How To Price Your Web Development Services: The Definitive Guide

How To Price Your Web Development Services: The Definitive Guide

How do you price your WordPress development services? How do you avoid pricing yourself out of business? We surveyed our working web developer members to get the scoop and help you overcome the common dilemma of pricing.

Should you charge by the hour or per project? How do you come up with a quote? Maybe you offered a client an estimate and didn’t hear back?

Whether you’re a freelancer or starting your own web development business, if clients have ever found you overpriced, you’ve probably heard the following when asking around for advice:

“There’s no such thing as a market rate. Only you can decide what you’re worth.”

Or, maybe you don’t know how to price your services and decide that “bartering” is a great way to start your business…

“When I started this (WordPress) business, I exchanged a website for a 6′ fence around my property. The value of the fence was $3,000, so that’s what I got in exchange for their website.” – Phil, WPMU DEV Member

Yes, it’s all true, but it doesn’t generally apply to absolute beginner or intermediate-level freelancers or web developers running their own business.

Of course, if you have a shiny portfolio, or if your calendar is booked out for months in advance (because you’re that good) then sure, you don’t have to think about the going rates or what other people are charging.

The bottom line is, no one wants to work for peanuts. There’s a lot to consider when constructing your pricing model.

Fortunately, we have access to a 50k+ member community of web developers and we have gathered the information presented in this article through surveys and discussions.

Rather than talking about specific pricing and what to charge (which we cover in other articles – see links at the end of this article), in this article, we’ll go deep into how to set up pricing for your services so you can apply these ideas and come up with a pricing model that works for your business.

And so in this post:

  • We’ll show you a surefire way to price your projects so you’re never underpaid.
  • If you aren’t sure what your hourly rate should be, we’ll look at feedback we got from our web developer members, as well as looking at crowdsourced data and the going rates on popular freelance marketplaces.
  • We’ll also see some tools to help you validate your project estimate and ensure that it’s not way off the mark.
  • And in the end, we’ll see how you can meet your annual monetary targets using some cool freelance rate calculators.

Note: This guide is not for you if you’ve reached a point in your career where you can charge what you want. This guide is for you if you’re a freelance web developer or starting your own web development business.

Continue reading, or jump ahead using these links:

Fixed vs Adjustable Pricing

We recently approached our web developer audience and asked the question: How do you currently charge your web development clients?

It’s not cut and dry. Responses revealed some interesting results and patterns.

Fixed vs. adjustable? Is it best to have a set price, so you’ll know what you’ll make? Or, do you adjust accordingly – making the end payment vary?

Here are some insights that will help clear things up…

First, a positive factor of a fixed price is it’s straightforward for you and the client to understand.

There won’t be any guesses on how much the project will cost at the end of the day. Whereas an adjustable price – or hourly rate – may have sticker shock.

Or, the opposite of that might be severely undercharging.

“If you break down exactly what you do and how much time you spend on it, you will probably realize that you really do spend a lot of time on long-term clients, for which you must be compensated. If not, you’re doomed to that joy of the initial sale and payment, a nice dinner, and rent money, followed by the remorse of having demanding clients and overdue bills.” WPMU DEV Member – Tony G.

A scenario of a fixed amount would be if a developer charged a minimum of $740 for a blog-based website and $1000 for an eCommerce.

However, the client goes beyond the fixed amount, so the developer charges for add-ons (e.g., Google Search Console, maintenance, security, etc.).

Or several members mentioned it depends on the complexity of the project. It could range from $1,000 to $10,000. This is where you get into quoting (which we’ll get into next).

Whether you go with a fixed or adjustable price, make sure it makes financial sense, and you’re comfortable with your decision.

After all, there’s nothing worse than doing a development project when you feel like you’re being severely underpaid.

This takes us to another pricing structure, which is…

Hourly Rates

Hourly Rates ensure you’re getting paid for any time you put into your work. This includes everything from correspondence to actual work on a WordPress site.

A benefit is that you’ll capitalize on your time if a project takes longer than expected. That being said, a disadvantage of an hourly rate is if a task takes less time, you won’t earn as much as you originally anticipated.

