Hello and welcome to our community! Is this your first visit?
Register
Enjoy an ad free experience by logging in. Not a member yet? Register.
Results 1 to 12 of 12
  1. #1
    Regular Coder BoldUlysses's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Posts
    938
    Thanks
    10
    Thanked 190 Times in 187 Posts

    Pricing and Policies

    Here's the situation:

    I'm an industrial designer by degree and work for a local point-of-purchase display company as a product designer. I worked as a graphic designer for a couple of years out of college, and recently, with my current company's need to redesign their website, I finished what I started to learn in college and really tackled HTML and CSS head-on, and got some good web design experience.

    I'd like to do freelance graphic and web design work on the side (read: in the evenings and on the weekends). My wife is a stay-at-home mom and in this day and age every little bit helps when you're on one income.

    To that end, I put together a website and printed some business cards to promote our new endeavor. I've done graphic design freelancing before but never under the banner of something as focused as this.

    I've been lurking in this sub-forum, and while I won't claim to have read every thread, I've really appreciated the sound advice many of you give. I've taken much of it to heart in creating a sort-of "Pricing and Policies" sheet for our start-up business.

    Would those of you with freelance experience mind looking over it and letting me know what you think? Anything you'd add? Leave off? Change? We just want to start off on the right foot and avoid common pitfalls. Thanks!
    Attached Files Attached Files
    matt | design | blog

  • #2
    UE Antagonizer Fumigator's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Utah, USA, Northwestern hemisphere, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Alpha Quadrant
    Posts
    7,691
    Thanks
    42
    Thanked 637 Times in 625 Posts
    Will you have a contract that both parties sign, or agree to somehow electronically? A contract should include everything in your PDF plus a deadline and a maximum amount you and the client expect a job to cost.

  • #3
    Regular Coder BoldUlysses's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Posts
    938
    Thanks
    10
    Thanked 190 Times in 187 Posts
    Thanks for the reply. I definitely plan to create a contract as well, but I always envisioned that coming after the initial consultation and quote. Good idea, as is setting a deadline.

    What's the difference between a "maximum amount the client will pay" and a quote? Do you quote the client a smaller number but have them set a ceiling? Or are they the same thing?

    I plan to abide by the advice of some forum members and quote a little low, since overquoting is a bad thing. Hopefully that will give me some time to learn how long things take me.
    matt | design | blog

  • #4
    Mega-ultimate member
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Winona, MN - The land of 10,000 lakes
    Posts
    1,855
    Thanks
    1
    Thanked 45 Times in 42 Posts
    I plan to abide by the advice of some forum members and quote a little low, since overquoting is a bad thing. Hopefully that will give me some time to learn how long things take me.
    I disagree. I don't think "overquoting" is bad by any means. In fact, if I had a choice between overquoting a project and underquoting, I'd overquote every time.

    Why?

    Two reasons.

    First: Every project and I mean EVERY project will have something you didn't anticipate, either a new requirement, extra rounds of QA, something. Overquoting gives you the flexibility as a programmer to not have to go back to the client and ask for more money. Asking for more money is a sure fire way to lose repeat business.

    Second: You will be more likely to come in UNDER the quote on your final invoices. Client's LOVE it when you invoice them less than they originally thought the project would cost.

    The only downside to overquoting is that you don't end up as competitive as the developer who underquotes. But I guarantee you that developer who underquotes has a lot of frustrated clients or he hates his job. Either way, they're in a difficult spot.

    Now, I'm not suggesting you take a 10 hour project and double it to 20 hours. But If you've got a 50 - 70 hour project, adding 10 - 15% to that number isn't a bad thing on a quote. Remember a quote is just that, not a promise, just your best guess based on what you know.

  • #5
    Regular Coder BoldUlysses's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Posts
    938
    Thanks
    10
    Thanked 190 Times in 187 Posts
    Good points. I hadn't thought of that.

    It's just daunting right now since I only have the faintest idea of how long anything will take me.

