​If you’re thinking about starting a web design business, one of the first questions you’re likely wondering about is how many expenses there will be, right?

Luckily for web design, the cost to start your business and the first year of subscriptions for tools and software is wildly affordable. Especially compared to other industries where startup costs range in the several thousands to tens of thousands of dollars before you can even make a dollar.

Good news, not in web design 🙂

In this podcast episode, I’m breaking down the foundational expenses that you absolutely NEED to have in place to get going making money for your web design business.

Be sure to head to the show notes for this episode at joshhall.co/240 for all the links mentioned including the GoogleDoc that I set up for you! You can view, download this and plug your own additional tools in there to help budget as you get your web design business underway.

In this episode:

00:00 – Introduction
02:38 – Legal liabilities
06:41 – 1) Domain name
07:39 – 2) Hosting
09:15 – Email hosting
10:54 – 3) Website builder
12:07 – 4) Project management
14:00 – 5) Client management
15:15 – 6) Graphic design
16:20 – 7) Client videos
17:22 – Yearly total
20:35 – Spreadsheet tool

Google Spreadsheet of Josh’s Tools


Featured links mentioned:

Episode #240 Full Transcription

[00:00:00] Josh: Hey friends, welcome into the show. This is episode 240 of the Web Design Business podcast. In this episode, I’m gonna share with you an answer to a question.

[00:00:09] Josh: I get a and I often get this question from folks who are just diving into the world of web design, and that is what are the average expenses when starting a web design business? And I wanna start this off by sharing some really, really good news, especially if you’re somebody who is interested in diving into web design as a business or maybe, uh, and as an actual, like side hustle or full.

[00:00:33] Josh: The good news is web design is one of the leanest, meanest, most affordable industries to get into. Meaning there’s very low cost to get started. In fact, I’ve helped a lot of people get into the world of web design recently, who we specifically talked about this, and I actually have some friends from like high school and people I know in my personal network who have started into the world of web design.

[00:00:58] Josh: And one of the first questions is always this, like, how much does it cost? What do I need to get started? What are the expenses? In this episode, I’m gonna share with you what you would absolutely need as a foundational approach to get. And I just want to reiterate the message that luckily it is so more affordable, so much more affordable than other industries.

[00:01:17] Josh: Case in point, like before we dive in real estate or like, I know a lot of, uh, friends I know from my personal network have gotten to the world of like loan officer and stuff like that. Some of the, and most of those programs have. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands of dollars of startup fees. Often you have to be cert certified before you can even get a paying client.

[00:01:38] Josh: And while some of the things we’re gonna cover here aren’t going to include training and things like that, the actual fundamental expenses you need to get started in a web design are mainly just a handful of tools and software. Otherwise you can do as little or as much as you want in the way of anything else around your business.

[00:01:54] Josh: So what I’m gonna do is, first off, I am gonna give you a heads up on some business expenses that you might need to consider, and then we’re gonna dive into tools and software. And I’ve got something even better for you for this episode. I have created a spreadsheet, so if you’re a fan of spread, The link to that spreadsheet will be available@joshhall.co, where I list out all the expenses that we’re gonna cover, the tools I recommend, and then I’m gonna give you an annual, like a, uh, average annual cost of what these will be, and then a lean option if you want to cut some out. This Google Doc is gonna be editable, so you’re always welcome to take it and add more to it if you want to help your, uh, spreadsheet, like if you wanna do it yourself. Let’s dive in.

[00:02:38] Josh: First off, to some business expenses. Now I a disclaimer, I am not a lawyer. I am not an attorney. And the expenses to start your business legally are going to vary drastically depending on where you are in the world. And I gotta be honest, it’s been a little while since I started my web design agency, although I did officially launch Josh Hall Co as its own brand a handful of years ago. . But I can tell you that in most cases when you register a business as an entity, it’s usually anywhere between a couple hundred dollars to 500 depending on what type of tax setup you have and how you’re gonna register that.

[00:03:15] Josh: Now, I do recommend. Getting involved with a CPA to make sure it’s done correctly. There’s a ton of sites you can, you can go online and register a business, but, um, I do recommend having a CPA do this for you because they will advise you on the best tax setup for you and your situation and where you are in the world.

