How To Price Your Services: A Guide For Web Designers

Last Updated on September 21, 2022 by 94 Comments

How To Price Your Services: A Guide For Web Designers
Blog / Tips & Tricks / How To Price Your Services: A Guide For Web Designers

Pricing your design services is a dilemma that all web designers face. It can be very difficult to put a monetary value on your time and your experience. Whether you like this aspect of designing or not, it is something you need to do if you are a freelancer or if you operate a web design company.

Unfortunately, pricing your services is not an exact science. You need to consider a lot of factors in order to price a project correctly. And you may find that you need to price different projects in a different way so that you are compensated fairly.

In this article, I would like speak about the factors you should consider when pricing your web design services.

Hourly or Fixed

Design projects are normally charged as a fixed price or on an hourly basis. It is important to understand the pros and cons of each pricing structure.

Clients generally prefer to pay a fixed price for design work so that they know in advance the full cost of a project. The benefit of this is that both parties know up front what the cost will be i.e. a client wants a design and will pay you X amount of money.

For designers, charging on an hourly basis may be a more practical solution as it ensures you do not lose out financially if the project takes longer.

Consider a website design that you expect will take 20 hours to complete. Before you take on the project, you could quote the client a fee of $1,000 or an hourly fee of $50 per hour. If you charge a fixed price and manage to complete the website within ten hours, you have effectively earned an additional ten hours of income. But what if the project takes longer than expected? What if the website took 25 hours, 30 hours, or even 40 hours to complete? You could end up spending double the time you had expected for no additional earnings.

As you gain more experience in freelancing, you will have a better understanding of what is involved in a project. Therefore, if you are positive that you will not face any problems with a design, it may be worth charging the client a fixed price. However, things do not always go to plan and it is difficult to see the challenges that a particular design may present. That is why charging per hour is favored by many designers. A good alternative is to charge a fixed price for a project and then charge more if it takes more than an agreed number of hours to complete.

Even if you favor charging by the hour, you may be faced with the decision on whether it is worth taking on a project on a fixed price basis (e.g. a project advertised on a freelancing website or because a client wants to know the final cost up front). Be sure to evaluate each project and know the pros and cons of each charging option before you agree terms with the client.

Determine the Market Rate

Knowing the market rate for design work will help you price your own services effectively. You can do this by checking the rates of competitors on their website and through freelance marketplaces.

Understand the market that you will be targeting:

  • Will you be offering your services locally or internationally?
  • Are you targeting small businesses or large companies?
  • Will you be taking on smaller jobs (e.g. logos, banners) or bigger projects (e.g. complete websites)?

Compare like with like to ensure that you have a realistic estimate of the market rate of your services.

Evaluate Your Own Skill Level

If you can put your ego to one side, it is worthwhile evaluating the quality of your services against competitors. This will help you determine whether you can charge more than the market rate.

  • Do you have more experience than your competitors?
  • Can you offer something that others cannot e.g. technical or design experience?
  • Do you have a good reputation within your market?

Being aware of your own skill level will allow you to price your rates accordingly and justify these rates to clients.

Drafting the Initial Design

It is important to discuss the project with your client thoroughly so that you understand what they need. Photo by ronstik /

Are You in Demand?

If you just starting out, you may have to drop your rates initially in order to build up a portfolio. This will help you secure projects you may have lost due to your recent entry into the market.

As demand for your services grows, you will be in a position to increase your rates. Turning down clients because you have too much work on your hands is a sure sign that you are in demand and probably not charging clients enough. So don’t be afraid to increase your rates if you have a lot of enquiries about work.

Identify Your Own Costs

Be aware of your business costs when you are pricing your services. On a project to project basis, you should incorporate the cost of any stock images or templates you need to purchase for the project. You should include any costs of hiring another developer or designer to help you with any problems you may face too.

Also take into account ongoing freelancing costs such as marketing expenses, telephone calls, insurance, and any traveling expenses that are involved visiting the client. The important thing to remember is that any expenses you incur will eat into your profits. Therefore, they should be incorporated into your pricing structure from the start.

Sign A Contract

It is in your interests, and your clients interests, to sign a contract before you work together. Your contract should detail:

  • The estimated time to complete the project and what happens if the project takes longer to complete
  • How many revisions are included with your initial draft
  • Whether you will be working set days per week and whether you have any holidays planned
  • How payment will be made
  • What happens if the client changes their mind and wants to change the design
  • What conditions need to be met to cancel the project early
  • Whether the client be charged an additional fee if the project requires more work than expected
  • Whether the client can pay an additional fee to make their project priority and finish the design sooner
  • The amount of support, if any, that is provided after the design has been completed

It is not enough to have your terms and conditions agreed verbally with the client. You should sign a contract so that the law is on your side. At the very least, you need to make it clear on your website what happens in certain situations and have the client agree to those terms through an online declaration form. This will avoid unnecessary problems arising in the future.

Terms and Conditions

Be sure to speak about issues that could crop up in the future. Photo by mindscanner /

After Sales Support

Providing support to clients can be a big drain on time. If you are going to provide after sales support to your clients, you should agree with them beforehand how much support is provided free of charge after you have delivered the final design. For example, you may include two hours of email support after delivering a website design to help explain how important functions work. Beyond that, you could offer additional support at a set rate.

A good way to earn extra money in the future is to set up a contract for two or three days of maintenance work and support every month on an ongoing basis (perhaps under a retainer). If a few clients sign up to this, you can easily increase your passive income.

Discounts for Loyal Customers

It sometimes pays to be a little flexible with your pricing, particularly when it comes to offering discounts to loyal customers.

