Last updated on September 2nd, 2020. Posted in Establishing Your Home Base Online.
The cost to build a website for a small business can get pretty high. But if you know even the basics of web design, including some WordPress and maybe a bit of Photoshop, you can save yourself huge expenses and hassle. Here, we'll detail out the costs to build a website for a small business, and you'll see the exact expenses involved. Let's get started!
How much does it cost to build a website for a small business? If you know the basics of web design and can build your website yourself, then you can save a lot of money. If you can handle building and running your website yourself, then really, your biggest expense will be web hosting, which ranges from about $5 per month to $35 on the high end.
Alternatively, if you hire someone to build your small business website for you, costs can get quite high. Generally, you'd be looking at a cost of anywhere from $5000 to $10,000, depending on your needs. Yes, that high! In fact, in a previous video, we discuss the option of hiring (an often flaky) freelance web designer and the costs that are involved. If you didn't see that previous video and you're wondering how the heck the costs could be so high, go and check out How Expensive Is It To Have Your Business Website Built?
In this post, we'll take a look at the costs of setting up and running your small business website yourself. You'll see how you can cut your costs down significantly, and be in total control of your business website.
So, the alternative to the high cost of having a website built for you is to learn how to build your website yourself.
If you've never built a website before, and if you're feeling a little intimidated, don't! Building a website for your business isn't nearly as technical or difficult as you might think. Modern web design tools are very easy and straightforward to work with. You don't even need to learn background code like HTML and CSS if you don't want to.
In fact, that's what this website is all about -- showing you how to build and run your online business website yourself.
To help get you started, the tools I recommend you learn to use at a minimum are WordPress and Elementor. Both will take maybe a weekend or so to start feeling comfortable with. So, you can get yourself up to speed with the basics pretty quickly. And if you're wondering if WordPress is difficult, take a look at Is WordPress Easy To Learn? Here’s What You Need To Know!
At the end of this article, I'll make some additional recommendations for you and provide some additional resources.
But meanwhile, what's great about building and running your website yourself, in addition to saving the huge upfront costs, is that you'll be in complete control of your website and your online business. You will own and control everything. You won't be reliant on someone else to keep your business running. Instead, you'll be able to make adjustments and changes anytime you like, rather than being on someone else's schedule.
In fact, way, way back, this is why I initially learned web design -- I wanted to be able to build and run my own online businesses, know how they functioned, and be able to make changes and fixes whenever I wanted. I didn't want to be beholden to someone else.
So if you learn the basics for yourself, you'll be completely self sufficient and you'll be able to manage and update your website and make changes anytime you want. You won't be nickelled and dimed for every small change that you want to make, or have to wait around in frustration until your freelance designer gets around to your changes.
And it's important to note too that you don't have to master everything there is to know about web design. Even just knowing the basics will take you a long, long way.
So with all that out of the way, let's now jump into a more detailed look at the math -- the costs to building a website for your small business.
If you'd prefer, I have a video version of this article, which I've embedded below. Otherwise, keep reading and let's see how expensive it's gonna be for you to get your business website up and running!
Now as I'm sure you can imagine, estimating the costs for your business website is going to be a bit tricky. Businesses of course come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so getting an exact estimate is tough. So what I'll do here is use the example of a business website that's taking credit card orders and selling physical products. In other words, an e-commerce site.
I understand that not all businesses are going to sell physical products online, but this'll give us a kind of high watermark -- we're using one of the more involved online business models (e-commerce) as our gauge here. Of course if you have a simpler business, your numbers are going to be much lower because you'll have fewer needs.
Now in a moment, we'll go through each cost that you'll have, item by item. But first, I'll give you the grand total right off the bat.
The grand total that I arrived at as an estimate to build your small business website yourself is $1,370.
Give or take a little, of course.
And as you can see, this is a far, far cry from that $10,000 or even the $5,000 that we arrived at in that previous video, How Expensive Is It To Have Your Business Website Built?
And if there's still a little bit of sticker shock for you at that cost, the good news is that these costs to build your business website yourself are just an estimate and could be much lower. Further, over time, as you continue running your online business, your costs continue to decrease.
Now how did I arrive at $1370 as the cost to build your business website? Let's discuss that next...
Okay, let's talk about how I arrived at a cost of $1370 to set up your online business website. As you can imagine, trying to determine these sorts of estimates is tricky stuff. Here's why: Some of your business website costs are going to be fixed, one-time expenses. Other costs, like web hosting, are ongoing.
The other monkey wrench that's thrown into the mix is, I have no idea what your specific needs are! I don't know exactly what kind of website or business you want to run.
So, in order to give you a decent estimate, I have to make some assumptions and use rough figures. I'm doing my best to give you as accurate an estimate as I can!
So let's run down the costs for your online business website. Use the numbers that I provide as a guide, and adjust them for your business.
To start things off, the first expense that you're going to have is your business's domain name. Your domain name is just the address to your website, like
www.yourwebsite.com. And you have to have a domain name for your website. Unless you're using free web hosting (which I strongly recommended you steer clear of), then your domain name is a mandatory cost.
