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Determine Your Budget and Timeframe for the Project

"How soon do you need it done?" every Web developer-candidate will ask you before quoting a price. Web development projects that can be worked in between large jobs will command lower fees than jobs that require a singular focus from beginning to end. The more flexible you can be, the lower your costs should be—but talk to your Web-development candidates about this point. If you just assume the price will be lower because you are being more reasonable in your time demands, you will be disappointed. Ask for a reduced rate in return for a little more flexibility in time to completion.

Decide what you are willing to spend. If you have just a couple of hundred dollars, you should plan to do it all yourself. Start with a small brochure Web site and then add to it as you get time and money to do so. If you are going to enlist the assistance of a Web developer, I suggest your budget should be $500 for an ordinary five-to-ten-page brochure Web site. For that money you ought to get a nice, professional appearance, five to ten graphic elements, and an interactive contact form. Add another $250 for a basic one- or two-page online order form without secure services or shopping cart. If you are planning to offer online ordering, here is where you should back up and consider opting for a secure e-commerce host service provider if you have not already done so. If online ordering is in your immediate future, start with an infrastructure that will support it and make sure your Web developer is brought into the decision process early on. She may be able to assist you in selecting a great provider and save you from a false start with a lightweight service that cannot support your planned growth.

While discussing your project cost, ask for a quote on additional work after the initial build is completed. Here, too, you should negotiate for a reduced rate from your Web developer's first offer. You may be surprised how soft the published rates are for most Web developers, especially the home-based business operators. I charge $60 an hour for Web development, but I still have some customers at $40 an hour—usually for one of two reasons, either (1) because I just never had the heart to raise my price since I know my customers barely make it in their businesses, or (2) because the customers just drove a harder bargain. Let me add that projects of full-rate new clients get precedence over the reduced rate maintenance tasks, but if you can stand waiting a week or two for a response, you can save substantially on your Web site maintenance costs. Remember, too, that you will probably be handling most of your own routine maintenance and only need your Web developer's assistance once in a while after the site is up and running.

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