[00:03:33] Josh: Um, I will say though, you can do a lot through Legal Zoom. So if you just have absolutely no one in your personal network, uh, just go to legalzoom.com. It’s a great place to get started with an entity and getting going like legally. Now, one thing I do wanna mention, again, I have to issue this disclaimer.

[00:03:51] Josh: I am not a. Lawyer or accountant or anything. But what I personally did when I got started is when I started in transit studios, of course I had no idea about business, but I also didn’t know what to do legally. So I just went to my bank, I bank at Chase, and I went there and said, I’d like to. Started, like I, I’m doing freelance work, but I’m doing it like under the table.

[00:04:14] Josh: I know I need to make sure I protect myself somehow. All I did was start it as a DBA under my name, so it was like in Transit Studios DBA Josh Hall Co. And that allowed me to set up a separate business account. So you, for sure, from the very start, you want to set up a business account so your funds don’t go right into your personal account.

[00:04:36] Josh: Now that sounds pretty elementary in like 1 0 1, but when you’re just starting business, sometimes you. Desperate to get some money through the door that you don’t really think about that. So let this be a heads up or a reminder that you want to set up a separate business account. This is with your bank.

[00:04:52] Josh: This is big for a lot of reasons, number one, for tax purposes, and then also you want to make sure you protect yourself in case there was ever any sort of legalities or lawsuits coming your way. That’s extremely rare. While things, while things have happened, you wanna make sure that they can’t go after your personal assets.

[00:05:12] Josh: You wanna make sure you have a separate business account. You can do that with a dba. At least that’s what I did back in 2010 when I officially started in Transit Studios. My, my, uh, agency name. But ideally you would get an entity name, make sure it’s set up correctly, and then have a bank account for it.

[00:05:28] Josh: And sometimes you’ll have like fees for opening a business checking account, but most of those are like 50 bucks or a hundred bucks at most. So the good news is I’ve found on average you can set up a business entity, figure out your tax, uh, business profile type, whether it’s an LLC or an scor, et cetera.

[00:05:46] Josh: Side note josh hall.co. Is an S corp. Uh, and or, and make sure you have a business account and the fees for that all one time are generally anywhere between 250 and 500. Again, this is US based. This will look very different depending on where you are in the world, but I would think it’s probably most expensive here.

[00:06:06] Josh: And yeah, under 500 bucks, you can get your business going all one time fee. So that’s the good news. Now, once the one time stuff is outta the way, now we gotta talk about the recurring expenses that happen when you become a web designer and when you have a web design business. Now I’m gonna lay out the fundamentals.

[00:06:23] Josh: These are like the foundational tools. The this is lean and mean. Now it will expand once you get into more softwares, more tools, et cetera. But the good news is you can literally start very, very affordably and I’ll tell you exactly how much it will cost. Just to start here in a little bit, once we go through these tools, so tools and software.

1) Domain Name

[00:06:41] Josh: first off your domain name, yes, we are gonna talk about every little bit, little bitty thing here, but I’ve actually only got like eight or nine things that you absolutely need as a, as a foundation. So first thing, a domain name. Generally you can get domain names for like 10 bucks on the, on the high end, we’ll say 15. So we’ll say $15 annually.

[00:07:01] Josh: Um, the thing, I’m, the thing I’ve realized as I was putting this together, I’m like, it’s kind of hard exactly to say how much all this is because a lot of these tools are annual. Some of them are monthly subscriptions, and then some of these tools you can get lifetime deals. So I’m just gonna kind of round these out and make ’em averages.

[00:07:18] Josh: So first off, domain name. I like GoDaddy as a domain manager. I actually think they have a really handy domain manager. That’s where I purchase all my domains. And then you can send that domain wherever you want to actually host your website. So let’s just on the high end, let’s say 15 bucks a year, that’s what we’re going to, uh, expect for expenses for our domain.

2) Website Hosting

[00:07:39] Josh: Next, you guessed it is our own website hosting. Now, as you start hosting web design clients like I know you’re gonna do because you’re gonna go through my maintenance plan course and you’re gonna host and maintain your web design clients, so you get recurring income, right? Yes, I know you’re gonna do that.

