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Discussion: Do you publicly advertise your pricing?

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pricing
Ah the age-old debate. To show prices or not to show prices on your website. There are pros and cons to both and Go Media has experimented with both in the past. We eventually decided to go against showing prices on our website, but the discussion never seems to go away. How would things change if we decided to show prices? For the better? Worse? Tell me your thoughts.

Showing Prices/rates on your site:

Pros:

  • Clients know the costs before they contact you, thus saving you time on writing estimates
  • You’re likely to get a higher number of more targeted leads when their pricing questions are answered up front
  • You can advertise you have a low price
  • You can put together easy-to-swallow package deals that get you more business
  • Probably more?

Cons:

  • Enables your competitors to undercut you on prices
  • Encourages price wars amongst design studios, thus devaluing the work.
  • Fixes you to adhere to your advertised prices, and when revisions/overages do occur, they’re usually accompanied with guilt and and an angry client
  • McDonalds-izes your business to more of a “store” mentality if you show “Shirt Designs – $150″ for example. Might seem tacky.
  • Probably more?

Hiding prices on your site:

Pros:

  • Each job is different, and requires a custom evaluation/quote.
  • Makes your work feel more valuable
  • Discourages price wars
  • If prices are generally high, you won’t scare off those leads – allowing you follow up and hopefully start a communication between you and the client that hopefully results in a new project being started
  • Allows you to quote a job for more established brands like Nike differently than a job for Bob’s Tool Shed.
  • Gives you more freedom and flexibility when you’re not stuck on a price
  • probably more?

Cons:

  • When you finally tell them the price, it can be unexpected
  • It requires more time to estimate, quote, and explain pricing over and over to each different client
  • Probably more?

Go Media chooses not to advertise our rates on our site. Mostly because we don’t want to appear too “selly” on our site. Another reason, is our rates are generally higher than a lot of freelance competitors (we know we’re worth the price, but a client sometimes just goes by price alone and might talk himself out of even contacting us if he sees that Joe “Freelance” Designer has a much lower price). There are obviously pros and cons to each, so I’m opening it up to discussion. What’s your take on the pricing debate?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

tell us how you feel

About the Author, Jeff Finley

I'm a partner at Go Media, a Cleveland web design and development firm. We also specialize in print design and branding. I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and wrote the book Thread's Not Dead, teaching artists and designers how to start a clothing company. In my spare time, I write songs and play drums in Campfire Conspiracy. I'm a happy husband and an aspiring b-boy and lucid dreamer.
Discover More by Jeff Finley

Discussion

We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • Dayne Henry

    That's some good stuff there, Jeff. I always felt a little weird about showing our prices because there are people out there who charge much, much less for EXCELLENT work. I'd rather talk to the client and let them know what's up personally; changes, direction of the project, research, etc., are all things to consider when creating a custom piece for the client. The only way this really works without a bunch of nonsense is if you're selling stock designs, kind of a what-you-see is what-you-get type of deal. Otherwise, it's pretty hard to McDonalize the creative process.

  • crssp-ee-t

    A big thing here is, competition does use openess on a standard price against you to undercut your rates, if they get a chance. A possible client has found your site, and is not necessarily in the know about who the competition is though.

    An open ended pricing structure, showing some prices or possible prices maybe works though. I think I prefer project pricing over hourly rates, and it's very hard to determine the scope of a project (catch-22).
    Not much help here sorry. It's sure a grey area, thanks for opening the debate Jeff!
    -ty

  • http://www.blog.mookiedesign.com/ Cam

    I think not showing your prices actually gives the impression of a more mature design professional as opposed to the quick and easy template churnning company. i think presenting a budget range w/ a minimum set is better so at least you can weed through the tire kickers.

  • http://www.gomedia.us jeff_finley

    That's something we have considered

  • Simon H.

    Well, I'm discovering that in our market, most of the clients go for the price (especially in our economy). So we don't put our prices up on our website, in case a competitor goes to a client and says, “I'll match their price” :-)

    But I'd love to have the prices up and to have customers understanding that the cheapest is not always the greatest…

  • Simon H.

    I like that, “the mature design professional” impression.

