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I want to start a bit of freelancing in web development using ASP.NET MVC3 and PHP and I already have some people who are interested in hiring me, but I still can't figure out how much to charge for projects since I have never done it.

For example how much would this site cost? Would it cost more if the author built it from scratch instead of using WordPress as the CMS? Or what about a simpler site like this? How much time spent is considered good/normal for building sites like these? And maybe some freelancers with experience can tell me what the usual requests are that they get from clients. What sites are the most in demand?

I'm asking because I'm a student and I really can't work every day in a full-time job but I need the money so I guess a little freelancing would help me out.

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Possible duplicate of programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/95946/…. –  Anna Lear Aug 4 '11 at 13:34
    
this interests me too. i've been doing some freelancing now and then, and i always charged a fixed price for my works, which isn't based on anything except a bit of talking with the client and some soft negotiations, to find an even point for both of us. still a bunch of advices from "freelancing pros" isn't that bad ;) –  Samuele Mattiuzzo Aug 4 '11 at 13:36

4 Answers 4

I think you are asking the wrong question. The question is: what is the market value of your work?

How much you can ask has to do with your years of experience, successful projects you can point to, and the hourly rate that other programmers are asking.

In the end, your work may be worth millions, or it may be worthless, but that isn't known until far too late to use in billing.

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Many people who start freelancing already know the domain, either as customers of freelancers or from working in a company doing similar work. Over the time you get to see enough contracts to get a overview about prices asked and paid.

This is very difficult to say, since many factors are involved. I know, that many companies in Europe would calculate with something about 100 Euro per hour for programming work by experienced programmers with something like Ruby on Rails. But that's only a very rough estimate for simple projects like web shops (one of the more commonly requested sites).

How much of the money will end in your pocket is another question. Especially for your first link the designer earned most likely far more than the guy implementing it in WordPress (or whatever was used). Both sites are static and don't need much or any code running on the server, no issues with databases, online payment and similar tasks.

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While I've only done a couple of Freelance projects, I can tell you what I've learned so far:

  1. Custom CMS only gets paid more if it delivers something a current package (i.e. wordpress, joomla, etc) doesn't.
  2. Generally you can slide the scale up, from a hundred bucks for a simple static page to ~ 1000 for a several page basic content management system (that's just based on my limited experience).
  3. Make sure you clearly request what they have and explain your skills. Do they already have graphics and content ready to go? Or are they expecting you to take some of their photo's and slice them up? Create Custom logos and such? These are very, very important topics to discuss early and often.
  4. Prototype prototype prototype. Often customers will think they are explaining what they want - but its lost in translation. Prototype their ideas and / or some of yours; this will save you loads of time and hassle and give you a good idea of how much time it might take you.
  5. Realize your first few projects might not net you very much. This is ok - if you do a few projects for next to nothing - do them very well and leave the customer very happy. Then you can reach for a bigger project and refer to your previous experience and happy customers. I did my first (simple) site for free, and through that customer got in touch with my first paying job.

In the end, experience will teach you what your capable of and how much you can charge vs how much your willing to work for. I've seen people toss up a custom CMS for ~500 bucks, and another build a simple wordpress site with a flash banner for ~1000 dollars (finished in a few hours). Some people want a job done NOW and are willing to pay, some aren't. Experience will be your best guide.

Good luck!

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+1 on outlining prototyping. I had the displeasure of spending a month's worth of meetings just getting the design down because their explanation and my outcome didn't align. (Even paper & pencil didn't seem to help, and they kept pushing me in to feature creep). –  Brad Christie Aug 4 '11 at 17:02

The best way is to charge by the hour, and use yout best guess to decide how many hours to bill them. In my experiences, charging hourly makes it clearer to the client that they are paying for a service/your time, not a product, and it makes it clearer on both ends what is expected of the other.

As for what that hourly rate should be, it's whatever you can get away with :). Seriously though this can be tricky, and based on a lot of external factors such as your cost of living, number of hours, etc. you can use tools like this Hourly Rate Calculator To get an idea of what you should charge.

Another thing I would advise about dealing with clients/charges is support. Are you buying the hosting / domain? Are they going to want support afterwards. My personal policy is to give them 30 days support after a project is launched for fixing any bugs that are found, and then to bill additional hours if they have any modifications or other requests. Some people also charge a monthly support rate that covers that sort of thing, but that's up to you on how you want to handle it.

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+1 for the Hourly Rate Calculator –  Shauna Aug 4 '11 at 14:19
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+1 Outstanding point "paying for a service not a product". This also gets at the core issue of simply not knowing how complex a product will turn out to be. @Qmal - be careful about judging complexity by looks. The first link you posted is "pretty", but mostly due to high quality photography. The second link looks simpler, but that doesn't tell you much at all. Google looks simple... –  P.Brian.Mackey Aug 4 '11 at 14:23
    
Well if I do projects I always make design myself since I have no designers who would do that for me. But I can do good design, it's not a problem for me. –  Qmal Aug 4 '11 at 15:13

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