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What Should I Charge As A Web Developer

Recently, I came across an interesting question on Quora.

A developer had done a web project for free. This free work has now brought new interest from another prospect. They want something similar, but slightly customised, because their needs are of course different.

Because the developer had already delivered a similar project, it means the code base is available for re-use.

The quandry was: how do they charge for something that was essentially a free delivery?


In my opinion, this question raises some issues of pricing and perception; some of which may be beyond the scope of this post.

The developer in question also appears keen to temper pricing, in order to get access to the prospect’s network of contacts.

Does this sound familiar?

I thought it was interesting that their prospect had access to other prospects..kind of like a hierarchy of prospects. But would they be willing to make their contacts available to our developer?


Interestingly, the developer spent about 105 hours on the initial free project.

Yes. That’s a lot of hours.

I too have run into similar issues of ethics and price, while delivering several projects in the early days.

While a web project is ongoing, it sometimes feel like I should have charged a more substantial premium (and I probably should have); more so, if the revisions are never ending.

However, after the work is done, it doesn’t seem to matter if it is all given away for free. After all I’m not still working on it now, am I?

It’s almost like I forget how challenging a web project was, as soon as its completed and handed over.

Having a retentive memory when it comes to web projects is something that I’m trying to do as well.

Remember that “easy-peasy” site that turned into a man-eating monstrosity, with tons of revisions? Yes? Good.

Remember it when you quote for that next web project!

By the way, the “promise of future work” from prospects probably deserves its own topic post. 🙂

Part of my reply to the developer in question was:

Read Quote of CJ Andrew’s answer to What should I charge as a web developer? on Quora

I’m not a pricing expert myself. I was only writing from the point of view of a web site builder who has made the same mistake several times.

Chris Lema has an excellent post about how perspective matters when it comes to pricing. This is a post which I think is relevant to the subject matter.

By looking outward at the prospect’s values, our developer might be able to offer a better pricing solution. One that takes the prospect’s unique situation into consideration, and also compensates the developer for their time.

In the end, my advice to them was to setup a 3 stage pricing model for their prospect. Such a pricing model would cover web project delivery, maintenance, and a support level agreement.

This would allow them to re-use their code base, speed up initial delivery, provide standard maintenance for their product, and even take care of change requests as they come up.

Are they better ways to price this project? Yes, I think there might be. But those 3 stages are a good starting point.

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

  1. Cj

    It’s a great question and one that comes up time after time. My only advice is to charge what you feel is valuable to you. If you’re profiting with manageable stress at $50 an hour — go for it. If you need to charge $250 hour and it’s comparable to the amount of time it takes you to deliver on your services — do it just the same.

    To me, we’re all on this journey and we’re all (for the most part) getting better with age. So you start at $50 now and in X years, you’re at $250.

    The danger with giving “formula” advice, as in pricing as a science, is that it is not acceptable to all clients. Here’s what I mean, a lot of people just say double (or triple!) your rates. If you’re charging $75 now and then tomorrow you boost it to $225 — the demographic of the client you’ve been servicing at $75 is going to be in shock.

    Also, more experienced clients or clients that don’t require the extra value will pass on you to find someone to get the job done at — a reasonable rate.

    Plus, it’s all about your posture and lingo. If you’ve been selling Big Mac’s for a while and suddenly you want to sell me Kobe Rib eye — I’m going to ask you why you’e still wearing a golden arches apron 😉

    I’ll leave you with this, I hope you don’t mind:

    Is one of my favorite interviews I’ve done about growing your practice. I hope you find it valuable!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Matt. Its such an honour to have you visit and share your extremely valuable advice. 😀

      Chris Lema speaks about “positioning” too in one of his other posts:

      Correct pricing (in my opinion) is more like the result of a preparation (posturing & lingo), rather than the result of being something.

      You’re right in saying that formula advice when it comes to pricing may not work in every circumstance.

      Experience is the best instructor here.

      I must admit, my response to the Quora question sounded formulaic, although I didn’t intend it to be. That advice will probably not work in a different scenario.

      By the way, not to sound like a “fanboy”, but the Matt Report is one big reason why I’m here today. Your work is such an inspiration, thank you!

  2. There’s so many way to answer this… But what’s true is that what you charge will reflect on what kind of clients you get to work with. I would dare to say that the lower your rate is, the more demanding clients you’ll end up with.

    Another thing to think about is whether you should charge by the hour, project based or maybe value based.

    I’m writing a short book on this topic right now actually. 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by, Ken. Much appreciated.

      I agree that lower priced clients have different expectations of projects and outcomes. This is likely why they are more demanding. I think offering guidance for lower rate customers can help to manage this, especially if a developer is just starting out, and cannot yet call the higher numbers.

      However, in all likelihood, it may be necessary to let go of lower priced clients, as soon as possible.

      Hourly vs Project vs Value based pricing is still a debate. In fact, I got involved in such a debate on another Facebook group that I’m on. I just sent them to Curtis McHale’s excellent vodcast on the issue.

      How Curtis McHale handles service pricing

      Overall, I think positioning plays a role in what a developer can charge. This is a topic that is crucial to developers and site builders, so expect more posts related to pricing.

      Looking forward to your book, by the way! 🙂