What’s it gonna cost?


February 23, 2020

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It’s a very common question when a business owner is searching for a website designer, and for good reason. A website is an investment in your business and, for better or worse, your bottom line.

I’ll cut right to the chase and tell you the answer:

A website will cost whatever you’re willing to spend.

I know, I know. It sounds like a cop-out. You were hoping to hear the ins-and-outs of hourly rates, features, project scope, etc. But there are already tons of articles out there with that type of info. They typically tell you to discuss all the details with your designer and get pricing upfront so you know what you’re getting into.

And while they’re not totally wrong, my personal experience has taught me otherwise.

I’ve been quoting and completing website builds for over 10 years, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that project requirements change. It’s virtually impossible to know what a business truly needs until you really start to dig in. Believing otherwise is like judging a book by its cover.

So… project requirements change. Is that a good or bad thing? I’d say it’s a great thing. It means that you are appropriately collaborating with your web expert, and that you are working as a team towards a common goal. You can’t possibly know the technical specs of your project upfront, which is why you hire an expert in the first place. You’re requesting their advice so you can build a path forward together. A path that cannot possibly be laid out beforehand.

If you assume that everyone is on the same page on day one, and you’re quoting every nook-and-cranny of the project upfront, then change becomes a bad thing. If you’ve locked yourself into an over-specified contract, then you’ll have to renegotiate, which translates into wasted time and wasted money.

In other words… if you thoroughly quote a project upfront, you might end up spending more than you wanted and not getting what your business needs.

Not ideal!

Now you’re thinking, “Okay, so am I expected to write a blank check?”

Absolutely not! But rather than telling your designer everything that you want, and asking them to tell you the price… why not tell them what you can afford, give them a basic idea of what you want to do, and just start creating together?

You might find they have some neat ideas. Ideas they may only have once they get to know you and your business. If you focus on your needs throughout the entire design process, rather than just the beginning, you’ll end up with far better results. And you’re even more likely to stay within your budget!

You may have reservations about telling a web designer (or several designers) what your budget is. And that’s understandable. You might be thinking…

What if I tell them a really high number and they gouge me?

If you can’t trust the designer you’re considering working with, then you’re already off to a bad start. Designers don’t become successful by gouging their clients. If you see a fair amount of samples in their portfolio that you like, chances are they’re providing their clients with good value for whatever they’re charging.

I’d recommend talking to a few designers and see what, in general, they can accomplish within your budget. If your budget is way too high for what you actually need, the designer will likely give you some bonus ideas to take your site to the next level. You may be surprised by some of the valuable add-ons you can get at your pricepoint. But hey, if you don’t need all those extra things, you don’t have to do them. Simply stay under budget with all the features you really want. Win-win!

What if my budget is too low for what I want to do?

Great! You’ve just saved the designer, and yourself, a lot of time. Every design shop has a different pricing scale, and if a designer is on the higher end, it’s nice to know that they’re not a good fit right away. Your budget may still get you what you want, just not with that designer. They may even offer a few referrals to cheaper shops to help you out.

I don’t trust the designer with my budget, because I just want them to give me the best price.

Again, if you can’t trust them with the numbers, you’re not starting off on the best foot. But even more importantly, trying to bargain-hunt for a designer is a bad idea. Rather than hunting for the best price, you should hunt for the best value. There’s a big difference. Try providing a budget to several designers and see what they can do for you within that budget. Now you’re shopping by value rather than price. And by giving an honest number upfront, you’ll likely get better quality service. What do you really have to lose? So, they know your budget. If you don’t like what they tell you after that, simply walk away. This is actually a great test to see if the designer is both skilled and trustworthy.

To recap… building your website will take the amount of time it takes. Setting a budget isn’t going to change that. But it will allow your designer to properly plan for features and advise you accordingly. And you may be surprised what open-ended collaboration with the right web expert can do for your business.


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