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December 09 2013


Should I Charge for That? Don’t Forget About These 7 Crucial Project Tasks

The client snarled, “there’s no way I’m paying extra for that.” He was referring to the time I would need to research his rather complicated project.

Have you ever been challenged by a client for including certain tasks on your invoice?


Pricing services is one of the most difficult tasks most freelance web designers face. Not only are there many different schools of thought on how to price web design services, clients sometimes fuss about work we bill them for.

Most freelancer web designers realize that they shouldn’t work for free or on spec. But many have questions about what activities they should bill to clients.

In this post, I list seven common project-related tasks that clients often question. For each task, I discuss whether a freelancer should bill the client.

If you liked this post, you may also like 12 Realities of Pricing Design Services or 5 Tips for Handling Pricing Objections.

The Pricing Problem


What aspects of a project should be billable? Should you charge for the time you spend on an estimate? What about the time you spend on the phone with a client? Should a web designer charge for technical support provided after the project is completed?

There are many differing opinions about what a freelancer should include in their price. Some bidding sites actually track what a freelancer does on their computer and use that information to calculate how much money the freelancer receives.

What to include on the project’s bill can also be an issue when the freelancer provides an itemized invoice. The client may feel that they can lower the price of the project by removing what they view as an unneeded part of the project from their invoice. My client above was a prime example of that kind of thinking

Successful project completion requires many different types of tasks, even if their importance or relationship to the project isn’t obvious to the client.

Task #1. Estimates

Developing an accurate project estimate is the first step to project success. The more accurate and more detailed your project proposal is (which usually becomes your work agreement when the client accepts it), the better your project is likely to be.

Yet, the process of developing a good project estimate is time-consuming. From personal experience, I know that it sometimes take several hours to put together a good project proposal.

Should you charge a client for that time?

I actually know of some busy freelancers who do charge a fee to prepare a project estimate. Charging for estimates can separate serious prospects from those who are just shopping around for the lowest price.

Many other freelancers, however, provide free project estimates to qualified potential clients. The choice is yours.

Task #2. Research

You’re an expert at what you do, but you don’t know everything. Clients sometimes want special features on their websites that you don’t normally provide. Sometimes those features are so unique that you need to do some research to learn more about them.

When this happens, should you charge the client for the time you spend on research?

Some clients don’t think so. Their reasoning is that you will use what you learn on other projects, so the research isn’t really specific to their project.

However, some requests are so unusual that it’s unlikely that you would ever receive a similar request from another client. Also, meeting one client’s special request doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to take your freelancing business in that direction.

Task #3. Meetings

Meetings are another one of those tasks that many clients do not want to pay for. Truthfully, some projects work out fine without any meetings whatsoever.

However, other clients schedule regular meetings with the freelancers they hire. This may be a personal preference on the part of the client. In some cases, when large groups of freelancers and employees are working together, meetings are a crucial means of making sure that everyone is on the same page.

Meetings, however, can take a lot of your time. That’s probably not time that you want to give away.

I always recommend that freelancers ask how many meetings are required when they define the scope of a freelance project. It’s better to find out that the project requires meetings before you start. Too many unexpected meetings can mean the difference between a profitable freelance project and working below minimum wage.

If you find out a freelancing project requires regular meetings, you have two options:

  • Raise your quote for the project.
  • Charge an hourly fee for the time you spend in meetings.

Task #4. Tools

This task isn’t actually a task, but more of an expense. I’m referring to special tools that you purchase especially for a specific project.

The tool could be software that you buy, access to certain sites, and many other special purchases that you wouldn’t ordinarily make for your business.

Often the client doesn’t want to pay for such tools because you will keep the tool after you finish the project. However, if it is a tool that is absolutely required for the project it’s my opinion that the client should absorb the cost.

Task #5. Phone Calls


Some clients will never call you. They prefer to interact primarily through email, and that’s fine.

Other clients make the occasional call when it’s really necessary. That’s fine too.

Once in a while, you’ll get a client who loves to talk on the phone and will call you for every little thing. That’s not fine at all.

Whether the client really needs help or is just lonely, the result can be the same: constant interruptions and hours spent on the phone.

