Topic: Discounts?

I've "officially" (chuckle) started freelancing (on the side of my real job as stay-at-home mom of "three under three") with the launch of my first church site next week.    I also created my site last week (linked @ my profile) for my design info. and personal what-nots (I know it is not incredibly impressive, but I'm starting with what I feel comfortable hand-coding), and I put some pricing info. for what I thought would be good after I researched and read up on some stuff. 

I've spent some time looking around at some of Godbit member sites and other designers' sites and feel intimidated about charging when I'm not doing this full-time and don't have a degree in design.   I'm not very confident that I should charge flat rates (around $30 single-page to $400-$800 for small site, etc.) because I only consider myself proficient in xhtml/css, and I don't know the first thing about offering hosting and not a whole lot about CMS.  The last thing I want to do is appear "too big for my britches"  smile  I don't want to get into a project and feel like I'm overcharging because of a lack of experience in some of these areas, even though my time working would be well worth it.   

1) Would it be a dumb idea to advertise on my site that until January 2008 I will offer a %50 discount to all clients I take (since my business is brand-new)?  I don't want to turn people away by making them think I'm an idiot and won't do a good job, but I also don't want to stress myself out.   Should I just not say anything on my site about pricing and talk through it at the time I'm asked to do a job?  I have a large "prospect base" with a large church and lots of contacts since 3 men in my immediate family are ministers... so I'm hoping to get some good jobs in the next year, but I don't want to bomb the whole financial aspect.

2) Can someone point me where I can read online about doing freelance web and the basics of small business income tax issues (kind of FAQ/checklist sort of stuff)?

Thanks a bunch.

Use thy duties, as Noah's dove did her wings, to carry thee to the ark of the Lord Jesus Christ, where only there is rest. ~ Isaac Ambrose

Re: Discounts?

Kristi, I haven't had a chance to reply to your email yet, so I'm glad you posted here - it reminded me! I'll tell you, my BIGGEST concern when I was starting out was justifying charging high when I wasn't that great. I KNEW my limitations and I KNEW the people who charged $50/hour were worth that - and I wasn't.  What I did was just offer strictly custom blog templates and a couple xhtml/css templates to get practice. I did that work outrageously cheap, about $100 a site. Over time I raised it (about every 6 mos as my skills developed) another $100 until after two years a fully custom blog design would cost between $500-1000 and I was finally earning enough to justify it as a "real job". Before that point I didn't really consider myself a designer and I didn't think of it much like a business, but more like a student learning my way through it. Luckily I (like you it sounds) have a husband who makes enough to support us without my income. It's tight, but we can manage, so anything I make is extra.

You definitely don't want to over sell yourself. I've done that before and it's a real downer when the client expects more that you're able to deliver. Be honest about where you're at with this - don't be afraid to say you're still learning - and let it be known that your pricing reflects that.

Another important point about starting out - and learning - bring on another designer/developer to help whenever you can, if you can get enough to pay for that other "partner" to work with you on a project. The experience you'll gain from working as a team and in particular, the expertise they'll bring to you, will greatly increase your chances of success.

As for pricing, I personally try not to mention pricing on my website, though I've remarked that a website will never cost less than X amount just to give people an idea of what to expect (and weed out the weirdos who want a $10 website - seriously I've had those requests)!

Hope that helps,
Natalie

Re: Discounts?

Natalie: I've always wondered how the pros do it, and I'm glad you gave this response. I've known for the most part that hourly rates were the way to go, but could never figure out where to start at, when to raise, and how to justify the rates.

Kristi: You're a far braver soul than I, juggling three small kids AND design on the side. I can't keep up with my desk job as it is!

Ninjas and pirates both agree: cowboys suck.

Re: Discounts?

I'll agree with what Natalie said pretty much.  Don't over sell yourself, but charge enough so you can get by....especially if this is all you do to make money (like myself).

I personally charge around $1000-$1300 for a complete site (usually a musical artist) with a photo gallery, music page, schedule, journal, etc and they can use my custom made CMS with it.  For a simpler site without the CMS and just static content, I charge around $500 or so, or if it's a site for a friend or my church will will stay around $500 and include the CMS as well.

These comes with a year of free hosting, but we will bill them after the year is up.  We use a reselling plan for our hosting which is 100% worth the money.  Once you get enough clients paying to host their site, they end up paying for your site hosting as well.

Then another way of doing this is for larger clients, you charge by the hour.  deciding on an hourly rat for yourself can be difficult, but really what you need to do is determine how long you will be working on it and then cover your expenses plus some extra for that time period.  I personally have only had one job where I billed hourly.

Re: Discounts?

Also remember to network. Network is the key to any job, freelance, or whatever.

My suggestion to freelancers has been to freelance before you leave you day job to build up clients. Once you have connections made and have established yourself, then go fulltime, if you can.

And always charge by hour. If you give a set price for all of your work the client will try and get more for the same amount. You can set a price and then charge by hour for anything outside the contract.

I can talk more about typical rates to charge, if you'd like, but I'm not sure if doing that openly  - here - is the best thing.

Re: Discounts?

Thanks, guys.  You are all so helpful.

