Guidelines for Small Project Pricing

Our collection of rules and red flags which help us navigate through every small project.


Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of working on a lot of small gigs as a result of my plugin, Supersized, and our company, One Mighty Roar. I currently average about 3-4 small projects a week, most of them with new clients. Through these experiences, I’ve learned quite a bit about how to run through this process as smoothly as possible.

Our Rules

  1. Projects under $1,000 are paid in full before work begins
  2. Hourly rates are preferred to project pricing
  3. If the project was misrepresented, refund and reapproach
  4. Negotiate scope, not price
  5. Save time by including a next step in every email

Projects under $1,000 are paid in full before work begins

This is a great way to avoid being held hostage by scope creep.

While it may be different for you, this number represents a little over a days work, which means it should be a relatively quick and painless project. I used to do a 50% deposit and 50% on delivery, but I found myself running into a lot of “Oh, I forgot to mention…” scenarios where additional features are requested and the final payment was withheld as a result. By taking the full deposit initially, you can re-approach any additional requests at a fairly valued rate, rather than have to cram them into an existing budget.

Projects over $1,000 would require a contract, and are a different story entirely.

Hourly rates are preferred to project pricing

There is some debate in terms of hourly rates vs project pricing, but for small projects, there are very few situations where I would feel comfortable with a fixed project price.

All quotes are hourly, this avoids being stuck with hours of unexpected QA beyond what was intended. If you are on a project price and their site code is a mess, you risk facing the “you touched it last, I hired you to make this work on my site, so you need to handle it” moment.

When integrating with their existing site, there is a risk being presented with unusable code which could add to time needed – or worse, be viewed as a problem you caused. For this reason, I always keep original copies of the pages I edit in case they need to be referenced later in the project, regardless of whether or not the client has their own backups.

If the project was misrepresented, refund and reapproach

This should happen the moment you realize you are not looking at what you expected, before you do any work. I have had scenarios where I was expecting to integrate with a static website, only to find it is WordPress and the expectation is that I create a custom plugin to work with an existing format. In most cases, thorough questioning and a clear scope could avoid this scenario, but you can never account for what clients view as”standard” and therefore fail to mention in your email exchanges.

When this happens, I alert the client and offer a refund, unless they wish to allocate additional hours. I typically get a “thank you for being up front with me” or a “there’s no way I’m paying for that, it’s not what we talked about”.

You win some, you lose some, but the important part is that it’s not your job to make the original hour estimate if it requires more work than anticipated.

Negotiate scope, not price

“I’m a startup with limited funding and am not looking for anything fancy – I just need this one simple thing…”

This line really only serves one purpose, it communicates that they are budget-minded, which means if the costs exceed what they were hoping for, it’s time to negotiate scope. It’s your job to inform them of the costs for the project, and if you’re so inclined, potential options within their budget.

Your hourly rate and time spent do not get discounted as a result – wanting more than you can afford is not a problem that falls onto the vendor. Outside the world of service based companies, it would be laughable if a BMW salesman was faced with a person would really “needed” a BMW, but could only afford a Mitsubishi. These debates should not happen and are a waste of time, if you have a simpler alternative, offer it, otherwise give yourself the luxury of declining the project.

Save time by including next steps in every email

Whenever possible I try to include as many questions and actionable items in the initial exchange with a new contact. Often I’ll receive a vague scope, which requires some clarification, but I still make an attempt to quote if possible. If I have a simpler or alternate way of approaching a project, I am sure to include that as an option as well – part of your job is to educate.

“If you meant the following… then it would be X hours. If this is not what you are aiming to do, then could you clarify…”

Giving the potential client a sample of your rates early on helps you avoid a series of project scope emails, only to find out they aren’t on the same page cost-wise.

Red Flags

We have a few red flags that that cause us to disengage with a contact and cut off future work. Every item on this list is backed with multiple personal experiences that could have been avoided – simply put, they are not worth the headache.

