How do I budget for my website? 5 important costs to consider before you spend a dime.

3D Dollar by Digitalart

“How much does it cost to create a good website?”

It’s a misleading question, in many ways – in truth, the actual cost for designing your website is minimal compared to the costs for making it “good.”  Or even “great.”  Check out another one of my blog posts about the important components of a good website here.

For independent professionals (speakers, authors, executive coaches, consultants, trainers, etc), the actual design of your website could be as inexpensive as “free” if you’re a do-it-yourself-er who knows WordPress and wants to use a free template.  Or, you could have a custom HTML template created with custom programming for integrating things like eCommerce and subscribe forms, styling sidebar widgets via CSS and other such techi-ness.  You’ll likely pay $500-$1000 for a template website, and anywhere for $1500 to $3500 (or more, if you’re REALLY going bananas) for great design and programming (slicing a design into HTML code can be very time consuming, as can styling widgets and customizing the look-and-feel of forms).

Having your site hosted is another expense.  Factors like if you’re using a shared server or dedicated one, and how much traffic you’re getting, and how many backups of your site you’re having created (and where those backups are being kept) can all influence your hosting costs.  The average Joe can expect to spend $10 to $60 monthly on hosting.

The REAL upfront cost of building a great website is in creating great content. Content includes things like:

  • Overview of your offerings
  • Strong “About” page (bio, etc)
  • Blogs and articles
  • Podcasts, videos, and other multimedia
  • Media Room with useful media resources
  • Downloadables like one sheets, white papers, and other tools used to support different aspects of your marketing

Creating powerful, compelling copy is THE most important component of your website. Like, if you don’t have that, you’ve wasted whatever time and money you’ve spent getting your site up.  A mediocre design and powerful copy are WAY more important than a beautiful design with weak copy. (For some strategies on creating compelling copy, check out this blog post for tips.)

But it doesn’t stop there.

Many other aspects of maintaining your online presence could potentially impact your budget, including:

  1. Updating software & plugins, and integrating new technology into your website. On a pretty regular basis, your server and likely your software (like WordPress) is going to be issuing updates to hardware and software, respectively, that you will need to install.  It’s not uncommon for these updates to break or conflict with other programs and plugins set up on your site and / or running on your server.  This is not a good place for DIY-ers to be experimenting. You need a pro to help. You can often hire VAs for this kind of support if it’s simple.  More complicated issues will need the support of a programmer.  You really can’t get by without these ongoing expenses if you are actively marketing online and engaged in social media, so plan for it.  I’d recommend putting at least an hour monthly into your budget.
  2. Updating graphics. It seems that once or twice a year, both my and my client’s website graphics will need to be updated to accommodate some kind of change we want to implement on the site.  These changes can cost as little as a couple hundred bucks, or as much as $1,000 to execute (or more).  It doesn’t happen frequently, but you should expect to be reviewing things every six months and learning ways you can improve things.
  3. Adding additional functionality to integrate with social media.  It goes without saying that social media is evolving and changing at the speed of light.  Sometimes we can anticipate the changes, but more often, we are a bit blindsided by the “new thing” that people want to do in the interest of sharing content.  WordPress is awesome because it allows you to integrate new functionality via a plugin pretty easily.  Most plugins are free, and with a little training, you might be able to add these plugins yourself.  Be wary, though:  it’s not uncommon for new plugins to need some tweaking so they “look good” on your website, or for new plugins to conflict with existing plugins on your website, requiring the assistance of a seasoned programmer to fix.  It seems that several times a year, we need to bring in a programmer to help us manage upgrading our sites’ functionality (typically a couple hundred bucks each time), so plan on it.
  4. Optimizing new content, managing Google adwords and Facebook ads campaigns. Obviously, step one is creating the content.  But once the content is created, it needs to be proofed, optimized for search, uploaded to your site, and if you’re committed to getting more traffic for your site, submitted to other sites around the web (like Digg, article submission sites, guest blog posts, etc).  And of course, you want to create tweets for the content, schedule them for facebook and twitter (and Google plus), and more.
  5. Adding landing pages, creating new content and reconfiguring conversion paths. After you launched your website, you started getting feedback that your visitors were looking for something you didn’t position well (so they were unable to find it, sometimes leaving the site without doing anything).  You were hoping people would come to the site to buy something, but what you realized after monitoring things for a few months was that people were looking around and leaving without so much as signing up for your newsletter.
  6. Or consider that you started getting feedback from people that inspired you to create a new offering that you want to display front-and-center on your website.  New copy needs to be generated, your menu might need to be changed up, you might want to tweak your home page or add a new page to your website, and update other copy to drive traffic to this new page. Sometimes, these tweaks only require an hour or two of support; other times, you’ve got a full-fledged project on your hands that might take 20 hours and several weeks to execute.

It is really important for you to consider the implications of these variables when you begin thinking about creating a new website. It is very common in my work for me to talk to professionals who’ve spent a huge wad of cash on making their website pretty, with little-to-no funds remaining to actually get results by levaraging social media and engaging in activities that drive traffic.

If you have a limited budget, go the site template route and budget for important money-making activities that directly affect the ROI you are going to experience by creating an ecosystem that attracts customers, builds your credibitility, stokes the fires of raving fans and inspires others to share your work with their friends.  Spending all your budget on a pretty design with nothing left over for taking action predestins you to be one of those frustrated professionals who struggles to make their website work for them.