Can’t you just give me a price for my website?

We’ve all been there: you just want to get some prices first, and then have a think about who you’d like to hire to do the job. In this article, I’ll try to answer the question, “can’t you just give me a rough price?”.

(Spoiler alert: the answer is partly yes and partly no.)

Recently we had to remove some asbestos removed from our house. It was a stressful time and I just wanted to get a few prices and then pick someone to come and do the work. I found when I rang around that not all of the companies would agree to give us a rough price over the phone.

At first, I worried that this might be because they wanted to come out and ‘sell’ to us in person. But in the end, we went with the company who was quickest to send someone out to our home, show their expertise and answer all of our questions before we even got a rough price. By the time we saw the price, we already wanted to choose that company, because we felt good about trusting our safety to them.

So today I’m using that experience to put myself in your shoes. All you want is a price, right? Why won’t anyone just tell you the cost?

And, in truth, there are good reasons for why they can …and for why can’t.

Why they could give you a rough price

If you’re speaking to an agency worth their salt, they have done lots of projects before. They know how much time they take and have repeatable processes. So they also know what their profit margins are (because your web designer needs to run a successful enterprise just as much as you do!).

At the very least, they’ll have ballpark figures in their head when someone contacts and asks for “just a small website”, or “somewhere to sell our products”, or “the new Facebook”.

But there’s also a lot that they don’t know yet, that could change that ballpark price by as much as ten times. If they guess a price that later on turns out to be far too high or low, they might lose the sale or be facing a very awkward conversation.

Why they can’t give you a rough price

From my point of view, this list is longer than the first one. Why?

The web designer you’re speaking to is missing a lot of information:

They don’t know much design work is needed.

If you have a complete branding package in place, your web designer can use the logos, colours, typefaces and graphics in it to get a major head start with designing your site. If you don’t have any of that yet, it needs to be discussed.

They don’t know how much writing or photography they’ll have to do.

When website projects grind to a halt, it’s usually because someone is supposed to be writing the page content or organising a photo shoot and they haven’t prioritised it yet. If the agency is going to be helping with those things, it changes the size of the project quite considerably.

They don’t know about your plans to make it a success after launch.

I have a strict “no white elephants” policy for Flat Cap Creative. I won’t build a website that I don’t think is going to be successful. Sometimes that means making plans to support our clients with search engine optimisation, social media campaigns and so on. By learning about a prospective client right at the start, it’s easier for your agency to see where they might be able to help, and where you might need to develop your plans a little further.

They don’t know how important the site is to you financially.

Controversial one, this. I absolutely do not mean that whoever has the deepest pockets pays the most. That’s not how I price our work, anyway.

If the site is for a brand new organisation with one or two staff, you can afford to cut one or two corners here and there. Maybe don’t have too many pages, or obsess over fine details in the branding and design.

But if the site is responsible for bringing in £1m+ per year, that plan to just shove a few stock images in to brighten it up really isn’t going to fly. The whole thing needs to be on point. Social media integration, search engine friendly content, bullet-proof enquiry forms and payment systems… it all needs to be in place.

They don’t know what you’ll be like to work with.

Here’s another one I don’t want you to misunderstand. I’ve heard of designers charging double or more because the client wants to micromanage every step of the process. All those hours going through rounds of revisions need to be budgeted for, and agencies use the early conversations with a prospective client to try and anticipate those problems in advance.

I often charge my regular clients less because I know exactly what they like and can probably get the work done to their satisfaction at the first attempt.

How to guess the answer for yourself

It’s usually possible to guess a rough price from a web designer before you start talking to them.

Firstly, do you know the ranges of typical prices for the different types of website? Here are the ranges I most often hear of:

  • Brochure websites (4-10 pages): £2,500 – £25,000
  • Ecommerce websites (selling products online): £5,000 – £50,000
  • Membership websites (courses, social networks): £4,000 – £40,000

These are huge ranges!

But you can guess where your potential provider is going to come in that range, based on:

  • Agency size and experience: Do they have one staff member or hundreds? A larger organisation will usually charge more because of their overheads. If they’re experienced, too, they will be more expensive – and worth it! An inexperienced web designer is a false economy for many clients.
  • Specialist expertise in this sector: This could make them cheaper or more expensive. A company specialising in identical, templated sites for schools might have a way of producing them very quickly and so can afford to charge less. Or a company like mine, which has a specialist track record in marketing for private medical businesses, might be more expensive than working with someone who knows nothing of your sector, and would deliver better value too, so you’d be better off overall.

Summing up

The web agency you’re speaking to probably isn’t trying to scam you.

They’re trying to size up your needs and aspirations, and apply their experience to know what a sensible price to propose is.

In fact, anyone who is keen to give you a price straight away probably isn’t very good at running projects for their clients.

Think about the project you’re embarking on and how important it is that you trust the company you’ve chosen. A good agency will feel the same way in return. They need to know you’ll be a good sort of client for the way they work. The alternative is a stalled project that runs over budget or makes a loss for the agency. Either way, one star reviews will follow.

When you do contact your potential agencies, use what you’ve learned here to show that you understand their process and what they’ll be considering.

If you seem like the ideal client, you’ll probably get the best price you could have from them, and you’ll probably get the best results too.

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