How much does a domain name cost per year? About $15 or so. Maybe less.
To register a domain name, I use and recommend NameCheap. If you'd like to see the steps involved, take a look at Easy Steps To Set Up Your Business Website Address Using NameCheap.
So there's our first expense out of the way. Next, you'll need some web hosting...
Next up, you'll need a place to store your website. And that's exactly what web hosting is for. Now, web hosting can get confusing because there are a bunch of different kinds of web hosting and a pile of different options. So how the heck are you supposed to make sense of all this?
Well, there are just three web hosting companies I use and recommend myself. Think of them as small, medium, and large -- so depending on your needs, one of these will fit the bill.
In order to estimate hosting costs, I'll assume you're just getting started and want to keep costs low. If that's the case, then we can budget about $6 per month or $75 per year. Not too bad.
Next, you'll need a service to handle your business email...
Okay, the next expense we have is business email. Email is going to be the primary way you communicate with your customers and prospects. Now, having business-grade email isn't an absolute must. In fact, many web hosting companies offer free email with your hosting. However, I always recommend to use a separate, dedicated email service for your business.
Why? Imagine you're running a successful online business with a good-sized audience. And what if there's a technical problem and your website temporarily goes down? If your email is tied to your web hosting company, then you won't be able to communicate with your customers until your technical issues have been resolved.
In other words, your online business will essentially go dark. That's not good!
However, if you used a separate business-grade email service for your website, then in the event that there's any problems with your website, you'll at least still be able to communicate with your audience.
In fact, higher end web hosts like WP Engine don't even offer email as a part of their hosting service, so you'd have to go with a dedicated email service anyway.
The good news is, in terms of cost, business-grade email is only going to be about $5 per email address per month.
So let's say you had two email accounts for your business -- maybe one for you (something like
firstname.lastname@example.org), and maybe one for your customer support (maybe
email@example.com. That'll cost you $10 a month.
Now next up remember that in our estimates, we're assuming that you want to be able to accept credit card payments on your website, right?
In order to do this, you're going to need what's referred to as a payment processor or a payment gateway. These services allow you to accept credit cards online, handling the processing transaction.
There are a number of payment processor vendors available, like PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.net. And because each has different options and plans to choose from, it's difficult to nail down an exact cost.
Again though, we're just going for a rough estimate here. So I'm going to budget $50 for a one time setup fee and $35 a month, ongoing. This would give you a totally professional payment processing set up, where the customer wouldn't have to leave your site -- like getting redirected to PayPal, for example -- in order to complete their payment.
In addition to a payment gateway, you're also gonna need what's referred to as an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate converts a website from http to https (the "s" meaning secure). And no doubt you've seen the padlock icon in your web browser's address bar indicating that the website you're on is secure.
Now specifically, what SSL does is it secures and encrypts information that's being passed between the visitor's web browser and your website...information like credit card transactions, for example.
So, you can see why it's so important to have SSL set up on your website. In fact, even if you aren't accepting credit cards, it's still a very good idea to have an SSL certificate installed on your site.
Now all of this might sound kinda technical and maybe you're feeling a bit in over your head here. The great news is that the web hosting companies that I recommended above all include free SSL certificates when you sign up with them. And they'll look after all the techie-stuff for you.
Otherwise you're going to have to budget between $50 and $100 per year for an SSL certificate from a third-party vendor.
Next up we have something called a CDN, which is short for Content Delivery Network. I won't get into the nitty-gritty details of CDNs, but the short 'n sweet is that a CDN speeds up the performance of your website. And, they're completely optional.
As for costs, some web hosts (including a few that I recommend) come with a free CDN, which is great. Otherwise, you'll need to budget anywhere from $50 to $250 per year to run a CDN for your site.
Now because you'll be running an online business, even though you might be active on social media, you'll need a way to maintain a list of customers and prospects. And this came up earlier, but email will be your primary method of communication.
This means you'll need an email marketing service to do just this. This way, not only can you maintain your contact lists, but you can also send them updates and promotions as well. This is a great way to drive sales.
In terms of costs, it can range from zero (as in, free) to about $100 a month. Really, it depends on the service and also the size of your mailing list.
I'm hesitant to make some recommendations here because I'm doing some in-depth research and testing on email marketing services at the moment. But here's what I can say with confidence: You get what you pay for (so be weary of low-cost services) and Active Campaign, although pricey, seriously rocks!
Stay tuned for more info on this stuff soon...
Now, what about the actual layout and design of your website? Have you thought about how you're going to handle that? If you want a pleasing design for your site, you definitely may wind up spending some money. Or if you want something totally custom and just for you, that can get very expensive.
But really, the essential thing here is that you have a website that looks decent, that works on mobile devices, and is helpful to your visitors. That's the important stuff.
Assuming you're using a web design platform like WordPress (which I strongly recommend), you could use a free WordPress design (called a theme). And as it stands, there are thousands and thousands of free WordPress themes to choose from (take a look right here).