We live totally on my husband's income and are happy with that (although - hmm, our mortgage pymt. just went up - taxes - by $200 monthly a few weeks ago - yikes!) - So anyway I am passionate about raising my kids at home and giving them the attention they need and deserve during the day.  When they are asleep (about 7:30), I spend the night time doing what I need to do and reading up on all things pertaining to freelance w.design.  Some nights I've put so much into my day w/ the kids that I just want to go to sleep, but I really do want to do this and am willing to study and learn right now.  I think from your advice it would be best to take my projects on a case-by-case basis and pray about how God wants me to charge for each particular one since I am still not advanced at it.   I feel like right now He wants me to do it out of the goodness of my heart and not charge at all because I haven't been doing it very long (only 2 projects in the last 6 months and nothing before that).  My father-in-law is a pastor of a small church, and he said he'd love for me to do a site for them, and my midwife runs a homebirth business and said she'd love for me to do one for her, too... so things like that might be great starters right now.

I am going to keep praying for wisdom and see when God wants me to charge and then how much.  I am nervous about charging by hour because it's so hard for me to keep track of it with a crazy schedule like this, but I know that is good advice.  Thanks again - God bless.

Use thy duties, as Noah's dove did her wings, to carry thee to the ark of the Lord Jesus Christ, where only there is rest. ~ Isaac Ambrose

Re: Discounts?

Doing the Church and midwives as a case-study (basically free, but you will write about your experiences and what you have learned and what you'd do again and not do again) would be a really great way to get going. Most designers/developers that I know do their Churches websites for free - I know I did and am. What better way to use the gift God has given you then to use it for Him?

Re: Discounts?

Another note on Networking:

Work on building relationships, not just check-writers. It's occasionally necessary to eat into your profit if you think that the result will pay off in the long run. Sometimes it won't, but you only learn by living. Having God involved is a big step in the right direction, as well. On that note, let me say that it's important to tithe on whatever you bring in, and to sow seeds toward your business. I believe that tithing brings protection on the money you have now and sowing seeds opens up the floodgates of heaven for God to bless you immensely. I say make it a habit, NOW, even though you've only just started. If you honor God with the little, He'll bring you a lot. smile

Now that we're talking money, let me say that doing pro-bono work is a great place to start. But beware--and I say this carefully--that the other opportunities that come your way because of your pro-bono work don't turn into more pro-bono work. In other words, don't keep doing stuff for free (unless you feel especially led by God to do it, but I believe that's quite rare) If your pro-bono customers talk to their friends, their friends will come to you looking for the same deal they got--free. The best way to handle this is to let your current pro-bono customers know that you're happy to be doing work for them as a way to build up your portfolio, and you would love any work they could send your way--but as a matter of client confidentiality (it's important in all industries, not just doctors and lawyers) they should keep the price to themselves and instead direct them to you for pricing, as every price is different (no lie here, as any web vet will tell you.)

In addition to limiting the free work, stay far, far away from Spec Work and like the wonderful Mrs. Jost said--raise those rates! As you become better and better at what you do, you should expect to be paid accordingly. Actually, raising your rates can help your business, to an extent. People tend to associate price with quality. As long as you're not over-shooting the competition by a horrible amount, then you should not feel guilty about charging a premium. And I agree with Robert--"You can set a price and then charge by hour for anything outside the contract." An excellent idea!

Speaking of contracts, get everything EVERYTHING in writing. Need some help? Head over to Creative Latitude and have a look at their wonderful downloads, articles, examples and other neat freelance-related stuff.

Last edited by osugodfan (2007-04-03 06:01:23)

You can teach what you know, but you'll ultimately reproduce what you are.

Re: Discounts?

Kristi -

We have always provided design and hosting for free to Christian churches and organizations as one of the ways to use the talents God gave us to His purposes.  Interestingly enough, our first church site wasn't for our own church since they couldn't see the value in it.  They finally came around when the senior minister learned at a ministerial association meeting that smaller churches in the area were benefiting from having a website.  We have found that as long as we continue the pro bono work for Him and tithe (as Micah just talked about), God has provided plenty of commercial clients to keep things hopping for us.

We also benefited from joining our local chamber of commerce, who ended up becoming one of our first commercial clients.  The networking benefit is tremendous.

That's my 2 cents :^{>

Honored to Serve for Him - Tom ('Mas) Pickering <)><

Re: Discounts?

Thanks again to you guys for your helpful advice.  God has already been answering my prayers and giving me the opportunities to act this out in faith with 3 new projects I hope to finish by mid-late Fall - only 1 of them is ministry-related, but I don't feel like I should charge right now.  I am smiling and doing all 3 of them for free, knowing that it's going to help me learn what I need to right now and feel more confident about charging after I have a working portfolio.  I already want to change the first project I did after learning more in the style and design areas, but I'm going to press on and hope each project I do gets better and glorifies God.

Now my nose will be in the CMS "books" for the rest of the month I think.....

Use thy duties, as Noah's dove did her wings, to carry thee to the ark of the Lord Jesus Christ, where only there is rest. ~ Isaac Ambrose