A Discussion on Hourly Rates in Web Design
“What should my hourly rate be?”
One of the hardest parts of start out into full or part time web design is setting fair prices. It’s a topic that we’ve tackled before in our week-long Pricing Bootcamp series. Since then, we’ve received a lot of email asking the same question. We decided to revisit the pricing discussion with a survey on hourly rates.
This survey kept things simple by only including two fields: one for the hourly rate, and another for additional comments. In the interest of a global economy, I did not ask for location or nationality. In today’s web industry, a firm miles away in Germany can be just as competitive as the one next door.
Thanks to the 107 readers who took time to respond (original survey live on Google Docs). All respondents were asked to submit their rates in $USD for consistency. The charts below break down the responses into seven price brackets.
Please keep in mind that this was an informal survey, and the results shouldn’t be considered definitive.
What Can I Learn From This?
The most valuable information to take from this survey? An idea of what not to charge. Assuming you have the skills required, charging less than $20/hour for your services is not as competitive as it may appear. In order to compete with the professionals, a rate starting at $50 would be better. For the largest price bracket ($25 to $50), the average rate was $35.
Many of the designers priced below $25 also commented that they were either students or in a country where dollar value was strong. It’s also important to keep in mind that while this survey has trends, it only asked for a price: not specialized skills or quality. I suspect that many designers have not yet settled on a solid hourly rate, and charge lower than they reasonably should in order to be safe.
Many of you left additional comments that brought up some great points to consider. I’ve selected a few of the best for discussion below:
Estimating a project price using your hourly rate is good for estimates, but be careful not to underestimate the work involved. The longer you spend on a project, the lower your hourly value becomes. It’s concerning when a client asks for hourly rates but not estimated time. As we’ve said before, efficiency shouldn’t be punished by a low hourly rate.
“Often a project gets bid by a total with my estimate on hours. If I estimate badly, my hourly rate drops. [It] can go as low as $50 but this happens very rarely. $80 is more common, once I calculate ALL hours, incl. email exchange with client, my own learning curve on the project etc.”
Your Service is Valuable
Clients can be treated well without a bargain price. Low prices prevent growth and invite lower grades of clients. Price like you’re worth it.
“If you always undercharge, clients will continue to expect low-ball prices. Price what you truly think you’re worth from the beginning.”
Clearly Define Project Scope
Scope creep is a terrible thing. Communicate project goals before agreeing to lock in a price.
“Scheduled payments or lump sum totals for projects. Clients must clearly communicate and sign off on all major decisions. Line items must be defined.”
Take the Follow-up Survey
I’ve created a second survey (including location) on Google Docs to continue this conversation. Results are public (see spreadsheet) and hopefully as more people read this post, the responses will give a solid second opinion. Interested to see responses? Take the follow up survey now.
Now it’s time to hear from you. What points do you consider when determining hourly rates? Do certain situations affect your rate, or is it constant? What’s a reasonable rate for your location? Leave your response below.