How much should I charge to build a website?

The cost of building a website can vary wildly from one estimate to the next, and where to position yourself in a competitive market can be a challenging question. In this article we'll take a look at some of the things you might wish to consider, and some useful tools that can help you make a decision.

Work out your standard price

By taking your hourly rate and the amount of time the project will take you can create a 'standard' price to use as a starting point. This price is purely based on financial requirements and time. Once you have this you can take into account some other considerations that may increase or decrease the overall rate, such as the client's budget, competition, the type of project, non-financial benefits, and what opportunities the project might create.

What's your hourly rate?

The starting point for getting a 'standard' cost for your project is to calculate your hourly rate - your price for building a web site cannot purely be based on how much your client has available to spend. It might be easy to think "well, it doesn't cost me anything to make it", but this simply isn't true - your time has a value and whether you're a small business, contractor or freelancer, there are overheads associated with web development, and you want to make sure you're making a profit.

You might choose to discount your rate for clients with smaller budgets, but it's important to understand how this will affect your hourly rate. Working this out will be dependent on a lot of factors - what's the going rate for your skill set? What are your overheads? How much profit do you want to make? You can read more about working your hourly rate in our article 'How to calculate your hourly rate for freelance web developers and designers'.

How long will it take?

The next question is probably the most obvious - how long is it going to take? Make sure you don't cut corners at the requirement gathering stage - break down the tasks and allocate a time against them. Try to be as comprehensive as possible; project set up, testing, meetings and support are among many hidden costs that will take up your time and eat away at your profits.

Things to consider when calculating required time:

  • Are you working with technologies you haven't used before?
  • What is the complexity of the tasks, do you need more contingency time?
  • How many bespoke feature requirements are there?
  • How many unknowns are there?
  • How complex will the features be to test? Do you need to allocate time for unit tests?
  • Ask lots of questions and don't make too many assumptions.
  • Be as granular as possible - mapping out time for the sub-tasks will make your time estimate more accurate.

We'll cover scoping projects in an upcoming article, in the meanwhile use our project quote calculator to help you map out your time.

If you've got an hourly rate worked out, and you know how long the project will take, then you've got your standard price. From there you can take into account some other considerations that may increase or discount how much you want to charge...

Protect yourself against the unknown

Scope Creep

Scope creep is the concept of additional requirements coming in while the project is being developed. This can be limited by doing in-depth requirement gathering and creating well-documented statements of work, however it is still difficult to avoid - developers are often good at visualising a project from requirements, whereas clients often don't realise everything they want until they actually see it. There's usually a bit of give and take with additional work that arrives from scope creep, but it's important to protect yourself from being burdened with all the unexpected work. Make sure your proposal and any contract states it is a time estimate that is subject to change if the requirements do. That way you can renegotiate timescales if you need to, or push back changes into a second phase.

Contingency Time

Not all scope creep is the fault of the client - if you missed something at the planning stage then there may be unavoidable requirements that you didn't allocate time to. Equally, sometimes tasks just take longer - if you're working with new technologies or APIs then the time required to work with or implement them will only be an educated guess. This isn't a problem, merely the nature of web development.

What is a problem is if you're giving your clients unrealistic timelines. It's common practice to add a percentage on to how long you think the project will take to allow time for contingency - what this percentage is should dependent on how many 'unknowns' there are within the project.

Other considerations...

What do you get out of it?

Is this project purely for the money, or is there other value to you personally? Do you get to learn a new skill? Is the project going to be something you can add to your portfolio? Is the project likely to open doors to more work? Questions that are harder to put a financial value against, but are none-the-less important when weighing up if financial incentives can be offset against other benefits of working on a project.

Who's your client?

Are you doing the project for a friend, individual, small business, big business? The larger the company the easier it is to stick to your guns on your hourly rate and estimates, but for smaller clients you'll often want to consider discounting to fit with their budget, if you're not competitive then you're not going to get the work. How much you're prepared to compromise on this will be down to your personal circumstance, but try not to undervalue the service you provide.

How will you charge?

There are different methods of quoting for a project, which will usually vary depending on the type of project - are you creating a marketing site that needs to create lots of similar templates, or is it a more bespoke application? You may wish to charge by:

  • Your hourly rate - low risk, billing on an hourly rate probably offers developers the best protection from scope creep, but if you think you can turn the project around quickly with reusable code then there's less opportunity to make a higher profit.
  • By the project - clients are often most comfortable with this as it's easier to understand the costs, though from the developer's perspective the end cost will usually be based upon your hourly rate anyway.
  • By number of pages - feasible for simple projects that are repetitive.

In Summary...

There's a list of tools below that may help you with the specifics of working out what to charge, but here's an overview of general considerations for working out what to charge when building a website:

  • Work out your standard rate from your hourly rate and carefully estimate how long the project will take.
  • Cover yourself for the unexpected - allow yourself some contingency time and don't fall victim to scope creep.
  • Take into account market considerations - what can your client afford, what is competitive?
  • Consider the best method of charging the client that suits you.
  • Consider the non-financial benefits or downsides of the project - do you want to do it?

Useful tools for quoting a web site

We've got a handful of tools to help you out on Coveloping.

Hourly Rate Calculator

Using your salary expectations, lifestyle, expenses and profit, we'll help you work out your hourly and daily rate.

Hourly Rate Calculator

Project Quote Calculator

Enter the tasks and sub-tasks that make up your project and allocate some time against each one. We've got a template of common web development tasks to help you out. Calculate the summary and use the details to populate a PDF quote!

Project Quote Calculator


Project Quote Calculator

Proposal of Work Generator

Stand out from the competition by creating professional PDF quotes that you can send to your clients. We have several templates to save you some time.

PDF Proposal Generator

Quote Generator

If you just need a quick PDF quote to send to your clients then this tool allows you to quickly populate the templates and generate a PDF. You can use the project quote calculator first which feeds the summary into this tool.

PDF Quote Generator

David Bainbridge

Coveloping co-founder and regular contributor to the Coveloping blog. David is a contract web developer based in Bristol, UK also posting code snippets and tutorials on the Code Synthesis blog.

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