A Simple Guide To Estimating Freelance Web Design Project Budgets

When you decide to become a freelance web designer, you’re embarking on something that is both wonderful and terrifying. You have the opportunity to work with other small business owners, design beautiful websites, and help them grow their businesses but now that there’s no boss or project manager around the corner to tell you what to do and when to do it, how are you supposed to know if your rates are too low? Or if a project will take more time than you anticipated?

In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about estimating freelance web design project budgets: from how much time each phase of the process takes, to how much money each phase should cost your clients. We’ll also discuss ways you can avoid taking too much on or undercharging for your services by being realistic in your estimation process. And best of all? This guide is free! Let’s get started.

FREELANCING as a UX Designer tips and setting
Understanding project requirements and scope is essential for accurately estimating freelance web design project budgets.
Researching industry standards and market rates can provide valuable insights into pricing web design services.
Communicating effectively with clients about budget constraints and project expectations can help manage expectations and prevent issues down the line.
Continuously evaluating and adjusting project budgets as necessary can help ensure profitability and client satisfaction.
Utilizing project management tools and resources can streamline the budget estimation process and improve project efficiency.

Understand Your Client

We’ve all heard the adage that you need to know your audience. But in the world of freelance web design, it’s important to not only know who your audience is but also to understand your client. This knowledge can help the proposal process go much more smoothly, and will make sure that you’re quoting a fair price for their project.

Let’s take a look at what goes into understanding your client

Meet with them in person or at least talk on the phone. Emails are easy enough to ignore or fire off quickly without thinking too much about how they come across, but phone calls and meetings allow you to get a real sense of who someone is.

Ask them questions like why they want a website, what they want it to do, and how they got started in their business; listen carefully for their answers, as well as any clues about what kind of person they are so that you can take those things into account when estimating their budget.

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Do Your Homework

After you’ve come up with some numbers, it’s time to check them against the competition in order to find out if they’re reasonable.

For example, let’s say you’re bidding on a project for an online retail store that sells educational toys. As part of your research process, you should find out what similar websites charge their customers for their products and services. You can do this by looking at any promotional materials (like flyers or emails) the client provided and trying to track down some of his competitors.

Next, take a look at other educational toy stores’ websites, making note of any features that are similar to what the client wants. Also, make note of features that are different than what the client wants; these will be important later on when writing your bid documents.

Finally, don’t forget about mobile devices! It’s likely that many potential customers will be using tablets or smartphones instead of desktop computers when visiting this company’s website so make sure its design supports those devices too!

Create A Budget-Conscious Estimate

The first step to creating a budget-conscious estimate is to determine the minimum level of effort required to complete the project. You can do this by assigning a relative number of hours for each task in the project: 1 hour could represent the lowest level of effort, 2 hours could represent an average amount of work, and so on. After you’ve assigned your relative numbers, start adding up all of your tasks.

This will give you a ballpark number that represents the minimum amount of time you need to spend on this project.

When determining how many hours each task will take, be sure to consider both the difficulty level and delivery requirements for each one. For instance, developing an Image Carousel component may be relatively easy but require extensive testing across multiple browsers and devices, which can add up very quickly in terms of time spent.

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Determine The Level Of Effort Necessary To Complete The Project

The first step in calculating your freelance web design project budget is to determine the level of effort that will be necessary to complete the project. This includes thinking about how many hours or weeks it will take you to complete the work, as well as how much time it will take other contributors. For example, if you’re designing a website for a local restaurant and you need five photos of their food dishes, you’ll want to factor in both the time that it’ll take you to get those photos, as well as the amount of time that your photographer friend (the contributor) will need to shoot them.

To make this calculation easier, let’s use our website example. Say that we know there are five dishes we want to be photographed and each photo takes one hour to shoot. With five total dishes, that would mean that our photographer needs to spend five hours on this portion of the assignment (or one hour for each dish).

If we also know that each hour costs $50 for our photographer (which is their standard price), then we can calculate how much money they need from us by multiplying their hourly rate by the number of hours they’ll be working on it: $50 per hour x 5 = $250.

