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What does an ecommerce site go for?

 8:58 am on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

I was wondering what an ecommerce site runs for? I have a client that wants a shopping cart for lingerie business. She plans on selling around 100 products. She wants me to design the layout as well. All the content and photographing her products? She wants to be able toupdate the site herself so I plan on using oscommerce or cubecart for a shopping cart.

Can someone give me a high and low estimate. By the way, she's an old friend. So she probably expects the "friend rate."

Thanks in advance!



 10:16 am on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

She will be providing all the content. Of course I'll have to input the stuff.


 10:33 am on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Why not use Actinic Catalog? You just have to put a couple of produts in and let her do the rest.

As for the price try to find out how much the companies in your area are charging.



 7:49 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

I was kind of wondering the cost? I want to get an idea of what to charge my client. I'm supposed to meet with her in 2 days so I was hoping some of you guys could help out?


 7:52 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

As a general rule, I price development based on the amount of time it's going to take me. Figure out what your time per hour is worth, and build it based on that. I never do flat-rate pricing for any programming or "service" work I do ... if it takes less time than I thought it would, I'm ripping the customer off. If it takes longer, I'm ripping myself off.

There are a ton of free shopping carts out there, some of them are really good - Comersus, for example, is a great one for ASP that's totally 100% free [http://www.comersus.com]

You could probably have her up and running in less than an hour, plus whatever time it takes you to make graphics, etc.


 7:54 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Is there credit card processing involved?

If not, sounds simple. 8-10 pages (including product templates). Probably about $6000-$10000, if she were to imput all product information herself.


 8:22 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

I plan on using either oscommerce or cubecart. Wow $6000-10000. That seems like so much. Anyone else have an estimate?


 9:55 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

take a look at mals-e.com and some of the catalogue front ends that have been developed for it. Dirt easy to install and configure. I'll do it for $5K ;)


 9:57 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

That seems like so much.


Have you thought about:

Professional copywriting
Professional design
Testing (both technical and usuability)
SEO Base (not full optimization, but enough to keep the spiders initially happy)
Changes that always come up in the process of a new store

I thought I was lowballing it actually. It probably wouldn't be that cheap, now that I think about it. Probably $10,000 to $15,000, to do it right.


I will not buy a product from a site with a spikey-haired dude on the homepage.


 10:02 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

lol ... Jake, you MUST BE baked. :)

You can download Comersus - which does EVERYTHING and can have a web store running in a matter of minutes if you know a thing or two about ASP. There are MANY carts out there, with built-in CC support in every possible language you would ever want to use ranging from free to $500.

I would understand a quote like that if you were writing the cart from scratch, but get real man. Copyrighting is probably the easiest part and should be done by the client - let them sell their product in their own words. If you wanted to find a professional copy writer, you can get them for around $50 an hour and it wouldn't take more than an hour or two. Search engine maintenance isn't part of the quote.

The poster is trying to help a friend and you're telling him to charge $6,000 - $10,000 for installing a shopping cart and freakin copyrighting? I'm glad I'm not YOUR friend :)


 10:07 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Copyrighting is probably the easiest part and should be done by the client - let them sell their product in their own words.

I'll leave this up to the copywriters on the board. It'll give you a chance to go get your flamesuit. ;-)


 11:13 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

I actually posted the ad on a popular site and the average price I got was around $1500-2000 for this type of job. This is so confusing. From $10000 to 1500...I just don't know what to do about the price.

Anyone else have an estimate?

Oh yeah, did I mention that the client would be writing all the content.


 11:42 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

I actually posted the ad on a popular site and the average price I got was around $1500-2000 for this type of job. This is so confusing. From $10000 to 1500...I just don't know what to do about the price.

The difference is a successful professional site that can compete in a competitive market versus an average professional site that will *not* compete in a competitive market.

The average pro site can pick up sales - kind of like catching crumbs, but to have a site built that markets and *sells* takes time, experience and skill. Traits that don't come cheap on the open market.

It seems to me that your friend does not understand what it takes for a top tier site - otherwise she would not be asking for the "friend rate".

Anyone else have an estimate?

I am currently doing a "brother rate" site. Not as bad as the friend-rate because he will still be my brother no matter how many times I blow him off. That said, my estimate is ----->

Do it for free.

That way you have an easy excuse for why it is taking you so long. You can *gently* explain that you have clients who have paid you that are making demands - her project will get done soon enough...