  1. In-depth questions regarding refund policy.
  2. Insisting on a project price with ambiguous scope
  3. The promise of a donation if you add functionality specific to their project.
  4. Hostility and feeling of entitlement

In-depth questions regarding refund policy

If you’re working at an hourly rate in a service based business, there is no refund policy. Extensive questioning regarding refunding should make you more uncomfortable than a person being a little too curious about your local bank’s security system. If someone has an odd number of questions concerning refunds, don’t engage with that person.

Clients need to respect that they are buying your time, and the results within that timeframe are a byproduct. If they run out of funding or become too ambitious for their budget, they can’t be allowed to view their project as incomplete and therefore demand to refund.

Insisting on a project price with ambiguous scope

Accurate project scope is a must. You wouldn’t expect an accurate quote from a contractor if you said “I want a house with a kitchen, bathroom, and living room – how much will that cost me?” (thank you to our Director of Business Development, Chandler Quintin for this one). The same is true when it comes to websites – I always clarify incoming projects with a simple bullet point list, to ensure nothing is overlooked.

Secondly, I am wary anytime a person requires a fixed price for a small project. While I can appreciate the need to allocate a budget, there is a certain amount of realization that comes with any project. I’ve walked into scenarios where the site code was unusable and would require hours of reworking to get where it needed to be. Even though the scope was clear, I couldn’t have factored in the state of disrepair of the site – something that is easily solved by explicitly stating projects are on an hourly basis.

Hostility and feeling of entitlement

When a potential client becomes abrasive upon hearing your hourly rate or estimate, even if they accept, it will not be a fruitful relationship. If they are greeting your initial estimates with hostility, imagine the reaction if additional QA or hours resulting from scope creep are needed. This is not a parking ticket, they can choose whether or not they want to agree to your rates – and if they do, it should not be a continued point of contention. Almost every time this has happened, the client escalates their expectations beyond what you arranged, based on the fact they are paying more than they anticipated.

“Well fine, if I’m paying that price I expect this to be done within the next 24 hours and you will provide a warranty if there are any problems with my site.”

We have something called the “headache tax”, which is reserved for folks that complicate the process by adjusting timelines, changing project scope, or being high maintenance in general. If you’re spending a good chunk of time fielding emails and phone calls regarding the project, be sure to factor that into your estimate – project management time is not free.

Promise of a donation in exchange for work

I will speak to this only in the context of custom work for an open source project, as it has been covered more than adequately for web design as a whole.

I frequently receive emails that go something to the tune of this:


If you add in this [insert project specific feature here] to Supersized, I would be happy to donate”.


As a general rule for Supersized, when time allows, I add in features that would benefit everyone, based on number of requests I receive for certain functionality. This is free for two reasons: 1) I dictate when I am able to work on it and 2) the features benefit everyoneAs soon as either of those criteria are removed, it becomes a paid project.

If you do a few hours of work in exchange for the promise of an unspecified amount of money, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Donations are fantastic, but are not leverage to have discounted labor done. You wouldn’t do a job for free in exchange for the promise of future work, and prospective donations are no different.

What Are Your Rules?

While this list is entirely based on my own experiences, I’m curious what sorts of rules you have established for small projects. I’ll look forward to hearing what you folks have as guiding principles in the wonderful world of client work.

Posted Monday, August 1st, 2011 · Back to Top


Add Comment

79 Comments 11 Mentions

  1. Nathan Author Editor

    These are great ideas to consider. I greatly prefer larger projects, but for smaller stuff like this I also do variable pricing:

    1. Buy X hours up front, get this deal
    2. Buy them hourly, get this deal

    So for example, a client comes and says “I want some tweaking done to my existing site. ”

    I’ll reply, ok, if you buy a $1000 retainer with me, I’ll charge in 15 minute increments. Otherwise, I bill hourly. If you use 10 minutes today, 20 minutes tomorrow morning and 15 minutes tomorrow afternoon, you get billed for 3 hours.

    This helps with consulting jobs, where a lot of time is spent with one off emails that could’ve been condensed into one large list of things. I explain to my clients that it’s a more efficient use of their time to send me thought out emails instead of random thoughts throughout the day and most learn to work in that more efficient way.


