You've been working hard to promote and demonstrate how awesome a web design company you are, then all of a sudden people are asking for quotes! But how do you go about putting that quote together?

What's in this article

    Introduction to the "right" quote?

    So how do we get to the "right" quote?  We don't want to quote too low or go too high and risk losing the work.  Quoting can be quite an "art" and can take skill and experience to get it right, so if you are new to quoting for new website projects, then hopefully this article will help.

    Well, we need to understand what to quote for.  In order to do this, we need to consider many factors about how we work and our business, but also get more information from the client.  This will all take time, so we need to decide how quickly we will get back to the client with the quote, otherwise, it could really drag on and the client could go with a tempting offer from elsewhere!

    If you are just starting out, you may not have any reviews, projects to show etc. so you need to think about how you will go about acquiring these.  Chances are you'll need to quote less than established businesses in order to get the work and get the case studies.  Once you have these and have worked out your USPs and positioning to help yourself stand out, then you can start to increase your quotes over time.

    As mentioned above, we need to discover more about the client, their business, their goals and about their customers too.  We'll call this stage "Discovery"...

    “Perhaps the reason price is all your customers care about is because you haven’t given them anything else to care about.”

    - Seth Godin


    Discovery is not all about the client, it gives you a chance to communicate with them and qualify the lead - what will this client be like to work with?  Are they actually a suitable client?  Can you customise your quote to suit this client?  Could they even be a scammer!

    This stage also allows you to learn about the client and what they want to do and really get under the skin of the project.  Noone knows better what they do on a daily basis than your client and this is your chance to get as familiar as you can so you can propose the right solutions.  Take some time to research your clients market and see what competitors are doing and go back to the client with any questions you have.


    Your overheads

    Consider what overheads your business has.  The only way to pay for these is to sell what you and make sure your website quotes have enough meat in them to cover all your overheads.  Of course this is something that will change over time and you'll need to adapt your quotes to match this.

    In the UK we are currently in a time of high-inflation with surging costs.  Our website quotes need to reflect this so we can make ends meet.

    How much planning does it need?

    Different website projects require a varying amounts of planning.  A big site may have lots of pages and content to plan, but if a small site has quite a few different audiences, then it could also need quite a lot of planning.

    Once you have completed the Discovery phase you will have a good feel for the target audiences and can start to think about the planning side of the project.  Your quote needs to allow sufficient budget to get this right so the project is a success

    How long will you spend designing the website?

    How many designs will you do?  Will you design just the home page and everything flows from there, or the key page types or literally every single page?  I find the design workload is really cumulative, once you start designing all the pages and include mobile and tablet too, the design phase grows into a huge consideration.

    Are you going to present one option, or multiple?  Do you have the budget to start prototyping, so the client can actually click on buttons and get a feed for the user journey?  What if the client rejects the first design?  How many rounds of changes will you include?  It's all got to be factored into the website quote.

    We must consider the user experience (UX) in the planning and design stages and I'm sure your customer would rather pay for someone who considers UX, over someone who "just makes it look pretty".

    “When UX doesn’t consider ALL users, shouldn’t it be known as “SOME User Experience” or… SUX?”

    — Billy Gregory, Senior Accessibility Engineer

    What is the tech stack?

    Consider what technology you will use for the job.  Is it Open Source, or will it require a paid subscription for all or part of it?  Will the project require actual programming, or mainly HTML and CSS?

    Now factor in the cost of staff time.  Who is involved, are they quite junior or senior? The junior staff will be on a lower rate, but they may take longer to complete tasks.

    Will this project tie up one member of staff for a long time, preventing them from working on other projects?  This could be a logistical issue rather than something that heavily impacts the quote, but it needs consideration.

    Tech Stack

    How many people are involved at the client's end?

    When working for larger companies, there tend to be more people involved in the review of the website at every stage, than will sole traders or very small organisations.  The more people involved there are, the more opinions, which means more feedback and potentially more work.  In your website quote, be prepared for the extra project management and feedback that will follow.

    Another issue is staff turnover.  Key decision makers can leave or arrive during the process.  If the client hires a new marketing manager you can bet they're going to want to have their say in the project.  This will likely mean re-doing work, which the client will need to pay for.  This might not be something you can foresee and build into a quote, it's more something to bear in mind and be prepared for.

