Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.

Calculating Freelance Web Developer Rates

3 min read

freelance web developer hourly rate

Asking for an average freelance web developer hourly rate is much like asking how much someone in the US pays in rent. Just as rent varies wildly based on location, size, quality, and the renters budget, web developer rates depend on the project, their expertise, and even where they live. Some developers charge $20,000 per website, while others scrape by at $30 per hour. It all depends on the developer.

If you’re looking to hire a freelance web developer, the first step is identifying exactly what services you need.

What Type of Development?

Not all development work is the same. Do you need a website built from scratch or do you need some updates to an existing site? Can you handle maintenance once it’s up and running or will you need someone on-call to help you out? Are you looking for a simple website with a few pages, or a full-blown E-commerce site?

The most common requests we receive are for websites from scratch, maintenance, and smaller design projects…

Website From Scratch — Building a website from scratch almost always more expensive in the short term than adding on to an existing site. However, add-on’s like a content management system, HTML5, and mobile responsiveness may cost extra.

Ongoing Maintenance — All websites need ongoing maintenance, but not all websites require a developer to do it. Depending on the style of your website, it may be something you can do yourself, so make sure that your developer walks you through the backend of any new site so that you can truly get a sense of whether it’s something you can tackle (and take notes!). If you aren’t ready to handle it, you need to be prepared to have a freelance web developer on hand to help with updates, hosting issues, URL changes, tool integration, or the creation of new pages. Ideally, you should plan to develop a relationship with this developer rather than hiring whoever you can find at the moment you need help.

Design needs — Sometimes freelance web developers also offer design services, such as image creation for blog posts and other website pages. These are typically done for one-time fees rather than an hourly rate or on retainer.

So What Are The Rates?

As we said, rates vary. You could spend $2,000 on a new website, or you could pay $20,000 overhauling a big website you’ve had for a while. A pro might charge you $150 per hour for simple work, while a newbie may charge $30 per hour for a fairly complex project because they are building their portfolio.

With this wide of a range, it’s important to set your budget and determine your needs. The final rate you pay will have to work for you and your developer, so having a number in mind will help you find a great fit while getting a good deal.

For example, if you have an $800 budget and need a five-page WordPress website, that puts you in a certain bracket, and it’s certainly not in the $150 per hour one! There’s no problem with that, but you need to know it before you start reaching out to potential hires so you don’t waste your time on people you can’t afford.

If you’re not even sure what your budget is yet, try asking friends or colleagues what they’ve paid. This should give you an idea of the going rates in your area. Try to collect as much information as possible from real experiences.

In the end, hiring a freelance web developer is always cheaper than hiring an employee unless you are a substantially-sized company…and even then it’s sometimes more cost effective to go the freelance route! For example, paying an employee $80,000 a year, plus benefits, to build a website in three months (so approx. $20,000 in value) will end up being twice as much as paying a freelancer $10,000 to build the same website in the same amount of time.

Where Do I Find These People?

We are trying to make it easier for you to find high-quality developers, but it’s still a little tricky. If you’re searching for a freelance developer, here are some sources to turn to:

Your connections — Your address book is the best place to look for a freelance web developer. Ask your friends who built their websites? What do they use for ongoing maintenance? Who do they recommend? Chances are, they have a secret weapon they’d be willing to refer you to.

Guru — Guru is a website that specializes in matching freelance developers with projects. It allows you to post your project and your budget and is a good option for those on a tight budget.

Stack Exchange— Stack Exchange is a community for developers of all kinds. Tons of freelance developers hang out and exchange tips in this community, so it’s a great place to tap if you have a new project and want to get the word out.

Toptal— Toptal is a newer freelance platform that connects the best developers with clients in need. Unlike Guru or other freelancing sites, Toptal focuses on the best of the best, only accepting 3% of all developers who apply.

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Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.