My Hourly Rates as a WordPresser and Web Designer

I jumped into the world of freelance web design and WordPress consulting about 8 months ago. In doing so, I knew I would be starting over in terms of my hourly wage, but I was confident that I could raise my hourly rate over time. Here is a brief breakdown of how I went from $15 per hour to $25$50 per hour:

BEGINNING

I started at $15 per hour. I figured this was a good way to start as most of my jobs allowed me to just charge hourly. I told my clients my hourly rate, let them know I was just starting out, and showed them a few work samples so they knew I was at least decent. It was pretty tough to get work at first, so I posted al kinds of ads on KSL and Craigslist like these:

4 Page WordPress Website – $500

Build a Website – $500

Logo Design – web, print, business, personal – $99

Website Design – $200

Design – $15 per hour – web, logo, business cards, brochures, website

Need Help with Website Design? – $400

Yes, I was willing do do a logo for $99. Was that inexpensive? Yes! Especially when I realized how long it took me to create a logo! But on the other hand, I had very little experience designing logos, so I had to start somewhere. And getting paid to design one logo at $99 helped me to learn what I should charge for next time. It gave me a good start.

RAISING MY RATES – And Pain-in-the-Neck Clients

After a while I started to get the hang of things. I felt confident that I could raise my rates and still offer a fair value for clients. I now was at a $15 per hour minimum, and $20$22 on the top end. This was within one or two months of getting started, so I felt pretty good about it. It still wasn’t where I wanted to be, but for having just started from scratch a few months ago it was ok. Plus, clients thought I did great work.
I knew I could probably raise my rates with my existing clients, but I still needed more work. I wasn’t as busy as I needed to be each day to bring in a solid income. In short, I needed more clients so I kept my rates low.

Unfortunately, my low prices attracted a few lemons. I ended up working with a few clients who were NOT worth working with for $15 per hour. Shoot, even if I would have been charging them $20 per hour, it still wouldn’t have been worth it. And I was doing some flat rate stuff too – $500 for a website. Some clients would ask me to integrate a sign-up form, or build a bunch of extra pages, or some other feature. Pretty soon “Sure, I’ll just tack that on” became a major pain in the neck, and pretty soon I wasn’t happy with my hourly rate for a few projects. I was spending double or triple the amount of time that I should have been on some sites for the amount I was getting paid.

But I couldn’t just raise my prices in the middle of the project. I just finished the projects as efficiently as I could, delivered a great result that I could show off to future customers, and determined I would not undercharge again. I made some adjustments to be sure of this:

  1. I wrote an “Additional Feature Request” portion into my client agreement. (I used this agreement as a starting point, and have made changes to it over time). I would charge $20$25 per hour for any additional feature requests outside of the scope of my original agreement with my client.
  2. I didn’t take on crappy clients. After working with several different clients and on several different projects, I got a feel for the good projects and the pain in the neck projects. It wasn’t worth it to me to take on certain projects, so I simply said “no thanks” when they would come up.
  3. I put together a better portfolio. By showing potential clients my best work, they were more willing to pay what I was asking because they were confident it would be money well spent.

SO WHERE AM I NOW?

To increase my hourly rate, and bill for projects more accurately, I’ve made two changes in the way I charge: First, I charge more often at a flat rate than at an hourly rate. So for a WordPress website, I’ll charge about $500 for the basics, and $150$300 for each additional feature they request, depending on the difficulty. So WordPress websites I’ve built have cost anywhere from $800$1700. Sometimes my hourly rate ends up being $15$20 per hour if I underbid, but most often I end up in the $25 – $50 per hour range.

Second, I now charge $25 per hour for hourly work and “additional feature requests”. So far, my clients have been happy with that, and feel like they get a really good value because I’m quite efficient with my work. Several keep hiring me for more and more projects or changes to their site, so it has worked out well. I have the “$25 per hour for additional feature requests” written in my agreement that I send to each new client. That way the clients know up front, and I don’t feel guilty charging them for their new requests.

