This week in the Go Top Shelf blog, we are going to talk to about how much a website can cost and what you should expect from your agency or freelancer. There are many different aspects that can affect the cost of your site, and you deserve to know what you are walking into beforehand!

First of all…

There are lots of different answers to this question. What it ultimately comes down to; is having a full knowledge of what you are expecting to create and achieve. The team you decide to work with should know what it takes to get your website on the web.

Different Website Cost Factors

The initial steps involved when figuring out the cost of a website revolve around the different features and capabilities included in the site. These features range from the web design, up to the web development and maintenance of the website once it is complete.

Having a firm grip on what it will take to create your site will give you an advantage when talking with a freelancer or design agency. Here are some of the aspects you should take into account…

Website Planning & Consultations

Typically, when you begin to talk with a professional about the creation of your website, they won’t ask for much more than a coffee at your scheduled meeting. However, top-tier industry leaders may charge you just to simply sit down and chat. In my own experience, I have seen agencies charge from $200 – $2,500 just to sit down with their team to discuss possible options. These types of firms tend to deal with large clients from a range of industries.

At Go Top Shelf, our consultation and planning process is completely free! If you want to sit down with us to discuss the different options available to you – we are more than happy to help.

Cost Range: Free – $2,500+/meeting

Domain Name Registration & Purchase

Your domain name is the foundation for your image and how people get to your site on the web. This is what users will type into the search bar of their browsers in order to find your website.

Domains do not usually cost more than $5 – $10 depending on the one you want. If the domain you would like is already taken… it is up to the owner how much they want to charge you. A good example is, a 4 letter domain which sold for $9.9 million in 2008!

Domain Name Cost Range: $10 – limitless

Hosting your website

In order to get your website on the internet to be viewed by your customers, you will have to host the website on a special computer called a server. A server handles requests from visitors, and provides you with the technology needed to present your website to them.

The costs for hosting your site will depend on the level of traffic you are expecting to attract, paired with the type of site you are creating. A basic, static website will require a minimal hosting package, whereas a large ecommerce project will need a much more expansive package.

Website Hosting Rates: $75 – $250 per year typically for small businesses

Website Prototyping & Design

The next step in the website creation process is arguably the most fun! Now, it is time to design your website. But how much is this going to cost? And why? We will try to explain in detail why it is important to budget enough capital for a beautiful design.

Why does designing my website seem so expensive?

The cost of a web design over the years has fluctuated quite drastically. Back in the late 90’s the cost to design and develop a website decreased from an average of $12,000 down to $4,500 by 2004. Shortly after the trend ended, people started visiting websites on their mobile devices – starting another rising trend back up to $10,000 on the high-end, due to responsive web design.

The era of designing websites using tables was over. Enter in the new and improved way of designing websites for every device on the planet – Responsive Web Design.

So how much will my website cost?

The cost of your website’s design will vary depending on the level of responsiveness and complexity in the project. There are currently over 219 popular mobile device screen sizes, and a professional website will look good on every single one.

A website design for a basic 5-page website done by a freelancer versus a digital agency will vary. A freelancer regularly handles both the design and development of the website themselves, and will have less strategic involvement. A freelancer will charge anywhere from $30 to $75 per hour for their services, and a solid web design should have at least 10 hours of work put into it (depending on the skill level of the designer and scope of work, of course).

Digital agencies will charge more due to their size and level of ability available to you. Agencies commonly have more than one person taking care of the tasks involved with your website, and can help you strategize more than a freelancer. You tend to receive a dedicated designer that is experienced enough to provide you with your exact expectations.

Because of this, most digital agencies in Calgary charge between $100 – $200 per hour for their services. This is why it is so important to trust in your designer/agency, and make sure they are the right fit for your business.

Freelancer rates: $30 – $75 per/hour

Digital Agency rates: $100 – $200 per/hour

Website Development

As we said in the previous section: the cost of designing and developing a website has been very volatile. Costs continue to fluctuate due to new trends arising over the last 10 years.