Identify Your Client’s Needs And Wants (Hint: This Gets Easier With Experience)

So, you’ve got your first paid web design project! Congratulations. A great place to start thinking about how to price the website is by asking your client some questions and then listening carefully to what they say in response. Ask them why they want a new site, and what they hope it will accomplish. What problems is their current site not solving? What changes or improvements do they want to see?

Once you’ve got some answers, take a look at their current website (if they have one) and see what it can tell you. Then check out some of their competitors’ sites as well again, if they have them. Are there any elements or features on any of these that seem relevant to the needs your client has expressed? Do you see anything that looks like it might need updating? Anything that seems broken or glitchy?

Once you’ve identified the problem(s) your client wants to solve, identify the audience for whom this solution is intended: Who are those people (or groups of people), exactly? How will this new website help them accomplish whatever goals it is that makes them part of this particular target audience in the first place?

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Map Out A Timeline For Completion, Factoring In Research, Planning, And Design Phases 

Next, you’ll want to map out a timeline for completion. This will be important to your client since it informs how they manage their own schedule and budget. It’ll also help you avoid scope creep, which is when the client asks for more work than originally agreed upon, and ensures that you don’t overbook yourself by assuming that you can complete all of the work in a short amount of time.

Be sure to include room for research and planning before the design phase even begins; this step generally takes up 15 percent of a budget. The design itself varies widely depending on your process (which may include wireframing) but tends to make up 30-50 percent of the total project cost. Development usually falls into the final 25-40 percent.

Lastly, factor in revisions at either end: after the design has been completed but before development begins, and again once development is done but before delivery to the client. Don’t forget about deadlines with each milestone as well this means creating an internal timeline for yourself as well as an external one that can be shared with your client.

Build A Comprehensive Work Order List Using Tools Like Excel, Google Docs, Or Other Spreadsheet Software

The first thing you need to do is build a detailed list of tasks that need to be done for the project. Think of this list as your work order, and it’s important to get it right. This step will take some time (it usually takes me about 3-4 hours), but investing a bit more time upfront will save you headaches later on.

I would suggest using a tool like Excel, Google Docs, or any other spreadsheet software to build your list out. It needs to include:

  • The task name
  • How long it should take (in hours)
  • Who will be doing the task; if it’s an external resource what is their hourly rate?
  • A link where I can find the correct pricing information for that particular task or resource

It doesn’t need:

A lot of in-depth details about how something should be done. Save this for the project/meeting notes once you’ve gotten started on the project and are ready to dig into the specific details with your client (don’t forget, we’re looking at global costs, not specifics here).

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Use The 80/20 Principle To Determine What Must Be Included In Your Quote

When you’re creating your list of requirements and features, ask yourself: what are the most crucial aspects of the project? What would it mean for your client if you didn’t include these features in your final design? These are “must-have” features.

While nice-to-have features aren’t absolutely necessary for the website to meet its goals, they could make a big difference in how much users enjoy their web experience.

Stretch goals are those big, flashy extras that would really get people excited about using your client’s website. They won’t necessarily drive sales or support key business objectives, but having them is a great way to set yourself apart from competitors and position yourself as an innovator in the web design industry.

Be Sure To Include Revisions As Part Of Your Contract

When it comes to web design, there’s one thing we all know: revisions are an important part of the process. And we all know that the number of revisions included in your quote is also important (even if you don’t say so explicitly). So, how do you go about figuring out this important detail when you’re just starting a project?

There are two parts to this.

Determine your budget for project work, and be sure to include revisions as part of that budget. If your job involves a number of small tasks, such as editing and copywriting, then each task is probably not worth its own billable hour. However, if you’re providing a full service, then each task should be costed per hour or per day (or whatever unit of time makes sense for your agency). 

Whatever amount is determined by those factors will give you the total budget figure you need to estimate revisions other than the first draft at around 50% of that cost.

Once you have the total budget figure in mind (How much can I afford?), review what types of work will be provided by looking at previous projects completed by your agency on similar projects and understand what process they use in order to get past the initial drafts to final deliverables.

If there’s anything unclear about this process or something that would need clarification before starting on any given revision or stage in production (such as technical conventions), ask your agency for more information! Getting clear about these terms and processes ahead of time will help everything run smoothly once it does get started, which leads us to our last point.

