As part of an ongoing annual survey for the social media industry, Mark Collier offers this year’s “How Much Does Social Media Cost Companies in 2012?” report on our industry.
This is a significant survey and mostly matches the ones coming out of the WordPress 2011 State of the Word survey from self-employed respondents, WooTheme’s Infographic on WordPress in 2012 for designers and developers, and similar studies and reports.
As I travel the world talking to designers, developers, and coders wanting to base their business on WordPress, I’m often asked how much they should charge to which I respond “less than I do but more than you are currently.” Too many under-charge, making it harder for professionals to keep their rates reasonable.
According to Collier’s research, most designers are charging for blog design and core development USD $1,000 to $3,000 when the going rate is $1,000 to $5,000. This is an appropriate but high figure compared to what I’m hearing in conferences and workshops. They tell me that they are charging $25 to $500 for a full WordPress website, including installation and setup.
Writing and editing content for the blog (which usually includes training in-house staff) is $500 to $4,000 a month (two posts a week). When I started publishing and selling my writing in the 1980s, the minimum I got was $100 an article. The range was $100 – $1000 and my goal was to reach the top level by 1990-95. Then the web happened and the value of professional writing and photography went down the drain. The average web post gets $10-25 and that includes the photographs and artwork. Like most things, you get what you pay for and expert technical and social media content writers need to get paid the higher prices accordingly.
Ghostwriting blog posts for their owners are charged by the post at $50-$500, though some work on a monthly rate. Ghostwriting is blogging as the person you, not yourself. This is an underrated skill and ghostwriters should be making closer to the higher rate. You have to get into the person’s head a little, write like them, and make readers believe you are them. This is a talent and skill!
To manage a Twitter and/or Facebook account (and provide training) is $500 – $3,000 depending upon needs. A long term campaign or contest ranges from $1,500 to $20,000 for a short term one, and $25,000 to $75,000 for a long-term (typically 3-6 months) campaign. These figures have stayed basically the same or increasing over the past few years. Having done this for clients and my own companies, it is hard work to keep the social web fed, to meet the needs of the client as well as their customers. I specialize in training companies on how to develop a strong voice online whether one or ten people are representing them. It takes a lot of planning, training, and character building to create such personas and keep them going.
Video figures were fascinating. We live in an age where there is a camera and video recorder in every pocket, sometimes two. We accept poor quality video without question, and praise and share it often. Yet, to do it right is an art form and costs. I’ve heard this before and Collier repeats it: Expert videographers charge $1,000 per minute of finished product. Audio and video take an enormous time to prep for publishing. It’s hard work, long hours, and a lot of technical expertise, which justifies the high price.
Like many long time social media and web publishers, I’m hired for my social media and web publishing expertise. Collier’s survey shows me that I need to increase my own prices though I’m still in range. His survey reports basic social media setups run $500 to $5,000 with ongoing reports $500 to $7,500 a month. Much of this work must be done manually as there still are not many programs available to fine tune a solid social media and publishing report covering the wide spectrum of outreach and exposure, analysis, and reviews. Prices for more indepth review, strategies, and audits are higher.
Social media training and consulting ranges from $50 to $500 an hour with monthly rates prorated appropriately. This hasn’t changed much over the past few years. What has changed is that companies are smarter and eager to get their employees trained rather than rely upon outside contractors to manage their social web exposure. The demand for training is very high and I can barely keep up with the demand for training workshops.
A fascinating figure was the price of hiring a social media speaker. For 60-90 minutes, $1,000 to $5,000 to give you a range you need to consider when booking your next gig. Keynotes charge $1,000 to $15,000, giving you an idea what social media experts like Chris Brogan and Liz Strauss may charge for professional appearances.
Me, I’m cheap. Especially when it comes to WordPress and WordCamps, though I’ve started charging for travel and lodging now for all of these. The costs are just too high to continue to do these for free.
Educate Thyself: Know what You are Getting and Getting Into
Collier’s article ends on some well-deserved advice for choosing a social media consultant, which applies to all web development and design projects.
It boils down to you knowing what you want and need before you approach the consultant, which means you, as the client, must educate yourself on your business, its social media and marketing needs, content strategies, and goals, as well as have a good understanding of your industry within the social web. This puts a lot of responsibility (and learning curve time) on you, the client.
For web designers and developers, this puts a greater burden on you as you need to spend additional time educating your potential clients before they become clients. You need to help them understand that there is a scam under every virtual rock and not everyone who titles themselves one of the new web dev/design/SEO titles means they really know what they are talking about. Another reason for my Prove It Campaign this year.
I’ve been in the public relations and advertising industry since 1976, and helped develop the social web as we know it from the earliest days (pre-web), so forgive my callous disregard of those with six months experience getting paid $5,000 a pop for what they really know little about. We have to educate our clients to protect them, whether or not they choose our bid, and we need to educate ourselves.
It is essential you have a “buyer beware” attitude. Too many people are fresh out of school with little real world or timely experience or technical ability in web technology. Hire them. They need the experience, but they might not be right for your company. Know what you are getting. Too many people are hired because they are friends, family, or neighbors, not because they have certifications and training. Your online identity for yourself and your business is no different from the hard work and money you put into your business cards, yellow pages ad, magazine ads, television ads, and billboards – all your marketing and advertising strategies. Choose someone with the expertise, education, and experience to help you.
As part of the preparation for teaching WordPress and web development at Clark College and other educational institutions, I’ve put together a list of web design and development resource links on my teaching blog. On Web Design and Development, I’ve put together a reference list of articles on web design theory and research, web design tips and checklists, etc., and on Web Practitioner is a resource list for working with clients, professional standards, policies, and skills, questions to ask clients, and client checklists to help you become a better professional.
The numbers didn’t surprise me. Do they surprise you? Are you undercharging clients? Or overcharging?
There are no current industry standards for this, no union, so we have to work together so we all charge fair rates and customers learn to trust us.