Should we all share our charge out rates?

Paul Boag

With the web community complaining about prices being driven down by inferior competition, perhaps its time to talk publicly about a base rate.

I recently received an email from Eugene, a Boagworld reader. He suggested an excellent topic for our debate podcast season that I would like to explore further.

His suggestion was:

This house proposes that web designers ought to make their rates publicly visible.

What really captured me was Eugene’s reason for this suggestion.

I hear some web designers and agencies lamenting about clients gravitating towards cheaper services. They complain that cheap design undermines the true value of what is a very involving profession. However, agencies and freelancers alike shroud their costs in mystery … while at the same time complaining about cheap competitors. How can there be a cheap when there isn’t a standard bracket?

He goes on to write:

If low prices are destroying the market, surely educating up and coming designers on what is considered the “norm” in terms of cost and quality can only help the industry as a whole.

It’s interesting that Eugene raises this issue, because I have long argued that Headscape should post an average project value and how much we charge per hour, on our website.

We receive a continual stream of email from people who simply cannot afford our services, but have no way of knowing that. Dealing with these enquiries costs both us and the enquirer time. This could easily be dealt with by posting some guide pricing.

Interestingly both Marcus and Chris disagree with me over this issue. They believe that pricing is commercially sensitive and shouldn’t be publicly shared.

I have also heard others express concerns that publishing rates and guide prices may drive away potential clients who might have been a good match. After all guide prices and rates are not always a good representation of value. Some companies charge more, but in turn generate a better return for clients.

It’s an interesting discussion and I would love to hear your perspective on it. Would you be willing to publish rates if you saw others doing the same? What is holding you back? Do you believe that having a more open conversation about pricing would lead to some industry norms emerging? Would that be a good thing? If you are a client, would you like web designers to be more upfront about their pricing?