How to Budget for Your Website

For most people, the question really is, “How do I set a low-end budget for my website, yet yield the high-end type of results I need?”  It’s not easy.  After all, you really do get what you pay for the majority of the time, and when you try to dodge costs too much as you build your site, it shows.  You just can’t get the kind of results that you need if you aren’t investing on your websites design and functionality.

There are two things that you can do to at least begin to have a handle on this problem.  First of all, you can carefully budget your investment by planning carefully from the start.  This requires that you set out from the beginning with a detailed website strategy.  Secondly, you can create a great website that competes simply taking things one step at a time.  Pay for the most important things first, and then just continue to optimize as you build your website from the ground up.  Understand that there are going to be a lot of things to consider as you plan your site, and the cost is going to be a large factor in that.

Everyone’s brand and business models are different.  Therefore, there’s not any one form of sound advice on budgeting for a website that can be given.  There’s no real way to tell how much you’ll need to invest, as some people have poured millions into sites that never really went anywhere while others have run incredibly successful sites using only WordPress and its plug-ins.  What you really need to do is map out what it is that you need for your site and then start looking at what to invest in first.  Then, begin to assess what each piece of the puzzle will cost you.

In most cases, a start-up business will only need a reliable host and a domain name that represents their brand in the beginning.  Usually, you can get both fairly cheaply from services like GoDaddy.com.  That being said, it isn’t always wise to limit yourself to cheap hosting, especially if you plan on having a lot of traffic coming into the site.  When it comes to creating a cheap website, such as one on WordPress, keep in mind that you are depending on that platform for your online success.  That means if the service ever goes away, or if they close your account for some reason, your business will disappear altogether.

As far as content goes, it’s possible to get pictures, articles, and even videos made by outsourcers fairly inexpensively on sites like Fiverr.com and Upwork.com.  You will want to take the time to make sure that the content these people can create is going to reflect well upon your brand, so prior to hiring anyone to do the work.  You can do so by looking over the work they have in their portfolio, reading reviews, and asking for references.

Making these assessments is going to be essential as you plan your site.  Of course, keep in mind that you can also save a great deal of money by creating some of the content yourself, if you’re talented in the areas of creating graphics, writing articles, or making videos.  Overall, however, your website strategy should focus on investing wherever possible and keeping such tasks off your plate.

For the most part, once you have your domain name and you’ve looked over a few outsourcers, you will have an idea of what it will cost to maintain your site and keep some fresh content on it.  These are the most basic elements that you are going to need, but it doesn’t end there.  Another thing you will likely have to have is a shopping cart that doesn’t cause your users trouble.  It is key to provide greater functionality, and this may require you to invest in a more expensive service.  Also, better customer service may also be worth investing in.  Whatever the case, take time to research these different services and choose one that matches the level of service you’ll need to make your site a success.

Before you purchase anything to build your website, you’ll need to review the costs that you have discovered.  Write them out; don’t just think through them in your mind.  You’re going to have recurring costs related to the services that you use, such as the cost of your shopping cart, and you are going to have aspects of your website that you only pay for one time, such as the content that you have created.  It is recommended that you write these out in two separate columns in your assessment.  Some likely costs you’re going to want to list out at this point are:

  • The cost of your domain
  • The cost of your hosting service
  • The cost of your SSL Certificate
  • The cost of your site’s content
  • The cost of your shopping cart
  • The cost of any email auto-responders you may use
  • The cost of your site’s design
  • The cost of your book-keeping software or service*

*Note: It’s highly recommended that you utilize a service to keep your books for you.  You probably won’t have the time to do this yourself, as you are going to be busy running your business.  Many people try to have a family member or friend do this for them, and often, it ends up in disaster because if they mess up, well, you can’t really get mad and fire them, can you?

Once you have all of these basic costs added up, you will have an idea of what type of budget you will need to build your website initially.  You might decide to take things a step at a time, purchasing the domain and hosting first, then starting to create the site’s content.  Over time, you can start taking bigger steps and making more investments, such as paying for a shopping cart.  After all, you don’t necessarily have to start driving traffic to the site right away.  Once you do start having paying customers coming in, turn around and use that money to start investing in services to optimize your site, such as:

  • Analytics and Tracking software
  • Third-party plug-ins
  • Better content
  • More traffic solutions
  • Website maintenance

In the long run, you will probably need to purchase these things and more to stay competitive, but again, you don’t need to purchase everything right off the bat.  Again, the key is to have a plan for what you want for your site and carefully budget for each piece as you move along.  As your business grows, be careful not to fall into the trap of frivolously spending more and more on the site without paying close attention to what your costs are as your build your site and optimize it.  Just because you have more money coming in, you don’t necessarily need to use it to improve your website.  Many people lose their businesses because they invest too much in things they really don’t need.