Around 7 or 8 years ago, my Wife and I had a brilliant idea for a business we wanted to start. Part of the process of inquiry was to ask the only web developer we knew of how much it might cost to have the website created for our specific purpose. Being fresh (very fresh!), we were taken aback when the answer came in that we would be looking at around $10,000 – 15,000. Surely, we’d get “mates rates”, we thought. It was irrelevant that we hardly knew the guy, but this news is the one and only reason we stopped pursuing this business idea. Looking back on this, my Wife and I were out of our depths. Not because we didn’t know how much it would cost to hire a web developer, but because we hadn’t even begun to factor in the website maintenance costs, on top of that initial cost.
What if we had to change text, or an image, later down the track? What if we wanted to start selling products online, or needed to update the products we were already selling?
We hadn’t considered how much it would cost to host our website, and even though the cost is relatively minimal, we hadn’t factored in the cost of a domain name either.
Like I said, we were very fresh!
So what are these costs that are associated with website maintenance?
Cost of a Web Developer
Nowadays you have 3 real options with regards to who takes control of your regular website maintenance. If your company is large enough, you may be in a position to hire someone as your in-house web developer (either full time or part time). However, if you are a small business (the majority of businesses are like this), you have the option of either looking after the website maintenance yourself (or asking one of your current employees to do this), or you have to hire a freelance web developer to make the changes for you.
With services like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace now quite mainstream, more and more businesses are choosing the option of completing the website maintenance themselves. This is most likely to be the cheapest of the options, but these “free” website builders are not without their costs. The costs that are associated with these types of website builders are typically for the “hosting” of your website. While these services advertise their web hosting as free, hosting is essentially the only thing you’re paying them for. So when you see below that their services provide free hosting, keep in mind that if there is an overall cost involved, the “free” services are factored into the overall cost.
Note: We have assumed below that all services are equal and are only comparing prices of the cheapest options. All prices are in US$, and are correct as of 1 August 2017.
Wix is, as they advertise, totally free….. until you want to add your own domain name to your website.
Once you get tired of your business website being www.yourbusinessname.wixsite.com you have to pay Wix for the privilege of using a domain name that you also have to purchase
Use your domain: $60/year
Wix Hosting: Free
SSL (security): Free
Wix isn’t hugely expensive, but when you look at the restrictions on the services that are provided on the $60/year plan (or all of their plans), compared to what you can get through having your website professionally created, it sometimes isn’t worth it.
Again, Weebly if free, just as it is advertised, but again, you have to upgrade to a paid account to be able to attach your domain name to the website you have created.
Use your domain: $96/year – Weebly advertise that this includes a yearly free domain name up to the value of $20
Weebly Hosting: Not stated, as it is understood by Weebly that this is what the customers are paying for
SSL (security): Not available on any Weebly accounts until the most expensive plan is purchased ($300/year)
Squarespace has a free trial option, but doesn’t have a free-forever option like Wix and/or Weebly do.
Use your domain: $144/year (only allows your website 20 pages)
Hosting: Not stated again as it is also understood by Squarespace that this is what the customers are paying for.
SSL (security): Free
So if creating your own website is something that you want to do to save a bit of money, keep in mind that, all website restrictions aside, there is still a yearly cost to maintaining your site, regardless of how you go about getting it set up.
Employing a Web Developer
Whether this be full time, part time, the costs of this option will be huge.
First, you have to hire at a competitive rate so that web developers actually want to work for your company. A web developer probably isn’t going to jump at the chance to work for you when they can get twice the pay at your competitor.
Secondly, it has to be worth your while to hire someone in this kind of capacity, otherwise you may as well bundle up wads of hundreds and set fire to it. At least burning your money gives you a little bit of warmth.
If you don’t have enough web development work to give to someone you have hired, they will leave you faster than you can say “CSS”!
Even if you hired someone for only 20 hours/week, you’re looking at around $20,000/year in wages to that employee. That’s a lot of money to spend if all you need done is a couple of text and image updates every so often. And let’s be honest, If you’re website is done right the first time, and your business isn’t always changing, you won’t need to make too many updates at all, and website maintenance will be right down on your priorities list.
Freelance Web Developer
This is the option most businesses choose as it is far most cost effective than employing someone, and you get the use of a professionals knowledge, and time, so the job is generally completed faster, and to a higher standard.
remember not all freelancers are created equal, choosing this option could quite possibly leave you with a lemon of a freelancer who completely crashes your site – it’s not too likely, but it is still possible
Freelancers usually charge anywhere from $40 – $100+/hour. It’s not always about getting what you paid for, but most of the time there is a reason someone is willing to charge out at only $40/hr. Do you really want to take that chance?
Lets say, for arguments sake, that you have 2 updates in a year that need to be done. They’re both simple and take a freelancer around 90 minutes to complete. This is a total update time of 3 hours in the year and could cost you anywhere between $120 – $300+. Remembering choosing the lower option to save money might end up costing more due to the time it takes the less experienced developer.
Yearly Web Development Cost Overview
Employing a Developer: approx $20,000 – part time
Freelancer: $120 – $300+ (based on 3 hours work)
Cost of Domain Name, Web Hosting & Security (SSL)
Yes, this stuff all costs as well, and to top it all off, it is a yearly cost which is payable to the providers of each service.
You can mix and match between services to get the best prices. For example, if you want to, you can buy a domain name with GoDaddy, Get a hosting plan with HostGator, and get your SSL certificate through Namecheap.
Something to be mindful of is that companies will usually sell you these items at a heavily discounted rate for your first year, while the renewal price for every subsequent year can be quite substantially higher.
These prices can vary substantially, but .com domain names are generally around $10 – 12/year.
The type of hosting you want/need will make a huge difference to the price you pay. But for an everyday, run-of-the-mill, business, you can be looking anywhere between $40 – $180/year.
SSL certificates make your website more secure. These are important to have if you carry any customer sensitive information such as names, contact details, or ask a customer to give you their credit card information.
They usually show up as a little green padlock to the left of the website address in your browser.
These aren’t essential to have, especially if your website isn’t going to ask for any of your customers details.
Again these can vary greatly depending on your specific needs, but you can pay anywhere between $10 – $105/year for this.
Yearly Domain, Hosting & SSL Cost Overview
Domain: $10 – 12/year (.com)
Hosting: $40 – $180/year
SSL: $10 – 105/year
So, as a business owner, you’re approximate yearly website maintenance cost (based on the above information) could be anywhere from $70 – thousands!
Don’t do what my Wife and I did all those years ago and just assume that you can put a website up and that’s it all done. Remember having a business website doesn’t just involve pretty visuals and getting more clients. There’s also the website maintenance aspect which can never be ignored.
Go into this experience educated on what to expect. That way you won’t stumble at the first hurdle of your new business.