WordPress is open-source, so the actual software itself is free.
What costs money is working with a WordPress freelancer or agency to customise the site for you.
Most WordPress developers will estimate the amount of time they will need to plan, design, build, populate and optimise the WordPress site for you.
Each one of these stages takes a different amount of time.
Below I have outlined the key stages and example costs for professionally building a WordPress site.
- Why do you need a budget
- Costs are going to depend on who you work with
- What it costs to plan a WordPress site
- WordPress design charges and timescales
- Charges for building a bespoke WordPress site
- Costs for adding and formatting content on a WordPress site
- SEO and WordPress optimisation costs
It’s rare that we don’t have budgets (or at least a spend limit) for most things.
If you were commissioning an Architect to design an extension for your house, you’d have a budget. Likewise, if you’re planning a holiday, you have a spending limit for that too.
Website projects are no different.
I’ve done literally 1000s of quotes and proposals over the years for all sorts of WordPress projects and I am still surprised when clients tell me that they don’t have a budget or at least a budget range for the project.
I often get supplied lengthy, well-written briefs without any mention of a budget and conversely I get emails simply asking: how much is a website.
I think there are two main reasons why a client may not provide a budget when asking for a proposal for a new website:
- They have never commissioned a website project before, so are justifiably unsure about what it might cost
- They feel that if they give a budget for the project, that’s what it will end up costing them
I will explore the above in more detail in another post, but both reasons above are legitimate reasons for not wanting to supply a budget when asking a web developer for a quote.
However, we all understand budgets and apply our own budgets on an almost daily basis.
- Artisan free-range organic eggs or just shop-brand organic?
- A Ford Focus or a Tesla?
- A five-bed detached property or a 2 bedroom flat.
If budget were not a consideration, we’d probably have the artisan eggs, the Tesla and the five-bed house, but it doesn’t work like that.
What happens if you don’t provide a budget for your website project?
When I get asked to provide a quote for a project, but there’s no budget outline on the request, or when I ask I am told to just provide a ballpark figure, the request goes to the bottom of the pile.
It’s that simple.
I am being asked to spend a significant amount of my time to research the client, market, requirements and potential solutions with absolutely no idea if the requester has the budget to cover the work.
Good WordPress agencies are busy WordPress agencies, so they simply won’t have the time or resources to entertain clients without budgets.
I have to be honest and say that I often don’t even get around to replying to speculative work requests. Despite meaning to, just out of politeness, they just move further and further down my list of to-dos.
Working out your budget for a WordPress website can be difficult, I’ve written another post about WordPress budgets that expands on this.
Let’s be honest, it’s not difficult to find a WordPress agency or freelance WordPress developer.
A quick Google will bring up 100s of results, so where do you start? You’ll certainly know the agencies that are good at SEO searching like this.
Referrals are often a good way to find a recommended WordPress agency – talk to other business contacts who have websites you like and simply ask them who did theirs.
You might think that the larger the agency, the higher the price, but this is not always true.
There are some really small agencies and individual freelancers that really specialise in certain types of WordPress stuff (headless, frameworks etc) so even though they have a small team, they may be expensive (and potentially over skilled for your project).
Some larger agencies will price a project on whether they like the idea of it or not – so a larger WordPress agency may take on a startup site if they think it will be a fun project.
If the agency you’ve found or have been referred to has built a lot of sites for household names, they are generally going to be a lot more expensive as they work on much larger projects.
One way to look at this is to find an agency that’s like your business in terms of:
- The size of their team
- Their turnover
- How long they’ve been doing what they do
If you find a match like this, you are going to be in similar places, even though you may be very different businesses.
In my experience, I’ve found that:
- Freelancers can charge anywhere from £250 to over £10,000
- Smaller agencies (3-5 staff) will charge anywhere between £2,000 to £15,000
- A larger agency (5-10 staff) will be looking at £5,000 to £25,000
- Large agencies (11+ staff) will range from £10,000 all the way up north of £100,00
This is by no means solid fact, as other factors affect agency charges, such as if they are busy, what they feel like working on and how they click with you (yes, sometimes it does come down to that).
