Budgeting Blindspots: The Extra Costs of Building a Website that You Hadn’t Thought About

Picture of green wallet, green calculator, credit card to symbolize budgeting and spending money.

Websites that work like magic aren’t cheap. Often when you scope out the cost of building a website, the designer or developer fails to tell you about the other expenses you’ll run into when running a website. Don’t let that happen to you. Here is a list of other items you will likely need to budget for—in addition to the cost of designing a website and developing it:

The Basics: Domain Registration, Website Hosting, and Email Account Costs

Domain registration and hosting are the baseline expenses all websites incur. Email hosting gets tied up with both of these purchases.

Domain Registration

When you launch a website—no matter what you use it for—you need to register a domain, or the URL (yourbusinessname.com). This secures the name of your website on the internet.

The cost to register a domain can be anywhere from $2 to $20 – which will need to be renewed every year. You can purchase domains on sites like godaddy.com and our preferred company, namecheap.com.

If your domain name is already taken—and you’re dead set on the name—you may be able to purchase it from the current owner. However, they will likely ask a pretty penny for it and it may take a while to get your hands on it.

While we are on the topic of domains: We highly recommend you purchase your domain for at least two years, if not more, and add your credit card so that auto-payment is processed. Do not—let me be clear–do not ignore those domain renewal emails. If you lose your domain, it can take a lot of time to get it back and you may not get it back at all.

Web Hosting

All websites are hosted on servers, which are basically just specialized computers. These servers provide the necessary resources for your site to be viewed on the internet 24-hours a day.

I like to describe your hosting as a physical letterbox, while the domain is like your postal address. The letterbox physically holds your mail—just like a website holds all of the images, text, and code to display your website.

Depending on the traffic and requirements of your site, hosting can range in pricing. You can opt for shared hosting ($1-$15/month) or dedicated hosting ($45 – $650/m).

At Tall Poppies Design, we provide hosting managed by Wordkeeper as part of our TLC Security, Hosting, and Software Licensing packages. We have worked with Lance and his team for over ten years and, well, we’d bore you to tears if we rambled on about how amazing they are. Just take our word for it.

We will not work with websites hosted at GoDaddy or similar cheap hosting companies. They are just too hard to work with and fraught with security and speed issues. They make our job harder and they make us look bad when your website doesn’t work well.

It’s your choice as to where to host your website. If we work together, you are not beholden to work with Wordkeeper, but we will implore you to make smart choices.

Email Hosting

When you purchase a domain or a hosting account, chances are the company will pitch you on email hosting too. Sometimes, website hosts bundle it up so that your email and your website are hosted in the exact same place.

We don’t recommend hosting your domain, website nor email in one place.

We like to recommend that your domain is with one company, like NameCheap; your hosting is with another, such as with our TLC Package with Wordkeeper; and that your email is set up with either with Google Workspace or Office 365.* Keep them separate so that if one account is compromised, you don’t lose everything.

If you like to use Outlook to check your email, you can use either service but Microsoft Office 365 is the natural choice. Most of our clients purchase email accounts with Office 365 in their GoDaddy account. (So that’s one time when I think it’s a-ok to have your domain and email hosting in the one account.)

Otherwise, if you like using Gmail or don’t have a preference, we highly recommend Google Workspace. This is not a Gmail account, like name@gmail.com. The address will be name@yoururl.com but you will use Gmail to check it.

Email hosting is a specialized area of expertise—especially when it comes to security issues. Our hosting and security partners, Wordkeeper, do not offer email hosting for that very reason. They will also recommend Google Workspace or Office 365. Furthermore, if your website is hacked or goes down for any reason, your email is vulnerable too. So, don’t be duped into adding email accounts as part of your website hosting package. Sign up for Office 365 of Google Workspace instead.

Budget about $8 per month per email address.

If you have one email address, such as yourname@yourbusiness.com and you also want info@yourbusiness.com (or something similar) you can set up an alias for free and you will check your info@ email via the yourname@ email account. In the future, you will be able to separate the email addresses into two different accounts if, for example, you hire a virtual assistant to check your inbox for you!

Website Design and Development

This is where things tend to get pricey—and there’s a GIANT range in web design costs.

Like everything else in life, you get what you pay for with website design. The good news is you have a couple of options that impact the price pretty significantly.

Templated Websites

Known as “themes”, website templates are pre-designed layouts that allow you to plug in your content and go live faster. There are thousands of templates available on website builders like WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, and so on. These are typically inexpensive, but templates are just that… templates. Your site may look cookie-cutter. Plus, templates can only be modified so much before you run into code blocks.

