A Discussion on Hourly Rates in Web Design

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.

The Results

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.

Hourly Rate Results

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.

Influencing Factors

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.

Additional Considerations

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:

Underestimating Time

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.

Posted Monday, December 28th, 2009 · Back to Top


Add Comment

64 Comments 13 Mentions

  1. Johnny Author Editor

    A very useful article, wish something like this had have been around when I was looking to start freelancing.


  2. Design Informer Author Editor

    I’m in the $25-$50 per hour range.

    Very insightful post. It’s good to get a look at what the other designers are charging for their services. Also, it’s really smart how you included the additional factors, as most people don’t factor that in.


  3. Matt M. Author Editor

    Thanks for the results on this! Id be curious to see the results of some other polls related to the design industry, perhaps SEO/User Experience/Video production.


  4. Dimi Author Editor

    Very nice post, thank you for sharing. Pricing can be a tricky thing sometimes.


  5. Leah Author Editor

    Before I send them an estimate, I ask, “Do you think you’ll probably like the design I show you, or do you think you’ll have a lots of comments?” People usually answer honestly and it usually gives me a good idea of what to expect. I also build in 2 design revisions, and price additional ones in the contract. So they know exactly what to expect when they come to me with 100 changes….


  6. Dan Tucker Author Editor

    I think Leah’s hit the nail on the head as you never know whether you’ll get it right the first time or if there’ll be a dozen revisions before it’s completed. Interesting that you build in two revisions, is that something you quote to your clients and if so, does that encourage them to ask for more changes?


  7. Tara Bradford Author Editor

    Wish I’d known this before hiring a guy to set up photography website. He charged me while he was researching how to do the work (he’d assured me he already knew how to do). In the end, the website looked amateurish and ineffective and was not what I requested (and cost me a small fortune). It was like throwing money out the window! Now I have to pay someone to completely redo it.


    • Beau Author Editor

      as a web-designer myself, I’m very sad to hear of bad experiences.
      It is hard to understand why people don’t work professionally!


  8. website designers stoke Author Editor

    Its very important to research the people you are interested in using. As a web design company who delivers excellent services, we ourselves promote this as we have no skeletons in the closet and welcome reassurance to our clients. There are many web design directories with reviews which should help you choose the right company. Dont use substandard companies outside of your country, keep it local.


  9. SmashingWebs.com Author Editor

    Nice article ;) Yes, they are right, Pricing can be a tricky thing sometimes.


  10. Victor G. Author Editor

    25$/hour, as I’m not very experienced just yet. Rates will go up once I have a broader portfolio though. Good post!


  11. Rubens Mariuzzo Author Editor

    This article is very insightfull, thanks for this.


  12. Denver SEO Solutions Author Editor

    Very, very good read, not only for web designers but for seo freelancers like myself, or freelancers in general. You want to get the client but you don’t want to undercut yourself to much.

    Very thin line, but with more experience, better results and client testimonials we all should eventually be able to charge what is fair but also makes us happy.



  13. Ross Johnson Author Editor

    If the average hourly rate is $25 – $50 then people are seriously undervaluing their skills.


  14. Tai Travis Author Editor

    @Ross I completely agree.

    By charging enough you actually doing your client a huge favor. How? By staying in business. People who hire us need us to be available in the future. If we sabotage our own success and change careers thats bad for them.
    I recommend the pricing section of “The Principles of Successful Freelancing” by Miles Burke (Sitepoint).

    Adobe Creative Suite, a new computer of three years, ongoing training, health insurance, sick and vacation time. Factor that stuff in and you will be surprised what you need to charge hourly to stay in business. Yes its over $50 an hour. Any less and your either living in India or your moms basement.


  15. Brad C Author Editor

    Wow, these numbers are a lot lower than I expected. 2/3 of the respondents are under $50. If you’re freelancing full time in the US you would be living pretty close to the edge on $50/hr.

    $50 may seem like a lot but like Tai says once you factor in expenses, taxes, health insurance and the fact that it’s near impossible to bill 40 hours a week without working 60-70 hours that hourly rate gets spent quick.


  16. Shea Baker Author Editor

    I think an important factor left out of the survey is the skill set and services that are being offered. Someone who knows a little html and uses a WYSIWYG web builder should not be charging the same as one develops and codes custom web applications and knows more acronyms than I can count.


  17. Edwin Author Editor

    The price war has really messed up pricing in general for designers and developers. It kills me to see that developers in India are charging $10.00 an hour, only to have clients come back to us and beg for our help.
    I agree with Ross above, that if you are a good designer/developer you should charge accordingly. We are starting to dabble in the iphone/android development and our hourly mobile dev rate will be $ 150.00 given the fact that there are not many of these developers are not available.
    All in the all, the old saying applies “YOU REALLY GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR”!