    • Dan Author Editor

      Thats exactly what I do. A retainer allows for billing in 15 minutes increment. What’s no fun is when you have a good portion of your week on retainer then it feels like you didn’t get paid ;)


  2. Dinesh Verma Author Editor

    can you please tell me how can i set hourly rates, so that the price is neither too high nor too low.


    • steve42 Author Editor


      but first, cut me a piece of string that is neither too long nor too short.


      • Avi Author Editor

        LOLZ very well said!! :))


      • Dom Finn Author Editor

        I would very much like that string. As long as it’s neither too cheap, nor too expensive.


  3. Webdesign Author Editor

    Great post. I agree and I would suggest:

    1. Do not accept every project. You will get in trouble sooner or later. “Give yourself the luxury of declining the project”. I had some big troubles with projects I new I should not have accepted.
    2. Dont ever believe any future promise if it is attended with a budget discussion. I.e.things like “We dont have much budget for this, but there more to come in the future” “… If my colleague see this new website i guarantee you more projects from them…”
    3. Do have money reserves for refund if you have to get rid of a client exhausting you mojo.


  4. Paul de Wouters Author Editor

    thanks for sharing your experience, lots of great advice here! I also prefer pricing by the project, and usually it’s easier when the scope is well defined such as building a site from a PSD. It’s true that most of the time, small projects where you have to modify an existing site are more difficult to manage, so I like Nathan’s approach to sell “credits”…


  5. Ted Goas Author Editor

    I’m a part-time freelancer and often take on these smaller kind of jobs, so I really enjoyed this article.

    In my experience, “Negotiate scope, not price” is something I should never lose sight of. Many potential clients just need a website or html email. Once I explain what $500, $1000, $2000, etc., will get them, they feel much more at ease in picking what they really need since they know what their money is buying. I also try make it clear that these are estimates, and that after my time is tracked the total $$$ could end up being more or less.

    Thanks for sharing your standard on this topic. There are a few ideas here that I’d like to fold into my own approach. Many thanks, Sam!


  6. Sue Surdam Author Editor

    Thanks for the great article. Your approach is great with benefits both to you and your clients.


  7. Cortney Author Editor

    This is a fantastic article! Paid in full up front for under $1000 is such a simple concept–I jsut hadn’t thought about it like that before. Also, hourlies only for small pjs. THIS was one I learned the hard way.


  8. Nando Author Editor

    A must-read article!


  9. Web Malama Author Editor

    Thanks for this Sam. I’m impressed with both your savvy and the detail of your suggestions. I appreciate you giving detailed descriptions for each item instead of just bullet points.

    What do you use for estimating hours? Do you have some specific formulas, a spreadsheet built over time, or just plain experience to know how long each part is going to take?

    I find that my biggest liability is in underestimating how long something will take me to complete. Or, making a realistic time estimate, getting the cost total and then thinking, “If I was in their shoes, I don’t think I’d pay this much for this work,” and then dropping my price.


    • Sam Dunn Author Editor

      Thanks for the kind words Aaron! Typically the small projects I take on are a result of tutorials I have written here on the blog, which means I’m not faced with many jobs beyond 5 hours, so I have a pretty good handle on what it takes from past experience. I know how much a week of my time costs, as well as a day – if you can establish both of those based on your hourly, it becomes a lot easier.

      If I’ve learned anything, it’s to not be apologetic for your price – it’s the cost that you need to continue to be there to take on jobs like these. The line that I tell folks is “A website is the cheapest 24/7 salesperson you will ever hire”, which should also help put things into perspective for you. Don’t negotiate against yourself, it’s rare that a person will see your price and then never even try to negotiate.

      If they do come back and say “that’s too high” then you just have the opportunity to negotiate scope with them, trimming out all the stuff you wouldn’t want to do in the first place.

      Hope that helps!