Here are four tips for handling excess phone calls:

  1. Avoid being on call. Make clients schedule appointments for phone calls through email.
  2. Refer them to email. Stress that email is the quickest way to get a question answered.
  3. Limit phone hours. Many freelancers schedule a short time each day when they accept calls.
  4. Bill an hourly rate. For extreme cases, you may have to bill the client an hourly rate for time spent on the phone.

Task #6. Changes to the Project

Scope creep can make or break a project. Scope creep refers to changes to the project or additions that were not included in the original project description.

Scope creep is one of the many reasons why you should have a contract or written work agreement. Make sure that your contract is specific about the work that will be included in the project. Add a phrase that states that additional work will require additional charges.

Some freelancers also include a statement about the number of revisions that they will perform as part of the project. My contracts, for example, include one round of minor revisions.

Of course, if the changes are to correct a mistake that you made, then you need to take care of it as quickly as possible.

Task #7. Technical Support

Do you continue to answer questions about your freelancing work long after the project is finished?

Some clients expect that you will make minor tweaks to their website and answer questions about it forever. They don’t expect to have to pay for this support either.

Unfortunately, most freelancers can’t afford to provide unlimited free technical support. While it may seem like a good idea when you first start freelancing, once you’ve built up a significant client base the demands for support can overwhelm you.

The solution is to state in your contracts that support is provided free of charge for a limited time (maybe 30 days). After the specified period of time, state that the client can purchase an extended support package for the monthly fee of $xx.00

Your Takeaway

At the end of the day, freelancers need to earn a profit. If they agree to perform too many of these so-called nonessential project tasks at no charge to the client, they may find that their business is in trouble financially.

Ideally, a good contract should specify which services are billable and which (if any) are available at no extra cost to the client. The alternative is to not mention these services, but raise your prices to cover the cost of doing them anyway.

In the comments below, share how you handle billing for the various tasks we’ve discussed in this post.

November 01 2013


35 Thoughts on When and How to Raise Your Freelancing Web Design Rates

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Freelancing rates are one of the most emotionally charged issues that we freelancers discuss online. People have all kinds of opinions when it comes to rates. But it’s a topic that often comes up during this time of the year. Many freelancers naturally want to increase their rates when a new year rolls around.

If you plan to raise your rates in January, now is the time to start planning for your rate increase.

Most new freelance web designers struggle to figure out what to charge for their services. As a result, they often end up charging too little. Of course, there are some basic pricing principles you can follow to determine how much you should be earning.

But what if you started out wrong? What if you’re already earning far less than you should be earning? What do you do then?

In this post, I provide 35 thoughts on when and how to raise your freelancing web design rates. I’ll provide clear signs that it’s time to raise your rate. I’ll also list some strategies to help you earn more money.

Clear Signs It’s Time for a Raise

How can you tell when it’s time to increase your rates? Here are some signs that you should be asking for more money:

  1. You’re very busy. If you have more clients than you can handle, it’s time to charge more. A rate increase won’t scare off your best clients.
  2. Your rates are substandard. When you rates are less than rates charged by other freelancers, it’s a sign you can charge more. Compare your rates to published rates for your field. If yours are significantly less, it’s time for a raise.
  3. Your client offers you more. When your clients tell you that they would be willing to pay you more money, it’s a good sign that you should raise your rates.
  4. You focus on volume. If your main focus is on volume of work (such as how many websites you can set up) instead of on quality, it’s definitely time to raise your rates and shift your focus.
  5. It’s been a while. If many years have gone by since you started freelancing and your rates are still the same, you are overdue for a raise. Your goal should be to earn more each year.
  6. You have measurable success. If you’ve made a quantifiable difference for a client, it’s a good time to ask for a higher rate. An example of this might be designing a landing page with a high conversion rate.
  7. Too much overtime. If you’re constantly working overtime and on the weekends just to make ends meet, it’s time to charge more. Working extra hours should be the exception, and not the rule.
  8. You’re struggling. It’s time to raise your rates if your own costs and expenses have gone up. You have to make ends meet, just like everyone else.

