That's a very good question and after reviewing it and the answers you have received I have just gotta say...aaaaaaaaaaaaagh!
I am predominately a Marketer who has been sucked into the world of Web Design pretty quickly. I know nothing about designing pages, I have a designer who is excellent though.
My advice is this...never, ever charge by how long it will take. Don't charge by how skilled you are. And certainly don't charge less than the competition. Charge more...usually lots more. I base my charges on how much I think the client will pay.
We win 95% of all the jobs for and I can just about guarantee we are the most expensive every time. People do not assess you on your skill or programming level, they don't assess you on your creative genius, they don't assess your design ability (They usually don't have the technical expertise to judge that stuff anyway). The only thing the client is interested in is: can you do the job. And, more importantly, is going with you as the designer going to be less risky than going with someone else.
I'll give you an example. We won a job a couple of weeks ago for $17,000. We were up against two other designers. The other quotes were for $3,000 and $3,500. So why did we get the job?
Are we better qualified? Nope
Would we finish the site quicker? Nope
Are we better designers? Probably not
Do we live closer to the client? Nope
Is the client my dad? Good question, but no!
I'll go through what we do so you can see exactly why we got the job and continue to get jobs at a premium price.
1) The client rings the office and tells me he wants a web site. I make an appointment for 3 days time.
2) As soon as I'm off the phone I send a "Thanks for the call" letter confirming the time and place of the meeting. We include a business card. The client receives it the next day.
3) We do as much research on the potential client as possible. Down to when the company started, products, people in the firm, etc. Takes a couple of hours.
3) I arrive on time to the meeting wearing a perfect blue suit, blue tie (That's the client's corporate colours). I'm carrying my beautiful leather briefcase. I open the conversation with some small talk and tell the potential client what an awful weekend I had because I shot a 85 on the ABC Golf Course. He says "Really, I'm a member there. I love golf." Gee, what a co-incidence that is.
4) We finish the small talk and get onto business. I bring out a manila folder with his name, position, business name and logo on a sticker on the front. Also evident is the time and date of the meeting. From this I pull out a 6 page 'Assessment Form' for his needs and wants. We go through this meeting and I make notes as we go on my lovely fountain pen.
5) After an hour long meeting I thank him for his time, tell him I'll be in touch on Thursday and leave.
6) Back at the office I draft the "Thank you for your time" letter and post it off.
7) On Thursday at 9 am I ring and let the prospect know that we have reviewed his needs and wants and have a draft ready. We need to go over the draft to "ensure I have everything straight in my head" and I make an appointment for 3 days time. I send off a letter confirming that appointment.
8) I rock up to the next meeting with the overview of what his needs are and what we need to do together to achieve them I toss in a few case studies of previous clients to show we have a complete understanding of what he requires. The client says "Yep, that's about what we need." I say when do you need our quote by and the client says "It's quite urgent, so the middle of the week." I promise it to the client by Wednesday at 4 p.m.
9) The client gets another "Thank you for your time" letter.
10) On Tuesday at 9.30 am the client receives the quote from us via courier with a note that says it is early because he needed it as a matter of urgency so we worked on it over the weekend to have it ready.
11) The quote is actually a 30 page nicely bound proposal that reiterates his needs and wants and shows how the site will address these. It includes testimonials from previous clients (with contact numbers), proposed flow charts and a timetable of exactly what would happen and when. We have profiles on the team members who would be working on the site, the FAQ section has 20 of our most common questions and answers and we include copies of computer magazine articles that have reviewed our previous sites.
We also include a CD-ROM with examples of our previous sites.
12) I visited the propsect as promised and ask if he has any questions regarding the proposal. WE THEN ASK FOR THE JOB..."Well John, would you like us to work with you on this project?"
13) When he said "Yes" we send him a "Thanks for choosing us" letter, along with our first invoice (50%). We include a Reply Paid envelope for our cheque to go in.
14) I sent the person who referred this client a "Thanks for the referral" letter and then took him and his wife out for a very nice dinner.
15) Then we didn't do what we said we would...we did a heap more. Extra 2 pages, a bit of Flash on the site, and one or two other things.
16) When the site was finished I took the client out for lunch and thanked him for the assistance with the project, what a pleasure to work with a professional, etc. I gave him a gift of a framed photo we had scanned and put on the site (of the business' founder - they only had the 1 photo of the founder). I sent flowers and chocolates to the Graphic Artist who had been a help to us.
After we started work I found out that the other two firms quoting never met with the client. They took the details over the phone in a 10 minute conversation. Both provided a one page quote a week later. One of them hand delivered it wearing a pair of gardening shorts.
The reason we got the job: mostly we were perceived as less risk than the others. They may well be better designers, quicker designers, etc...but the client doesn't perceive that. Also, the way we develop the relationship and the way the client perceives us as having a very thorough and working knowledge of the obstacles facing their Internet strategies helps. And clients do tend to associate lower price with lower quality.
Take a stab in the dark TJ and guess who the client has just signed up to keep their site up to date, submitted to the engines, etc at a very, very healthy fee?!!
Don't charge by the hour, don't charge based on what everyone else charges, charge what you think the client will pay someone of your (perceived) professionalism.
Hope this helps your review.