you take personal factors such as your geographical location, cost of living, and level of experience in mind as well.

And good luck! If you set up the right conditions, being a web designer can be a majorly rewarding and profitable career.

References

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