Start with a Base Price

I have an hourly rate that I work off of, but for new clients I always start with a base price. Hourly rates are great, but they don't give clients any idea how much total they are going to have to spend for your services. So if you come up with a base price for the smallest website you can imagine you've got a starting place. I start by estimating how long it would take me to build a basic HTML/CSS site with the following:

  • A home page with basic navigation and content
  • 2 or 3 sub-content pages linked to the navigation
  • 1 CSS document for layout, colors, and typography
  • 2 or 3 decorative graphics

That time, multiplied by my hourly rate, is how much I charge as a base rate. This gives clients a benchmark, without worrying about how much time it will take or your hourly rate. If you want to get fancy, you can create sub-charges for add-ons like:

  • Additional pages
  • Forms and the scripts to run them
  • JavaScript for fancy rollovers or form manipulation
  • Additional graphics
  • Flash
  • Blog or CMS
  • Ecommerce or shopping cart

Working with Clients

You should think of your base price as being set in stone. If you've generated a fair hourly rate, then your base price would be fair as well. And by fair I mean it covers your expenses and allows you to make a living while not over charging your customers. One reason that more qualified people charge more is because they can finish the same amount of work in less time. For example, I can build a basic website in about 30 minutes, while a beginner might take 3-4 hours instead. If I charged the same as the beginner, I wouldn't make enough money to cover my expenses. But if a beginner charged what I do, she might not be able to get clients.