    Fixed-price project vs retainer

    A project (where the client pays up-front or on completion) gets the cash in quicker than the retainer or Saas style model where you charge monthly for a period of time.  However, the retainer could be more profitable over time.

    If paying a retainer, it is potentially more affordable for the client, allowing them to spread the cost, with no large upfront cost.  Also, it can arguably, give more of a guarantee that the web developer is going to keep it running and is giving it the ongoing attention that the website needs.

    Retainers can also offer a simple one-cost monthly proposition, which is easy for clients to digest, leading to a decision to purchase.  However, some clients want to secure a budget for the whole project from management or by acquiring funding, so it could be simpler if you supply them with a project cost up front.  You will need to assess which pricing model your client wants to go with to make your quote and proposal look as attractive as possible.

    Copywriting, video and photography

    You will need to ask your client if they want these services up front so you know whether to quote for them too.  If you are getting commission make sure you really sell the value of the services.

    If they have the budget, professional copywriting can make a huge difference, providing the Copywriter understands the client, their products and services and their tone of voice.  The same can be said for video, a custom video can help make the website seem personal and more of a high quality presence than using stock media.

    Asking about these content -related services shows you are planning their whole project and thinking about the quality of the completed website.

    “Copywriting is one of the most important skills you can have in business and one of the most important skills you can have in life.”

    - Sam Parr 

    Project and client management

    How many meetings will you allow for, internal and external?  The cost can really add up, especially clients who love regular meetings.

    Meetings will take up your time which needs to be paid for.  It's going to be especially time consuming if you are travelling to the clients office.  As a bare-minimum be prepared for at least a discovery meeting, a meeting half way and potentially one at the end.

    Extra technical factors

    Remember to take into account when quoting for a new website project, all the extra technical items such as setting up the website on your hosting, configuring email (if required), copying database and files to the live server space etc.

    There is even your time to purchase the clients domain name if they don't have one already, or liaising with their current provider to get control of their domain.

    Other things we spend time and budget on are: Purchasing CMS addons and other software involved in the design and creation of client websites and our tools such as Adobe XD and Creative Cloud.

    Server maintenance

    Ongoing costs, marketing and maintenance

    There are a lot of costs that a web design agency doesn't have like a van or warehouse, but we have other ones like hosting and software.  And some of this software costs big money, it's got to be covered in our estiamtes.

    Some websites have direct softare costs like site plugins/addons and subscriptions to keep them going.  Your quote needs to be really detailed because if you offer something that has a big monthly cost and you don't account for it correctly, this could end up costing you on an on-going basis!

    Include in your estimate the cost of website maintenance and software updates and any inclusive changes and amends you want to offer too.

    The project may also need ongoing marketing, such as Search Engine Optimisation, SEO, PPC, content creation etc.

    Add plenty of scope to the proposal or quote

    It's possible that you and your client interpret things in different ways.  They may be expecting things to be included that you are not able to provide within the price.  With this in mind, scope out the project in detail, add assumptions to say what you understand from the brief, and specify any limitations to each stage of the work.

    Mention the rough number of pages, features, functionality to be delivered and if the client is to handle any of the data entry themselves.

    For example, if you have not discussed with the client the development of any API integrations, then mention that they are not covered in your quote.  

    It's also a good chance to mention the technology used so that the client can make sure they are happy with that.  The technology itself can also be a good selling point.

    What will happen if a client requests more work - will you charge more, or will you have an allowance of say 10% to cover these unforeseen things?

    Cost of sales (COS) represents all the costs that go into providing a service or product to a customer. It may also be called cost of goods sold (COGS).

    - Xero

    The cost of selling

    This is a big one.  It costs a lot to stand out these days in a competitive marketplace.  Whether you are hot on SEO or PPC or have a sales team, there is normally a huge cost to the sales you make.

    Factor in sales staff's salaries, cost of ads or content that you've created to get to where you are.  You need to allow for all this when quoting for the website project.

    Give extra allowance

    Even the largest, most slick-running companies run into trouble from time to time.  Life is full of uncertainty and that certainly applies to website projects too!

    Things can go wrong, so it's worth adding a small contingency into your estimates. 

    I always look at the construction industry, because although physical buildings are different to website projects, there are a lot of similarities between the two and the construction industry has been going a hell of a lot longer than any web agency!

