From time to time all web agencies will be faced with projects that have little to no budget. It’s all too easy to turn these projects down in favour of larger projects that yield a higher return. It’s also easy to forget that turning these projects down adds up. Projects with budgets of around £1,000 to £2,000 may seem like more effort than they are worth but with a good design process and a strict plan these projects can yield a higher return than you may think.

Process is key

Your starting point should always be to set clear boundaries on a project. As profitable as the little projects can be, you are always going to encounter over demanding clients (Champagne tastes on a bear budget). There can always be a happy medium but this needs to be clear from the start and you will have to walk away from a project once in a while.

Write down your processes and create yourself a how-to for building sites on a budget. It may take a few projects before you get this right but note everything that can help you save time. Save all of your code, previous work, snippets that will make you work faster in the future.

Controlling the client

Standardizing basic business practices for all of your clients will ensure that your projects run smoothly. Make sure that you keep your projects professional and set a tone form the very first meeting. Everyone needs friends, but friends ask favours. Choose your friends wisely! The less time wasted on dealing with project deliverables and bickering over payment means more money saved and also a more enjoyable working environment.

There is a thin line to tread here, rudeness is unacceptable. Offer clients more realistic solutions than a plain no. Showing websites with a similar budget and having the client prioritise will help you deliver the best site within budget.

Frameworks are your friend

The web today is a treasure chest of frameworks and streamlined solutions, such as WordPress. The key is to use these tools to develop great sites with little effort. Whatever your platform of choice, grab yourself a starter theme that gives you all the basics needed to get a site up and running fast.

For WordPress you have themes like Carrington JAM, a blank theme with a lot of the heavy lifting already handled. If you aren’t using a CMS, check out the HTML5 Boilerplate.


There’s no shame in using a pre-built theme to construct a website for a client, as long as you don’t lie. Using a theme can cut build time by more than half. Instead of spending 20 hours coding a website, you would be spending 10 hours fine-tuning a theme, tailoring it to your client’s branding and inserting content. This won’t always be an option but is an avenue worth considering. There are a gazillion brilliantly designed and coded themes out there that can be purchased for pennies, why re-invent the wheel?


Generating a code library of all previously coded features can be invaluable. If you find yourself building an image slider from scratch every couple of weeks, save it! Create a generic version that with a little tweaking can stop you repeating yourself in the future. The same goes for navigations, galleries, frameworks, blog styles, social media elements, you name it! Over time you will almost be able to slot together a site like a jigsaw puzzle.

That’s all folks

I hope after reading this article you have a different view on the “less appealing” projects that often rear their heads. If you cover your bases and work smart you can turn around great sites in less time. Just think, 10 projects turned down a year with a budget of £1,500 could be another £15,000 in the bank. With a web full of freebies and open source projects, there’s no excuse for not turning potential into profit.

Happy Coding!