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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pricing Your Ninja Package

Pay Me Please: A Freelance Web Designer's Guide to Billing and Pricing

Going it alone as a web designer will quickly lead to the discovery that your accounting skills are as important as your design skills. If you've ever done any freelancing you know exactly what I mean. When should I bill? How much should I charge? What kind of pricing structure should I use? These are questions I've wrestled with more than once over my eight year tenure as a freelance web designer. But fortunately, out of the heap of triumphs and failures, a refined set of principles has emerged. I'm sure these rules will keep you out of some sticky situations.

How Much Should I Charge?
The first rule of pricing is never undercharge. Undercharging opens the gateway to Web Design Hades. It's a horrible place filled with cheap clients who won't pay and long tedious projects that don't make any sense. It may sound strange, but charging as much, or more, than your competitors will keep the bad clients away and the good clients coming back. If you can't book projects at the going rate, then you need to sharpen your design skills and try again.

When Should I Bill?
You've probably heard the saying "vote early, vote often"—it applies to billing too. This is one of the first difficult lessons I learned. Now, I bill half up front and half on completion for projects that take less than two months. For projects that take longer, I break up the second half into two or three invoices. If you decide to make this rule a policy—and I highly recommend you do—just remember that it's only effective if you hold off on starting the project until you get the first payment. Don't get sucked into the web of client manipulation. If they want a project started now, they can write a check now. The only exception you should make is for long-time trusted clients.

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How Much is Your Time Worth?

Freelancers spend an inordinate amount of time fretting over how much to charge. But there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to pricing. It’s all completely subjective and dependent on a wide variety of factors, including what the market will bear, geographic location, timing, aggravation factor (or lack thereof) and your level of desperation (hopefully low to non-existent), just to name a few.

If you are selling creative services, one of the things that can get in the way of clear pricing is the belief that what you charge is related to your value as a person. Wrong! It has nothing to do with you.

For example, a client will often ask, “How much do you charge for a web site?” or “How much do you charge for a brochure?” They ask these questions as if they are buying shoes or tomatoes.

In fact, if you were selling shoes and a customer asked, “How much do you charge for these shoes?” you wouldn’t say, “I charge $100 for these shoes.” You would say, “These shoes cost $100.”

It’s the same with freelance or creative services. It has nothing to do with what “you charge.” It’s not about you, and it never will be. You must shift your mindset to think instead about what the product and the process costs. So when someone says, “How much do you charge for a web site?” take the “you” out of it and respond with, “A web site can cost $X.”

Clear pricing is based on a clear idea of what you are really selling. Many freelancers believe that what they are selling – and what clients are buying – is time. As a result, you price by the hour.

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1 comment:

Little said...

The work done for this project may be seen at http://nickysworld.net.
I was hired for a straightforward case of web design; this person approved of
the work; she discussed ongoing maintenance and requested that I
upload the site and supplied the account info in order for me to do
so. The agreement to maintain the site was made on my part only in
exchange for the unused disk space on the server, and free of charge;
basically an act of good will and the best intentions on my part; she
also requested to pay half at that point, half after upload; here is
when things got interesting. Although my policy is work first, pay
later, upload last; on the assumption that I would be maintaining the
site I foolishly thought I could trust the her.

This person never paid half first but I went ahead and uploaded the
site. Agh. A few days later she informed me that the site was "funky"
and had reverted seemingly by itself to its previous state, which was
a generic template that she had made using the template builder
provided with the web host. Hmm. This time she made a $50 payment,
which was 1/2 of the 'half first' or 1/4 of the total payment;
requesting me to again upload the site, and informing of the new
password to the account, which had inexplicably been changed. Ok-? In
an effort to be helpful I stated the obvious in asking this person
whether she had used the template builder, which still had the old
copy of the template stored, which the client denied as if being
accused of something.

It was only a few days later when no further payment or instructions
appeared from the client that I realized what was happening. Ms.
Menage had waited for me to upload the site, then promptly changed the
password to shut me out. The client then stupidly attempted to use the
template builder to modify the new website, inadvertently reinstating
the old one by mistake. I sent a two-page email, which went
unanswered, patiently explaining the differences between the template
editor and alternative means to edit the site, something I had
contacted her about two weeks earlier, requesting to set a time when
we could put our heads together to implement a customized solution; a
request that also had gone unanswered. I then wrote another two emails
over the course of two days patiently explaining my position in our
agreement, all the things I had done and were willing to do for the
benefit of her website, and explaining that the agreed upon fee for
the site was more than $50.

After a few days this person responded. This time I had apparently
crossed the line and been irrevocably disrespectful in some way with
my 'smart comments'; and no further pay would be forthcoming. Two
separate conversations are presented below.

Sadly, it is apparent that THIS CLIENT NEVER INTENDED TO PAY ME. It is
unfortunate that so many take advantage of Craigslist's open market
system to cheat and connive their way through the system. Thank you
for taking the time to listen.

On 2/17/08, I wrote: (this is a small part of a 2-page letter)
Okay. Please don't confuse content management with that Globuild
template builder they have got up on there. Templates are very limited
in that they can only allow you to change pictures and stuff around
within the look and style of a premade layout.
--------------------------------- (etc.) -------------------------
Because this is kind of starting to drag on and it seems we haven't
been communicating very well and time has been getting wasted. I have
been trying to do everything you wanted me to do but when I asked you
a couple of weeks ago if we could set up a time to hook you up with
the content management you never got back to me; then last week you

On 2/17/08, Tanisha Clayton wrote: (apparently replying to a
completely different conversation)
> no. Any what else is new with this?

On 2/17/08, I wrote:
What part of what I said are you saying no to? I don't know what else
is new with this because I don't know what you are expecting me to do.

On 2/19/08, Tanisha Clayton wrote:
I dont even remember what this email was about. What's with the bad
attitude? I spoke with Danielle and she says that you are very rude.

On 2/18/08, I wrote:
> Please complete payment for the site this week. You have my ongoing full support for minor issues such as technical problems with Globat, in addition to the number of pages in the Cover section, ad placement, and anything else relating to content management; in exchange for the extra space on the server I will be here to continuously support and update the site. But this is dragging on for too long and I really don't know what more you expect from me. Please don't dole out payments at me $50 at a time like that. This is a business and I am worth more than that.

On 2/19/08, Tanisha Clayton wrote:
I know that and I really don't need all the smart comments. For all
that you can keep the $50 and take down the site. you and I both know
why I asked to only pay $50 and further you saw for your self that
something was funky with the site. Now that it's up I have no problem
paying the remainder balance. The problem that I have is the smart
attitude further irritating me is the fact that I just got my email up
and running only to see emails like the one below.

And my "rude" email to her referral, Danielle:
What changes will you be wanting to make on a monthly basis? I assume
you said something about having monthly specials on there so we can do
that. I can start by suggesting that we put your slideshow from your
myspace page on to your brands page, instead of having "To view
current collections click here" link to your myspace page - that seems
kinda unprofessional. Also having "for map and directions click here"
link to Msn Live Maps is pretty sad especially since it is only
showing a map of the entire western half of the U.S. on my computer
when I click on it. I really hope you didn't have to pay your previous
webmaster to create this for you.

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