How Much Should It Cost to Build a Website?

Ah, the perennial question asked of anyone in this industry. How much does a website cost?

Websites come in all shapes and sizes, and levels of complexity. For the purpose of this exercise let’s specify a simple, starter-type website comprising 5-10 pages.

Let’s allow 15 hours for a professional website designer to build a business website based on a WordPress content management system, a clean and simple design that includes a home banner, image gallery, 5-10 pages of content and other general inclusions normally associated with a website of this size. This website can take enquiries through its online form, but is not an ecommerce website where payments can be accepted.

The Website Development Brief and Inclusions
  • Content Management System (WordPress)
  • Clean, Simple Interface Design (incorporate existing company logo and colour palette)
  • Home Page Rotating Banner (using stock or supplied images)
  • Image Gallery (using stock or supplied images)
  • 5-10 Content Pages (inserting supplied content)
  • Auto-Response Contact Form
The Major Website Cost Factor

The major cost contributor to building websites and your website development quote is, of course, the skilled professionals that work to build the custom websites you’re investing in for your business.

If you are interested in how much these professionals cost, how these costs are calculated and how these costs are contributed to the website price then skip to the following sections:

Website Designer Options for Building Your Website

There are many choices when it comes to selecting how, and who, you get to develop your website. The range of prices in quotes you may receive when submitting the same brief can be staggering.

However, this varied result can be explained, and is mostly related to the level of skill, size of a business and years of experience (business or individual’s experience). To create a reasonably level playing field these options only include professional website designers that contain many of the skills and attributes requested by employers. See Website Designer Skills, Qualifications and Experience section.

The following options start from the least likely scenario of employing your own website designer to the most sensible option of finding an experienced business with professional website designers.

Option 1: Employ a website designer

This option would generally not be feasible as you only want a one-off website and there’s no ongoing work. However, if you do want to employ an experienced website designer for the ongoing development, maintenance and growth of your online presence then having the right professional in-house could be plausible.

Estimated cost per year: $90,306 (see salary information below)

Option 2: Employ a contract freelancer

You could call an agency and they’ll find you a website designer for a few days on a short-term placement. Hopefully the person they supply is the right fit for your job. If they’re great, you’re still going to end up needing them for a week and the agency’s rate will be close to double the daily rate if you employed them yourself.

Estimated cost for 3 days: $2500-$3500

Option 3: Employ a freelancer running their own business

Look up your local business directories and search on Google to find a freelancer that works for themselves to build your website. This will often be a cost-effective option, but the downside is often that they are hard to contact and if they’ve been operating by themselves for less than five years then it’s highly likely they won’t be around, or will have gone back to full or part-time employment and be even harder to find. Having less resources it will probably take longer to finish your job. However, the great advantage of this option is that you’re working directly with the designer who is working on your website.

Estimated cost (15 x $120): $1,800

Option 4: Employ an established website design business

Often it is hard to distinguish between a single person freelance business and an established website design business when doing a Google search. However, a phone call to the business will soon determine if they’re easily contactable and likely to complete your job in a reasonably short time. You may often be dealing with a manager or sales person rather than the website designer which can be efficient if the communication is good. However, the downside is that you’re not often communicating directly with the person doing your work and there may be a few more conversations and emails required.

Estimated small business cost (15 x $150): $2,250

Estimated digital agency cost (15 x $250): $3,750+

Larger Agencies Offering Cheap Starter Websites

There are so many website design businesses when you search on Google that some larger businesses offer seemingly cheap website packages to get business in their doors. These can be a good deal, but mostly the website you require cannot be accommodated within these cheap offerings and you end up paying the same amount as would using other businesses with a higher starting price. Additionally, if you can, and do, use the cheap deal any changes down the track will be charged at their usual rate which is generally considerably higher than the smaller established website design business quote you originally received.

Website design professionals command fair salaries for the skills they possess. Therefore, larger businesses offering “loss-leader” websites are making up their costs in ongoing support work and expensive changes.

Ultimately It’s a Similar Cost

In so many instances, coincidentally, it doesn’t matter who you choose, if they’re a business employing professionals or a professional working for themselves you will end up paying around the same amount, in the end, for a professional website.

A website is a capital investment in your business and you should allow a budget for the initial construction and launch, plus a budget for the ongoing support, development, marketing and growth of that website.

