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How much is an web-based application worth?

by perleager (Pilgrim)
on Mar 17, 2005 at 05:43 UTC ( #440270=perlquestion: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??
perleager has asked for the wisdom of the Perl Monks concerning the following question:


Sort of a vague question. Lets say I was asked to make an secure web-based data application for a company looking to keep track of there data online.

Now the company provides me all the tools I need to work with-network with Perl, MySQL, SSL, and there own network admin.

I haven't been told about what I need to specifically do but they told me the application would consist of 8 custom decent size forms (10-25 fields), user/pw for data inputters, an admin section that can add/delete user, change pw, and view reports of data generated. It would also include about 7-8 search functions (search by date, inputter, product name, client name , etc).

Basically I will make this program as professional as possible--following the OWASP Guide. That is I'll program the application as efficient as possible (using the right dbi statements and sql queries) and also as secure as possible (taint mode, strict, and form proofing--tainting and verifying each fields, ex. only allow 9 numerical characters for an SS#).

How much should I charge them? Do companies out there pay several thousands to do such a task? Should the programmer (Me) be making a good 1,000? 2,000?

Any feedback is appreciated.

Thank you,
  • Comment on How much is an web-based application worth?

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Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by samtregar (Abbot) on Mar 17, 2005 at 07:07 UTC
    I haven't been told about what I need to specifically do but they told me the application would consist of 8 custom decent size forms (10-25 fields), user/pw for data inputters, an admin section that can add/delete user, change pw, and view reports of data generated. It would also include about 7-8 search functions (search by date, inputter, product name, client name , etc).

    You haven't been given enough information to have any idea what the application will do. 80 to 200 form fields across 8 screens should be enough to implement a huge range of complex web applications! Hell, you could implement a reasonable subset of Krang within those limits. (Krang took 4 programmers around 7 months to complete.)

    How much should I charge them?

    From what you've said I think it's a fair bet that you're not experienced enough to make a fixed fee bid for a project this large. Instead I suggest you shoot for something based on the time it actually takes you to complete the project. Feel free to make an estimate but do yourself a favor and don't bet any money on it!



      thanks for the reply.

      See thats the thing. Basically a person I know is telling me about this project. He as of now pays me fifteen dollars an hour to work on such a project. This project will probably take me several months (5-7 months). He pays me weekly according to the number of hours I work.

      But the thing is that he negotiates the deal with the company that wants this custom database application. I was asking this question to have some idea about how much hes making and whether or not I'm getting screwed by gettin paid 15 dollars an hour for this type of job.

      Thank you,
        It's hard to know if you're getting screwed without a few more variables. Where do you live? How much experience do you have?


Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by astroboy (Chaplain) on Mar 17, 2005 at 08:00 UTC

    If you're acting as a sub-contractor, wondering what the main contracting party is making is only going to cause you grief. I've seen a lot of people end-up quite bitter because they think that they're getting exploited.

    Instead, just look at what you'd want your hourly rate to be if you were a free-lancer. I have a rate that I charge myself out at when I take on a project - whether it's for the end customer or another supplier. I'm happy with that rate, and won't go below it. If I'm sub-contracting to someone else and they make a fortune ... good on them - I've been paid what I asked for

      As of now I'm happy with 15 dollars an hour.

      I'm not too worried about being exploited, this boss of mine is a friend and helps me a lot.

      I look at it as an internship opportunity.

      As he gives me projects to do, I learn and my Perl skills eventually increase as they go along.

      I'm just wondering if 15 dollars is the right amount of such a task I'm about to be taking?
        I'm just wondering if 15 dollars is the right amount of such a task I'm about to be taking?
        So, if people here would say, no $15 is too low, you should at least be getting $N/hour, for some N > 15, then what? You're happy with what you get now, will you then become unhappy? Will you ask for a raise? What if you don't get the raise? Leave, and become an unemployed programmer without much experience, and without having ever to finish a project, but with a history of walking out of a project because no longer satisfied with the agreed on pay?
        I don't know what your market rates are. $15/hr is about $30k per year based on a 40hr week (this isn't exact, of course, but I basically take the hourly rate, double it, and add 3 zeros to work out an approximate yearly income). Is $30,000 a year reasonable for an intern? "Intern" isn't a job title where I come from, but from what I understand, it's a trainee postion, so it sounds like it may be an ok rate to me
Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by dragonchild (Archbishop) on Mar 17, 2005 at 14:18 UTC
    How many hours do you think it will take you to do this? Take that number, add 20%, multiply by your hourly rate, and that's the estimate. So, if you say "100 hours", then I would give a dollar estimate of 120*15, or $1800. Round up for fudge and you have roughly $2000, or so.

