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I want to hire someone to set up a website. What do I ask to determine competence and integrity of the individual? Is there a chart of reasonable charges/costs? How do I know if I am being over-charged?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by John Conde Nov 10 '13 at 15:40

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Rich do you really expect to find a chart of costs? You can pay a freelancers $2 an hour or hire an agency in NYC at $80+ –  Anagio Sep 4 '12 at 5:04
    
Competence can be determined by looking at work they've done in the past. If they are a young developer, you will have to try them out to find out. For integrity, do background check if possible. You can also ask them to lie (to judge character), plant traps, learn more about them (develop a relationship). Anagio above is right, developers can charge anything they want. from $2 to $200+/hour actually. It all depends on what you can afford, your budget for entire project, etc. Remember, you get what you pay for (usually, but not always). Good luck. –  gijoemike Sep 26 '12 at 3:43

2 Answers 2

What do I ask to determine competence and integrity of the individual?

You should ask for past work experience, examples of his/her work, and maybe education. Don't be too intrusive, or he may raise his prices.

Is there a chart of reasonable costs?

This depends entirely what is being done. Just some examples:

You could spend anywhere from $250 for a few static pages, to $800 for a decent-sized site, up to $2k+ for custom CMS and applications.

How do I know if I'm being overcharged?

You can consult other web developers for an appraisal: ask "what's the value of my [new site]?" But your gut will tell you. If you think you're getting scammed, you probably are. Individuals who do web development tend to charge more than companies, because the companies have many employees and can do a "cookie-cutter" type of thing -- take previous designs and adapt them to your site. You'll want to pay for a domain and hosting yourself because it will ALWAYS be cheaper. (One link above was $120/y for a domain and hosting. In real life, it's perhaps $50.)

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"Individuals who do web development tend to charge more than companies" - I would have said this was often the other way round. Individuals tend not to have the large overheads that companies have. –  w3d Sep 4 '12 at 7:10
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There should be no issue with asking someone for: 1. Examples of previous work, 2. References for that work - and do follow these up. –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Sep 4 '12 at 14:26
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@Zhaph-BenDuguid - There isn't an issue asking about past work, but some individuals I've met often shy away from their educational experience, because web development for some can be easy to pick up, and not require fancy degrees. Some developers I know, never went to college for anything computer related. –  ionFish Sep 4 '12 at 15:30
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@Zhaph-BenDuguid - I still vote for your own hosting. Just make sure it has all the requirements (PHP version, etc.) and your developer is okay with such. Another issue I've seen, is that when devs host it themselves, you never get a hard copy of the source code. That's wrong. You should get what you pay for. Plus, what if he goes out of business or moves? You're left with not options and no money. –  ionFish Sep 4 '12 at 15:49
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@w3d - Example... if I'm working solo, trying to make a living designing sites, one website may take 3 days, another a month. I'd be only to do a fraction the amount of work as a company dedicated to this, so I need to raise prices. (Kind of like manufacturing in bulk). –  ionFish Sep 4 '12 at 16:47

I tried to make the below as general as possible for the individual looking for a small website or someone looking to undertake a large web project. It is meant for someone who knows little to nothing about web development.

