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How to Price & Scope WordPress Ecommerce Projects

As a freelancer, how do you scope and price WordPress ecommerce projects? It’s a big task. Over-estimate and you’re not going to get the job. Under-estimate and you’re going to pay for it. We can’t tell you how much to charge, but we can help you sort through all the questions and considerations so you can figure out how to come up with a dollar amount.

Ecommerce is Different

Understand upfront that ecommerce is different. This isn’t like every other WordPress web project you’ve done with a slightly new twist. That new twist is big. If you charge what you normally charge for a site and tack on a little extra, you’re going to lose. You need to understand now just how big ecommerce is. This is a whole new level.

Ecommerce is also different because it shouldn’t be a one-time fee. You’re building a site that’s going to have on-going expenses, maintenance and much more stringent up-time requirements. After all, the site is directly making someone money. If it goes down, they’re losing money. There’s built-in motivation to protect that cash cow. A monthly retainer to keep things running smoothly will be welcomed.

Understand Your Client’s Needs

The key to scoping any website project is understanding the client’s needs. That’s no different in ecommerce, though there are even more options and variables. And those options can have a dramatic impact on the work involved.

So the most important thing you can do is get your head around the project. You need to understand the project better than your client does. Know the ins and outs of what the client is trying to do, whether it directly impacts the site or not. You’ll sort out what they really need and can deliver a site that works better for them in the end.

The best way to do that is to ask a lot of questions:

  • Do they need a merchant account? If your client will be using a traditional payment gateway and merchant account you need to know if they’ve already started the process of securing a merchant account. If not, that could be trouble. It’s not uncommon to be denied for a merchant account or for the process to take months. Work some contingencies into your contract. You still want to get paid if merchant account woes slow or stop the project.
  • Are the products ready to go? Your client could have one product or they could have 10,000. If you’re in charge of adding products you better make sure you know how many, how much work is involved and include all that work in your bid. Don’t forget product variations or options. Are product photos, videos, descriptions and prices current and ready to go?
  • What kind of special options are needed? You need to know upfront if your client wants any special options. Recurring payments, memberships, discounts, coupons, etc., are all extra complications that aren’t possible with every payment processor and plugin. Make sure your client doesn’t assume the site will have some feature you can’t deliver.
  • What about shipping? Shipping variables abound: the size, weight and quantity of products, how they fit in a box, if they’re fragile, the speed of shipping, etc. Shipping is complicated (unless it’s free!). You need to know how your client wants to handle shipping and get the details upfront so you can offer the appropriate tools or propose a better solution.
  • How do they process a transaction? This gets into the business management side of things, but you need to understand everything. Do they use Quickbooks to print shipping orders? What kind of software does the website need to integrate with? You should create a solution that fits how the client works.
  • What’s the timeline? Deadlines are dependent on each other and so many time consuming things that are out of your control. It’s important everybody understands the timeline and the consequences if deadlines are missed.

And that’s just a start. There are a lot of questions to ask and the more you ask upfront the fewer surprises you’ll have. Surprises are often expensive.

Consider the Extras

As you put a price together for an ecommerce project you need to consider everything. Here are a few things you should always take into account:

  • Testing – Ecommerce sites have a lot of moving pieces, from shopping carts to payment processing. There’s a lot that can go wrong and multiple opportunities for your client to raise red flags. Make sure you’re accounting for frequent testing and approval to keep the project on track.
  • Usability – Every moment of confusion or delay will erode customer trust and send shoppers clicking away. Usability testing can make your client more money, so be sure you’re doing it and including the cost in your bid.
  • Maintenance – Downtime is lost money for an ecommerce site, so maintenance is crucial. Make ongoing maintenance with a retainer part of your bid.
  • Training – It’s easy to overlook the time it will take to show your client how to use their new site.

Final Price Tag

Coming up with a price tag for an ecommerce project is a job in and of itself. There’s a lot to consider and it’s important you get it right. Ideally you’re forming a long-term relationship, working together for mutual gain. That might mean it’s worthwhile to offer a deal upfront to land the project. But you also need to know your costs so you’re not losing your shirt.

Ecommerce sites should make money, so there should be room for everyone to win.

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