  10. Darryl Young Author Editor

    Thanks for putting the time into writing that article. I’ve recently made the big move to becoming a freelance web developer and this is excellent advice that I’ll definitely keep in mind. Keep up the great work.


  11. Carole Author Editor

    Great article. This is one I hear all the time: “I can’t pay much for this job, but more jobs will be coming later that I can pay more for.” Ha ha. More jobs never come later! Run like heck when you hear that.


    • Bruceton Pokiforth Author Editor


      So true, I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard that from a client!
      And it never happens!


  12. Jasper Author Editor

    If I hear the good ol’ “we’ve got more for you when you complete this project in good order” I just do nothing special or particular. I just bill them the costs, and if more work follows so be it. I don’t ever ever EVER edit my hourly tarrif for one simple reason:

    If they don’t want to pay it, you don’t want that client. Thank god I usually work for bigger agencies that to all the client hunting and negotiations with the client. I just report to the big design company, that’s all.

    My advice for smaller agencies: Be bold, and brave. Don’t cut back on your cash to get that client ’cause in the end the client probably isn’t worth your time and headaches. You could cut back on the clients’ perspective, so that you could come to an agreement, but don’t do work below your costs. Also get a big design agency to like you soon, they usually got a great stream of work and a steady income, which you can greatly benefit from. 8 out of 10 big design agencies hire freelancers to do the work, and working for a couple of agencies is perfect for a ‘simple’ webdesigner like me, because it saves me tons of headaches in project roadmapping and administration.


  13. Cesar Author Editor

    Fantastic post Sam. It is really interesting.

    I would add more red flags like:

    – If you work with me I will give you tons of work in the future.
    – The budget is not a problem but….
    – This project will shine in your portfolio, so it pays for itself.

    Nice work, keep it up!


  14. Jason Potter Author Editor

    Excellent rules, especially with if under $1,000 the project is to be paid upfront and in full. If the customer isn’t willing to pay this upfront with such a small project then it is time to walk away from the future potential headache when they attempt to negotiate every dollar you receive.


  15. Suzanne McDonald Author Editor

    Chiming in from the content perspective here: These guidelines apply well beyond design projects. Seems these types of clients are ubiquitous.

    More specific to content, I’d add be wary of clients who are overly concerned with “voice.” Red flag the ones who aren’t focused on engaging with customers and instead seek a site that’s a mirror of themselves and their voice, which is different from tone.

    Thanks for sharing these great insights Sam.


  16. Jennifer Author Editor

    Excellent post Sam! This is great advice and a good outline for me as I just launched my business and have several “under $1000” projects underway.


  17. Dinesh Verma Author Editor

    Best of luck for your future as a freelancer.


  18. Jim Gallaher Author Editor

    I started laughing at “You wouldn’t expect an accurate quote from a contractor if you said “I want a house with a kitchen, bathroom, and living room – how much will that cost me?”

    The first question I get asked after I tell people I do Graphic Design/Web Design…How much do you charge? I always reply with “Well that depends on what you want exactly…”

    They reply with something that’s just like the above quote from your article…


  19. Bradley Charbonneau Author Editor

    This one made my day: “Negotiate scope, not price.” I’m literally in the middle of working on my pricing page and this makes is so much easier. If I have a grocery list of items for that price, I can just chop out some of the items to bring the price down–not lower my hourly rate or “give them a discount.”

    I also try to use the house analogy as much as possible. “OK, so you want a bedroom, a bathroom, a living room and, did you say, a jacuzzi on the roof?”

    I remember talking to a contractor who said, when I asked if there was any way to reduce the price, “Well no, that would cut into my profit.” Yeah, didn’t hire him. A better answer would have been, “Sure, we can get a cheaper water heater and/or maybe a different type of flooring.” I would have been much happier–and maybe would have hired him.

    Thanks again. A huge post that’s helping me to change my ways RIGHT NOW.


  20. Kayla Knight Author Editor

    Awesome points…I tend not to charge 100% up front, just because the majority of my projects are smaller ones (or medium sized ones broken up into two smaller ones, basically). I definitely don’t disagree with charging 100% up front though, it’s an excellent idea in many situations and for many freelancers.