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Don’t Skimp On Quoting Your Time

Time is valuable, especially if you’re freelancing. There’s no one else to take over projects, so you have to make sure that you’re fully committed to your work. If you’re taking on too much at once, chances are the quality of your work will suffer and it’ll be difficult for you to complete everything in a meaningful amount of time. While there may be plenty of work waiting for you out there, the first step is making sure that what you do can actually be done with the resources available to you.

When setting a budget for web design projects, consider how much time it will take to complete each project. This is important because nothing can replace the time it’s the only thing that’s unavailable and can’t be recovered after it has been spent (for example, paying other people). You should always try your best not to waste your time or set deadlines that are too unrealistic; instead, find processes that fit the demands of the project while still ensuring progress and quality control throughout.

Final Thought

And finally, don’t forget the most important thing: Do not be afraid.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it (even if it’s just a second opinion). Don’t be afraid to charge what you think your work is worth. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a project that doesn’t fit with your style or ethics. And don’t be afraid to say yes or no to asking for more money after the initial quote has been established. After all, it’s your business and your brand. Be proud of who you are and what you do, and stand by those values as you conduct your business!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources that can help you better estimate budgets for your freelance web design projects:

How to Estimate Budgets for Freelance Projects: This blog post offers practical tips on how to estimate budgets for your freelance projects, including how to determine your hourly rate and account for unexpected expenses.

How Much Do Web Designers Charge?: This article provides an overview of the factors that can affect web design pricing and offers insights into the average rates charged by web designers.

Guide to Estimating Web Development Cost: This guide covers the various elements that can impact the cost of web development projects and offers tips on how to create accurate estimates.


How do I estimate the budget for a web design project?

To estimate the budget for a web design project, you should consider factors such as the scope of the project, the level of complexity involved, the number of pages required, the types of features and functionality needed, and the time and resources required to complete the project. You should also account for unexpected expenses that may arise during the project.

How much should I charge for my web design services?

The amount you should charge for your web design services depends on factors such as your experience, skill level, location, and the scope of the project. You can determine your hourly rate by calculating your desired annual income, dividing it by the number of billable hours you plan to work, and adding a markup to cover your business expenses.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when estimating web design budgets?

Some common mistakes to avoid when estimating web design budgets include underestimating the scope and complexity of the project, failing to account for unexpected expenses, and not considering the value of your time and expertise. It’s important to be thorough in your planning and to communicate clearly with your client to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

How can I create accurate estimates for web development projects?

To create accurate estimates for web development projects, you should start by breaking the project down into smaller, more manageable tasks and estimating the time and resources required for each one. You should also consider the complexity of the project and the level of expertise required to complete it. It’s also important to communicate clearly with your client and to factor in contingency plans for unexpected expenses or delays.

How do I communicate my estimates to clients?

When communicating your estimates to clients, it’s important to be transparent and clear about the factors that went into your calculations. You should explain the scope of the project, the level of complexity involved, and any potential risks or issues that could impact the timeline or budget. It’s also a good idea to provide your client with a detailed breakdown of the costs involved and to set clear expectations for the project timeline and deliverables.

Why Is It So Difficult To Estimate Project Costs?

Many factors go into the cost of a website, but the two biggest are how much time it takes and how much time is worth. A freelancer charging $10/hour will have an entirely different budget than a freelancer charging $100/hour. 

However, these “industry standard” rates aren’t always accurate. The amount you charge depends on your skill level, location, experience, and other factors and since every freelancing opportunity has its own unique set of requirements and challenges, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for determining your rate.

How Do I Calculate My Hourly Rate?

Your hourly rate should be based on how much you need to make per year (your annual salary) divided by how many billable hours you think you can reasonably work in that same year. For example: if your annual salary is $60k and you plan on working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks out of the year (keeping two weeks for vacation), then your hourly rate should be about $30/hour ($60k / 2000 billable hours). 

What’s Included In Overhead Costs?

Overhead is the “hidden” cost of running your freelance business; it’s what you pay out each month regardless of whether or not any clients are paying you at that time! Overhead includes things like rent (if applicable), electricity bills – internet access charges- phone service fees.

It also usually covers administrative expenses such as office supplies or equipment depreciation which may not be directly related to client projects but are necessary parts of operating smoothly on a day-to-day basis; we just want to make sure to include them when calculating our budgets too because without these things.

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