How Much Does it Cost to be a Freelance Web Designer?

I wanted to touch very quickly on something maybe a lot of people don’t know how to calculate when they say they want to be free lance web designers with the idea to make it a full time job.  It’s a difficult thing to do, and it can get surprisingly costly very quickly.  this is a  list of the costs a freelance web designer can be expected to incur, assuming everything is done above board, with “industry standard” software, I’ll probably write a follow up of software you can use that costs a lot less but will do the job.  For now though this is the software you would expect to work with in a big agency or as a professional be able to use and work with..

Hardware

  • Laptop – $400-$600 (don’t get a desktop, a low end laptop should suit most of your needs, and allow you to be mobile to meet clients)
  • Mouse – $20 (the laptop keyboard is fine, but using a mouse speeds up productivity a ton)

Software

  • Adobe Photoshop – $699.00
  • Adobe Dreamweaver – $399.00
  • Adobe Acrobat Creator – $449.00
  • Adobe Illustrator – $599.00
  • Adobe Flash – $699.00
  • Adobe Premier – $799.00
  • Adobe After Effects – $999.00

OR

  • Adobe Creative Suite Web Premium – $1,699.00 + Adobe Acrobat Creator – $449.00

a total of $2,747.88 – $5,654.88 Start up Cost are incurred approximately ever 1-1.5 years for upgrades to software just to keep you supplied with the latest versions.

Web Hosting Components

  • Apache Web Server – FREE!
  • PHP – FREE!
  • MySQL Database – FREE!

Web Hosting plan $9.99/month – $15.99/month or $119.88-$191.88 yearly cost (scales with needs of backups, stability, bandwidth, etc.) Web hosting will consist of the free components but you get all the support you need, you don’t want to be caught up in doing backups and the nasty admin stuff let a pro handle that your a web designer not an infrastructure specialist.

Costs of Doing Business

  • Internet access at home: $40-$100/month
  • Rent: $500-$2000/month
  • Cellphone – $60-$200 depending on plan (clients need to get in touch with you)
  • Transportation: $100-$5000+ Depending on if you take public transit or if you have to fly to meetings across the country/world
  • Portable Projector: $1500 (not mandatory but nice to have)

The Grand Total

The Grand total is: $10,308 – $47,354.88 which is a big range, but again it depends on how much work you plan on taking and the quality of it.  Also I left out Microsoft Office which is helpful to manage invoices and other documents, but that would add on a few hundred dollars more.  If you can keep your rent costs and travel costs down you’re probably looking at a start up cost of about $10,000 with the plan to spend that same amount maybe every 3-4 years, as you’ll need to upgrade hardware, and upgrade most software by then (usually you can get away with running a version or two back except for FLASH.)  You will also have to account for your monthly costs which can range from $600 to thousands depending on travel and rent/mortgage for the home you work out of.  The point is it’s not cheap to be a web designer, so don’t undersell your skills.  It’s become all to common to undervalue freelance work for a few hundred bucks, which I think happens with a lot of young people who see it as just an investment of time, but to run an honest on the up and up freelance business it’s going to cost money, money your need to consider how you will get back and money you need to save for future investments.  You can cut corners and buy software as needed instead of in a package, make sure your first few jobs cover each expense as you need it.

Ensure that for traveling your client pays for your travel and any arrangements you need to make to stay in hotels over night.  Keep your clients honest in what value you bring, and if they are looking to undervalue you it’s probably more advisable to tell them “no” than do the work anyways.  You’re only setting a precedent for them to come back and undervalue you further, and you’re setting a mental new low for what your work value is for the next job you take on.

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