I’m still not making what I want to be making. Running your own business and working as a freelancer takes administrative time – organizing files, tracking time, sending agreements, finding new clients, making sales, creating ads, managing a portfolio, tracking expenses, support calls, responding to emails, and more. So I’m really not making $25$50 per hour because there is a lot of time that I spend doing non-billable tasks. As you probably realize, these hours just reduce my hourly rate as I spread my income across all the hours I work – billable and non-billable.

I’m still learning. I’m grateful that I’m making enough to support my wife and I by doing something I enjoy. I look forward to improving my skills, getting better clients, and raising my rates in the next few months. Hopefully this has given you an idea of what you could charge if you are just beginning in design and building sites with WordPress. You may be able to charge more or less depending on your experience and your portfolio, so be sure to take those factors into consideration.

Good luck!

[There have been great comments on reddit related to this topic. Many have shared great input on hourly rates for their work. Click here to read that conversation.]

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44 Comments

  1. $65/hr is common for 2 years experience and local clients, but people will pay up to $120/hr if you have a good portfolio and reputation. You should raise your rate to 65/hr or 85/hr and quote a competitive amount of hours that you wish you could do it in. Then you can survive if it takes you 3x longer and pretty soon you will be able to do the work at your target amount of hours and actually make the high rate you charge.

    1. It would be great if I could raise my rates to the $65 – $120 level. I like your suggestion of quoting a competitive amount of hours and a higher rate and working like that for a while. You’re right, if I end up taking three times as long, I’d still be ok. I will need to compare my portfolio to others who charge higher rates and see how my portfolio stacks up. Thanks for the advice!

    2. This depends on where you are. In the market the OP is in (Utah), the rate is a little lower than elsewhere. With a good portfolio, he might be able to top out around $75/hr for local clients, I’d think. Bigger markets, where they don’t take advantage of the fact that the average web designer has 4 kids and is still 2 semesters away from graduating with a bachelor’s degree, may be different.

    3. How much should I charge to do 2 drop down links and add a picture in a WordPress Parallax eCommerce theme for a client?

      1. Hey Kent,
        I’m not sure. It depends on many factors that I’m not able to gather without taking a look at the backend of the site. Sometimes when you don’t know what to charge, you set a max number of hours and let the client know it could take “up to” that number, but let them know you’ll work efficiently and only charge them for the hours you *do* spend adding the feature. Then charge them hourly.

  2. I really like your post. Found it through reddit btw.

    I wanted to ask you about your processes. Do you use a welcome-kit-type packet that explains each step in your process? I think that if you start working on something formal, something that leads (potential) customers from the beginning phases, to the final delivery and explains each step along the way including inputs (what you expect from them) and outputs (what they can expect from you) you can build trust. Once the customer trusts you the hourly rate is easy to raise.

    Check out these books: Built To Sell (Helping to build your process), and Booked Solid (This one will help you find the customers you want to work with).

    Good Luck!
    Trevor

    1. Thanks Trevor. That is great to know where you found the post – thanks for mentioning that.

      I don’t use a welcome kit, well, not anything official and specific anyways. After the initial contact or call to work out the project details, I usually send out an email reviewing what we talked about, and then send them an agreement to e-sign. The agreement has a bit of the “process” details, but not much. A welcome kit / packet would be really nice to have. And I can picture it having a nice, clean layout, my logo, company information, process, etc. But I wonder – would there just be one welcome kit that covers all categories of projects, or a separate kit for each category (WordPress site, WordPress hourly, logo, web design, etc)? I’m thinking it would be a good idea to use one (or maybe too) so each client will see other services I offer. Any good welcome kit examples that you know about?

      Thank you for the advice and for the book recommendations. I’ll check those out.

      1. Also from reddit 🙂
        When you say basic set-up, do you mean just setup the host, databases, install and initialize?
        Or is this making their site content-wise at all?

        I just did my first WordPress freelance as a semi-favor and charged about $55/hour, but it was the first time in years I’d done any side work (I work FT as a UX Designer, so hourly rates seem alien to me). I should have done more, but I wrote my contract for all rates to be just for installing WP and copy-pasting the content from their old site. Thanks to your post and the follow-up comments on reddit, I know better.