  • Will you offer a discount for placing more than one order?
  • Will you offer a discount if the project is larger and contracts you to a longer period of time?
  • Will you offer a discount to returning clients?
  • Will you offer a small referral fee or discount to a client if they refer you new business?

While you should not get into the habit of dropping your rates, you should give consideration to offering discounts to good customers. Remember the 80/20 rule. 20% of your customers will bring in 80% of your income; therefore it pays to give preferential rates to your best clients.

Negotiation Skills

Jeff Gardner wrote a great article for Smashing Magazine five years ago in which he spoke about the Quality-Price-Ratio in Web Design.

The quality of a design and the monetary cost of producing or procuring that design have absolutely no relationship whatsoever.

Jeff noted that, from a client’s point of view, a design will fall into one of four categories:

  • Bad design that’s expensive
  • Bad design that’s cheap
  • Good design that’s expensive
  • Good design that’s cheap

This illustrates that both the quality of your designs, and the price of your services, are subjective. Your branding and your confidence in your own abilities will therefore be a big factor on how you sell yourself to clients.

Ultimately, it comes down to how well you can negotiate a price and sell yourself to the client. Do not be afraid to walk away if a client is not willing to meet your demands, as you may have to turn down a higher paying client later because you have agreed to work at a lower rate.

Accepting Payment

It is common for designers to accept as much as 50% of the final price as a deposit. Some designers deliver the final work on delivery of the final payment, while others charge clients in stages. For example, the first payment before the initial draft, another payment after the next draft, final payment upon completion etc. Paying in stages reduces the risk for both you and your clients.

Another important thing you need to consider is the method of payment. Before you do anything, discuss with the client how you will be paid. You should be aware of the costs involved in accepting payment through a service such as PayPal, and the corresponding risk of a client making a complaint through a payment service about non-delivery. This is why many designers accept payment by check or direct bank transfer instead.

To get a better understanding of how other designers charge clients, I recommend reading this fantastic series of articles by David Airey from 2008. A total of 60 designers share the method they use to charge clients and why they chose that particular method. It is a great insight into how other designers operate.

It may be tempting to do some work for a client before payment has been made, though it is better to wait until you have been sent the initial payment before you do anything. If not, you run the risk of doing design work for a client that does not pay up.

Final Thoughts

Pricing your services is a necessary part of working as a designer. If you take all pricing factors into consideration, you should price your services correctly. Though remember that pricing your services is not an exact science, so you need to accept the fact that you may sometimes under price your services. With experience, this becomes less of an issue.

While you may need to drop your prices a little at the start to encourage clients to try a designer with few past clients, be aware that pricing your services too low might attract tire kickers that waste all your time.

We are proud of the fact that web designers from around the world use Elegant Themes designs to create websites for their clients. Therefore, we want you to get a good price for the work you do by taking into consideration all the factors raised in this article.

Do you have any pricing advice to share with fellow designers? If so, please share your tips in the comment area below 🙂

Article thumbnail image by Doremi /


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  1. This article is useful for web designing, thanks for post.

  2. I charge hourly, and my hourly rate is slightly lower than other web design / development business around me.

    My pitch to clients is “I charge X hourly, and I bill by the minute for actual work done”. Before I give an estimate I get a full list of pages they want, how they expect those pages to behave (photo gallery, calendar, static page with an image or two, detailed tabled data etc), then I ask them how they want to proceed with graphic design (do they want to look at some pre-made looks and give me samples or do they want to give me some idea and I can send them a half dozen to pick from).

    From there I estimate how much time it will take me to do what is on that list, citing things that may be variable (like they don’t know how many photos they’ll send for a photo gallery, and if they need any kind of cleaning up) could drive the pricing up.

    If a client starts a ‘lets change the plan’ I always include a note to ‘keep in mind this was not in the original estimate conversation’.

    Sometimes I’m off on a project because I’ve miscalculated how long a certain thing would take, or the solution you thought would work isn’t and you have to go back to the start again. What I usually do is take some of that time off the project and chalk it up to a learning process for myself.

    But I try to stress to clients the sure way to drive up the cost of an estimate is to start changing things AFTER I start building the navigation. Clients changing their mind on page names, or the verbiage on those pages is what usually blows my estimates. I try to stress to them to go over their pages and the content on their pages within their own organization (their co-workers, bosses, supervisors etc) and make sure they are satisfied with it before sending it to me.

    I have some local competitors who do the ‘package deal’ and I think it’s a rip off. They charge X amount for X number of pages, and then Y amount for Y amount of pages. Populating static pages takes no time at all. What takes time is creating the initial layout files. Creating additional pages based on those layouts usually takes less than 15 minutes if all you are doing is copying / pasting content they’ve sent you electronically.

  3. This very useful artical for designing. Now I want to make it a great experience building quality sites and learn from it while earning an additional income.

  4. great article this is. you can manage price on the basis of website requirement and website have many requirement so you can add price as per requirement. thank you for sharing…

  5. I charge flat fees, clients have multiple packages to choose from, all of which have inclusions soecifically stated. I charge 100% upfront. You don’t pay half your air fare before departure and the other half when you land. I work with serious clients and have quadripled my fees since working with Divi. Additional work is quoted and clients are to pay first

  6. It’s a great post. For a long time I want to be a freelance web designer. But I was not sure how to price my services. Your article will help me a lot in this regard. Thanks.

  7. I used to develop sites myself back in the late 1990s, but today, I have a developer and a designer working with me. That said, I bought a package of design contracts that I’ve been using for the past 15 years. It clearly spells out what the client will provide (text, photos, etc.), what pages will be created and any special features on those pages. Mostly, I estimate how long the project will take and charge a flat fee.

    If they want anything different, I’ll give them a change-order form that gets added to the contract. Until they sign the change order, the extra work isn’t done. I have a love hate relationship with the whole web development industry. Some clients can just be a lot of work – even with a smaller job. Other clients are great and I enjoy the projects.