Strategies to Help You Earn More

Are you ready to start earning more? Here are some strategies to help you raise your prices:

  1. Make an announcement. Announce on your website that you will not accept projects below a certain dollar amount. Then stick to that limit.
  2. Specialize your services. Specialists can generally command a higher rate than generalists can.
  3. List your achievements. If you’ve gotten an award, make that part of your marketing and explain how it adds value to your services. For example, include wording like “…over 200 clients have used our award-winning design services, and you can too…
  4. Ease into new prices. Decide which clients will receive the new pricing. Some freelancers only charge their new rates to new clients and continue charging their old rates to existing clients. This is not a good strategy if there is a large difference between your old and new rate.
  5. Set a date. Implement a deadline when old pricing will no longer be valid and stick to it.
  6. Only increase some prices. You can also decide to raise your rates for certain services only. Some services are more time intensive than others. These services should cost more.
  7. Add high-end services. You can add new premium services to what you offer to your clients. A premium service might include such extras a social media promotion or adding special features to a website.
  8. Upsell. Another way to raise your income is to think of add-ons to package with your services.
  9. Use testimonials. Prospects are more likely to accept a higher quote when they can read about the experiences of satisfied clients.
  10. raise-rate2

  11. Offer a prepayment discount. Raise your rates, but offer a discount to clients who pay your entire fee in advance. At least this way you don’t have to worry about reminding the client to pay you and there’s no risk that you won’t get the money.
  12. Use the client’s budget. Find out what the client’s budget for the project is and price your services accordingly. Usually, the client is willing to pay more than you realize. The best way to get this information is to ask for it.
  13. Charge extra for rush work. Rush work is an inconvenience for you, but a convenience for the client. They should have to pay for that convenience.
  14. Charge a late payment fee. If it’s allowed where you live, charge a late fee for clients who don’t pay promptly. This has two effects. It encourages the client to pay on time and it gives you a small amount of extra money when they don’t.
  15. Stop letting the client set your rate. Don’t ask “what are you willing to pay?” Instead, get the details about what they want done and quote a price to them.
  16. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to lowball offers of work. It may seem like that’s the only work out there, but the truth is that if you work at marketing, you will find higher paying gigs.
  17. Be confident when you present your prices. You are good at what you do, that’s why you freelance. There’s no reason for you to accept substandard rates.
  18. Explain the details of what you will do. Most clients underestimate the amount of work that goes into a project. Providing details helps.
  19. Target different clients. If you are consistently earning far less than you should be earning, you may be targeting the wrong clients.
  20. Improve your skills. Having some specialized skills can be worth extra money. Learn what types of skills are worth more money in your field and take a class to master them.
  21. Weed out any low paying projects. Are you already spending a lot of your time on low paying projects? If you are, start replacing these projects with higher paying gigs.
  22. Make sure your contact pool is large. But don’t just build up a large number of contacts. Stay active. Communicate with your contacts on a regular basis. A mailing list can be a great way to do this.
  23. Put an expiration date on proposals. You don’t want a client coming back years later and asking you to work for an old rate, do you? My quotes usually expire after about 60 days.
  24. Re-evaluate your high maintenance clients. Even a seemingly high paying client can be high maintenance. Keep track of how much time you actually spend working for these clients and calculate what your hourly rate on these projects actually is. If the actual number is too low, it’s time to let the high maintenance client go.
  25. Learn to manage your time. If you can cut back on the amount of time you waste, you will be more productive. Higher productivity means you can take on more clients and earn more.
  26. raise-rate-3

  27. Consider a percentage increase. This works well if you work for clients at various rates and the jump to your new rate would be too high for some of your clients. Try increasing your rate on future quotes by 10% for each client who pays below your hourly goal until you are earning your goal for all clients.
  28. Just do it. Don’t make a big deal. The next time you quote a project, base it on your new rates. Don’t apologize. You don’t even have to announce it if you don’t want to.
  29. Take on a side project. Consider a side project such as selling premium WordPress themes or affiliate sales to increase your income.

Your Turn

Do you plan to raise your web design rates any time soon?

What strategy will you use to raise your rates? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Advertise here with BSA

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