Here are a few thoughts on this…

“For most projects, I do per-project, value-based pricing. I only use hourly for small things or ongoing maintenance work. Usually, it just ends up being what I feel makes sense – thinking about things like what’s the value, how much I need to be paid in order to care enough about it, how much are they able to afford, how much am I willing to simplify if they can’t afford much, will it contribute anything to my portfolio, do they even need what I offer, would it lead to more work, would I like working with them and will it be an enjoyable project, are there enough quality assets (photography, good copy, a usable logo, etc) available or am I going to have to lecture them about why we need better assets, what tools will I be able to use to build it and how much custom coding will I need to do, etc., etc. Eventually, I just pull a number out of thin air that I feel makes sense. Obviously, I know it’s not super scientific, but if we both feel the price is manageable and fair, then it doesn’t matter how much it is.” WPMU DEV Member – Greg

“Setting a price up front is great but be careful with this line of thinking: if your client asks you to justify your costs and you tell them your hourly wage is $20 because that’s what your up-front billing works out to, that’s all you’ll ever be able to charge them.” WPMU DEV Member – Phil

You can also include several services at once as a bundle. Packages are a great way to charge a higher rate and not chase after additional add-ons down the road.

Some great examples of bundled packages can be found in our additional services article.

There’s a way to incorporate fixed, variable, and hourly rates into the website of your service. The main point is it’s clear to your client what they’re looking for when it comes to costs.

Beyond the Hourly Vs. the Flat Fee Debate: Bottom-Up Estimating

Next let’s look at a helpful project estimating technique that applies seamlessly to all kinds of WordPress projects – “bottom-up estimating.”

What is it exactly?

Dick Billows from 4 pm explains:

“When the estimates of the amount of work, duration and cost are set at the task level, you can aggregate them upward into estimates of higher-level deliverables and the project as a whole.”

Basically, in bottom-up estimating, you list out all the tasks you expect to do as part of the project delivery and estimate individually for each of these tasks.

Next, you roll up these numbers to get the final project quote.

For example, for a WordPress site development project, the typical stages include:

  • Planning
  • Implementation
  • Testing
  • Review
  • Client training
  • Content upload
  • Soft launch (and launch)
  • Post-launch support and maintenance

If we had to apply the bottom-up estimating technique to this, we’d further break down these stages into the actual tasks for each.

At the task level, here’s what this project could look like:


  • Plan IA
  • Sketch out a sitemap
  • Determine the technology stack
  • Understand the functionality to custom code
  • Understand the functionality to prove via plugins (with or without the customization)


  • Build the website
  • Install and fine-tune plugins


  • Check overall functionality
  • Check for broken links
  • Check sitemap
  • Check for access
  • Check performance metrics


Client Training

  • Show the client the way around the site
  • Explain updates and ways of uploading content

And so on.

Once you’ve broken down a project like this into individual tasks, the estimating begins.

And because this estimation technique takes into account every task of the project, it ensures that you’ve paid for all the work you do. Simple.

To apply the bottom-up estimating technique to calculate your project quotes, follow this simple three-step process:

Step #1: List each task you’ll have to perform as part of the project

Don’t skip even the smallest of all tasks. You’ll be surprised to realize how much work you actually put in.

Step #2: Determine how long each of these tasks will take

Don’t club any of the tasks together; add a time tag to each.

As you can tell, determining the right amount of time for the different tasks is critical to making this technique succeeds, which means that this technique will only work if you know how long you take to do the different steps.

But what if you don’t know how much time you take for the different project tasks?

Well, if this is the case, all you can do is guess the time requirements for all the tasks. And create an estimate based on the guesses.

When you make such “guesstimates,” it’s possible to be over-ambitious. You may think that you’ll choose the technology stack in five hours, but you might end up taking a full day.

So don’t go with your first estimate. Consider these three things:

  1. The best-case estimate (a)
  2. The most likely estimate (m)
  3. The worst-case estimate (b)

And your final estimate (E) becomes: (a + m + b) / 3.

(This is a type of three-point estimation.)

Remember: tasks will always take longer than you think!

Also, this whole guesstimation process will work for you for now, but if you want to give estimates that never fail, you need to know how much work you can get done in a period of time.

To find this out, use a time tracking tool. Toggl is a great option to consider.

It has apps for all major platforms, so you can track time even when you’re working locally. You can also set Toggl to launch when you start your laptop.