    Now that Divi 2.0 is out, I’ll be using it to upgrade most of my own sites. I’ve often thought that web designers should form their own support group to help each other navigate difficult clients and projects. This particular thread is a good example.

  8. Me as well. This is something I’m thinking about also. I’d truly like somebody to have admittance to my spreadsheet that contains all client accounts, passwords, contact points of interest, and so on in the event that I get run over by a transport… . anyhow who? Maybe a decent subject for an alternate post Kevin?

  9. Wow great insight, I have been thinking of getting involved in this arena I have done it before but for friends and for free. Now I want to make it a great experience building quality sites and learn from it while earning an additional income.

  10. Nice and informative article! Today I was actually pondering on my pricing, because I lost some jobs to other designers over the last couple of days. Maybe I should consider an hourly rate over fixed price in some situations. Tough call!

  11. I just wanna say thanks for these great articles, I also do sites on a freelance base for small business and yes pricing is not as easy to figure out, but I guess after doing for a long time you learn to discern the situations and giving a reasonable price.

    On another note, I’d like any input on what any of you out there would change for a non profite site that has about 30 pages done in wp can someone send me some info or give me an idea. Much appreciate it 🙂 ..peace!

  12. Thanks for this lovely article. Indeed signing the contract and fixing the rate is mandatory for Professional Website Designing Company, in order to avoid any problem in the future. Also by providing support after the delivery of the project; can help in creating a good relation with clients.

  13. Great article, Kevin! Your knowledge in the field is much appreciated and I would like to Thank you for the insights that you provided through this article. This will help me a ton for setting prices for my customers (although it’s not related to website business but to Photography) on ClicksToRemember. 🙂

  14. Very helpful information. Thanks for posting.

  15. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for the great stuff with some unique points that’s are most important for web designers.

    According to me, its depend on the customers requirement and web designers skill.

  16. I think it is dependent on client requirement and others functionality. Inner Pages price is different from the Home Pages.

  17. How much should be charge for bilingual or multilingual sites? Let’s take the assumption that the client provides de translations and the atructure of the pages are exactly the same. What should it be, a 100% more or a lesser percentage? I am currently doing a re design of a quite large site: at least 250 pages in spanish and the same quantity in English. And having in account that nowadays Argentine economy is actually a disaster and it is very difficult for manufacturers to maintain their firms alive, I don’t want to overload the prices to not scare away the customer. I’ll appreciate your advice!! Thans a lot!


  18. Hello, everybody. I am writing from Argentina. It is very difficult here to find designers willing to openly share what they charge for any kind of design. What is ussually done is to send a fake email pretending that we are a lead customer and ask for a quotation. So, other than doing that I found that if I go to the aid of the Graphics Designer Guide (US) I take the prices in u$s, remove two figures and those would be my prices in Argentine Pesos. If there happens to be any Argentine designer reading this it will be very helpful to share ideas and experiencies.

    I also found a very useful tool in A proyect quote calculator. I hope you’ll find it useful. I use it, but of course, using that trick of the two figures and modifying some concepts that would not fit in our market. And, for example, their way to quote for SEO depending of the number of keywords I do not think that is appropiate.

    I’ll write appart another comment regarding bilingual or multilingual prices.


  19. I bookmarked this article knowing that I would need to revisit it in the future because I wasn’t happy with my pricing structure. I feel like I have a better handle on how I want to charge for my services and will be putting that knowledge into practice with a newly acquired client. It seems to me that the best way to price your time/skills is to use a fixed rate for a project based on the specs and then an hourly rate if you go over a predetermined amount of hours which are outlined in a contract. Thanks again ET for all the great info and keep the articles coming!

  20. Good read. In depth knowledge, I have gained from here.

  21. Designing a website based upon the user requirement is difficult. Web Designers should be capable of creating a eye catching website for their clients to get attractive results.

  22. Hello, congratulations for the post. I am freelance Barcelona, I dedicate years ago to web design and seo, the hardest part is reaching an agreement with a client, because the competition there is very large, and the prices are usually very cheap, I can not compete with designers from other countries and according to the currency that is a gift to the customer, Greetings

  23. Great article kevin.
    As a web developer just starting in freelance I find it really hard to price my products, the main reason being that I live in a country(Mexico) where this type of job is really undervalued.
    Guess I’ll have to lower my prices to build a portfolio.

  24. Thank you Kevin for the timely article and thanks to those sharing good advice.

    Everyone should have a written contract, signed with a down payment in hand before starting any work, no matter how comfortable you feel with a client. We only have fixed price projects and retainers. We’re in a situation now because we have a new (less than 90 days) client who had not yet signed the 8 month agreement for an entire marketing makeover. We have been working for 2 months to revamp all her marketing to start the turnaround in her sales decline.

    Yesterday, she suggested that, because sales have not increased in these first 2 months, she may end our deal on July 30 and believes she’ll get the new website, Facebook, email system, Google My Business optimization, signage, branding, videos, etc for only the 2 months’ fees she’s paid to date.

    Her July fees are due now. She paid June in 3 installments instead of on the 1st as we do with all our clients. Our response: if you’re really considering that, we need to meet Tuesday to let you know what we will release for what’s been paid. Thank goodness we have not given access to anything yet! That’s what we have to look forward to this week.

    It’s amusing that some local business owners/medical professionals will order hundreds/thousands of $$ in over-priced promotional items, magazine ads, apps, and printing without blinking an eye at the price and the vendors’ huge margins.

    Then they “nickel and dime” website designers and marketing professionals on our fees. Today, everyone thinks they can “do marketing” such as put up a site (thanks to wix, weebly, godaddy, etc) and design their branding (thanks to vistaprint). We are all dealing with this “you can be a marketing expert” environment in the US.