    I think I just do it that way because I prefer getting a few-hundred dollar payment now, and then another in a few weeks; it just helps me budget better personally. I have yet to have any issues regarding this, and for the majority of clients (with probably the exception of agencies or trustworthy clients I’ve worked with in the past), I keep the files to myself until I’ve received payment.

    My favorite tip in this article would definitely have to be ‘Save time by including next steps in every email’. I do this to an extent almost naturally, but I’m definitely going to make more of an effort o do this. Hopefully it will move projects on a lot faster — slow projects that are small are my biggest pet peeve!


  21. Mark Fitzpatrick Author Editor

    We have just finished a project for a customer worth little more than £7,000 to our company. But had the best part of £30,000 worth of coding done.

    I think I will be including a lot from your article for future projects!

    Great read!



  22. Edison Leon Author Editor

    Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences especially the creator of this article.


  23. Julie Gomoll Author Editor

    “Negotiate scope, not price” is bang on, and something I need to remind myself of regularly.

    Another one of my rules: always get your vocabulary/definitions out in the open. Different industries, different geographies, different skill levels – all offer lots of opportunities for miscommunication. Examples:
    * Many clients don’t realize the difference in creating work for print vs the web, so that simple screenshot they need turns into a very different project when it needs to be printed at high res.
    * Everyone has their own definitions of what’s included in wireframes, strategy docs, and design comps. Be clear on what you’re delivering.
    * One person’s tweak is another person’s redo.

    This all falls into being clear about scope. Just always remember to openly define terms, even the ones you think you understand.


  24. egiova Author Editor

    Great article, concise, precise arguments. In general I agree. For my part, I hate arguing, if a client starts to discuss prices, I cut immediatly. I prefer to lose the job than struggling with… sillyness. And I charge on project basis.

    I think it depends on the market in the end. In Mexico you have to say how much you want for a job and… period. You can’t charge on a hourly basis, the job is too abstract for clients, at least at the moment of history. So you need to be highly organised in view to realise the work fast and in time. 100% up front is almost impossible to achieve here. 60% for a start and 40 on delivery. If you’re clear about your possibilities and limitations, there’s no problem. Everybody is counting its coins very carefully, we’re on crisis.


  25. Scot Murberger Author Editor

    I loved the article. I have to admit that I have always found it hard to charge 100% up front for small projects, but I think I’m swayed after reading this. I do have a couple of things that I’ve experienced (not the good kind, either).

    It may be counterintuitive, but I’ve lost a couple of projects because I was the lowest bidder. My bid undercut the budgeted amount by a significant $$$, and even though I had just completed an almost identical project (more back-end than interface), they went with the other bid. So finding an accurate billing amount also extends the other direction, almost as if they believe that if you are too cheap, you must not know what you are doing.

    If a prospect tries to explain who they know, or what organization they are members of, I usually try to disconnect (seeing yet another offer to barter their contacts for reduced/free work). Only once have I been tempted to work this way, and that was for resume-ego reasons (because of who the client would have been).

    I have reduced rates before because it was a job I really wanted to work on (for personal reasons). The big problem with that is that client WILL come back with more work in the future for you, but always expecting that same rate from that point on (“you did it for this much last time”).

    If you do have projects that are phased over several payment periods, I have learned to be clear to the point of being blunt about two things: how much/what is non-refundable and a clear closure date. I had several projects where the price wasn’t an issue, but the client (for a variety of reasons) couldn’t get around to signing off on the final product, and thus holding up the last payment. If the system warrants training, I always put an expiration date on the training period, to create a ticking clock to try to keep them motivated (with provisions to revert to hourly billing for training beyond the date, of course).


  26. Nicholas Tart Author Editor

    Hey Sam! I’m a big fan of the site and especially this post. Lots of smart comments too.

    If you’re charging by the hour, then how do you require 100% upfront? I imagine you have your time estimates dialed in at this point, but what if it takes 2-3 times longer than what you charged up front?


