You do know that they come to you because they know that you are the professionals. Many of them are completely clueless as to how pricing works for dev/design-work. Asking "how much do you charge?" is a perfectly reasonable question for someone understandably uninformed to ask.
You may be skilled at your trade, but from the sounds of it, many of you are absolutely horrible at dealing with customers who need a bit of guidance and direction with respects to the work they want to get done.
Imagine a curious older relative asking a physicist what light is and receiving "Well, it's sort of like one thing, but it's really not" as a response.
After all, my nephew does computers and I can have him make a website for cheap.
There's also the "Of course we want you to have creative control. We just want to be able to tell you how it looks, what colors to use, and what the tone is."
So, I'm not surprised with the responses here. It's the same one I'd have if someone tells me they want to make the next Facebook, only better. Compensation? I'll give a share when it gets big. Details? No, it's a secret...
It's one thing to be cynical; it's something else entirely to show that cynicism to a potential client.
Hell, this isn't limited to the tech world: my wife trains horses and gives lessons and she has the same problem with clients making snarky comments and dumb assumptions. If she wants to keep getting business she has to swallow her irritation and answer politely and informatively.
No, as a business person you just walk away. They're clearly not a prospect (ie, in the market to buy your services) because they've indicated a budget that is degrees of magnitude to yours.
One of the wonderful traits of being a geek is the desire to explain and the desire to engage in debate. Digg/Reddit/HN are built on it. An important trait of a successful business person is to zero in on potential customers and cut losses quickly on leads that are going no-where.
Your time is money - which is also why many successful startup folks drift out of HN and other communities once they become successful entrepreneurs.
The same traits can also impact on client work once you get into the project. If you're a geek + business person, these are important skills to learn.
Someone isn't disqualified as a potential customer simply because they don't know how much something costs or assume it costs X when it costs 10X.
A good customer understands value. That means that if they thought something costs $500 but it really will cost $10k, they'll be able to identify if it's worth $10k to them, or instead find out what they can get for the $2k that they can actually afford.
Just saying "no, I can't help you" and walking away isn't doing yourself any favors.
> Buyers of software products, like small children, hear one word more than any other: "no". "No, it can't be done." "No we don't do that." "No, if you did that it would screw up everything else." "No, that's stupid" It doesn't matter if you're right, all that matters is that you're just another person saying "no".
> You differentiate yourself from others by giving the exact same answer, but with the word "yes" instead of "no".
> "Yes, in order to do that, we'd also want to look at..."
> As I've told my customers many times, "The answer is always 'Yes'. You may not want to do it once you understand what it will take, but the answer is still 'yes'."
>Just saying "no, I can't help you" and walking away isn't doing yourself any favors.
You're right. But it's a grey area. There are some real crazies/idiots out there, and picking up a delinquent client is parasitic. If you work a large project, and the client pulls some bullshit to avoid payment, you may need to take them to court. This takes time you could be productive on other projects. A client who signs off on a design, and then complains that it's not what they want, will extend project. Too much of "could you make the yellow more yellow?" "I want people to smell cinnamon and peppermint." results in a poor finished product due to both frustration and a lack of communication.
Just dropping a client has it's own difficulties, and may not be possible depending on the agreement.
"I'll pay you $500 for a large project" is one indicator that could be a difficult client. Of course, it's not a truth, but I feel a good defensive game goes a long way.
It's sampling bias, but http://clientsfromhell.net and http://clientcopia.com/ are entertaining yet frustrating sites to see some of the worst of it. Let's add to the cynicism!
And a decent top ten list. These guys are more common than you'd believe. http://freelancefolder.com/bad-clients-and-how-to-avoid-them...
Startups approach me all the time, given that I'm quite well connected in the startup scene from my other activities here in SF. But they can't afford to pay me what BigCorps will pay me. There's no point in me telling them the value I can provide and doing the dance because the bottom line is they usually don't have the kind of funding to make it feasible.
And for me, there isn't the equivalent of "well this is what I can do for $500" - I charge by the day and you either pay my rate or you don't. Fortunately I have enough business that will.
My method is to try to figure that out VERY early in my discussions with a potential client, and then quote them a "scare off price" whereby they'll likely say no, but IF they say yes, the extra money will make it worthwhile as I KNOW they'll be asking for tons of changes. (Can't you just open Dreamweaver and change the colors and pictures???)
I'm not advocating being difficult. I simply think if we'd size up our client BEFORE deciding "we need the money", there'd be a LOT less horror stories.
Price your service so that you would not regret it either way.
Before giving a price I usually think of how I will feel if I don't get the job and how I will feel if I get it. If I would be comfortable with both situations, then I know it is the right price regardless of what happens.