    According to Buildertrend, it's a good idea to allow 5-10% contingency in your quotes.

    Breaking down the quote

    Have you heard that transparency builds trust in business?  Well, that's why it's a great idea to break down your web site quote so the client can see where the figure actually comes from.  Unless clients have been involved in web projects before, they are unlikely to have a grasp on how long things take.  Also, when shopping around, they may have already gotten two or three vastly different quotes and are feeling confused about the whole thing!

    We need to put ourselves in the shoes of our clients, sympathise with how difficult it can be shopping for website quotes and be fully-transparent so clients can totally understand how we arrived at the grand total on the quote or estimate. 

    Add each item on a line with hours it will take and a total at the end.  For example, the home page design can be time-consuming, so add it on it's own line.  It's pretty hard for a client to argue it's expensive if you can justify that it takes a day to design a really great home page.

    Clearly show sales tax if required (e.g  VAT) and make sure you are fully-aware of any tax rules with cross-border selling.

    Project timeline

    Part of estimating a new website design and build project is to work out how long it will take.  To do this you'll need to divide up the project into it' relevant parts to work out the timeline.  Allow some contingency, i.e. some extra time here and there for overruns at each stage. 

    When you start the project (if your quote is accepted) I recommend you update your client "little and often".  This really sets the clients' mind at rest, they are receiving regular updates and approving things in small chunks.  This means there are no surprises on either side and the project progresses as it should, delivering the results that it should.

    Get the sign off from the client at each stage, so they know they are accountable to approve things properly and you don't end up in the endless "back and forth", ensuring that the process and budget are kept on track.

    Project Timeline

    Demonstrate the value

    To a certain extent, you get what you pay for and an estimate that is too low can be a turn-off for your client.  However, clients also need to see the value of spending money on the project.  Really sell the value of everything in your estimate, so the client wants to buy it all!

    Some web designers are "here today, gone tomorrow", meaning they underquote or lose interest in their website business and go off to do something else.  Many produce websites that may look nice, but don't work hard for the clients' business.   A website is a very serious asset to a business and needs to be properly planned out to result in a great return on investment for the client.

    We offer things in addition to the design and build to offer our clients more value, such as installing Google Analytics to measure site traffic and behaviour and Search Console to keep an eye on site health and encourage indexing of pages in Google.  Other ways are to guarantee on your work, mention your level of support and ongoing maintenance etc.

    Clients will often buy based on price, but surely value for money is a better factor in the decision of whether to accept a quote or not?  After all, isn't it better to spend a bit more on a website that works and stands the test of time, rather than one that is cheap and useless?  Push back if you have to and demonstrating your value.

    Value selling says that customers buy your value or service because they anticipate enjoying a value that they would not have in the absence of your product or service. People don’t buy products, they buy the results the product will give them.

    - Brian Tracy International

    Back it up by showing the outcomes

    At the consideration stage, clients will want to see the outcome of working with you.  This is where your reviews, case studies and proven results really help.  A portfolio full of beautiful work that demonstrates your technical and design skills is also a huge plus point.

    If you are not at this stage yet, you may need to get some work done first that you can show off to prospective clients and consider doing some free/low cost projects for contacts to build up that portfolio.

    If you are a specialist then mention it and position yourself as the one to go to for that particular thing.  Sometimes specialising can make it much easier to stand out in the crowd and charge more for your work.

    Include your terms and conditions

    I believe it is very important to make the client aware of your terms and conditions as early as possible.  You need to  cover yourself against situations out of your control, pledge what you will and will not do and show transparency.

    Tell your client what you commit to doing at all stages of the project, and what you will do to set things right if things go wrong.

    Common mistakes

    Before quoting, consider the most common mistakes people make when quoting.

    A few minutes reading this can really save you a headache!  Avoid these mistakes and have a more successful business, that is more professional and makes more profit.


    Quoting for website projects can be tricky, taking a long time to really get right.  As we've seen, taking the time to understand the project thoroughly is essential to quoting accurately and not taking on work that you can't manage. 

    Hopefully this guide helps you leap ahead and quote successfully from the start, good luck!

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    We make digital simple. Our purpose is to simplify your frustrations in digital and solve the challenges you face to help make you more money and progressively grow your business or organisation.

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