[00:07:55] Josh: But we gotta start with your own site, uh, on the base, like on. So with hosting, you’ll, you’ll likely get a really, really big discount the first year, but then it’s gonna go up dramatically. I remember a lot of clients I would have either sign up on site ground, which is where I host. Uh, or any other hosting company, this is typical, they, you’ll get like 80 or 70% off and in the next year it’s like triple what they’re used to paying or more, and then their clients like, whoa, whoa, whoa.

[00:08:22] Josh: Why is it so expensive? So, heads up, that is going to happen. So what we’re gonna do in this case, Is just go to the high end of what you’re gonna be expected to pay for hosting. I like to average this out at about $15 a month. For any decent host, it’s gonna be at least between the 10 and $20 range. Um, a lot more once you get to premium hosting.

[00:08:42] Josh: But you can start with basic hosting. I recommend Site Ground, as I just said. If interested, once you download the spreadsheet that I have for you, there’ll be some links to all this stuff. But if you’re not gonna get the spreadsheet, you can still go to josh hall.co/siteground. That’ll take you to an exclusive recommended page that I have with them, and you’ll get a special discount to where you’ll actually only host for the first year for three bucks a month. Normally it’s 15 a month. So, as an annual cost, let’s plan on one. 180 for a year for hosting, and then that moves us to email.

[00:09:15] Josh: Now, big, big, big point here, you do not want to have email on the same host where you have your website hosting, like you do not want email on web, uh, email, or excuse me, website and email on the same host. Why? Because they. Clog each other up. If your website were to ever get hacked, that can infiltrate your email. I’ve had that happen with clients. It was a nightmare. It caused some receding hair for me. So we want to separate email from website.

[00:09:42] Josh: Now you could do email for free if you just use like at Gmail, but that doesn’t look super professional. Now you can get by with that I did for years. But ideally you would have your own email hosted separately. There’s like Microsoft, what is it, 365 or 360? There’s a few others, but I use and recommend Google Workspace formally g. That way you can set up an email, like for example, I have Josh, Josh halt.co, and I can set up team members under that.

[00:10:10] Josh: And the email is run through Gmail through Google Workspace, but it’s separate from my website, which is really, really cool. But I can still use my domain name. So with Google Workspace, now pricing is, let’s see, lemme look here. You can start at six bucks a month, and that is generally completely fine. I’m currently on the Business Standard Plan, which is like 12 bucks a month, but let’s just start simple For one user for your email, if you do the business Starter, that’s gonna put us at about 72 bucks a year.

[00:10:39] Josh: So, so far we’ve got 15 bucks a year, 180 bucks a year, and 72 bucks. So that’s the basic starting point for domain name web hosting and email. Now let’s move us to the actual tools that we’re gonna use. These are like the actual web design tools and project tools.

3) Website Builder

[00:10:54] Josh: Starting with a website builder. In most cases, if you’re listening to this, you’re probably going to want to use a website builder if you are not already. As many of you know, I use . I’ve been using divvy loyally since 2014, and I have no plans to change that. Divvy is as a. Right now it is only 89 bucks a year. If you used my affiliate link, josh hall.co/divvy, you’ll actually get a discount on top of that, but it is dirt cheap. It is ridiculous. And speaking of ridiculous, they have a lifetime option for $249.

[00:11:28] Josh: Terrible business plan. Elegant themes. I said it here, I said it publicly. Terrible business plan. Terrible for them. Great for you because literally you can get divvy forever for 250 bucks. That’s robbery. Uh, or if you just want to try it out, you can do $89 a year. I would recommend any tools, tri-annual, or monthly to get a feel for it.

[00:11:50] Josh: And then once you know you’re sold, then upgrade to annual or lifetime, and you’ll save a whole lot of cheddar in the long run. So I’m gonna say divvy, of course, if you choose Elementor or whatever, just in the, in the, in the spreadsheet that I have for you, just pop that number in there. All right, so 89 bucks a year for that.

4) Project Management

[00:12:07] Josh: Next is project management. Now the, the remaining tools here are gonna be very, very dependent cost-wise, depending on what you want to do, whether you want to go monthly, whether you want to go annual, whether or not you even want to invest in a tool. And a lot of these have free trials for 30 days or even longer.

