Web design is free.

Really! Just head over to WordPress.org, install the content management system in your domain, and upload a free theme. Done.

But will that free theme really give you the aesthetic appeal you were going for? Can you really tweak the code so that everything looks just right? So that your design doesn’t look like anybody else’s? Probably not.

If you want a great-looking site, you’ll probably have to pay for it. And while the prospect of paying for custom Web design strikes fear in the heart of many a small business owner, paying a premium for a site that helps grow your business could be one of the best investments you ever make.

Consider your audience.

When it comes to Web design, your target audience is your primary focus.

Who are they? What message are you trying to send them? What do you want them to think about your business? How should they feel when they arrive at your site?

Remember: These are the people who you ultimately hope will buy from you, hire you, or somehow or another become a customer or client. If you think a free template is enough to demonstrate your professionalism to this valuable cohort, fine.

But if you think they deserve better, it may be time to go the extra mile to distinguish yourself from the competition.

After all, the appearance of your Website is a reflection of your business. It represents you to your target audience.

And do you really want to look… cheap?

Create a budget.

When you’ve decided your future customers deserve to see something better than what you’re showing them now, determine how much you can reasonably spend on Web design.

For independent consultants and freelancers, several professional-looking WordPress themes are available for less than $100. The premium theme marketplace offers a great way for small, cash-strapped operations to get a great-looking blog at a bargain price. Sure, there will be others out there with the same theme, but the robust customization options offered by premium themes will help you make the design your own.

On the other hand, many small businesses have large budgets. If you find that you have the means to accommodate a custom design, the price you ought to pay has everything to do with how you feel your business ought to appear to the world.

Don’t skimp.

Do you want a beautiful Website that wows everyone who sees it? That’s simple to navigate? That’s an absolute joy to experience? If you have the budget for a site like that, don’t wait around – hire a designer.

Otherwise, you’ll be just another company that’s too cheap to invest in a better site. And everyone will know it.

Web design, of course, isn’t an expense. It’s an investment in your business. It’s an insurance policy against poor first impressions. It’s how you make your brand shine before the world.

It’s how you turn Web traffic into dollars.

So, how much should you pay for Web design? A better question, perhaps, is how little money shouldn’t you pay.

After all, Web designers whose work brings you great results are worth their weight in gold.

About the Author:

Adam Green writes about e-commerce, online business, and fraud detection. He believes a good Web designer is invaluable.