I was talking to a fairly new freelancer (running for about a year) about pricing recently. Let’s be honest pricing is super hard. I’ve been at this for 5 years (4 fulltime on my own) and I have days when I’m not confident in my pricing.

We have all been there and we will all have times we are there again.

Our Freelancer -> Setting the Stage

Our freelancer may have only been running a business for about a year but they have been doing design for 6. They worked in print for most of that time and then went to a technical college in the web program (and yes this is a decent web program taught by people I know in the WordPress community).

At the program they learned about WordPress and how to build websites the right way.

Now we know our Freelancer KNOWS design and is really just finished getting their feet wet with theme building.

Now pricing

Our Freelancer is charging $1000 for a theme design and $3000 to build and design a WordPress theme.

That means that coding a theme costs $2000 based by my math. It also says to me that they value their coding work 2X more than their design work. They’re charging 2X right?

Do you think that in 1 year of experience building WordPress themes they are providing 2X the value of their 6 years of design experience?

NOPE! But that’s how they are pricing their services.

Charging 2X for the building tells a client that they are providing 2X the value when they are coding and during design it’s 1/2 the value of their code.


When I brought this pricing and value issue up the response was:

But I’m so fast at design it just feels bad charging them for all that time. It takes me longer to build a theme and so I charge more for it.

Let me be honest, I have absolutely been there as well. It’s likely I’ll throw the same insane rationale around my head again. Theoretically I’ll remember my blog post and stop the insanity quick.

The rationale is that it takes me longer to build a theme (something I’m not familiar with) than it does to design a theme (something I am familiar with).

I totally see how we get there. We are thinking about our time in hourly increments.


You should not just be charging for the time it takes you to do something. You should be charging for the value you provide.

Over 6 years of design do you think that our freelancer learned how to use Photoshop fast?

Do you think that they learned lots of design fundamentals that transfer from print to web?

Do you think they should make less money on design when they have so much more experience with it?

Of course you don’t you think it’s just a bit insane now that you read it. I bet you have something in your prices that would have the same analogy. You have something that you don’t charge enough for because you’re “fast”.

Speed should have little bearing on your billing. Pricing is all about proving value to the client. Your clients should see that you provide them with more value than you cost.

My counsel to the freelancer was to raise their design rates by doubling them today. That is where they’re real value is currently and they should be charging for that value.

photo credit: Ed Callow [ torquespeak ] via photopin cc

2 responses to “Sure you’re fast but that doesn’t mean you charge less”

  1. Tom Avatar

    This is a good post and you make some really good points.

    I’d add the following: Let’s say during the course of working on one project, you have to develop a custom library to help achieve some arbitrary goal.

    The library you write equates to, say, $500.

    The next time you have a similar project, you can reuse that functionality and still bill for $500 because of, like you said, the value rather than the time saved.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Very true Tom and not something I covered specifically. I have a bunch of libraries like that around that I use for client projects.