If you charge less than your normal rate you make yourself look less than professional (Is that all your worth?) AND once you charge her, she will have the same expectations as your regular clients. Yet her attention will only be paying you a pittance. I have been there and done the friend thing too many times. Never again.


 11:54 pm on Mar 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

point well taken. I'm still looking for a happy medium


 12:42 am on Mar 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Heck, I would start at $15K just for the optimization, and thats for starters. The cost of the site would be on top of that - and the full knowledge that my friend was going to make a boatload of money on my efforts, because it happens every time. But then, if I was serious about this, I would hire a guy like Jake, who really knows what he's doing. I don't believe in doing anything half baked either (no pun intended Jake).



 1:45 pm on Mar 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

I had a friend who was a freelance programmer. He had been in the business for 30 years. His going rate was $80/hour. He explained it like this. If you work at a company making $30/hour doing the same type of work you have to calculate in that the company is probably paying your insurance, taking care of taxes, advertising and doing all the other background stuff. When your self employed you have to hire a accountant (sometimes), pay your own medical expenses, and so on. So you have to add that in to your hourly wage. Thats why you shouldn't feel bad about asking for $60-$80 a hour when you are working independantly.

If you have been building ecommerce sites for years and have it down to a science. You should charge your friend the going rate + discount. Lets say your usual is $80/hour, you might only charge her $60/hour. You should know on average how long it takes you to build and develop the site. You could estimate her that it will take you 20 hours for the initial build.

20x60 = $1,200 + cost

Don't use the $60/hour to pay for the webserver or the software. That $60 is for you. You'll need to add the cost of those things, if they are needed onto her bill.

You'll have to explain to her about maintenance. If a problem comes up and it was your fault, the maintenance time would be free. If she encounters problems or issues you will have to bill her your usual $60/hour. Tell her to expect about 10-20 hours of maintenance or whatever you find to be your usual maintenance time on that type of project.

On the other hand

If you have no experiance building ecommerce sites and have no idea how long it takes to set up on average. You should thank her for the opportunity to let you practice building a real one for her and charge her a flat rate. Tell her this is your first one and you have no idea how long it will take because your on a learning curve. Ask for about $500+cost are whatever you think is appropriate. It would be against your best judgement to ask for a hourly rate to do something you have no experience or idea how long it will take you to do.

This is all just my 2 cents. I have never done this type of thing before.


 7:52 pm on Mar 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'll keep that in mind. This is my first ecommerce job so you're right, I don't know how long a job like this would take. I have been learning the software and it doesn't seem that difficult;perhaps time consuming, but not difficult. I'm going to throw my ego aside, and as you said, use this project as a learning curve and charge somewhere around $2500.

What do you guys think?


 11:06 pm on Mar 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

I recently had a client ask me for a bid on a similair site. Also would be my first foray into ecommerce. They handed me a packet with what they envisioned as a site design, but had some unique programming requirements.

I looked over the packet, decided what it was going to take to do all of the image manipulation, coding and minor SEO and then split my estimate on time for the ecommerce work.

I ended up about the same--quoted $2500

I haven't heard back yet--about a week out, but they also haven't picked up the packet which contains a lot of photos, so I feel safe that they aren't trying to get another quote.

Good luck


 1:26 am on Mar 28, 2004 (gmt 0)


Are you planning on following up with this person?


 10:49 pm on Mar 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

$6,000? $10,000? $15,000

$80/ an hour?

Good God, no wonder other players are outsourcing this work to India and Eastern Europe--

-- and the SEOs and designers from those areas are soliciting the US market as hard as they can--

-- and US based outsourcing companies are popping up like flies around a corpse.

I just read the news and keep up with what's going on. I don't like it more then anybody else in the US but at those prices? C'mon.


 12:02 am on Mar 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

I once quoted a potential client $2000 + commission, and that's Canadian dollars. She got someone else that had quoted her CAD$200.

That was the last time I quoted low: I should have quoted 5-10 times more.

As I see it, a properly executed e-commerce site needs several core competencies:
-Design: branding, etc...
-Html authoring: putting those designs into cross-browser compatible templates, CSS, js, etc...
-Server-side programming
-Content authoring and SEO i.e., do you really want me to write your content? hah!
-Quality assurance - you trust the programmer to deliver no bugs? :)
-Usability testing

I don't know of anyone that can do a very good job on all the above. Customers can get work outsourced to India, or a cheap oscommerce cart put together by almost any webdesign firm. They might even win an award! But will it sell? Will it make money for the business that paid for it?

