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In Web Site Strategy and Planning, Jen Kramer shows that there’s more to building a web site than just implementation. She describes how to create a plan that will ensure the end product meets the client’s needs and is as efficient and scalable as possible. Jen explains how to identify the right technology for the design, whether it is CMS-driven or static, and how to organize content and graphics. She shows how to create a project proposal that includes pricing and milestones that demonstrate to the client that work is being done. She also discusses how to measure the success of the design through analytics and user feedback.
Pricing can be the trickiest part of your business. Typically, a web professional follows one of two paths for providing pricing to their client. You can provide pricing as a fixed price, or a fixed set of services or you can provide an hourly rate with a more nebulous set of tasks. Generally speaking, the client will prefer to go with a fixed price contract because then they'll know exactly how much it will cost in the end. Some contractors will also do a variation on those pricing schemes.
For example, you can provide a top price, meaning the work will be no more than the given price. Others will sell a block of hours to complete a task. For example, they'll give a fixed price for 20 hours of work, which may represent a discount over their normal hourly rate. It's good to tie that price to a specific set of detailed tasks you will complete, so there are no surprises later. The proposal is designed to spell out exactly what tasks you will complete, what tasks the client will complete, and the timelines and pricing for the project.
I always ask my client what their budget is for the project. Frequently, the client will either decline to say or they won't know what their budget is. When working with small businesses, nonprofits and startups, it's best to give some flexibility in the proposal, so they can bend this to what their budget actually is. I like to have flexible pricing for my client. For example, I'll state that the client must pick a scheme for the template, for the website, but they could pick a commercially available template for not much money or they could pick a fully customized template for much more money.
When I write a proposal, I include the following items. First, I provide an overview of what needs to be done with the website and what problems need to be solved, such as a site redesign, increasing site traffic through search engine optimization, improving the graphic design of the site, or moving a site from a static site to a Content Management System. Next, I spell out briefly what I will provide, such as a graphical redesign of the site, a photo gallery, configuring the Content Management System, debugging and so forth.
I also spell out what the client will provide, including content, photos, a site map, or specific logins to hosting or domain names. Next comes the quotation, spelling out each deliverable in as much detail as possible along with pricing for each option. For example, I'll state that the graphic design will talk to the client to get a sense of the branding and the client's likes and dislikes. The designer will then produce three very different possible looks for the website followed by two rounds of revisions for a given price.
I'll follow the same pattern for all of the other services required. If you are specifically excluding anything from the quote, spell that out as well. For example, the client might already have a domain name. So, your quote does not include purchasing one for them. This section might also include additional services they could add if they wanted, such as hosting, search engine optimization services, or content writing and editing. I typically also include a line that says anything beyond the scope of this quote is doable at my normal hourly rate.
Be sure to include a payment schedule. This is how the client will pay you for the work you complete. If you have sub-contractors, you should definitely ask for some money before work begins. It's common to ask for as much as half of the total upfront before the work begins and then the balance, just before the site launches. Unfortunately, there are clients who will decide not to pay you. Hopefully, those clients are few and far between, but it does happen. The best way to prevent that from happening is to ask for money upfront, then hold the site until the client provides their final payment before you launch the website.
It might sound harsh, but unfortunately, when you launch the site without payment, sometimes you wind up not getting that final check. There are some notable exceptions. Most government and university web jobs will not permit money upfront for a project. However, in my experience, you can always get paid for your work in these environments. Although the check can be very slow in arriving. Lastly, include a short biography about you and your subcontractors. It's nice to give your client a little bit of your professional background so they know who they are hiring.
Be sure to include any certifications or degrees you have, as well as any special awards or accolades. Putting together a proposal and pricing can be one of the trickier aspects of running your web design business. Be sure you're very clear about what you will provide to the client and what they need to get you to have a successful web project. When you communicate clear expectations and clear deliverables, you're on a path to a successful web project.
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