How much does it cost to hire a freelance web developer?
This is a question I get a lot as a freelance web dev. I’d love to give a simple answer, however, determining the cost of a given project isn’t so easy. There are a handful of factors that contribute to the overall cost of a website developer: timeline, scope of work, and clarity of scope will determine how a particular project is handled. After taking those factors into consideration, I will use one of three methods to devise an estimate for final costs and plan of attack.
How much time is this project going to take VS how much time do we have?
If the project is going to take a long time, but we also have a long time to get it done, that’s not a problem. Conversely, if the timeline is very tight and I’m likely going to have to “crunch” to finish on-schedule, that’s going to increase the cost.
However, it’s worth mentioning that increasing the cost based on a tight deadline is very uncommon. It’s more common for the cost of a project to be influenced by the scope of work.
Scope of work
How much work/effort is needed for the project?
In this context, “scope of work” refers to the amount of effort needed to finish a project. — most likely, the greater the “scope,” the higher the price. However, sometimes it’s not always clear how much work is needed, which leads into my next point.
Clarity of scope
How clear is the path needed to get from the start of a project to its conclusion?
If a given project has a very clear path, it’s easier to come up with an accurate estimate at the beginning and bill for a project at a flat rate. However, if it’s not clear how a particular thing is going to get done, I’m more likely to use a time-based billing strategy, keeping the client up-to-date as we progress.
These three factors provide a framework for figuring out how to bill for your project. An assessment of the time frame, amount of work required, and clearness of said work will provide me with everything I need to determine how to appropriately bill for a given task.
Ways of billing
If a project has a large or hard-to-define scope of work, I will tend to bill hourly.
For instance, if you need to add an extra fee to your website’s checkout depending on where they live, that’s a project I would bill hourly for.
In that example, there are many unknowns. I have to figure out why you’re adding an extra fee, determine if a user falls into that category, and calculate how much to charge. All of those could wind up being quick, easy things or could take several hours and require complex logic in order to work.
Therefore, it makes the most sense to bill hourly when the route from point A (the start of the project) to point B (the finished result) is murky. In these cases, I will provide a ballpark estimate (using my rate * anticipated hours to complete the job) and track my time as I go along.
If the project takes far less time than I expect, I’ll let the client know and we’ll lower the price. However, if the project takes way more time than expected, I’ll arrange a meeting with the client to discuss the best path forward.
It’s never a fun time to tell a client that a project is going to cost 1.5, 2, or even 3x as much as originally anticipated, so I try to be extra-conservative with estimates. Usually, I’m able to get pretty close with my estimates and haven’t had to request more funds in a long, long time.
If I’m very familiar with how a project will go, I tend to bill at a flat rate.
For example, if you need a WordPress website built from scratch, I have a flat rate that I charge for that.
In that case, the path from start to finish of the project is very clear. I know exactly what to do, and can knock each step out very quickly. I have a flat rate that goes up or down depending on the number of pages required for the site as well as the features.
As you’d likely expect, this is a combination of both flat-rate and hourly billing.
If there are parts of your project that are familiar, like building a WordPress website, starting up a Shopify store or creating a Squarespace template, that will likely be billed at a flat-rate. After that, if there are components that are ambiguous, those will be billed at an hourly rate.
The timeline, scope of work, and clarity of work will determine whether a project is billed hourly, at a flat rate or a combination of both. If you’re interested in my hourly rate, or what services I charge a flat-fee for and how much that fee is, send me an email and let’s chat!