What do you get for your money when it comes to web design?

So when you ask three to five WordPress design agencies for a quote for your new site, why do their costs vary so much?

How agencies price their projects depends on a wide range of factors including:

  • The size of the agency you are talking to
  • The agency’s fixed costs (rent, rates, energy)
  • The wages the agency pays their staff
  • The overall experience of the agency and their skill sets
  • Their capacity for new projects

And other factors about you and your project:

  • Your objectives & expectations
  • The size of your project
  • The complexity of your project
  • The size of your business
  • Your brief
  • Your budget
  • Your deadline
  • Where your business is on its journey

Let’s look at these in more detail to determine why WordPress design agency charges fluctuate so much.

The size of the agency you are talking to.

This has a huge impact on the costs the agency is going to quote you. Larger agencies have more staff and, therefore, more costs, so ultimately, they will charge more for the project.

Pricing a project is neither an art nor a science, according to the Design Business Association, but generally speaking, a large agency will charge more, and a small agency or freelancer will charge less.

Both come with pros and cons – the most notable being that a larger agency can bring more people and experience to the project, whereas a freelancer brings just themselves.

Larger agencies also have more capacity, don’t stop working on your project when they are working on another and can usually get the job done faster.

The agency’s fixed costs.

It may seem strange, but if the agency has a huge Soho-based studio, you will be paying for that in the quoted costs.

The more the agency pays out for its premises and other fixed costs, the more expensive they will be; this is basic business finance.

The design industry follows the same financial rules as most time-based industries: one-third for costs, one-third for wages and the remaining third for profit.

The wages the website agency pays their staff.

As mentioned above, wages factor into the proposals that agencies put together.

The more people in the business, or the more people assigned to your project, the higher the fees will be.

To further explain the third/third/third rule:

Let’s say an agency bills out their staff at £90 per hour.

That’s £30 for fixed costs, £30 for wages and the other £30 for making a profit (per hour).

So if you are quoted £9,000 for a new website project, it would follow the same formula – £3,000 for costs, £3,000 for wages and £3,000 for profit.

It’s important to remember that out of the £9,000, the actual amount going to pay the people to do the work is only £3,000.

Obviously, these figures can vary from agency to agency, but it’s how most work out their costs and charges (albeit with variations along the way).

The level of experience within the agency.

Agencies that know what they are doing (and can prove it) charge more.

Ones that are new or don’t have a proven track record charge less to win more new clients.

There’s a certain amount of risk involved in commissioning a rookie agency to complete a project as they don’t have the track record you can trust.

That said, they are likely to be cheaper – so it’s a case of balancing the risk against the size and importance of the project.

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Their capacity for new projects.

If an agency is very busy, they are a good agency.

If another agency is ready to start your project tomorrow, they don’t have much work to do, and this should be questioned (of course, they could just be in a quiet period).

Busier Agencies generally quote more for projects because they are in demand.

You can often negotiate somewhat on what a website costs depending on how soon you need your project completed.


website costs how much?


So, how do your project and business affect the costs of a website project?

Your objectives & expectations

These are both crucial to understand any website project.

For example, if you want to launch a new e-commerce site that generates sales of over £10,000 per month, it’s unlikely you will achieve that without significant investment.

Similarly, if you are launching a brand new site on a new domain and want to rank within the first month for 50 different keywords, that will take a significant amount of budget.

Websites are complex projects in terms of planning, designing and building.

Things get even more complicated when it comes to actually get traffic to the site and then converting these visitors into new customers.

If the agency does not have a good handle on what you want the site to achieve and how you expect this to happen, then any proposals and costings can be seriously off the mark.

The size of your project

The larger the project, the more it will cost – that’s generally a given for website projects.

This may also take into account the size of your team and the people on the project – a huge project with a large team (both ends) is going to take a long time to complete and require a lot of meetings and project management, so it’s going to cost more.

The complexity of your project

Suppose you have a simple 50-page WooCommerce site that uses all the built-in functions of WordPress. In that case, it’s going to be an easier project than if you have 10 APIs that need hooking up, complex delivery calculations and other technical stuff.

We often say to clients:

Something that can take five seconds to say can eventually take five days to develop.

This is often true when it comes to WordPress projects. So it’s your agency’s job to find out what you want your site to do and then suggest the best way of doing it.

Diving into bespoke code and building out complex plugins should never be done without being challenged:

  • Why do we need this?
  • What is it going to do?
  • What is the benefit to our visitors?
  • What is the benefit to us?