        1. Great to have another reddit read. Thanks!

          With a basic set-up, that usually consists of those four things you mentioned (host, databases, install, and initialize) plus a complete basic site. They provide all written content and images, and I will create all the pages, and put it together so the site looks nice. Basically everything to get their site live aside from writing the content. As long as their site is in the 5-8 pages range, and has nothing too complex, I’ll include it in the basic set-up.

          How long did that take you at $55 per hour? Glad the post was of some help for future side work. The follow-up comments on reddit have been awesome.

  3. I have easily been able to charge upwards of $100/hr for any kind of website development, and I’m local to your area (Salt Lake). I do carry a full time job already, and I have about 10 years experience in the field, though. You really should start to focus on your portfolio, even if it’s just stuff you threw together as you’re learning. Good luck as you move along!

    1. Wow, really? Would the same thing apply to the work I do with WordPress even though I’m not doing any deep programming? Your experience definitely plays in to that, but even so, I think you’re right that I need to focus on presenting my portfolio. I had a client list but I need to put it into a nice portfolio. I could probably even set up a separate site for it all. Thanks!

  4. I am thoroughly insulted that you would call me a pain in the neck to all these people reading your blog! Actually I hope you are not talking about me. Anyway, a couple points:
    1. Not that I am offering to pay you more money or anything, but I feel like I got a pretty sweet deal with all you did on my web site. I definitely think you could charge more and still get plenty of business.
    2. I think the billable hour is truly foreign to most people, especially those who work for The Man making a certain amount per hour. I charge $150/hour, which is in the middle for the lawyers in my area with similar experience. To the average client, that may seem like a lot, but they don’t understand when I work an 8 hour day that doesn’t mean I am making $1200/day. The admin, marketing, etc. time really adds up. Of course, that’s why I try to use flat fees so people don’t try and think through how much I might be making an hour, which is relatively easy since most people suck at math.

    1. Haha, definitely not referring to you. Honestly, you were a great client to work with: quick to respond, quick to provide the content, and willing to let me do what I do best.
      I appreciate you saying that, thank you. I’m feeling the same, especially when I hear what some people paid for their websites and compare those sites to sites I have built for much less.
      “The billable hour” was even foreign to me a few years ago. When I heard quotes of “I charge $75/hr” or “My rate is $125 for one half hour” I would almost hang up the phone. But I’ve definitely come to understand it better as I’ve experienced it myself and thought through why those people were charging those rates. Not only do they have expenses that I was not aware of, they are also professionals at what they do and their skills are worth the cost.

  5. Hey there,
    came across your post through Google while trying to figure out what I should be charging people. It was very insightful, and made me glad that the numbers I had running through my head for an hourly wage was not a pipe dream and that a living could be made doing this.

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

  6. I would like to know more about what is meant by WordPresser and Web Designer. I studied computer and electronic engineering, so I have skills to code, but the WordPress sites that I created for myself thus far is mostly just installing WP, adding plugins and entering settings in an already created WP admin page. Sure I tweaked a few things in code or change some CSS, but you can basically setup a whole website without any code.

    Now my question is, can I still charge the same rate for setting up a WP site for someone as if I would have coded it from scratch? It will take less hours, so it will be cheaper, but can the hourly rate still be the same? Also, it take a lot of time to search for the right/best plugins, but once you know them it is just a matter of installing and changing settings. How do you balance your time/rate in such a case?

    1. Hi Jaco,

      To learn more about those terms, I’d recommend you search “WordPress consultant” and “Web Designer” and read some of the articles you find.

      In some cases, yes, you can charge the same rate. Hourly rates vary quite a bit between people, experience, skills, and platforms, so there is not a set rate or amount that you can bill in all cases. Its often tough to decide what your rate will be for a project – which is why I wrote this post. At the end of the day, clients pay you for an end result and you use your skills to provide it. Building a website in code and building it using a CMS platform like WordPress are both valuable skills, and in each case you’d need to evaluate what the value is of the service you provide.

