Do Most WordPress Developers Charge Too Much?

Eric Binnion

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WordPress development costs are all over the map. I’ve seen WordPress development costs range anywhere from $500 to $2,500 and beyond, and that’s just for a simple website.

But, when you can get a professional-looking WordPress theme for just $50-200 that you can get up and running all by yourself, is the money you pay a developer actually worth it?

Well, the answer is yes and no.

You can play around with a premium WordPress theme and get something pretty good. But, if you want something mouthwatering that looks and performs better than the other sites in your niche, then you might want to bring a WordPress developer on board.

When it comes to pricing, if the site matches your expectations and fulfills your needs, then the high price will leave you feeling elated. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel like you got swindled.

So, we run into the age old issue of spending too much money for something you don’t want.

Below you’ll learn about the issues surrounding development pricing, the balance between site needs and price, and finally what steps you can take to find the best WordPress developer for you.

The Debacle of Development Pricing

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The price you pay for a site should be directly linked to the value you’re getting. But, the biggest problem we run into is the lack of defining that value from the client’s side.

After all, you won’t be able to evaluate price quotes if you don’t know what kind of finished site you’re looking for. Just saying, “I want a website for my nail salon isn’t enough.”

If the client doesn’t know what they need, the chances are high they’ll end up overspending on a site that’s far more than they actually want.

If you’re reading this from the client side, then you need to look at your business first and what you want your website to achieve before you even start shopping around for developers. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s your budget for a new site?
  • What’s your goal for your site? To generate leads? To showcase my products? To have a content-focus to grow my authority? To act as a simple portfolio of my services?
  • What are your future goals for your site after the initial build?

With a well-defined idea of the present and future goals of your site you’ll be much better prepared to analyze price quotes against the final deliverable promised by the developer.

Price issues arise when the developer is playing the guessing game. Instead of being able to quote accurately based upon creating a site that suits the client’s needs they make a guesstimate of what the client wants and overcharging can result.

That being said, not every developer is honest with their pricing, which we’ll get into below.

The Best Developers Are “Best” for You

When you’re trying to find the right developer, you’re not necessarily looking for the best WordPress developer in the world. Instead, your focus should be on finding the best developer for your specific needs.

One of the big issues in pricing comes out when developers who specialize in one style of site try to sell this style of site to their clients. Even if it isn’t the best option for their needs! The only outcome in this negotiation is an unhappy client.

Instead of pushing for their unique solution, developers should be in a problem-solving mindset. If they aren’t best suited to build the site you want, then who is?

If the client is still unsure about the exact style of website they want, then the developer should work with the client to discover this. If they aren’t in that position, then maybe it’s a good idea to bring in a consultant who can help uncover the client’s needs, even if that means losing the client.

In the age of specialization, you can surely find a WordPress developer with experience in the exact kind of site you want to build.

You Need a Timeless Design

When thinking about your site you need to have a future-oriented mindset. Something that looks great today might look “so 2017” in a couple of years. You want to avoid this.

Have you ever come across a site that screams 1990? It’s kind of scary and makes the business look like a joke. Although it would be difficult for your site to travel that far back in time, you want to make sure you work with a developer who can future proof your site.

This means they’ll need to focus on making your site clean, simple, and very usable. Sites with too many interactive elements can become dated rather quickly.

However, choosing WordPress does gives clients a super solid and flexible foundation to work from, even if the site needs to be redesigned in a few years. Worst case scenario, you have to change out your theme in a few years.

How to Hire a WordPress Developer

WordPress is an incredible and flexible platform. Hiring the right developer will help you maximize the potential of the platform.

The better prepared you are, the more likely you’ll be able to find the perfect developer for you. Below we walk you through the process of defining your project and determining your overall needs.

1. Create a Brief

A great way to figure out your needs is by creating a project brief. This little document will come in handy for your purposes, and the developers you might end up hiring.