[00:12:25] Josh: But in most cases you are going to want a project management software. Now this is different than what we’re gonna talk about next, which would be a client management software. There are, uh, and the difference is basically you wanna have a place where, You have your client profile where you manage invoices, client information, um, you could have questionnaires and, and more sensitive data like that versus a project manager, which is just that it’s managing a project for that client.

[00:12:53] Josh: Now, there are tools that have this together. Like my agency right now is using Suite Dash. I don’t love that, to be honest. I kinda like having them separated, so starting with the project manager I have used since. Actually, 2014, the same year I started using Divvy. I’ve used Basecamp. I love Basecamp. I’m actually on version three right now, and Basecamp to start now is only $15 per month, so very affordable considering what you can do with Basecamp.

[00:13:22] Josh: Now the Level Up is way more expensive. It’s like 300 a month, but in most cases, if you want to go base. 15 bucks a month would put us at 180 bucks a year for that. Although Asana is a great tool as well. You could try Asana. There’s a plethora of project management software out there. Basecamp and Asana are two of the big ones.

[00:13:41] Josh: Click up is also a really good option. Um, although that gets into more task management, which is similar to project management. So Basecamp, Asana, click up. A lot of people are using Trello as well. Either one of those will do, let’s just ballpark it and say, let’s plan to invest $180 per year so far. So that’s where we’re at so far.

5) Client Management

[00:14:00] Josh: Now, the client management software, and we’re gonna add this all up here for you, the client manage. Heart there’s a lot of tools for this as well. I have used for invoices, proposals, contracts, client management. I viewed 17 hats for a very long time, and I love 17 hats. I still do, I still actually use it for josh hall.co when I rarely invoice people out. So if you go to my affiliate link@joshhall.co slash 17 hats, That will, you guessed it, bring it to a special page.

[00:14:29] Josh: That will actually give you a year for the essentials plan for 50% off. So it’s actually, as of right now, it’s 75 bucks a year. So technically you would get, um, or you would get 50% off the essentials plan, which is 75 bucks a year. Then eventually that’ll upgrade to, to one 50. Um, so let’s just say 75 in that case right now.

[00:14:50] Josh: But again, it’ll probably go up a little bit, uh, if you move forward with it after one. So 17 hats is what I like. There’s a ton of other options for client management as well. Again, the question you might have is, should I get like an all-in-one? You totally can. I would probably just bank on like an all-in-one thing is probably gonna be two 50 to 500 per year, depending on what type of tool you get. I like Basecamp and 17 hats, but that’s just me.

6) Graphic Design

[00:15:15] Josh: Last couple here, these, there’s only a couple more. These are fundamental things that you need to start your business and then we’ll tally these up. I recommend that you have some sort of graphics program, like something to do graphics and your images and artwork in Photoshop and Illustrator are the most common.

[00:15:32] Josh: Um, Photoshop in particular for image manipulation and stuff like that. However, there’s a big learning curve with both Photoshop and Illustrator. Those are also involved in the Adobe. The Creative Suite witch is, I think still 50 bucks a month, so it’s more premium. I have actually, I have both, but I have converted most of my artwork over to Canva.

[00:15:54] Josh: And Canva is awesome that you haven’t tried it yet. It’s very user friendly. Just about anyone can get going in there and start plugging away. A lot of quote unquote professional designers will, will sniff it or, you know, sneer at this and, and raise their chins up. But Canva does work really well, and most everyone’s using it that I know of in the industry. So let’s say we go with Canva, that’s 10 bucks a month for the premium version, or you can actually do the free version. So that’s 120.

7) Client Video

[00:16:20] Josh: And then our final item before we tally all these. Video. I recommend that you have some sort of tool for sending videos to not only any potential team members that you collaborate with, but your clients. You wanna be able to send them videos, as you’ve heard me probably talk about a lot. For proposals for project management, for getting started. For onboarding, I love Loom. Loom is still my favorite. There’s a ton of other options out there. I’m not even gonna cover ’em all, but Loom is my favorite as of right now, I think it’s 12 bucks a month.

[00:16:50] Josh: Let me double check. I’m pretty sure it’s like, yeah, like, it’s like 12 bucks a month, um, for the upgraded plan on that. So in that case, just plan on like around 150, we’ll say 1 44. Now let’s add all these up. So 15 bucks for domain, 180 bucks per year for web hosting. 72 bucks for email, 89 bucks for divy or whatever builder, 180 bucks for your project management for base camp.