    I agree a quote is not a promise; how then do you (if you do) charge 50% up front? Is that 50% of the initial quote? Or is that 50% of, as Fumigator said, the client's "maximum amount?"
    matt | design | blog

  • #6
    Mega-ultimate member
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Winona, MN - The land of 10,000 lakes
    Posts
    1,855
    Thanks
    1
    Thanked 45 Times in 42 Posts
    I used to do quotes on a "fixed - bid" concept, where I would say 20 hours for x amount of work. Now, I work more on an hourly concept. I run an estimate to say I expect this project to take 40 hours of work. Then require a 15 hour (usually close to 1/3) non-refundable deposit to start. Once the 15 hours is gone, I start invoicing every 2 weeks. Doing it this way also gives you a chance to more fully explore the requirements and make any adjustments to estimates early on.

    The benefit of this process is that I don't have to constantly re-estimate formally for every change, and it usually transitions nicely into a maintenance agreement.

    One other thought about overquoting and it's benefits. It will also tend to filter out the "money pinchers". I'm sure everyone has a horry story about how they had to deal with clients that wanted the world for $100. By over quoting, if a client accepts your proposal, you know they are serious about the project, and respect your rates. Respect is a big part of business. If someone thinks they can walk all over you, they tend to do so.

    As far as the initial estimate, that really a skill and experience issue. The more you work on projects the more you'll be able to say "I've done a login form, contact form, etc and I know that x will take about 5 hours, etc".

    Finally, keep in mind the concept of cost and quality. Some people will "expect" a shopping cart (or similar custom app) to be x dollars. If you come in too cheap, they may think you're not qualified to do the project.

    The bottom line is, don't sell yourself short. It's better to estimate high and come in under than the other way around - imo.

  • #7
    Mega-ultimate member
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Winona, MN - The land of 10,000 lakes
    Posts
    1,855
    Thanks
    1
    Thanked 45 Times in 42 Posts
    One other quick comment on quoting. It's perfectly acceptable to say "I'm not 100% sure how long this will take". Honesty goes a long way, especially in the beginning. I've often found myself giving a "range" on estimates (i.e. 15 - 18 hours). The more experience I have with a particular aspect of the project, the tighter the range. If I've never done something like that before, I've been know to show "10 - 20 hours" as a range.

    As long as you're upfront and don't try to sneak in something, you'll usually be golden.

  • Users who have thanked bcarl314 for this post:

    BoldUlysses (06-25-2008)

  • #8
    Regular Coder BoldUlysses's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Posts
    938
    Thanks
    10
    Thanked 190 Times in 187 Posts
    Being upfront -- yes, that's definitely key.

    I really appreciate the advice. I'll keep all of that in mind going forward.

    One more question: About maintenance agreements--is that like a monthly fee to make minor changes to a site? I assume you don't host your clients' sites so something like tech support isn't what's included. Do you give your clients a set amount of hours or changes per month before it turns into another job? In other words, where do you draw the line between maintenance and project?
    Last edited by BoldUlysses; 06-25-2008 at 08:54 PM. Reason: typo
    matt | design | blog

  • #9
    Senior Coder gnomeontherun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Houston
    Posts
    2,846
    Thanks
    10
    Thanked 238 Times in 229 Posts
    Maintenance agreements would be some kind of service you provide to have continual updates or tweaks. I personally don't offer this. I freelance so I don't have to deal with my employers constant needs, and I can take on as much as I want. I would say as a freelancer, this is a bad setup because its basically a new project each time. The time required to make small updates can be very draining and take a lot of time that you could be finding new clients and projects which are more beneficial to you.

    If you are a business, then this can be a nice way to keep your business steady. If you work 9-5, it makes more sense. You will want to make sure it has specific terms though, so over 5 hours constitutes a new project isn't covered by the agreement or something.

    Honestly if the client needs continual updating, they should hire someone to do it all of the time. You could setup some kind of CMS which would allow them to do that instead in some cases.
    jeremy - gnomeontherun
    Educated questions often get educated answers, and simple questions often get simple answers.