Planning is a crucial stage of any website project where the desired outcome is driving more visitors from the search results.
If you dive into a WordPress project and make it all about the design, wanting the site built yesterday, you are going to end up with something that looks pretty but does very little.
Good agencies will include website planning as part of the quote for your new website (or improving an existing one).
Unless you have experience in planning websites, it’s usually best to trust the professionals in this stage of a project.
Costs for planning a WordPress website will come down to several factors, including:
- The size of your website
- Where you are now, and where you want to be
- The size of your team
- The functionality (how complex etc)
Experience in planning websites equates to charges, so expect rates of £80 – £120 per hour for this type of work (high for much larger agencies) and base your budget allowances on the scope of your site. Simply put, the more complex, the more costs.
What can take three seconds to say can result in three weeks of development.
We’d like a login area where clients can manage their profile, the sorts of emails we send them and view other members with similar interests.
Sounds simple enough, but that’s an awful lot of work and would be best done with a bespoke solution.
A good WordPress developer will ask you sometimes tough questions about what you want your site to do and why.
An experienced WordPress developer may even ask to see the proof that a request such as the above will actually result in any form of benefit.
As a rough estimate, I would suggest that at least 10% of the total project hours estimated to complete your project should be allocated to planning, so if you have been quoted £10,000 for your website, at least £1,000 of this should be allocated to planning by the agency.
Design is probably one of the key stages for clients.
Everyone wants to see what the new website will look like, and despite the clever work being under the hood, design is what everyone sees first, and what everyone feels they are experienced enough to comment on.
Whilst design is a crucial part of the project, if you don’t have a budget to do market research on your wider market, decisions can often come down to a few internal stakeholders.
As a WordPress project starts, most designers will assume the following:
You (the client) have commissioned us (the agency) to design your website because we have the skills and experience to create the perfect solution for you.
And this is often the way the design stage of a project goes.
A good brief, a good client and an experienced agency result in an awesome solution.
It doesn’t always go that way.
When you commission an agency for a website project, here are a few questions (amongst others) that you should ask to ensure the design stage doesn’t go south.
- Do you have a design team in-house or work with another agency?
- Are the ‘designers’ actually qualified, or do they simply know how to use XD, Photoshop or Figma (et al).
- Do you design for templates (themes) or is this bespoke work?
- How do you work? Three concepts to choose from or a more creative approach?
Having worked in design for over 25 years, I never cease to be amazed by the design stage of many projects and how much of a bumpy ride this process can be.
Designers are (should be) professionals that you employ to complete a job that you can’t do yourself, so make sure you understand their process, otherwise, six weeks into the process the design team will be thinking:
Just give them (the client) whatever they want so we can progress with this project. We’ve presented no end of designs, the first of which was on-brief, but we’re now at a point where they’ve made so many changes, it looks nothing like the original vision.
So how much will the design stage of a WordPress project cost?
Designers will be charged-out anywhere between £40 – £150 per hour.
If you have existing branding, together with corporate identity guidelines, other existing materials (for reference) and some existing market research, it could be anywhere between 10 – 100 hours.
That’s a ridiculously wide range, so again, if I bring this into the context of your budget, it should be around 20-30% of your total project budget.
This is the largest stage of any WordPress project.
Depending on the complexity of the design and the functionality you require, the development stage of the project can run into tens of thousands.
Obviously, not everyone needs a hugely complex website, so let’s break the build stage down into several different types of websites.
- The blog site
- Micro-business website
- SME website
- Larger corporate website
- PLC website
My experience ranges from 1-4 on the list above – I work with a team of nine in my day job and often bloggers and micro-business in my freelance capacity.
I’ve called the fifth point PLC websites, and by this, I mean projects with budgets over £50K and above. As I don’t work on sites of this size, I am not going to comment on how the budgets should break down for this type of investment.
The blog site.
Blogs usually have a lot of content but fewer templates for layout.
Typically you’ll have a homepage, some standard top-level page (about, contact etc), category and tag archives, individual posts and a search results page.
Category and tag archive pages should use the same template, as should the standard top-level page, so this leaves us with around five templates for the site.