This way, you won’t forget to log your work hours. Also, with unlimited clients and projects, Toggl’s free plan will cover you fully.

Step #3 : Add up all the time estimates and multiply with your hourly rate

The result is your project estimate. Add to this estimate the time that goes into communicating and collaborating with your client – don’t discount this time because it can add up fast if it’s a big project that will involve a lot of discussions.

Some freelancers also recommend padding such an estimate out with a few extra hours, just in case.

So if you can only make nearly accurate time calculations and set the right hourly rate, the bottom-up pricing technique will never leave you underpaid.

Clueless About Your Fair Hourly Rate?

If you have no idea of what a fair rate will be with the skills and experience you have, try using Bonsai’s web developer hourly rate calculator.

Bonsai allows you to compare freelance rates, taking into consideration your locations and years of experience.

The Bonsai rate calculator uses insights from more than 30,000 contracts to offer suggestive hourly rates for developers based on their roles, skills, experience, and location.

Bonsai states:

“Many factors go into pricing, and this [the rate calculator] should be one of several you use. It can be helpful as a directional indicator: are you above, below, or within the average? The data can also be used to justify your rates to clients.”

Keep in mind the calculator is just a tool – you will be the best person to determine what a fair rate is for your services.

Does Bottom-up Estimating Look like an Hourly Pricing Model to You?

Maybe you’ll argue that the pricing technique we saw above is, in fact, an hourly pricing module. And, of course, you’re not wrong or alone in thinking so.

A few WordPress developers don’t like this method of estimating. They recommend offering a flat rate for a project based on factors like:

  • The ROI the client will get from hiring your services – For instance, how hiring you will get the client an additional $XX each month).
  • The market or niche of the client – For example, “adjusting” the cost based on the client by considering if the client is a solopreneur or a C-level executive in a top company. Essentially, the same service will be quoted at two prices.
  • Availability – This means charging higher if you’re booked out, occasionally discounting if in need of work).

All this stuff is great, but as I mentioned earlier in this article it hardly applies to beginner or intermediate freelancers — especially those who haven’t yet developed the knack of pricing.

How to Confirm That You Aren’t Underquoting

The following tool will help somewhat validate your project quote. It’s not 100% accurate, but this tool should indicate if you’re grossly undercharging.

Project Quote Calculator from WebPageFX

Calculator image.This handy calculator will help you come up with estimates for website projects based on inputs you can adjust.

The Project Quote Calculator suggests rates based on a site’s specifications like the number of pages, features like responsiveness, functionality and more.

If you offer additional services like design, development, copywriting, and SEO packages, this tool will give you a reasonable idea of what to charge for your different packages.

Calculating Your Pricing – What The Experts Say

When calculating prices to charge clients, there’s a lot to contemplate. Everything from your time, complexities, tools, and more comes into play.

“If the project doesn’t call for any special skills, I’ll bid it at $50 per hour. But if it will require 3d or video, or some kind of custom javascript, then I’ll charge between $75 and $100 per hour. I also consider who the client is, what they can afford, and how annoying they might be to deal with.” WPMU DEV Member – Kahnfusion

Any client with no clue about the timeline or complexities might be anxious about hiring a developer hourly. After all, as far as they know, a project could take thousands of hours and be way beyond their budget.

“Here’s how I sell my projects: I am quoting your website project at $6,000. I quote my projects in lump sum costs because I’m meticulous and regularly spend over 100 hours when building a website, making sure all details are accounted for. At my hourly rate of $100, it just wouldn’t be very fair to you to charge by the hour, which is why I’m quoting a lump sum cost for the website. Any additional extras or customization you’d like to do afterward will be charged hourly. This way, I just told them I am potentially going to spend 100 hours on their project, and at an hourly rate of $100 that’s a $10,000 value they’re getting for a lump sum of $6,000. Hopefully, they see the value in this, and it also prepares them to pay $100/hour for extras going forward.” WPMU DEV Member – Phil

A good rule of thumb is to get a good estimation of your client’s needs. Get as many details as possible before starting the project. Narrow down your quote and include a general time estimate on your website.

Here’s an excellent example from Upwork:

Project estimates for developers - UpworkAs you can see, a lot can be included to ensure you give your client a good quote.

Our members mentioned a handful of things to consider when quoting.

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