website budget
Project Ignite Podcast by Derek Gehl How I Kept My Website Budget Under $1000 For This Site
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  • Episode  3


In this Episode of the Project Ignite Podcast, I’m going to reveal my website budget breakdown and how I kept it to less than $1000 when I built this website. This episode it packed with killer tips and tools you can start using to create incredible websites on the cheap!

Transcript: “How I Kept My Website Budget Under $1000”

Hi, Derek Gehl here, and welcome to episode number two of the Project Ignite podcast. I’m really excited about this episode because it’s going to be just chock full of stuff that you can use when you build your next website. In order to deliver on that, I’m going to take you behind the scenes of and show you how I built it with a website budget of less than $1000… just to proven that I could! 🙂

We recently completed this website, and just before it went fully live I showed it to some members of my mastermind group. They all took a look and asked, “wow–how much did that website cost you to build?” It was less than $1,000 and when I showed them my website budget breakdown, they were surprised.

I realized again, even in this day and age, people are spending way too much money on building websites, on hiring programmers, or they’re using the wrong things on their websites–creating slow, bloated sites that are harming them in a number of different ways.

So, I want to take you behind the scenes. I want to show you the theme, the plugins, and the tools I used to create this website, and these are themes, plugins and tools that I’ve used for many, many years for both high end and budget web design.

You know, not only are you benefiting from learning what we use, but you’re also benefiting from learning what not to use.

Over the past decade, I’ve spent tens of thousands–no, hundreds of thousands of dollars on themes, plugins, testing software, tools, to see what works and what doesn’t.

We’re constantly testing new things, and after spending all of that time and money testing, this is what we use every single day.

As I move forward, I’m going to be sharing tons of different tools and resources with you.

What I want to do is just explain the different tools and give you a brief summary of why I like these. What I’m not going to do is get into why this one is better than that one, or why I chose this theme over that theme.

Just know that we’ve done a ton of testing–we have tried so much, and these are the tools that I use every day across all my websites not matter my web design budget.

website budget breakdown

So, the website itself is built on WordPress. If you’re not using WordPress, you probably should be. WordPress is now the biggest website building platform in the world. Something like 22% of all websites are built on WordPress–that’s 75 million websites using WordPress today.

One of the reasons why I love WordPress so much is because it now has the biggest community of developers of any platform. It’s open-source, which means there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of programmers around the world that are constantly building features, functionality, plugins, and themes for this powerful platform.

What that means to us, as the non-techy entrepreneurs, is that we can go out and build these websites without having to invest in programmers to design this kind of functionality, rather, we can just piggyback on the technology that’s already been built for us.

In the case of WordPress, and in many cases, this is all free for us to use (which will fit anyone’s website budget). As I go through my list, some of the stuff that I use isn’t free, but even the stuff I pay for is really dirt cheap.

It’s funny, because I talk to people that show me website budget breakdowns and then proudly announce “I’ve spent $20,000 on that website,” and it almost seems like a rite of passage, like they’re proud of it. It’s ridiculous.

And whenever I visit those websites, I’m doing the mental math; you spent twenty grand on that and we could’ve done that with a $1000 website budget (or less) by outsourcing and leveraging plugins.

That said, let’s dive into this and start sharing the different tools we use behind the scenes to create this website. Just remember: you can find the show notes for this podcast on on the episode two page.

You can pick and choose which ones you’d like to use. To that end, if you have a WordPress website that you’re already happy with, don’t feel like you have to run out and change everything.

But going forward, maybe these will work for you–maybe some of these will be better than what you have, maybe some of these you aren’t using, so even if you do have a website, pay close attention because I think you’ll pick up a few things along the way.

Something I should mention as well, is that when I’m building a WordPress website, my goal is to use the absolute minimum of plugins and add-ons as is humanly possible.

Every time you add a plugin to a WordPress website, it effectively adds to–or as I like to call it, bloats you, and slows you down.

