Six Pricing Strategies to Fit You and Your Web Design Clients

As a web designer, you face an ongoing challenge when it comes to pricing your services. That is, creating pricing that is amicable for the client but also protects your business. Establishing an effective pricing strategy that is fair for everyone can be difficult. Here are six suggestions to help you determine how to set pricing for your web design services.

1. Move to Hourly Pricing

Clients often prefer fixed rate payment schedules because they see them as less risky, but fixed rate projects are not usually in the best interest of the designer. Web design projects are notorious for sliding scopes and extra tasks that get tacked on as freebies along the way. With hourly pricing, designers aren’t left holding the bag for dozens of extra tasks. Hourly pricing also ensures that the client only pays for work that is completed and is more flexible when it comes to expanding the scope of a project. Hourly billing tends to help designers focus on their work better, since they must account for every hour. To satisfy clients nervous about hourly billing, offer to set a maximum number of hours that can’t be exceeded without permission. Then, be sure to maintain good communication about the status of the project and the billable hours along the way.

2. Create a Hybrid Model

If you really can't go purely hourly, consider a hybrid model where some standard aspects of design work come at a fixed price, while more complex work or add-ons are priced on an hourly basis. The client gets the comfort of a fixed rate, while you're protected and can cover your costs if the project expands or requires extra work. It is also a best practice to always price by the hour for complex tasks, such as scripts or programming. The more complex the task, the more mid-project client changes you'll get.

3. Draft Detailed Agreements

Whether you charge a fixed fee or an hourly rate, you need a solid contract that lists payment schedules, rates, and all other details. Are images part of the job? Are you expected to create a logo? All of these issues and more should be covered in a legal contract. Otherwise you may find the client's expectations to be very different from your own.

4. Avoid Giving Freebies

No one likes to "nickel and time" clients for every little task, but odds are you're giving away a lot more than nickels and dimes. Write a short script or tweak a logo, and suddenly you've donated several hours of your billable time. Don't do this. It cheapens your work and, worse, once a client becomes accustomed to freebies, they'll expect them all the time. Multiply that by dozens of clients and you're working for a lot less than you think.

5. Require More Payment at the Beginning of Projects

A common way to structure payments is 50 percent down and 50 percent at the end of the job. However, this holds half of your revenues hostage until the end, with nothing to cover the second half of your costs. As an alternative, consider scheduling payments up front and at the midpoint (before a major client deadline). One possible division is 50 percent down, 25 percent before the customer content phase, and 25 percent before going live.

6. Get That Last Check Before You Hand Over the Files

Finishing a project means turning the files over to the customer. But once your client has all of the intellectual property, you have nothing to motivate any residual payments, other than a contract and an appeal to ethics. Don't count on everyone having sterling ethics, or a fear of breaking a contract. Instead, just get payment in full before you surrender your work.