    We overcome part of this here by sharing what the “overnight/DIY” sites don’t tell them about: Required Terms of Service/Privacy/Disclaimer pages, FTC email marketing rules/regs, and so forth.

    We educate them to realize that a “pretty” site they make does not necessarily mean it performs well in lead gen, prospect cultivation or customer nurturing because they do not know the marketing essentials. (Opt-ins, offers, consistent communications, educational/informational selling).

    Divi 2.0 gives us all the tools to build beautiful sites with the marketing essentials that get the lead gen and sales results high quality biz owners are looking for and make investments in excellent marketing to get.

    Thanks for Kevin, Nick, and others at ET for this blog and everyone in the ET community who participates and shares the info that may well make the difference between profit and loss.

    We’re raising our rates again this week and no longer will accept clients who haggle on price and compare us to their staff’s hourly wages. Earlier comments on this thread had some astute observations about this behavior by business owners.

    We feel more confident in our decisions partly because of what we’re reading here and the unbeatable quality of Divi and Elegant Themes’ community in general that makes our business look so fabulous and keeps us on top of our game.

  25. One of your best articles I think – very useful and covers most things. I am an experienced designer and knew most of this but still read it through. The biggest headache is “project creep” – clients thinking they can just add on new things – which to some degree is understandable as they study the work in progress, new idea and edits creep in. So I try to build in pricing flexibility and agree right up front what I am including. The other problem is the consultation process takes ages if a clients hasn’t a clue what they want or they expect you to write all their content. So make sure they can supply the content in advance… I find that filters the keen from the lazy!!

  26. Thank you! Merci! Gracias! To Kevin and specifically to all the commentators because your ideas & explanations have been as insightful as Kevin’s article!!!

  27. Great article! I always require 50% down by the client and give them a flat rate with the scope of work clearly specified in my contract. I give them one submittal and two drafts…anything more than that, I’ll give them an additional estimate. If the scope changes, it clearly states in my contract that I can give them a specific estimate for that as well. The contract should be clear on who does what and what’s expected otherwise the job is a waste of your time.

    For the flat rate, I estimate the number of hours it’ll take me plus 20% as a fudge factor for any unforeseen costs. Usually, that covers it and everyone is happy.

    For me, a client who is happy is a client who’ll refer me to others.

  28. Excellent article, thank you, and some excellent comments as well.

    I’d just like to add that I’ve raised my prices 50% since I’ve started using Divi, and I’m very comfortable with that because I know I can deliver an excellent website for my clients.

  29. There’s one *really* important factor for freelancers I don’t see mentioned here, one which I find a lot of people don’t seem to understand. The hourly rate you charge a client has almost zero correlation with the hourly *wage* you might expect/hope to be paid if you worked for someone else. They shouldn’t even be compared.

    Someone accustomed to being paid a perfectly good *wage* of $18/hour might balk at charging $75/hour as a freelancer — but she shouldn’t, and the reason is very logical.

    The easiest way to explain it, I think, is this. Even though you may be only 1 person, you still have to spend time and money on almost all of the things a company does. Maybe you work from home and use the same Internet and phone service you’d already be paying for — great, that helps. But you still have to pay for computers, software, and other tools and services. And even more importantly, you have to spend a *lot* of time:

    — Seeking and obtaining clients – setting up and maintaining your business website, and any other marketing and networking efforts you do
    — Bookkeeping, invoicing
    — Free initial consultations
    — Maintaining software
    — Continuing education

    It goes on and on. I’m a pretty focused, efficient worker, but when I tracked my time for a few weeks once, I found that about ONE THIRD of my time was “on the clock”, even in a good week. So to be paid for 20 hours, I usually have to work about 60 hours. Track it yourself and see. It would be a very unusual freelancer who could work on the clock even 40 hours a week.

    But if you want a viable business, and you don’t like working for free, you absolutely should consider that time something you should compensated for.

    So charging clients $75/hour probably means you’re earning something like $25/hour. Subtract various expenses from that, and it’s easy to see that $75/hour is by no means the “high rate” that we’re sometimes accused of charging.


    • Patty you are SPOT ON!

  30. Hmm… so many different perspectives! I like that. 🙂

    I’m a fan of fixed priced projects. The way I see it (nobody says I’m Miss Right, ok?) if you charge per hour you end up working more to earn more. And that’s not the reason I decided to be a freelancer instead of 9-5 employee. 😉

    Also, I never mention the hours of work needed in my proposals/estimates/contracts. Only dates of completion.

    Otherwise clients will stuck with the ‘per hour’ cost and won’t pay attention on the work done. It will be more like “I paid $2000 for 8 hrs of work” instead of “I paid 2k for a beautiful website” (*numbers are fictional to make my point)

    I don’t want to be compared to their employees (“I pay my employees 2k for 45 hrs”), or even with a plumper (“What?? You want $300 for half an hour work?!”)

    So for me the best policy is fixed prices with well written contracts that include every aspect of the work to be done.

    Hope everything I wrote makes sense. It’s a bit difficult to fit all my thoughts in a post comment. :/ Sorry if I confused you in any way…

  31. that’s an interesting article, even if i am not in the design market, there are useful informations which can be applyed to projects in other domains.

  32. Good article. I agree that there is a big difference in pricing strategy as you build up a reputation and portfolio. It took me about 2 years out on my own before I felt I had cemented my reputation and had a reputable portfolio alongside.

    As a result my hourly rate is nearly double what it was at the start of the process.

    I now insist on 50% up front for two reasons;
    1. It keeps me and the client focused on getting the job done.
    2. It protects cashflow and keeps your work schedule intact.

