We sitting out on the deck at McDougall’s enjoying dinner when my friend asked me, “So, how much does it cost to get a website?”

He’s thinking of starting a new venture in “spiritual direction” and he has another friend who had recommended iPages, because it was “cheap and easy.”

“That’s probably fine,” I said. “As long as you know going into it that your site will be built using their proprietary software. And that means if you ever decide to switch, you’ll need to start your website over again from square-1.”

That’s when he asked me, “So, how much do you charge for a website?”

“Well,” I said. “If you’re just looking for a couple pages for a brochure kind of site, and you don’t want any custom work, I can set you up for $500.”

I could tell by the look on his face that $500 was more than he wanted to spend. And, really, at this stage, without any business plan in place, $500 would have been too much!

So then I said, “But if you want something that needs a customized theme, or to book appointments online or whatever other functionality may develop, you’re talking a lot more. I just finished a $3500 job last week, and I’ll be starting another one soon that’s in the $6,000 range.”

He almost choked on his salad. “My friend says I could maybe get a WordPress site for free,” he said.

“Yes, you could,” I said. “You could certainly do it yourself with WordPress. And at this point in your business, I’d recommend you look into that. You’ll get used to what kinds of things you need to know about websites, how to keep your site up to date, and get started with writing your site’s content. And, if things take off, it’ll be able to grow with you.”

“I guess I might do that,” he said.

Then conversation turned to how he’d like to try fly fishing.

The Upshot

  1. My friend isn’t ready for a website. He won’t be ready until he has a business plan and has worked out how a website fits into that plan. So, he shouldn’t spend any money at all on a website yet. Not to buy even the iPages basic plan, let alone $500, $3,500, $6,000 or more.
  2. When my friend is ready to consider a website, it will be critical for him to choose a platform based on scalability and portability, rather than cost and features. Why? Because the features he needs will change as his business grows and changes. And, if he ever decides he’s not happy with his current website service, he’ll need to be able to change services without starting over.
  3. Just because he’s not ready to start a website for his business yet, it’s never too soon to become familiar with the basics of using a website, and you can do it without spending any money by getting a free account at WordPress.com. That way, when your business is ready for a real website, you’ll be ready, too!

I’m not sure whether my friend will ever actually start his new business. It may be like having an idea for a book you never write. I’m not sure that he’ll ever actually put on waders and go fly fishing either.

What I do know is that whatever his (or your) new venture may be, it’s the main business of the venture that comes first, not the website! Then, and only then, will you know how much to spend on the website.

Photo credit: Takashi Hososhima