In line with this, I have given higher rates to "difficult" people I have worked with before that have asked me to do work for them again. I didn't get those jobs (usually I don't even get a response) but I was happy about it. If the work and person seems interesting, I may quote a lower rate.
I'm sure there's something like this, but there should be a kind of Angie's list for clients to blacklist the delinquent ones. If not I'm making one.
EDIT: There's always the better business bureau, but it's not as complete.
After all, this is someone who has gone to the trouble of getting in touch with a professional and asking questions. They aren't asking their nephew to do it.
They know it's going to be more expensive, but they didn't realize HOW MUCH more expensive, and that comment is simply part of how they learn why that's the case.
They generally honestly don't understand why it's so expensive -- because they don't yet understand what they're buying (it's non-obvious!) -- so the best route is to keep the tone pleasant ("ha! yup, I get that question a lot") and educate them in a friendly way.
The end result may be that they decide they won't want a professional website -- that's fine. Part of the discussion should be how likely it is that the site will earn them back more than they're paying for it. I have a neighbor that wanted to hire me to build a website for her small-scale manufacturing business, and through our discussions we basically figured out that it wasn't going to be a good investment for her right now. That was a win-win situation, in my book.
I do take the same approach and try to explain why it's more expensive, they tend to use the 'nephew' excuse to haggle down by a significant amount (A couple hundred for a medium sized site, think school/PTA/church, tree depth > 2, 10+ pages). But my problem is finding a resolution. (This is a short version, I'm usually more friendly about it)
Client: I know someone who will do it for free. You should therefore do it for cheap.
Dev: This is a large project. (Explain expense).
Client: Then I'll just use my free resource.
Dev: Do that.
Client: But I want you to do it.
Dev: Well, this is a large project. (Explain expense).
Rinse and repeat...
There's a gap with some of them that I have trouble explaining. I'm not in competition with whoever you know. Just because they can do it for free doesn't change what I'll charge, which is pretty reasonable and on the low side. I'll hear from other, actual freelancers (I' a student, so I'm part-time) about the same client calling around and getting the same response. Anecdotally, it takes 4-5 conversations for them to understand that the rate is between $1000 and $7000 depending how large/dynamic it needs to be. Whoever the last person is get the job, or makes a referral.
I don't think a lot of freelancers realize the importance of sales/marketing/customer service. They are more than just easy classes in college and they benefit more than the greasy used car salesman down the street.
Quite often it's the difference between you and the competitor to whom you lost the job.
Do you see how this feels? They're pretty reasonably scared of being ripped off. After all, if you went off for 2 weeks and on the last day just copied some other site's design and changed the names... how would they know?
Hopefully he didn't ask Feynman! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMFPe-DwULM
£250: An update to content - an evening or two's work.
£500: A tiny static site with some original design. <5 pages
£1000: A full static site for a SME. Full Design. ~5 pages.
£2500: As above with some dynamic elements. ~10 pages.
£5000: Medium dynamic site. ~20 pages. 2-4 weeks work.
I also have a mate-rates scale that appears below this:
Free: Family. Charities I like. Updates + tiny static.
Bottle of Wine: As above but close family friends.
Bottle of Whiskey: As above but good friends.
Having a fixed, doubling scale like this works well. Each next price needs to be big enough to make a difference to me as I am essentially very lazy and I like my free time. Also, I am a terrible soft-touch and would probably charge everyone mates-rates if I didn't force myself to do this.
As for a dynamic site, I mainly use Wordpress as my CMS of choice, usually great for clients as they find it pretty straight forward to go in and add/update content, add pages etc.
Another thing I have found now that I am working full-time is the absolute top-most importance for proper functional specs, as well as proper bug tracking software, emailing constant changes gets to be a real pain, and pretty hard for you to track which ones have actually been done.
I've seen plenty of folks use a CMS to completely botch up their site, suck up 6 hours of their time, and end up worse off than when they started.
If someone is making continual changes, the CMS makes sense. If it is a business that does 1 or 2 updates per year, it might be better to outsource the web stuff.
How much do you value your evenings at? £250 would be 1-2 evenings. One evening and it seems like reasonably easy money. Two evenings and suddenly its not quite so generous. Surely any technical person can charge $50 an hour? My day job charges me out at $1000 a day. I have also found that when it is an amount less than that I tend to resent the fact that I've had to give up an evening.
Stand up for yourself. Charge an amount that makes you happy.
If you charge $400 to update your client's web site, you're just price gouging because they don't know any better. Pathetic.
Design doesn't stop at the mockup stage — anyone who has designed & built the front-end of a website knows that the design continues to evolve outside of Photoshop. The nature of the web dictates a website must be flexible so it can accommodate different browsers and resolutions. It's very difficult (read: expensive) to design for a dynamic medium in a static work space, and it's disingenuous to call a static, non-interactive image a website.
