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Is web design profitable?

Discussion in 'General Business Forum:' started by JFDesign, Jan 7, 2017.

  1. JFDesign

    JFDesign New Member


    I'm a self employed graphic designer, with 15 years experience. I work for my own clients and also freelance at design agencies. For my own clients I do a lot of logos, infographics, print design, emails, powerpoint... but I really struggle to win website jobs. The feedback is always that I'm too expensive.

    My estimates are based on the time I expect to spend on briefing, research, meetings, design, amends, coding (outsourced to a dev I know), adding content, content amends, liasing with dev. Ballpark figure for a 5/6 page 'brochure' site would be £3k using a theme as a basis. £4-4.5k designed from scratch.

    Even using a theme as a basis, I still believe some pages need to be custom designed, to ensure clients' content sits well. However – I'm not winning the work, based on my prices.

    Does anyone else experience this? Is it unrealistic for a solo designer to charge £3k plus? For those who win website work, do you go over your estimated hours? Maybe I focus too much on quality over speed?

    FYI I have some websites in my portfolio that I've either designed at agencies or for developers, so I have evidence of my work. I'd really like to have some projects from my own clients too though.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

  2. Paul Murray

    Paul Murray Moderator Staff Member

    Of course it's profitable, but like anything it depends on your client base. £3k for a simple site based on a theme does seem high to me. I'd probably charge that for a simple site designed and built from scratch, if it's for a fancy business (i.e. someone that can afford to pay it). For a smaller business, the cost would obviously be a lot less. I tend to host most of my sites myself, and am able to 'throw in' a year's free hosting and email to sweeten the deal. It's nice to get some guaranteed income now and in the foreseeable future.

    I tend to give a quote using 'top-down' pricing, so you start at the top and take things away until you and the client meet at a place you're both comfortable. Originally I tried just sticking to a client's budget to secure work, but clients tend to expect bespoke sites with every feature imaginable for ~£500. You may find a client is happy to leave out a lot of features they originally thought they needed once they realise how much they'll save, and it shouldn't really affect you since it's less work and you should still be making a profit even at half the cost/workload. Sometimes you'll just never find a common ground though, and you'll find a lot of clients simply don't expect bespoke sites to cost so much. Most of the cost often comes from the development side, checking mobile versions, sorting problems, etc etc, and because it's something clients can't actually see they're often left wondering what they're actually paying for. There's times where I've spent a day designing a simple site but 3-4 days implementing features clients request and fallbacks and testing on multiple devices. It's one thing to build a site, but it's another to built it well (hence where 'high' prices come in).

    If you're constantly being told you're prices are too high then either A. they actually are too high for the quality of work you're providing, or B. (and this is much more likely) you're simply targeting the wrong type of client. I know some people have success simply charging a flat fee of around £350 to install Wordpress and a theme, set it up, install and configure necessary plugins and be done with it.

    Try and find out why your prices are too high. Chances are it's because these clients are looking for or expecting something simpler. If that's the case, try and use that to your advantage. Installing Wordpress themes might not exactly be [/FONT]glamorous, but you're selling expertise not a final product, and in a couple of hours have earned more than some designers earn in a day.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
  3. JFDesign

    JFDesign New Member

    Thanks for your reply, Paul. You make some very good points. It could well be that I focus too much on designing an immaculate site, when infact I could dedicate much less time and it would still do the job for the client.

    The idea of just installing the theme is interesting and one I hadn't considered. I could then quote for bolt-on costs to add in their content, to design some header images. It's then their choice if they want me to do that.

    Appreciate your input, it's good to have another perspective.
  4. JFDesign

    JFDesign New Member

    Hi there, I appreciate your input.

    I'm not debating there's a lot of demand for websites, I'm questioning whether you can charge for the amount of time you really spend on them?

    From initial briefing, design, amends, development, testing and further amends, adding in client's content, launching, all the emails and phone calls throughout, possibly meeting(s) – that's a lot of hours. Even using a theme as a basis, there's going to be some customisation and communication required.

    Do you charge for all the hours you really spend on the project x your hourly rate? That's what I mean by 'Is it profitable?'.
  5. Paul Murray

    Paul Murray Moderator Staff Member

    It's no different to charging for any other creative service really. There's obviously different bands of clients. For some, a Wordpress template is enough, for others they need or want something bespoke. Ideally, that's who you want to target. There are clients out there who are happy to pay what it costs to get a site designed, built and running so don't assume they're all cheap bastards. Chances are if you find a client who pays the going rate, they'll have contacts who will also do the same (why would they work with cheapskates?).

    You can always try a top-down approach to pricing, where you start at the top and remove features until you're both happy. Imagine you're trying on a suit. It's the best suit you can get, but it's too expensive for you, so you ask the tailor to try another. He brings out a similar suit, made from different material. It's cheaper than the last but still a little too much, so he brings you another. This again is similar, it lacks a few features, maybe the buttons are plastic and the material is cheaper. But it looks right, it feels right, and it's just the right price, so you buy it. Rather than bringing you the cheapest suit which you might have bought on the spot, the tailor sold you a more expensive suit without you feeling like you got ripped off.

    I use this approach with sites, asking the client what they want from the site and quoting for the time to design and implement the functionality. If it's too much we remove features until the client is happy. They get a site that does what they want at a price they feel is a good deal (remember, you might have just shaved half off the price, but without you really losing any profit).

    You also need to be able to sell your skills and expertise because really THAT is what we're selling in this industry, not a final product. It's the same argument against why someone should pay you 10x the amount they could pay an amateur for the 'same' thing. Expertise.
  6. JFDesign

    JFDesign New Member

    "don't assume they're all cheap bastards."

    That made me laugh :LOL:

    Admittedly I work with a lot of startups and very small businesses, so that's possibly where the issue lies.

    I've seen some designers out there who provide Wix web design as a service. That's something I'm considering offering to those with a super low budget. Custom design some nice header banners with strong messaging, then drop the client's content into one of the pre-made templates and job done. It would look way more professional than if the client did it, plus it would be pretty quick, therefore low cost.

    Just a thought really, so I can offer a web design solution for a broader range of clients.
  7. scotty

    scotty Well-Known Member

    How do you charge monthly for a branding package? o_O
  8. Martin Scurry

    Martin Scurry Member

    its all depend on size of the site. i think you can charge as per site not for all site.

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