How much to charge for web design

I have been asked by a few companies to create web sites for them and, having never done it professionally, haven’t a clue as to what to charge for my services. My past sites have been created for my work and for friends so I really don’t know where to start to come up with a price list. Is there a standard or a reference that I could go by? I know that each site is unique and should be charged accordingly but I am wanting something to at least use for reference. Since I am not a veteran, I plan to charge a bit less than the going rate used by the pros. I just need some ballpark figures. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

Depending on how large the site you will be designing is and how long it will take you to design are two major factors to consider when pricing your services.

Personally, I would go with a custom-tailored price based on your client’s needs.

Others may say “charge $20-$50/hr for your services.”
Both options will work fine. However, keep in mind that if your client later finds that you ripped him off by finding a cheaper designer with the same skills that you have, good luck keeping that client and don’t count on any word-of-mouth recommendations.

TIP: Don’t charge more than you would be willing to pay for the project and you should be fine.

Hope this helps! :cool:

Hello TJ

That’s a very good question and after reviewing it and the answers you have received I have just gotta say…aaaaaaaaaaaaagh!

I am predominately a Marketer who has been sucked into the world of Web Design pretty quickly. I know nothing about designing pages, I have a designer who is excellent though.

My advice is this…never, ever charge by how long it will take. Don’t charge by how skilled you are. And certainly don’t charge less than the competition. Charge more…usually lots more. I base my charges on how much I think the client will pay.

We win 95% of all the jobs for and I can just about guarantee we are the most expensive every time. People do not assess you on your skill or programming level, they don’t assess you on your creative genius, they don’t assess your design ability (They usually don’t have the technical expertise to judge that stuff anyway). The only thing the client is interested in is: can you do the job. And, more importantly, is going with you as the designer going to be less risky than going with someone else.

I’ll give you an example. We won a job a couple of weeks ago for $17,000. We were up against two other designers. The other quotes were for $3,000 and $3,500. So why did we get the job?

Are we better qualified? Nope
Would we finish the site quicker? Nope
Are we better designers? Probably not
Do we live closer to the client? Nope
Is the client my dad? Good question, but no!

I’ll go through what we do so you can see exactly why we got the job and continue to get jobs at a premium price.

  1. The client rings the office and tells me he wants a web site. I make an appointment for 3 days time.

  2. As soon as I’m off the phone I send a “Thanks for the call” letter confirming the time and place of the meeting. We include a business card. The client receives it the next day.

  3. We do as much research on the potential client as possible. Down to when the company started, products, people in the firm, etc. Takes a couple of hours.

  4. I arrive on time to the meeting wearing a perfect blue suit, blue tie (That’s the client’s corporate colours). I’m carrying my beautiful leather briefcase. I open the conversation with some small talk and tell the potential client what an awful weekend I had because I shot a 85 on the ABC Golf Course. He says “Really, I’m a member there. I love golf.” Gee, what a co-incidence that is.

  5. We finish the small talk and get onto business. I bring out a manila folder with his name, position, business name and logo on a sticker on the front. Also evident is the time and date of the meeting. From this I pull out a 6 page ‘Assessment Form’ for his needs and wants. We go through this meeting and I make notes as we go on my lovely fountain pen.

  6. After an hour long meeting I thank him for his time, tell him I’ll be in touch on Thursday and leave.

  7. Back at the office I draft the “Thank you for your time” letter and post it off.

  8. On Thursday at 9 am I ring and let the prospect know that we have reviewed his needs and wants and have a draft ready. We need to go over the draft to “ensure I have everything straight in my head” and I make an appointment for 3 days time. I send off a letter confirming that appointment.

  9. I rock up to the next meeting with the overview of what his needs are and what we need to do together to achieve them I toss in a few case studies of previous clients to show we have a complete understanding of what he requires. The client says “Yep, that’s about what we need.” I say when do you need our quote by and the client says “It’s quite urgent, so the middle of the week.” I promise it to the client by Wednesday at 4 p.m.

  10. The client gets another “Thank you for your time” letter.

  11. On Tuesday at 9.30 am the client receives the quote from us via courier with a note that says it is early because he needed it as a matter of urgency so we worked on it over the weekend to have it ready.