  • zreedee.com

    We have a small design studio in a lost town… And we definitellty think to not show the prices because every project and every client is different and you cannot charge the same to Coca-cola and to a small business because the budget and the resposability will never be the same, as you said…

  • http://www.uneekgrafix.com/ Christopher Magruder

    Great post! I have struggled with this on my site over numerous different versions and designs. The final outcome was to not post them and give them a general range of the services requested. Then once we have agreed on scope I write up a quote, contract and begin the work.

  • Jilladelphia

    I don't display prices. Every project & every client is different. I prefer to speak/meet with the client beforehand. Until knowing exactly what the work will entail, I don't think it's fair for myself or the client to throw a price out there. Plus getting a feel for their personality before the deal is sealed is a nice piece of insight to have, especially if the job will require a lot of interaction with them. I think it instills a mutual confidence knowing that we'd work well together and that could prevent them from being scared away by a large cost. I also like being able to (politely) filter out the projects I don't want before getting to the numbers part with them.

  • http://nieledesigns.com/ Kate Weir

    I don't personally display prices, but I do wish other companies would post their prices. I know that's hypocritical. But right now, when my clients search for a graphic designer, the only prices that they consistently find are for the “$50 dollar logo!!!” sites. So when I quote a logo for, say, $500, they think it's way too expensive. Most of my clients are new to working with designers and don't know much about it, and they're “too busy” to call around to local studios to discover that I'm actually cheaper than my competition, they just agree to take my word for it… but they always seem to wonder if they're being ripped off.

  • Brian

    here where i work, we dont post prices mainly for the same reasons above… we've done 45k sites and we've done 1.5k sites… thats a huge difference.

    If you put on your site “CMS Site: $1000″ you'd kick your self in the ass once you realize that this simple lil cms site took 300+ hours to put all of their content in from their 200+ pages, customize parts of the cms etc… (like one of the 45k sites did)

  • whyknocker

    I think in this f'd up graphics world of budget haggling, who ever names a price first will always lose.

  • http://twitter.com/VRizo VRizo

    I think a logical compromise would be to take a previous job (with the client's consent ofc) and dissect it publicly in terms of cost. For example, a tshirt cost 5k for whatever reason. List the factors that made it so costly, but without giving a concrete number. So whoever checks it out gets an idea of how much it may cost, but you don't end up shooting yourself in the foot. Also a good way to advertise! :D

  • http://www.minwon-mini.blogspot.com/ Mini

    I think if you are selling products then price should always be there and in case of services it should not be given on website directly. It can be given personally after studying requirements and all.

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk/ rory

    We show our prices (well a rough starter price) but we don't have a price list. I agree that because our prices are higher than most freelancers it would put people off straight away. We build industry compliant websites with search engine optimisation so this will be more expensive than your average designer, but a one to one meeting to explain our pricing never scares clients away.

  • http://designawardsgallery.com/ Best CSS Gallery

    I think it's better to show the prices

  • fracturedman

    Yes, not showing you prices can be seen as more professional. But it could also be seen that you play favorites in some cases..how do I know if you are giving me the same deal as someone else with a similar design. I understand that each design may or may not include more work.

  • http://vectorlady.com/ Vector Lady

    I think it's good to show the minimum price…

  • R. Shawn Williams

    I agree with most of the comments here. I don't like to put pricing up front because I like to have the “negotiation” phase with my clients. During those discussions the client has an opp to gauge what makes me stand out from other designers as well as what unique capabilities I bring to the table.

    I think if a client believes you are as invested as they are they will be more willing to loosen up on budget constraints.

  • Kerstin

    We show all our prices on our site. Most of the clients who come to us have been burned in some way but another web design or internet marketing company and we find it helps to build trust with them right away.

    We give base costs and we are very clear as to what is included in the price on the site. They easily understand if they need more pages or want more flash etc, that the cost goes up. So far it's worked out very well for us.

  • http://www.gomedia.us jeff_finley

    Even if you display prices, you could still potentially be playing favorites and cutting deals to different people. But your goal is to make the client feel comfortable and erase their fears of “playing favorites” during your initial consultation.