  18. Inside the Webb Author Editor

    This is a good discussion that all freelancers need to sit down and have with themselves at one point or another, and I have to agree with everything you’ve said here. I’ll share this on my blog as well, thanks!


  19. Amber Weinberg Author Editor

    I agree that you get what you pay for and I equally hate to see anyone charging $10-$20 an hour for any service if they have real skills and talents. However, charging too much can backfire. I was charging $100 an hour several months back and since my main client source are other agencies, none of them could afford this rate. I now technically charge $50 an hour, which is normally $500 for a homepage & subpage coding. I pad this by adding extra hours, as it may only take me 5-6 hours to code a site, but I charge 10. So perhaps my hourly rate is still closer to $100 then ;)


  20. Tony Lav Author Editor

    I wonder sometimes how easy it is ot stick to an hourly rate. I guess it takes a long time to get used to planning what is required per job. I almost always charge by the job and make sure it is proffitable. It normally comes to the £70 mark.
    I also have clients who pay me a lot less, but these clients have me on a retainer and I spend a day with them once per week and some once per month etc. The rate I charge for that can be as little as £20 per hour but its a full days work. It is however regular income and gives me a base earning for the month before I begin any new web and print work.


  21. Kristy Lee Author Editor

    So I’m curious if anyone has any addon fees such as rush fees or holiday work. I often have clients who need small things done, and need them RIGHT NOW, and have to work my whole day around to fit them in.


  22. elijah Author Editor

    excellent and useful article. thanks for posting.


  23. Crystal Author Editor

    This is a great poll, thanks for including it. I’m still in the $25-$50 range, unless I’m doing more development/coding style work, but I also focus on clients with start-up business and smaller projects so I can take on more at a time. The problem with this however is that most start-ups don’t understand the real cost of web design services, and I’ve often been told that even something as low as $25 is expensive and unreasonable!


  24. Rom Author Editor

    When you say Web Design, does this mean Design + CSS? or the Front-end PSD file only?


  25. Badger Author Editor

    I usually charge around $85. That includes all design and build work, numerous (but reasonable) revisions and 3 months worth of free advice/help and updating. I havent changed my rate in years and dont see the need to for at least another 12 months.

    Amber: I hope your clients dont find your post. I cant think I would be too happy to find you adding several hours to work I contracted you to do. Thats just bad business.


  26. Emily Author Editor

    Excellent post. I work with a partner to design and code sites (we’re both college students majoring in business) and we’ve been struggling to find a good price. We’re charging $20/hr for our current project. All this information tells me that we’re on the right track. Thanks!


  27. Riley Author Editor

    I started out at $45h. As I got busier I would raise my rates for new clients. I raised rates on older clients eventually.

    It’s always good to send current clients a note in Sept that rates will increase next year. You may find they will throw you a bunch of work before the new rate sets in.

    When times are good, raise rates!!!


  28. ev4n Author Editor

    I charge $250+/hr + quote/meeting charges, not sure how people are charging ~$45/hr… they are rather students, have a low quality of work or dont know how to sell themselves as a professional designer.


    • Lavar Author Editor

      If time is money you’ve made me a waetlehir woman.


  29. Skyrocket Labs Author Editor

    I charge $80/hr and I find it’s the perfect rate at the moment for attracting the kind of business I want while keeping the ‘cheapskates’ away. It’s important for creatives to know you’re not charging solely based on your skill set but also your experience and insight.


  30. herosuke zenjio Author Editor

    hi to all i’m currently working on a per project basis how much will i charge per hour if i switch to freelance, here’s my portfolio: http://twitpic.com/photos/herosuke Thanks! happy 2010!


  31. cryptonit Author Editor

    This article can be very useful but you have to think about one important thing: Most of the readers who change their rates because of this articles are new in this business. imo it’s wrong to suggest they should charge ~50$ unless they have a very good educational background (related to web design).


  32. herosuke zenjio Author Editor

    whats the point if you have a good educational background, if you can’t create a good design. lolz


  33. Garner New Media Author Editor

    I held hourly rates for about 2 months. I found a lot of my walk-in clients didn’t like it. They wanted a flat rate and a very defined description of what that flat rate included. So I moved to an ala carte menu style of pricing. I found that clients liked being able to pick and chose what technologies were included in the design.


  34. Web, Email, Logo Design | BrandleDesign Author Editor

    Great advice. Thanks.


  35. Justin Moore-Brown Author Editor

    Love the article sir. This is something that is always tough to gauge. I found a price of 75/hr billed in increments of 15 minutes is just right.

    Payment options and others also helps sweeten the deal.


  36. herosuke zenjio Author Editor

    guys any idea how much will i charge for my clients, usually i can finish one psd design for 8 hours check out my portfolio http://twitpic.com/photos/herosuke


  37. rohnn Author Editor

    I dont think one can live correctly charging less than $50/h when in the US or UE..