Questions to ask and think about

  1. First ask yourself what are your needs? Then does the person/company fill your needs? Is the person or company you're planning to hire do just "Web Design" or are they also capable providing web development including programming services. Same goes for copywriting, some web firms have copywriters on staff and can create content if you need it.
  2. Ask to see a portfolio and/or past projects completed and/or any community type projects. Example, if you're hiring an individual, do they have a website or are involved in some online open source projects? If you are hiring a company they better have a website, check for a portfolio.
  3. If hiring an individual freelancer ask for current and past work experience. Or a 2 or 3 favorite projects.
  4. Ask about their current work load. What projects do they have going at the moment? If they are taking on many projects or are too busy and you have a deadline. There's a good chance your project might not get the attention it deserves or have your project meet the deadline.
  5. Get an estimate first and ask how many hours/weeks it will take to complete the project.
  6. Ask if their rate or price is time based or a flat fee based. What if the project goes over the estimate, will there be additional charges or a different rate?
  7. Ask about bugs. If there are bugs found later will they charge you to fix them?
  8. Ask about maintenance. If there is maintenance involved, software upgrades, or related issues that may require labor performed by a technical invdividual perhaps they will provide some maintenance. Perhaps they provide none and you'll pay for that too.
  9. Support costs. What if you need help with the finished site, or some of your own staff require assitance with the site. Will they support you? If not can you pay extra for it if you need it?
  10. Server costs, email setup and other such charges? What is included? For example if you need an email address added will they help you?
  11. Will they sign a contract of the expected deliverables? A lot of people will not do contracts. That doesn't mean you shouldn't go with them. But it's important to get what will be delivered, at the very least, down on paper so there is no mixups a month or 6 months down the line when they turn around and say to you something like "we never said we would hook up a database!" or "Oh you wanted us to data entry your entire product catalog? Sorry that's going to be another 4 weeks and $6000 more".
  12. Tell them what your budget is after explaining to them what you want. Ask them to tell you how feasible it is to build it. An honest web developer will tell you straight out you do not have enough in your budget for what you want or tell you how/where to make compromises to get close to what you want where as others will just 'figure it out' and do whatever it takes to get your money.

Rates and Costs

The easiest is to find locally owned web firms in your town or close to where you live. Just look in the phone book or yellowpages. Pick a few places and walk in or call them up asking for a price break down. Sometimes it's good to have a face to face chat to get a feel for things. Since you are new to this, take a note how helpful they are with you and if they take the time to explain things in ways you can understand them if need be.

As for charts, checking salary.com you can find various professions and how much the salaries are for certain titles. Here are two:

"Web Software Developer", U.S. National Median Salary: $73,054

"Webmaster", U.S. National Median Salary: $67,144

So lets do a little math. If I hired someone to work for me full time 40 hours a week and I gave them 4 weeks off (unpaid for this example). So a 40 hour work week multiplied by (52 weeks in a year minus 4 weeks for misc whatever) = 1920 hours

  • $80,000 a year salary comes out to around $42 per hour
  • $60,000 a year salary comes out to around $31 per hour

A good decent pay range according to this data point then would be from $20/hr to $60/hr. Rates vary so the upper level of this would probably be in the range of $75/hr to $150/hr.

Then if you're a freelancer it is not uncommon to charge even more then that based on amount of experience like if they are a well known web ninja and this rate climbs fast. For example someone high profile like Thomas Fuchs charges $800 an hour. The best freelancers have the luxury of picking and choosing their clients so don't be offended if you get turned down if your web project doesn't interest them for whatever reason.

You may not know Thomas, but a quick Google search on his name will reveal that he's been involved in some big projects and can be trusted to get a job done. Do the same with the freelancers you find or the companies you talk to. Search Google for any bad signs or complaints from previous clients. You basically do not want to search for them and find some horror story.

Of course you could also go to your local schools or university and see if you can get an eager student that needs work experience doing their first project. They might even do it for free. Some schools even have programs where the students are required to go work at a company to complete their degree. These kids usually want to impress you and do a good job since it effects their education.

Overcharged?

If all else fails and you still feel incapable of handling the tech side of things yourself, hire a consultant that will get these things done right for you and concentrate on other parts of your business.

Being overcharged for a website is very dependent on the work that was done and who was doing the work. It's hard to tell if you don't know anything about web sites. Also if you demand a certain deadline you might be expected to pay a higher rate if it requires the allocation of more resources (humans, machines, etc).

You may not get the quality of work you anticipated from someone charging the lowest rate versus someone charging more.

For example:

  • If someone simply installs WordPress for you on your own web server, and then installs a really fancy looking and free open source WordPress theme on it and end up charging you $3000 for it that's overcharging. But the tricky part is how to know the difference? To you it may look like a super awesome site and your super happy, and maybe it is better then all your friends sites or better then your competition. Now if I charged you $300 or even $500 maybe that might not be so much 'overcharging'. This is why you should probably pay an hourly fee based off an estimate and not a flat fee.
  • If someone custom designed a theme for you from scratch, you should expect to pay for all the time it took, including the back and forth communication it took and design revisions to get to the final product. In this case $3000, $5000, $10000 is not unreasonable.
  • If the company did custom database work, or custom programming work, or even copywriting that might constitute be rates/costs and also shows that more was involved in the creation.
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