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Stop Being a Web Serf

Why are you paying someone a retainer for your website?

I’m constantly amazed the number of business owners I encounter who pay way more than they need to for their website.

This is what you should be paying for:

  • Domain: $15 per year ish
  • Hosting $100 per year ish (unless you have a big or special site and then it’s a lot more)
  • And, if you want, a developer on retainer: usually an hourly rate, from anywhere as low as $15 for someone overseas to $100 or more for someone here.

But most business owners I meet are paying way, way more.

What are they paying for?

Expensive Domains

You do not need an expensive domain.

You do need a .com. If you don’t have one, your site can still get traffic.

You do not need an exact match domain for your brand. Your site will do fine without it.

You shouldn’t pay tens or hundreds or – dare I say – thousands of dollars for your domain name.

The standard for a domain name is around $12 or $15 per year.

Upsells from your host:

“Privacy”, “protection”, email, and any number of other services you probably don’t need.

If you’re a business owner, you don’t need domain privacy protection unless there is a good reason why you don’t want your ownership disclosed. (Say if you’re in a sensitive business or say you own a website that competes with your own and you don’t want people to know.)

Most of the security and protection services you’re offered by your host are not worthwhile. If your business is small, it’s probably not under constant attack. You’re just not important enough, sorry. And whatever protection services you do need are likely available from an industry leader for less money.

Email: Did you know gmail exists? Don’t pay your host (or your domain provider) for email.

When in doubt about an upsell from a host, don’t purchase it! You can always purchase it later if you need it.

Next time you’re renewing your hosting and you’re not sure whether or not to purchase something, please call someone you trust for help. (Like me! I will help you figure it out.)

Website “Maintenance” Retainers

But the most expensive waste of money is a retainer from a web services company, usually for “maintenance”.

This is how it works:

Your hire a company to design/build your website (or sometimes help you with SEO or PPC or something like that).

There is an initial cost for the service, which is often quite reasonable. But there is an additional retainer of $50-$500 per month for “maintenance” (and sometimes for some marketing services as well).

Depending upon your type of site, they’re not doing much.

Let’s take WordPress for an example:

For the bare-bones maintenance retainers, someone is logging into your website once a week or less to spend a few minutes (seriously) updating your plugins, and updating wordpress if your host doesn’t take care of that. It might take them 5 minutes, it might take them 10. And you’re out $50 or $100.

It’s well known in the industry that this is how you make your money: not upfront with the design/build but with the monthly retainer.

The more expensive the retainer hopefully the more work they do.

But the point is: you don’t need this service, unless they are actually doing something for you.

To take the wordpress example: you don’t need to pay someone to update your plugins. You can do that yourself. If something breaks, you need a developer. It’s good to know someone you trust who you can call for help. But you don’t need to pay some company a monthly retainer in perpetuity as insurance.

If you’re using an out-of-the-box site on Squarespace or a competitor, this is way more true: you do not need to pay anyone a retainer. You are paying them for their support in addition to their hosting. If you have a problem, call the provider.

Maintenance retainers may be valuable to you if you want to pay for peace of mind, or if there is something complicated on your site that needs regular maintenance. But, in most cases, it’s not necessary. And it’s a waste of anywhere between $1,200 and $12,000 per year.

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