My first foray into website design was around 2007-2008. I was very young, very naive, and had no idea how to charge for a website.
I know that back in those days, we charged around $400 for a site.
What I did not realize is that some were charging $40,000 or even $400,000 for a website during the same time period!
It’s hard to believe, but the difference is really that striking. And to be sure, nothing much has changed. It is still that way today.
I speak from experience, having been a “cheap” website designer. Of course, I would not have considered myself untrustworthy back then! Quite the opposite.
Knowing what I know today, though, there are some very important reasons you may want to reconsider that cheaper alternative.
We’re Not the Cheapest Option
Something I feel we should be very upfront about is that we are not the cheapest option.
And while I don’t believe I have to make excuses for wanting to make more money, the math is about much more than that.
I would say there are three major factors that contribute to how much we charge today:
- The quality of the work. Simply put, I am very proud of the work we are doing, and the team at NorthMac is really firing on all cylinders right now. The work is worth the investment, and it will get business results.
- The size of the team. What started out as very much a solo operation has turned into a team of six regular collaborators, two of which are working full-time hours at this point.
- The degree of communication. Having been in this world for a while now, I can confidently say that I’ve never interfaced with another web design company who places as much emphasis on communication as we do.
All of these things together, combined with regular economic considerations as well as how much money we want to make lead us to pricing the way that we do.
It’s All Relative
But of course, compared to the $400,000 website, ours are still cheap. So what gives?
It’s easier to illustrate than explain. If you’re reading this, you are likely not from Nike. (If you are, PLEASE give me a call ;P).
When developing a site for a very high-profile client like that, there is a considerable amount of risk to bear. The budget and risk tolerance must be there in order for a project of that size to make sense.
As you are likely not from Nike, there’s a good chance your project does not need to consider such a sizable amount of risk.
So, what is “cheap,” then?
I would say if you are paying less than $2,000 for a professionally designed WordPress website, you need to keep reading to ensure you aren’t getting into a sticky situation.
The reality of the time, expertise, and skill that it takes to produce a website like this in our current economy would suggest that a legitimate service provider should be charging more than that.
While of course subjective, I would say a minimum bar for a custom WordPress website is $3,500.
Reason 1: They might not be very good.
Let me stress that it is extremely possible you’ve found a good web designer for less than $2,000.
But that will have to be proven, and unfortunately, it’s hard to tell from portfolio items alone.
Portfolios don’t tell you anything about pricing, communication style, the time it took to develop the projects, etc.
This is one of the reasons we don’t use a public portfolio, and instead only provide examples of work when specifically requested.
We find that it’s much more helpful and valuable to share our thoughts, opinions, and tips via blog posts or videos. You will get way more insight to the way we work.
And of course, we are happy to provide some example work if requested.
Reason 2: Your web designer might ghost you.
This is such a big problem that we tackled it recently in another post.
As should be no surprise, web designers are often quite insecure when it comes to pricing their services.
This means that they likely did not charge you enough, but were not confident in charging you what they wanted to.
This, probably more than anything else, contributes to web designers ghosting you.
They didn’t charge enough, can’t get excited about the work, and consider your phone call more of a burden than a blessing.
So while you may pay more to work with NorthMac or a similar company, you can be confident there is less chance they will just stop answering the phone one day.
Reason #3: Cheap web designers use cheap resources.
Unless your web designer is independently wealthy and funding the business out of those reserves (unlikely), they rely on their monthly client income to purchase resources.
Such resources could include:
- Contract labor
- Business development or skill-related courses
- Premium plugins
- Website management software
- Email/hosting services
- and more
There was a time in the very beginning when my business could run on less than $100 per month (we’re way past those days!), but of course, I also wasn’t that good!
If your web designer isn’t charging enough, they are unable to afford quality plugins, specialists, etc. This means you will receive a subpar product.
While yes, it is absolutely possible to build a website using only free resources, you should consider whether those free resources are likely to accomplish your business goals.
As a business person, if there’s one thing you’ve learned, is that nothing comes truly free.
As Henry Ford once said (via Clayton Christensen), “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.”
My goal in these posts is never to throw shade at others, but merely to make sure that potential clients understand the risks of doing business across the spectrum of web design and marketing.
There are pros and cons in every direction. For example, while we have a decent-sized team doing the work now, and I consider that a big advantage, it also slows us down a little.
Whereas a cheaper design team with fewer “moving parts” could probably deliver a product in 3-4 weeks, it takes us 8-12 weeks.
There are always tradeoffs. The question is not “will I make tradeoffs?” but “where should I make tradeoffs?”
I would argue that the quality of the design studio you choose should not be one of those, and most often, that will result in using a web designer who is charging appropriately for their work.