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:
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.