  7. I think what people miss most in the hourly rate is the huge difference experience makes in the time it takes to get things done. How long did it take you to build a website in the beginning, versus now? That’s part of the reason why flat pricing helps you raise your hourly rate without raising your rates. You get progressively faster, so each project takes less time, but you charge the same.

  8. Hey Brady
    Having more experience it will take less time to acomplish a task, and your rate can be higher, it’s about effiency. I think the harder part is to know how much time you will to do a task. I have 8 years experience being freelancer web designer, and recently I did a huge mistake, I was sure that I will need 5hours to finish an easy task, but after I started the project with all the details I realized that it will take me 2 days. The best part is that I have a super happy client, but that was a really pain in the ass.

  9. I’m not sure when this was written but I hope you have adjusted your prices since then. Please don’t undervalue yourself. Starting January 2017, the minimum wage in Seattle will be $15/hr. You have a lot more skills than the average McDonald’s worker so again, please don’t undervalue yourself!

    1. Hi Sara, thanks for your comment. Yep, I’ve definitely raised my prices since then. Its been very interesting to see how the market has responded to my prices over time. I often turn away work due to budget limits on behalf of the clients yet I still get great projects and clients.

  10. I recently got a client, he wanted an e-commerce website.
    I charge according to the project, and further customization at $20 per hour.
    but I don’t know when to stop :/
    I keep on doing the stuff client gives to me.. without even charging my $20 fee. so how should I ask him to pay more for the job?

    1. Deepanshu,
      Remember fear and uncertainty will kill your business. You have two choices either have a meeting with the client and remind them you are charging by the hour, or have a meeting an terminate the project. Position yourself as an authority so you can command the respect and charge what you think is fair to you and your future clients.

      I hope it helps.

  11. Very interesting. I am thinking about freelancing for full stack or front-end interface development so it looks like $100+ per hour should be achievable since it is a highly technical and design-related task. I take it on board to create a portfolio.

  12. It depends on what scope of the project you are undertaking. It depends on its complexity – its functionality. Are you doing the content writing? Are you also doing SEO? Are you the graphic artist as well? Are you the hosting manager looking to ensure your site loads at under 1 second across the globe? Are you also the PRO photographer carrying around 10,000 dollars worth of equipment? If you are building a site for 500 dollars and its taking you a week you are ripping yourself of blind. If the site is for an average client who is looking for a price then let them uses something cheap – something representative of what they expect from a site. Use your talent to beat ALL the template sites and return to the customer 100s of times the investment. Dont compete for the trash – there are plenty of successful companies out there willing to pay well for good developers who can do all what i mentioned above. You are an extremely valuable resource if you understand webdev/digital marketing/branding. You can basically name your price. But of course you need to prove yourself first and build some clientele who have actually made significant money from your sites. Dealing with customers who expect the world for nothing will bleed you dry and make them successful. They will always expect it and it cheapens the entire industry. It has to be a two way street. Rarely does a website build come under the quoted hours when its done right.

  13. Good post and comments. I constantly struggle with this and feel that I undervalue myself since I do everything – child themes, custom page templates, elaborate css, coding where needes, javascript where needed, functions modification, design, modify, ecommerce, (online store), photoshop, Illustrator, PDFs, brochure layout, artwork, logos, video editing, audio editing, web meetings on Adobe, social media, SEO, text editing, social media, name server host records… on and on – I take on whatever is asked of me. I work as a contractor mainly for one company with many needs – after a couple of years I stopped going in and reconnecting their printers etc but still tell them how to troubleshoot and maintain computers and peripherals. Did I miss anything? Hmm, probably – it makes my brain hurt to read the list lol.
    I deserve more than $25/hr.

  14. I have just interviewed a recent graduate I’d like to hire on an internship basis to improve our existing website. He is smart and professional, with a degree officially in Computer Science from a good school … but has no portfolio as of yet beyond school projects (although some of those were actually part of projects with *real* clients). He has very little experience with design, although he has good ideas. I feel he’s solid in implementation. My take-away is that he is capable of rising to the occasion, but there will be a learning curve and it will take him longer than a more experienced professional — and there may be a few mistakes. I know he’s eager to please and will work hard. I know part of the bargain, for him, is to acquire a great piece for building his portfolio; however, I also want to pay him a fair hourly rate — while also saving money, of course! 🙂
    What do you working in the field suggest? All advice appreciated.

