You may have wondered: Why do web designers charge so much for a “simple” website?

You may have also believed that a website is an expense to be minimized, not an investment to be maximized.

I get it. I’ve heard this sentiment dozens of times. It usually goes something like this.

“I sent out my request for proposal to see how much I’d be charged to have someone else do it for me. Looks like I can do it cheaper on Wix or Squarespace.”

Or like this.

“The site has been live for over a year. I paid $1,000 for it, but it isn’t converting well and it doesn’t rank in search engines. I wasted my time and money. Why would I pay more than that in a redesign?”

In this post series, I want to walk you through why freelance designers and agencies worth their salt justify their prices for their work, and why it’s actually better for you, the client, when they charge you more than it costs to do it yourself.

There is always someone willing to do it cheaper.

Here are a few important things to consider…

  • Designing and developing a WordPress website, or any site at all, really, is not as simple as buying a cheap theme, adding text, and clicking a “Publish” button. While WordPress and other tools do add conveniences, those who don’t understand what’s happening “under the hood” can quickly get it wrong, especially when customizing the site for special use cases, such as a specific eCommerce purchase flow.
  • Services like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly can only get you part way. Some lock up ownership of your domain and content in fine print that most users don’t read or understand. And none are as robust or as flexible as WordPress when it comes to SEO.
  • While you can certainly outsource website work to sites like Upwork or Fiverr, or even through an overseas firm to take advantage of lower hourly rates for developers, doing so can cause other unintended consequences, not the least of which is communication lags when the person is overseas and in a different time zone. Cultural and linguistic misunderstandings can also cause friction and loss of time.
  • Just because you build a site does NOT mean that customers will rush to it by the hundreds or thousands and demand that you take their money. The process of getting and keeping traffic that converts effort into cash for your business is not trivial. Nor does it happen quickly, unless you’re willing to spend upwards of $5,000 in ads per month to reach an audience who otherwise doesn’t know you exist and doesn’t care about how awesome your business is.
  • It is both ethical and mutually beneficial to pay people commensurate with what their skills are worth so they will feel more invested in your site’s cause. They will respond in kind by partnering with you, prioritizing your work, promising results they can deliver, and providing high-quality services.

Websites Aren’t Always About Cost

Successful business owners are not always focused on cost.

When your client asks if you can do it cheaper

Think about the relationship between time and money. What do you, as a business owner, typically have more of? If you said that you have both in abundance, congratulations! You probably don’t need a web designer or developer as much as many others. But if you’re a typical small business owner running everything by yourself (sales, marketing, accounting, inventory, customer service, payroll, daily cleanup, etc.), my guess is that even if you’re strapped for cash, you’re probably more strapped for time.

At the end of the day people don’t want a website. They want a result.
— Josh Koenig, Pantheon.io

Web professionals, on the other hand, tend to have much more time than money. We often joke that it’s feast or famine, but mostly famine in our business. Thanks to “do-it-yourself” builders and cheap and abundant overseas labor, we don’t exactly have people breaking down our doors begging us to build them websites. When we do, we’re nose to the grindstone, doing meetings with clients and cranking out design, code, and testing to ensure that the client’s site is perfect. And then we go back to famine mode as we hunt for the next job. Our incomes are usually anything but steady.

In the next post, I’ll show you a new way to think about your website that will improve your relationship with it, and with your web developer!

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Rob Watson is a Web professional. Beginning in 1995 as a self-taught web designer, he now owns and operates a web creative agency named Webidextrous.com. If you need website coordination (a.k.a. "webmastering"), media production, social media, and SEO, ask Rob for help!