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How To Avoid Web Development Quote Scams

If you’re a business owner wondering whether to invest in a website for your business, I’ll help you out.


Every business needs a website, and not just any old website. If you want to build a professional reputation, attract new customers, and communicate the right message, then you need to hire a web development company to create a custom site for your business.

How To Avoid Web Development Quote Scams

There are a ton of web developers out there, it’s a highly-competitive industry worth $40 billion that has grown 6.5% per year on average between 2015 and 2020.

On one hand, this is great for business owners in need of web development services. There are a ton of options in terms of price range, features, aesthetic, and more. It is easier, faster, and cheaper than ever to create the exact website you envision.

However, while large companies have the capital to hire well-known web development companies for hundreds of thousands of dollars, small business owners have to weed through the hundreds of available developers to find the right fit.

Unfortunately, there are “developers” out there who are unethical, unskilled, or just plain deceitful and trying to make a quick buck. They understand the competitive marketplace and will use their knowledge of website development to take advantage of small business owners. When hiring a new web developer, here are a few of our best tips to avoid bad offers.

Set your expectations upfront

Before you meet with the developer, know what you want. This goes for the work and your relationship. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for the developer to meet your expectations.

two men in a meeting across a desk from each other and shaking hands after agreeing to a website development quote
Next, always sign some kind of formal agreement. This should include a detailed list of your requests and the cost of each. This signifies that you and the developer are on the same page and have a mutual understanding of what the project will consist of.

Keep in mind that this “contract” isn’t binding, it’s just an agreement that ensures that both you and the developer have a mutual understanding of the objectives and deliverables.

If you don’t sign an agreement, you risk problems arising later on regarding missed deadlines, poor-quality work, or being charged more than you were originally quoted.

Discuss payment details

Two women sitting at a table. One is holding an iPhone and the other is holding a credit card.
Be wary of companies that ask for more than half of the cost upfront. One of the biggest scams is the “disappearing developer”. They may seem like a really good fit at first, but after collecting your deposit, they put off the work for months and eventually disappear with your money.

To avoid this scam, don’t pay the full amount upfront and ask to set up a milestone payment plan instead. This will hold both you and the developer accountable when it comes to deadlines and communication.

Dig deeper

Every company is going to talk themselves up, but just because they built the site for a high-end client doesn’t mean that’s all there is to the story.

Man in is 20s sitting at a table inside a smoothie shop while holding a pen and talking on his cell phone
First, always try to meet with the developer in person. If you’re in different locations, schedule a call. If the developer isn’t comfortable talking in person, ask yourself if you’re okay with hiring someone you haven’t spoken to first.

Next, when you look at their portfolio, take note of a few website names and look them up. If the site design has been updated or the site doesn’t exist, consider those huge red flags. You should also check the site’s URL to make sure it’s not just a dummy site on a subdomain.

After you’ve looked at the site, contact the client and ask them to tell you about their experience with the developer.

Purchase your own domain

Purchase your own domain name. It may seem more convenient to have the developer take care of it on your behalf, but that could result in long-term repercussions. If the developer purchases a domain for you, then they own that domain unless it is in your account under your name.

Not owning your domain could result in issues down the road. Most developers are professionals that will make sure you have ownership of your domain and will transfer ownership if you don't. However, if you have a bad experience with a scammy developer and leave, they could hold your site “hostage”. Or, they could remove your website from the domain and replace it with spammy content or ask for money as ‘ransom’ for ownership transfer.

Don't Be (too) Cheap

Don’t fall for a $500 website scam. There is no such thing as a $500 website.

Any legitimate website that is custom-created by a developer will take a minimum of around 50 hours of work. That’s the absolute minimum, which would mean that for $500, the developer would be paid $10 per hour.

A developer that does charge $500 is most likely a scam artist that will charge you for a free template. They might take a few hours to fill in your business name and information, but that’s it.

If you pay $500 for a website, you are merely parting with your cash. Any website that costs $500 is low-quality work and won’t have any impact on search engine optimization (SEO).

A more realistic cost is at least $15,000 for a good business website, on the low end. If you need a full-fledged e-commerce website, you’re looking at $20,000 and up.

Listen to your gut

If you find yourself thinking, “can they really handle this?”, do yourself a favor and don’t hire that developer. Chances are you’re feeling that way for a reason.

In essence, by doing just a few things, you can be certain that your next custom website development firm hire is a solid choice. Ask the right questions. Do a little homework. You’ll be glad you did.

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