“when I’m building a WordPress website, my goal is to use the absolute minimum number of plugins and add-ons as is humanly possible

So let’s start right at the top. What is the theme we used for Project Ignite? Lots of people go out there, and say, “hey, I can’t find the theme that I want,” and they wind up hiring developers to go out there and build a custom theme for them which gets really expensive.

In this day and age, I truly believe it’s no longer necessary, because of what are called drag-and-drop theme builders.

These are theme builders that you install on WordPress, and though most don’t necessarily come with a particular design, what they allow you to do is drag-and-drop and create your own unique page designs without having to do any coding.

Now if we go back to the early day of WordPress themes, you’d get a theme and it would typically have very specific page types, page layouts, and page formats, and you’d be kind of hamstrung using this box that they’d created for you.

So this is their design for a post, and if you wanted to change it, you’d have to go out and hire a coder, or a developer, or a designer, to change the CSS or potentially even hack up some of the code on that theme to make it the theme you want.

But now we’re seeing the next generation of themes, which are drag-and-drop themes, which allow you almost the ultimate flexibility. But like all themes, there are good and bad drag-and-drop themes.

So like I said, I’m not going to get into theme comparisons, but I am going to tell you that the theme I use for all of my websites these days is called the Headway Theme.

The Headway Theme is my absolute, hands-down favourite drag-and-drop theme; a) because although it comes with different styles and templates, you can start with a blank page and create literally any page you want, so you don’t have another B2 website that looks like every other website out there.

Second to that, you’re never going to be limited by your theme’s functionality. As your website grows, you have the ability to create any page style that you want.

The best part about Headway is that you don’t need to be a coder. Is there a learning curve? Absolutely.

You’re starting from a blank canvas. But you don’t need to be a programmer. If you go through their help videos, they’ll walk you through how to start building websites using Headway.

And like any good theme, if you reach out into the outsourcing universe, on sites like, you’ll find lots of developers and designers that specialize in this Headway Theme if you ever do get stuck.

Now, Headway Theme is the primary theme that we used to build Project Ignite. You can get a single site license of the Headway Theme for $59.00 (Again, it is within anyone’s website budget).

If you have multiple sites, they do have developer licenses for a little bit more than that to let you use unlimited websites.

I’ve built countless websites with Headway now, and I absolutely love it.

One of the other elements of why I really like it is because while I’m not a coder, I’ve had really smart programmers look at the Headway theme and the code behind it, and the feedback has been that it’s really well built. Many of the themes you get into are very clunky, very bloated, like a lot of the drag-and-drop themes out there.

They do really weird things and can create really weird code that isn’t very efficient. From the outside, from a non-coder standpoint, they look good–but they’re not all that efficient. Headway is a well built theme, so I really love that. Headway also offers different blocks.

Blocks are additional extensions or different features that you can buy which they’ve developed. Some are free, some are paid. The only one I’m using is called the Article Block, which allows us to create little article pages quite quickly.

Do you need it? No, absolutely not, but that’s one of the things that we use.

Let’s jump over to plugins now. Any WordPress website is going to have plugins that provide more functionality. One of my challenges when I create a website is to try to use as few plugins as possible.

And the reason for this is something I see all the time, when people look and say, “these plugins are free,” and start adding plugin after plugin after plugin, and that is creating bloat. So I try to use minimal plugins.

Here are the plugins I use on just about every website I create.