  12. The quote is actually a 30 page nicely bound proposal that reiterates his needs and wants and shows how the site will address these. It includes testimonials from previous clients (with contact numbers), proposed flow charts and a timetable of exactly what would happen and when. We have profiles on the team members who would be working on the site, the FAQ section has 20 of our most common questions and answers and we include copies of computer magazine articles that have reviewed our previous sites.

We also include a CD-ROM with examples of our previous sites.

  1. I visited the propsect as promised and ask if he has any questions regarding the proposal. WE THEN ASK FOR THE JOB…“Well John, would you like us to work with you on this project?”

  2. When he said “Yes” we send him a “Thanks for choosing us” letter, along with our first invoice (50%). We include a Reply Paid envelope for our cheque to go in.

  3. I sent the person who referred this client a “Thanks for the referral” letter and then took him and his wife out for a very nice dinner.

  4. Then we didn’t do what we said we would…we did a heap more. Extra 2 pages, a bit of Flash on the site, and one or two other things.

  5. When the site was finished I took the client out for lunch and thanked him for the assistance with the project, what a pleasure to work with a professional, etc. I gave him a gift of a framed photo we had scanned and put on the site (of the business’ founder - they only had the 1 photo of the founder). I sent flowers and chocolates to the Graphic Artist who had been a help to us.

After we started work I found out that the other two firms quoting never met with the client. They took the details over the phone in a 10 minute conversation. Both provided a one page quote a week later. One of them hand delivered it wearing a pair of gardening shorts.

The reason we got the job: mostly we were perceived as less risk than the others. They may well be better designers, quicker designers, etc…but the client doesn’t perceive that. Also, the way we develop the relationship and the way the client perceives us as having a very thorough and working knowledge of the obstacles facing their Internet strategies helps. And clients do tend to associate lower price with lower quality.

Take a stab in the dark TJ and guess who the client has just signed up to keep their site up to date, submitted to the engines, etc at a very, very healthy fee?!!

Don’t charge by the hour, don’t charge based on what everyone else charges, charge what you think the client will pay someone of your (perceived) professionalism.

Hope this helps your review.


Ooooooooh. I’m in awe.


Jackman, all I can say is WOW! :smiley:

Not only did you go above and beyond what most people would think customer service and appreciation is, but you also showed astounding professionalism and made the client feel like the important person he is, not another John Doe looking for a web site designer.

Rest assured that your reply will rest on my hard drive as a standard that I will attempt to live up to.

P.S. What is the URL of your web site? I would love to see the work that you do! :cool:

Thank you Adam for your thoughtful reply.

Our strategies are successful for a couple of reasons. The first is that the better the relationship with the prospect the more comfortable he/she will be with us. That equates directly to more sales.

The second is that positively influencing people’s perception is vital. People will make an assessment about you within about 3 seconds. That’s why I always see clients impeccably dressed, I carry the briefcase and use the fountain pen.

I disagree 100% that skill and talent are the requirements for success in anything. The perception of those things is a little important.

The designers we were up against may well have been better than my guy. They may have more skills. They may be better qualified. But it doesn’t matter. The client only wants to know that you can do the job and that there is no risk employing you.

We convince the client that we are the better people for the job through getting him to perceive us as expert, reliable and safe.

“…why pay some who can just get the job done when you can pay someone who can get the job done better for cheaper?”

There’s an old saying “You can’t go wrong by buying IBM”. Meaning that you won’t get sacked by your boss if you employ IBM because “everyone knows” that they are the best.

Adam, people buy for 2 reasons and 2 reasons only. Fear and greed. People equate higher prices with better quality. It’s human nature. If we have a prospect who is the middle manager from a big company we focus on his fear that if he picks the wrong designer he is going to get into trouble with his boss.

So, we show him we are the right ones by making sure he thinks we are the best by a million miles. The price is very, very rarely an issue with these guys - aside from their budgetary constraints. With smaller clients we focus on the fact that they don’t want to risk their money by going with someone who doesn’t understand exactly what they want and need.

If you have 100 equally talented designers vying for a job the job will be won by the designer who is perceived as the best. And that is decided by things like what he/she is wearing, testimonials from previous clients, how quickly you respond to them, etc. It’s not decided by who is the best because that is just a subjective thing.

Good luck with your web design business. Love the name and your home page looks very sharp. All the best.


Jackman, what is the URL of this site? I am very curious to see what the client got for $17,000.

