The person requesting your services asked this:
Hey, person X told me that you designed her website. I'm starting up a
company, how much would you charge me for something similar to that
Do not take that initial contact literally. Interpret it like this:
Blah, blah, blah you did work for someone else & I would like to hire
you blah, blah, blah.
Meaning, this is simply a lead to do work. You should not assume they saw another site & they want simply a carbon copy. Human nature being what it is, they most likely want what—key point—they believe the site to be.
It is now your job to define what they want & explore their request. It took me a long time of trial & error to realize I need to phase in clients, but the reality is the quicker you “jump into bed” with a client without a clear definition of tasks & expectations, the quicker you yourself will be burned at worst, be miserable at best.
So I recommend something along the following lines to define & structure your work.
- Stage One: Discovery They have contacted you & they have seen a site you have done, but honestly you do not know what they want or expect. At this stage I would encourage you have a face-to-face meeting with the potential client to go through the details of their request. You can charge a flat rate or do it for free as a free initial consultation. Or perhaps charge a fee and make it clear the fee is non-refundable, but offer that the consultation fee can be used against the final fee.
- Stage Two: Platform Definition/User Experience At this stage you should be in process & perhaps meet again to define the technology that will be used & perhaps define user experience parameters. At this point you are further focusing the work done & agreeing on expectations.
- Stage Three: Wireframes/Engineering At this point you would provide the client wireframes explaining what the site would look like & map out the site. Engineering can be considering lightweight testing on your side to see how realistic expectations set during stage two. Chances are you know your chops & engineering is just a more detailed presentation of what you would be doing at this stage. But play that by ear.
- Stage Four: Design/Functional Design At this stage you are actually doing real work. And how you manage that is your call. But this can be considered past the 50% point. I would recommend setting timelines & milestones at this stage.
- Stage Five: Quality Assurance/User Acceptance Testing At this point the site should be done. But this stage should exist because we are all humans and make mistakes. Especially in a code crunch period. So the way it would be presented is you and the client will go through the site, find things that can be tweaked & work with the client to finalize.
- Stage Six: Launch/Post-Launch This depends on the client's technical expertise. In many cases at this point I simply handed code over to a client & they handled the launch. But at this point the site is true done, ready to go live & that might be your job. The post-launch phase is something you might want to offer as an extra level of quality assurance. Hopefully post launch—when real humans are interacting with the site—all is good & stable. But you need to be ready to job in to fix things if something goes wrong.
I would recommend three payment stages: Consultation, first 50%, final 50%. So using the above outline, stage one is consultation. Once you work on stage two, you should get the first 50% of the agreed upon fee. You should request the final 50% sometime between stages five & six. That is the tricky area. You do not want to pass along code without getting the final 50%, but your call on client trust.
Now the grey area of this structure is post launch. You do not want to be on the hook forever. So perhaps set an hourly rate and state clearly that after the post-launch period has passed you go hourly.