Invariably, the growth of your business has a directly proportional link to the growth and development of your website.

Summary to Selecting Your Website Designer

Find the person or business that has experience to build the website you’re after, that already has longevity in the industry and is likely to be around for the next 5-10 years (assuming you’re planning that far ahead for your business).


How Website Designer Costs Are Calculated

Here is the information and workings I used for calculating billable hourly costs for website designers and developers.

Billable and Productive Hours

For full-time staff, working every day in your business, a usual working day includes coffee breaks, discussions, phone calls, non-billable hours working on business tasks and other distractions. This is just part of everyone’s working day. Over the years I have found that production staff average around 30 billable hours per week. If you base your costings around 30 billable hours, any improvement in productivity and efficiency is an increase to your bottom line – more profit.

On average we allow for six productive, billable hours per day for full-time staff.

Calculating the billable hourly cost for full-time employees

In Melbourne, Australia all full-time employees are available to work for five days per week less annual leave, public holidays, sick leave, etc.

Work Days per Year52 x 5260
Less Annual Leave Days28 <20>
Less Public Holidays11 <11>
Less Sick Leave Days*5 <5>
Available Work Days per Year216
Available Productive Hours per Year**206 x 61344

*Sick Leave Days:
Average sick leave days for Australian employees is 10 days, however from my experience five days per year would be closer to the average for full-time website designers.

**Available Productive Hours:
A usual working day includes coffee breaks, discussions, phone calls, non-billable hours working on business tasks and other distractions. On average we allow for six billable hours per day for full-time employees.

Average Full-Time Website Designer Salary

The average of salaries on adzuna is $93,511 and the average salary on au.indeed.com is $71,433.

Compulsory superannuation guarantee payments of 9.5% of annual salary is payable. The average of these two values, plus superannuation, is $90,306.

Calculating Full-Time Website Designer Hourly Cost

Using $90,306 as the base for hourly rate calculation the web designer cost per billable hour is $67.19 per hour. This is assuming you’re able to provide enough work for the website designer to achieve 30 billable hours per week.

Calculating Freelance Website Designer Hourly Cost

Since a freelancer does not receive the ongoing benefits of a full-time employee such as annual leave, sick leave, superannuation, etc. the freelancer has to include these in their hourly-rate calculations.

Using the $90,306 average salary calculation for a website designer a freelancer working on full-day placements should receive $403.14 per day. This fee has been calculated by simply working out the cost per day of the full-time employee (6 productive hours x $67.19).

If your freelancer is on a full-time contract of over a month then the freelancer becomes more like your full-time employee. Therefore, using the six productive hours per day for calculating costs is the correct option. Hourly rate for this freelancer working full days on a longer term contract is $50.39 per hour.

Where your freelancer is short-term they can be more efficient than a full-time employee and they could achieve consistently eight billable hours a day. Where your freelancer is this efficient they could justifiably request $537.52 per day (8 product hours x $67.19). This freelancer should receive $67.19 per hour.

Website Design Business Charge Out Rate

A website design business paying competitive salaries for industry professionals will have a high cost base above the $67.19 cost per billable hour to break even. There are office premise costs, workers’ insurance, sales and administration staff salaries and all other costs associated with running a business that have to be incorporated into the final hourly rate calculation.

Depending on the business size and location the final hourly rate will be a minimum of double the website designers cost per hour, but generally closer to triple to allow for profit and unplanned, unknown costs.

Therefore a small business, running a very lean and tight ship could be charging $130-$180 per hour, while a large agency with project management, expensive creatives and support staff could be charging out from $180-$350+ per hour.

Calculating Hourly Cost for Freelancers Operating as a Business

The next step to becoming an independent freelancer with many clients is to operate as a business. Many freelancers are sole-person businesses who are taking on all responsibilities for a website design job. All the business owner has to be concerned with is the cost of the job.

Since the freelancer, now in business, on top of incorporating annual leave, sick days, superannuation, public holidays, etc. into their fees, they are doing everything else that a business hiring full-time staff or freelancers do.