  15. A great article very helpful advises. Thank you so much! I also like your whole website and the other posts as well.

      1. Well, I’m doing my baby steps in front-end development and SEO. I just find myself in the middle of a site based on WordPress and I’m wondering if you would consider Yoast SEO? I mean to get the green dots all the way…? I find that my client wants to see the green “light” on every page and as it’s an online store (imagine a mini Amazon) I found hard to write something using my client’s keywords and make happy Yoast as well. Do you think it’s really necessary to write a fairy tale?

        1. I just forgot to thank you for your reply… and I also got another question… I’m dealing with a “maybe” client… who doesn’t even know what he really wants… Would you waste your time with him? I already talked to him 3 times and what he was able to say that he doesn’t know what he needs… and he already have someone who takes care of his site, data entry and booking for his business…
          Thanks a million for your reply!

  16. Do you work in any marketplace like UpWork? If not, where from you get the clients? Sorry if you find it as stupid question. Actually I work as a WordPress developer on UpWork and struggling to get my(a wp developer) real value. Clients there don’t want to pay much!

    1. I’ve tried UpWork but haven’t had much traction there. Just a few jobs here and there. Many of my clients find me through referrals and through my website.
      And I know what you mean – many potential clients don’t want to pay what I charge and I end up turning down that type of work.

  17. So I have read most of the comments, and yes, great post. However my questions remains – I worked for a digital agency (web dev.) in a small town (here where I live).

    They charged their clients $220 per hour (billable). I thought, since I have been developing sites for a couple decades (first site in 1997 actually), I could get away with charging $150 or even $180 (AUD) as my registered company.

    I have been developing sites for my existing clients, yet when they needed updates, I would just do them without charge (mistake #1). I have recently published maintenance plans, and I originally thought they were steep, however I have justified it based on other companies/sole traders out there that do what I do, and some even less quality than I do. Mistake #2, I would constantly keep staging sites for my clients without them knowing, and ran security updates, optimisation, SEO for a couple of them, tested plugins, updated those too and the framework, then applied the changes that were stable on their live sites – still without them knowing.

    So I put the guilt aside, looked at all my monthly costs to operate this way, looked at my fixed costs and the skillset and value to existing or prospective clients in having this maintenance in effect.

    To be honest, I strongly believe that if you charge more of a premium, you certainly will turn away a few more clients, however you will gain valuable, willing to pay, qualitative clients that will be relatively straight with you, honest, and appreciate the value you can bring to them.

    I hope this makes sense and resonates with some. Take care, happy coding. fb

  18. Please Read The Entire Post. I Will Help You To Increase Your Rates Confidently.

    It is all about how you position your business. I hardly ever use my portfolio to close a deal. I don’t even have a portfolio page on my website. My closing ratio is about 95% +. I talk about past client’s only if it is relevant to our conversation. I only talk about their need and how I can solve it for them. You should consider on positioning yourself uniquely. Even a plumber charges more than $95 per hour. Why can a web designer?

    Here is a process you may want to consider:
    1. Decide on the type of clients you want to work with. ( You can target all industries in a geolocation or one industry.
    2. Then figure out what type of problems do they have that you can solve and create an offer that resonates with them. Make sure it is one clear offer and not a laundry list of your services.
    3. Line up your services. So you can sell more to the same customer.
    4. Deliver an exceptional customer experience.
    5. Ask for a referral.
    6. Do not leave money on the table. Offer SEO, Social Media, and find partners to help you with those projects and ask for a 10% referral fee or more.
    7. Stay away from craigslist because it will bring low budget projects from cheap clients who are going to keep negotiating and at the end of the project they are not going to be happy.
    8. Remember it will take the same effort to sell a $500 website or a $2500 website.
    I have sold website projects from $1,200 to $55,000 and have been helping businesses full time since 2007. My $1,200 projects are landing pages by the way. For social media projects, I charge $400 per platform per month.

