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Old 07-09-2001, 08:01 AM   #1
demae
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Question What hourly rate to charge for programming?

How much do you think that I can charge for programming (websites)? I have extensive experience in perl and MySQL.

I'm mainly busy getting my Ph.D. in Computer Science, but I like to do some programming jobs on the side to increase my experience, make a little money and build up some contacts.

I made $2000 last month from doing some programming for $50 per hour. With my demanding schedule, 10 hours (maybe 20) a week is the maximum that I can handle. I'm finding that I may end up getting more business than I can handle (my current client told me that many of his contacts have asked him where to find a good programmer, and he will refer them to me once I'm done working for him). So, it would seem to be logical to increase my price to the point where the amount of business I get is just right.

What price do you think would be reasonable? I was thinking of raising my rate to $75 per hour. It may seem expensive, but I think back to something that happened with my current client: He had another programmer who cost $25 per hour. He had a problem that he needed fixed; that programmer worked on it for a week and failed. Then he told me to do it, and I succeeded in 2 or 3 days. So even if I charge more per hour, if I get the job done faster it doesn't necessarily cost more.

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Last edited by Steve_S; 07-29-2001 at 04:17 PM.
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Old 07-09-2001, 08:48 AM   #2
FreemanTech
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Well, that is one solution that you could pursue. I personally though would consider finding some sub-contractors to fill the position, assuming that tele-commute is a possibility with these clients.

As for myself, I currently bill at about $55 per hour and I think that is reasonable. If you go to $75 you will definitely see a drop in the interest of those clients, perhaps too much so. Another question I would have at this point is if you have so many clients willing to pay you $50 per hour for work, why bother finishing your PhD? Why not just work for them and get the money. I personally have no college degree and no plans to get one. I am highly paid in my field and a degree of any kind would be of little value to me (in $$ terms).

Like I said above though, I would pursue sub-contractors. If you consider this route I might know where you can get one. http://geekvillage.com/ubb/smile.gif

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Old 07-09-2001, 09:53 AM   #3
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I had not thought of using sub-contractors before. I'm not sure how well equipped I would be to handle them, though; I don't know anyone whom I could use as a sub-contractor, and I don't have experience managing people like that.

If I do end up getting too many clients, I guess I could try sub-contracting. It sounds like there shouldn't be much risk; I just find a programmer, give him a job that I don't have time to do, he does the job, I inspect his work, then I deliver his work to the client, get paid, and give him his share. If the sub-contractor disappears without performing his job, I can just do it myself and keep all the money.

The reason why I think enough people may be willing to pay $75 per hour for programming is based on the rates that professional computer consulting firms charge (it's more than $75 per hour). But I may be looking at the wrong target market; my clients are usually small businesses, but I think that the consulting firms' clients are usually corporate or enterprise customers.

As for why I'm getting a Ph.D., it's for security. Yes, I can get a good amount of work for $50 per hour now, but the supply of customers is not guaranteed to be steady. I feel that I'll be significantly better prepared to take on whatever the world throws at me when I have my Ph.D. Also, I'm thinking bigger; I'd like to become a highly paid consultant whom people are willing to pay over $100 an hour to hire. Then I would only have to work part time in order to attain a full time income, and I would also get to work on a variety of interesting projects.

I've already gotten my Masters in Computer Science; I estimate I only need another 2 years to get my Ph.D.
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Old 07-09-2001, 10:11 AM   #4
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demae -- I currently am employed by one of the worlds largest consulting firms, and our bill rate for my services is only about $55 per hour. However, it all depends on your field of expertise. Currently Java and Flash developers are going at a higher rate, so you might have some luck there. $100 an hour though is fairly unrealistic for most people though on an on-going basis. Sorry. As for the PhD, that is definitely up to you. I work with a lot of very good consultants, all being paid about what I'm making and most of them have a masters. 1 has a PhD, but I make more than him. So, I really don't know if it's good in the long run or not. I guess you will find out for sure one way or the other, and I wish you the best of luck.

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Old 07-26-2001, 04:51 PM   #5
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Old 07-26-2001, 05:08 PM   #6
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Demae,

You are going to need to research your market. What is the going rate for a perl programmer with your level of experience? That's what you need to know to determine how much you can charge. In the world of consulting, it's experience that counts. The person with the best skill set is going to be able to command the highest price.

