How much for a small business website in New York City? Research, interesting results and conclusions.


Market research and knowing your competition is a crucial aspect of any successful business. If you don’t know the prices your competitors are charging, or the saturation level of your niche market, you are operating in the dark. One way to discover the state of the freelance web design market is to publish a fake job request and see how your competitors respond. (I realize some may find this approach a bit underhanded, but I found it to be an effective way to learn about your competition). The easiest and most basic research can be accomplished with a job posting on CraigsList. I recently submitted a web design ad for the NYC marketplace and have gathered the results, along with my conclusions, below.

How much for a simple website in New York City?

On Tuesday at 9:20 a.m. EST I posted the following ad on CraigsList:

We are looking for a web designer who can design a simple website for our new restaurant. Web page will have few sections: menu, contact form, gallery and blog. We want to be able to maintain the site easily ourselves. We are located in midtown Manhattan. We are looking for a local developer, who we can meet at least once to discuss the project. Together with your quote please provide a link to your portfolio, hourly rate, an estimated timeline and cost of this kind of website.

When creating this ad I wanted to ensure:

  • I provided enough information for developers to submit an initial estimated quote
  • I wanted only local developers
  • The project was a typical small business website (which is something we get requests for on a regular basis)

Amount of responses

I received the majority of emails within the first 24 hours. In fact, there were more than 100 quotes to review. Below is a graph showing how many emails I received each hour after the ad went live. The first 7 hours were quite active, after which the amount of new responses significantly decreased. There were also a couple of people who responded a day after the posting, asking if I found someone to work with. nyc-responds-per-hour

Think global, work local

I was looking for a local freelancer, but of course I received many quotes from people outside the city who simply ignored my desire to meet in person. Some quotes clearly stated they are located in NYC, but for many there was no information at all, and even when I visited their website, there was nothing about a physical location – this does not build trust for me as a potential client.



Quality of quotes

  • Less than half of the responders created a custom email, or at a minimum, a customized template. Unfortunately, many of the emails looked messy and sometimes included poor grammar and punctuation
  • Most of the emails were short and to the point
  • Many emails did not have a link to a portfolio and instead included a couple of links to websites as examples of work
  • More than 90% of emails had the same Subject line – which was the exact title of my post
  • 70% of responders talked about themselves as Freelancers, while the rest gave the impression or clearly stated they are a team/firm



Between $500 and $1000 was the dominating price for this kind of website. Is this low, high or right on target? I would offer a price below $1k only if a client agreed to using a WordPress template which we can buy and only slightly customize. If the project needed a custom design I would price it at a minimum of $2k. I believe most of the quotes are from inexperienced freelancers trying to win a project by pushing the price to dangerously low numbers. Most likely they do not fully realize what good web design service entails and are not aware of the potential issues with these types of projects:

  • A restaurant in a busy city where people search and review restaurants on the go needs a robust mobile friendly version of the page
  • The best script for a restaurant menu will still most likely need to be modified because of some strange request from the restaurant owner about arranging the menu in a specific way
  • The client wants to meet in person, which is always a significant time investment
  • Even if a client agrees to buy a theme as a starting point, it is very time consuming to help a client search for a good quality theme which meets his requirements
  • You are not simply designing a website, you are creating an online presence for your client. In the case of a very small site, this project requires at least a full week of work to address the many small details such as setting-up hosting, Email addresses, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, setting up the Newsletter (you should encourage your client to collect user’s emails for promotional purposes), SEO optimization, discussion with the client regarding content, working with the images the clients sends you, etc.
  • You should also assist your client with creating a listing on Yelp, Google Places and others. This is time consuming work, and the client needs to have a budget for your professional services.
  • If somebody asks me for a website below $500, I always suggest they use one of the web building tools available (such as Squarespace‎), and pay me for few hours of consultations, so I can help them set things up and explain a few things.

nyc-prices nyc-price-range


So, how would you win this project?

  • Offer a price between $500 and $1500, and clearly state the timeline When responders provided their hourly rates, prices varied from $20 to $50 per hour. As a freelancer applying for the job, I have found it usually best to provide a fixed budget bid over an hourly rate
  • Clearly state you are from NYC and available to meet in person
  • Provide a link to your portfolio, and point out a few restaurant websites as examples showing what I can expect from you. If you want me to use a WordPress template, show me one or two which you suggest.
  • Keep the email short and custom written
  • Show me you understand what it means to be a restaurant in the city. Offer help with promotion and let me know you understand the site should be mobile friendly
  • Dealing with a huge amount of emails and clicking on links to check peoples’ portfolios was confusing and time consuming. Include screenshots of your work in the email to stand out and make my life easier.
  • Even though the number of emails looked overwhelming, there were only about 30 local freelancers submitting a quote, and maybe only half of them submitted quality quotes. This is good news, as only a fraction of the web developers out there are your real, quality competitors.

Example of an email quote Bob would like to see

Hi Bob,

I am a web designer living in Manhattan and I am available to meet you in the city to discuss the website for your restaurant and show you how easily you can manage it yourself.

On top of creating a mobile friendly and modern website, I can help you with posting information about your business in variety of directories (Yelp, Google Maps etc.) and also help with social media and SEO. I have a list of local clients which highly recommend me – see testimonials on my site.

Option 1: below $700.
– For the strictly budget conscious, instead of a custom designed website I suggest using one of the web building tools such as AAA or BBB.
– I assist with creation and setup of the site.
– Billing would be hourly at $50/hour. I estimate a maximum of 4 hours.

Option 2: $700, timeline: 1 week
– I help you select a WordPress template that meets your needs (see examples here)
– I install the template on your server and slightly customize it according to your business needs
– I insert content to your site, optimize it for SEO, and provide training on how to update

Option 3: $2000, timeline: 3 weeks
– I create a custom design for you and turn it into a customized WordPress theme

Please see below example of similar project I have worked on recently:

site1 site1

I am looking forward hearing from you,

Daniel Sodkiewicz

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