It doesn’t really cross the mind of most small business owners that they can actually rent their business websites. There are some marketing companies who offer rentals for specialist sites that are usually high ticket sales, e.g. real estate, legal, medical, etc. But what Joe the Plumber, or Harry the Handyman who has a very limited budget and is looking to set up his small business website – what’s out there for him – or her? Well there are options, but before we get into that let’s consider the costs of owning a website and why you’re better off having something that is professionally created.

A professionally designed website for a small business is probably going to cost you anything upwards of $500 for the design, images and perhaps the written content too if you search around. Once the site has been built, you’re probably looking at around $100 per year for the hosting of the website, and on top of that you’re going to have to pay your webmaster to manage and update that for you. So let’s go on the (very) low-end and add another $300 per year for maintenance and updates. As time goes by and new website technology is introduced and styles of websites change (it’s not so long ago that websites were being built without a thought in the world of how they look and performed on mobile phones, but now that is exceedingly important), you’re probably going to want to change your website every 3 years. So an approximate spend over a 3 year period would be about $1,700 (and that is without ranking your website on the search engines).  But let’s be honest about this…if you’re spending $1,700 over that length of time, then it’s highly likely you’re working with a young college kid looking to earn some spending money when he or she isn’t in class. You’re not going to be working with a professional web design agency and spending that kind of money. You should at least double that budget if you’re going to work with a professional web design company.

So let’s talk about renting a website. There are two ways that you can do this. You can go with one of the website builder companies, such as Weebly or Wix, who will let you select one of their templates and then you do the work yourself (and if you choose one of the free templates, then this is going to be an ultra cheap option for you) or you can hire a website ‘designer‘ to do the editing for you. Or you can go with a professional web designer, such as 99dollarwebsites.net, and they will build out a site for you and maintain it and charge you a monthly fee. But there are pros and cons for each of these.

If you use a service such as Weebly or Wix, which will cost you anything from $0 to $39 per month to use the service (at the time of writing) the fact is, you will never ever own the website. If you decide to move away from the service you cannot take the website with you, and you will have to start over.

Summary of the main differences between renting and owning your website

Renting your website: (Pros and Cons)

  • Very little out-of-pocket set-up fees to pay upfront (if any at all)
  • Small affordable monthly payments
  • No maintenance for you to worry about. The rental company will take charge of security, updates and malware/virus monitoring and repair when required.
  • Some rental companies will include search engine optimization to get the sites ranking, or give you the option to add this on to your package.
  • Content edited on demand, or provide access to allow you to make small changes yourself
  • The end cost is likely to be higher than purchasing a site outright, but your monthly costs should include maintenance and management of the site, which you will have to do yourself or pay someone else to do if you purchase the site outright.
  • Should you decide to stop the rental, you may lose the website. Definitely check if you have the option to own the website at some point in the future BEFORE you start a rental program.

Owning your website: (Pros and Cons)

  • You will need to invest a decent amount of money upon completion of your site to get ownership. The cost could be substantial depending on what type of website you want and who builds it.
  • You will need to add on hosting costs as this is not usually included when purchasing a website outright.
  • You will have to monitor and maintain your website on a daily basis to make sure that it stays online, and is secure from hackers.
  • If your website does get hacked this is likely to be a costly repair as you will need to pay a specialist developer to go into your site to find the infected code, remove it, test your site and then look for and close the access point that allowed the hackers to get into your site.
  • If you want the site to be found on Search Engines, you will need to optimize it yourself or pay an expert to do it for you.
  • Once the website is handed over to you, you are probably going to have to pay for any future changes and repairs. Definitely check with your web developer what kind of warranty they offer with the site and what that warranty does or doesn’t include.
  • You have 100% choice of who you want to work on your website. If you’re not happy with the current provider – no problem, founds someone else and just give them access to your fully-owned website.

So What Is The Best Solution?

There really is no right or wrong answer, and each business has to assess their unique situation such marketing budget, skill sets, time and long term goals. If you can’t afford to or don’t want to buy outright, then you should probably consider some kind of ‘rent with an option to buy’ or ‘perhaps a rent to buy’ program where the site automatically becomes yours (if you want it) after a consecutive number of payments have been made.

If you can find a flexible program, such as that offered by 99DollarWebsites.net who are prepared to give you all the benefits of renting with the option to own the site at some point in the future, then it surely has to be a win-win for everyone concerned.

If you are considering a rental option, then ask the following questions before making any decisions…

  • What are the exact costs that you will pay each month
  • Who purchases and owns the domain
  • Will the site be optimized to rank in the search engines
  • What platform will the website be built on (it’s important that it’s built on one of the more popular platforms such as WordPress so you’ll find it easy to maintain or find a developer who is familiar with the platform to manage it for you).
  • Will you have access to the site to change content
  • How often can the design be changed without having to start a new contract?