    Now, that's your hourly rate. My hourly rate is significantly higher than that. merlyn's hourly rate is going to be higher than both of us put together. Why? I'm more experienced that you seem to be and he blows both of us away. The hourly rate is a good descriptor of how complicated your work can be.

    For example, merlyn is ridiculously productive building complex web applications. He knows the tools inside and out and probably has 80% of the product built before he walks in the door just from having components he's used on 30 jobs before yours. By the time you've finished telling him what you want, he already has it designed in his head and knows which modules he's using, what ideas he has to research, etc. He also knows what specifications you didn't tell him, meaning he can help you figure out what you really want before the first meeting is done.

    You - you're probably going to churn a bit more. You're going to be spending time learning about the process along with building the product. There's a lot of gimmes and gotchas that even your pared-down list is exposing. A few items:

    • A SS# doesn't have to be 9 numerical characters. 99% of the time, it will be, but that 1% will get you every time.
    • How are you going to build the reports? What type of choices are you going to let your users have? Can they change the date range? What about the type of report? What about formats for seeing the report (HTML, PDF, XLS, RTF, etc)?
    • What about writing a new report? How quickly will the company do that? One of my personal specialties is improving the time it takes to write a new report. My personal best is taking a process that required 40 developer hours to write a new report and cutting that to 4 hours.
    • Maintenance in general is an issue. Are you going to write code that another Perl contractor can maintain? This is actually a problem for every Perl developer, not just the newbies. Somtimes, the experienced guys have more of a problem with this than the newbies.

    In other words, $15/hr isn't unreasonable. But, you're probably going to be spending more than your estimate in hours, just in learning. I know I've been rambling, but it's a big questionspace.

    Being right, does not endow the right to be rude; politeness costs nothing.
    Being unknowing, is not the same as being stupid.
    Expressing a contrary opinion, whether to the individual or the group, is more often a sign of deeper thought than of cantankerous belligerence.
    Do not mistake your goals as the only goals; your opinion as the only opinion; your confidence as correctness. Saying you know better is not the same as explaining you know better.

Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by brian_d_foy (Abbot) on Mar 17, 2005 at 09:00 UTC

    As a friend in the antiques business constantly reminds me: value is an individual estimation, and there is no such thing as worth: only what people are willing to pay. Some companies get things for free where other companies will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the same thing (*cough* Oracle *cough*).

    In your case, you have to decide how much money you want to get for the time you have to devote to the project. Your answer will be depend on your particular situation and what your time is worth to you. Charge them as much as they'll pay you: it's your time they are buying, after all, and there are plenty of people looking to hire Perl programmers.

    brian d foy <>

      I was going to say much the same thing. (it's only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.) Rather than be completely repetitive, you might Joel Spolsky's article on a similar topic (pricing software), although it doesn't handle the specific case of contracting (as with boxed software, you have to balance quantity sold with the overall procive), it does talk about some of the general concepts to think about.

      Oh -- and it might've been during the dot-com boom, but one of my former bosses said the best advice he was ever given was to charge at least $100/hr -- people treat you different when you're making more than they are. They don't come to you with every little problem. They don't waste your time by expecting you to type everything in from a page that's a 12th generation xerox, etc. (I've gotten paid considerably more than that for a rush job -- the important thing is to make sure the specifications are firm, and to beat whatever expectations they may have of you) In some ways, it's like sneakers -- if you raise the prices, people assume there's extra value in there. (see Joel's article). Never try to compete on price -- compete on quality. (again, see the article).

        jhourclewrote...the best advice he was ever given was to charge at least $100/hr -- people treat you different when you're making more than they are.

        Only works if you deliver as promised, on time, every time. If you are just learning, mostly you should be happy with something that pays the bills. Then take those skills and charge the next customer more.

        s//----->\t/;$~="JAPH";s//\r<$~~/;{s|~$~-|-~$~|||s |-$~~|$~~-|||s,<$~~,<~$~,,s,~$~>,$~~>,, $|=1,select$,,$,,$,,1e-1;print;redo}
Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by Popcorn Dave (Abbot) on Mar 17, 2005 at 07:33 UTC
    Out of curiosity, what is your liablility if the program you write is hacked or otherwise compromised? Are you required to have some kind of bond, or are you absolved of any responsibility.

