At Over Alt, we like keeping things simple and straightforward, but we appreciate that clients looking around for different web designers will come across different pricing models like “pay monthly web design,” and “flat fee web design”.
So, we thought we’d set out for people what the difference is between these pricing models to help you decide which is best for you.
Full disclosure … at the end of this article, we do a little bit of shameless self promotion about our own simplified pricing model. We think it’s the bee’s knees, but then we would, wouldn’t we?
So, what is pay monthly web design, and is it any good?
Quite simply, pay monthly web design is where the payments that you would have paid up front for a website are divided over a fixed amount of months (usually 12 or 18). Then, after this point your payments are either scaled down or continue at the same rate.
For example, let’s say you would have £1800 up front for a website, well instead of paying this in one go your web designer would have you sign an 18 month contract to pay £100 a month.
Now, there are some serious pitfalls to look out for if you’re considering pay monthly web design, but we’ll come onto that in a second. Let’s stay positive … for now.
So what are the advantages of pay monthly web design?
Well if you take it on face value, pay monthly web design is a brilliant way to avoid outlaying a large amount of money upfront.
For any business just starting out, it can mean that you get a professional website made for you without seeing another dent in your bank account.
And, because you’re paying monthly, things like security updates are managed for you, leaving more time to focus on your business. Most web designers offering a pay monthly package also let you request updates to things like text and images as part of this.
All in all – it’s pretty much a set and forget system, and you only have to worry about meeting a monthly payment.
The disadvantages of pay monthly web design can be huge
Like all rubbish things in business, most of the time you can find it hidden in the small print and price plans. And, we found monthly web design plans are no different.
When we were doing our own market research into this payment model, we didn’t like what we saw.
When we crunched the numbers, it was clear to us that three things were wrong.
First, pay monthly plans makes it easier to disguise what the total price of a website is. As a result, it’s easier to end up paying phenomenal amounts for a simple and straightforward website.
For example, we have seen examples of web designers charging £180 a month for a website, with a 12 month contract. That’s a total cost of £2160 for a basic website with no additional functionality like payment processing.
£2160. That’s about 4 times more expensive than our own web design packages.
Second, because everything is wrapped up in one payment it’s then very easy for a web designer to charge this monthly fee indefinitely. As a result, you can end up paying the same amount each month for your website with no end date in sight.
Meaning that you’ll essentially be paying for your website again, and again, and again.
Finally, pay monthly plans can also make it difficult for you to feel like you can take your website somewhere else, or start to manage it yourself.
For example, we’ve seen examples of web designers who will make your website using their own code, and have as a clause in their terms and conditions that if you cancel you cannot have their code…
This means that if you try to leave them, then your website will then pretty much go offline, and you’ll have to start from scratch.
Of course, that’s not to say all pay monthly plans are like this, and thankfully most aren’t! But it goes to show that when you sign up for a service like this, there can be many pitfalls.
So, alternatively what’s flat fee web design and is it any good?
Flat fee web design is basically where you pay in one go for your website.
It’s very straightforward, and means that if a web designer says your website will cost £600 then they’ll ask you to pay £600 when they’ve finished making the site for you.
What are the advantages of flat fee pricing models?
We’ll, quite simply, flat fee pricing models have the central advantage of being very straightforward pricing-wise.
It’s very obvious what the price will be, and allows you to not worry about impacts to your business’s monthly outgoings over a long period of time.
But that’s not to say that there aren’t drawbacks…
So what are the disadvantages of flat fee web design pricing models?
While there are nowhere near the number of small-print issues as there are with pay monthly web design models, there are still a three central drawbacks to watch out for.
The first concerns the cash in your own bank. If you pay upfront for a website then you’re likely to have a dent put in your business’s finances, which may not be ideal when you’re just starting out.
But, that said, the money that you save over the longer term will more than make up for this.
The second is that under this sort of pricing model, you’ll most likely have to take on the management of your website yourself. Even if you’re tech-savvy, this isn’t that straightforward. Over time, you might encounter security issues, or find that an update you’ve made has caused an issue with how your site looks on mobile.
Add these issues up and over time you might feel like your website is distracting you from actually running your business. There is a real cost here for many small business owners – an evening spent trying to resolve an issue, or make sure your website is being backed up, means less time with your family and less time to actually build your business.
Finally, just because you’ve taken on the management of the website yourself, doesn’t mean that things are free for you going forward. You’ll still have to take on the cost of web hosting, and pay for any premium tools and software that was used to make your site. Add in the time you’ll spend and things can start to quickly add up.
So, what’s the best web design pricing model for a small business? (Shameless self promotion incoming…).
Well, as web designers ourselves we’ve given this a lot of thought, as you would expect.
And the conclusion we’ve come to is having a blend of both models is best.
We know small businesses don’t want to have to pay through the nose over many months for their website, but we also know they don’t want to spend time worrying about server configurations and keeping their website up-to-date.
Which is why we charge a one-off, flat fee to make a website, and then offer a separate monthly maintenance package.
This means that our customers can budget up front for their website, and not have to worry about committing to long term contracts, or paying over the odds for their website. (Our web design packages for small businesses are very, very competitively priced btw).
And, because we only charge for our website maintenance package on a rolling monthly basis, we never lock anyone into a long term contract.
This approach has lots of advantages.
First, it means that you don’t have to choose between the advantages of one model over the other. You get a website, and you get maintenance.
The fact that both are separated, means that everyone is clear on what service is happening when.
Second, because the costs are clear, it makes it much easier for you to compare our services against some of the more complex pricing models out there.
We want you to be able to do this because we hand on heart believe that we offer a better service than 99.999% of other web designers out there, and at a better price too. By making it easy for customers to understand our charges, and compare us against the competition, we think that’s a recipe for success. (And we’re being proved right in that assumption!)
Third, by having a low monthly maintenance charge that is clearly separate from the cost of building a website, it allows us to have two distinct contracts with our customers (building and then maintaining). This means that no one is locked into a long term contract that they later regret.
Ultimately, we want to be in business for the long term, and that takes happy customers. While the way we price our websites and web maintenance packages isn’t going to make us rich overnight, it does mean that we can be sustainable for the long term.
If we tie people in loops and long term contracts, then we’ll end up with a business built in the backs of unhappy customers. That’s not a recipe for success in our eyes.
Ultimately, if you’re a small business owner looking for a web designer, you can’t go far wrong with a blended pricing model like ours.