A reader of my book Creating Cool HTML 4 Web Pages writes and asks:
“I’ve been looking all over the internet to find an average price for making a website and I can’t fine a good estimate on the going rate. If you could point me in the right direction that would be great. After reading your book (creating cool HTML 4 web pages) and taking some computer classes I’ve now got my CIW certificate and am starting to build my first website for a client, but I don’t know how much to charge!”
I’ll resist saying that this is the question of the ages in the world of computing, but it is definitely going to be a tough one to answer…
The problem is, like any other professional service, the answer is based on your skillset, your ability to sell yourself and what the market will bear. If you’re talking with the local girlscouts, I’d suggest you ask for payment in cookies. If you’re talking to a Fortune 500 company because their CEO has decided it’d be cool to have a Web site for her 37,000 square foot mansion and estate, well, then I’d charge $1000/page or more.
But the real answer might lie in a standard business practice: what is your competition charging? Not the random folk on the net, but the other people in your geographic area, the people who can sit down with the client at Starbucks and walk them through some design sketches and preliminary graphics? If they’re all at the $10/hour level, then you might need to find another venue for competing. If they’re at $250/hour with a 30 hour minimum, then opportunity might well be knocking for you to ask $75/hour and underprice them completely.
If you do that, however, you need to be sure that you’re really comparing apples to apples: make sure your expertise and abilities match the needs of the client and that you’re going to give them a fair transaction and their money’s worth at the end of the project.
Another consideration is that the best way to prove yourself as a developer isn’t to have fancy certificates or degrees, but to have a really good, interesting and informative Web site. Not a “dazzling Web technologies tour-de-force” that leaves them feeling that even CNN and ESPN are technologically inadequate, but one that focuses on your message, respects the constraints of the medium, and explains your philosophy and what differentiates you and your abilities from everyone else in the marketplace.
And make sure you have a nice portfolio of different sites to show them, with some running commentary on specific design challenges or constraints and how you overcame them. You can build up a portfolio by volunteering to do sites or site redesigns for local community organizations, and gain a bunch of good karma points at the same time! I don’t know of a single local grass-roots level non-profit that isn’t dying for help in this regard.
I hope that helps out. If you have further questions or thoughts, please post them here and we’ll discuss.