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Don’t Ever Undervalue Your Development Skills

When you’re starting your own web development business or just starting out freelancing, there’s a tendency to take on any and every job that comes your way. After all, there’s not much to show in your personal portfolio so you could do with beefing that up even if it means slaving away for not much $$.

As soon as you’ve got your portfolio to a reasonable size and you have built up your experience and professionalism, do yourself a favour and charge clients the appropriate rate for the professional web development services you provide.

There’s no quicker way to get bitter about your work than to give someone a cheap quote and then realise the work you took on is going to take 3 times as long as you expected.

Some reasons why you might have given a cheap quote include:

  • Underestimating how long it will take you to do something. More often than not a task, no matter how simple, will take you longer than you think. The good old rule of “work out how many hours it will take, then double that” rings true. Personally I quote on a project basis so if I quote 8 hours and the job takes me longer, I wear the extra hours and write that time off as a learning experience.
  • Sympathy. When a client mentions they don’t have a large budget, or they’re a small business, or a new business, or a family business or whatever, it’s only natural to want to give them the best rate possible. That works ok when the job goes smoothly, but if the sympathy plea of a client causes you to under-quote and things go south, you won’t be a happy camper and everyone will suffer.
  • You don’t feel experienced enough. Sure, you may only be 20 and still at uni, but that’s no reason to under-quote if you’re delivering a professional service. At the end of the day, if you provide the same service or end product (web site) as an agency, why should you be working at half the rate?
  • Competing with your client’s nephew. Everybody knows someone who thinks they can create a site just like Facebook or eBay for $200, whether it be their nephew or their aunts-husbands-neighbours-grandparents-dog. Then there’s always the people who can’t understand why they have to pay so much for a site that uses an Open Source (in their mind, “free”) CMS, despite the fact you had to write a custom module to fit their needs or spent 10 hours designing and xHTMLing their template.

By all means, give clients the best deal you can – just make sure you don’t sell yourself short. If you sell yourself short all you’ll do is make life harder for yourself and you’ll devalue the entire web development market.

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Comments Section

2 Responses to “Don’t Ever Undervalue Your Development Skills”

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  1. 1

    “At the end of the day, if you provide the same service or end product (web site) as an agency, why should you be working at half the rate?”

    That’s not quite true, Scott. You should understand that as a freelancer it is difficult to provide the same professional service as an agency. An agency may provide additional marketing/communication/design services that an individual cannot compete with.

    An agency is always on call for clients during business hours and available to help with updates/fixes/changes whereas a 20 year old freelancer still at university may be in class or at the pub with his mates when the site goes bung.

    An agency isn’t going to go travel Europe for three months or spend a week in Queensland leaving their clients back home with an unsupported site.

    I could go on, but my point is that as agencies are delivering an increased level of professional service they of course (and are entitled to) charge at an increased rate and the clients are buying better service and security for it.

  2. 2

    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for your comment!

    I actually agree with you… :) I probably shouldn’t have used a 20yo uni student as an example, but I guess the key part is where I wrote “if you provide the same service or end product”.

    If a freelancer is not available during business hours to support their client then they’re not providing exactly the same service, so in that respect their rate should definitely be lower than an agency.

    On the flip side of the coin, there are some freelancers who might be available both during and outside of business hours. Will they charge a premium (over their normal hourly rate) for this? Probably not. Will they win more business because they go the extra mile? Almost certainly :)

    There are so many permutations and combinations that go into pricing that we could write a book on the topic, but I think a client would be very unhappy if they were being charged a “reliability/security” premium. Who’s to say a big agency will be around longer than a freelancer or a small start-up? :)