This post would be better titled "How much can one charge for a website mockup?"
What's more interesting are the responses. It's almost like a litmus test for who I'd actually want to work with. A person that I might actually want to work with will laugh and acknowledge that the question was ridiculously vague. A person that I don't want to work with will show some level of frustration and will usually dismiss the remark, pressing for a greater level of detail. I'll talk to the individual with a sense of humor and even a basic level of introspection, but the person who is frustrated with me isn't getting very far.
When you call a plumber and tell him that your hot water doesn't work and how much it will cost the tipical response is "my rate is x but I will give you an estimate once I examine the problem". Why can't web designers use a similar answer. Is that so hard?
For a number of my clients, I couldn't come within 50% of an actual quote until I sat down over coffee and talked over exactly what they wanted.
How do you know the clients that you want to work for?
Get to know him. As simple as that. What's his business? can he afford your rates? Is he ready to pay that rate or does he see the value of your work?
And then ask for details. Give a reasonable estimate. Alert them that your hourly rate is $xxx and beyond the details specified in the estimate you'll charge more.
Sure, but it's also important to point out that "How much is a website?" is not a serious question. The GP's answer might seem silly, but it brings into relief that you're dealing with a "how much is a car?" or "how long is a piece of string?" situation, and is merely a door-opener on par with the more-businesslike "well, it depends..." and comes down to personal style.
Thinking that a person asking for a price concept has no idea that there may be variables is pretty pessimistic. Some are probably not worth talking to, but others are interested in basically getting a verbal sense of what the curves in the original article look like.
I asked a friend of mine who is a professional animator recently how much animation costs to produce per minute. He didn't come out with a meaningless answer like "From 10 cents to 10 million dollars." He gave me about a 30-second sense of what an average simple and high-end studio looks like and what it ends up costing to run them. That's a good answer, not a dodge.
I think is a very valid question. And a valid response is "my rate is X and will give you an estimate once I understand better what you want to build".
Do you know what I ask? "How do you usually price these things?"
You mean, how do you price the total price of a website?
The same way that a mechanic, plumber, electrician, contractor, etc.,etc. estimates the total price of the work to be done. i.e. You estimate the total number of hours you think is going to take you, you multiply it by your hourly rate and finally you add whatever additional expenses you incurred when building the site. i.e. hosting service, license fees,...
If a car salesman were asked that question, he wouldn't answer it flippantly because he knows that's a little embarrassing to make the customer feel ignorant to that degree. You're invalidating their question, not answering it.
Instead, the car salesman would say, "That depends on the kind of car that fits your needs. What kind of vehicles are you thinking about?"
There's no harm in making the car analogy explicit, but I'd think prospects would be warmer to more helpful and direct responses at first.
What's a car dealer going to say? They probably won't even give you an upper range, just "This model starts at $34k" or something like that.
And no, I'm talking about a dealer being asked the question in general by a prospect fresh arrived on the lot.
"For example, the mere fact of supporting user accounts will mean having to design sign up, sign in, and “I forgot my password” screens as well as all the different error states associated with them."
I'd much rather have UI guidelines, which cover how forms are built, what an error state looks like, and how text is formatted. A set of building blocks, rather then a unique design for each activity being undertaken.
In my experience designers who design each page individually usually provide designs which can't be adapted easily, and require each page to have much more work applied then would otherwise be necessary.
By all means provide a full design for key processes, for example the checkout process on an e-commerce site, but for a lost password form I should I be able to put that together without having to call in a designer.
(plus it's been my experience that some clients do want mockups for each screen, even though I always tell them that the "building blocks" approach you describe is much more efficient)
Do these portfolios also show prices? I've never seen such a thing (well, aside from off-the-rack TemplatesAreUs.com sort of sites).
If pricing is such a case-by-case matter then perhaps there should be something on the site that explains this.
I've dealt with a number of potential clients for Web development who came in assuming that site building was much like (in their mind) getting a house built. Two bedrooms, 2.5 baths? This much. Three bedrooms? That much.
I've had to explain to people that even getting a house built is not like that, that while there are some common aspects there are also quite a few things that are going to be unique.
Clients are usually well-meaning and earnest when they go shopping for a developer or a designer, but typically have no idea how things work. A little time explaining things goes a long way.
I haven't had a straight-up "Design me a website" contract in years - it's always been applications, or a Wordpress theme. Is there actually still a market for simple static web sites anymore?
I'm also doing some work for another client that's just delivering PSD files... which, again, is not something I have done in probably a couple of years.