  • Pete Berry

    I also agree with most of the comments here. I don't advertise prices up front.
    I estimate on a project to project basis because no two jobs are the same. I am totally transparent with my costs and clients appreciate that. If the project requires extra pages, animation or if they're changing the text every 2 minutes they know it will cost them extra.

    It's horses for courses really!

  • http://www.geoffmay.com/ Geoff May

    I don't advertise my prices. I'm not Wal-Mart or Target. I honestly don't want clients who are just price shopping. I want clients who value my work and come to me because they are fans of MY work and are willing to pay for it. Are my prices fair? Most definitely. Am I doing a tee design for $100? Not even maybe.

  • http://www.geoffmay.com/ Geoff May

    I don't advertise my prices. I'm not Wal-Mart or Target. I honestly don't want clients who are just price shopping. I want clients who value my work and come to me because they are fans of MY work and are willing to pay for it. Are my prices fair? Most definitely. Am I doing a tee design for $100? Not even maybe.

  • Burleson

    We don't advertise our project costs, as we bill hourly, but we also don't have a problem letting people know up front what our hourly rates are. When I go to meet with a client for the first time, I bring a packet that contains our hourly pricing, a basic step by step project outline, basic contract and an overview of who we are as a design studio.

    We've been burned (as all have I'm sure) by project pricing, from scope creep and revisions that just go on and on. By having an open line of communication as to what the client is being quoted, what the steps are, and where they are in relation to the project's estimate as the project moves forward really helps. Besides, if the client doesn't have to pay for your time for revisions, they will just keep going without concern for you.

    Remember, the project you quote may be larger in scope than what the client had worked out with another studio, but when they are looking at the estimates, all that they are thinking is “it's a website” or whatever. We've lost jobs initially because the client went with a lower estimate, only to be called in to complete the project correctly.

  • bebopdesigner

    It is obvious: Prices may vary depending on the works. As long as your client knows your hour rate he'll know what to expect. Besides, not having price tags all over the place encourages potential clients to contact you, and that alone gives the opportunity to negotiate. Negotiations are a healthy practice in which both parties can win. What do you reckon?

  • http://wp.contempographicdesign.com/ Chris Robinson

    All projects are different and quoted on a case by case basis, I usually will initially supply my clients with a ballpark figure then once the project is scoped out do some editing then provide the final numbers. I also stick to flat rates, hourly tends to always end up in arguments with clients over time spent.

  • http://wp.contempographicdesign.com/ Chris Robinson

    All projects are different and quoted on a case by case basis, I usually will initially supply my clients with a ballpark figure then once the project is scoped out do some editing then provide the final numbers. I also stick to flat rates, hourly tends to always end up in arguments with clients over time spent.

  • Sonali

    I agree – not to display prices; because every client and project is different and its better if you meet and discuss the prices according to their projects. Advertising of prices might have a negative impact on clients.

  • Sonali

    I agree – not to display prices; because every client and project is different and its better if you meet and discuss the prices according to their projects. Advertising of prices might have a negative impact on clients.

  • http://www.troypeterson.com/ Troy Peterson

    I do not display my hourly rate…
    I live in a relatively low-income area (compared to larger metropolitan areas). While most of my work is for out-of-town clients, I still like to work with smaller, local companies.
    If I were to tell them my rate, they would laugh.

    My rate is about half of what you would find in a larger metropolitan area, but twice as much as most “local” designer (aka, cousin with a computer who “has built a web page”) charge.

    So, it's better for everyone if I just charge on a per project quote.

  • http://www.troypeterson.com/ Troy Peterson

    I do not display my hourly rate…
    I live in a relatively low-income area (compared to larger metropolitan areas). While most of my work is for out-of-town clients, I still like to work with smaller, local companies.
    If I were to tell them my rate, they would laugh.

    My rate is about half of what you would find in a larger metropolitan area, but twice as much as most “local” designer (aka, cousin with a computer who “has built a web page”) charge.

    So, it's better for everyone if I just charge on a per project quote.

  • http://www.kenreynoldsdesign.co.uk/blog Ken Reynolds

    I don't advertise a price list personally. As many others have said some jobs aren't quantifiable by price. If I had a flat rate for a logo or example I'd end up overcharging some customers and undercharging others depending on revisions etc. I'd rather discuss the brief with the client and agree on a fair price for the work I'm doing.
    Another thing that has always been important to me is to draw clients to me through my portfolio. So they contact me because they like how I work, they come to me for what I can do for them not what it will cost them.

