5 Tips for Building a Professional Website on the Cheap

You need a website for your business, but you don’t have $10,000 to pay an agency to create a slick site for you. No problem. Here are five tips for building a professional-looking website on the cheap.

  1. Crowdsource your design. A website design alone often costs $1,500 or more, without even factoring in development and programming work. To save money at this stage, consider using a crowdsourcing company, which can provide you with a wide variety of sample designs. You’ll pay only for the one you like the most, and prices are usually in the hundreds of dollars. (99 Designs starts at $599 for a custom website design.) However, you’ll still need to find a developer to turn the design into a working website.
  2. Hire a student. Contact a program director at a local art college for a referral to a student who’s talented in website design. The student may be willing to do the job for portfolio credit alone — or at least charge significantly less than a professional designer would. When you’re ready to turn the design mock-up into a working site, seek out another student or a novice in website development who may be willing to negotiate rock-bottom prices.
  3. Outsource abroad. Agencies in India, the Philippines, and other countries with a lower cost of living are generally able to underbid U.S.-based designers for web design and development projects. Check out the portfolios on sites like Guru and oDesk and, if you see some you like, request proposals based on your specifications.
  4. Barter for services. If you know any website designers or developers personally, or are members of the same professional association, consider asking them whether they might be interested in bartering. If you offer professional services such as accounting or legal assistance — or if you own a restaurant — creatives may agree to work entirely or partially in trade.
  5. Use an existing design theme. If it’s not that important to you to have a completely original website design, you can save a lot of money by using a free or premium theme, popular with most blog tools, for your platform of choice. WordPress offers more than 1,400 free themes, and the subscription site DreamTemplate provides access to more than 7,000 premium themes for less than $60.

Of course, keep in mind that you’ll get what you pay for. If your site doesn’t look or function the way that you’d expected, you may have limited recourse to change it. However, if you don’t have the funds to hire a professional design and development firm, these options can help you launch a website on a shoestring budget.

About Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at the content marketing agency Eucalypt Media. She's written about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship for publications including BNET, TheAtlantic.com, Inc.com, and owns and operates the positive news site Gimundo. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynhawkins.
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