    I then develop the site on a sub-domain of my own, so they can review without ever getting their hands on it. Once they are satisfied and sign off on it, the 50% balance is due BEFORE I put the site live. That process seems to work well for me now.

    If you receive most of your work through referral, then it should be ‘good design, expensive prices’. They have come to you to do the work based on a recommendation after all. I try to get a budget from a client at the start and tailor a solution against that, whilst trying to achieve my average hourly rate (about €100 per hour).

    I will remain flexible for local and small business, as it is cheaper to manage a local client than a corporate client in the city (I live about an hour from Dublin), and it cements my standing in the local business community.

  33. Thanks a lot for a very useful article alongside the comments from everybody. This one I will be going back to check out my way of doing things.

  34. Hello Kevin,

    There are many talented web designers who does not know the actual price of website designing they work for. This post is the best source for them to learn about fixing the price according to hours or day. Thanks for sharing such a nice post.

  35. I have a client who talked me into doing my first WordPress site for him. I got tired of turning down business from people wanting WP, so I gave in. Glad I did, but I still have a lot to learn after making several sites.

    One thing I did learn from that first WP customer – DOUBLE or TRIPLE the amount of the bid if the customer has a GoDaddy Economy Hosting plan. Good heavens, I had at least as much time waiting for every little update to happen than it took to create them to start with! Then I created a WP site on a real server, and couldn’t believe the difference. Customer refuses to leave GoDaddy, so any future changes are going to be a real pain.

    • I use GoDaddy and have never had an issue with them. They have been very helpful the 2-3 times I have had to call them for issues they did not create.

    • That’s where having an experienced developer can really help. I rarely touch the GoDaddy backend anymore for clients. There are developers out there who are very inexpensive who can help you with GoDaddy hosted sites.

  36. Thanks Kevin for share this awesome article. I think this article is specially write for me. In short time I started my new site with price listing of all services and customizations. So once again thanks for share Kevin 🙂

  37. It is a very handy guide for web designers. I must say, it is a long and interesting post. Thanks for the guide.

    • Yeah, me too 😀

  38. I’m a huge fan of fixed rate projects. Like you stated, both parties know exactly what they’re going to get. This makes clarification of terms even more important including the scope of the project itself, the number of changes (if any), and ongoing support (if any).

    That being said, it seems that price is EXTREMELY relative. I’ve seen terrible freelancers charging (and getting) upwards of $40-$60/hr and I’ve seen great freelancers charging $10-$30/hr. It’s all about what you can sell 🙂

    Great article Kevin!

  39. Great article Kevin ! I’ve been scratching my head about this for ages. My business is new and I don’t know anyone in the industry well enough, to ask them for help refining how I charge for jobs, so you kicked a goal here ! Hats off to everyone else for sharing their info with us too by the way 🙂

  40. I have found it is better to charge an hourly rate. Projects have a surprising way of expanding and changing directions mid-stream, which generally means increased time.

    If your rate is questioned it doesn’t hurt to mention(very nicely of course), that the client is not being charged for benefits, medical, sick leave, vacation pay, payroll taxes, etc., but only for time actually worked on their project. When reflecting on these costs associated with regular employees they may decide that your rate isn’t all that high. And when the project is complete so are their project development costs.

  41. Is there any good general sample contract for a web designer?

  42. Thanks for this article. I’m currently facing a pricing issue for my services. I’m enligthened that one very good thing is to really understand your client and the task ahead. With these, you will know how to charge for any service.

  43. Question to anyone who sees this, do you prefer having pricing packages or you just give a price quote to a customer? Why Thanks! I’m still starting and I want to do packages but I’m having a hard time what to really include lol

    • I prefer both.

      From my clients point of view, they do like to see some sort of pricing tables that gives them a hunch about the prices. I have cleared that the prices that are shown on my websites, are estimates.

      I have received many clients because they saw that price(not cheap or expensive) but the fact that they did see it. I think nowadays people just don’t want waste their time to ask price.

      – Kim

    • Cath – I do both. I work with small businesses. I have some basic packages – 1 page business card site includes first year hosting ($95) it is a way to open the door to new clients, 4 page basic brochure site ($295), 6 page basic site ($495). That said, most of my work starts with discussion of basic site and ends up as custom site – which includes forms, gallery, shopping cart and other stuff. I estimate time and quote flat rate but am specific in contract what is included and hourly rate for any work done not in contract. — Good Luck!

      • I like the tiered concept Bob. I’m curious to know what a postcard site is compared to a brochure site. I have a new client coming on soon and I think they are somewhere in between your two sites and I am trying to figure out a pricing strategy. Would you be willing to send me an example of each of these types of sites? This is such a complex business and its great to hear all of the wonderful ideas people share in these forums. The ET community is such a goodhearted place.

      • Thanks a lot Bob! That helps. 🙂

  44. I really enjoy getting the daily blog posts from Elegant Themes because I ALWAYS learn something new! Great stuff!

    And I don’t want to get off track from this post, so if this is something I need to take up elsewhere, that’s fine with me. But I would love to see an article and hear how other people have structured their web design business.

    I’ve done several websites for friends and acquaintances and a few small businesses. I’ve typically purchased the domain name, set up the hosting through my reseller account with my web host and basically done a turnkey, package deal for these clients for whatever fee I decide to charge. I then charge an annual fee going forward, basically to cover the hosting.

    That was fine when it was just a website or two for friends. But now I’m at the point where it doesn’t seem to make good business sense to work this way. If I get run over by a truck tomorrow, these people and businesses know absolutely nothing about their website because everything is done by me, in my name under my accounts. They wouldn’t have a clue how to take control of their website. I feel I need to create some separation between myself and my clients

    Again…I don’t want to hijack this thread and would be happy to discuss elsewhere. Just wanted to hear feedback from others.