  27. Aaron @ Author Editor


    Just what I needed…

    Confirmation that I have things headed in the right direction, although I do seem to run a little over my time as it seems, projects are always evolving and that profit margin starts to rapidly decrease.

    Outlining in the contract that extra work not presented in the contract has become a must for me.

    The folk that want something for nothing are always the most difficult.

    I am Aaron


  28. Mike Cullinan Author Editor

    Wow! Thanks for the insight. I love the comparisons about BMW & the house contractor. Why are designers constantly in question when it comes to pricing. I think the metaphors will work well


  29. Ben Author Editor

    Excellent article, particularly the next steps in every email…great advice


  30. Sheryll Author Editor

    So far this is the best article I’ve ever read about pricing guidelines. It’s not vague and gives specific example which is great.

    I agree with project misrepresentation. I have many clients who went with companies (the ones that just takes a free template and sticks a logo on it) and says they already have a website but they just need a few things done. The next thing you know they’re indirectly asking you to do a complete redesign from scratch because the original coding is just a mess.

    These are great points you have and I will definitely be implementing many of it into my pricing mode.

    Thank you Sam!


  31. Shawn Author Editor

    How do you handle hosting?

    Do you have the client buy the domain & hosting, then work on the project, load it up, and then it is their responsibilty from that point?

    Or do they pay for domain, but you host on your hosting service, so you can retain service for updating?

    What are the issues involved with this, pricing, rights, and overall convience for the client and developer?

    Thank you, this article is a great starting point.


    • Sam Dunn Author Editor

      Hosting is something we don’t like to offer, except in very rare circumstances.
      Think of it this way – you could develop the project 100% to satisfaction and then have 1 service outage over the course of the year that could leave a bad taste in the clients mouth. Are you genuinely comfortable putting your design/development company’s rep on the line over a couple hundred dollar hosting bill? We vote no.


      • Mike Key Author Editor

        If you’re bringing in enough and running your own server that’s what a mirror is for.


  32. Andiamo Studio Author Editor

    All great points, thanks for posting. Loved the part about ‘needing’ a BMW, absolutely true!


  33. Nicholas Tart Author Editor

    Hey Shawn… I’ve been wondering this same thing forever. I’ve hosted them myself, had them buy hosting, and even used their existing hosting (never again). I’d be interested in an entire post dedicated to this question.


  34. bet news Author Editor

    great info just I needed….


  35. Elias Author Editor

    I ‘m used to work with small projects up to $1000 and i have to say, i love your rules, everyone of them are right.

    One rule i had to implement over time was to force my clients to have one and only one person as representative. Why? because whenever i had a meeting with 2 or more persons of some organization, everyone has their own ideas and the end result is a waste of time. So when they come to me i hope they have already made a brainstorm and know what they want.

    I have another rule, be honest with my clients in that, if I’m installing a wordpdress i have no problems in saying that it’s a free software. In most cases clients thanks me for saying that. It doesn’t mean that who doesn’t tell is dishonest, no, but it’s just my way of doing things.


  36. Mike Author Editor

    Small project pricing? Run like the wind from these projects. A lot of people seem to think that any business is good business and that is far from the truth. Clients with a tiny budget are almost always the ones that are the biggest hassles to deal with. The time spent on these projects take you away from the time you could be spending on something more important.


  37. Nora Reed Author Editor

    These points emerging through a great concept which determine the real fact about small project which pricing are easily to set out with easy time consuming work. Nice article.


  38. Andrew Groat Author Editor

    Wow I came to this party late… :-P

    I love these 2 points:

    Negotiate scope, not price & (avoid clients) Insisting on a project price with ambiguous scope.

    Wiser words could not be said, I believe freelance designers and developers should memorize your rules and red flags off by heart.

    Peace :-)


  39. shyamal Author Editor

    really helpful article


  40. baagdi Author Editor

    great great great post. I appreciate it.


  41. Mike DeLeon Author Editor

    Awesome post!

