Ah the elusive question. So you want a website but have absolutely no idea whether it’s something you can afford right now. Designers ask your for your budget and you don’t want to offend them by going too low or risk getting ripped off by going too high.
So why doesn’t anybody seem to publish their rates? It’s not because they’re mean and like seeing you squirm. It’s because websites can come in all shapes and sizes, from a small 5 page brochure website to a full-blown e-commerce platform. It’s practically impossible to quote for every eventuality and it puts designers at risk of under-charging or you at risk of over-paying.
However, all is not lost. There are some guidelines which will give you an idea of what you might end up spending. So I’ll go through what you can get for different budgets and then some considerations at the end as to when these costs will likely increase (and ways you can keep them down).
If your budget is £1,000 or less
It’s perfectly reasonable to get a small website designed and built for less than £1,000. However most established freelance designers won’t be able to accommodate this.
But never fear! If this is your budget you still have 2 options and they very much depend on how much time you have and the result you’re expecting.
Option 1: Save time, but skimp on quality
If you’re busy, as a lot of business owners are, and you aren’t going to rely solely on a web presence for your business (e.g. if you’re a brick and mortar who does most of your selling in a physical shop) you could use a marketplace website like UpWork.
On these websites you post your project for free and designers from all over the world will bid to work on it at extremely competitive prices. You can then check out their portfolio, read their reviews and pick the designer you’d like to work with. Sounds perfect, right?
In a lot of cases it is, but you really do need to be careful on websites like this as the quality can vary wildly. I’ve seen many instances where designers have taken work that isn’t theirs to use in their portfolio, so you think you’re getting a certain level of design, but you actually get something a lot less.
However, if you’re busy and not too fussy about the actual design, this can still be a great option. Just be extra careful, Ok?
Option 2: Be in control of quality, but spend time
If you really want to save money and have the time to devote, consider building your own website. It’s not a scary as it sounds.
Websites like Squarespace have come along and made it so easy for anyone to make their own professional website without having to learn code.
I personally think this is a better option than the above because you will be able to dictate how perfect you want the website to be and any change that you want to make you can do yourself.
Because you’re building your own website, you’ll be able to edit it extremely easily without having to go back and find somebody to do it for you.
The only downside is that you never truly own your website as you’ll be hosting it with Squarespace so you are stuck with them and their monthly fees. You’ll also have a hard time if you ever want to grow your website in the future.
But for smaller websites that are just acting as an online presence, it can be a really good option so check it out!
If your budget is £1,000–£3,000
This is the budget sweet-spot. For this amount of investment you can get a really nice, bespoke website.
If design is important to you and if you want some custom functionality like animations or complex forms this is a good range to go for.
You can afford to hire a pretty good designer for this budget and you’ll be able to get a website that’s completely tailored to your needs.
You’d still be looking at hiring a freelancer rather than a design agency as agencies have lots of overheads so their project price needs to reflect the staff they pay, studio they rent, a lot of coffee and usually a football table too.
But the benefits of hiring a freelance designer is that you get more of a custom experience. You know who you’re dealing with at all times and you can have more of a strategy to your website (i.e. a good designer also knows how to sell, write copy and give real business advice, rather than just push some pixels around).
You’re still looking at a relatively simple website, so no large e-commerce needs (though you could get away with selling a few products) and app like features such as log in areas and dashboards.
What you’re really paying for here is the design like custom illustrations and icons so your website is a true reflection of your business, not just a template.
If your budget is £2,000-£5,000 (or upwards)
This is where things really get interesting. If your budget is in this range you can get a system which allows you to sell your products and take payments online or have more of an ‘app like’ experience with complex interactions.
The lower end of this scale will get you a fully functioning e-commerce website with a relatively small amount of products. (Though you can have as many as you like, you’ll just save a ton of money if you plan on uploading products yourself—it’s easy, just tedious).
The higher end of the scale is if you’re after a fully bespoke checkout system, rather than using something like WooCommerce to do it all for you.
Something to bear in mind when going for an e-commerce website is photography costs. To get your products professionally photographed is quite pricy. You can opt for a DIY option but you will need to learn the basics of lighting and placement (and it’ll take a long time). But please don’t skimp on this, it will make all the difference!
