A question for freelancers: productivity

Assuming that a freelance web designer is really good and has no problems finding contracts, how many commercial websites can she realistically produce per year?

That’s a difficult one, as jobs can vary in size and complexity. It would also depend on what types of site you work on and how you go about it. Are we talking about bespoke, hand-crafted designs? Or are we churning out Wordpress sites using pre-made themes like a sausage factory? Maybe a bit of both?

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A typical designer will probably design a mixed bag of simple and complex websites. Can you average it out to come up with a ballpark figure?

That’s still very hard to enumerate for the same reasons that @SamA74 gave. A small site will take a short amount of time but the complexity can magnify the time exponentially.

Add in customer decisiveness and responsiveness, and the numbers can be wildly different. If the designer is working with a customer with a clear brand and vision and a focused approach, the turnaround time will be much shorter than one who’s not sure what they’re looking for.

And are you talking design from just the mockup/figma design or are you talking design down to the fully vetted page put onto the site? Are they working alone, or working with a developer to implement the design onto the server side implementation?

There are so many factors to take into consideration so what’s the end goal of what you’re asking for? Are you doing a research project for a paper, or are you trying to budget a realistic output for a business for budgeting purposes?

I’m trying to deduce typical earnings of a freelance web designer, since asking about pay directly is an awkward question.

If a guy tells me “I’ve produced 6 web sites last year” I can estimate the earnings from that, with a certain margin of error, because I have a good idea how much websites cost to build.

Sorry but I still don’t think you’ve developed a quantifiable measurable. A well regarded, in demand designer is going to be able to demand a much higher cost than someone just starting in the field. Add in regional factors and site complexity and the formula is way too vast to consider.

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Thanks. I appreciate you talking to me.

There’s too much variation to do that. There are so many factors, like where you live and the cost of living, what technologies you are using etc. I think it’s better to ask yourself what feels like a reasonable income to you, average it out per hour, and then charge by the hour. (Estimate the hours to work out a price for a whole job if you have to, but be generous to yourself, as it’s hard to ask for more if it takes a lot longer than you expected.) There’s no point undercharging to compete with others, as it probably means you’re in the wrong industry. And remember that most people can go get a website at Squarespace or similar, so you should focus on what you can offer that those things can’t.

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Many people consider website development to be the process of developing HTML, CSS, a little JavaScript and plugging in plugins. Many websites are more like applications (they are called applications) and can be more complicated than a simple UI (of HTML, CSS and a little JavaScript).

Applications typically include databases. Many people consider databases to consist of tables with fields and some SQL for queries. Database design can be more complicated than most people realize.

There are many articles and I assume even books on the subject of estimating projects. Five Steps for Estimating Software Development Time is one possibility.

There are many books about software design and development. I think most of them would include project estimates. If you have not gotten a formal education about software development then you might not have gotten much education in the analysis and design of software.

In my opinion at least, I think that the analysis should be a separate product. I think a qualified analyst should work with the customer to develop specifications; non-technical to the extent that a non-programmer understands. Without good specifications (at least a requirements definition) it is unlikely that reliable estimates can be made. I think that ideally the customer pays for the analysis and then the freelancer offers the customer the opportunity to hire them to complete the project but the specifications would be complete enough that the customer could get offers and potentially hire someone else to complete the project. I think specifications should be thorough enough to support that.

A reliable estimate would require adequate specifications.

Hey there!

From my experience, pinning down a solid number of websites I can produce in a year is quite tricky because it heavily depends on the projects’ diversity in terms of complexity and size.

I’ve tackled everything from bespoke, hand-crafted designs to more straightforward projects using platforms like WordPress with pre-made themes and templates I have built for my specific workflow.

The bespoke ones are where I pour in my heart and soul, focusing on custom coding and profoundly understanding my clients’ visions. These can take a good chunk of time, ranging from a few weeks to several months, depending on how detailed the requirements are and how many revisions we go through.

Conversely, I can significantly speed up the process by leveraging WordPress and its ocean of themes. It allows for a quicker turnaround, but customisation and client feedback can extend the timeline.

Reflecting on my mix of projects, I complete between 10 to 30 websites a year. The exact number depends on whether I’m weaving intricate custom designs or rolling out more straightforward sites.

Now, let me share a few golden nuggets I’ve picked up along the way:

Workflow Templates
Early on, I developed a series of workflow templates for different types of projects. These templates include checklists, timelines, and communication plans. They’ve been a lifesaver in keeping projects on track and ensuring nothing slips through the cracks.

Never underestimate the power of a well-drafted contract. It’s your safety net for scope creep, payment terms, and project deliverables. A clear contract sets expectations from the start and can save you from headaches.

Communication Plans
Regular updates and client check-ins keep everyone on the same page and can help avoid last-minute surprises. I use a simple project management tool to share progress, collect feedback, and manage revisions efficiently.

Continuous Learning
Staying current with trends, tools, and best practices ensures that I can work efficiently and that my designs remain fresh and relevant.

Don’t forget to care for yourself. Burnout is real, especially when juggling multiple projects. Setting aside time for breaks and hobbies keeps my creativity and work quality high.

To put it in more detail, the number of websites you can create in a year may be influenced by several aspects, such as the project’s complexity, the number of team members involved, the workload, and the time constraints.

However, suppose you prioritise efficiency using the right tools and techniques, such as templates, automation, and collaborative platforms. In that case, you can streamline your workflow and complete projects faster without compromising quality.

Moreover, effective communication with your clients is crucial to ensure that you understand their requirements, preferences, and feedback. You can build trust, transparency, and a strong working relationship with your clients by providing regular updates, asking for feedback, and clarifying doubts or concerns.

Finally, delivering high-quality work is essential to maintain your reputation, attract more clients, and achieve long-term success. This involves using the latest technologies, following industry standards, testing and debugging thoroughly, and providing support and maintenance after completing the project.

By following these best practices, you can increase the number of websites you can create in a year and ensure your work is rewarding, meaningful, and impactful for you and your clients.

All The Best,
Michael Swan