  • http://www.kenreynoldsdesign.co.uk/blog Ken Reynolds

    I don't advertise a price list personally. As many others have said some jobs aren't quantifiable by price. If I had a flat rate for a logo or example I'd end up overcharging some customers and undercharging others depending on revisions etc. I'd rather discuss the brief with the client and agree on a fair price for the work I'm doing.
    Another thing that has always been important to me is to draw clients to me through my portfolio. So they contact me because they like how I work, they come to me for what I can do for them not what it will cost them.

  • http://www.ritchielinao.com/ Ritchie

    I advertise my prices but in minimum rates only. Once a client request for a quotation because they did not meet the features they are looking for in my minimum rates, price goes higher.

  • http://www.digitalskratch.com/ Josh

    Good post and comments. I've debated both sides over time and actually use both methods one for each of my sites / companies.

    For my design company I do show flat rates but have it set up as “starting at X amount” so I am not limited to a set price but gives the user a rough idea. I believe the web is all about usability and nothing is more frustrating to users then not being able to find key information such as price, location, contact numbers etc. This also prevents tire kickers from thinking they can get a website built for $200.00.

    But for my web marketing agency we don't post prices as that is more strategic, on going and sometimes less tangible then a “logo” or “website build” so it's harder to specify that with a price list.

  • Laura

    Pricing is really less about your work and more about where you are in your career. A beginning designer with no contacts has to try for those “Walmart jobs” to get business and referrals. As soon as you have an established base, it's time to move to a more mature pricing scheme (as someone commented above.) Unfortunately, you'll lose a lot of the less experienced crowd if you don't display prices because they want to know if they can afford it before they get into negotiations…but those people are the major revisionists sometimes. It's a toss up – just depends where you are in your professional status.

  • jglovier

    Just peeked in on this article and haven't even read any of the comments yet. But this is certainly an important issue – and I'm glad there is some discussion going on about it.

    Certainly there are a lot of pros and cons to both sides, and I think in the end you have to evaluate your individual environment, determine what your clients would expect and how they would act in either scenario, then apply the best decision for your case! (as with almost ANYTHING – Doyeeeeee. Sorry.)

    Anyway I mostly agree with and prefer the hiding of prices. One big reason, is what happens if and WHEN you decide to raise your rates. Well, a couple things. For one you gotta change your site info, but also you might take prospects off guard who had previously seen your advertised price and contact you after you raise the price.

    I think there are many other advantages such as those duly noted, but I also recognize the benefit that having posted fees can bring. Mainly, those associated with the idea of being upfront about your costs. Detours time-waters, higher closing rate on prospects, etc.

    One compromise I think can be made with careful discretion is advertising your minimum hourly rate, or minimum project fee for certain very popular projects, but with the disclaimer that it is subject to “actual billing”, or something like “adjusts for the scope of work.”

    Again, I'm glad this discussion is going on. It's important in an un-regulated and un-associated industry like ours to be open and dialog about this stuff. Certainly benefits everyone.

  • jglovier

    I agree about project pricing and the tricky line it makes you walk. I have recently become much more adamant about actual billing on an hourly rate with my clients. Just like you said, if you give them an “all encompassing” price, they tend toward “client float.” But when you make them buy your work per hour, they tend to think more objectively about what they want and making project decisions. And if you ever don't like what they are asking you to do, you can always rest assured that you are being paid for those hours of revisions.

    I even have a client right now who took my initial input form and copied it to all of her staff just to get all the input. Then they sent me sketches of their design ideas, samples of current marketing work, etc – all without a complaint!

    Now that may seem like over kill in the input arena, but I'd rather have the client that dumps it on upfront than says, “let's see what you can come up with,” then hours of “project fee” later they divulge what it is they really wanted to see!!

  • jglovier

    Laura, I can appreciate your perspective, but I disagree with the idea that beginning designers need to jump at the “Walmart jobs.”

