Not long ago, a friend called to ask what I’d charge to set up a website for her husband. Since there are no friends in business, I referred her elsewhere, letting her know upfront that my colleagues’ rates might be quite a bit higher than her anticipated budget.
Despite my warning, my friend sent inquiries to several designers and developers, expecting a lot of features for very little money. She was frustrated when she didn’t get many responses and the ones she did get contained some variation of, “Sorry, but I’m not the best fit for your project.”
“What am I doing wrong?” she asked. “All these people want more money than I’m willing to pay.”
The Problem with Bargain Shopping
Bargain shopping is a good thing if you need a pair of jeans, but not so much when you need a professional service. Let’s look at an example.
Imagine that you have a dental emergency and need a cavity filled. There are two dentists in your area:
Which dentist would you call? The one that seems professional (we will assume the logos are representative of each dentist’s website) and costs more, or the one that looks like a circus but might cut you a deal on some worms while you’re there?
This is important for two reasons. First, when you are deciding what you can afford for your own website, keep in mind that cheaper isn’t always better.
Second, you don’t want to hire someone whose website looks like Bob’s Bargain Dental -n- Bait Shop no matter how cheap the work is.
I think we can safely assume that the first dentist probably provides better quality. I have no desire to let someone touch my mouth with a drill for less than I’d pay for a pair of sneakers.
A Word on Costs
As I’ve mentioned before, the cost of a website can vary wildly depending on the functionality you need, who you hire, and a number of other factors. Websites aren’t really like cars, appliances, or any tangible good you might purchase in a store – the creation of a site is a service and not a product.
If you want a website just because it seems like a fun thing to do, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of money. The good news is, you don’t have to!
There are plenty of free or cheap platforms available for people who want to start a blog or website. Watch TV for awhile and you’ll see all kinds of commercials catering to those to want a website without investing a lot of cash.
If, though, you are running a business, whether it’s a blog that earns money, an online company, or even a physical business of some type, your website is (in most cases) the most important form of marketing you could possibly use.
Those of us who provide services for those businesses have worked hard to be able to (1) listen to what you need and (2) develop a plan to meet those needs.
Factors in Deciding What to Pay for a Website
1. How much money can you earn with a well-designed site that functions as it should?
It’s not always easy to estimate how much a website will increase your earnings, but let’s say having a website would help you gain $25,000 a year in revenue.
A website can generally go 2-3 years (sometimes more) before needing a refresh, so if the cost is $10,000 and you can earn $75,000 in its lifespan, isn’t that a pretty good deal? I’d pay $10k tomorrow if I knew I could turn it into $65,000 more in my pocket in a couple of years.
Caveat: No one can or should promise you exact figures because it’s impossible to know for sure.
That said, a web professional should be able to provide examples of increased revenue from past projects to give you an idea of what’s possible.
2. What does your website really need?
Don’t get too focused on sliders and animations and fancy effects. I hate to tell you, but none of that stuff is important.
What matters most is your goal – whether it’s getting visitors to make a purchase, call for an appointment, or request a quote. Every page of your site should be designed with that goal in mind.
3. How much can you afford?
Notice that I didn’t ask how much you’d like to pay, because that’s a totally different thing.
If you don’t think you can spend much money for a website, you obviously don’t expect to gain many benefits from it. So why do you want one in the first place?
4. What will it take to get what you want?
If you want the next Facebook, you can’t have it for $1000. If you want custom functionality, you can’t get it from your friend’s teenage daughter who is learning to build websites in a class at school.
It’s important to prioritize what your website needs. If you can’t afford everything you want right now, you can always break up the project into phases. Get the basics first, then plan the other features around your budget as you can fit them in.
5. Who can you trust?
When interviewing potential designers or developers, you don’t need to know a bunch of tech jargon to decide who’s capable of doing the work.
Here’s what you really need to know:
- Did s/he ask about my goals? If not, that’s a red flag. Run away.
- Is his/her pricing in line with what I can afford? If not, ask for a referral or move on.
- Is his/her past work similar to what I need? ALWAYS ask to see examples of sites s/he has built.
So How Much is Too Much for a Website?
Again, if we’re remembering that websites are a service, not a product, the cost really depends on what you need, how quickly you need it, and how much knowledge and skill is required to make it happen (not necessarily how many hours).
If your dentist takes 5 hours to fill your cavity, should it cost more? Of course not! So why do we want to pay an hourly rate for a website? Does it matter how long it takes if the job gets done by the deadline and the finished product is what you expected?
In previous articles, I’ve given my opinion that a blog shouldn’t cost more than a few thousand dollars unless you have a huge audience and need very specific functionality. For example, if you’re adding a membership component, forums, etc. the price can rise quite a bit.
For a business website, it’s hard to give an estimate because there are so many possibilities. If you need a 5-6 page website with a contact form and no other features, you can probably get something decent around $5-10k. If you need more than the basics, though, expect to pay far more.
If these numbers shock you, you aren’t thinking about what you want your website to do for you or how it will help you earn money.
As I said before, if it’s not going to earn you anything, why on earth would you pay for it? Go get some business cards instead.
But if you want a website because you realize how powerful the internet can be and how much you stand to earn, by all means, be prepared to pay whatever it takes. It’s worth it, I promise.