What does a website really cost?
When you decide you want to have your own website, there is a lot you need to think about:
- how it’s going to look,
- how it’s going to function,
- and how it’s going to serve your audience.
But you also need to consider what it is going to cost you, either in money or time, because it will cost you in at least one of those two categories.
Often times, both.
Well, take a look at mine.
It costs me over $200/month.
And that’s not even including charging myself my own rates to plan, build, and maintain it.
So what the hell am I doing that it’s costing me this much?
You will most likely not spend this much a month, but be prepared to spend more than you think you will.
What is counted in that monthly total?
Firstly, I own several iterations of thefierywell – dot com, dot org, dot net, dot … a lot. This is my name, my business, and I want to keep it that way, so I buy up every domain I feel is necessary to keep the name most definitely mine.
I recommend this to everyone whose website is their business.
Own your name.
I use GoDaddy and Namecheap for domain purchases, and their prices range from tens of dollars for common TLDs to hundreds of dollars per year for rare TLDs (that’s the fancy alphabet soup that means .com, .net, .tv, .store, etc.)
Domains are typically a yearly fee and are usually the cheapest the first year you purchase them. Why the cheaper the first year? Coupons and deals tend to only apply to first time purchases.
Fees, taxes, and regulatory charges can all change from year-to-year, so I suggest buying a domain and paying for as many years as you can afford.
2 years? 5 years? 10 years? Get the best price you can from the start, use a coupon code whenever possible, and then you can prepare for a larger cost in those next coming years.
Domains: $10 to $100/year per domain
I use WordPress for my, and all my client’s sites.
I use Flywheel for my site. I love the host, I love the service, and I love that I can have different staging environments (local, dev and live). As a developer, it is a super nice thing to have.
I have been with GoDaddy for decades, but as I moved more and more of what I do from fully-custom to purely WordPress sites, I wanted specifically WordPress focused hosting. Flywheel provides this.
The biggest thing with hosting is to pick the one you can afford, but don’t buy more than a year or two upfront. With domains, sure, buy the long term. With hosting? I don’t recommend it. Not until you KNOW you like the host.
All those “hosting only 2.99 per month!” host ads you see? That’s if you buy 3 years upfront or more. And usually they are the same services that don’t have the best server uptime or customer service.
Buy a year (two max) at a time, so you always have the option to LEAVE easily. I was stuck with GoDaddy for 5 years on an ill-equipped server and was counting down the days (and the number of “YOUR SITE IS DOWN” emails I was receiving toward the end.) to when I could finally stop paying them.
They do now offer dedicated WordPress hosting, which I use for forwitches.co, and so far I’m pretty happy there, but I had to pay extra for an SSL.
Hosting: $10 to $100 per month
An SSL is a security certificate and the reason for that little lock up in the URL bar when you are on this site.
A great host will have SSL built-in, for no added charge. A decent host will not charge you a whole lot to have one.
A secure website is a gold standard today. You MUST have one if you
- want to rank in search engines
- have forms that collect personal information
- accept credit card payments
- have anything with a password on your site (membership sites, etc.)
- don’t want scary notices for your audience when they visit your site
If your host does not provide one for you, you will have to purchase one and prices vary greatly. For this reason, whenever possible, I stick with hosts that provide it.
SSL: $0 to $200/year on top of hosting
Unless you are using an absolutely free theme, the aesthetic of your website is going to cost you something every year.
I use GeneratePress Premium for $49 a year, and it’s a price I happily pay every year to have support and updates (functionality, aesthetics, and security).
Please. Please. Keep your themes up to date. Paying every year for what seems like very little may seem annoying or pointless, but if something happens to your site because you didn’t update? Now, what is that going to cost you?
Themes: $0 to $200 year.
Ah, plugins. Or, as I like to say, where all my money goes right out the window.
This is why mine costs so much per month. The more functionality your site requires, the more it is going to cost you. I have a lot of functionality on my site (over 20 paid plugins) for: membership, e-commerce, third-party integrations, custom tools, and more.
Caveat: I’m a WordPress developer and work with a lot of different moving parts on various client sites. Because of this, I tend to pay for the more expensive “Developer” license offered by plugin authors.
- It allows me to have one master license key I can use on all my client sites.
- I hate asking clients to sign up for different licenses
- I want to be sure the plugin stays current
- I remain the support person for that plugin, instead of umpteen number of other people
So, yeah, plugins cost me a lot of money every year. Will they cost you what they cost me?
1) Not if you work with me wink and
2) Not unless you want to pay for the Developer packages.
Most plugins are priced reasonably well for single site usage, which is most likely you, and will keep your costs a lot lower than mine.
And don’t NOT renew your licenses! Please, for the love of the full moon, always renew your licenses.
It may seem like “well, I have it now, who needs updates?” but you WILL as soon as they fix some annoying bug, or patch a critical security issue and suddenly you can’t use your own site. I’ve seen it first hand.
Always renew. Always update.
Plugins: $0 to $200/per year/ per plugin
A lot of folks don’t count this on their website costs every month, but I do, because my website is only part of my business.
GSuite, Asana, Acuity, Zapier, ConvertKit, Mailchimp, CRM and PM systems… you name it, if you have a business that has any type of non-paper organization to it, or a mailing list, you’re out every month for someone else’s system.
Most of these services have free tiers, but at some point you may want to pay to save you on time.
Be prepared to spend $5 to $500 per month depending on your business set up.
Photography, Imagery & Fonts
This is an entire discussion for another post. But let’s just say you can go from $0 to hundreds of thousands of dollars in this department. Between software, photographers, licensing and more… yeah.
Stick with Google Fonts & Unsplash for a while. It’s totally cool and I do it, too.
Yes, a website can get very expensive, very easily, and I want you to be prepared for numbers higher than you expect because I don’t see folks talking about it much.
Does it have to cost so much? Absolutely not. You can absolutely have a website for $0 a month. And I absolutely encourage you to do so, and get started today, rather than wait for that “someday when…”
That someday is now. This is your sign.
You can start, and run, a successful business with Instagram, WordPress.com, ConvertKit and a PayPal.me link. All for free.
Or, you can get your shit together now and get online with my upcoming free email course:
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