I applaud you on working towards your PhD but will it help you make more money as a consultant - probably not. Will it help you land a university job - most likely yes.

Bladerunner appears to be in touch with the market in your region so I would heed his advice.

Best of luck!
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Old 07-26-2001, 06:53 PM   #7
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Ever think of charging by the project? That way if you finish it faster you aren't punished, and the person hiring you won't worry about 'downtime'.

Otherwise if your supply is less than your demand raising rates can't hurt.

And of course - if you can get lots of projects - subcontractors are the way to go!
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Old 07-26-2001, 07:30 PM   #8
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I actually do charge $100 an hour for additional programming that people request after they buy my software. People do pay it, but I also get things finished fast. A banner rotator system with tracking etc... took me under an hour to write, a recommend it took less than 10 minutes.

If you do quality work people like, and you continue to have a good relationship with your "clients", I don't think $100 an hour is unreasonable. It's unreasonable to spend 1 hour on a program and said it took 2 .

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Old 07-26-2001, 08:17 PM   #9
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Again, it all comes down to - where are you located and who are your clients?
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Old 07-26-2001, 08:21 PM   #10
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I am located in NJ and my clients are all different. I usually get references.
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Old 07-28-2001, 07:07 PM   #11
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Bladerunner - I am (another) perl/ sql programmer and generally charge about the same rae as you. So far I've found my own clients but the idea of sub-contractors sounds veyr intresting... if you dont mind telling me either in private or public, who do you sub-contract for?
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Old 07-28-2001, 09:56 PM   #12
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Charging by the job instead of by the hour to achieve higher hourly rates sounds like it may work.

There is a saying somewhere that a good programmer can finish a job ten times as fast as a bad programmer. I've found several websites that mention this, although I haven't been able to find the original citation.

I don't have any formal evidence to back that saying up, but my informal experiences with programming are consistent with it. When I'm not intimately familiar with the programming language/task area that I'm working on, I can take a long time and do a barely passable job. But when I am familiar with it, I can finish it much faster, and better.

So, if I charge by the job, and manage to finish in half the time, I am essentially getting double the hourly rate.
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Old 07-29-2001, 02:33 AM   #13
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I work for a small internet consulting company in San Francisco. We charge $135/hr for programming and more for project managers. This obviously makes us more expensive than the average person working out of their garage but the theory is that when you hire a company rather than an individual, you get the resources and experience of an entire company to make sure the project gets done within budget and with the agreed timeline.

I think that $50-$75 is probably the right rate for an individual working near a major metropolitan city.

I would not suggest charging on a project basis until you have been doing this sort of thing for a while (a couple of years). There are so many factors which may cause the scope of the project to expand and when this happens it will be very difficult to get your client to pay more than the initially agreed price which means that you will end up putting in a lot more work than you anticipated. With a fixed price project, you will assume all the risk of overruns. The only way to minimize this risk with a fixed price project is to write a very detailed design document (which the client must approve) before you begin coding so that everyone knows what features/functionality are included in the price (and what are not). Writing design documents takes a lot of time and for small projects this is rarely done (even though it should be done for every project.)

Demae - in theory, a fixed price project could make a good programmer a higher hourly rate (if they finish early) but believe me when I tell you that computer projects very very rarely finish early. Most projects take longer than anticipated.

Last edited by sdarken; 07-29-2001 at 02:38 AM.
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Old 07-29-2001, 02:59 AM   #14
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I agree with demae on this. If you charge a fixed price per project (which I usually do), you can come out on top. I don't think any programmer would take on a job that they don't know how to do. I know I wouldn't take on a job until I could in my mind figure out how I would do it. Then propose a quote.
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Old 07-29-2001, 05:12 PM   #15
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My last 'per job' rate was $150 for what I thought was a simple project. But, after a few dozen chanegs by the client, a few of my own ***** ups and a lot of poor communication, it turned into a 20 hour project. I had thought i'd spend 3, maybe 4 hours max on a simple proejct netting me 40-50 an hour but instead i got about 8.

Charging per project can work very,v ery well if you finish fast, everything works how your client wants (which is never how you imagined), but we all know this rarely happens.
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