E-commerce websites can go well into the 5 or 6 figures for larger companies so this is assuming you’re a small to medium sized business with around 200–500 products.
The above are all very, very approximate costs so please don’t take them as gospel when approaching designers (if you go to them and say “Well Laura said this website would cost £x amount”—I won’t be very popular).
The purpose of this article is to give you an idea of what you can expect to budget for a website and act as a starting point. Each website is different so here are some things to bear in mind that may impact the final cost:
Do you want to edit the website yourself?
If, like most people, you want to be able to go in and make changes to your website like text or image changes you’ll need what’s called a CMS (Content Management System).
These do cost a bit more as they involve different kinds of programming to make work. There are 2 main types of CMS - a ready built one and a totally custom one.
The ready built CMS’s are things like Wordpress or Drupal and they have a nice back-end interface that makes it really easy to edit your website with no coding experience.
A totally custom built CMS will cost a lot more and is generally not needed unless you’re a fairly large company with very specific needs. So if you want to do some small edits, I’d recommend going for something like Wordpress, which will cost a bit extra but it’ll save you a lot of designer costs in the long run.
How bespoke do you want it to be?
Some designers use templates to make websites. So they’ll buy a Wordpress theme and customise it with your logo, content and colours. This is a good way to keep costs down as the development work has been done previously.
A lot of designers do this so it is always worth finding out if they work this way as the cost should be lower than one that is using unique designs and getting it coded separately.
This is a great way to get a professional finish at a lower price but it does have a few downsides:
- If you want to make any layout or design changes, this can be tricky to do. The designer may not know how to code the themes so they will be restricted to the theme’s CMS capabilities.
- Because ready-made themes need to have a lot of flexibility, this means that they are often overloaded with un-needed code which makes the website bloated and slow. They look impressive but they do lack performance which is important if your website may be accessed on slower internet connections (like on mobile or in remote places).
- If the theme doesn’t get updated by the person who originally created it, it can be vulnerable to security threats. Most themes are kept very well updated so this isn’t an issue but it’s worth bearing in mind for the long-term.
How complex would you like the design to be?
If you’re supplying all photographs to the designer, the cost will be lower than if you need the designer to source photography for your website.
And if you’d like custom illustrations and icons, this will increase the cost as these take much longer to put together. (It gives the website a fantastic finish though!)
The best thing you can do when getting a designer to quote for a project is put together a bunch of links to websites you like (and bonus points if you can say what it is you like about them). This will give the designer an idea of complexity so they can quote accurately.
How experienced is the designer?
Designers with more experience cost more. It’s as simple as that. The reason they charge more is because with their experience, they’ve likely learned lots on the way that will directly benefit your business.
You’re not just hiring someone to create you a website, you’re hiring them to create you a website that will generate business. So the more value they can provide you, the more they will charge.
Where are they located?
It’s worth taking note of where designers are located. In cities like London or New York where living costs are extremely high, you can bet their prices are going to be higher than somebody working from a cheaper place to live.
That’s not to say don’t hire someone if they’re in London. You should absolutely hire who you feel is the best for your project, but it’s just something worth bearing in mind if you’re trying to keep costs down.
How busy is your designer?
I’ll let you in on a little secret. When designers are busy, they tend to charge a bit more than when they’re quiet.
This is because when they’re stacked out with work, they don’t need anything extra. So if they do take something else on they’re going to want a higher return.
If you can be flexible with your deadlines (and most people can) you’ll find your designer won’t charge a premium for a ‘rush job’.
Plus, the extra time gives you an opportunity to really plan and write out your content which always takes about 2-3 times longer than you expect it to.
So there you have it. A very rough guide to setting a budget for your website.
It’s really important to have a range in mind so you’re not going to be wasting your time with a solution that’s not right for you. Consider telling your designer you budget too because that will help them work through what they can offer you at that price.
And remember, the price isn’t everything. It’s absolutely paramount that you feel comfortable with the person you’re going to be working with (as you’ll be working with them for a while) and that you trust them completely.
If you get a bad feeling at any time, go somewhere else until you find a designer that’s right for you and your project.