    I have caught myself in some of those exact scenarios.


  42. Atticus White Author Editor

    Wow what a good read, this answers plenty of questions I often find myself debating as I take on work, or rethink the direction my project begins to steer.

    I’ll definitely take this away with me. Sometimes a lot of small projects are what my work load will look like, sometimes not. After reading this I’ll be able to better pick and choose my clients & projects with some concrete comparisons.


  43. John Author Editor

    This is a great article. When I graduated I jumped straight into freelancing and was taking anything that came my way.

    One thing I learned the hard way is to not agree to a “You get paid when we get paid” contract. This gives your client the opportunity to jerk you around as much as they want with payment.

    Setting a price for small projects is definitely tough, but you’ve made some great points here. Thanks!


  44. Brad Cover Author Editor

    Can’t wait till I can charge up front! As a new freelancer I am currently concentrating on building up an impressive portfolio, so I will take on any work I can get. The headache clients can induce is infuriating. I recently completed a budget site when the client asks ‘how do I turn the site off?, oh did I not tell you I want it offline at certain hours?’


  45. Helmuts Author Editor

    great article, Sam

    have to adjust details and make them my Rules.

    thank you for sharing,
    Media Tower Ltd


  46. Janey Lee Author Editor

    Thank you Sam for this article and for your work on Supersized


  47. Saurabh Hooda Author Editor

    Good article Sam.
    The best one I like is “Negotiate Scope, Not Price”.
    When I start haggling with my potential client on price then client thinks that am too money focused and might create problem with her over money. But when I haggle over scope then client feels that am passionate about my work and educating her for free within her budget. It’s a small but very important difference. Perceptions drive the world :)


  48. Theodore Author Editor

    Really, great tutorial. As a new developer in the game I have already faced some of the problems that you have mentioned.

    May I ask a really silly question? Let’s assume that you have arranged to work per hour, how the client will be convinced that you are actually working ?


  49. Larry James Author Editor

    Excellent article. I am going to implement the rule about all projects under $1,000 are paid in full before work begins. I have being using the 50% up front and 50% upon completion of the web design project. But just as the article mentions, the client will always find something to add on. Thanks for the tips.


  50. شات صوتي Author Editor

    thank for you articles


  51. Web Designing Author Editor

    Wow what a good read, this answers plenty of questions I often find myself debating as I take on work, or rethink the direction my project begins to steer. great tutorial. As a new developer in the game I have already faced some of the problems that you have mentioned. thanks for shearing!


  52. Alex Author Editor

    Wow, this is a great post for me (and i’m sure there are lots of people like me) , because I’ve had this idea to do small projects as a freelancer, but I was not actually sure how to handle all that. Having read your post, I have a general idea (and even specific guidelines) on how to proceed. Thanks Sam.


  53. saha Author Editor

    Excellent post Sam…!
    This post answer many question and resolves many problems. I’m going to follow these ideas.
    Keep up the good work.


  54. Stephanie Author Editor

    I will say you have some amazing insight and spot-on advice. Are you a one man show or do you have more people working with you?


  55. James Author Editor

    Sam. This is one of the best articles I have ever read on the internet. I have never seen anybody articulate ‘rules of engagement’ for small web projects like this. It’s so applicable to so many facets of small business consulting – I love the ‘Red Flags’ and the ‘Headache Tax’. You’re a Superstar. Are the web projects as good as the management?


  56. CCNA Training Author Editor

    I will impliment this idea . Well done guys .


  57. NCode Technologies, Inc. Author Editor

    I agree with your points here. But I suspect that small business client’s will not accept the term of 100% advance payment for below $1000 projects. Because they have limited budget and they always are concious. They might thought that the company will not provide proper support and solutions once they pay 100% in advance. So I prefer 50% advance and 50% at completion of project.


