If you’re reading this blog, you’re most likely a web designer/developer and you most likely enjoy your job too, but let’s not be shy because as much as we enjoy working in this industry we’re also trying to make a living.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve received a few emails from different people asking for advice or enquiring about my help with digital work (to compliment their print offerings) and the common theme amongst these enquiries seems to be cheap prices/low budgets. Now, I’m all for websites being affordable but there comes a point when you can’t make a living if you’re charging people £300 to make their website.
There is undoubtedly a market in this price range – for small businesses/individuals who cannot afford anything more than this but it doesn’t necessarily mean this is the market for you. It’s very important to remember that aside from the actual physical work of building the website you’ve also got to win the gig, communicate with the client, plan projects, chase payments and keep your other clients happy all at the same time. If your prices are too low you can’t do all of those to a high enough standard.
My personal business model
It never fails to surprise me how many web designers/developers go freelance and think that means they have to go out and win small business clients and produce the work as well. The reason being because that’s a really difficult thing to do. Personally, my business model is different and I spend most of my work time working on-site in the offices of bigger digital agencies and, more often than not, this work is based upon a day rate. Provided you can stay in demand this is a very good model because:
- (Most) agencies know the ‘going rate’ for work and while they may try to negotiate down they won’t expect you to work for next to nothing.
- Lots of agencies use freelancers and communicate with each other to find the best freelancers – so once you’ve done a good job at one agency, the word quickly spreads the other jobs come quite easily.
The other advantage is that in most cases, on-site day-rate agency work means that you only work 9-5 (or whatever that particular agency’s hours are). Yes, sometimes this may be longer and sometimes you may find yourself still on-site at 9pm but this is rare in my experience.
An alternative is to offer fixed prices as opposed to a day rate. I sometimes do this but, to be honest, most of the agencies who hire me simply want someone on-site who can work on a raft of different projects so quoting a fixed price is impossible for this type of booking. Every ‘how to be a freelancer’ article I’ve ever read has said you need to work to fixed prices and not hourly/day-rates. However, in my experience – and maybe it’s just the specific type of work that I do – that agency clients simply don’t want this.
A quick word about day rates
You set your day rate to account for the fact that you won’t work every day of the month – if bookings dry up, you need to take holidays/sick days or you need to buy new equipment every now and again.
Agencies hiring you won’t expect to pay you the equivalent of their full-time staff e.g. if their staff get paid around £30-25k per year ( averaging at £100 per day) they won’t expect that your day rate should be £100*. Whereas, if your target market is small businesses you may find yourself justifying your day-rate/overall prices constantly.
* If the agency looking to hire you does expect you to work for £100 a day then you simply move on to the next agency who understands industry pricing levels. If an agency doesn’t get freelancer prices it’s likely they’re undercharging for their own services and if they’re getting the fundamentals, like pricing, wrong what else are they getting wrong?
I hope this post serves as an answer, for the next time I get asked if I can produce a website for next to no budget or if a family member/friend refer on a colleague (who has a great idea for an ebay/facebook/google clone) because they think I pull websites out of a hat for £300 a pop.