At Tall Poppies, we don’t use deploy generic templates—but if you are just starting out, we do have options to speed up and spare you some costs. (Let’s chat.)

Custom Designed Websites

Custom design is a from-scratch approach tailor-made for you. This approach is ideal if you have unique branding needs and functionality requirements. As you can probably guess, this route is more expensive than templates as it involves more time and specialized skills.

When you meet with professional web designers, they will examine your needs under a microscope and determine if custom is the right option.

At Tall Poppies, we work exclusively in WordPress with the Beaver Builder plugin and theme for websites. (Occasionally we work with the BuddyBoss theme paired with Beaver Builder when we develop online courses and apps).

Both themes are blank canvases so that we can bring our ideal custom designs to life for each of our unique clients. Just look at our portfolio. No two websites are alike. These themes are very reputable and have incredible support teams. We are experts in Beaver Builder—and huge fans!

Website Development Costs

Web development is what brings your website to life. It’s all the functionalities that help users engage with the site.

Development involves things like interactive features (contact forms, consultation schedulers, courses, slideshows, galleries, live chat, and so on.). It also accounts for site plugins, which include search engine optimization tools, social media integration, a content management system, eCommerce website capabilities, etc.

Lastly, web developers will make sure all your software is properly integrated into the website and with your other systems like your email accounts, email marketing software, CRM, etc, as well as data tracking, site security, and more.

DIY vs. Hiring a Professional Website Developer

There’s a big misconception out there that building a website is easy. 

Website builders like WordPress and Shopify market themselves as platforms where “anyone can build a polished website”. This is technically true, but there’s a big catch: there’s a giant difference between building a website and building a website that drives business results.

To achieve the latter, you need expertise in user experience design – which requires a professional touch. And it’s not just about design. There are so many technical details that go into setting up a website that shows up in search engines for your ideal keywords and works like magic on every single device and screen size.

Web agencies are equipped with this knowledge to create customized, secure, and mobile responsive sites to fit your business needs—and more importantly—the needs of your customers.

Building your own website will provide initial cost savings, but without the skills and experience, the result may fall flat. Investing in a professional web service not only saves time but also ensures a higher quality digital presence, which is crucial to gaining steam on the web.

Copywriting

Without copy (text) on your website, you’ve got little more than a jumble of colors and images.

If you’re going to splurge on anything in the cost of website design, it should be the copy. I know, it’s not as flashy as fancy design quirks and animation, but it’s the most important ingredient in the entire project.

Trust us on this: a beautifully designed website will always fall flat if the writing is bad. On the other hand, a site with excellent copy and bad design can still be successful.

We recommend you budget a minimum of $1500 for website copy. Some of our clients have invested $10,000+ for killer copywriting. We have several ah-mazing copywriters that we can match you with depending on your business, your personality, and, of course, your budget.

It’s also worth noting that investing in copy for your website is not just for your website. You can also use this copy as the foundation of emails, video scripts, and social media posts. In fact, we recommend you plan to upcycle copywriting in as many ways as possible to get the biggest bang for your buck!

Software Costs: Themes, Plugins, and More

WordPress is free to use. But themes are not—and you need a theme to make your website look how you want it to look.

As we mentioned above, at Tall Poppies Design, we use the Beaver Builder to build websites. Beaver Builder includes a suite of ‘modules’ that empower us to create galleries, slideshows, animated numbers, flip boxes, lists, and all kinds of layouts. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Beaver Builder has eliminated the need for a slew of all kinds of other plugins to make your website look and function a certain way. Tall Poppies holds an agency license which includes premium features.

But every site typically needs other plugins. The primary plugin that we build into every site is Gravity Forms which we use for every subscribe and contact form, as well as quizzes, surveys, and even legal documents that need to be signed. Gravity Forms is $99 for the basic plan (last time we checked). We have a premium developer license so that we can deliver all of the ideal features to our clients no matter what.

For courses built into WordPress, we love LearnDash and we hold licenses for additional premium add-ons to implement the ideal set-up and functionality for our clients.

For online stores, we love WooCommerce. WooCommerce is free and pretty amazing on its own, but to add special features like “smart” coupons, live shipping, PDF invoices, and anything else you can dream up, it requires additional plugin extensions which cost a pretty penny. At Tall Poppies, we hold developer licenses for a number of premium plugins, like Subscriptions, because a number of our clients require the same functionality.

Suddenly you can see how these plugin costs add up to several hundred dollars a year—in addition to the investment in designing and developing your website in the first place.