And doing all that well costs money, the more so because you have to co-ordinate all the different workers, and you can count on the need for at least a couple iterations until you get everything working well. But I don't have it in me to churn out more crap, excusing it by saying that it's merely "competitive".

If that person really is your friend, don't shy away from telling them this will take a lot of work, but spending $10k more upfront should be rewarded at least 10 fold in higher sales. If the market isn't worth it, then by all means go with a cheap package- but if there's money for her to be made, you're not doing her a service by quoting her so low you won't have time to do a top-notch job.


 12:20 pm on Mar 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

$6,000? $10,000? $15,000
$80/ an hour?

Good God, no wonder other players are outsourcing this work to India and Eastern Europe--

-- and the SEOs and designers from those areas are soliciting the US market as hard as they can--

-- and US based outsourcing companies are popping up like flies around a corpse.

I just read the news and keep up with what's going on. I don't like it more then anybody else in the US but at those prices? C'mon.

I think your tapping into a much bigger problem than just computer programmers. This could hit another profession at any time. We could be outsourcing lawyers from other countries in a few years. Anyway.

I know $80/hr seems like a lot but what would you have people that have shelled out $40,000+ for college charge for their services $12/hr? Programmers have to make money too. Think of a doctor visit. I've paid over $120 for a 10 minute visit. How about a hour of a lawyers time or getting some teeth drilled. Other professionals charge outrageous prices so i'm not sure why it would be shocking to find people in the computer industry charging these prices.


 12:28 pm on Mar 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Copyrighting is probably the easiest part and should be done by the client - let them sell their product in their own words.

I'm chiming in late but I just have to say that this is very wrong if you are trying to do things right.

I just read the news and keep up with what's going on. I don't like it more then anybody else in the US but at those prices? C'mon.

You want it done well? You want to succeed? -> you pay for it.

Would you rather go and open your brick and mortar store in the trunk of your car, or build up a nice shop to sell your goods?

People, think of the internet as another market, not a free for all. Treat it like your opening your business in the next city, but my goodness, there are way more people in this market than the next city (unless, maybe, that city is Mexico City).

A client of mine who gets it said to me over coffee on Friday "I think of the internet as France, only with way more people". We live in Spain; France is just another market to him. That is why he shells out money for his internet business, and that's why he makes big money on the internet.

It's also because of this client that I haven't slept in two days...

amflores, you need to sit down and set some objectives with your friend/client. You can do a $2500 job or a $10 000 job, it depends on how serious they are, and how much time they want to put into this.

Maybe have them have a look at


Not a bad read...

[edited by: Travoli at 8:18 pm (utc) on April 1, 2004]


 9:07 pm on Mar 29, 2004 (gmt 0)


Yes, definitely following up with them. I called this morning as a matter of fact. Got the machine though :(


 11:25 pm on Mar 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

It is ridiculous knowing that people will pay $60/hour to a plumber but have a problem putting out more than $30/hour for a web consultant.

I think this taps into the ever growing problem of the de-valuation of our services. There are so many so called ďconsultantsĒ out there that took a community college course and now call themselves web professionals. However, the real problem are the clients.

It is your responsibility to educate your clients. That is why they hire you. They do not know the difference between J2EE and PHP. They do not know what CSS is or how it can improve their siteís accessibility.

Spending the time to teach your clients the VALUE of the solutions you offer will not only benefit you, it will benefit everyone doing web consulting.

You offer value. Not a website, not an online branding campaign, not a rich internet application. You offer VALUE.

Clients need to know that the web has two sides when it comes to business: Success and Failure. The difference between the two is defined by the commitment of the client and the expertise of the consultant.

I bill $125/hour and have no problem presenting estimates at this rate to my clients. Why? Because they know what kind of value they are getting from my services.

I think I side tracked a bit but back to the topic of your eCommerce project. Do your friend a favor if she doesnít have the budget to do things right. Tell her sheís not ready, and that she should start with something simple like eBay, just to tap the waters. Spending $2-$5k on an eCommerce solution will not do the trick. Not even spending $10k or $15k, if the commitment is not there by the client, itís just a waste of their money and infinitely worse, it is a waste of your time.

Marketing is vital to any eCommerce operation. It needs to be done right and it needs to have a working budget. You can put together the most elegant and intelligently architected eCommerce site, but if itís not marketed, there will be no sales and in turn, no value.