To create your brief answer the following questions:

  • What is your company about?
  • What are the business goals for your site?
  • What’s the overall scope? Customizing an existing theme? Building a theme from scratch? Any additional custom plugins needed?
  • Do you already have your domain and hosting taken care of?
  • What are your competitors’ sites? Are they doing anything you like?
  • Do you have any existing brand elements? Your logo? Color scheme?
  • Who is your very specific target audience for the site?
  • What’s your existing budget? An estimate is fine here.

2. Set a Ballpark Price

Rates for WordPress developers vary widely. The most common pricing model is a fixed price based upon set deliverables. If you check out Upwork, which has millions of developer profiles, the average WordPress developer rate ranges from $20 to $100+ an hour.

The larger your budget the better quality WordPress developer you can afford to work with. However, this isn’t always the case. You’ll want to analyze each potential developer with the process highlighted below.

3. Define Project Scope

To get accurate project quotes there needs to be a detailed project scope. The project scope will reflect the total amount of work required for the developer.

Whether you’re looking for a full-blown eCommerce store, or a simple 3 page website to showcase your local business, the site-building process will generally involve the following steps:

  • Initial marketplace and audience research
  • A basic wireframe to map out site pages and layout
  • Theme choice and customization
  • Adding (or coding) any plugins required for functionality
  • Testing across multiple browsers and devices
  • Edits and final site approval

4. Look For “Perfect Fit” Developers

The search for the “perfect” developer begins with knowing what to look for.

There is a big gap between great WordPress developers, and developers who know how to install a theme and edit a few files. Great developers will cost more money but will be able to deliver a timeless high-quality website.

When searching for a developer keep the following in mind:

  • Check out their portfolio, websites, and profiles on sites like Github. This will give you a feel for their work and what the end result of working with them will be like.
  • See if they have any case studies that document their work and thought process.
  • Look to see if they blog regularly. This will give you an idea of their communication style and overall working knowledge.

WordPress Developers should possess these technical skills:

  • Properly enqueueing styles and scripts. This will ensure that styles and scripts are loaded at the right time as well as integrate better with plugins such as Better WordPress minify.
  • Putting any custom functionality into a plugin instead of the WordPress theme. This is important for future redesigns.
  • Delivering clean, light code that validates. Having a website without code bloat is very important for the page speed of your website, while validated code could reduce cross-browser inconsistencies.
  • Recommending plugins that perform well. A competent WordPress developer will know which plugins to use and which to stay away from.

5. Choosing to Go Local or Not

You might decide that you want to hire a local developer. Some people feel more comfortable being able to talk person-to-person. If this is you, then keep in mind that this will shrink your pool of available applicants.

If you’re spending a lot of money on a new site, then you might prefer to work with someone in person. This will give you a more hands-on approach to building your site and will help you avoid any lapses in communication.

If you choose to work with a non-local developer you might be able to find a high-quality developer for a lower price. For example, you can find a great and very affordable Ukrainian designer, but it might be hard to communicate the subtleties of what you want. However, paying someone $25 an hour, versus $250 an hour, might help to offset any inconveniences that arise.

Ultimately, the route you choose depends on how much you’d like to spend and how comfortable you feel in your hiring.

Places to Find Your Ideal WordPress Developer

The ideal WordPress developer will have experience in creating sites like yours, have a portfolio of completed projects, and be within your price range. With a number of WordPress developers out there you’re sure to find one that matches up.

Of course, the options below don’t cover every single avenue for finding a developer. But, they will give you a great jumping off point.

1. Freelancer Sites and Job Boards

There are hundreds of freelancer sites across the internet where you can post jobs and have hundreds of freelancers bid on your project. Some are WordPress-specific, like WordPress’s Job Board, Smashing Jobs, and WP Hired, but others are more general project bidding sites, like Upwork and Freelancer.

If you post a job on a WordPress-specific job board, you can expect more qualified and pricey developers. While on more general freelancer sites, you’ll get a lot more bids for your job, but not all of them will be relevant. You might have to sort through a lot of bids to find someone qualified (who actually read your proposal).

