If there’s one digital marketing tool your small business needs, it’s a website. When customers search for you, they want to find all the answers they seek in one central place. This means a site with all the must-knows about your brand is a must-have—perhaps even before social media.
However, when your company’s pockets aren’t as deep as those of a large enterprise, your budget may be your biggest concern. Even if you know why you need a professional site, you may be asking, “How much does it cost to build a website for a small business anyway?”
We’ll break down the website costs you need to be aware of so you can be ready to invest.
How much does it cost to build a website for a small business?
The good news is building a small business website doesn’t have to drain your resources. You can spend as little as $100 when you do everything yourself. This can, of course, involve a learning curve and a time investment.
On the flip side, a new website that’s custom-built by contracted professionals can cost as much as $5,000. Add a few thousand dollars if you’re looking to build an e-commerce website. For some small business owners, the time saved and the future return-on-investment (ROI) of a high-quality website may make this worth the cost.
Below, we’ll explain exactly where these costs can come from so you can mix and match when to contract website building and where you DIY.
Your domain name is the address users use to reach your website, like “Google.com” or “PayPal.com.” This makes it a non-negotiable cost when you’re building your website.
You can expect the average cost of a good domain—which will typically match your brand name and end in “.com”—to fall between $10 to $20 per year.
If your domain name is a word or phrase that has a high search volume (like “apple.com,” as opposed to “grannysmithapple.com”), you may end up paying considerably more. However, you’ll get more organic traffic to your website and build brand recognition faster.
Some companies offer free options, but we recommend opting to pay the low annual costs offered by reputable sites like Domain.com or Google Domains. This is because free domains typically come with a catch. For example, you may be required to continue paying for the company’s web hosting services or to give the company permission to display ads on your site.
Once you have your domain name, you need a web hosting company to make your site accessible to the rest of the world. Most small businesses will start with a simple shared hosting service, which allows you to share a server with other sites to cut costs. This type of hosting costs around $10 to $30 per year, or around $100 max.
You may have to pay more if your site is particularly feature-rich or gets a lot of traffic, since you’ll take up more space in the shared server.
At some point, your website may experience slowdowns, which are a sign you’ve outgrown your shared hosting service and need an upgrade. However, for the most part, most small businesses should thrive on affordable shared hosting plans from sites like Bluehost and HostGator.
Another important purchase is your Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, which provides an added layer of security for your small business and your website visitors. This means fewer hackers for you and more privacy for your customers.
Small businesses can get SSL certificates for as little as $10 per year. However, the more personal information you deal with, the more you’ll want to invest in your SSL certificates. You don’t have to go all out with costly $1,000 per year certificates, but some companies—like those with ecommerce sites that deal with credit card information—should look for enhanced protection.
Some website hosting providers actually offer free SSL certificates with shared hosting plans, so if you just need basic protections, you may be able to save by finding a bundle.
Your website design is the first thing your potential customers will see when they enter your platform. This means your design can completely make or break a shopper’s interest, even before they start looking at your content.
Because of the importance of design, many small businesses choose to outsource this to professional web designers. Most freelancers will charge around $75 per hour, which comes out to a few thousand dollars for your entire site. You should expect to invest a minimum of $1,000, but most small businesses won’t have to spend more than $10,000, give or take.
Another option you have is to purchase a website template from your content management system. This will rarely cost more than $100, and you can often find affordable or free themes. The downside of this option is you’ll lose some customization, so it can be a bit more work to fully brand yourself and get the functionality your business needs.
If you want an easier DIY website design option, you can also choose to use a website builder like Squarespace or Shopify in place of a more complex (but free) CMS like WordPress. These website builders often allow you to create attractive sites just by stacking pre-made elements together. They also typically bundle all your basic needs—including your domain name and hosting—into one package.
The downside of website builders is the complete lack of customization outside of your theme and that you may have to pay up to $40 per month as long as you use the platform.
Even if your design is perfect, you need great functionality to prevent your visitors from getting frustrated or lost as they navigate your site. This is where you may need to invest in web development.
Freelance web developers can help you create the exact functions you need for the best customer experience. They can help you create just about anything, including branded contact forms and slideshows, and refine little details like how your content shifts as users scroll.
You’ll likely spend at least $2,000 on web development if you use a freelancer.
A DIY alternative is using plug-ins, which you can sometimes find for free. However, if you want the best functionality possible without hiring a web developer to build custom website features, you may need to spend a couple hundred dollars on premium plug-ins.
To finalize your website, you’ll need to fill in your website with content that represents your business.
If you want a fully custom site, you’ll minimally need to hire a photographer to take photos and hire a copywriter to create written content. Each photo will usually cost at least $25, while copywriters often charge at least 15 cents per word.
The plus side of contracting out this work is you’ll get a fully custom look and feel. Plus, copywriters can help you create web pages that reflect your voice and help your Google rankings with search engine optimization (SEO) practices.
You can always write your own content, but even if you’re a talented writer, this can be one of the most time-consuming parts of building your own website. In place of custom images, you can always use stock images, some of which may be free.
Budgeting for website maintenance
Once your website goes live, your upfront costs—which can be huge if you invest in custom website design and development—are over. However, that doesn’t mean your website is free from that point on.
We covered a few recurring costs that you can expect—including annual fees for your domain name, web hosting, and SSL certificate—but beyond that, you’ll have to budget for website maintenance.
Maintenance typically involves regularly updating your security, adding content to your website or blog, and generally fixing or improving small elements of your site over time.
This can definitely be free. Website builders will take care of the technical stuff, so you just need to DIY or outsource content and marketing needs. Plus, you can always enlist the help of free website tools.
However, if you don’t have a website builder, we recommend investing in a third-party service for critical needs—like security updates and regular website backups—so your data stays as secure as possible. Outsourced maintenance costs will typically start at around $30 monthly.
Showcase your small business
A website is a crucial marketing tool that small businesses need to invest in. However, the amount you choose to invest is almost entirely up to you. If you have a low budget, you can always spend more time building a website yourself. But if budget allows, you can save yourself a lot of time and get the exact functionality and design elements you want by working with freelancers and agencies.