Unless you're working as part of a larger team and you each have specific tasks, most people want at least design+front-end development.
"What is the average of your x previous invoices for x?" = good
Sure I might charge by default $1k for a logo but the chances of $1k being billed every time are slim, every client is different. The average invoice price is the most valuable metric. Every designer will say they charge $5k when they charge $1k because it makes them feel good.
No one wants to hear that they're ignorant. No one wants to listen to a condescending speech about how they don't understand your area of expertise. Take a moment, be patient, educate them a little, try a couple concrete examples, and keep calm. If you can't arrive at an understanding after a few tries you can always walk away. I will assure you, however, that you will secure a lot more clients and referrals if you treat everyone with respect and try to help them find the right solution for themselves.
Well, it depends on the car, they answer.
Precisely. So do you want a used Honda, a new Corvette, a BMW, or a Rolls Royce?
After all, to put it in those terms, you can rent a Rolls Royce for a day - or you can buy one.
Do you want a skateboard, pushbike, car, ute, truck, van, lorry, bus, juggernaut ...
If you're looking at car brands then you can get the same vehicle priced differently according to the badge on it. Then it looks like you're saying the cost of a website varies according to the pedigree of the designer more than the technical specification. This is true to some extent but not perhaps the answer one is trying to give.
This is my reaction every time I realize how underpriced I was for all my consulting career. I charged $600 top for building websites, including logo and backend most of the time. I think I was good, just very clueless.
My tactic is to frame the 'how much does it cost' question into something they can relate to. I compare the website to a house. I explain that the cost is dependent on factors like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. I explain that knowing a rough budget is helpful because the designers would know if they should shop at Ikea or (insert local high end furniture store). I ask them if they want hardwoods or carpeting.
Usually the house example helps the client understand that he/she is asking an impossible question and they then are more comfortable going into specifics about their idea so I can get then a fair estimate.
I'm sorry, but a design is only a tiny, tiny fraction of a website. Usually it's the most minor and inconsequential part. I've lost count of how many clients thought their apparently simple designs can built for a toothpick and olive.
This article is mis-titled, since design is the least important part of a site.
Good design really isn't about making things pretty, it's about enablind the user or customer. Usability is goal number one.
is appropriately answered by "What do you want it to do?" then a conversation talking about their project.
But I find the way you've approach the survey to be flawed. The cost of design work is generally a factor of how complex the problem is to solve. Most designers I know charge effort * hourly rate = fee, much like developers and other professional services.
So quantifying prices in terms of a homepage, additional layouts etc is meaningless. I don't find your distinction that only web apps (and not other parts of the web) require both visual and UX design helpful.
@JonWood gets it pretty spot on: handing over a pretty PSD file is getting less common as more design agencies get involved in prototyping and front-end development. Creating a visual language and building blocks is far more useful.
I'll be the first to admit that it's extremely hard to estimate the costs of designing (or even developing) a site. That being said, I think even vague figures such as these can be useful, if only to establish a basic minimum budget for projects.
"How much does a website cost?"
"Depends on what?"
"A lot of things".
I am a web developer, not a web designer.
Maybe watches aren't perfectly analogous. How about walking into a real estate office and asking how much a house costs?
I remember buying my first house and that's pretty much how it played out.
The point is that the RE Agent takes the buyer seriously enough to figure out if they are just fishing or ready to buy and doesn't just blow them off with flippant responses.
For me, the cost isn't in the initial development, it's in the cost of maintaining the site (design/content) and continuing to rank well in the search engines for the life of the site (seo/sem). This also presents the best opportunity to create a long term relationship and an ongoing revenue stream for the developer.
So when you're starting out and don't have a big budget, by all means use a template. I would much rather work with your company when it's more mature and money is less of a concern.
To put in another way, template are in competition with cheap cookie-cutter design (e.g. crowdsourcing sites), not higher quality design.
So, templates are good for some people/companies. It's the same with any product/service, really. There will be those who just want the cheapest x and are indifferent to quality, investing in their purchases, etc, and are happy with knock-offs and things that will break down in a few months.
But more and more designers are focusing on mobile design. Just a year or two ago it was still a fairly rare specialization, but if you browse Dribbble you'll see that most good designers have at least one or two mobile projects in their portfolio. So that might be one reason why prices are being driven down.
(I'm also waiting for commenters to rip me to shreds for the analogy, since HN seems to hate analogies, but it's the best way I can describe it)
You might not want to scrape out the absolute maximum each client will pay for each job (at the least, it's a very difficult thing to actually determine, and makes for a bad client experience if you're negotiating too hard), but it's always good to have a sanity check that they're not happy merely because you're charging way below market rates for your talent.
Why are web designers (as opposed to software developers) being asked about mobile applications?