If you’re starting a small business from scratch, a website is one of the most crucial investments you’ll make.
Balancing the business needs of a website with your purse can be tricky. With so many ways to cut the cloth, it can be difficult to know what your website should cost, and if you’re spending your money in the right way.
As a marketing producer and project manager I’ve managed website budgets from £1,000 to over £1 million, and I’ve created plenty of websites for myself. I’ve also surveyed a range of small businesses to investigate website spending in the wider sphere.
Through all this, I’ve identified 8 key factors that come into play when weighing up the cost of a website for a service based small business.
Understanding these and the degree to which they affect the budget as a whole, will help you decide how much to spend on a website for your small business.
I’ve graded each factor with 1-3 stars to show its potential impact on the overall budget.
Factor #1 – The type of business
Ask one hundred small business owners how much they paid for their website and you’ll get answers ranging from £120 to about £10,000 and possibly more. You might think that one of the primary factors driving this difference is the type of business they have.
When budgeting for a website, the mistake is thinking that “a restaurant website should cost roughly x”, “or all coaches’ websites should cost y”. This is wrong.
It’s true that certain businesses have certain expectations for a website budget, but there are other factors that make a bigger impact on the cost of a website.
Factor #2 – Sales effectiveness
Is your website going to be a ‘calling card’ or a lead generator?
Calling-card or brochure websites are the type where potential clients ‘check you out’ after already having had some contact with you. It might consist of a portfolio to show the type of work you’ve done, a few articles demonstrating your expertise, and some testimonials.
On the other end of the scale is a website that maximises every visit and works harder to create leads for you. It will involve more specialist marketing skills such as strategy, copywriting and UX (user experience) design, and marketing automation.
Factor #3 – Doing it yourself vs hiring professionals
Hey, if even a footballer can create their own website, what’s there to think about?
By all means have a play around in Wix, but as a business owner, I would say that developing a lead generation strategy and planning how your website will support it is a better use of your time, rather than dragging & dropping with frustration (and you will get frustrated).
A web designer who specialises in a particular web builder like Squarespace will save you a lot of time. They’ll know how to get around problems with the platform – they all have their quirks. This would be the cheapest option when it comes to hiring professionals to create your website.
Then you have professionals who customise WordPress sites with code, then finally, on the other end of the cost scale would be a fully bespoke, coded site.
Bear in mind SEO performance. If organic traffic is an important part of your business strategy, then you should avoid the use of web builders and page builders all together, whether you hire a professional or not.
Factor #4 – Hiring a freelance web designer versus a web design agency
Hiring a lone freelancer will be the cheaper option. However, there are some things to bear in mind when choosing between a freelancer or agency.
There are a LOT of skills that go into making a website. I have counted 13 disciplines. It’s impossible for one person to be specialised in all of them.
One of the biggest sacrifices you make when hiring a freelance web designer is copywriting. Copywriting for sales is a specialist skill crucial to the success of your website.
Other things that get tend to get dropped from a low-budget, freelance website project are:
- SEO best practice. Adding meta descriptions can add a considerable amount of time to a website project. And seeing as most clients won’t notice whether it is done or not, a web designer who is competing on price is unlikely to included it.
- Proper testing. Your website should be tested on multiple types of devices and browsers. This is painstaking and takes a fair amount of time.
- Performance optimisation, to increase the speed of the website and thereby improve SEO. A web designer is unlikely to do this, as they probably won’t have the necessary knowledge or coding skills.
- Quality assurance (e.g. proofreading, link checking etc). A web designer will check their work, but for a low budget project, it will fall to the client to pick up errors in the text and links.
So bear in mind, if you want the cheapest website possible, the items above probably won’t be included.
A web design agency on the other hand will have copywriters and coders in their team as standard, and explain to clients what the impact will be if you haggle the costs down.
Factor #6 – Understanding your brand
If you can’t clearly communicate your brand strategy to your web design team before they start, you could end up paying more. Because effectively, they’ll be doing a lot of guess work.
You could end up doing multiple rounds of creative work before you’re happy with the results. It’s usual for a web design contract to include 2 rounds of reviews and feedback, but each extra round will add to the costs.
If you already know your brand personality and what your brand proposition is, you will avoid a lot of trial and error.
Factor #7 – Amount of functionality
Functionality is an all encompassing term to describe what your website can do, or actions that users can perform.
Anything over and above the standard out-of-the-box website features (eg. contact forms, newsletter email captures and so on) will probably mean hiring someone with web development skills. For example, this page, Work with a Coach, features a bespoke filtering function, designed and coded especially for The Coach Space by professionals with specialist skills such as UX design and PHP coding.
Also, if you want your sales and marketing to be automated, you’re likely to need website integrations with other services and tools (such as CRM systems). This will all add to the functionality requirements that need technical skills.
Factor #8 – Content
The amount of content you need your web designer to create, source or edit can make a big impact on a website budget.
We are talking about assets like logos, images, videos, animations, infographics, etc. as well as the text.
A bit of video editing, a few infographics and a lead magnet could end up being a large portion your web design budget.
Those are the 8 key variables that come into play when coming up with a website budget for a small business.
This is a complex topic but at the end of the day, you will probably have an amount in your head that you’re comfortable with spending. So if you’re looking for advice on how to spend your budget most effectively, book a free coffee chat with me.