Isaiah also asked the URL before, and you didn’t answer. I think I know why


You are very correct with your approach. I have known some very talented, skilled people, who have changed from working for someone else to being in business for themselves, that failed.

I feel there were 2 main reasons for their failure: their business sense, and their customer service. And they both boil down to professionalism. If you treat yourself as a professional, you will be treated as one, in the business you receive and in the price you are paid.

My philosophy is if a potential client wants to try and knock down my price, they can hire someone else. But if the approach initially is that I am worth it, they rarely try to bargain on the cost.

Look at the successful companies, and look at their customer service to know the basis for their success. People return again and again to a business, regardless of the price, when they like the customer service.


Thanks web designer for your interest.

I actually gave Isaiash the information he requested in an e-mail. Please forgive me for not posting the URL of the site in question - however, that is a commercially confidential aspect of the client relationship and to divulge the site and the cost would be inappropriate. I’m sure you would agree it would not be in my best interests to have the full client details posted on a public forum. Hope you understand.

Adam, thanks again for your follow up response. I do agree with comments regarding “They are successful cause they are skilled at what they do and they love doing it(some of the time).” As a Marketing Consultant I have looked very closely at hundreds of businesses and I think I have found the secret to success!

Communication skills are top, an absolute passion for what you are doing is second, and being arrogant and obnoxious is third. You need the arrogance so that when people say you work is rubbish you think “Man, he is crazy! My work is fantastic! That guy needs some help!” It is very important to be able to deal with rejection.

Regarding the payment issue of some clients won’t have a budget of $17,000. Totally agree. I always gauge what I think the client will pay. Which is often decided at one of our meeting where we say “Okay, to meet that need you require forms, Flash and ABC. So that parts about $10. Okay, what else…” You soon get an idea of what scares the client and what his budget is.

TJ, my apologies for aiding the changing focus of this thread. As you already know it is very difficult when you are starting out to know what to charge the client. One other bit of advice (and I’ve done this a few times) is don’t undercharge. The money you get has the be ‘sensible’ compensation for your time. Otherwise you think “Oh, this guy is getting me at $5 per hour” and you tend to lose focus. If you aren’t making a good profit then you will almost resent the work (resent is probably a bit strong - but I hope you know what I’m trying to say). All the best with your quote - I’m sure you will get the work.



Regarding the URL issue, as Jackman said, he sent me that information over email. :wink:

BTW - Jackman, my name is spelled Isaiah, but don’t worry about it. In real life it is normal for people to call me Isaac, Isa, etc. out of forgetfulness and mispellings are more prevelant than the “nicknames”. :cool:

Thank you to everyone for your thoughts on this matter. I am still a bit unsure as to what to chrage (natch) but at least I have more points of view to consider. I appreciate all of the input. Thank you for taking your time out to help me with this issue.


Jackman has, in my opinion, excellent writing skills. His text is easy to read, it is divided into paragraphs, and the spelling and grammar is excellent.

It would take most of us quite a long time to refine a piece of writing to this quality, and yet Jackman is able to present ideas in a clear and logical manner, while writing everyday forum posts.

This writing ability certainly illustrates his point, and his great success as a businessperson.

I have noticed that in Australia, internet services are considerably more expensive than in the United States. I myself am Australian and I find that Australian businesses are willing to pay enormous amounts of money for services that Americans would find much cheaper.

Web hosting in Australia (under .au toplevel) is limited to registered businesses only, and for a business, having an online presence is seen as the pinnacle of big business. Even many of our banks and government organisations have a severely limited online content.

Perhaps the market for web design in Australia is growing much faster, allowing these early web designers to make outstanding growth.

I wonder if Jackman has any comments on the Australian web design market as compared to the more competitive US market.

I heartily agree with Jackman on this issue. There is a very old resource that I’m sure he has read called “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. There are principles to marketing our services that apply beyond the realm of technology, education and even talent. If you make the client feel good about you (which in turn makes them feel good about your company) you will win that client. An old business proverb goes, “All things being equal, people will do business with someone they like. All things not being equal, they still will.”
I have another question for Jackman because I respect his opinion after reading this forum. My business is in Southwest Missouri and deals primarily with small businesses and churches. This area of the country tends to stay a bit behind the national trends as far as technology goes. Although our prices are low, many of my clients seem shocked at the amount of money it takes to do a good site. Do you have any recommendations for justifying what we charge without appearing to make excuses?

