From scope creep to transaction fees, freelance web designers face a wide range of challenges when it comes to setting their pricing properly. As a designer, your time is valuable, and choosing a good per-hour or per-project rate is vital for success.
In this guide, we’ll explore the different web design pricing options – per-project, per-hour and monthly retainers – to help you understand which is the best choice for your freelance web design business.
Are you starting to build a freelance design business? Learn the fundamentals of working as a freelance web designer and managing your client base in our How to Start a Successful Freelance Design Business course.
The basics of web design pricing
Sign into the average freelance web design marketplace and you might be shocked by how low the average rates seem to be. Hundreds of projects from popular clients attract bids of as little as $5 per hour from ‘experienced’ designers.
When you first see the price floor for freelance design, it’s easy to panic and assume that your skills are worth very little. The reality, however, is that this is just one part of the freelance web design marketplace, and it’s by no means where you belong.
On average, web designers earn anywhere from $25 to $150 per hour, depending on their skill level, their previous experience, their geographical location, their personal marketing savvy and their negotiating skills.
As shocking as the low rates offered on freelance marketplaces and message boards might seem, don’t let them get you down. Many of these bids are placed by off-shore freelancers in countries with very low average salaries and costs of living.
The key to attracting great clients that can afford to pay above-average rates is great marketing. Learn more about marketing yourself as a freelance designer in our blog post on becoming a successful consultant.
Pricing yourself on an hourly basis
When you first get started as a freelancer, it’s easy to assume that your hourly rate can easily be converted into a weekly or monthly salary. However, you won’t spend all of your working time on billable work – a lot will be spent on other, unpaid tasks.
As a freelance web designer, you don’t have the job security of someone working for a large employer. You’ll need to find your own clients and manage their accounts – a task that can be surprisingly time consuming.
On average, you should expect to spend about half of your workweek doing client work. The other half will be divided between administrative tasks such as sending and replying to emails and marketing tasks such as finding new design clients.
By making your work process more efficient through outsourcing, you can increase the amount of billable hours you spend working per week and cut down on boring, repetitive tasks like lead generation and account management.
Outsourcing might seem difficult at first, but it’s surprisingly simple – and vital for long-term business growth – once you get started. Learn how to outsource parts of your web design business in our Work Less to Live More: Outsourcing course.
This means that you’ll need to set your hourly rate slightly higher than the amount you’d like to earn per hour of work. For example, you might spend 20 hours on real work in a 40 hour week – this means you’ll need to double your target hourly rate.
A good rule of thumb for hourly pricing is to start with the average weekly salary you’d like to earn – for example $1,500 – and work backwards until your rate and incoming projects match up to give you the salary you’ve always wanted.
Pricing yourself on a per-project basis
Many clients prefer to work with freelance web designers that price their services on a per-project basis. This is because per-hour rates can be difficult to forecast – if a project takes longer than expected to complete, it could cost more than expected.
Pricing yourself on a per-project basis allows you to increase your per-hour income by focusing on efficiency. If you’re exceptionally productive, per-project pricing can help you increase your income while getting more work done in less time.
One of the biggest dangers for freelance web designers that price their services on a per-project basis is scope creep. This is when the scope of a project increases as the project is in progress, increasing the amount of time you need to spend on it.
The best way to protect yourself from scope creep is by clearly outlining the scope of the project before you confirm your pricing. If the client needs additional design work beyond the project’s original specifications, you can bill them an hourly rate for the extra time you sink into the project.
Have you been offered a large project but don’t know how to price your web design services for success? Learn how to calculate the ideal price for your design services with How to Price Your Product or Service With Confidence.
Pricing yourself on a monthly retainer basis
Some of your clients will need more than just one-off assistance with their design projects. When a client needs your services over the long term, try to negotiate a monthly retainer to give you additional income security as a designer.
Retainers are monthly fees that your client pays for your services throughout the duration of a contract. A retainer is paid for a certain amount of hours of work per month, and it guarantees the client a certain amount of access to your services.
Clients benefit from a retainer because it guarantees them access to your services for any small design projects or fixes that need to be carried out. You benefit from retainer pricing by gaining income security – something that’s rare as a freelancer.
Most of the time, new clients will prefer to work with you on a per-project or per-hour basis before considering a retainer fee structure. Learn how to persuade your clients to keep you on retainer with our Freelance Client Secrets course.
Learn more about pricing your web design services
Don’t think of freelance web design as a career – instead, think of it as a business just like any other. From accounting to marketing, you take on the role of a whole company, sourcing new business and completing work all on your own.
Adjusting to the business mentality will help you grow your freelance web design service and turn it into a profitable, lucrative online empire.
Learn about the business side of web design with Running a Web Design Business.