A freelance designer, running their own business, has now taken on these on-costs that a business would have to cover when employing a website designer or freelancer:

  • Sourcing Work
    There will be time taken out of most weeks for finding new work. This could include sales, quoting, marketing, meetings and answering telephone calls.
  • Customer Support
    You may have customers on a support contract where they are paying if they require email or phone support. However, a lot of time will still be required to answer emails and phone calls that won’t be invoiced.
  • Administration
    You will have invoicing and bookkeeping tasks to complete each week.
  • BAS and Tax
    At a minimum you will be putting time aside every quarter to comply with your business obligations in these areas.
  • Office Running Costs
    Even if you’re using a home office your costs will increase. All utilities will be used considerably more if you’re in a home office for 6-8 hours per day.
  • Purchasing Hardware and Software
    Web designers’ tools of trade are computers (often more than one), minimum of two quality monitors, printer, scanner, storage devices and software.
  • Maintenance Costs
    Even tech-savvy web designers need support. Maybe not with their equipment, but office fitout and maintenance is often required.
  • Telephone and Internet Costs

The freelancer running their own business is either taking on these business costs themselves by using their time or employing another business (e.g. bookkeeper, accountant) to them. If you’re doing them yourself then you’re reducing your available productive hours. If you’re paying someone else to do them you’re using your productive hours to pay them.

Either way the calculation of your hourly costs is the same. A freelancer running their own business has available around four productive, billable hours per day where you’re either spending the other four hours working on your business or working to pay someone else to be working on your business. Therefore, to achieve the average website designer salary of $90,306 per year you have four billable hours per day, totaling 896 hours per year. The hourly cost base calculation uses the full-time designer’s average annual salary of $90,306 divided by 896 which works out at $100.79 per hour. This would be a starting point for your hourly rate calculation as you may have expensive office costs depending on your location to add onto this base.

Australian and Melbourne Wage Information

The salary information is the range of all available jobs for all experience levels. These include graduate, junior and experienced candidates.

Website Designer Salary – Melbourne (September 2016)
  • Average $93,511 (source: adzuna)
  • Average $71,433; Range $54,078-$94,359 (source: indeed)
  • Overall Average: $82,471 plus superannuation
    ($93,306 inc superannuation)
.NET Developer Salary – Melbourne (September 2016)
  • Average $111,354 (source: adzuna)
  • Average $91,438; Range $68,592-$121,893 (source: indeed)
  • Overall Average: $101,396 plus superannuation
    ($111,028 inc superannuation)
Average Australian Wage (Source ABS November 2015)
  • Average weekly earnings all workers – $1,145.60
  • Average weekly earnings full-time workers – $1,499.30
This translates into an annual gross salary, before tax, of:
  • $78,321.23 excluding superannuation
  • $85,370.14 including 9.5% Superannuation Guarantee payment
Website Designer Skills, Qualifications and Experience

For experienced website designers seeking employment in Melbourne these are mostly the skills and experience that employers are expecting their applicants to have obtained. The majority of this list were the requirements for one position.

Areas of expertise required –
  • WordPress, Magento, Joomla
  • HTML5 and CSS3
  • Responsive Interface Design
  • JavaScript and jQuery
  • PHP and MySQL
  • .NET Development
  • Advanced Skills in Adobe Creative Suite
  • Graphic Design
  • eCommerce Implementation
  • cPanel Configuration and Debugging Web Environments
  • Help Desk and Troubleshooting
  • Database and CRM Development
Experience and attributes required –
  • At Least 3 Years Experience
  • Strategic Thinker
  • Excellent Portfolio of Work
  • A Great Communicator
  • Self Starter and Highly Motivated
  • Ability to Work Under Pressure
  • Strong Attention to Detail
  • Strong Time Management Skills
  • Passionate About Web Design and User Interface Design
  • Excellent Design Background
  • Ability to Construct Wireframes
  • Ability to Put Together Creative and Functional Briefs
  • Avid Learner
  • Experience in Google Analytics and Tracking Techniques
  • Team Player
  • Able to Work Collaboratively with all Team Members
  • Tertiary Qualification in the Appropriate Discipline
.NET Developer Skills, Qualifications and Experience

For experienced .NET developers seeking employment in Melbourne these are the skills and experience that are in most employers list of expectations.

Areas of expertise required –
  • C#
  • ASP.Net Framework
  • MVC Framework
  • WebForms and WinForms Development
  • AJAX
  • Javascript
  • HTML 5
  • CSS
  • Git
  • MS SQL Server Database
  • Web API Development
  • Agile Development
Examples and References for Website Pricing
One of the best, and most comprehensive, pricing outlines on website costs:
Other examples of Australian and International pricing explanations and guides: