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Not Sure What To Charge? How To Calculate Your Rate As A Freelance Web Designer

Not Sure What To Charge? How To Calculate Your Rate As A Freelance Web Designer
Get Our <span>FREE</span> Guide to Charging for Freelance Design Work

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As a freelancer, figuring out how much your time is worth can be one of the most challenging tasks and it can take time to learn what different kinds of projects require, and therefore, should cost. Certain assignments may pay less but take a short amount of your time so they end up being worth it, while a much bigger endeavor may come with a bigger paycheck but might end up taking over your life! As you venture out into the world of freelance work, it is key that you figure out your rate. Now granted, you can only charge what the market will bear (meaning, as much as you can convince someone to pay you), but there are some ways for you to determine what your GOAL rate is.

Lynn Wasnak of NJ Creatives writes:

“To choose the income target you want from freelancing, remember that as an independent business person you must pay all your overhead, health benefits, vacation pay, retirement savings and taxes. Also, you must set aside regular time for marketing, accounting, and other non-billable work. Total cost of living, expenses, and overhead are then divided by billable hours to figure the minimum per-hour rate you need to stay afloat. Billable hour estimates range from 1,000 to 1,500 hours per year. A quick ballpark estimate takes hourly rate X 1,000 hours to project potential annual income i.e., $55/hour X 1,000 hours = annual income of $55,000. (To fulfill this goal, though, you need 1,000 hours of billable work!)”

Here are a few tips for figuring out your rates as a freelance designer. You need to charge based on:

What the client is really asking for

What kind of components and features do they want? How complex will they be to build? Building someone’s personal blog versus a site for a booming business will clearly show some cost variation. You should charge more for adding things like forums, ecommerce, opt-ins, memberships, and other custom functionality. One of the biggest challenges that any freelancer has to deal with is changes in the project scope, thus you must also take into account…

How demanding the client is

Is this a client that is just be going to be like “Do your thing! Alright, alright, alright” (the client is Matthew McConnaughey apparently) or are they going to be micromanaging and in your face and in your ear constantly. Like Sunday morning emails and whatnot. If they are cutting into your personal time or taking up a lot of extra time on the phone or meeting with you then that needs to be factored in (freelancers sometimes refer to this as the a**hole tax). Of course, you also have to think about…

Your level of skill

You need to be honest about how much experience you have with different kinds of projects. You may not have as much expertise when it comes to what your client wants and you may not be able to do it as well as another designer, or maybe it will just take some extra time and research for you to accomplish. Look, let’s be real, this is where experienced people win over beginners: the more experience you have with a project, the more you can charge, and the faster you will get it done. On the other hand, beginners get paid to learn, so it all evens out in the wash, right? One thing to consider is whether you should be…

Charging Hourly

According to NJ Creatives Network, on the low end designer hourly rates hover around $40, while the high end is about $75 (though many designers charge $100 or more an hour), with an average of $59 an hour.

However when you say you are charging per hour there are certain things that can’t be included, according to blogger Miranda Marquit. If you have to learn a new skill you can’t charge the client because you accepted the project knowing the expectations and that education will help you get more jobs. Sometimes, you can just discount the hours you spent learning, while other times it might make more sense just to bill the client a flat rate for that project.

You also can’t charge for lost time when you make a mistake. Marquit wrote, “However, if the client continually changes his or her mind as to what he or she wants, you are justified in billing for those hours. But if it’s your mistake, or if the client is unhappy, you might need to do a little extra work without billing, or offer a discount.” And like most things, there are no hard and fast rules here, just your gut and your relationship to your client!

Designers also often have different hourly rates for different functions (designing, coding, testing, etc.).The main advantages of charging by the hour is that it is the most straightfoward way to handle billing and it allows the client to have flexibility if they want to add on additional tasks, plus, they get a bonus for being easy to please (aka not putting you through endless revisions)-billing by the hour is very transparent. That said, client’s don’t always take well to seeing that they ran up your hours, so beware! In those instances it might be better if you instead are…

Charging by the project

You can also charge by standard packages that includes a certain amount of work that you always do. Designers usually base how much they charge on the amount of time the project will take (in effect, an hourly rate)  based on past experience and/or on what the market will bear (for example, a VC funded startup can maybe pay more than a local non-profit). If neither hourly NOR project based suits, consider…

Charging by the page

This is probably the most rare payment method but some designers do utilize it. This usually only makes sense for designers who produce relatively simple marketing style websites, but it’s another mode of charging you should consider.

And guess what else? I have a freebie! You can download our FREE Ultimate Guide to Pricing Your Design Work. Our very own Skillcrush designer put together this killer guide to deciding how much to charge based on your needs and skills. Enter your email to download!

Get Our <span>FREE</span> Guide to Charging for Freelance Design Work

Get Our FREE Guide to Charging for Freelance Design Work

Use this FREE guide to figure out how much your time is worth.

You can unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. We won't use your email address for anything else, promise!

Your email address will not be published.

31 comments

  1. Gaurav Heera Replied

    Just wish to say your information is as amazing. you are an expert on this subject.

  2. ljjacob Replied

    Thank you, great information – and for free! Joy

  3. Guest Replied

    I would proceed with caution when considering these rates from a website (njcreatives.org) that hasn’t updated their copyright date to 2017 yet. The article information is apparently outdated.