2. Seek Out Recommendations

Referrals and recommendations are a great place to start. The chances are slim that a friend or colleague of yours will recommend a shoddy developer.

If you know someone who hires a lot of WordPress work, then ask them who they use and if they’d mind getting you in touch?

Another method is to find WordPress websites that you love and getting in touch with the developer. To do this, install a Chrome extension called Page X-Ray. Whenever you visit a website, the toolbar will show a WordPress logo if the site was built on WordPress.

If they’re not a direct competitor, you can contact the owners and ask who did their development work.

3. Look for Specialized WordPress Agencies

Finally, there are several WordPress agencies that solely focus on building WordPress sites. Working with one of these agencies will be a more expensive option, but the process should be straightforward and headache free.

WP Engine maintains a Favorite Consultants page where they list their top choices of consultants that provide services for your WordPress website.

In Closing

It’s not the case that WordPress developers charge too much, but instead that the final product doesn’t align with the client’s goals and expectations. By finding the perfect developer client match the notion of paying too much goes out the window.

What do you think about WordPress developer pricing? Too high, too low, or just right? Please share in the comments below.

Last update: May 19th, 2017

Written by Eric Binnion

Eric Binnion is a computer science student at Midwestern State University. When Eric is not online, he is usually volunteering in his community or enjoying time with his family. You can find Eric on Twitter.

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Comments

  • Chris Langille says:

    Good stuff man. My knee jerk reaction is that they do in fact charge too much, especially if they’re building something on top of a framework like Genesis, Thesis, Headway, Builder, etc.

    But you have a good point about Bill Erickson.

    It’s one thing to add custom design, but it’s another if they are adding custom functionality. Plus if they really know what they’re doing, it’s worth the money, because at that point you’re paying for experience, and sometimes, especially with how fast web development trends change, you can’t put a price on that.

    When I see sites like ChrisBrogan.com and Yoast.com, I have to wonder how much they paid for that!

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Hey Chris,

      Always glad to see your comments.

      I like how you differentiate between a custom design and functionality. That thought was a large reason for this post. One thing that you may find interesting is that it looks like Bill was behind the development of Yoast.com

  • Jean Galea says:

    Being a WordPress developer myself, I’m not sure about the ‘most’ part of this title, since I haven’t tried the services of many other developers. On the other hand, I have collaborated with a few others, and the difference is easy to tell, as you rightly indicated via your points.

    I think Bill is a perfect example. I’ve never hired Bill myself, but seeing his contributions and tutorials I can easily deduce his passion for this work, and the added value he will bring to the table. In such cases, $2,500 is worth it. Spending such money on an unknown developer would of course be risky at best.

    People need to understand that for many sites, a developer is there to provide much more than the actual coding or PSD to WP conversion. He is there to provide performance advice, sometimes even design and conversion tips, suggestions on which plugins to use and why, and the list goes on.

    A cheap developer won’t give you any of that, in fact you’ll be lucky to get a decent conversion of your design, one that will validate and won’t break at the next WordPress update.

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Hey Jean,

      Thanks for the input. You made a good point that developers do much more than convert a PSD to WP. This reminds me of a theme I was using where the developer was not only using a deprecated function, but the developer also had a tendency to change complete function names between updates.

      A good WordPress developer that has a deep understanding of WordPress and where it’s moving is well worth the money.

  • Chris says:

    Hey Eric,

    I noticed your theme is no longer responsive, and the look has changed. Have you changed themes?

    While your website certainly looks great, the look you had before was better. But, that’s just my opinion.

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Hey Chris,

      I liked the last theme too. But we wanted to experiment with something that is more minimalistic. So, I took some inspiration from a few websites and programmed this theme myself. The site will be responsive today. Had to take care of some other tweaks before.