If we work off the premise that we’re having a header, content section, sidebar and footer, we’ve four additional areas of the site to code.
So in total, there are around 10 elements of the site that need to be coded.
I only do bespoke WordPress builds, so this post also assumes we’re not using some off-the-shelf theme with the templates pre-built.
Typically, the charges for the build stage of a blog site would be anywhere in the region of £500-£1000 for a full bespoke build-out.
The micro-business website.
Often these types of sites are for start-ups, so the only addition here to the blog site approach is a products or services page, team page and maybe some addition ‘about’ style pages.
Again, basing everything on the bespoke build approach, the build charges for this type of site are anywhere between £750-£1500 to accommodate the additional templates required.
The SME website.
This is where things start to get a little more complicated as more established businesses tend to have more bespoke requirements and larger teams working on the project.
A build stage for a typical (if there is such a thing) website for an SEM would start at around £1500 and go from there.
Larger corporate sites.
With larger businesses comes more complex content. This often includes using custom post types in WordPress to create templates specifically designed and build to accommodate the different types of content.
There’s often more requirement for bespoke functionality and often API integrations.
Larger corporate sites are almost always a rebuild of an existing site (be that already on WP or on some other CMS) so this needs to be factored in when it comes to the build, URL structures, existing SEO and so on.
£2500 would be a good budget to start with for a ‘smaller’ corporate site, but charges can range into the tens of thousands depending on the complexity.
To conclude on the site build charges.
There’s no fixed pricing table or set of guidelines you can turn to here. All the figures are estimates and every single site is different.
As a general rule of thumb, the more complex your design, content and functionality, the longer the build will take and the more investment it will require.
The main point in having a bespoke WordPress site built is that managing the website content becomes quicker and easier.
There’s no need to call the developer to get simple changes implemented and you can manage everything from your logo to menus yourself.
However, some clients do prefer the initial content load to be completed by the agency so the project gets finished on time (content can take an age).
Whilst adding content requires some experience and attention to detail, it’s not development work, so in my experience, this is charged at £30-£40 per hour for copy, paste and format work.
An experienced person should be able to do at least 3-4 pages per hour, providing they have everything they need, so working out the costs here is relatively straightforward.
Despite the popular belief, you simply cannot ‘just do the SEO’.
Search engine optimisation is complex and requires a 360-degree view of not only the website but the business objectives and goals too.
SEO touches on customer lifetime values, conversion costs, market competitiveness and 100s of other seemingly unconnected things that all come together to form effective SEO.
The absolute basics.
On-page SEO and technical SEO should be completed using the Yoast plugin and Lighthouse (to grade your technical SEO).
All articles should be long-form (over 1000 words) and tick all the boxes in Yoast for readability, external links, internal links etc.
Your site should ideally score more than 90/100 in all of Google’s page speed tests.
The time and investment for this obviously does depend on the size of your site and the quality of the build.
If I am asked to SEO a page properly, it takes at least an hour, and that comes in at £80.
Technically optimising a smallish site usually takes at least 8 hours, so that’s £640.
More in-depth SEO.
I am not going to get into this here, but SEO is a rabbit hole.
When I SEO a website I use the following tools:
- SEM Rush ($100 per month)
- LSI Graph ($40 per month)
- AHrefs ($179 per month)
- Mangools ($80 per month)
- Google Search Console (free)
- Google Page Speed Insights (free)
- Chrome Lighthouse (free)
- And various others…
This costs around $400-$500 USD per month just for the tools to do the job properly.
With my colleagues we work on monthly SEO for a wide range of websites, packages start at a minimum of £350 per month for the basics and go up from there.
The real conclusion here is that that isn’t one.
Costs for putting a website together can vary so wildly that it can be really hard to know who to trust.
If you are quoted £500, £1000, £5000 and £7500 for the same project, the old adage of picking the middle-range price does not work.
The single best thing you can do when trying to find out how much your website will cost is to simply book a call with three to five agencies that you’ve either found online (so they are good at SEO) or have been recommended by trusted colleagues.
It all comes down to budget, but a good agency will tell you what you can achieve within your budget, not simply that your budget is not enough.