How Much Should a Website Cost
Britton Lorentzen
Designer, marketer, and owner.

Published: May 8th, 2017

Setting up a website is an essential component for getting your company on the web. The process usually involves going to Google and figuring out what companies offer web design for small businesses. Once someone has typed in their search, they’ll be bombarded with a ton of ads for companies that offer cheap or quick web design. There might be a couple results for people that offer hosting, search engine optimization, and all kinds of goodies that look enticing. The person may start up a conversation with an account manager that will lead them down the road of opportunity showing how their team will deliver all kinds of results and increase sales by so many units. At the end of the conversation, the customer starts talking about the price and realizes that the services cost a crazy amount of money.

How do these companies come up with these bids? On the surface, it may seem a bit crazy that companies can charge so much money to design a website. However, there are a couple elements behind the scenes that drive up the price of a website. This blog post will discuss the difference between the pricing of a freelancer (like me!) and the pricing of a medium-to-large scale design firm.

Differences Between a Freelancer and a Design Firm

With any marketing or design project, there are pros and cons associated with choosing the people you want to work with.

• When you work with a freelancer, you only have to talk with one person that will develop a relationship with you over the course of the project. When you work with a design firm, you’ll usually talk with an account manager that will translate what you want into a list of objectives that their design and development team have to accomplish.

• When you work with a freelancer, they might have a large workload that won’t allow them to get back in immediate contact with you. When you work with a design firm, you’ll usually have a dedicated account manager that will be easier to contact.

• When you work with a freelancer, projects tend to have a quicker turnaround time compared to larger firms. The typical ballpark for a freelancer is two to three months compared to a firm that may take anywhere from four to six months.

• When you work with a freelancer, you rely on the person having enough expertise about design, development, and marketing to get your business noticed. When you work with a firm, the work is divided among specialists that will be specifically trained in different aspects of the project.

• Ultimately, when you work with a freelancer, the cost will be much cheaper compared to working with a design firm that has a large overhead cost to cover.

Choosing the ideal partner for your project is crucial. Choosing a freelancer or design firm will have their own merits depending on the scale and extent of your project. Going with either entity will definitely have their pitfalls. However, it’s important not to discredit getting your work done from either person because one element of the process may not be the ideal circumstance for you.

Cool, So Where Do These Costs Come From?

First, we have to understand the fixed costs associated with a website. These are the prices that can’t be controlled by either the freelancer or the design firm.

Website Registration

This is the cost for telling the internet your website exists. The cost for registering a website depends on the kind of domain you’re looking to get. If you’re lucky enough to get a .com, registration starts at about $12/yr and can reach the thousands if it’s a short domain that the registrar deems is a ‘premium’ domain. There are also .co, .net, .biz, .org, and many others that start at $12/yr and go up depending on how long you want to register the website.

Website Hosting

This is the cost associated with where your website lives. It’s similar to paying rent or a mortgage on a property. There are all kinds of solutions that range from sharing space with other websites to having space dedicated to your website. Pricing for hosting starts at about $10/mo and go up from there. Between registering your website and hosting it, you’re guaranteed to be paying at least $150 a year to keep the website up and running.

Now we have the variable costs. These will be the costs that greatly differentiate depending on the type of entity you work with.

Price Rate

Most freelancers and design firms go with a fixed project cost that is based on an hourly rate. What this means is that you’ll be quoted a rough price for the whole project no matter who you hire to do your project. The reason for this is to give you an idea of how much money you’ll be investing so you can make an informed decision on whether you want to use the entity or not. There’s nothing worse than someone quoting an hourly rate and surprising you with a huge bill at the end of a project. In the case of a freelance designer, website costs may start at about $2000 and go up from there depending on the scope of work. For design firms, the cost of a website may start at about $5000 and go up from there. There are different elements to each entity that makes the price differ so greatly.

For design firms, the variable costs can stack up quickly. Typically, you’ll have an account manager that will be getting paid a salary. An account manager with a couple years of experience may make about $50,000 a year, which is about $25/hr. Then there is the visual designer that will design your website. They usually make about $30/hr in the Seattle area. Once the visual designer is done designing the website, they’ll hand it off to a developer to create the website. Developers get paid about $40/hr for the work they do. Before we incorporate overhead and everyone else associated with your project, along with the profit margin the firm needs to make, we are already reaching a whopping $100/hr to create your website.

For freelancers, you’ll get a much different price and it’s usually based on the freelancer’s experience. I can’t speak on behalf of other designers what their rates will be. However, I usually base my projects on a $40 to $60/hr rate depending on the scope of the project and everything that’s involved. All I have to pay for is the place I live in, the Mazda 3 I drive, and everything I need to put food on the table. Some freelancers typically specialize in one part of the web design process. Fortunately, I have enough experience with design and development that I’ll be able to put together a solid website for your business. It’s an added bonus if the freelancer you work with has experience in marketing and branding. In the case of Empac Design, I’ve had to create a personal brand for my racing team in my past life and I’ve been invited by Apple to help on some internal branding projects.

Those are the main differences between working with a freelancer and working with a design firm. Each entity has their own merits and choosing one will depend on your business objectives. From my experience, small companies tend to do better with freelancers compared to working with a design firm. That’s just my opinion though.

With that being said, I would love to hear stories you’ve had working with a freelancer or design firm. What were some of the best things about working with these people? What were some of the challenges you encountered when working with a design firm or freelancer? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. Otherwise, I look forward to chatting with you again soon.

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