Free-lance pricing help

Hi all.

I need the more detailed guide is possible on how build the price for the development of a web site with the following features:

Home page: dynamic, jquery slideshow
5 static pages
1 contact form

registration/login system
      - registration/login via Facebook-Twitter-Google
      - registration with email confirmation and antirobot checkpoint
      - login with site credentials

marketing pages
      - printing discount coupon
      - printing fidelity card
      - email alert system for special offerts
      - points collection managements

The site will use PHP, MySql, JQuery.

I really have no idea how to calculate the amount of hours it will take, so I would prefer to use a fixed price.

I would very appreciate if you can give me an idea of a honest maintenance price on a yearly basis.

I'll be very very grateful for any advice.

Thank you all
LVL 31
Marco GasiFreelancerAsked:
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Based on what you've said, I'm going to guess you don't have a ton of experience with this (not a bad thing - we've all started there). If that's the case, then stay away from a fixed fee project.

Fixed fee means you will never get another cent from the client if you go over the estimated time. Fixed fee is more risky that way, so it's usually only a good option if you know EXACTLY how you're going to accomplish something and you KNOW how much time it will take you. Otherwise, you will run over the allotted time and the client will be unhappy and make your life a miserable hell. Once you're a veteran at a project, then you should consider fixed fee only when a client wants it (usually government contracts are fixed fee).

Going with an hourly rate will give you some freedom to make mistakes and also get your feet wet with projects. You'll also be able to quote a much lower hourly rate (if you have less than 2-3 years of experience, I would suggest $25 / hour), and you'll be able to figure things out if you're not sure of how to accomplish them. Just make sure that you finish as fast as you can so that you can get some referrals and that you'll have extra time if you need it.

IMPORTANT: Keep a log of what you do and how long it takes you. This will help you AND your client. It lends confidence to the client and will also help you quote things better in the future and understand how long it will actually take you to do something.

As far as how many hours it takes, that is going to depends on the client and what they want. Make sure you get things spelled out as clearly as possible upfront - what design they want, etc... Anytime you have to stop and go back to the client to ask them for more info, you're shooting yourself in the foot and you're going to create project problems.

If you're not sure about something, then propose something like - if they don't know what design they want, that you will come up with 3 of them and they have to choose one. If they don't like any of the 3, then they will pay hourly rates until you produce one they like.

Make sure you also define all the tasks so that you can tell them "the project is done" - clients are notorious for "scope creep" which is what happens when a client just wants you to make "a little change" and keeps at it until you've spent 10 hours making 100 "little" changes. Give yourself an exit strategy.

If you're going with all 3rd-party components for what you've described, you can probably do it in about 40-60 hours. Just a guess based on your estimated skill, but I don't really know you so it's only a guess.
What I see from your description, you can achieve these with Joomla easyly as almost all features you are after is free. If you have average computer knowledge you can do it by yourself. All you have to do prepare followings;

By a domain name -  $3/year for .com
By a hosting package -  $50/year
By a template from template providers such as, -  $40/year unlimited template download and support etc
and start putting your ingredients. Modules and plug ins (such as contact form, discount cupon etc) comes along with the template you choose for free.
Marco GasiFreelancerAuthor Commented:
Assuming domain and hosting plan are payed directly by my client, are you saying I should build the site for $10? No, really, I don't use Joomla. I've built a little system OOP based and I'll use that, since I prefer to know exactly each little gear of my 'machine' :-)

But even if I used Joomla, free plugins and so on, your answer doesn't give me any idea about the price of the site but only about its (low) cost.
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Sorry I misunderstood. I thought you were the client who after pricing
Marco GasiFreelancerAuthor Commented:
lol. No problem: I suspected there were some misunderstanding :-)
Marco GasiFreelancerAuthor Commented:
@gr8gonzo, thank you for the long detailed explanation: it's very useful and interesting for me. Yes, I don't have ton of experience :-) It's the first time I build a web site for a client.