  • Zimbrul says:

    I think it depends what money you’ve got in your pocket and what you are going to do with your website.
    If you are a starter blogger you’ll put a strain on your finances to pay Bill or Rafal Tomal £2500 for a custom design.
    If you are a lawyer and charge £300/hour is going to take you less than 10 hours to pay for a professionally designed website. Once you know how to do the stuff yourself you’ll be able to differentiate a good developer from a bad one.

    • Eric Binnion says:

      That’s a great way to look at it Zimbrul. When I was starting out with blogging, there’s no way I could afford $2,500. But now, that’s a much more reasonable price to pay for an awesome website.

  • DARYL BUTCHER says:

    As far as I can tell, WordPress is brain dead … flat line. None of this should be difficult but there is a culture to make it difficult. It is easier for me to just “do it myself” than it is to start with WordPress. The loop of interacting with a “developer” is simply unacceptable. It would take forever and cost waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much.

  • Mike says:

    I’m a wordpress developer and I use Headway or Catalyst for 100% of my designs. Mostly headway unless someone hands me a .psd file and wants me to turn it into a website, Catalyst is more flexible for that. All of my sites are custom. I charge $500 for a basic site and $2500 if we’re adding e-commerce. I base my prices on an hourly rate. I also provide free website maintenance from 1 month to 1 year, depending on the project. I optimize the sites for search engines and a lot of times even write the copy. I put together a blog article on “What Does Web Design Cost” that you can take a look at here: http://www.genesis-unlimited.com/what-does-web-design-cost/

    I agree that some web designers charge too much, whether it’s wordpress, joomla or completely custom. My clients think I’m fair and I stay busy as a freelance designer, but I deliver a good product in a timely fashion. Most of my clients could care less if it’s on wordpress, but some like the fact that they can easily update and change content whenever they want.

    Great post! I love your stuff! Thanks!

    -Mike

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Hey Mike,

      Thanks for the input. I’m always interested in what WordPress developers/designers think.

    • zimbrul says:

      Mike, change the colours of your website! Man, it’s difficult to read and tiring for eyes.What is missing is some red text on that dark-greyed background!!!

      • Mike says:

        I certainly appreciate the feedback! I am definitely overdue for a redesign, and I keep putting it off. Maybe it’s time…

  • Jason C says:

    There’s an important distinguishment to be made here between a “designer” and “developer” that isn’t made. A designer designs the look, the flow of information, sometimes they do copywriting, some SEO, site configuration, client education, brings the client’s vision to life etc. They might do some light coding work, but nothing too serious.

    The developer, which can also be a designer, codes and troubleshoots special custom functions and needs of a particular site. At least that’s the way I see it.

    In an ideal small design firm, you’d have a developer and a designer.

    So much of what goes on in small time web development is a constant stream of client communication and education about the website’s overall vision, not the finer details about coding issues. Those communication skills and consultations are worth money.

    Many websites don’t need a “developer”, they just need a designer. There is so much that can be done “out-of-the-box” with WP that custom development isn’t always needed.

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Jason,

      I definitely agree that there is a difference between developer and designer and the definition you gave for each. The reason I brought this topic up is because there are several great theme frameworks out there that provide a solid foundation for a designer to build upon.

      Thanks for leaving a comment!

  • Tung Tran says:

    Sorry for being divagate but I really like this new theme of AOB… You’re awesome Eric :)
    As a new blogger I can afford much but can you please tell me the cost of a unique and premium theme like this? (I know you made this theme)
    If this is considered private, can u shoot me an email ? :D
    Your design is AWESOME!

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Hey Tung,

      I’m glad you like the theme. My skill set tends to be more on the coding and problem solving side. Design takes me quite a while! So your compliment means a lot.

