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I'm a web developer. I'm 19 years old. I've been working for a year as a contractor doing full-stack development for...$12. Yes. $12 an hour. I decided to take my destiny into my own hands and start a business.

I immediately started building an amazing dynamic single page application for my portfolio with Angular, made my own logo, custom graphics, business cards, car magnets. I got my business license, all that jazz.

I will say that I have had an interview for a job doing AngularJS development for 60k a year. It was at a large company, and I applied after my dad (a Flex/JS developer there) told me about the opening. I heard horror stories from my dad who was part of the interview process. I got an interview, prepared and prepared. When the day came, I blew the technical and administrative interviews out of the water. Solved problems presented to me in more than one way instead of just one, and sometimes in ways that stumped my interviewers. After being told frankly by the office manager that I was the best interview they had had, I was sent home. Why? I don't have a degree and the HR department couldn't justify hiring me anyway because my dad worked there.

That was a long story, but I think it pertains to my issue. I'm not the best developer in the world, but I'm also a far cry from a terrible one. If I can out-interview college graduates, I think I have adequate coding skills to get started.

Before even completing my portfolio, I had a client. It was a friend's friend who needed TWO websites for each of his businesses. I panicked a little. I was in a new situation when he asked how much. In my head, I thought about my empty portfolio, and blurted out $250 for both.

I'm beating myself up inside right around now. These are TWO sites. Both of which need to be single page applications with scratch-built appointment-scheduling systems.

I made around $2,000 gross a month at the contracting job. Although I feel I'm a good developer, I can't bring myself to ask $100/hour. Because I've already quit my day job, I'm kind of at a loss here.

I'm quite experienced with PHP, HTML, CSS, Vanilla JavaScript, and AngularJS. I'm moderate with SQL, and jQuery. (I could do both of those things, but I would have to look at the documentation a little more than the other languages.)

I'm familiar with, and can build dynamic single page applications with Angular, I'm at home with JSON and HTTP requests.

That said, these two sites I'm working on now are the only two things I can claim as mine, and they're not even finished yet.

What would you charge?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Peter MV, Canadian Luke Aug 5 '15 at 17:25

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    This is primarily opinion based and depends on the country you live in. Only you can determine this and still won't be sure if you're wrong. So do as we all do: each new project, try increasing your rate until you're fine with it. Another solution is to check odesk.com and find contractors from your country and see their average price. I did this when I first started freelancing. – Peter MV Aug 5 '15 at 11:05
  • @Allenph, I encourage you to ask at least $30-40 per hour. If you want to keep it reasonable then find a system that encourage your clients to refer you to their network or to buy more services from you. Too low is not good. Some tricks here: freelancing.stackexchange.com/questions/3326/… and maybe find a good designer to work with you, most of us constantly need to hire coders or get asked to refer one: freelancing.stackexchange.com/questions/661/… – go-junta Aug 11 '15 at 4:46
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Okay, you kinda hosed yourself on this first project. Fine, hammer them out, make them nice, and make it clear that you were doing these to build their trust, so they knew you were worth what you're going to ask for next time.

Now, for every other client:

You charge what the client can afford, and you do the job that the client can afford.

What I mean is, you'll do the best job you can for whatever the clients budget is. A $50k project is not going to look like a $5k project is not going to look like a $500 project. Your job as a designer/developer is to help them figure out what their project is going to look like on the budget they have.

I'd recommend (as I have to others) that you watch this presentation and consider reading the presenter's book. It's definitely taught me a lot about dealing with clients and projects.

  • Loved the book. – Allenph Aug 6 '15 at 10:11
  • Yes, excellent, then you know just what I mean! Also, I haven't read the subsequent book(s?), and I'm looking forward to them. – Michael McPherson Aug 6 '15 at 12:07
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If you're looking for a simple answer, I would charge $16 an hour for online projects, $20-26 an hour for projects that provide bulk hours and benefits, and $40 an hour for random as-I-come-across-it projects. Here's my rationale and advice to you:

Get a degree of some kind. At this stage you still have forty years of technical work ahead of you and you will find that many of the most interesting projects have minimum educational requirements. You can persist as a non-traditionally educated programmer for sure, but being this young the return on that investment is going to be tremendous, especially if you can complete a master's degree in computer science (plus you can always do degrees for less time and money abroad and have a great time living in another part of the world, even part-time while you continue working if you feel like it).

As for pricing psychology, the online space is more competitive and at $16 an hour for full-stack development you're going to get more exciting projects and an excellent reputation early-on. You can cash in those good reviews by raising your rates at $1/month for new projects until you start to see a drop-off. But I would be chasing the fun stuff rather than the money and taking the opportunity to grow. Anybody's going to take a chance on a 19-year old at $16 an hour. Just avoid people who don't seem to know what they're looking for, cause they might blame you for it later on.

Earning $20-26 an hour for in-person projects puts you at a great pay rate that won't offend adults whose children are older than you and still in college. The professional jealousy will be less disruptive for developing your career and you'll come out with a solid resume for those $40/hr jobs.

(Did a brief stint filling in to hire tech nerds for elite employers.)

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