Paying the price. One way or another.

by Tyler Suchman on July 27, 2009

Today I was reflecting upon a common occurrence among people that I talk to with regard to their website(s).

The people I talk to either want a new website or they have one and want to update/add/delete a design or function of the site. These conversations either happen through email or in person and become a dialogue of  back-and-forth brain picking. They ask how they can do “X, Y, and Z” and I then ask questions relating to strategy, objectives, and outcomes. These are great conversations, and I love having them to figure out what it is people are doing, and how I can help them out.

How Much?

One thing all of these conversations have in common is the inevitability of talking about “how much?”

My favorite conversation starter is, “How much will it cost me for a new website?” That is like walking up and asking a housing contractor how much will it cost you for a new house? Without sufficient background, Q&A, and discovery process to understand what your goals are, you can’t get an estimate for a house that  meets your wants and needs. The same is true for websites.

Why can’t you give me an hourly rate?

No matter how menial the task I always approach projects from an estimate perspective. Each project and set of circumstances is different in the world of web design and development:

  • different servers
  • different programming languages
  • different databases
  • different strategies + objectives
  • different desired outcomes

Different variables can and will produce different results and require varying expertise. So the question of “What is your hourly rate?” is a pointless exercise. How will giving someone who is not educated in the nuance of how I, or any seasoned web professional, approaches a particular solution give them the wisdom to say, “I know that the CSS work for this project will take ‘X’ hours and he charges $100.00 an hour so it should cost me $XXX.XX.”

The estimate is too much

At some point clients would like an estimate based on a set of tasks to be performed, to achieve a certain objective, and have it all done by a specific date. For good, honest, respectable work the world of web design and development it is not inexpensive.

There is an old saying I love to repeat whenever someone comes back to me on an estimate.

You can have it cheapfast, or good—now pick 2.

Don’t get me wrong everyone wants a bargin. I want a bargain. But, if you are looking for expert work and consulting it is not inexpensive. However it is worth every penny!

But really? Is the estimate too much?

Some of the people that receive an estimate from me will decide to go another route and not work with me. That is their right, and I wish them all the best luck and good fortune in the world. I have not one drop of animosity towards anyone who choses another path.

However, I have had a few people come back to me a few months later for some of the following reasons:

  • Your estimate was considered too costly so I went with the cheapest one, what a mistake. A complete unprofessional.
  • I found out that my cousins kid, who is in high school, isn’t as good at computers as he claimed to be.
  • I wanted to figure out how to do this all myself, what the hell was I thinking?

All of these are real experiences I have had with clients who have come back to me after my initial estimate and proposal to them. The one I find most interesting is the last one. Let me explain.

Many entrepreneurs are self-starters and do-it-yourselfers. They like to learn and do things themselves. Sometimes when they receive an estimate from me based on their needs and requirements, either there is a bit of sticker shock or their budget can’t bear the weight so they decide to take things on themselves. For the sake of argument I will use the following example to illustrate what I am talking about.

I produce an estimate based on the scope and objectives the client and I agree on. That estimate is $5,000.00. That price includes complete deliverables; all files, graphics, and coding. When I am done with the project it will work as intended and be set to meet the objectives we have outlined.

The prospective client, for whatever reason, decides not to work with me (as I said which is fine). This experience is not unique to me and happens to all web design/developers. The potential client decides that in order to save money they are going to do this themselves.

A project that may take me 50 hours to complete will take a prospect who knows nothing of designing or developing a website a factor of 5 times as long to achieve the same results (this is extremely optimistic because most people will take longer). So in this case we are talking 250 hours of their time.

That is 250 hours they can spend working on their business, the things they do well, and on making money.

For the continuation of illustration lets say that prospective client charges $50 an hour for their professional time.

250 hours x $50 = $12,500.00

Granted not all of those 250 may not be true billable hours so lets say that 60% of those hours are. The other 40% went to business development. That still provides you with $7,500.00 of income.

You have:

  • made enough to pay for your website
  • gained new clients that could provide additional business
  • have moved your business along to meeting its objectives
  • got your website done 200 hours sooner
  • and made money!!

My final point

My final point is that when it comes to designing and developing your website, no matter what,  you are paying the price one way or another. In terms of being efficient and using your talent, time and money effectively you need to take a moment and think about your approach to your website.

Hope this helps.

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