  • Scot says:

    One thing I think should be remembered with creating a website for hire is the designer’s/developer’s time beyond the design/coding itself. I haven’t seen many developers simply charge to create a site and then just hand off a disk. The value added by dealing with the “turn it on” issues for the client would definitely be worth paying something for if something unexpected were to keep their site from working (server settings, etc.). For example, making a 911 cal itself isn’t all that expensive, but paying for a center to be available at any moment/any time, with the expertise to handle any/all types of emergencies is. Mr. Erickson’s price most likely comes with guarantees that any problem will be handled until completion (or at least the assumption that his experience would mean there would not be any problems in the first place). I often hear things like “my cousin just bought a template” or “my friend had his nephew bang something out.” I then (politely), tell them then that’s always an option they should also consider. But, in almost all cases, they then inevitably admit they don’t know enough about computers to upload “stuff,” or had already tried that and ran into problems they couldn’t solve. So the prices for websites aren’t always for just design or just programming. If a $50 template from a media supplier would have been suitable, the client probably would not have used their time shopping for a developer in the first place.

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Great insight. Thanks for leaving a comment!

    • Agree with Erick. Great insight.

      And this kind of ability level owned by site owner looking for a developer also a big factor to judge whether a most WordPress developers charge too much or not. Because they will have different level of pleasant.

      I myself is tend to be a developer, even I am far away compared to any expert, I just able to do what I need to do, and learn something when want to do it but I can’t do it now.

      Just an additional information about my experience using this site Erick, when I hit the reply button, the site need to reload to bring me to this form, this is kind of ‘unusual’ for a WordPress based site. And most user will hate it I think. May be the comment reply javascript is present or do you accidentally disable it.

      Nice provocative post tough :D

      • Eric Binnion says:

        Hey Tiyo,

        Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. I agree with you that the user experience could be improved integrating ajax functionality into comments. We will consider this in the future.

  • That is a loaded question and the variables are beyond the pale. Does developer really mean graphic designer who is using WordPress to get web clients? Is the developer working part time after finishing hours at their regular job meaning they are pretty much never available for customer service? Does the developer have the experience not only in design or development but the huge list of items that clients expect assistance with including rss, social media, monetization, etc.

    I’ve been in the web development business for almost 18 years and I’ve seen the value associated with what we do plummet with the glut of incompetents offering their skills. I recently had a short conversation with a graphic designer who was competing for business in a local chamber of commerce. She did not know one bit of html yet was promoting herself as a web developer (if you are assuring clients you can build their site then you might as well admit that developer is what you are promoting yourself as).

    It can be frustrating to have almost 2 decades of experience not just with web development and design but with the Internet practices that will lead to a successful site. In my case I work with a lot of food blogs; one of my biggest challenges is the SUCCESSFUL transfer of sites from Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress blog. It can be done in many ways; most I see are wrong (Blogger pages end in .html – creating a situation where a client’s site does the same over at WordPress is simply wrong!).

    Still, I am competing for work with those folks. Graphic designers who don’t understand code, part timer’s who are happy to make $20 hour; people greedy for a buck who have no business offering services…and the list goes on. I run a full time web development business and my prices are going to reflect that but clients can also rest assured that I actually know what I’m doing, that I can get it done in a timely manner (experience actually does count) and that I will available after the fact for support should the need arise. When I get asked why my fee is so high, I’ve started asking them how much they pay their plumber and if they think having their business web presence be successful is as important as being able to flush the toilet. Putting it into perspective seems to help!

    • David Tromholt says:

      Well I thought $200 was a good deal when I took upon my first web design task. That was until I realized that sometimes designing a website is about 10% design, 90% communication. What should have taken a few hours, ended up taking 3 days.

      At least if developer/designer & customer are not on the same page, meaning misunderstandings, back and fourth mails that lead to nothing.. well then you are in for a rude awakening. Your average $ / hour can quickly go from well above average to below minimum wage (if you agreed on a fixed price in the beginning).

      Granted that both the designer & customer are on the same page from the beginning and everything goes smooth, then being a web designer is amazing, so don’t get me wrong!

