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How much should I charge as an amateur web designer?

Question by Michael: How much should I charge as an amateur web designer?
Hello, I have been learning web and graphic design as a hobby for about 2 years now. I’ve learned much about design in general and now – finding myself currently unemployed – would like to start doing this for money.

I am truly passionate about design/typography/the web in general and I would love to make a living out of this and continue learning about all of these. I have no formal education in the field – besides 1.5 years of highschool art class – so everything that I know is either self taught or learned via videos/internet tutorials/books. I know only the very basics of SEO (meta tags, google analytics, using proper keywords, having unique non-repeating content throughout, having clean code), almost 0 back-end development for more complex sites (but just enough php to convert a site to use wordpress).

The question that I have is how much could I charge – as an amateur designer – for a website? I have only ever done 2 websites for other people (besides unreleased test portfolios that I have done for myself). One that I did pro bono for a project and another that I only charged $ 40 for practice(it included no SEO, but was a simple one page business advertisement with contact info basically).

I am going to post links to my two previous portfolios – not in an effort to gain customers via this forum (honestly i would rather start off working locally only) – but to have you critique my work (both of the sites are technically unfinished) about the design, and give me an estimate of how much I could charge for my services. Currently I am thinking that I should charge about $ 500 for my first client (if the project is simple enough). Please let me know what you think!

Here is my first portfolio. It’s nearly finished but all the links are currently broken (except the nav bar)
http://bit.ly/10m6XYR

Here is the portfolio I am currently working on. It is not nearly finished, but I think the design is nice, please keep that in mind, but do not hold back from criticizing things that need to be.
http://bit.ly/177mPH5

Thank you for taking the time to read my question. The reason I ask this is so I do not rip off any client I have, yet I know that I still need to make a living somehow. I am trying to be as honest of a businessman as possible. And I thank you in advanced for your answers! :)
@BC
From what I know, professionals charge $ 1000 absolute minimum for a very basic site. 1 to several pages of just basic information with no CMS or advanced SEO. Basically what I would like most of my jobs to be. And I feel that 50% less is a pretty drastic discount for the service. But thank you for the advice! :)
@indacloud
Thank you for your input! I really appreciate what you said about needing to think about other people’s perspective and not just my own personal tastes. Makes a lot of sense. I will definitely keep that in mind from here out.

I had a hard time thinking of doing a site for $ 250ish (USD), but If i calculate it:
approx 20-25 hours of work with logo design, logo revisions, site design, site revisions and actual coding at $ 9.19/hour (minimum wage where i live), comes to about $ 183 – $ 229
Now assuming that I value my time at above minimum wage, $ 250 seems (at least for the time) acceptable. I will see what comes up.

But I have heard that freelancer.com is full of subpar work. However I have not visited the site so my point may be completely invalid…

Either way I thank you for your honest answer! :)

Best answer:

Answer by BC
Find out what the “professionals” charge and discount your services drastically in order to get work. Once you have performed, you can raise your rates based on your abilities and experience. Sometimes you have to give away your work to get noticed. But once you develop a reputation, you can make up lost income with premium prices.

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