    Thank you in advance!

    • I ALWAYS set everything up in the client’s name and then hand over a detailed “Website Owner’s Checklist” afterward. I give them a print copy to lock up in a safe place.

      Many clients are way too trusting.

      I always tell them, you need all this and you need to pay with your own credit card (for registration, hosting, etc.) in case I’m hit by a bus tomorrow.


    • I will never set up a domain registration or hosting account in my own name for a client. The property is theirs; the registration is, too. I will set up a shared folder in one or another file sharing service so the client (and I) can always have complete access to log in an account credentials. While it hasn’t happened yet (knock wood) tomorrow they may decide to go with someone else. If they do, it’s a lot less messy, for them and for me, if they have complete control over all this information.

    • Chris, I hear you. I’m in the same boat. I keep meaning to create a master sheet with site names, passwords, hosting info, etc.. If I drop dead right now, many of my clients will be clueless. I keep procrastinating on this. As a one man show, this is an important topic. Even when I register their domain name, I keep meaning to go back and add them as the owner, but often time never get around to it.

      • Me too. This is something I’m grappling with as well. I’d really like someone to have access to my spreadsheet that contains all user accounts, passwords, contact details, etc. if I get run over by a bus…. but who? Perhaps a good topic for another post Kevin?

        • Me 😉

  45. Nice, informative article. It’s been my experience that most designers and developers are typically optimistic in the amount of time required for a project and don’t take into consideration potential technical issues, downtime, and client misunderstandings or change requests. With this in mind, I would recommend taking your project quote (whether fixed or hourly) and add an additional contingency of 20%-25% to the quote (even more depending on how well requirements are laid out and the level of ‘internet’ knowledge that the client exhibits). In most cases, this will not deter a potential client if your proposal is well-presented and you have made a good first impression.

  46. In regards to pricing your work:

    My advice – Define your hourly rate and stick with it. Don’t let clients dictate your rates. Don’t undersell yourself or you are not a business, you are a hobby. Any business should bill enough on a yearly basis to profit, invest, and grow, after you pay your bills.

    I’ve created a questionnaire/spreadsheet that once filled out gives me a good/competitive/fair rate for the work planned. It also includes “hidden” time that we might let slip past us – admin duties, meetings, even file uploads, and a project management percentage fee based on all other factors. It shows me at a glance how much I’ll pay out for all the planned plug-ins and how much will be profit.

    We all know website estimating is a challenge. All it takes is one little technical glitch to eat our profitability. I tell my clients very clearly that I am providing them an ESTIMATE for services requested. I also tell them that if the final invoice falls above or below this estimate by 10% or more then I will bill them accordingly. So yes that means sometimes the client gets billed less than estimated but it’s a win-win. Client is very happy and I know I still got paid fairly for my time and service.

    I also write up a contract that bullet points everything we talked about, and is priced from my spreadsheet.

    I almost never under estimate because my spreadsheet is based on real world numbers and is easily scalable.

    Also I charge 4-tiered pricing. The lowest rate is for tasks anyone could perform, and goes up from there, WP backend, design and structure (PHP and CSS), programming.

    The last thing I do is turn in my time sheets at the end of a project, because I believe in total transparency.

    As I become more in-demand, my hourly rate will increase to reflect that but I won’t have to worry about anything else because thats already fixed in the spreadsheet.

    • Hi Robert,

      that spreadsheet sounds great!

      This is the area I really struggle in and definitely don’t want to underprice and mess with my local market. Fellow designers hate that. 🙂

      Any chance of sharing your spreadsheet?


  47. I used to develop sites myself back in the late 1990s, but today, I have a developer and a designer working with me. That said, I bought a package of design contracts that I’ve been using for the past 15 years. It clearly spells out what the client will provide (text, photos, etc.), what pages will be created and any special features on those pages. Mostly, I estimate how long the project will take and charge a flat fee.

    If they want anything different, I’ll give them a change-order form that gets added to the contract. Until they sign the change order, the extra work isn’t done. I have a love hate relationship with the whole web development industry. Some clients can just be a lot of work – even with a smaller job. Other clients are great and I enjoy the projects.

    Now that Divi 2.0 is out, I’ll be using it to upgrade most of my own sites. I’ve often thought that web designers should form their own support group to help each other navigate difficult clients and projects. This particular thread is a good example.

  48. its always a challenge to find the right price specially when you see damn low cost competitors.

    • Ironically the internet has a lot to answer for there with sites like ODesk and DesignCrowd, that later one still surprises me that it runs at all.

      Why would you sit there playing the lottery with your time creating something in the hope someone will choose your design above someone else’s.

  49. (Translate fom Google translator from Spanish, sorry my language and writing)

    Great ideas. my approach to prices is this: I charge a small amount of money to start work, only I do to ensure my boot; Then each month we collect an amount fixed but solidarity; My clients are small businesses. wordpress can not handle them, then I do. Leave wordpress in your hands, the whole structure damage insurance. know it will update, unaware of the dangers threatening the network wordpress, so I’ll take care of everything. I do not offer you a “Design”, I offer “web presence.” thus always enters month cash on hand and happy customers because your site is perfect and a day. I allow clients to 1 month’s edition at no cost, placement of new images and text (I do it) … so it’s better for me. (Next web:

  50. Don’t forget to add “Job Management Fee”… which includes phone time, meeting time, travel time for meeting at clients, email time, etc..

    If I estimate the site will take 15 hrs. (15 x $70hr), I also estimate Job Management depending on client of maybe 4 hrs (4 x $70hr). And, as already mentioned several times, a detailed contract which covers changes after template approval, maintenance charges, etc.. Final payment date Plus Completion date. –

    I had a contract that stated final payment upon completion…. site was 99% done for 6 months as client stretched out final approval. Now I put a final payment date as well as projected completion date.

