Why I Can’t Build a Website for £500

This never ceases to amaze me. I had a project enquiry come in yesterday, the client initially asked for a ‘Web 2.0 website built in flash”… to which I had to explain that those two words don’t really belong in the same sentence. Maybe this was a warning sign however, I forwarded my website worksheet to try and gauge a little better just what exactly they were after …. sent in two seconds and no harm done.

I get the worksheet back and they do have a great idea of what they are looking for, a site identical in functionality to a well known CBBC website. They have thought about colours, brand awareness, the actual users of the website, everything. It was one of the most detailed design briefs I had seen in a long time. I skip to the part where I always ask about budget, curious as to how much they have put aside considering all other aspects of the site have been well thought through, only to see…

Ballpark around £500

My reaction is always split down the middle when I see ridiculous web budgets. I normally start off annoyed and then come round to the fact that it’s just down to the client being misguided by someone or something or having no knowledge of the web industry whatsoever. This is normally when I respond with a very diplomatic email and this one was no different, here’s an outline of what I said.

Thank you for the prompt reply with the Website Worksheet. I have had a good read through and I totally understand what you are looking to achieve.

However, the budget you have set for the site is unfortunately not enough to build a site of this calibre. I do understand it’s hard when you are not in the field to know how to gauge a budget correctly, it’s my job to try and give a little insight into budgets and why, in this particular case, you will struggle.

The xxxxxxx website you are comparing your new site to, is large. I know you will be starting off small and building up to a large website, but the infrastructure still needs to be in place to enable you to add news items and video every day and gradually build up the content.

I then went on to explain the process of web design in brief, how we start off on paper or wire framing, then turn our hand to design then eventually the development side. How we have to inevitably go back and forth on the design until sign off and then deal with stumbling blocks with cross browser compatibility and so on.

I estimated the site would take 4 weeks solid work with 2 people working on the site. I then explained the following:

£500 over 4 weeks divided by 2 people works out at £1.56 per hour – I’m not showing you those sums to be patronising at all, please don’t think that, but I’m just merely trying to point out why it would have to be increased considerably before we could look to producing the site for you.

I don’t need to go any further into details, the client can work out for themselves that £1.56 an hour is below minimum wage and that our profession is highly skilled, therefore it would take a lot more than £1.56 to even get us to our desks.

I then signed off the email with the following:

I know you said £500 as a ballpark, I’m just trying to give you an idea of what a professional web design firm would charge you to get the standard that I know you want to achieve.

Inevitably, I never hear from the clients again, or if I do, it’s for them to say they “don’t have the budget” to use me. I still feel like it’s my job to try and explain why I wouldn’t be able to help them rather than just sounding cocky or not responding at all. I feel like the only way we can stop this from happening is to break down exactly why their budget is insufficient rather than leaving them in the dark about it – for the sake of the client and the next designer they approach.

NB. I have just received a very appreciative email from the client in question thanking me for my helpful breakdown and that explaining to them in basic terms was exactly what they needed. They have been able to increase the budget to a reasonable amount, possibly still not enough however it’s a good step in the right direction.