How to Find Cheap (or Free) Help with Website Design

Does your business website exude professionalism and trustworthiness? If it doesn’t, your online presence can do more harm than good. Fortunately, whipping your site into shape doesn’t have to be a major expense. And it you still don’t have a website, well, what are you waiting for?

Here are seven ways to find cheap — possibly even free — help with your website’s design:

  1. Start from scratch. Most small-business owners have neither the time nor the technical skills to learn code and build a website from the ground up, but the price is definitely right. Web Hosting Deals can point you toward comprehensive tutorials so you can get up to speed, and Income Diary offers a list of resources for aspiring web designers. Read our tutorial on building a website for your business, too.
  2. Use a CMS template. WordPress is a free and popular content-management system that can radically cut the amount of time it takes to get your site going. Designers have created a host of templates (known in WordPress parlance as “themes”) that you may use to create or spruce up a website, usually for free. You’ll find these themes in the Appearance section of the WordPress administrative dashboard. Blogger, another popular CMS, also offers various templates.
  3. Try website-building software. Another alternative is website building software. The services use WYSIWYG-style editing tools and can help even the least technically inclined users create beautiful, albeit relatively basic, websites in a matter of minutes. Most of these services offer free trials and then charge modest monthly fees. Similarly, check out Intuit’s website-building service for another affordable option that lets you do the design online.
  4. Hire recent graduates or other new professionals. You can often negotiate a lower rate with a novice than with an experienced web designer. Ask to see work samples before you hire anyone, and be upfront about your low budget. Offer to let the designer use your site as a portfolio sample in exchange for a reduced rate. And, if the freelancer does a stellar job, offer to write a testimonial as a professional courtesy.
  5. Visit a design class. Colleges and universities that offer web-design courses are sometimes willing to have students build websites for local businesses for free. The students gain real-world experience with the design and revision process, and you get a custom-designed website. However, the process may take a bit longer than other options. Call the appropriate department to express your interest in offering an apprentice or intern project.
  6. Put the job on a bidding site. Services such as oDesk and Elance have hordes of web designers willing to work cheaply. Many of these professionals are recent grads or hail from foreign countries with lower costs of living. The quality of work can be hit-and-miss, so be sure to vet all bidders thoroughly — and include revision and/or termination clauses related to craftsmanship in your contract.
  7. Barter. Why not offer to trade your goods or services in exchange for their design skills? If you can’t find a local web designer willing to go tit for tat, consider joining a bartering network. An important consideration: Bartering won’t directly impact your cash flow, but be sure to track exchanged goods and services for tax reporting purposes. The government still wants its cut!

Have you had success finding cheap or free web design help? Please share your experiences in the Comments field below!

About Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos is a freelance writer-slash-small business owner who finds himself endlessly fascinated by technology and its role in business. He's worked with Wired, Laptop Magazine, the Global Strategic Management Inst., New York Times properties and a bevy of local businesses. Connect with Brad on LinkedIn.
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