    Nice article! Always get ideas from this blog – Kevin in particular. Thanks!

  51. You make great points about pricing, most notably that you must recognize how in demand you are. When I started I donated a lot of work to political organizations and charities. This worked out great because not only did I help organizations I supported anyway, but most of them really know how to return a favor. As a result I get many paying clients as referrals from these organizations. I also get a fair amount of traffic leads from the link I always leave in the website footer with my company name. It is just as important to know your worth as a designer as it is anywhere else.

    I typically take a 50% deposit because I have found this to be the magic number where the “not so serious” clients disappear. These clients almost never have trouble making the final payment because they are already invested in the outcome. On my end, I can work confidently knowing that I will be compensated for my time and effort.

    As other people have stated in previous comments, I typically charge a flat fee because clients are more comfortable with that. I have learned to create contracts that clearly define the roles of both parties and the exact details of work to be performed and delivered this way I don’t end up getting cheated out of time and money.

    Thanks for another great article Kevin.

    • Is leaving a link with company name in footer common practice? Do you ask the client if it’s OK or just do it and remove it at their request?

      How do you create your contract Adam? Did you start with a template you found or have a lawyer help or just create one yourself?

      I read your customer spotlight entry and meant to comment but got distracted. Great read and very encouraging to know that others in very similar situations were able to make it work. Loved your story and website.

      • Brad,

        I leave the link on all websites and stipulate in my contract that they can pay $500 to remove it. I also let my clients know that because I am willing to put my name on it that they can rest assured the work and support will be only of the highest quality. I haven’t had a single client ask for it removed….not once…ever 🙂

        Originally I used a template contract I found online but after building a few attorney websites and making good relationships with them I eventually had one of them write me up a contract specific to my business, which ended up looking much more professional and hitting all of my terms and conditions precisely. What’s even better is that I bartered for the work, and designed some print collateral in exchange for him writing my contract.

        I’m glad you liked my customer spotlight article. Thanks for letting me know; you just made my day with that. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can be of help in any way.


  52. This article comes in at the right time. Thank you so much! It was helpful! 🙂

  53. There’s a good bit of sound basic advice here. I have been a freelancer and consultant for more than 40 years, so I’ve probably been down every blind alley and burned by every possible client shenanigan. I finally settled a few years ago on what I think is probably the only really workable pricing model that’s fair to both parties. It’s a not-to-exceed estimate.

    At the beginning of a project, I get as clear a handle as I can on the specifications for the project. I cost that out based on the hundreds of similar projects i’ve done. Then I add 10% to my estimated hours. I multiply by my hourly rate. Then I round that up to the nearest $100. (There’s an important science there; clients see rounded figures as estimates but figures ending in more precise numbers as bids.)

    Now I give this price to the client, in these terms:

    I estimate this project will take two weeks and will cost approximately $800. I’ll keep track of my time at $70/hr. If I see that my estimate is low, I’ll notify you *before* I exceed it, let you know what is causing the cost to go up, and then we can negotiate. Either I increase my estimate or we agree to proceed on an hourly basis. Perhaps we adjust the scope of the project to accommodate your budget. Usually, well before any excessive cost arises, I have a good handle on what it will really take to finish.

    Actually, all of that is put into specific legal contract terms but I don’t feel comfortable sharing that publicly. Now if I finish the work quicker, the client doesn’t pay more than it was worth as he might with a fixed bid, and I don’t eat any shortfall. If I run into issues that result in an overrun, my client gets to decide how to proceed.

    Oh, and I *always* get 1/3 to 1/2 of the estimate up front and final payment *before* turning over the site and the login credentials. (If they balk, I sometimes say, “I’m not in the business of being your bank.” Said cheerfully, that usually eliminates the objection.)

    On a big project with a substantial client, there’s a variation on this theme that most purchasing folks really like, too. It’s a bit too complicated to go into here but if you want to drop me a note (dan at shafermedia dot com), I’ll be happy to respond privately.

  54. Having just started on the the freelance road, this is a very timely article, Kevin. I haven’t yet dug into the resources you’ve provided, but based on the quality you usually supply, I am looking forward to some major reading later on. Thank you!

    On a side note, if you want to get some more of Kevin’s infinite wisdom, search for “Rise Forums” in google and click on the first link to join his forum.

  55. If you’re starting out I suggest doing mates rates or free sites for a few months to get a decent porftolio going (this way you can choose a range of businesses or arts organisations or charities). Be honest and tell them why you’re doing this. If you’ve already been up and running I always charge 50% upfront, it weeds out the dodgy clients. I have never had a problem with genuine clients paying upfront. I also give them a time limit, so say we both estimate the project will take four weeks and after six the delay lies with the client not providing content they still have to pay. This concentrates the client on providing all you need to complete the project.

    Be very clear about what they are getting. I split it down into basic WordPress build; hosting; plug-in and add on functionality and big stuff like say setting up an events manager of Mailchimp newsletter get a separate charge.

    I learnt the hard way by bending over for many clients who simply did not appreciate it and then balked at paying.

    Be firm but fair and guide clients through the whole process in the planning stages. But don’t roll over for them. Clients are like children, they know how to push boundaries.

    Oh and don’t work ’til 3am …. your health’s more important than a pesky plug-in problem.

  56. After I speak with a client, I put together a detailed document that breaks out the steps required, and an estimate of the hours that I expect each step to take (this is typically a range). For example, detailed template customization (with CSS/PHP/HTML modifications) might take 8 to 10 hours, and hosting set up with WordPress/template/plugin installation might take 2 to 3 hours. The end of the document totals the range of hours from each step, and provides a cost estimate range based on the estimated hours (and my hourly rate).

