Over a couple of years of client projects, one thing I’ve learned is that there are a lot of costs for website that site owners often don’t know to anticipate or plan for. It is not fun being the bearer of unexpected news about additional costs, so I try to be pretty up front about these potential “extra” costs at the contract and invoicing stage of the project.
There are seven main costs that many clients may not know about (especially if it’s their first big web project):
1. Hosting (Especially Quality Hosting)
While most clients know that they’ll have to pay for hosting of some sort, many don’t realize that quality business-level hosting can be pricey. While inexpensive shared hosting may be okay for some sites, there are definite downsides to cut-rate hosting (everything from reliability to security issues to variable customer service quality).
Once you move beyond inexpensive shared hosting, the cost for hosting can vary wildly and tends to increase pretty rapidly in price. This can be a real surprise for clients, and is something worth discussing early in the process. It helps to be able to discuss the benefits of more premium hosting services.
Typical Cost: $3-6/ month for inexpensive shared hosting, $15/ month and up for premium hosting
2. Domain Registration
If you’ve been working with websites for awhile, it’s easy to forget that the concepts of domain registration versus hosting are not actually that obvious to the general internet user. It’s a good idea to check in early with clients to make sure they’ve got a domain registered, and you’ll also want to help them understand the cost for registration.
Some things clients may not know about domain registration include:
- It’s a recurring (usually yearly) cost
- Some (but not all) hosting providers include a year or more of free domain registration with a new plan
- There are add-on services needed along with the domain for things like privacy or added security
- The domain can be registered separately from the hosting, if desired
I’ve found that clients also appreciate tips on registering similar domains, such as the .org version of the primary domain or a common misspelling.
Typical Cost: starts at about $10/ year per domain registration alone (more for high-value domains and certain TLDs)
3. Email Accounts
Some hosting providers include email of some sort (forwarding accounts, or even email inboxes) with hosting plans, others do not. Since many people are used to free personal email accounts, it may not occur to them that business-class email often comes at a cost and that the cost may be per-email-address.
I typically recommend Google Apps for Work as a great business-class email option, and that service runs $5/ inbox/ month, or $50/ inbox/ year.
Typical Cost: $50 per inbox per year
It’s not uncommon for clients to believe that any and all functionalities and design elements within a website are part of the overall project cost, but I tend to separate out license fees from my rates unless I already have an unlimited developer license for a particular purpose.
One of the reasons I do it this way is that I prefer to have licenses for each project in the client’s name. This is especially true for things with recurring costs like subscription font services, but is also true for one-off licenses that require a new license for each site.
I’ve written at length on web fonts and licensing, but those are not topics that the average site owner is going to know a lot about.
Ideally, font licensing comes up in the design phase of a project but I like to cover myself by also bringing it up in my invoices and contracts. That way I don’t have to be the one telling the client late in the project that the fonts they’ve fallen in love with are going to cost them a lot of money.
Typical Cost: varies widely from free to hundreds of dollars per year depending on font(s) chosen, traffic levels, etc.
Beyond font licensing, some jQuery plugins, WordPress plugins, and Shopify apps come at added cost. For example, MagicZoom is a very popular jQuery plugin for e-commerce product zoom functionality, and it has a per-site cost unless you’ve got a developer license you’re using for all your clients.
This is another place where it’s a good idea to talk early about special functionality requirements and for the designer and developer to be on the same page about functionality that is “free” (or built into a regular scope of work) versus functionality that may have associated extra licensing costs.
Typical Cost: varies – jQuery plugins tend to run $30-100 for a one-time license, premium WordPress plugins and Shopify apps often have yearly or monthly recurring costs
5. Security Provisions
Depending on the type of site and the setup, there may be added security needs.
SSL and Dedicated IPs
If you’re running any kind of secure content through your site, you’ll likely need an SSL certificate, which is an added yearly cost for most hosting accounts. SSL also requires a dedicated IP address, another added cost in some cases (especially on shared hosting).
Typical Cost: on one shared host, a dedicated IP address is just over $3 per month on top of a regular hosting plan; SSL certificates tend to run $20-50 per year up to $200+ for wildcard coverage
Even if you’re not storing or using sensitive information, it can be helpful to have security monitoring on your site. For WordPress, this typically looks like third-party services that keep an eye out for hacked sites or for necessary updates/ upgrades. Some clients may also want ongoing help with their site updates, which is a long-term cost that will need to be negotiated.
Typical Cost: leading provider Sucuri has an antivirus plan runs $89.99/ year for a single site
6. Backup/ Restore
This is another feature that depends on the site and hosting provider, but that sometimes incurs extra costs. Regular automated backups and a one-click restore are one of the reasons I really like WP Engine hosting [affiliate link], but other hosting providers may not include those things standard, or may only allow access to parts of the backups.
Sometimes you can add better backup systems through a hosting provider for an additional cost, or there are third-party tools and services such as VaultPress and BackupBuddy.
Typical Cost: VaultPress runs $55/ year for their “Lite” backup/ restore plan
7. SPAM Filtering (WordPress)
For WordPress blogs, in particular, there’s typically a need for additional SPAM filtering. While there are some free options out there, I prefer using Akismet as it’s a tried-and-true provider that does a good job filtering out SPAM with few false positives. You can use it for free for a personal blog, but it does have a fee for commercial sites.
Typical Cost: Akismet is $5/ month
Looking at a “typical” WordPress business site that includes a blog a reasonable cost breakdown might be something like:
Since it’s a lower price point, shared hosting is often a good place for a new business to start. The downsides are usually reliability and service/ support, and as traffic grows or as storage needs increase, shared hosting may become less of a viable option.
|Email (provided by hosting)
|VaultPress Backup Bundle (includes Akismet)
||$262 (plus any one-time licensing fees)
While clearly more expensive, premium hosting can be worth the price for ease of use, uptime and site speed, and quality of customer service. Premium hosting providers also often optimize for things like traffic spikes and dedicated WordPress hosting providers have WordPress-specific features that can save site owners time.
|WP Engine (“Personal” Plan*)
||$471 (plus any one-time licensing fees)
* The personal plan is the lowest plan offered by WP Engine and is based on the number of visits per month, despite the name it can be used for business sites.
There you have it – an overview of some of the most common website project costs along with some very approximate numbers for rough budgeting purposes. I’m sure I’m missing something(s), so if you’ve got something that pops up a lot in your projects that I haven’t mentioned, post it in a comment.
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