  • #10
    Mega-ultimate member
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Winona, MN - The land of 10,000 lakes
    Posts
    1,855
    Thanks
    1
    Thanked 45 Times in 42 Posts
    It all depends on how you want to work as a freelancer. For me, I personally like some consistancy in my income, and maintenance agreements really go a long way towards that end. If you have 3 or 4 5 hr/ week maintenance agreements in place at any one time, you're up to about 20 hours / week. Plenty of time to keep to yourself for getting more work.

    If you can structure it right, you'll get a steady flow of income from the maintenance work that will pay the bills, and decent sized projects from time to time that will help you get ahead.

    Honestly if the client needs continual updating, they should hire someone to do it all of the time. You could setup some kind of CMS which would allow them to do that instead in some cases.
    Don't forget, it's often more cost effective for a business person to pay someone 5 - 10 hours / week for work, than it would be to pay someone 20 hrs (usually the low end for PT jobs) + taxes, SS, etc

    I think that's something a LOT of developers miss when turning down maintenance contracts. I personally believe there are more small businesses out there with a $500 / month budget to have someone continuously work on their site than their are people with $10k budgets for one-time projects.

    One of the first questions I always get asked by leads are "Will you be able to help me maintain the site after this project is done". IMO, saying "nope" is not the way to build relationships and referrals.

    The time required to make small updates can be very draining and take a lot of time that you could be finding new clients and projects which are more beneficial to you.
    You seem to imply that you wouldn't bill for all the time you spend on a task?

    Anyway, just my thoughts.

  • #11
    Senior Coder gnomeontherun's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Houston
    Posts
    2,846
    Thanks
    10
    Thanked 238 Times in 229 Posts
    Good thoughts, and it does matter based on your personality and how close you want to be to your clients. I personally have found that I can only seem to manage one or two clients on a regular basis, as they end up taking a lot of time to communicate with and work for. Yes its billed, but at the moment I don't freelance full time. That also means that I have trouble keeping track of everything if I put it aside until the next week when I'll be working.

    I think the more stable you are in your work, the more likely you are to take these types of agreements. The trick is trying to keep track of the hours for ongoing projects, I may take 15 minutes to write an email during the day but not have time to work on their project. Sometimes its a matter of organization, sometimes its a matter of time, but I find that small projects take up a disproportionate amount of time for the complexity of the work.

    I wouldn't pass up a worthwhile opportunity if it was requested, but I also don't mention it. It all really boils down to how your work, and who your target clients are. I like new projects and get rather burdened with a long term project. Its my personality really, but it does make sense to have some stability in your income. I am investigating some ideas and projects on my own which I hope to bring in some supplementary income.

    Ideally you need to have more than one method of bringing home the bacon, especially if you are a full time freelancer. At the same time, be careful who you enter long term agreements with and make sure the terms are clear and well defined. You really don't want to enter something that is only going to frustrate you to death or cause your client to think you are incompetent, regardless if its your fault.

    So thats a lot of thoughts, but essentially it depends on your personality and what you feel works best for your work style.
    jeremy - gnomeontherun
    Educated questions often get educated answers, and simple questions often get simple answers.

  • #12
    Regular Coder BoldUlysses's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Posts
    938
    Thanks
    10
    Thanked 190 Times in 187 Posts
    I missed this latest round of posts. Good thoughts--thanks. The idea of one or two "maintenance agreements" sounds attractive to me given how I'm approaching this--as an additional source of income in addition to my regular 9-to-5. I'm sure everyone likes consistency in their income, but it's doubly important when a family's in the mix, I think. And 20 hours really is the maximum I would commit to the extra job at this point, too. 40 hours (regular job) + 20 hours (design business) = less time for the wife and kids.

    I sent out an e-mail to friends and relatives letting them know about the new "business." Starting the networking process...but no bites yet. I'm sure I'll be on here asking for advice when I get my first web project. At the moment I'm up to my eyeballs in PHP tutorials. Where has this language been all my (web designing) life, seriously?
    Last edited by BoldUlysses; 07-01-2008 at 03:33 AM.
    matt | design | blog


  •  

    Posting Permissions

    • You may not post new threads
    • You may not post replies
    • You may not post attachments
    • You may not edit your posts
    •