Alternatively, you could go with a paid WordPress design theme. Paid WordPress themes range from about $50 to $200. Another option is to hire someone to build a custom WordPress theme for you, but as I say, that can get expensive -- at least $2500 to $5,000.
So here's what I suggest: Let's avoid all these expenses for now and just focus on getting your website up and running and earning you revenue. So long as it's functional, don't sweat your design too much. Once you're making some money online, then you can go with a paid theme or even hire someone to build a layout to your exact specifications.
At least, that's what I suggest.
Next up, assuming you'll be using WordPress to build your online business website (and I hope you are!), you might need some WordPress plugins. Plugins extended the capabilities and the behaviour of your website. For example, you may want to offer different shipping options for your customer, handle a few different payment methods, or automate posting to social media. These are the sorts of things WordPress plugins can handle.
And like WordPress themes, while some plugins are paid, most are free. And they're completely optional, too.
All of this makes it difficult to peg down a cost estimate for you. It all depends on your needs, what kind of online business you want to run, and how many plugins you might need.
Let's budget $200 for plugins just to be on the safe side -- how's that sound?
And you know, that pretty much covers the range of expenses that you're going to have at least to get your business website up and running. Remember, some of these costs are mandatory, while others are optional. And don't forget, some of these costs are one time expenses, while others are recurring.
But, I still haven't shown you how I arrived at that $1370 grand total yet. I'll show you exactly how I arrived at that next.
So how did I arrive at a cost of $1370 to set up your business website?
Well again, I don't know your exact needs, but if it were me setting up a brand new business website, here are the options that I would probably go with...
So there's the costs -- the rough numbers to get your business up and running online. And if you add all of this up, the grand total is $1,370.
That's the cost to getting a business website up and running an online with full e-commerce capabilities for a full year -- a far, far cry from $10,000, even $5,000, which of course we arrived at in that previous video, How Expensive Is It To Have Your Business Website Built?
Now what I suggest you do next is adjust these numbers so that they better fit you and your online business. You now know what expenses are involved in setting up your online business website, so now you can adjust these costs to your needs.
And when you do, I know you'll come in way, way lower than $10,000.
In fact, I have a few ideas to lower your website costs even further...
You know, I think we could cut your costs even more. Not everything in my estimate above is mandatory, remember. For instance, an SSL could come free with your web hosting, and going with a free design theme would reduce your costs even further.
But I think we can do even better than this...
As I started working all these numbers out on paper, I realized that over time your costs are going to get lower and lower. See, what's great about learning web design for yourself is this: You learn the basics once, and then you have those skills forever. In other words, web design's a skill that you can use over and over and over again to build as many websites as you like.
And here's how this affects your costs: Let's say as an example that in the next 24 months, you have ideas to build and launch three new online businesses -- and trust me, building online businesses gets very addictive!
If you had to hire a flaky freelance designer to help you with these three new online ventures, the math is very simple. $10,000 multiplied by three -- your new online businesses will cost you at least $30,000 -- yikes! Even if you found a cheap web designer who'd only charge $5000 to build your website for you, you'll still be $15,000 in the hole just to get your ventures online.
But alternatively, if you took the time to learn the basics of web design, the cost comparison is crazy -- $1370 multiplied by three is just $4110. And, you'd own and control your businesses and not be reliant on a flaky designer to take care of them for you.
And don't forget, that's just your costs in the first year. These expenses would drop in subsequent years.
But this is where things keep getting better...
I can help you reduce the cost to build and run your online business website even further. For example, did you know that you can run more than one website from a single web hosting account? Hosts like Web Hosting Hub, SiteGround, and WP Engine allow you to run multiple websites with their plans -- something that a freelance web designer may not tell you.
This instantly saves you on web hosting costs.
And there are other cost saving measures, too. For instance, many paid WordPress themes and plugins allow you to use them on more than one website. Again, this can help reduce your costs.
So what's great about learning web design for yourself is that once you have the basics down, any websites and online projects you launch will be incredibly cheap and cost effective for you...and only get cheaper over time.
The key to keeping your website costs low is to learn the basics of web design for yourself. But I'm sure the big question on your mind is, How hard is it to learn web design? The good news is, it's not that hard to nail down the fundamentals.
Here's what I'd like to suggest to help get you started: At a minimum, I think it's best to learn WordPress and Elementor. If you want to go a bit further and understand how web design works, consider learning even just the basics of HTML and CSS. Throw on a dash of Photoshop, and you'll be in great standing.
How hard are these individual components to learn? Again, I've gotcha covered! Take a look at Is HTML Easy To Learn? Here's What You Need To know and Is CSS Difficult? Here’s Why You Might Find It Frustrating.
And if you want to know more about WordPress and Photoshop, check out Is WordPress Easy To Learn? Here’s What You Need To Know! and Is Photoshop Hard To Use? Learn The Right Way And It’s Easy!
I look forward to seeing you there!