Professional copywriting, design, usability, marketing differentiate a selling site from a top performance site.

If she owns a small lingerie boutique, I would recommend a small cookie-cutter eCommerce solution with the backing of an eBay sales initiative.

First of all, do this. Sit down with her and put together a plan. A business/marketing/web plan. This doesnít cost more than a pen and notebook. Really get into where she sees herself in five-ten years. Define goals with no limits and create a plan of action by working backwards and finding what you can do TODAY to work towards that goal.

Start small, but not cheap. My suggestion is the following. Hire a copywriter and photographer. If she has the money to do it, get some models or maybe some hot friends who look good in lingerie. Do professional hair and makeup. Spend the $5k you would spend on the site on preparing professional content.

This will serve as a foundation and will make your cookie-cutter eCommerce site look pro. eBay is a great place to start marketing the site. Conduct auctions and have the site advertised in them.

Get a reliable host with a good site metrics package. This will allow you to see the activity of the site and get valuable feedback that will do wonders when you start marketing online.

As she starts seeing results, look back at the plans and start marketing online through search engines. Bid on keywords through Overture and the other major players.

Itís a business. Make sure she knows that.

This can work and you are in a position where you can either disappoint your friend, or truly make her a believer. There is money to be made; those who make money are not smarter or more capable than those who donít. They simply have a plan and they take action.

I hope this helps.



 5:38 am on Mar 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

Amen! Thats well said David


 9:19 am on Mar 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

>I bill $125/hour and have no problem presenting estimates at this rate to my clients. Why? Because they know what kind of value they are getting from my services.

Good for you and great post! I actually think $125/hour is not in the expensive range....more like the medium range, and certainly nothing for any prospective client to question.

I would estimate at least 100 hours to do this type of project correctly. So that puts the price in the $12,500 to $15,000 range at a medium price per hour payment.

>So she probably expects the "friend rate."

What kind of friend wants you to work for less than you are worth in the open market? What kind of friend expects a good deal for her, while making you feel obliged....I suspect she will understand these concepts and therefore the problem is not actually real.

The "friend rate" is your word that you will do the job professionally and correctly. It is not a financial reduction, but a level of increased mutual trust and respect.


 4:58 pm on Mar 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm advising a friend on how to get his 'store' up and running. He will probably end up doing it himself but if he were to ask me then I would do it for a few hundread pounds. It isn't difficult and I don't know where 6-10k comes from. Anyone paying that amount is paying far too much. And if there are people paying that much then maybe I should start advertising my services.

Undead Hunter

 6:31 am on Apr 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

To those who are surprised by the costs:

No offense, but a room full of monkeys could build an ecommerce store with all the software out there right now, for free. Use OSCommerce: open source, works just about right out of the box, zero money down.

Now, building one that sells really well is a different story.

I consult for a guy with a one-man operation that does $150k a year with his shop. He built it, runs it. The biggest competitor in the field, with a big staff of people, do more than 10 times that in sales per year - almost $2 million dollars. All in a niche category.

It has taken my client almost two years to learn how to drive up sales up as far as he has, so don't be telling me you're going to sit in your basement and crank out a store that's going to match his sales for 500 pounds and some kipper, mate. That's akin to watching a NASCAR race and saying you can tune up your Toyota Echo to take on Dale Ernhart!

The cost of building a good store is NOT the labour or materials but the experience as to what works, doesn't work, and so on.

AND - the cost for a good store can be recouped in the first few months! So, a good store doesn't cost a damn thing, it makes money.

Amflores, sure, start at $2,500 if its your first time out, but double your estimated time. Guarantee you'll hit some snags along the way. I figure its a good deal to get paid anything if you're learning about something new, so long as you can afford it, and you will use it again to be profitable. Don't forget that your client will need you down the road for updates, too. No matter how much you teach them...

Whoever wrote about the $80 per hour was spot on, too.

End of late night rant.


 3:29 am on Apr 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

I have a degree and about 16 years of programming experience, so I say this with full and intimate understanding: the real problem is elance.com

I have paid $5/hour and gotten far superior service than paying some guy 50$/hour.

I have also found that really when it comes to paying someone, it is not the amount you pay that determines the level of service you will get. It's the amount of time you spend making sure that they are right for the task you are giving them.

Generally you have to work a little harder at the lower end of the pay scale, but the same rules still apply at the higher end.

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