New technologies like Responsive Web Design, and CMS systems raised the bar for developers everywhere. This new tech provided new challenges and opportunities to those that were willing to adopt them. Those new challenges and opportunities do not come without a price however!

Developers are starting to charge more for their work due to the level of complexity involved in even the simplest of projects. Even a basic 5-page website needs to show up properly on a myriad of different devices. While all the contact forms, blog post submissions, and any other functionality must be properly programmed.

The budget you spend on your developer will be the deciding factor for the end game of your website. A great web developer can go to the moon and back for you… but a bad developer can leave you with a trail of errors that can be a nightmare in the long run!

Developers tend to charge around the same as designers, but routinely put in more hours. A 5 – 10 page website that is completely responsive with a top-tier design, full functionality, and database integration is around 30 – 40 hours of work.

Freelancer rates: $30 – $75 per/hour

Digital Agency rates: $100 – $200 per/hour

Ecommerce setup & integration

Most digital agencies charge a minimum for ecommerce websites mainly due to the scope of the project. There is quite a bit that goes into the setup of these websites, and it is important to take that into account.

Some digital agencies tack on the price of an ecommerce store on-top of the price for a website. While others may charge a flat rate to setup your store quickly on a CMS like Shopify. One of our clients, Epic Legacy, had us make a small ecommerce website for their Flames Legacy Book that was built on Woo Commerce, for example.

A freelancer will typically charge around $3,000+ for an ecommerce store, while a digital agency will charge around $5,000 or more.

Digital agencies will generally charge more because of the amount of services you are provided with. Agencies have multiple people handling your project with different specializations. A designer, developer, and SEO could all be working in-tandem on your website, whereas, a freelancer will take care of most of the job by themselves.

Freelancer rates: $3,000+

Digital Agency rates: $5,000+

Search Engine Optimization

Getting your site found on search engines and turning it into a money making machine is a time-intensive and costly process. Most search engine optimizers (SEOs) charge a monthly fee for their services, due to the extent of the scope on most projects.

It is normal for SEOs to be working on a website from 6 months to 12 months before their clients start seeing substantial results in rankings. That’s why finding the right search engine optimizer is so vital.

The rates for SEO in 2018 start from $300 and go up to $1,000. Freelancers tend to charge around $300-$500 with most digital agencies charging more than $750 a month.

Freelancer rates: $300+/month

Digital Agency rates: $500+/month


The content or “copy” for each page typically costs around $150 per page depending on your freelancer or agency. Your copywriter should be working side-by-side with your SEO to make sure that all content is properly optimized and well written.

Remember to always take your content strategy into account with your search engine marketing strategy.

Freelancer rates: $50 per page

Digital Agency rates: $100 – $150 per page

Website Maintenance

What determines the level of maintenance you require depends on the type of business and website that you have.

Ecommerce stores require much more maintenance than static websites with little content, therefore, they cost more to maintain. Also, if you do not have your website setup on a Content Management System you will be unable to make any changes yourself without the proper knowledge. This is important to know in case you plan on making many small changes to your website.

Most agencies and freelancers charge a flat hourly rate for maintenance services or offer hands-off services such as software updates, malware scans, site backups, and small content changes. This typically runs business owners around $300 – $500+ per year in costs.

If you are looking for a more comprehensive package with regular updates, blog posts, or releasing new product lines on your store – you may be looking at a much larger package with additional expenses. As it stands, most content updates are handled on a circumstantial basis.

Freelancer rates: $300+/year

Digital Agency rates: $500+/year


The cost of a website can be quite expensive at times. Designing, developing, and marketing a high-quality website isn’t as easy as it looks.

There are many free solutions out there to get your started such as Wix or SquareSpace, but these website builders lack originality and are poorly optimized for search engines. A freelancer or digital agency is your best choice for leaving your mark on the web.

If you have any questions at all about the price of your website, feel free to contact us anytime via email or phone.

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