    Now I am helping other consultants and business owners to learn how to:

    – Negotiate from a position of power
    – Use their knowledge and demonstrate it to earn their clients’ trust and charge to support the lifestyle they want.
    – I do not have e-books or online training programs because I roll up my sleeves and work side by side with you.
    – I speak with you in person or over the phone.
    – I conduct a market research just to get a general idea.
    – Once I setup your marketing engine right
    – I will train you in business development and give you custom designed email template, phone call template, voicemail template, and a daily schedule to help you prospect effectively, move the prospects through your sales process, and close as many of the right deals as possible. My goal is to help you build a sustainable business so you can have a sustainable lifestyle.

    1. Hi Ed,

      You got a really good point, I’ve been working under an agency and wanted to start my own. For starters where can you advice to find clients if not in Craigslist?

    2. Ed, how can someone contact you if they want help with launching a freelance web developer career? Thanks!

  19. I’ve been working under an agency and Im getting paid $12 per hour. I complete must of the projects within 20-30 hours. I’ve seen the rates my agency charges and Im disgusted because I feel they’re exploiting me. Example, for a project that took me roughly 30 hours they charged $7,800, do your math. What should I do? Negotiate with my superiors for a better salary or should I just go and start my own agency/work as a freelancer? I’ve over 4 years of experience working with WordPress and I’ve been working 1 year with this agency.

  20. Hello. I found this article when I was trying to come up with a reasonable quote for a friend/client. I am NOT a formerly trained person in web design and coding. I have been experimenting with different template/website building programs for a long time – but only out of self interest. I started my own site and have done some very basic sites in trade for something else. The sites have been for contact and basic information and news – nothing where they are trying to sell something or trying to get high rankings in searches. I am a full-time teacher and have created our school website, my own teacher website, etc. So, this is just an occasional side job.

    I also created a site for a local artist involved in my school. When I first created her site a few years ago, I had no pricing guide or anything. She was the one that prompted me to create some sort of list. I didn’t really use an hourly rate because some of the work I knew I might need to teach myself or I would have to install, test/configure, and then uninstall and repeat in order to get what she was wanting. Recently she wanted to revamp her site to add her new work, and take down all of the old work. This is all through WordPress. She is not tech savvy, and would even send me the new things to post.

    Adding the new work required: a few minor revisions to the template/theme (created originally using Artisteer), adding 75 new images in separate slide shows, 6 new pages to hold the 6 separate slide shows, revise all of the posts (trash the old and retype in 10 new posts), typing in the titles and descriptions in for each piece of work (required for the plugin I ended up using), and creating a grid gallery front page. I don’t know how much something like that would normally cost. I spent a considerable amount of time in the searching, installing, testing, and more with the slideshow program – until finally finding a pro version that was acceptable. She had a certain look in mind for the slideshow, which was hard to find. That is where I am getting more hung up on figuring out a charge.

    My price list was more set up like a menu rather than hourly – $2 for each image to upload (that did not require any resize or photo editing), a certain dollar amount for each post, another for new pages, etc. I am wondering what type of flat rate makes sense for the slideshow aspect of this job. Any ideas in my situation?

  21. Do any of you do analytics as well? I just got my GA certification last month and took on a client for way less than I will charge in the future, as the analytics requires implementations I want to improve my skills in. Just curious how much anyone else might charge for those services. I initially began my Google search to find freelancers to hire for my business and wanted to find out how much y’all are charging. I currently have B2B clients but want to venture into B2C. So I’m not looking for someone who knows analytics, SEO, or even content dev – I can do that and the websites – but I will need assistance building out basic sites as I grow my client list.

  22. So you build these websites on WordPress for clients. They are unique domain sites (ie. sites that require a monthly/annual fee) as charged by WordPress or similar website builders. Do you have your clients pay that fee directly to WordPress?

    1. Using WordPress.com would require a fee, but not for WordPress.org. I use .org for my clients. But they do still have ongoing costs for hosting and domain registration.

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