  58. Fredrik Hugås Author Editor

    Nice, good written article. I wish I had read this before I took on some of the projects I’m working on. One of our projects is for our municipality, they are demanding, and suddenly we got told they didn’t expect it to be that expensive, and we are already cheap compared to our competitors in our area, AND this client get a discount for our hourly wage. Now they are saying they don’t have budgeted for this, and wont be able to pay us until next year, when the new budget is ready. This is a project I took over, where the code was not pretty, and a lot of the time has gone into getting to know and rewriting code, section by section, since this was a live project. They didn’t want to plan the project, since their vision was “make the path as you go” This is a project I now start regret taking, because of all the red flags, but I fear I’m in too deep.


  59. Jason Author Editor

    Nice to see your article based on true experiences. It could be handy for many freelance developers and designers who are not well at fixing prices and strategies for the project. It’s a nice learning experience for all those who are at the beginning stages.


  60. roryy Author Editor

    Good points. In my experience customers want more features without paying for it. Everything you discuss must be on paper.


  61. Jeremy Author Editor

    Thank you for this! This is a great resource for anyone who is putting there salary in the hands of others through freelance work. People who teach based off experience are very exciting to listen to. This is a wonderful article.


  62. Eddie Author Editor

    There is some great value in this article for a starter like me.
    Specially the “red flag” and stick to your price part is great.
    Most customers do not want to pay, but want the whole deal.
    Thanks for sharing,


  63. thelivenews Author Editor

    I have learned to be clear to the point of being blunt about two things: how much/what is non-refundable and a clear closure date. I had several projects where the price wasn’t an issue, but the client (for a variety of reasons) couldn’t get around to signing off on the final product, and thus holding up the last payment. If the system warrants training, And Nice, good written article. I wish I had read this before I took on some of the projects I’m working on. One of our projects is for our municipality, they are demanding, and suddenly we got told they didn’t expect it to be that expensive,


  64. James Author Editor

    Nice article Sam! Hourly rate is indeed better than project-based pricing. Most of my online workers prefer this setup.


  65. Bruce Author Editor

    This is a great post. Very solid reasoning behind each rule and good points about the warning signs. When one of the first things a client asks is about refund policy, I always put my guard up. web design CT


  66. Desmond Author Editor

    That sounds just about great. Until your stiff-necked approach starts to lose you clients. Until clients, search for web-design services and find pages upon pages filled with them. Until you realise that a client in your list is worth 10 in the wild.

    Create value before money. Web design is not like companies that are all selling the same identical brand new BMW. Its more like companies selling BMWs with different mileage and stages of wear and tear. Face it, if we all had a “Its cash up-front for USD1000 and below” attitude, we would lose 95% of our clients. Most consumers are always urged NOT to pay full upfront for services rendered – after all, what do they get to hold on to if your work is un-acceptable at the very end. So, create value before money. Make work that is so awesome that the client feels obliged to pay and that the clients refers more business to your door because quite simply, your designs rock and you are the most negotiable person they have ever met!

    I always start negotiating a price with a client by over-shooting by at least 25% and then allow the client to negotiate themselves back to the proper original price or if they don’t, I offer a discount which makes them feel special.

    We Are Goldtree :D


  67. Pauld Mitchell Author Editor

    Very good post. I have learnt a lot of things from here.


  68. Pauld Mitchell Author Editor

    Great Post! I’ve started freelancing very recently and I’m doing a website for my debut customer. I’ve been looking on the internet and asking everyone about how to charge for small projects and I’m very happy that I stumbled across this post. A great write-up. Learned some excellent tips. Thanks.


  69. Vishal G Kamath Author Editor

    I am a web developer based in India, and also a freelancer. Your post helped me a lot in getting me fix a price for the projects I develop here. It was very helpful to me, and will be helpful to others as well.

    Keep up the god work. Cherers !!!


  70. Marvelous Light Services Author Editor

    Fantastic article, we will be definitely tweeting this link to help others.

    Developers and designers are being asked to do much more these days, with reduced time limits and budgets, but increase in expectancy and user experience.


  71. irene Author Editor

    great pricing and user guidelines that would be workable for most small businesses it always helps when dealing with customers to have a clear boundaries and a outline before you start working together.



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