Having an online business may not involve the same costs as a physical one, but you’ll still end up budgeting for certain expenses. Some of them will be monthly, some of them will be yearly, and a few could just be one-time costs. And guess what else? Not all of them are actually necessary – but most people choose to pay them anyway.
The fact is, there are only a few costs that are required to set up an ecommerce website. Most of your budget could be taken up by stuff that’s just there to make it look more professional, or that will inspire confidence in your customers. You might even use a web design company such as WebCitz to maintain your website each month, and provide regular updates as needed. The point is, it’s hard to say what any particular type of business site will cost to maintain; it all depends on how many “extras” you’re paying for.
As a side note, are these extras really worth it? Nine times out of 10, they absolutely are. Things like email support or live chat aren’t necessary to make sales on your ecommerce site, but they do make your business seem legitimate and dedicated. They’re mostly things that people have come to expect from online businesses; if you don’t offer them, it just looks like you don’t really care about the quality of your company, much less customer satisfaction.
Just to give you an idea of how much these costs can vary from one online business to another, here are a few estimates:
- Digital magazines might pay between $400 and $2,500 per month
- Ecommerce sites might pay between $1,600 and $5,000 per month (side note: this excludes the giants of ecommerce like Amazon and Netflix)
- Major college websites might pay between $350 and $4,500 per month
- Popular restaurant sites might pay between $40 and $450 per month
See how that works? Basically, you’d have to look at the individual costs in order to figure out how the overall budget is being used. Speaking of individual costs, here are some of the most common ones associated with the typical business website.
This is possibly the only necessary expense that can go up as much as 10 times after the first payment. Domain names tend to be quite cheap when you first register them, and people who don’t know how it works might be unpleasantly surprised when they’re hit with the renewal bill.
If you’re searching for a domain registrar, ICANN has a list of accredited registrars; selecting an option from that (or similar) websites will ensure that you don’t get scammed or hit with surprise fees.
- $1 - $20 for the first year; $10 - $90 upon renewal
If you plan on having an ecommerce site that makes an impact, you’ll want to pay for a web designer. It’s true that people with no background in web design can make fairly good-looking websites with WordPress or Wix, but in order to be taken seriously, you’ll need something that looks better than average.
- About $6,000 for building a basic ecommerce site; $500 - $1000 yearly for maintenance
Your ecommerce site can function without tech support, but your customers will probably wonder why it’s so hard to get in touch if they ever need help with anything. In general, tech support is more than worth the cost and effort. It could be anything from live chat, email, phone service, a knowledge database, or community forums.
- $0 - $12 per month
Along the same lines, a dedicated email address isn’t vital to the day-to-day operations of an online business, but it is key if you want to seem legitimate to your customers. After all, what does it look like when a supposedly successful business directs inquiries to an email ending in “gmail.com”? It just looks like they don’t really have their act together. Once again, investing a bit of money in a dedicated email pays for itself in improved customer trust.
- $1 - $20 per month
If you’re planning on selling anything on your website, whether it’s a full-scale ecommerce store or a lifestyle blog with branded merchandise, you’ll need an ecommerce platform to start with; that’s how you’ll accept orders and securely process payments. You could also use a payment gateway (PayPal is a popular choice) to improve accessibility for customers. An inventory plugin is a great way to stay on top of what you have in stock vs. what you sell, although it isn’t necessary.
- $20 - $1,000 per month
Not every website needs this, but it’s a must for any website that passes sensitive information between browsers and servers; this is how it’s protected from online theft. Small and medium sites won’t pay much for an SSL certificate, but larger sites could have to shell out quite a bit. A lifetime SSL certificate is an option for those who’d rather pay upfront and save in the long term.
- $10 - $1,000 per year
No matter its purpose, any website will require web hosting; you’re basically paying rent for server space from the hosting provider. Web designers often take care of this cost in the overall bill, so many people don’t even realize they’re paying it. Shorter subscriptions cost more per month compared to longer-term commitments; the size of the website will also be a factor in the cost of web hosting. Popular options are WooCommerce hosting, WordPress hosting, cloud hosting, shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting.
- $1.50 - $300 per month
This is how it works for most websites, but not all.
Yours might involve more or fewer costs; it just depends on what you want to accomplish with your business site. Some people will want to emphasize customer support, while others will want a full-scale ecommerce platform with all the bells and whistles. Whatever you decide, make sure that every expense will pay for itself by driving your business forward.