[00:17:14] Josh: 75 bucks for 17 hats. Client Management, 120 bucks for Canva and 1 44 for Loom. That brings us to only $875 per year. Under a thousand dollars per year to have all these subscription tools. Now, yes, these will vary. You’ll add more as you add more tools and plugins to your, to your setup. If eventually you start doing more email, then you’ll likely have to invest in an email platform like MailChimp or Convert Kit.

[00:17:44] Josh: Most of those though, with under a hundred clients or or profiles or emails, you can get started for. I forget what MailChimp is at now, but for, I use the, the free version for MailChimp forever. Um, but those you’ll start paying for, but under a thousand dollars a year to get started on the web design, that is not too shabby.

[00:18:02] Josh: I would stack that up against any other industry. And in fact, you could do a lean option. So what you could do is, let’s say, I wanna do a free project management software like Asana. Let’s say I find a free client management software, or I don’t even have a client management software. If you do all your invoices through PayPal or through Stripe manually, you don’t even technically need a client manager.

[00:18:25] Josh: It’s just, that’s gonna get really confusing if you’re doing that all in files on your computer. But you could do that. Let’s say you don’t need to do any graphics or you don’t want to, or you do the free version of can. And then let’s say for videos, you find a solution that’s free for a while. You could knock all those out and all you would need to technically pay for would be domain name hosting email in your website builder that my friends, you could get for around 350 bucks or less per year.

[00:18:52] Josh: So that is the extremely lean option. But in most cases, I would plan for just around under a thousand dollars or, or just, let’s just ballpark it. Let’s say a thousand bucks a. An annual subscription cost to run your web design business. That is the lean and mean, um, fundamentals basically. But again, all what I added up a little bit ago was literally 875. That’s crazy. Like that is, I’m telling you, it’s crazy compared to most other industries to get started.

[00:19:20] Josh: So there you go. Those are your average expenses. Now, what I would like to know from you, Is since we just covered the fundamentals, I would love to know for you if you recently started your business or if you’re helping others with this as well did I miss anything? I really, I slept on this several weeks actually. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while now. I was like, I feel like I’m missing something. But when I advise my students, these are it. These are the main things. Yes, you can of course add more. Most everything else is free to start and then you can add on, but it’s very dependent on your own business and the tools you use.

[00:19:55] Josh: So I would love to know, is there anything else you would add to this? Please let me know as a comment. You can go to josh hall.co/two 40. Drop a comment on there. I read all my po uh podcast comments and let me know if there is something that you’re like, Hey, I would definitely add this as well. And again, go to that link.

[00:20:13] Josh: That’s the show notes for this episode, Josh hall.co/two 40. And there you’ll be able to download the spreadsheet that I have for you. Nothing fancy, just the list of what we just covered. With the links as well that I mentioned, and you’ll be able to plug in some other tools there if you’d like. And as additional tools come in here that I think might be fundamental, I will add them to the list so you, my friend, could have an impact on what is added to this list.

[00:20:40] Josh: So I’d love to hear from you. Uh, so I hope this helps, especially those of you who are getting started or you’re thinking about diving into web design as a side hustle eventually. Like I said, the good news is extremely, extremely afford. Recap one time business expenses plan on two 50 to 500 ish, and then the tools and software.

[00:21:00] Josh: I would safely plan a thousand dollars a year that my friend, 1500 bucks on the high end for one year of business line 92 shabby. So I hope this helps my friends. If this does help you and you think it might help some others, please share this episode. One thing I have not done very good at is encouraging uh, you, the listener to, to share this if you find it helpful. So, uh, do so if you would, if there’s a web design group you’re a part of and you think this would be helpful, feel free to share this out.

[00:21:28] Josh: And again, last note on this is that I do have all this in the spreadsheet that you can put your own costs into to, to make sure it works for you and your budget, go to josh hall.co/ 2, 4, 0. And that’ll be the show notes for this episode with the transcript outline, links, and the Google Doc that you can use for your own business. All right, friends, I hope you enjoyed this one. I’ll see you on the next episode, and, uh, I feel like there was one last thing I was gonna say.

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