There are often requests for complex functions on website projects that are ‘nice to haves’ rather than specifically required.

One thing to remember with WordPress sites is that they can be developed over time, so we often suggest to our clients to look at functionality as a phase one, phase two etc.

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The size of your business

If your business turns over £15M, but the budget for a project is £750, that will raise some questions at the agency.

Not all projects have budgets related to the size of the business, but an experienced WordPress developer worth their salt will check out the size of your business, its accounts (via Companies House) and the team size.

When we are looking at a new request for a website quote, we do the following:

  • Check the initial contact person out on LinkedIn
  • Look over the current site
  • Find the total number of employees
  • Look at the company accounts on Companies House (if available)
  • Check the social media channels
  • Look for previous iterations of the site (how many times and how often has it been redone)
  • Check the domain research
  • Look at the Keyword rankings, and any PPC spend
  • Audit the current site

Not all of the above are relevant to the actual size of your business, but it gives us some important insight into the business, its performance, people and history.

All these things factor into providing a cost for your new project.

Your brief

“Hi, I am looking for a new website” is not a brief, but it’s often the first thing we hear from new clients.

The more detail you can get in the brief to your agency, the more accurate the proposal will be that you get back.

If you are not used to writing briefs for projects, it can be hard, so the agencies you are talking to should ask you a lot of questions before giving you even a ballpark cost.

At Toast, we have our website Briefing Document that we ask most new business enquiries to complete before we enter too much discussion.

We don’t want to waste your time, so we need to know upfront, from the brief if we are:

  1. Going to be able to provide what you want
  2. Be a good fit for you and your business
  3. Able to deliver within the timescale
  4. Capable of managing your expectations concerning your budget

Your budget

So this is the single most important thing you can tell a WordPress design agency to get a proposal for your website.

Having a budget to work with allows agencies to put together a meaningful proposal that covers all the bases.

Not having a budget means we are simply guessing how much you want to invest in the new website to achieve your goals and objectives.

There can be a tendency to think that whatever you say your budget is, that’s what the project will cost, which is why some people prefer not to give agencies a budget.

In some cases, this is a perfectly fair thing to do; we are the experts, so from a well-written brief, we should be able to provide a full proposal for your site, together with a full breakdown of costs.

Where this goes wrong is when expectations are very different from reality.

Most web agencies charge between £60 to £160 per hour for their work.

Even the simplest one-pager website can take over 10 hours to complete (if it’s done properly), so a larger 50+ page website with complex functions can easily be 20-times that amount.

If you give us a budget, we’ll let you know what we can achieve within that budget.

This is how we prefer to work.

Giving your agency a budget means that they can then choose how best to help you.

We’ve created websites for clients that should have been double their budget, but they may have been a charity, a good cause or just a brand or product that we really wanted to work with.

A good WordPress agency will ask you these questions and will help you manage your expectations against your budget.

Remember, you don’t have to do everything at once with WordPress – often, we split projects into phases for clients – spreading the cost of development over time.

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Your deadline

The sooner you want something, the more it is likely to cost; this is simply about supply and demand.

For us, ridiculously tight deadlines often suggest a lack of planning at the client’s end.

Websites take time to do properly, so rushing things is never a good idea, and most agencies will recognise this and therefore charge a premium for it.

Another thing to remember here is that freelancers and smaller agencies will often take on larger projects with tight deadlines only to discover a week later that there is no way they can deliver as there are not enough of them to complete all the aspects of the project within the tight deadline.

Where your business is on its journey

If you are a startup, everything is cost. The more established you are, the more likely you will have a budget provisioned for marketing projects.

A good web design agency will look at this and can potentially assist with costs spread overtime or working on a monthly retainer basis to ease cash flow.

Again, expectations come into play here – you can’t expect to pay for a website project over six months and have it ready to go next week.

WordPress comes to the rescue again here with the ability to phase development and functionality over stages and as budget becomes available.

So what do you get for your money?

That depends very much on the agency or freelancer you commission for the project.

The amount of money you invest in your website should be directly linked to the amount of revenue you want it to deliver.

So, you can get a simple website for £300, built off-shore, on a freebie theme – you’ll have a website, but the chances of it doing anything other than just being a website are slim.

Here at Toast, we want to make our client’s businesses better, and when done well, your website can be a 24/7 source of leads and new business.

The general rule of thumb here is that what you get out is directly proportional to what you put in, so if you are looking for a new website to be designed and built for peanuts, expect monkeys.