Everywhere you look, you will read how imperative it is to have a website in the digital age, but few business experts are willing to explain just how expensive building and maintaining a website can be. Besides websites owned and operated by incredibly large brands, nearly every site on the Web requires careful financial consideration before designers can even take the first few steps. At its cheapest, a small-business website should cost between $5,000 and $10,000 to create and launch, not to mention the advised monthly expenditures of about $500 for marketing and maintenance.
Obviously, websites aren’t the cheap and easy marketing tools most business experts insist. However, that doesn’t mean budding entrepreneurs should disdain the Internet entirely. There are more than a few ways you can find funding to prevent you from going broke before you ever see your site go live.
While it is incredibly impolite to ask any professional to do work for free, you might be able to find website designers and other digital creatives to donate work to your cause. Nonprofit organizations in particular are often able to recruit freelancers willing to do some pro-bono work, so if your website has a charitable mien, you might be able to garner charitable contributors. Plenty of marketing and advertising firms are eager to take on such projects to help with their annual taxes, and it never hurts to ask when your cause is good.
For profit-seeking websites, it will undoubtedly be more difficult to find free work. You might consider asking friends and family members with website development experience either to supervise your efforts or to supply their own expertise. You might also seek out new designers, who will likely take on projects for next to nothing to gain experience and pad their portfolios. However, you should always remember that when it comes to free Web design, you usually get what you pay for.
The favorite new trick of most modern entrepreneurs is crowdsourcing, or setting an idea loose among the public to garner support and funding. Instead of wrestling with tight-fisted banks and investors, you can market your website idea to the people who might actually use it and provide contributors invaluable perks, like access to exclusive newsletters or free merchandise. With small, cheap incentives, many entrepreneurs have been able to accrue much more money than their goal, allowing them to fund their websites and then some. However, crowdsourcing profiles can be as time-intensive and design-heavy as a finished website, so you should research whether the endeavor is truly worth it before committing.
Traditional Financial Support
Though your website is likely not your entire business — unless you are interested in e-commerce — it is certainly integral to your business’s success, which means you can take advantage of traditional business financing resources to fund your digital presence.
Loans are likely the most common source of funding for small businesses. There are all sorts of loans that can give you enough money to start building your website: SBA loans, lines of credit, merchant cash advances, and more. However, not every loan is created equal; some can be downright dangerous. For example, payday loans might make you vulnerable to cyberattack. Thus, you should certainly do research on your lender and your loan type before signing.
The government is an important source of financial support for small businesses. In addition to SBA loans, which come from federal and state government agencies, you might look into government grants. Awarded in various industries, grants can sum several thousands of dollars, which is more than enough to build and publish your website. Though the application process for grants can be rigorous, the virtually free funding you receive in return makes the effort worthwhile.
If you are one to bootstrap, the Web is certainly a welcoming place for self-starters looking to experiment with design and function. Whether or not you have prior experience with website development, you can take advantage of the following free resources that make Web design significantly easier on the mind and wallet.
- Creative Market. A website packed with paid design tools like fonts and graphics, Creative Market sends out a weekly newsletter with five free downloads you can use on your site.
- Canva. You will never pay for design software again after you use the free and fantastic Canva.
- Material Palette. Not everyone is color savvy, so Material Palette generates color themes with minimal effort.
- HTML5 Boilerplate. Website-building isn’t all pretty colors and pictures; this free code will make functionality easy, too.