    Useless trivia: In the 2004 Las Vegas phone book there are approximately 28 pages of ads for massage, but almost 200 for lawyers.
      It'll be none of my responsibility.

      Most likely my boss, the one who negotiates the deal with the company.

      I do not need to worry about writing the script and having someone take credit for it.

      Basically as I make it and I have work to show, I'll be gettin paid hourly. Once its all done, the project is considered over and If the application ever needed to be updated or fixed for bug issues, I'll also be paid hourly.

      Thank you,
Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by Tanktalus (Canon) on Mar 17, 2005 at 15:55 UTC

    I'm not sure that this has anything to do with web apps, or even necessarily perl at all.

    It's a very general question: you're being paid to do something. Someone else is doing the paying. That someone else is expecting to reap a return on their investment, whether that is by, in turn, reselling the fruits of your labour (an employer or supercontractor, "super" being merely the opposite of "sub", not a statement of superpowers ;->), or it is by improved sales for reduced cost or improvements in internal processes to lower costs, or to penetrate a new market, in your case, via the web (when you sell directly to a customer).

    For example, I participate in the development of off-the-shelf software. Software is so cute in this way: the price actually paid by the customer is a factor of what they get out of it, and has little bearing on what I am being paid, since the physical costs are so low (CD, box, manuals). I don't worry that my employer makes millions (USD) on a single sale, while paying me a tiny fraction of that (in CDN). My personal rate is based on my skill set, and my personal productivity and value to my employer. How much work can I accomplish, in how little time, helps determine my pay rate. (Also, how much money I could command in the market should I decide to check that out - this is a factor with my employer.)

    How much is your time worth? Whatever the market will bear. As a student without a formal degree, I would think that $15-20 USD per hour is reasonable. Any more than that, and people would expect you to have things accomplished faster and more reliably. Any less than that, and you're cheating yourself. Remember that you get what you pay for - that applies to your customers as well.

    That said, if you only make $1-2K, I have to think you're a heck of a lot more productive than we're giving you credit for, and should charge more money ;-) 100 hours at $15/hr is $1500 - so you're thinking this will take 2-3 weeks of full time work? You must be better at this stuff than I am, and I make significantly more than $20USD/hr ;-) (to be fair, my job has nothing to do with web apps.) You'll chew up 15-20 hours just in talking about what needs to be done, nevermind the actual coding. And be sure you're being paid to talk as well as code.

      I agree. This is probably something for "Meditations". Regardless, it is definitely good conversation and feedback.

Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by b10m (Vicar) on Mar 17, 2005 at 08:36 UTC

    I always like to run SLOCcount on projects. It gives you a ballpark figure. Not that you must follow it, but it nice to get some figures ;)


    All code is usually tested, but rarely trusted.
Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by FitTrend (Pilgrim) on Mar 17, 2005 at 14:00 UTC

    My company develops Enterprise Network Management application written in perl and our apps cost 1k to 45k+ depending on what the customer choose to purchase. We develop internally and contract other perl developers occassionally to help when development as needed.

    We normally structure work by the job vs. an hourly rate. We mock up the entire project in Powerpoint, get the necessary feedback for our strategic direction, then its my job to determine what the time frame to deployment and how long to develop the application. This works fairly well for us and allows me to figure out how to bonus both internal staff and budget for external contractors (if necessary) to complete the task. I personally think its reasonable to charge $35 - $50/hr when doing by the hour. However, I prefer to say:

    • here is the scope
    • it needs to be completed in 30 - 60 days
    • and we'll pay you X dollars.

    This way, the developer has the freedom to complete the task when they can as long as they meet my release date goals. Whether they crank and get it done in 2 weeks or they take 60 days to complete the job is up to them. It pays the same. Some time we add additional incentives to complete the job quicker.

    This is the same methodology we use when we bid for custom features and applications that either integrate or not integrate with our applications.