After reading the various posts in this thread I have some comments.

  1. I personally feel that Jackman has expressed my feelings and the feelings of many in a very clear and easy to understand format. His ideas are will thought out and expressed and if a person is willing to open his mind to them will understand that maybe what he says is true even though it defies much advice you will receive. That is not to make anyone mad at me, I just totally agree with him.

  2. I must make a recommendation to all to read the book mentioned by Aggrrssive if you have not (How To Win Friends & Influence People) it will change your way of thinking in the field of ‘client communication’

  3. Jackman: I emailed you as well, but please do let me know how you received your training!

Your my hero Jackman! :cool:

You certainly went about it the right way. However, your comment in a later post I believe to be incorrect

Adam, people buy for 2 reasons and 2 reasons only. Fear and greed.

People do buy because of 2 things. But they are TRUST and VALUE.

Buyers must trust the vendor (or at least trust their product) and the product must be of a greater (perceived) value than the cost that they pay. Fear can be used to create that value, but is is not the reason in itself.

Originally posted by NZ Joe
[B]Your my hero Jackman! :cool:

People do buy because of 2 things. But they are TRUST and VALUE.

Joe, thanks for digging up this old topic- I still believe this to be the best topic ever on sitepoint.

By the way, trust and value are just the same as fear and greed. It’s just a matter of how you put things.

Granted this thread has gone a little off-topic but I think it all relates to coming up with an appropriate quote in the end. It all ties together.

About the books. I own “How to Win Friends and Influence People” - it’s on my bookshelf. Read it. BUT, don’t live your life by what it says. Guerilla marketing has it’s place and should be understood.

Also read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey. They balance each other nicely. After reading both you should have a really good understanding of two viewpoints on dealing with people.

My opinion is “Treat the customer as if they were your best friend or a close relative.” By this I mean treat them with respect, honor, integrity, and of course friendliness. But DON’T BE FAKE. People can see that in an instant.

I would almost guarantee you that Jackman truly cares about his customers. He goes the extra mile… and HE IS SINCERE.

I completely agree with Jackman. That is how I STRIVE to do business. Go the extra mile for your clients, and in the end they will become your friends.

Jackman has illustrated what to all aspiring professionals should be a bog standard approach to getting business, but of course, isn’t. However, to back up the fee, which may be far in excess of one’s rivals, one must be careful that the whole business is spot on. In effect, its a high risk game. Get caught not delivering on time, or with a client who is unreasonable about schedules, changes, payment, and you could find yourself on the end of a serious perception problem. One’s code and design, and the delivery of what one promises have to be well nigh perfect. After all, if the other quotes were around $3000 then the client is expecting something extra beyond tanned handshakes and white smiles and the ‘little things’.

The damage that could be done by getting it wrong when you’re 4 times dearer could be really bad, because that client wonders why they paid all that money, then tells their golf club friends that run businesses that you charge a fortune and mess up (remember, you might be prey to a webhost’s problems that look like your own, among other things that could go wrong).

I don’t for a moment disagree with the strategy of ‘re-assuringly expensive’ but the backup of the smiles and promises have to be rock solid. For me, the team you have will define how confidently you can sell and market yourselves. Hype alone gets nobody anywhere.

Addendum to Jackman’s comments might be, when addressing your approach along his lines, which are the right lines, address first any weaknesses in the management and team dynamics, as well as skillsets, so your internal structure is as smoothly oiled as Jackman’s customer facing skills :wink:


Is there a standard or a reference that I could go by?

No - I guess, that would be price-fixing. I heard it here in the forums.:confused:

I don’t know how the laws differ in your countries, but over here it is OK to publish your price and tell others what it is. When it becomes illegal is when you collude with your competition to artificially inflate the prices. There is nothing to stop me openly declaring my price, or even asking my competitors what they charge. So here goes:

As a small 1 man outfit that is only part time, at this stage, I base my pricing on NZ$35/hr (+tax) for standard HTML, site maintenance, content updates, initial consultation time, etc and NZ$75/hr for any dynamic scripting and database stuff, web strategy, business planning and project management.

For that they will get a much more professional site than from the 16 year old down the road, but I can only aspire to the level of professionalism offered by Jackman. This is a much lower price than most people around here charge, but as yet I don’t have the capital to step up to that level and do it full-time.