Breaking Down the Cost of Taking Your Small Business Online

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If you find getting customers to walk through the door is harder than it used to be, maybe it is. For some consumers, if your business isn’t online it simply doesn’t exist. And, if those potential customers are searching online, you can bet your competitors who have a website will be ready to scoop them up.

Having a website can help you build awareness around your business, and expand your presence and credibility. But how much does it cost to expand your brick and mortar to online? Here’s what you need to know about online business costs and what should be on your mind as you get started.

Got a Business? You Need a Website

Remember an antiquated item called “the yellow pages”? Well, when customers look for a new service or product provider, they likely aren’t flipping through that behemoth of listings — they’re going through Google. This applies even if you’re a small local business. If someone searches online for “contractor” or “florist” in your town, you want your company to show up.

Digital sales are also a much faster-growing market segment. From 2016 to 2017, e-commerce retail sales grew by 16 percent while all retail sales only grew by 4.4 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Starting a website doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Consider simply setting up a basic website explaining your services and then requesting customers to call you directly. On the other hand, if you want to completely shift from brick and mortar to online through an e-commerce business, that’s possible for a larger investment.

A miniature grocery cart for your website

Online Business Costs

The cost of setting up an online business depends on your goals and how much you handle on your own versus hiring a professional. If you want a basic site that you build on your own, the cost can be less than $1,000, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). According to NFIB, some of these yearly costs would include:

  • Your domain name ($10 to $15)
  • Web hosting to keep your site online ($40 to $200)
  • Basic website template ($100 to $200, though some themes are free)
  • Payment processing ($0 to $250 per year)

For a professionally designed website that also has search engine optimization (SEO), which helps people find your site easily online, NFIB estimates it could cost $2,500 to $5,000.

Once your site is off the ground, you’ll have annual costs to keep it running. For more complicated sites with higher traffic, NFIB estimates it can cost up to $2,800 per year for maintenance plus whatever you spend on SEO and social media marketing.

Payment Options

For the most basic site that only requires a few hundred dollars, it could be simplest to pay for everything with your credit card. Just make sure to pay everything off immediately so you don’t get hit with high interest rates. Another option is to take out a small business loan. Small business loans typically have a borrowing requirement of a few thousand dollars so this approach makes more sense for higher-cost online businesses.

Once your site is online, you’ll also have monthly online business costs. Based on your current brick and mortar earnings, will you have enough to cover everything until you start seeing digital sales? If not, consider a larger loan so you can keep up.

If you’d rather wait until you’ve saved enough to pay everything up-front yourself, keep in mind there is an opportunity cost for delaying your website. Not only are you missing out on digital sales, it could also give your competitors more time to build a search engine presence, making it harder for you to break in once you launch.

Whether you build a simple website to balance out your brick and mortar location or switch to an e-commerce model, these financing options can help you get started quickly. With this small investment, you’ll get your piece of the digital pie.

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