    • Powerpoint the project
    • conversation between the customer and development
    • agree on a dollar amount for the job
    • get the PO
    • develop and deploy
Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by TedPride (Priest) on Mar 17, 2005 at 08:53 UTC
    I would be surprised to find a professional company that would accept a job of this scope for less than 2K. However, that same company would have overhead (hosting costs, online fees, phone, maybe fax, hardware and software to keep recent, etc.) and you have to factor in time spent getting the job and talking to the client. Not all, or even nearly all, of the 2K+ is going to be raw profit. And how much time are you going to spend on the job? Probably quite a bit. And what if the client doesn't pay up? You still get paid.

    Bottom line, there's no way to tell how much profit your boss is making off the programming. However, from an hourly wage point of view, $15 / hour sounds does sound a bit low if you do fast, professional work. If you're the only programmer working for him and have finished at least college, I'd push for a bit of a raise, or better yet, a cut of the action.

    EDIT: But if you're interning, $15 / hour is fair.

Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by dimar (Curate) on Mar 18, 2005 at 03:43 UTC
    Some additional tidbits that bear mentioning.
    • Who is the customer? A small business that intends to use this application heavily in critical business processes, a quasi-governmental org that just needs something functional in order to qualify for grant money?
    • Who is on the hotseat for technical support, bugfixes, maintenance and upgrades? What are the terms of the contract, how thorough is the design specification?
    • What would this customer consider the next best alternative if they didn't have the option of whatever it is you are giving them?

    Unless you are building something exceptionally unique, bear in mind that there are zillions of services and software out there that allow deployment of run-of-the mill web database front-ends out there ... many requiring little or no technical proficiency.

    There are also programmers and design firms out there with many decades of experience that will be more than happy to charge thousands for very specialized and very high quality work.

    There are also websites that allow people to buy 'works for hire' internationally ... and in many countries, (qualified) people are willing to program for what the USA considers "minimum wage" (some even less).

    The main point is, asking how much a web-app is worth is somewhat like asking how much is a meal at a restaurant worth. Depends. Are you talking McDonalds? The Beverly Hills Chateau du Sureau? Even if you design the app flawlessly with industry best practices, that doesn't make much difference if the person paying the bills is not sophisticated enough to appreciate that fact, especially if you give them filet mingon, and all they wanted was a big mac and fries.

Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by JSchmitz (Canon) on Mar 17, 2005 at 16:37 UTC
    15 dollars an hour? That is not a fare rate for this type of work at all. I am assuming you are not working thru a consulting company or contract agency because you would be making 30+ an hour at least. The question is not what the app is worth but what is a fair rate for your time and skill set. If you can program in perl and know MySQL you are being way underpaid. It also sounds like a relatively short term gig so that should boost your pay rate even more. A simple search on Monster or Dice will give you a good idea what the rates are.


Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by mkirank (Chaplain) on Mar 18, 2005 at 06:56 UTC
    This is from a different perspective

    I will put the labour costs being paid around here (this is the salary being paid (cost to company) and includes office space ,medical ,insurance ... )
    5-6 years of experience paid around $3 - $5 per hour
    3-5 years of experience paid around $2 - $3 per hour
    0-3 years of experience paid around $1 - $3 per hour (this includes fresh CS students)
    Again this is fixed salary per month and the people here usually end up working anywhere between 10-12 hours per day but they do not get anything extra (they are only paid for 8 hours)
    Companies here charge the clients anywhere between $5-$50 per hour (depends on the size/name of the company) .

    Now the answer to your question , If i were to work from home with my experience and kind of salary that i get here , $5/Hr is more than what i get in a job
    . In short you can take the job for $15 and source it to someone for $5 and u just review the work and get the job done by just monitoring
    does this sounds familiar ;-)
Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by nmerriweather (Friar) on Mar 17, 2005 at 16:44 UTC
    not perl but english related:

    wrong: "there own network admin"
    right: "(they're happy that) their own network admin (works overe there with them)"

    (that stuff really bugs me)
Re: How much is an web-based application worth?
by Anonymous Monk on Mar 17, 2005 at 08:46 UTC

    Your approaching this from the non-Perlish perspective.

    You should write the app, put it on CPAN, show the company how to install it and sit back and wait for the bug reports to come in as you write the book of your experience and publish your paypal number begging for donations. That's OSF way!

      This kind of attitude is giving open source/free software a bad reputation. There are many people out there that make money with free software and depend on it for their living. Implying that "free software" means "you don't get paid for your work" means spreading FUD.

      And there's nothing "Perlish" about that.

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