      My point is, I understand why some charge $1000+ for a website, even with just 3-5 pages, because if I’ve learned anything in this business, positive feedback is extremely important, and if you are to spend hours upon hours, going out of your way with extra work in order to satisfy a difficult / confused client, it’s nice to know that once you are done, at least you got paid pretty well.

      I’ve earned $300 for 1 hours work, and I’ve earned $100 for 20 hours work, in the same week, the difference wasn’t the scale of the job, but one case of great mutual understanding and one case of the opposite.

      Anyways, just my 2 cents, I love this blog design, nice job Eric!

  • Robert says:

    I don’t offer Word Press to my clients. I find it just slows websites down, and has that “wordpress” look. I’m a html, css, javascript/jquery/php master and I can usually get what all my clients want without using word press. I find it much more simpler to be able to hand them a zip and easily have their site up just by dragging the folder into their ftp server. Usually when they want something changed it’s very quick and simple, and takes me literally a single minute, so I don’t charge for tiny little updates. A small price to pay not to fight with word press for the exact design I want. Though my clients also aren’t running blogs (mostly restauraunt sites), so it’s easier to get away with.

    • Robert says:

      Part II of my post. I never actually answered the poll question. I do think Word Press developers overcharge. I was in college with a group of classmates who did not know how to, from scratch, design a website with HTML and CSS. They immediately turned to Word Press templates.

      The only comparison I can think of is, in my opinion–hard-coding a website is to photoshop as using Word Press is to using some terrible included software with your digital camera to create a cheesy picture album with borders. You don’t need Word Press to use jQuery plugins for slideshows and what not. There was a time when it was only used for what it should be used for, blogging.

  • Siegfried says:

    Well, from my experience wordpress developers for hire are either very good and very expensive or not so expensive and not so good ;) creating wordpress themes requires some skills so it is worth hiring someone who actually will deliver ;)
    best regards

  • Jamie McHale says:

    I guess the market sets the rates for developers. If WordPress developers can add value to a business, then they should be able to charge for that value.

    It’s not just the coding, it’s the advice they give too.

    A good developer will follow coding standards and WordPress best practice, they will match the development features to business objectives, and they will communicate clearly with the client so they understand the process and the deliverables.

  • Estiak Ahamed says:

    Hey, Eric Binnion
    I think your price is to0 much.

  • so says:

    So, the developers should OVERDELIVER for a premium price.

    In short, developers should do MORE work than what you pay them for – even if what you pay is premium.

    Give us one reason why developers should ‘overdeliver’ compared to what you pay them for.

    Do you overpay when buying your bread, car, plane tickets ?

  • Janet Hebert says:

    WordPress is fantastic

    Thanks for this post Eric

    MERRY XMAS :)

  • mike says:

    ok. you seem honest. so my honest response to your article above, now called a “blog” i believe,
    is this : i have in mind a few business ideas. i may be wrong but i believe every business needs to advertise. as far as i know, the internet is the least costly way to advertise to a mass of people.
    i am of the impression that once my website is set up, i will need to keep it updated, current, and content fresh. even if i could afford to pay $ 1500.00 or more for a decent website developer website, i would continue to need to update the content, continue to need to pay the developer or another for the content updates be they text or images. that for me is the problem.
    so my solution is to spend the money / time learning how to build my own website and learning
    how update my own content, thus bypassing the need for a web developer / web manager.
    yes of course, if either of the business ideas i have in mind become successful, using a web developer might be a necessity. And one other consideration for me is that without learning the ins and outs of web development, i have no way of understanding the language of web development, thus wasting my time and the developers time, thus not being able to tell if the service i am paying for is doing a good job and charging me honestly .
    i’ll sign up for your content and hope that you tell me things that i can use .
    thank you
    sincerely
    mike

  • sivakumar says:

    Hi, Everyone,,

    Actually Developers will not ask for more money, as per the client requirement and manhour that spending with client only they have to charge…

    I can do 5-10 page wordpress website for -$180 to $230 after that per page $22 will be etc.

    Please let me know, if any one need website..

    Thanks
    siva