At Tall Poppies, we made the decision years ago to bundle the costs (and the savings) of the theme and the most widely used plugins into our TLC Hosting, Security, and Software package so that we only build with the very best tools—and deliver the very best sites to our clients.

Our TLC Hosting, Security and Software program is $99 for most of our clients’ websites including those with courses built with LearnDash, and $149 per month for e-commerce websites.

Photoshoots, Icons, and Stock Photography

The very best websites always have their own photography. For example, take Jamey, Kari, or Jody. And event Merriman. Merriman combines photos from a shoot of their team in their offices, as well as premium stock photography.

We highly recommend our clients schedule a photoshoot for a new website. (And you’ll have a plethora of images to use in social media and other marketing too!)

We recommend budgeting a minimum of $750 for a photoshoot. The cost of a photoshoot will depend on where you live and the scope of the shoot.

We can turn to stock photography when a shoot is not doable or there are not enough photos to use from a shoot. There are amazing free stock photos on sites like Unsplash, but you may run the risk of seeing the same photo on another site or on social media. We can also turn to Adobe Stock or Stocksy to find more unique images. We usually recommend budgeting around $10-50 per image, or $200-$300 for the whole project.

Fonts

We assume fonts are free. Many are. Many are not.

We also assume that fonts work on any computer. They don’t.

A computer has to have access to the font file in order to display it. Your computer has fonts like Times New Roman and Arial built into the system. To display a custom font on a website, there is code to call up the font file that is either stored on the hosting server or perhaps via Google Fonts.

Oftentimes the font used in your logo comes with a price tag to use in print—and an additional fee to purchase the websafe version (which is loaded to your website’s hosting server).

A designer can identify free Google Fonts, for example, that complement your brand fonts in lieu of using your brand fonts. If you wish to stick exclusively with your brand fonts you will have to pay for the font files.

We recommend that clients budget a one-time cost of $100-$300 for fonts—but it may be more if your brand is designed with a premium font.

Other Software Solutions

There are all kinds of other tools that your website may require to help automate and streamline your business operations. We will often recommend that you use an appointment booking tool, like Calendly, Acuity, or online meeting or webinar tools, like Zoom.

And of course, when you run an online business, you will likely be running email marketing campaigns so there is the cost of solutions like MailChimp, Active Campaign, Keap (Infusionsoft), or ConvertKit.

  • Budget about $10 per month for an appointment booking system like Calendly.
  • $50+ per month for an email CRM like ConvertKit, MailChimp or Active Campaign, depending on how many subscribers you have.
  • $15+ for Zoom.

We are huge fans of Zapier which is tool that helps us connect your website with other software. For example, we can send subscribers from a form in your website to MailChimp, Infusionsoft, or Active Campaign, but you may want to filter subscribers to different lists based on their answers. People in the USA might get one campaign, and people in other countries get another. Zapier helps us create more sophisticated rules for tagging and segmenting people.

You may want to track your subscribers or purchasers in a Google Sheet. Zapier helps us do that.

You may want a text message anytime someone purchases a product. Zapier can do that.

Zapier is freaking amazing.

But it is another expense you may need to budget for.

Budget about $30 per month for Zapier.

Website Maintenance Costs (Future)

Getting a website up and running is only half of the battle; there are several ongoing costs to operating a business website.

Just like you need to get oil changes and tune-ups to keep your car running, your website needs some ongoing love to keep going strong.

Website maintenance involves updates to software and plugins, regular site backups, security monitoring, domain/hosting renewals, content updates, performance optimization, and occasional design tweaks. If you operate an online store, the maintenance costs may be more expensive. 

When you hire a professional web developer to build your website, they will likely include ongoing maintenance costs on a retainer.

Summary

Simply put, when budgeting for a website, here are the costs that you should plan for:

  • Domain registration
  • Hosting and security
  • Email Hosting
  • Design and development
  • Copywriting
  • Theme and Plugins
  • Photography
  • Fonts
  • Email CRM (eg. MailChimp)
  • Other software like Calendly, Zoom, Zapier
  • Ongoing maintenance

At Tall Poppies, we will detail all of these costs in a website solutions proposal so that there are no surprises.

Need Help with Your Web Design Budget?

No two websites are exactly the same – meaning every website build will have different costs.

Before you start requesting quotes for a site build, you need to have a crystal clear idea regarding the role of your website, the features you need, and how it might evolve one, two, or five years down the road.

At Tall Poppies Design, we work closely with life coaches, online educators, and small business owners to create websites that fit like a glove and work like magic. If you’re not sure where to start with a website, we can help. Request a website strategy call today. 

xoKaty

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