I have recently given some quotes to a few people. And I need some advice about how things should be done...

Q1: I've seen, heard of and read about a lot of developers using free resource sites online to obtain free Privacy Policy, Disclaimers etc for their/customers websites.

A customer I quoted the other day expected me to write/get a disclaimer for their site. Who in their right mind would expect a document like that from a Web Developer?

I just told them that they need to sort that stuff out themselves with a Lawyer or something, and then to send it to me so I can paste it on a webpage for them.

Q2: If you're charging per hour, and you estimate that the project would take 1week to finish (including testing/releasing), but you soon realise that you'll require more time, do you RE-quote them? Or do you just finish off the site at the original quote price?

Q3: How do you figure out how much you will charge your customers? Do you charge per-feature, or per hour, or per day, or all of the above?

Thanks :)

  • This should be a community wiki question as there aren't any objective answers to business practice questions of this nature.
    – danlefree
    Dec 29, 2010 at 12:11
  • Shoulda woulda coulda made it wiki - if there was the option. ;)
    – Jason
    Dec 29, 2010 at 13:43
  • 1
    Somewhat related: webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/7055/…
    – John Conde
    Dec 29, 2010 at 14:25
  • It seems bizarre to be charging by the hour for freelance work. Dec 29, 2010 at 17:58
  • 3
    It's not bizarre to charge by the hour for freelance work. :) Dec 29, 2010 at 20:27

3 Answers 3


Strictly speaking, a web developer really isn't qualified to do a lot of what's required to build a website:

  • web design (typography, branding, UX design, IA, etc.)
  • marketing (copywriting, SEO, SEM, etc.)
  • miscellaneous support (hosting, maintenance, employee training, legal, internationalization, etc.)

This is one of the reasons why a lot of businesses opt to hire an interactive/digital agency or full-service design studio.

Also, even though a client might say they want a "website", what they're really looking for 99% of the time is a business solution that includes a website. They don't want to separately hire a web developer, a graphic designer, an online marketing expert, a copywriter, a lawyer, etc. And, especially if this is their first website, they probably don't even know half of the stuff required to create & run a successful website.

So it's not that crazy that a client might expect you to hand over a completed website even though all you know how to do is write code. Most freelance web developers end up having to do some copywriting and other tasks not specifically related to development. Is it the best arrangement? No, probably not. But that's the reality of freelance web development since most freelance web developers try to sell themselves as a one-man web studio.

Personally, I discourage most business owners from hiring a web developer. Developers should be hired by web development studios or digital agencies, since web development as a skillset isn't particularly useful by itself to the average business.

But if you want to be a freelance "web developer", then you need to be flexible and take the initiative to solve these peripheral problems yourself. Client needs a legal disclaimer? Get a free one or purchase one for them. Client needs a great design? Hire or partner up with a designer. Client needs good web copy? Learn how to write or find someone else who can.

If you're going to take the "I'm only going to do the coding" approach and leave the client to figure out how to register a domain and find a web host on their own, then you're going to lose out on a lot of potential clients.


This may get moved, but I'll take a crack at it as is...

Q1: I think you did the right thing. Let them know you don't want to be responsible for creating something of a legal nature b/c it's not your specialty. You could offer links to sites with disclaimers for them to view as examples...

Q2: It depends on WHY it's going to take longer.If it's something YOU didn't anticipate, it's more on your end IMO. If they came back and wanted changes, then it's reasonable to charge them for the "scope creep." Personally, I usually say up front the estimate is for X dollars or "won't exceed" a certain amount (which is usually 1.25 - 1.5 times what I would normally estimate). Then if they have changes, you say, this may add X hours to the time/cost and let them decide if it's worth it. I also think it's standard in bids to say the estimate may have a variance of up to 10%.

Q3: I write down all the things they want in a site, then I try to estimate how much time each component will take with a low/high scale for complexity. Then I tie a dollar amount to the number.

EG: Login feature... needs the db to be setup, pages created, forgot password, registration, etc. etc. May estimate 6-10 hours @ rate...

Also, unless you're expected to walk away from the project at delivery, keep in mind they'll call you for issues. Some will be bugs that you should fix b/c it wasn't right, some will be things like "we'd like this moved lower on the page" and some will be new things that they forgot to have you put in. I break these into "bug fixes" (included in bid) "grey area" items that I'll do if they're quick and I'm already in doing bug fixes, and "enhancements" that you should charge for.

Your mileage may vary.


Organization is something awesome, almost priceless. This is the base not matter if you are a single-man-studio or a studio owner.

The problem is most small business, where most freelancers market is, don't want to or can't hire a studio.

If you want to be a freelancer, first learn how much time each task takes. Having a schedule is vital. Also, keep in touch with some partners. If you are better with design, meet a coder. If you are better with coding, meet a designer. If you need someone to write, look up for a just-graduate journalist or a seasoned web writer. Need a lawyer? Meet one.

You will probably need to know:

  • a programmer
  • a (web)designer
  • a (web)writer
  • a vector illustrator/photo editing
  • a photograph

You can be one of them (maybe two), but for the rest, is better to hire/partner up, as said by Lesè Majesté.

All this was for your Q1.

For Q2: You need to be sharp when starting a new job. I recommend start with a really damn good quiz to your client. What he want/need? How better this is answered, better will be your time estimative.

Second step is to document this (contract), and make a schedule. If your job takes longer due some reason that regards you or your partners, you should not charge, because it was your mistake.

If you miss the job dead line due a client's request, then this should be charged. Not charged, but documented. A client a two days to deliver wants a lot of features he didn't asked before? New estimative, new contract, new charge. Changing mind is his/her problem (but make sure you offered, or most covered offering those things on first meeting).

Q3: Charge per job. And sub-jobs. your designer partner charges $10/hour and will take:

  • 4 hours to mockup
  • 3 hours to finished skeleton
  • 2 hours editing photos

your photographer charges $200 per session (4-8 hours) and will:

  • 2 sessions in different days to click client products and store.

your writer charges $30 per '1500' words...

programming usually charges per feature, per hour or per job. What you feel comfortable. But be truly with yourself does not charge per hour if you aren't a seasoned developer. In this case is better charge per job.

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