Tech Stuff, Web

Why do people try to lowball web developers?

This post is the result of a private message I received recently in a webmaster's forum that I'm a member of. I guess he had seen that I have experience with Joomla, that I've created a few popular modules, so decided to see if I'd be interested in building him a customized Joomla site. Here are the details of his request:

Main page:
*Logo – make it different
*Flash design header
*Blog and Shout Box (only registered users)
*Bike of month picture spot on front page
*Daily news feed from at least 2-3 sites
*Daily Video feed (only motorcycle related, only most recent 2-3 on front page, link to main video page)
*Links page
*Auto link swapping (anchor text code for visitors to copy and paste on their site)
*Weather link
*Forum area link – tags or merits for more posts
*Page for “Great Cycle meeting places/stops”
*Registered user benefits:
Once logged in, reg. users home page configurable with time, weather, links, etc. (want users to use as their home page)
Personal space that can be shared only with whom they allow.
Ability to post pictures and text in personal space.
Private messaging
Ability to post comments on pages
Personal blog

Site set up for SEO, Adsense (ads blended), Paypal, Metatags descriptions and keywords for every page, make new pages with – (dash) instead of _ (underscore), SE friendly URL’s, Interlinking of site pages, allow donations link.

Newsletter sending ability
Complete ability to control content on site and users

I assume the Community Builder plugin will be needed and possibly the EZ Rider plugin among others.

Future plans:
Product store
Ebay affiliation

So this is quite a large project. With a quick scan, I would estimate a minimum of 45 hours of work, as the following major time-consuming components are required:

  1. A custom designed theme.
  2. Setting up site architecture.
  3. Custom flash design for the header.
  4. Locating, installing and configuring various extensions, including a forum, SEF, e-commerce, etc
  5. Creation of some completely custom extensions

So naturally a proper estimate will include time not only for development but also for debugging. So let's say for the sake of argument that the total project would be 50 man-hours of work.

How much do you suppose this person was willing to pay? Unfortunately the global market for web developers brings down the expected rate of a good programmer. On rentacoder or elance, one can easily pick up a PHP coder's time for a measly $20/hr. That means they could get this project done for about $1000.

With that in mind, I asked the buyer what their budget was. Would it be more? Less? This was their reply:

$250 is my budget.

I practically choked when I read that. Two hundred and fifty dollars! That means that to this person, a developer's time is worth about $5/hour, or less valuable than someone serving hamburgers at a local burger joint. Now I admit that burger joint employees are incredibly valuable, but come on!

Now that sad part is that I guarantee that some desperate young developer will accept this offer, and slave for nothing as the site owner adds "just two more things" I thought of. Then the site owner will have a fully developed site in a profitable niche, and will soon be making decent money on something that cost virtually nothing.

This has to stop. I don't care where you live. I don't care if your cost-of-living is lower. Developers are intelligence workers. They not only have a skill, but they have an unteachable aptitude. This is priceless. And if they place very little value (hourly or otherwise) on that aptitude, so will others.

Developers need to start properly valuing their time. I met a .Net Development Manager on a plane last year. He doesn't do web development himself, he contracts out his guys to larger companies, and manages the projects. He charges $285 USD/hour for his guys.

Now I don't expect that any of us could charge that much. But we do have the right to set an acceptable rate, which won't lower the bar for the rest of the developers in the world. We are the ones that do the work. We are the ones that know how to do the work. It's a specialized work, and we need to view it as such.

So set your rate. Don't accept less. And when people come to you offering $5/hour, send them to McDonald's.



  1. dude, i couldnt have said that any better. there has been many of times that a client has come back to me on similar projects and expected to pay less than $1,000 USD. it really makes me feel like they are not worthy of the quality work that i could give them.

    great read my friend and its nice to know that i am not alone!

  2. If they come to me, I will give them a home made sandwich for free and say "Piss Off"!!!

  3. Dude your post freakin rocked. I used to be that poor guy accepting far less than he was worth. Have some respect for yourself people or no one else will. Just because some bastard doesn't have enough sense to allocate money for marketing and or technology services doesn't mean that you should slave for free. I've had plenty of clients try to lowball me. I tell them where they can go and how to get there (in a nice way of course). A lot of them come back later begging me to fix the mess that some idiot with no skill created.

  4. LOVE this post, I wish more developers, designers,flash people would stand behind what they do.

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