After running our survey over the past couple of months we confirmed our belief that many of our customers are freelance WordPress developers. And one thing that we know is always difficult as a freelancer is deciding how much to charge your client.
It isn’t our place to tell anyone how much to charge. In reality, it boils down to two fundamentals. How you value your time, and how much a client is willing to pay. It isn’t always so simple though. The point of this article is to discuss some of the factors involved with pricing, and give new (or experienced) freelancers some points to consider when setting a price.
Knowing how much to charge as a freelancer is a crucial aspect of your business. There are a lot of things to think about too. Of course, you need to offer an attractive price to your prospective client. But you need to look after yourself, and your colleagues too. Colleagues? Yes, other freelancers are not just competition, but colleagues too. This is a fine line to walk, let me explain why.
The race to the bottom
The subject of pricing is a matter of hot debate, emotions run strong. Some developers feel that too many charge too little and cause a ‘race to the bottom’. Undercutting the competition is a tried and tested business method. The logic behind it is valid, it is simply human nature to expect a client to go for the best deal. But giving a good deal to a client shouldn’t come at the cost of devaluing the market on the whole. If you look at the pricing of projects on Upwork for example, you will see how much damage this undercutting can cause.
The theory is that seeing other freelancers as colleagues introduce an empathy and solidity into the freelance market. A solidity which could go some way towards preventing such value decay. Instead of undercutting and offering the lowest bids, it is always worth remembering that pricing is a psychological game too. People don’t always like to eat the cheapest food or drink the cheapest wine. Keep in mind that a higher price can actually be reassuring to a client.
Understandably, freelance bidding platforms like Upwork are built to encourage competition and cheap prices. Hence, it is important to understand how these platforms work to get the best of it. Time Doctor did an excellent review of Upwork which suggest that despite setting rates at the prevailing underpriced market threshold, companies ultimately want to hire top-notch talent. Hence the argument is that for the common good of the freelance marketplace, instead of competing on price, freelancers should choose to compete on value, quality and differentiation. This means freelance developers can collectively reinforce a value-based pricing system. A good way to do this also involves applying for underpriced projects but with the goal to show the potential client the value you can provide. This is because many clients do not know what the budget should be for a project but are happy to pay for a good freelance developer.
What is their budget?
Ask the client upfront, be confident about it. This is a perfectly legitimate question to ask. Any serious, professional outfit will tell you what they want to spend. Don’t be afraid to negotiate either. This is most likely expected.
What kind of site is it?
Understanding how your client will use their site is a good indicator of how much you should charge. This is simply basing your price on the estimated value you add to their business.
For example, you usually charge $1,000 for a site, but you are now re-making a site for a successful e-commerce business. If they will earn $5,000/month from your site, it is worth a lot more than $1,000. This can be difficult for some people to implement. It may seem opportunistic, but you should have this consideration at the back of your mind. eCommerce is a very hot topic now and in case you need an optimized WooCommerce theme for conversions on mobile, WoonderShop is what you’re looking for.
What are others charging?
Have a look around and see what kind of prices other freelancers charge for similar services. This is a great reference point. And, by charging similar rates to one another you won’t be driving the value of the market down either.
What are you offering?
On Reddit r/Freelance someone asked the question ‘How many people just install WordPress themes and charge clients $1000s?’. This excellent answer from a deleted user summed up all of the things you need to take into consideration when setting your price for a client.
I am a WordPress designer, and I do plenty of custom work, but I use commercial themes for my clients for a variety of reasons. But “just installing WordPress themes” for a well done website can involve:
- In-depth technical and roadmapping sessions to determine what the client’s needs and goals, the scope of the project and his/her target audience are, all of which influence and even determine the direction of the audience.
- Consulting for the most appropriate web hosting solution for the client’s needs.
- Organizing the pre-existing branding materials and determining any gaps (usually in the form of written content) that will need to be filled by the client or me during the course of the project.
- End-to-end project management.
- Securing the site with a CDN, firewall and other best-practices security measures.
- Vetting any premium themes the client may want to make sure that they’re buying a well-documented lightweight well-reviewed theme from a developer that isn’t going to disappear in 3 months.
- Designing the navigation and information architecture of the site, organizing the content in intuitive logical ways for the client if they don’t have a sitemap.
- Basic on-page SEO for all pages.
- Configuring custom plugins and platforms, including BuddyPress, Multisite and other stuff that actually, you know, takes skill and experience to do properly.
- Determining the necessary plugins for complete functionality that meets the client’s needs and project requirements.
- Several rounds of detailed revisions.
- API integration of social media, mailing lists, etc.
- Customer service answering your client’s 39471231 questions.
- Post-project client education and documentation. etc.
Answer: Yes, sometimes I charge thousands just to install a WordPress theme.
I could not have described these complexities better myself. But of course, all of this depends on what your clients’ needs are, and how you value your time in relation to their project.
A Basic Guideline
In case your client won’t disclose a budget and it is difficult to determine how much value you will add, you can just use the old expenses + time model. This can be adapted if you think it would be more suitable to charge per page rather an hourly rate.
Many may disagree with being so simplistic about a pricing strategy. Of course, as described above, there are nuances and variables. But for a beginner, or when dealing with an uncertain client, this is a simple start.
$Theme + $Plugins + $Domain/Hosting + $Hourly Rate
Your hourly rate is completely dependent on how much you think you are worth to your client. From what I have seen for beginners, this can be around a modest $20/hr. For more advanced developers it can be $50/hr and way beyond.
The chances are you will have to quote a price at the beginning. However you calculate this price, it is a good idea to add 20% from the start. This will cover the possible cost of a client’s excessive revisions without raising the quoted price at the end, which could create a conflict.
Even if you are a beginner, never undervalue yourself. Although your skill set may be basic – no matter how simple – your client is definitely going to benefit from a functioning website. Always remember that your value is defined in terms of the benefit to the client, not your experience.