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Why Can’t I Pay an Hourly Rate for a Web Developer?

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Sarah Lee Parker

When hiring a web developer for the first time, you may wonder why most web developers give you a flat rate for the whole project. There’s a lot of reasons for this including ease of mind about budgets, experience in these types of projects, and hidden costs every small business owner faces.

You are paying for the work. Your working, wonderful website.

A wall with graffiti on it that says Together We Create

When you engage a website developer, you are contracting for a body of work. The outcome is the website, but the work involved to develop, import and launch the site are all a part of a process. Some parts of this can’t be measured in time as it could take minutes or hours, and this needs to be factored into the quote, and other work flows will overlap.

You need to be organized to manage your freelancer

Pricing the quote for the whole project should also indicate your freelancer is confident in the workload and skills required for the job. Good freelancers are also busy freelancers, and need to feel confident that you, as the client, know what you want and are able to give them all the information they need. The pricing may also include a year of web hosting, support and services.

Clearly defined project scope

Every one hates scope creep! Scope creep is where the work involved in a project starts to change, and become more than what either party signed up for. A well defined project brief created at the beginning of the project should outline exactly what services and outcomes are being provided, and outlines the processes of potential new works or changes. If you don’t know what scope creep is, or how to avoid it, ask your web developer!

A hand holding a pencil resting on a diary with hand written entries in it next to a laptop

What does a web developer do with all the money I am paying them?

Your web developer is signing on to be your project manager, project officer, administrator and department head in your project as well as design the finished product, actually write code and put together a website.

Many web developers need to take onboard extra people to assist in development, content creation or graphic design. These costs are factored into the quote, and each of them will also have their own hidden costs and expenses factored into their project rates as well.

Further expenses freelancers have include:

  • Superannuation,
  • Taxes
  • Wages
  • Software licensing
  • Insurance
  • Accounting fees
  • Membership fees
  • Training
  • Administration

A percentage of each of these must be applied to your project or the web developer’s business is going to flounder. As a freelancer, time spent improving and maintaining their skills must also be factored into quotes. The web is changing quickly, you want your web developer to be up to date with how things are changing and the best way to build your website.

A fixed amount means you can budget easily

A person wearing a blue shirt counting or stacking coins

An ongoing project with no limits can stretch beyond your budget! But if your web developer has experience in similar projects, they can provide you with a figure that once agreed to, is locked in place. Budget blow outs can happen to the best of us, but details on how and when this becomes the client’s problem should be detailed in the contract.

Read your quote and contract!

Always read your contract and if you don’t understand something, just ask! If you have questions about updating your website, or building a new one, just let us know and we would love to have a chat.

You can pay hourly

Even though a lot of freelancers will give you a fixed price, if you ask they may be able to quote you an hourly cost (along with other fixed costs they incur like for designers, content writers or software licenses). A lot of freelancers will offer various different methods of engaging them for work, like an hourly/daily rate or a retainer of a certain number of hours as well as a fixed price, fixed scope quote.

Depending on the project, you may find that an hourly rate will have you paying more and if the scope of your project creeps, so will the bill. If you’re doing a big project, a fixed price quote may also include a discount due to a large chunk of known work, if you’re working hourly, there’s less guarantee of how much work will happen.

A lot of the time developers will work with fixed price, fixed scope quotes because it works best for both parties, they know what they’re getting paid (and what costs they have to cover), and you know how much you need to budget.


So at the end of the day, it depends on what works best for you and your developer. Have a chat to them about what they can do, and make sure you read your contract to see what you’re agreeing to and what options you have in it.

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