A few months ago I saw this exchange in one of my favorite Facebook groups for solopreneurs:
"I am about to pay $4k for someone to make my webpage and I'm having a hard time stomaching this… that’s almost my entire bank account. Do others charge this kind of money?"
This post BLEW UP. There were over 300 comments on it, most of them appearing within the first hour of it being posted.
Each response fell into one of these categories:
“I just paid $5,000. I would be suspect of the quality if someone was charging less."
"If a $4,000 website would enable me to make $40k/month, then yes. Investment mindset vs. Cheapskate mindset."
“I’ll do it for you for $1500. PM me."
“Web developers are sharks who are just out to make as much money as possible. You can do it yourself for under $100."
“I’m offended - we are not sharks, we have a highly developed and refined skill set and we deserve to get paid for our time."
I was captivated. I read comment after comment. And as someone who has spent years building WordPress sites and currently building my own business, I disagreed with EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Well, except this one: “Don’t empty your bank account for anything, let alone a website.”
My fingers scrambled to type a well-thought out argument to counter every single one of those responses, but my typing skills are no match for the speed at which this thread was growing. So I kept reading and reading and shakin’ my damn head... They all think they are having the same conversation, but this was the most epic communication breakdown I’ve ever seen online. And no one noticed.
So I decided to take a minute to clear up all the confusion and explain the different types of WordPress experts, how they decide how much to charge, and give you a clear path for deciding whether to DIY or hire it out.
What is a Developer?
Everyone has a different definition of what a web developer is. In my many years of experience there are four levels of WordPress pros:
A WordPress Developer knows PHP and CSS and could code a WordPress theme or plugin from scratch. They know the WordPress Codex inside and out; they might even contribute to the development of the core of WordPress or code and sell their own custom themes. They likely are active in the WordPress support forums and submit bug fixes. They make WordPress work for the rest of us. Unless you’re a theme developer or wanting to create and sell your own plugin, you’re almost never gonna hire a developer.
Then there’s the WordPress Expert. She knows WordPress up and down, back and forth -- and is also an expert in web hosting technology. She knows where every single last option can be found in the Dashboard. How to troubleshoot and fix any problems. How to maintain + optimize it. How to extend it with plugins to make it perform any task you can dream of. How to customize any theme even if she’s never seen it before (because really, they all operate on the same basic WordPress principles). She knows every single plugin you need and don’t need, how to make your site do anything you would want your site to do. She knows every WordPress trick in the book.
Next up is the Design Expert. She knows popular WordPress themes like the back of her hand and has a talent for making WordPress sites look ah-mazing. She’s an ARTIST. She's going to select fonts and colors for you, design layouts and graphics, and maybe even write some copy for you because that’s part of the design.
Finally, there’s the Content Expert. This girl knows how to create and format new pages, add media, create and categorize blog posts. She knows how to apply and customize themes, set up menus, customize widgets and keep things moving. She may also be great at writing copy.
Here are a few things you need to know:
- No one reading this article needs to hire a WordPress Developer. That’s the point of WordPress -- it was created by developers to give the PEOPLE the ability to make their own websites. Websites for the people!
- If you can find a legit WordPress Expert who is also a legit Design Expert, marry her. She is a unicorn. This is where people wind up disappointed. They hire a “web developer” assuming they have both of these skill sets. Then they end up with a site that can pat its head and rub its tummy at the same time but looks like it came out of 1998. Or they have a GORGEOUS website with five beautiful pages and absolutely zero brains.
- You must become the content expert whether you hire it out or you do it all yourself. It is your duty as a business owner to know how this stuff works. Would you open up your business in a physical location you knew nothing about? NO! Just because your website is “technical” doesn’t absolve you of knowing how it works.
I cannot stress this enough. A basic level of knowledge is enough to maintain your site -- and it's crucial. That way, when you’re between experts, you won’t need to even break a sweat, because you’ll know exactly what you need to do.
Should you DIY or hire out?
If you do it yourself (which you totally can if you know how to use the internet, can point and click, can follow instructions and have a little cash and a little patience), you are eventually going to become a WordPress Expert. Maybe not a ninja-level-can-work-on-any-site expert, but you’ll learn enough to know exactly how to maintain everything about your own site. To do it RIGHT and set yourself up for success and future growth, it’s going to cost you a few hundred dollars.
If you are going to hire someone, you either marry a unicorn OR you hire WordPress Expert AND a designer. Your WordPress expert sets up your site for you (and they should ask TONS of questions about your business so they build everything you don’t even know you need), and hire a graphic designer to create your brand for you, and your WordPress Expert will implement the brand on the site for you.
Truth: the price for a WordPress site is completely arbitrary
It is determined by how much that expert thinks their time and talents are worth, and with cheap tech labor overseas, that skews the price range even more.
If you’re going to do your due diligence, there are four options to look at seriously:
1. How much time and money it will take to do it yourself, and what resources are available for learning?
2. How much does this ‘unicorn’ cost? You won’t know if they are a unicorn until you talk to them and ask the right questions.
3. How much a WordPress Expert costs - they might call themselves a web developer… pay attention to semantics. They really do matter here.
4. How much a Design Expert costs - they might also call themselves web developers. It is up to you to know the difference.
Yes -- this requires leg work, but it’s like finding the right physical location for your business. (Super important.)
To help you decide whether to DIY or don’t even try, check out this free decision guide. It includes:
- A quiz to help you determine if DIYing is right for your personality (no, you don't have to be techie).
- The BEST resources for DIYing your WordPress site.
- Tips on how to find the web developer that's right for you if you determine DIY is not for you.
- 24 questions to ask potential web developers so you can be sure you know exactly what you're getting before you get started.
How much money you decide to spend on a website has zero to do with an abundance vs. cheapskate mindset. It has to do with making good business decisions based on where you are in your journey. And there are eleventy-million ways to go about building your website, which is what makes deciding what to do so overwhelming! It’s important to do your research, make an informed decision, and not blow your entire start-up budget on a website.
P.S. Want more from Shannon? Check out her WP+BFF Academy -- so that you can build your website right the first time. Note: This is an affiliate link -- we believe in Shannon's work and think you might find it valuable.