By Carolyn Campbell. MA, CPPC

With the land of the web changing at lightning speed, techno-preneurs are in their heyday. Recently, I had a conversation with a representative at godaddy.com, the leading domain and hosting company for businesses. He told me that often 40-60% of the fees charged for website development are for items that business owners could do themselves for FREE in less than 20 minutes. And worse…that people are often giving up ownership of their business’ domain names without realizing it.

If this has happened to you…you’re not alone. If you don’t know what’s what, it can be very confusing. His advice: before you hire someone to create your website, ask the person to break down the charges for you. Here are a few things he suggests looking for or asking about on your bid:

o What are they charging you to set up your domain name?
He’s seen people charged $75–200 just to have someone set up their domain name. If you don’t want to do this…great, pay someone. But realize that it takes less than 20 minutes to do it. For the techies, it’s even quicker! Also note what they are charging you for the actual domain name and web hosting. You could reasonably expect to pay $5-15/year for a domain name (i.e. your website address, such as www.CoreSourceCoaching.com) and $100-150/year for hosting, depending on your needs.

o How much are they charging you to add email addresses?
People have been charged $40–100 for the first email address and then $20–50 for every additional email address. All are FREE with your domain name and can be set up in the same 15 minutes!

I also learned that people have been charged for the administrative “rights” to their WordPress website. Here’s the scoop, folks: WordPress is a FREE web platform that enables the owner or the administrator—that’s you—to make changes, FREE. Again, you might decide to hire someone to maintain it for you…but that is very different than paying someone for the simple right to access it. It is made to be FREE!

Then there are ownership issues:

o People are unknowingly giving ownership of their domain name to their developer.
Really? Oh, my. This is not a good business strategy. You need to own your domain name. I’ve heard of situations in which a developer charges a client big money to buy their domain name back. Not good! Would you let your car mechanic own your car? Of course not. You want to have the flexibility to make solid consumer choices. A hosting company (like godaddy.com) will walk you through the process of buying it over the phone. Or, if you do have your web developer purchase the domain name, stipulate in the contract that you own it.

o People are giving hosting control over to the developer. Web hosting is the ‘space’ your website takes—kind of like your phone line. For a business, you want to be assured that your ‘space’ is secure, ad-free and always paid on time. Mine is hosted through godaddy, in my name, and my web gal has access to it. She takes care of all the hosting ‘issues’. But ultimately, it’s my name on the account. I’ve seen cases in which business owners had issues with their developers, or the developers went out of business, and suddenly they are up the proverbial creek without a paddle ‘cause they no longer have web hosting. Yes, truly it happens more than you realize!

How to avoid all this? Simple. Always get a bid from a developer that details all the fees. See what you are really paying for. If you’re unsure about the costs, take time, before you sign, to call a hosting company and ask them what things really cost. You may decide that it’s worth having someone do it for you! Great. The important part is that you are savvy about how you spend your precious dollars, get things in writing and maintain control over the future of your brand.