Steffan Aquarone

Steff is a film producer and technology entrepreneur who speaks internationally on innovation, entrepreneurship and digital marketing

How much should a website cost?


A friend asked me this question today. I’ve often been on both sides of the table discussing the price of creative services. It’s a hard question to answer and I’ve usually been answering it in relation to the cost of producing films.

It might seem like the price you can pay for a website is a complete piece of string. On the one hand there are ‘out of the box’ products for as little as £500; on the other hand one of Venio’s clients is a digital and web agency that doesn’t take on web projects below £5,000 in value.

What you get for your money is just as much a piece of string. Birmingham City Council paid Capita over £2,000,000 for their website and it’s been widely felt by Birmingham’s digital community that nothing short of a boycott of council tax can compensate for what a naive, uninformed purchase this was given what they actually did for the money.

When you’re buying creative services you’re buying three things:

1. People’s time. This is really the only direct cost for suppliers. It has little to do with the number of pages on a website as nowadays websites are mostly CMS (content management system) driven anyway – so you’re creating the pages! You could spend weeks getting something done perfectly for your needs, and spend a fortune, or you could spend hours getting a web designer to simply adjust a free-to-use WordPress template that looks great already and has most of the functionality you need built in.

2. Creative input. This is a clear value-add that most one-man-bands can’t offer, but which most agencies / web companies market themselves on. You won’t get much of this, or it won’t be much good, if you’re paying less than a few thousand in my opinion, unless you’re lucky to know a really good one man band who really can think, advise, design and build themselves.

3. The reputation of the company and how they charge. Hence starting prices of £5K for some, £15K for others, or out of the box products for £500 from elsewhere.

My advice?

1. Work out how much you want / can afford to spend. It’s really unhelpful for digital companies when people say “I don’t know how much I want to spend” or “tell me what I need and I’ll see if I can afford it” as they won’t know if they can ever be a fit, or whether the pitch is worth investing in.

2. Look around on the web for local companies (simply because it’s easier to work with someone local) whose work you like the look and feel of. Few agencies are big enough to have so many different design teams that they don’t have a ‘house style’ whether deliberate or accidental.

3. Write a one-page brief, send it to the companies you like along with your budget and see who comes back. It’s tough out there – you might find a good company whose work you like who’ll do a great job for £2,000 just because they need the work.

Filed under: selling creative, , , , , , ,

No-one left to sell to?


Anyone with a remote interest in business in the long term should watch David Harvey’s talk at the RSA on The Crises of Capitalism.

Harvey explains the sort of radical theory that most academics are unfamiliar with in a way that is wholly accessible (at least by the second viewing!) He sounds, in fact, like a combination of Eddie Izzard and Oliver Postage.

But the point he’s making is as sober as they come.

The capitalist system was born only a few generations ago and is shuddering under its own weight. We should not assume that it will keep on going. Every theory in the book has had to adapt to cope with the events of the last thirty years; but why adapt: there’s every possibility that the system we’ve all come to live with might actually give up and die.

And this is why business owners should take note. Harvey has a dig at his academic colleagues for not spending enough time actually doing something about the problem. Today, they can neither predict what’s going to happen, nor enjoy saying “I told you so” afterwards. He’s right to say that it’s their duty to change their mode of thinking. I meanwhile will take this opportunity to have a dig at the anti-capitalists, many of whom just don’t like the capitalist system because of what they see as its institutionalisation of greed and ‘selfish’ human nature. But with these opinions they too are stuck with the old text book that can no longer account for what’s happening.

Capitalism will fall because it will eat itself, not because a bunch of cardigan-wearing hippies (myself included) hold a protest and overthrow it. When this happens, what are you entrepreneurs going to do? You people with imagination and drive… with families to feed, aspirations to live up to, and immense intelligence, education and talent. In Britain you have already seen your government side with the City for a century and watched them, as Harvey says, “screw industry to keep the financiers happy”. But what happens when the system collapses, and the financiers go out of business?

Growth forever is not possible. When the rules of business change so much that the way you work today – getting hold of finance, purchasing labour, resources, technology, producing and selling a commodity, re-investing some of the profit – is totally unrecognisable, what are you going to do?

Harvey says “the legitimacy of neoliberal ideology is in question and nobody knows what to put in its place.” For any academic this is a rallying call. But for entrepreneurs with the skills to make things happen: now is the time to adapt your long-term strategy to increase “social control over the production and utilization of the surplus” i.e. protect and isolate yourselves from the power of the financial markets to govern what you do, take the lion’s share of your profits before you do, and dictate whether or not your customers can afford to buy your products. Why not start by trying to produce something of genuine value. Now that’s a toughie.

Filed under: future of capitalism, , , , , , , , , ,

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