    As for myself, I charge $25/h because I can, since this is quite some cash in the country I am living.
    And I am busy outsourcung for US/EU agencies. Still, I suppose those agencies do charges at least 3 times this price to the final client !!


  38. Dave Author Editor

    A mechanic charges at least $80 an hour and most of them didn’t even finish high school, stop slutting yourselves out so cheaply.


  39. Politics Author Editor

    wonderful decision for web designing rating great post for you share for me


  40. Marius Author Editor

    I just think you’re lucky you live in US, that’s all.. I’d be really happy if I’d get 30$/h. By the way, I live in central Europe, not in India.
    So, I think it’s time to start selling design by internet to Americans.. :)


  41. DJaVuPixel Author Editor

    such articles are not oft seen but I find it good to see more and more.
    @Marius 25€ are +-35$ so I think you can ask 25€ for your project depending on your skills. I live in europe too :)


  42. Alison Rowan Author Editor

    Thanks so much for posting those survey results. Articles are everywhere telling you what to base your rates on, but it’s so rare to see actual numbers, instead of vague concepts on which to base your own. It’s hugely valuable information!


  43. I’m not about to tell Author Editor

    “Price what you truly think you’re worth from the beginning.”

    Ooops,it would appear that I have been over charging everyone.


  44. Bob Author Editor

    100 hr is standard if you have at least 5 years under your belt. You guys are selling yourselves (and everyone else in the field) short. I’m not sure if this blog attracts younger designers, and this is the reason, but it’s really dissapointing to see people charging these low rates.


  45. Brad Author Editor

    Ok, so this survey did not “ask for location or nationality”

    But due to variations in global eccomonies location is important because $25 is worth A LOT more in “developing countries” compared to the USA.

    So these designers/developers can charge under $25 per hour and still be making decent money. Whether they’re skilled is another matter.

    Having said that, after reading the comments it appears the majority of readers (and possibly survey participants) are not from such locations anyway. Although we’ll never be able tell.


  46. Binary Spectrum Author Editor

    Excellent post…thanks


  47. Agyei Mensah Author Editor

    Excellent article and lots of wonderful contribution. I basically think what you charge is based on your economy. Maybe it’s possible for people in the states to charge $100 – $150/hr but over here (Ghana, Africa) you will never get a job with that kind of rate. With that said, I charge between $35 – $50 because of my skills and experience. Others charge as low as $5/hr. But that doesn’t mean I should reduce my cost, it’s all about knowing what your worth is, sticking to it and making sure you deliever everytime. At the end of the day, a client wants their money’s worth.


  48. Wajdani Author Editor

    insightful post. It’s good to get a look at what the other designers are charging for their services.


  49. Shahid Author Editor

    Very useful post… thanks


  50. Alex Author Editor

    I am charging 35$ per hour for UI design and development.


  51. Jimbob Author Editor

    $12/h always got work


  52. Julian Author Editor

    thanks, this has given me a rough idea on what i should be charging my clients without being to dear or on the other hand being to cheap and under selling myself :)


  53. Rita Author Editor

    I charge $75/hour to cover all of the administrative costs associated with the project, i.e. meetings, commute, phone calls etc. Clients don’t like to be billed for these additional costs but in reality freelance business needs to account for those since a lot of the work goes into administration. I only charge them for design work but my fee has built in cushion to cover my time and expenses.


  54. Teersili Author Editor

    sell monster beats online


  55. Roscoe Foust Author Editor

    My partner and i enjoyed your own report.


  56. Nina Author Editor

    I just moved to the US, and this is soooo useful!!! I’ve been struggling with this issue in my own country as well.

    I can suggest taking in consideration what other services charge for an hour.

    Let’s say a haircut in your country is 25$. You don’t want to be charging the same as a hairdresser.

    No offense to the hairdresser, but your education was more complex, expensive, and takes more responsibility for sure. You are branding a company (may be with a banner, a logo, website, etc), and you are providing higher value to it, or to a product.

    We are value generators, so we should be valuable ourselves, right?

    This should not be so hard for us, but it is. I’m sorry we don’t learn about this in college (at least where I come from).


  57. Mickey Myerscough Author Editor

    Wonderful submit gentleman, maintain up the great function. Drugs


  58. Jeff Author Editor

    I most appreciated the insight about “Scope Creep”. On one of my first web projects, I didn’t account for this. The project ended up taking about twice as long as it should have.

    Sure, it was my client’s that continued to change their minds relentlessly about pages, content, colors, templates etc., but it was my fault for not having a line item check list and payment schedule in place.

    This schedule is now my best friend when building a new site for a client. Oh, and my hourly rate is $85 for a site build. However, I estimate this and then give my client a project cost that doesnt include my hourly rate but rather a project cost instead. This helps avoid any “rate comparisons”, especially by someone who has input on the project.


  59. درب اتوماتیک Author Editor

    very good like.


  60. Fara Author Editor

    Not so negative. Exciting factors right here


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