  4. Andrew Hardy Replied

    I have a 1st class degree in software engineering, 10 years industry experience mostly midle-ware, low level server applications and mobile applications (Symbian). Since then I spent a number of years on a PhD and gained and maintained software development skills but left (ABT) due to ill health I now work for myself.

    My current primary skills / expertise are Android, Java, Spring MVC, Java Server Pages, MS SQL and proper relational database design.

    I tend to play down / not get over well my skills face to face. I understand the difference between web application developer and a web designer and so I would never say I was a skilled web designer and have steered clear of this work. On the other have I know people who have had nothing to do with software development, picked up WordPress 6 months ago and now call themselves an expert web designer!

    Recently through a kind of serendipitous circumstances I was asked to do a web site for someone I knew years ago and so…

    … knowing I am not an experienced web designer, completely up front and with their preferences we/I selected a quality HTML5 CSS template, I adjusted some of the colors and adapted it into a set of Java Server Pages. I am now in a position to provide content and literally ANY back end functionality they want. I am doing this as a gift (possible donation) and I am adding functionality they may not want that I can switch out but may be useful later. It seems to be working well.

    So… I have been going round saying I don’t have web design expertise, which is true, but then people are going to the guy whose only (literally) experience is 6 months WordPress who has the gift of the gab I don’t have. The thing is I using an HTML template I can provide something perfectly adequate in look, but in terms of content and specifically backbend functionality the only limit is time (not a boast), I am a software engineer. I can port and transform existing data, I can provide a supporting Android or desktop application, I can connect them to remote public or private APIs on the internet, connect them to sensor devices etc etc…. already worked a bit with commerce apis if needed this can be completely tailored, and most of the time I won’t have to pay for components (or if I do and they have source I can adapt them)

    Thing is how do I market this skill set when saying I can “do web sites”. How do I get over how I am different to the 6 months gift of the gab WordPress guy, while being honest about where my skill set is and what it can do for them. What do I charge?

    One thought is to build a dummy web site with loads of great usable functionality and use that as a show case. Also to keep doing stuff and get known.

    • Josh Replied

      You could do that, I have seen others use a portfolio or “showcase” website before. It isn’t uncommon. However the problem here is that most companies only want to pay for what they need and the skill-set you have (while very impressive and it makes me jealous) may not be relevant to them until it is convenient for them. Once it becomes convenient for them you can bet they wont want to pay more for it. Unfortunately many business owners have the mentality of “just do what I tell you to get done and don’t give me a bunch of extra crap” because generally that means they don’t get pressured into paying for more and they know for sure they are getting what they are asking for. This is an unfair standard for them to have as it makes it hard for anyone to advance when they are asking for basic level content but you have a much larger potential skill-set.

    • Peter Arthur Replied

      Hi! I’m a WP and from-scratch web designer. Let me know if you’d like to work together on a project.

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  11. Vanessa Keeton Replied

    Don’t forget about paying office expenses and Uncle Sam. As a freelancer you have to pay as both the employee and the employer. So “$55/hour X 1,000 hours = annual income of $55,000” isn’t as simple as if you were getting a W2 as a regular employee. You are paying about twice the taxes as normal. You will also have operating expenses that you will need to cover, since you are working for yourself.

    I normally figure out what I want my net income to be, then up that by 40%. Trust me, the first time you fill out a schedule C, you will be happy you did, because that first giant check you have to write to the IRS hurts if you didn’t expect it.

    • carpet care and beyond Replied

      Thank you for these guidelines. 

    • Brandon Replied

      Man you said it. I had to learn this the hard way. 

    • Iwona Kraśko Replied

      That’s some way of solving the problem, but I did it once and my client wanted to correct my hours!!! Like he knew how much time everything can be done… Anyhow, I have one pricing now. kuchnianawesele.pl

    • Salita Smith Replied

      I read all of your information from this blog, really affordable information which helps people to learn new topic. By the way, Graphics design is a part of web design, it will be more batter if you focus on this design also.

  12. Rich Replied

    This is a great article, however I tend to charge by project because not every project is the same. I recommend that you charge what you feel you are worth as well as what you are offering. A real developer is not just a Web designer in order to charge top dollar you have to over deliver and if the client can’t afford you or is not willing to invest then it is important to make a decision if you want to move on or not. You can get a Web site built for free or on the cheap, but if you invest cheap that is what you will get. That’s business! A Web presence is an investment and should be treated as such just like building an office building or a skyscraper. First of all the client has to be serious about their goal or they are wasting your time secondly a Web site is a part of an overall marketing campaign. A good Web designer is able to write code, copy, databases and print marketing material as well. If they can’t do that then they should know where to outsource the work to a professional that can meet the clients needs. Also, original keyword focused content is not cheap, it takes brainstorming, planning, editing and proofreading. A good developer can charge whatever they want if they can produce a high return on investment. How would you feel if you built a Web site for $2,000 and your client sold the site for $200,000 or more? It has happened! A Web site is not a “get rich quick scheme” it takes time, patience and a lot of hard work that most people do not have the skill or patience to do. If you are a good negotiator you can ask for and get what you want. There are a lot of crappy Web sites out there because people get them on the cheap. People can tell before they read a word that the Web site is cheap and that’s the way that they look at your company as cheap. Typically you only get one shot because once someone goes to your site and see that you don’t care enough to do your very best it only takes a second for them to click over to your competition and they usually never come back. Your online reputation is too important to be cheap.

  13. In developing country the price is always low and the developer most of the time dont get the exact payment. But still freelancing web design is one of the most promising and profitable job.

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