We’ll be honest — this is a difficult question to answer. Every agency has its own way of quoting a project, and some are better at it than others. How an agency quotes tells you a lot about how they think, so pay careful attention.

The agencies you interview should be business minded, demonstrate high attention to detail, and listen as you share budget restrictions and concerns. They should come up with creative solutions that will help you get the most value for each dollar you spend.

Types of companies: Quick bidders versus strategists

Here’s a quick rundown of the agencies you may find yourself talking to:

The quick bidder: All a quick bidder needs to know is that you want a ten-page website, and they’ll be willing to give you a number. They usually don’t dig any deeper into the goals of your website, the desired call to action, the functionality you need, or the long-term plan for the site.

Be warned: The scope of the project won’t be clear upfront. The price might be right, but if you don’t understand what value you’re getting for that dollar amount you might be sorely disappointed by what they deliver. It’s also likely your new website won’t achieve the goals and outcomes you hoped it would.

The strategist: These agencies are business-minded and user-focused. They know that it’s in your best interest and in theirs to understand the needs and goals of the website before proposing a solution and associated cost. In crafting a web strategy, they successfully consider the business, the audience, and the technology. You can expect a detailed quote that demonstrates their understanding of your needs and your business. It will also define the scope, so customer and agency expectations are clear from the start.

Be warned: These types of quotes take longer to generate and may require some Q&A with the agency before you see a quote. That extra time spent at the beginning of the project will be well worth it.

Fixed fee vs. hourly

Keep in mind that agencies typically quote projects either on a fixed fee or hourly basis. Some agencies are open to either approach, so be sure to share your preference if you have one.

It’s important that you and your agency of choice are in alignment with both the quoting and billing process. Make sure invoice terms, ongoing maintenance costs, and recurring costs (such as hosting) are clearly outlined in the quote in order to avoid any surprises. If the interviewing agency didn’t include these costs in the quote or at least educate you on these future costs, you may want to keep looking.

Rates & value

Fixed fee and hourly rates will depend on various factors, such as geographic location, agency size, project scope, technical complexity of project, and more. Years ago, I came across this resource that compares the various classes of agencies. You may find this information helpful as you interview and hire your agency.

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