Budgeting Tips

Budgeting tips for web designers and developers

6 min read
Angela Karl

There’s a stereotype that developers often run out of time and budget on projects. Whether this is true or not, many admit that it can be difficult to properly plan project scope when taking on new work. In this post, we’ll clear up the confusion and give you five tried and true budgeting tips to help ensure you make a profit and keep your clients happy.

Why do budget overruns happen?

A number of factors can cause budget overruns. Maybe you have a client who requests more features after they sign your initial agreement, or bugs keep cropping up, or you simply underestimated the time and cost you’d need to invest into building the site. Whatever the culprit, these solutions will help you avoid costly overruns.

Clarify expectations

One of the simplest ways to go over your budget is to not understand exactly what you are expected to develop.

Professional website designers know that clients don’t always know what they want. They might explain a general outline of the design or important features that they are looking for, but as soon as you send the finished product to them, the client explains that they’d like a few small edits that are actually days worth of work.

Agreeing on an exact plan for your website project will help you define the scope and budget properly.

A simple way to avoid this is to agree on an exact plan for your web design and development. Beyond clarifying as many details as possible, make clear exactly what type of edits are included in the price. For example, switching some colors around — that’s no extra charge. Developing an entirely new feature from scratch, on the other hand — that’ll cost extra.

Setting this agreement includes several important questions, such as:

  • How many pages does the client want?
  • What exactly do they want on these pages?
  • Exactly what features do they want?
  • How many edits are included in the initial price?
  • What types of edits are included?
  • How quickly will the project need to be completed?
  • What does the client want the end user’s experience to be like?
  • Does the client expect you to assist with things beyond design or development, like hosting and deployment as well?
  • Does the client expect you to handle the upkeep of the website over time?
  • If you are a designer, does your client also expect you to design logos for the website?

Of course, these questions vary based on the specific assignment as well as if you are developing or designing the site.

Follow deadlines

Budgeting Tips Calendar

Sometimes, deadlines get away from you. Building the website took more time than you initially expected because of unexpected bugs that took days to figure out or functionality that was more difficult than you imagined.

Not only is this unprofessional, but it could also throw off your budget due to the extra hours you spend on the project. You might even lose business as a result. There are a few ways to avoid this problem.

First, after you follow our first tip and get everything clarified, write out how many hours or days you believe each portion will take you. Don’t forget to add in planning time, as well.

Make sure you budget in time for unexpected problems and bugs. Then, double the time you added because this portion almost always takes longer than you initially expected.

From here, you can set your final deadline to tell your client. Beyond this, though, you should set additional deadlines for yourself and make sure that you’re sticking to them. For example, a certain feature or page must be done by March 15, another by March 17, and so on.

These mini-deadlines will help you make sure that you stay on budget by completing the project on time.

You should also keep track of how long each portion took you to complete so you can update your deadlines with each project.

Pro budgeting tip: Track your time on a spreadsheet
One way to stay on budget is to create a spreadsheet with common website requests. Next to these requests, you write out how long it typically takes you to complete and how much money it costs you. Once again, this will certainly vary depending on if you are designing the site or developing the front-end and/or back-end of the website.

For example:

FeatureTime spentCost
Custom Font~ 1.5 hours~ $200
Button~ 4 hours~ $500

Your first spreadsheet will simply be estimates of the time and cost. However, after each project you complete, you can update it with more precise numbers and measure your success.

Make sure you include things that don’t cost you anything but time, such as planning, as this factors into your budget as well — and help you avoid scope creep.

Utilize other resources

If you want to complete a web design or development project on time and under budget, utilizing other resources will certainly help you out. Open source code, for example, can help speed up your development time by giving you an example to look at and learn from.

Using frameworks and open source code can improve your productivity and help you learn.

Frameworks can also help you achieve much more with your code in much less time. Angular.js and ReactJS are two popular JavaScript libraries that can help front-end developers build better websites. In the beginning, you’ll have to factor in the extra time it will take to learn and understand how to use the frameworks properly, but the end result will be worth it.

Sometimes, developers cause themselves headaches when they forget to consider the many different options available. If you’re a WordPress expert but you need to incorporate new design or functionality into a Drupal website (or build one from scratch), factor this into your quote.

Beyond the resources you use to educate yourself and complete your work, there are several project management tips and tools out there that you can incorporate into your practice to help you stay on track, such as Basecamp and Asana. From checklists to software, there’s no shortage of resources.

Always come out on or under budget

Web developers and designers have the complicated task of considering everything that goes into building a website in order to form a budget. To make matters even more difficult, customers often don’t know what they truly want or don’t express it well.

However, if you follow these tips, you’ll be able to keep your budget right on track for all of your future projects and maintain a successful business.