    It’s in my best interest to describe clearly what is included in each step, so that if a client requests anything extra during development, it will be clear to both of us that the additional item was not included in the proposal/estimate.

    I send weekly time sheets so that clients can see the amount of time that I’ve billed to their project each week (this way there are no surprises when I send invoices). I used to bill by check, but have migrated to PayPal (although I lose a bit of money here) because I’ve noticed that clients pay much more quickly when they receive a PayPal invoice. Thankfully I haven’t had any complaints about my billing practices or prices over the last four years, and I think good communication is a big part of that.

    Thanks for the good article!

    • Thanks Jamie! That’s a very good idea.

  57. For me its about how much work I have at the moment. Now that I’m established and have a ok sized portfolio and steady work coming in I can charge more.

    Charging more really just allows me to do even better work! If I know I’m good on work for a few months out I will bid higher to make the work worth my time. Meaning you can always make more money but who really wants to sit in front of a computer for 12hrs a day unless your making really good money?!

    Because at the end of the day its better to be learning and practicing then dealing with cheap clients and getting paid less then your worth.

  58. I just recently started freelancing so thank you for this post. Came at a perfect time. Just starting out, I’m a little surprised at the wide range of expectations I have encountered. One website took literally 5 hours to complete and I made $250. The one before that took 20 hours and I made $150. And the 5 hour client was much happier than the 20 hour client.

    I admit I have a lot to learn but I really like your idea of X amount of revisions are allowed once the rough draft is complete. Otherwise you could end up working for pennies. Would really like to hear others’ thoughts on payment as well. How much down and Paypal or other?

    • @Brad
      yeah it is really important to mention the amount of revisions you supply for “free” and to agree to an hourly rate after x amount of revisions, i had to learn it the hard way with one of my special clients 🙂 important as well is to get the client to agree to a kill fee in case of termination of the contract.

      at the beginning we used to charge 50% upfront and 50% at the end of the project, but it didn’t work for us. clients are hesitant to put out 50% right upfront and if they do so they believe they own you from now on and can get quiet annoying. we are now charging more frequently according to natural milestones (e.g. on signing of contract x amount, on design approval, start/end of development phase, beta version and so on) but of course this also depends on the scope and size of project, hard to do this on a 5 hours job 🙂

      also u make sure to mention that it is important to get feedback from the clients in a timely manner, i was just haunted by a 2 year old project which i assumed dead long time ago ….

      if u start catching bigger projects it will be important to write really detailed contracts, best with a help of a lawyer, i know this sounds big but believe me, it is well worth it and will save you a lot of trouble AND money at the end.

      • Thanks Carsten! My jobs will probably be smaller in scope for awhile so I’ll probably start with half up front. But I can understand how milestones would make customers feel much more comfortable and it works for you as it’s sort of a payment plan and probably easier to get your money.

        I have already had problems with customers getting busy and not giving feedback on projects in a timely manner. Which I completely don’t understand. If you’re paying the money, why wouldn’t you want to be involved so it turns out the way you want? I’m just looking forward to building a customer base and getting away from Elance. It’s a good place to start but wow. What a jungle.

  59. I used to price my projects as flat-rate because that’s what it seemed like all my client’s wanted. After being taken advantage of and abused by needy clients who are never satisfied, I give an estimate based on the hours I feel the project will take, but with the clear understanding that they are only paying for XX number of hours, not a finished project if they keep making changes or changing their minds on the project.

    This works out better for everyone involved (usually).

    • John,

      I’m always looking for new ways to say things especially around website development so I’m not hosed financially. Would you mind sharing specific language are you using to make it clear?


      • We take a similar approach and use the wording “includes up to XX hours of effort”.

        The part we need to work on is keeping the client up-to-date with the number of hours worked. I know it seems easy but we struggle here – I think it is just a matter of actually talking to the client (not emailing as they might not read it).

        This has worked well for us though, but also requires a clear understanding up-front.

  60. I’m considering hiring someone to help jazz up my Divi site so I’m reading this article from a buyer’s standpoint. What’s the best place to find a good ET designer?

    Ah, and from a buyer’s perspective, please show me a portfolio so I actually know you can do the work! I don’t need to waste time talking with someone who just dreams of being a good designer.

    • I think everyone here is a huge fan of Divi so they could help you! 😉

      IMO the best place to start is by posting your requirements into the theme customization forum (your ET member’s area). ET members are surely the first ones who know ET themes. Of course, that includes the ET moderators as well! 😉

    • Will,

      Drop me a line if you need some help with DIVI. for my work. If you like what you see, drop me a line.


    • Hopefully any good design company could help you with Divi. However you could check out the envato job postings, and wpmu dev job postings.

      Question for you. On portfolios do you prefer ones with a ton of examples or just a few of the best site examples?

      • The more, the merrier.

        I would say just avoid redundancies in styles/features. If you have a portfolio where 20 sites have the same style/features, then I don’t see a point.

  61. Good information, starting out we need guidelines. Experiencing some people want tons of options on the website yet come back with we have very low budget.

  62. I am not a big developer but I usually gives fixed price after reading full requirements. (Rough calculation as per the task and no. of days) Thanks for the guide.

  63. Great article! Today I was actually pondering on my pricing, because I lost some jobs to other designers over the last couple of days. Maybe I should consider an hourly rate over fixed price in some situations. Tough call!

    • OMG! This is running in my head and giving me a ton of headache. There are times that I’m thinking of quitting because I feel like I’m being under valued and underpaid.

      • It’s always tough to price a project without having a full scope of the work. It is also depends on clients and how picky they are.

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