    The only reason anyone should have to jump at “Walmart jobs” is if they are disparate for money, not because they are lacking in experience. A better approach for beginners, IMHO, is to donate work to an organization or cause you would support, or even a band that you love.

    The problem with the “Walmart jobs” is that it always discourages designers from putting their best into it. And why not? Who wants to do their absolute best work and take alot of time over a $50 logo?

    And strangely enough, it seems that clients who are getting work for a steal seem to less appreciate the work you are doing, and question every step all the more.

    But on the other hand, if there is a cause you support or something you just love, you'll have a much greater motivation to put your best into it. And because you are donating it, the client will be all the more happy with the work. And even if they are still very picky, at that point you can put your foot down because they are not paying you a dime for it.

    Didn't mean to rant, but just wanted to make a point. And in the end, I know realistically the beginners do tend to end up with the little prepackaged deals a lot of the time.

  • jglovier

    Just peeked in on this article and haven't even read any of the comments yet. But this is certainly an important issue – and I'm glad there is some discussion going on about it.

    Certainly there are a lot of pros and cons to both sides, and I think in the end you have to evaluate your individual environment, determine what your clients would expect and how they would act in either scenario, then apply the best decision for your case! (as with almost ANYTHING – Doyeeeeee. Sorry.)

    Anyway I mostly agree with and prefer the hiding of prices. One big reason, is what happens if and WHEN you decide to raise your rates. Well, a couple things. For one you gotta change your site info, but also you might take prospects off guard who had previously seen your advertised price and contact you after you raise the price.

    I think there are many other advantages such as those duly noted, but I also recognize the benefit that having posted fees can bring. Mainly, those associated with the idea of being upfront about your costs. Detours time-waters, higher closing rate on prospects, etc.

    One compromise I think can be made with careful discretion is advertising your minimum hourly rate, or minimum project fee for certain very popular projects, but with the disclaimer that it is subject to “actual billing”, or something like “adjusts for the scope of work.”

    Again, I'm glad this discussion is going on. It's important in an un-regulated and un-associated industry like ours to be open and dialog about this stuff. Certainly benefits everyone.

  • jglovier

    I agree about project pricing and the tricky line it makes you walk. I have recently become much more adamant about actual billing on an hourly rate with my clients. Just like you said, if you give them an “all encompassing” price, they tend toward “client float.” But when you make them buy your work per hour, they tend to think more objectively about what they want and making project decisions. And if you ever don't like what they are asking you to do, you can always rest assured that you are being paid for those hours of revisions.

    I even have a client right now who took my initial input form and copied it to all of her staff just to get all the input. Then they sent me sketches of their design ideas, samples of current marketing work, etc – all without a complaint!

    Now that may seem like over kill in the input arena, but I'd rather have the client that dumps it on upfront than says, “let's see what you can come up with,” then hours of “project fee” later they divulge what it is they really wanted to see!!

  • jglovier

    Laura, I can appreciate your perspective, but I disagree with the idea that beginning designers need to jump at the “Walmart jobs.”

    The only reason anyone should have to jump at “Walmart jobs” is if they are disparate for money, not because they are lacking in experience. A better approach for beginners, IMHO, is to donate work to an organization or cause you would support, or even a band that you love.

    The problem with the “Walmart jobs” is that it always discourages designers from putting their best into it. And why not? Who wants to do their absolute best work and take alot of time over a $50 logo?

    And strangely enough, it seems that clients who are getting work for a steal seem to less appreciate the work you are doing, and question every step all the more.

    But on the other hand, if there is a cause you support or something you just love, you'll have a much greater motivation to put your best into it. And because you are donating it, the client will be all the more happy with the work. And even if they are still very picky, at that point you can put your foot down because they are not paying you a dime for it.

    Didn't mean to rant, but just wanted to make a point. And in the end, I know realistically the beginners do tend to end up with the little prepackaged deals a lot of the time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Francisco-Galarraga/609759210 Francisco Galárraga

    I'm also all about not showing your prices. I think it denigrates design, and makes our job seem like a store commodity, that you can return if you don't like or get tired of it, or haggle if you want. We designers/illustrators should think ourselves as service providers (like an engineer or architect would do).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Francisco-Galarraga/609759210 Francisco Galárraga

    I'm also all about not showing your prices. I think it denigrates design, and makes our job seem like a store commodity, that you can return if you don't like or get tired of it, or haggle if you want. We designers/illustrators should think ourselves as service providers (like an engineer or architect would do).

