While there are many things for your website you do need to pay for, some web design services should be offered as a courtesy. Here are the ones you should get for free:
- An Initial Consultation
When you are shopping for a web designer, you should be able to get a free quote sent by email and a free, short phone consultation. If you have a large project and you are working with a local company, it’s not unreasonable to have a complimentary face-to-face meeting as well. However, by keeping their time down on smaller projects by communicating by phone and email, your web designer can give you a better price.
- Stock Images for Your Initial Web Design
Because it’s a DESIGN, some images should be included in the initial website design price when you first get your site built. The standard is usually around 3 to 5 stock photos per page, depending on the size and quality of your website. If you want SPECIFIC images, however, you should expect to pay for those, because stock photos can be very expensive when they come from a small niche.
- Email Forwarding
You should get at least one domain based email address that gets forwarded to your personal email address. If you really want to keep them separate, I recommend getting a free Gmail address and having your business domain email sent there. That way, you can have a professional email address in the form of firstname.lastname@example.org to put on your business cards and other marketing materials.
What you should expect to pay for when hosting on private server blocks is email storage. When email is forwarded, it’s not stored on the server, so you save money by not needing to pay for extra space.
- Website Support Via Email
Unless you have tons of questions that require a lot of time to answer, you should get some kind of free email support for basic concerns. You should only be charged when you are getting specific consultation on a project, and you have been quoted a price for it. You should also expect to pay for training sessions on how to update your website, unless training time was included in the initial proposal. Sometimes, if a lot of research is required for a project, you may be charged for it, but again, you should know the cost upfront before you agree to the charges.
Because phone support sessions need to be scheduled, you could expect a fee for these (as they generally take longer and require a block of time to be reserved), but you should be advised that there will be fees when the session is scheduled.
- Search Engine Submission
These days, submitting your site to search engines means making sure it’s listed in Google. Most of the other search engines like Bing and Yahoo get their results from Google, and they will find your website once it’s listed. DO NOT pay to have your site listed with “thousands of directories.” Most of these are not legit and will do more harm than good for your site, since Google recognizes them as “link farms” and blacklists those sites for being spam generators.
- Website Statistics
You should be able to get a link to your website stats and be able to access them online any time you like without paying a fee to do it. An exception is if they are generating reports from Google Analytics or another complex tracker. This kind of reporting can take time (and cost the designer fees for using the software), but as always, you should get an estimate for this work upfront before being charged.
- Monthly Web Hosting
This is something clients get charged for when they usually don’t need it. Some legit reasons to charge a monthly fee are if you are getting extra site security, full site backups, updates and site edits included, or paid plugins you are using on your site that require a subscription. The other reason to pay monthly is if you are leasing your website, which means you don’t own it outright. You are just renting it.
Otherwise, you should pay only the annual fee to renew your domain name registration and web hosting. This fee usually ranges between $100 to $200, unless you have a high-volume site or an e-commerce site, in which case it would be higher.
- Access to Your Domain Name and Website Files
This is a biggie. Your web designer shouldn’t be holding your website hostage. You should be able to request links and passwords where you can access your domain name to transfer it to another registrar. And you should be able to download your website files if you ever want to move your site.
The only exception to this rule is if you are leasing your website. If you rent it, you do not own it outright, and your web designer owns the design and content. There is usually a buyout price you need to pay in order to get your files.
Also, to clarify, your web designer doesn’t have to transfer your domain or website to another service for you. They can justifiably charge for this service, since it can take some time to back up your files and do the transfers. However, you should be able to get all the login information and passwords you need from them to move your site. Often, if you get a new web host, they will transfer your site to their service for free.
So, there you have it—all the services you should get for free. If you feel you are being charged for something you shouldn’t be, make sure to ask your web designer to explain what the fees are for. You have the right to know.
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