Hourly consulting rates for online projects vary dramatically. As a customer it can be quite difficult to figure out whether you are paying a reasonable rate as each project has its unique characteristics and consultancies may be more or less hungry for work.
There are many factors which influence what you'll end up paying. You'll notice the wide span in the below ranges for hourly rates collected during the last 6 months (February - July 2009):
- Creuna, a Scandinavian digital agency: €130 - €150
- IBM Global Services: €190 - €300
- LBi, a large full service digital marketing agency: €100 - €130
- Pentia, a Danish Sitecore partner: €150 - €175
- Reading Room, a UK-based system integrator: €100 - €120
Some vendors will offer differentiated pricing based on staff seniority, so that you pay more for experienced consultants. In addition to the hourly rate, it is not unusual to also charge for travelling time, typically at 50 % discount. So, if it takes 4 hours to get to and from your office, travel time alone could easily cost you €200. This is added to the actual travel cost (train, flight, hotel).
Not surprisingly, most vendors are big fans of volume discounts. You should be able to get a substantial discount if you buy a large number of hours. Some will also offer discounted rated for government agencies and charities.
You might prefer to get a fixed price for your project, but still much consulting is done based on an hourly rate. If you manage to get a fixed price, you can expect to pay an hourly rate for change requests, which in some projects tend to accumulate.
In general, implementation partners don't like to talk about money until they have heard your thoughts and plans for the project. They certainly don't advertise their rates on their websites and very few will try to base their pitch to you on their attractive rates. Instead they will try to convince you to use other selection criteria, such as their experience, references and project methodology. For a perspective from the other side of the table, see Darren Fergussons interesting posting on My day rate is my rate, not your rate.
I'm not saying that hourly rates should be your main selection criteria, but since they tend have such a tremendous impact on total project cost, even a few €'s difference will easily add up. Also, remember that once you've started the project it is both expensive and cumbersome to change partner.
What hourly rate are you paying?
Full disclosure: While J. Boye does not do any implementation work, our hourly consulting rates are between €175 - €200.