  • Neempop

    When people ask for a price list and I tell them “Each design is unique, and so is the price” =0)

  • David Hastings

    I've been on the “don't show” side for years. It's all custom work and all that. However, I have started displaying some prices. Why?
    Because when it comes to websites for example, I think it's perfectly reasonable to design to a certain dollar figure. I've read others say the design should not be viewed as a commodity but as a service like architects or engineers. I don't think that these, in relation to design, are mutually exclusive. If a client comes to me for a website, the solutions offered come down to the budget available. So, the prices I do display are for clearly defined solutions. I do, however, make it clear will the price are for information purposes only and we will formalize the price once all the particulars of the project have been confirmed.
    Having some preset prices is no different than dealing with budget limitations. I'm not going to say no, I can't design you a website because you only have $1000; I will simply provide a solution within that budget.
    I should say that most projects I do end up have a largely customized prices anyway, due to the aforementioned project particulars and clients don't have a problem with that being the case because they can see how their project differs from the pre-priced packages.

    All this being said, given a preference, would I CHOOSE to display prices. Nope. That's the precious artist in me. I've just found more successful to do so. That's the business person in me.

  • http://www.gomedia.us jeff_finley

    You pretty much hit the nail on the head there David, that's how we feel. We have had lots of good response when we displayed prepackaged website solutions for a fixed price. People just requested it by name and we sold a lot of those. But we went without it since 2006 because we didn't want to look like a fast food joint with value meals up on our site. I think there is a balance to be had though. How to remain professional, classy, and sophisticated yet be able to show that you offer a value.

  • David Hastings

    Yeah, that's right Jeff. Ours is a creative industry and you definitely don't want to devalue that and come across like the McD's of design.

  • David Hastings

    Yeah, that's right Jeff. Ours is a creative industry and you definitely don't want to devalue that and come across like the McD's of design.

  • http://willphillips.org/ Will Phillips

    I don't display my rates publicly (partially because I'm relatively new to life as a working professional), but when it comes to my quotes, I generally will give potential clients an estimate of how long a project will take in hours, break down the milestones, and give them a price based on my estimated hours times my hourly.

    I've found that the more I educate potential clients on all that needs to go into a good website/logo+branding/political ninja assassination (errr, scratch that) and that's why there is the hours needed and cause for the higher prices than the guy who charges $500 for a site in FrontPage with nested tables, they are much more apt to go along.

    And past that, I don't remember where I picked this tip up, but it's been great – I set a minimum rate / number of hours that I will work (usually a half day, as I do this independently apart from an 8-5 job and that works for an evening) to save me from all the hassle of setting up a job, contracts, meetings, and the like for something that only takes me a few hours.

  • sosfactory

    Hey Jeff, very interesting article.

    I have been struggling with this since I started and I think all depends on the model of business you have. Displaying prices affect your image but save you lot of time so finding a balance is the key, this is a dinamic balance because it changes with time.

    In the beginnings when I dint have a big clientele neither experience I displayed my prices because I was working for cheap and didnt expect hooking big profile clients until I had a good portfolio.

    Now I have a stable load of medium and small profile clients and a good portfolio in my humble opinion :), in this case I think having an interval of prices is a good idea. In one hand I get rid of very low budget clients saving lot of time emailing people I dont really want to work with, in other it doesnt affect clients with a reasonably budget.

    In the future when I hopefully work for high end clients I wont display my prices, I expect spending some of my icome in hiring an assistant to give my clientele the most customized attention.

    Summarizing: I grow together with my clientele, bigger and higher profile is my clientele more I will care about my image.

    Cheers

  • local3142

    It's handy for prospective clients to get a 'ballpark' figure of what you charge for basics.

    Listing one or two previously completed jobs and what they cost achieves this.

    A well crafted proposal document that outlines the project, schedule of fees and explains a startup fee, sets the right tone for client communication.

  • Dan

    Excellent job..
    dizi izle