If you're going with all 3rd-party components
I plan to use fpdf for printing needs and some third party script for login via social networks. For registration/login system I'll use a class I built converting to OOP the Ray's article here at EE ( and The conversion job is not completed, I have to revisit the code to be sure all it's all right and I plan to open a question aboutthis here at EE. I also made a bit change on the social login scripts so to insert them in my class and integrate them with my system in order to insert data returned by Facebook and Google into my database.
JQuery widgets are all 3rd-party code (but I always change something here and there to achieve exactly what I want).
All the rest is a little 'framework' (too great word for my code), a system where each request is redirected to my index page which initilizes variables and classes, includes files, define constants and so on. Then it call a page which builds the final page based on a basic template engine which replaces placeholders with actual content. I really don't figfure out how I can estimate how mutch time I used to build this system, but I'm happy with it: it's easy to mantain and to restyle.

I hope you'll be not offended if I'll keep this question open so I can hear more opinions.

Thank you very mutch.
Ray PaseurCommented:
Everything gr8gonzo said.

It is axiomatic in business that you never price against your costs -- you price against what the market will bear, and you make a profit by controlling your costs.  So the question I would ask is this: How much is the web site going to be worth to the client.

I recommend (and use) the following business model: I take 100% responsibility for the site.  All of it - domain, hosting, programming, everything.  My client rents the site from me for a fixed monthly fee, in perpetuity.  I own the programming and to the extent that I can negotiate it, I own the data that is put into the site without regard to its origin.  In the beginning, you'll invest somewhat disproportionally in your effort and startup costs.  After the site is stable and performing well, your clients will still be paying you the monthly fee.  More importantly, your fee will become part of their annual budget and they will never think about going to another developer.  Soon you will find that you're making money in your sleep!
Marco GasiFreelancerAuthor Commented:
Wow, I never thougth something similar, Ray! Yes, I like it... But my problem, as totally inexeprienced in these economic questions, is how to calculate the fee. I really I have no idea if let's say $100 are a too high or too low price. I understand that this depends on how the site is built, how many pages, how many images (yes, surfing the web I saw some web designers differentiate their prices depending of the number of images and my sensation is that is not so profesisonal, but I may be wrong), how big is the database, how dynamic is the site and so on... I would like you (you all) can make an example so I can then build my price with a reference, even if this is not so precise, but I'll can improve my marketing and pricing abilities in the future, I hope). Don't know, something like: 10 static pages, 4 dynamic, login and registration, login with facebook could bring you to  $xx per month.
But could this be an ebarassing question for professionals? I don't want to be cheeky or rude and I apologize if I am.

Thank you all for your replies.
Ray PaseurCommented:
I can't really give you a rule-of-thumb but I can tell that I would not price from a reference menu.  If you do that, you're competing with every bottom-feeding low bidder, and you encourage your customers to shop your price around to try to undercut you.  

Consider a "price per image" to understand why this is a bad way to do business.  There are too many variables in the word, "image" for this kind of pricing to make sense.  Is it a custom image?  Is it a licensed image?  What kind of quality is needed?  Is it also for print or billboard advertising?  If you're asked for a price per image, and you say $50, then the next offeror says $25, who should get the deal?  To my way of thinking, the difference between $25 and $50 is irrelevant because the quality of the vendor relationship would trump any such small amount.  I would choose to work with the vendor that offered the better image and seemed interested in my business.  But you may find that a customer is worried about whether to pay you $50 or try to find someone else who will take $25 instead.

If you have a customer like that, fire them and go look for a customer who is interested in a "working together" relationship.  You want someone who will keep you on "retainer" and who will also understand that the changing nature of technology can occasionally add costs.

Sidebar note... I just computed the cost of disk storage.  Today you can buy 200MB of storage for 1 cent.
Marco GasiFreelancerAuthor Commented:
Thanks gr8gonzo, thanks Ray: I make treasure of your precious comments.
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