If you work a 9-5 job programming job, you won't have to worry much about this question anytime soon. But if you're in the free-roaming world of freelancing, then this is one of the most important questions that you will get from people. And rightfully so. Putting a price on something virtual is difficult and confusing to many. And paying for it is even more confusing.

How Much Does A Website Cost?

how much is a website?

There's no easy answer to this question. It can even be a stressful question to some. You'll have to think about it, you'll tell people. And you will, many times throughout your days. And then you come up with an answer, based on some random set of parameters and you'll release it into the wild. Once the words are exposed to someone, it's out of your hands really. But the following thoughts may arise at some point.

did I charge too much?

did I not charge enough?

should I have subtracted the day of the year and added the length of winter?

So today, I'll be going over that question, and some possible answers to help you on your freelance and programming journey. I use these in my own personal work, and I find that people positively react to them for the most part. Some of these may work great for you, and some may not. But try them out, and see if they help. But first, an important thing to remember:

Nobody knows what a website cost

How Much Does A Website Cost?

if only this existed in some way

And that's because websites aren't tangible objects with price tags attached to them. They're dynamic, random, chaotic bits of strings that generate an image and an experience. So paying a price for something that you can't grasp is weird, to many. Some web consulting companies indeed charge fixed prices, such as Full website package: 399$. And that may work for them, as a company and as an entity that can hire people to do the work.

When you're doing the work yourself, however, it's a different story. You don't want to ask for $399 on a project that's going to take you 3 months and 256,000 lines of code. So some steps will have to be taken in order to calculate a price. Here are a few tips/guidelines in helping you choose that magic number.

Charge based on your experience level

When you hear the idea, you get a feeling of how difficult it's going to be. If you're a senior level programmer, then maybe 2-3 days of work are in front of you. If you're a junior programmer, then maybe 1-2 weeks are more in line. Charge based on the amount of time that it will take you to complete the project. The more senior your position, the more flexibility you can have with this. For me personally, keeping a strong relationship with a local business outweighs the pricing model a bit, so I can price down accordingly.

Charge based on your clients capacity

For example, if you're hourly rate is 100$ per hour, but you're making a small site for a local bakery, you probably don't want to charge $10,000 for this project. You also don't want to create a fully scalable POS system for them either if they are not in a place to afford it yet. But maybe you can meet somewhere in the middle, and as the company grows, you can help them expand their technical infrastructure.

Your comfort level

Every project can be technically doable. But some may require you to do some research and to spend some extra hours and extra cups of coffee in order to get them completed. And this should also go into your pricing model. You're going to be spending your alive hours on this project in the end. You're going to think about it throughout your day and you may dream about it depending on how daunting it is. So charge a bit more for something that will require more time and dedication on your part.

Charge on a moving scale

Setting a fixed price point can lead to some troubles down the line. Because most people, will probably want changes. And sometimes changes can take longer than the original work itself. So it may be a good idea to charge on a sliding scale. If the main workload will run you 699$ let's say, then scaling up to 899$ maybe be a good idea. You won't charge 899$, but the possibility exist that the work may get to that point. Some clients may be put off by this, but others will take this scale into account when requesting changes and/or more work to be done.

Have a reason for the price

Before you just blurt out "199$??", as I've done in the past, it would be best to draw up a proposal for your clients. An idea of what work is going to be involved in their project. It let's them know how difficult, or how simple, their project is. There's a huge difference in wanting a simple blog with a nice header, and a website that's "kind of like Amazon". It also gives them a chance to get rid of things that they do not like.

A similar model that I've used in the past is the following:

Objective: Create a cookie baking blog

Features:
    - Home page listing blogs
    - Gallery of images
    - Admin for blog post creation
    - Trendy "fun" theme
    - Automatically post to social networks

Pages required:
    - Home page
    - Details
    - Admin login
    - Admin pages
        - Multiple pages
    - Contact page
    - About page

Proposed timeline:
    - Home page: 8 hours
    - Details page: 4 hours
    - About/Contact page: 1 hour
    - Admin: 8 hours

Estimated cost: $499.00

Before any number is blurted out, this needs to exist somewhere on my computer. It accomplishes 2 things. Firstly, it gives me a much better of the amount of work that's going to be accomplished. And secondly, it's a tangible item that a potential client can receive. So essentially, we want to turn the virtual into something somewhat graspable.

There's no perfect price

Accepting a price on a project is not up to you in the end. Once you have a price that you're comfortable with, make that your price. Some people will move on, some will stay on board. Some will come back, some won't. That's the freelance life that we chose. Freedom comes with this uncertainty. But that's a big part of the fun. If you knew that each and every client you talked to would give you 399$ for their project no matter what, you'd go insane and quit shortly after. But it's dynamism that makes the whole experience that much more fun.

Some ideas will be easy sure and you'll get funds for a new laptop maybe. Others will be challenging and daunting and you'll come out having learned skills that could potentially double your charge rate at some point in the future. In closing, a website costs a combination of your current skills mixed with the level of comfort and effort that you will have to put in, mixed in with the potential demands of a client, with some buffer added in order to negotiate down a bit if you need to.

Walter G. is a software engineer, startup co-founder, former CTO of several tech companies and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He has been blogging for the past 5 years and is an avid BMX rider, bio-hacker and performance enthusiast.
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