It's Like Making Dinner

What It Depends On

Being largely in the business of web design, a question I get all the time is, “How much does running a website cost?” Between hosting, domains, content management systems, design, and so much more, the answer is... it depends. At least, that was always the joke answer in my marketing classes, although it’s largely true. There’s no one-size-fits-all cost and solution for anyone’s particular website.

That being said, I've been around the block, and feel like you need a better answer than “it depends.” So, here are the three factors I think “it depends” on:

  • Time
  • Skill
  • Finances

To dive in, how about we use an analogy?

It’s Like Making Dinner

As the youngest in a family of four, I have learned a bit from each family member on what it takes to make dinner. Oddly enough, my mom, dad, and sister all have inherently distinct approaches.

1.) The “Harris Teeter” Dinner by Mom (Do It Yourself)

My mom loves to cook. While her grandmother passed on some recipes to her, she is largely a self-taught cook. A stay-at-home mom for several years while we were growing up, my mom perfected the quick evening meal that appealed to all of our tastes. More recently, as my sister and I have gone on to build our careers, my mom has had more time to research recipes and prep in the kitchen. I swear, it’s like she cooks a new recipe every day, constantly perfecting. As for ingredients, my mom is an expert at finding what she needs in town at a good deal with a healthy rotation of grocery stores that specialize in different foods and cuisines.

When it comes to “do it yourself” my mom has plenty of time and skill, and shops around to keep healthy finances. She’s got it covered.

2.) The “Hello Fresh” Dinner by my Sister (Pay Someone)

Meg is relatively new to cooking and is building up a list of recipes as she prepares to be a new mom in the fall. Meg also keeps a pretty tight schedule as both her and her husband work full-time jobs, maintain a house and tend to two cats. Meg recently subscribed to “Hello Fresh,” which, if you’re unfamiliar, is an online service that sends recipes and ingredients straight to your door, for a semi-assisted home-cooked meal. 

When it comes to the “pay someone” model, my sister has a mix of the three skills: some time to cook, some skills that she’s trying to build, and some finances to kick around to help build those skills and save a little extra time. She’s not afraid to admit she needs a little help (which I respect!).

3.) The “Carrabbas” Dinner by my Dad (Pay a Service)

My Dad travels a lot—about 45 weeks out of the year to be exact. If he’s not taking clients out to meals, he’s probably in another time zone and is too jet-lagged to go grocery shopping, or without the resources to cook anything more than a microwave meal at his hotel. Don’t get me wrong, my dad is a fantastic cook. His pancakes rival my mom’s and he is a grill master. But most days of the week he is eating out and essentially outsourcing the whole cooking part of his week.

My dad falls into the “pay a service” category because, although he has the skills, he severely lacks the time, and instead pays to make up the difference.

What This Means for Websites

If you’re new to building a website, your head is probably spinning with all the options out there. Let's look at three options, based on those original three factors: time, skill and finances.

1.) Do it Yourself

You have plenty of time and skill, but maybe you lack finances.

Building a website on your own likely means you have an awesome background in coding and can do something custom, or you trust online publishers like Wordpress, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, etc., to give you the infrastructure to build your site. More importantly, you have the time and skills to master a tool, organize your thoughts and present them coherently on the web. Even more importantly, you have the time to come back later and keep the site up to date.

Total Setup Cost: < $1,000

Fun Fact: Small businesses hire freelancers 40% of the time to do their websites.  Source; Clutch

Fun Fact: Small businesses hire freelancers 40% of the time to do their websites. Source; Clutch

2.) Pay Someone

You have a little bit of everything: some money, some time, some skill.

You’re not totally sure you can pull a website off yourself. Chances are you’re still learning about what it takes to build a website, and you want something sooner rather than later. At this point, it makes more sense to pay someone to make sure the website goes up (or, that the dinner actually gets on the table). And, like “Hello Fresh,” a subscription may actually hold you accountable and keep you updating the site because you’re “buying in” already.

Total Setup Cost: $1,000-7,500



3.) Pay a Service

You may have the time or the skill, but more money.

Maybe you’re a jack of all trades and can pull this off yourself. But at this point, it just makes way more sense to outsource the site to a team that can do almost all of the thinking for you. You’re probably a growing business, and so you could equate this to hiring a full-time marketing employee or  agency.

Total Setup Cost: $10,000+

Now What

I’m a one-man show and fall into the second category of paying someone, not a whole team. I intentionally build sites through Squarespace, a platform that some clients have the skills to learn. Once a site is setup, I also help hold my clients accountable to keeping their content fresh, which ensures they stay high on Google search results. Individuals, startups and small businesses are my main clients, with sites starting at $650.

My advice? Be honest with yourself and about your time, skills and finances. Just like making a dinner, eventually you have to put the food on the table. You have to be honest about how you want it to look once it’s on the plate. All three options can look amazing! But first, be honest. I promise, it’s worth it in the long run. Don’t be afraid to take a step into that kitchen. Just consider who you’re bringing with you.