Yoast SEO For WordPress

The very first plugin, which I’ve been using for years now, is my SEO plugin, and that’s the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. I’m not going to talk a ton about that other than to tell you that it is the most popular SEO plugin in the WordPress directory.
It’s used on millions of websites, and makes sure that your website is optimized for search, that your posts are optimized, and your pages are optimized. It is fantastic and it is completely free. You’ll find that in the WordPress directory.
Google Analytics
The second plugin I use is called Google Analytics, also via Yoast. Google Analytics by Yoast is another plugin that allows you to easily add analytics code to all of your pages, and to your WordPress dashboard.
The third plugin I use kind of goes without saying: akismet for my spam filtering. You can get akismet for free if you’re a non-profit or a hobby website, but if you’re a commercial website you should be paying them.
It’s as little as $5, it’s very cheap, and it’s by far the best spam filter plugin out there.
The fourth plugin I use is a plugin that I’ve learned I cannot live without. It has saved me a ton of grief and agony.
Wordfence is security for your WordPress website. The fact of the matter is that as WordPress sites become more and more popular, with millions and millions of websites out there using it, it has become much more of a target for hackers. So what Wordfence does, is it really secures and locks down and monitors your website.
Before I used Wordfence, I’d had a few bad days where I’d wake up in the morning and find my website had been hacked, and we’d have to restart. What Wordfence does is lock down your website and prevents a lot of that from happening.
It also monitors for any weird changes in stuff like software. So if you go into the plugin directory in WordPress, you’ll find a free version. However I’d really recommend the premium version for that extra protection.
It’s $39.00 for one year of protection, which is a pretty good investment and will save you a lot of time in the long run.
Gravity Forms Plugin
The next plugin we use on pretty much every website is Gravity Forms. So Gravity Forms is in my opinion the best form creation plugin out there. If you need to have an opt-in form, or a contact form, or an order form, or any form hosted on your website, Gravity Forms is by far my favourite plugin.
For two reasons: a) it’s super powerful, and b) it’s easy to use. You don’t have to be really technical to go in there and create a really good looking form that you can use throughout your website.
If you go to my contact page, or any of our opt-in pages, you’ll see that we’re using Gravity Forms. With a premium plugin like this, they’re updating it all the time; new security, locking it down–these guys do a fantastic job.
There is a fee for this one, and you’re looking at about $39.00 per year to use the Gravity Forms plugin. Another thing I love about Gravity Forms is that it integrates with just about every email marketing and e-commerce system out there.
I use Infusionsoft for my email marketing, and for my e-commerce system on the back end, and there’s an extension that I can download for free if I search InfusionSoft Gravity Forms.
This instantly connects Gravity Forms to my InfusionSoft account with no technical stuff required. If you’re using Get Response, or MailChimp, or Aweber, or any of those, they also have extensions for those. So for setting up forms on your website, I couldn’t recommend Gravity Forms enough.
Smart Podcast Player Plugin
Onto our next plugin, which is a plugin that unless you have a podcast you probably won’t need but it’s a plugin we’ve recently started using and I really like it: the Smart Podcast Player plugin.
That was developed by Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income, and it’s a fantastic podcast player. It pulls your podcast down, and people can play it live from your website.  It’s a fantastic plugin, you’ll see most major podcasts who are embedding podcasts on their websites are using this player these days, and you can find it at
They do have a free version, which is limited in functionality, or it’s $12.00 per month, or to save additional money, it’s $97.00 per year. $12.00 a month for a very awesome piece of software.
WP Page Navi Plugin
Next plugin that I’ve used is called the WP-Pagenavi plugin. This is a simple, free plugin that allows you to do more advanced navigation, above and beyond what you’d do with the standard, built-in WordPress navigation.
If that standard navigation works for you, then that’s great, stick with that. But if you need a little more functionality, check out WP-Pagenavi.
WP Smush Plugin

The next plugin that I absolutely love and use on all of my websites now is called WP-Smush and this was developed by WPMUDev, which is a big plugin developer, and its a free plugin, and basically what that does is as you add images to your websites, it makes sure that they’re optimized.

So WPMUDev has a server that has image compression software on it, and as you add images, it runs them through that software and compresses it. It’s called lossless compression, so they still look super good, it just makes sure that they’re optimized.

So if you’re out there grabbing images from online, or doing stuff in Photoshop, and you don’t necessarily know how to make sure they’re super optimized, just use this plugin and know that when it lands on your website, it’ll be compressed and taken care of.

The fact is, page load times have huge impacts on bounce rates, on search engine rankings and on usability of our websites. I can’t tell you how often I go to websites that use a ton of unoptimized images that take forever to download, and though we may not notice it on high speed connections, it is having an impact, so a plugin like WP-Smush takes care of that.

Pop-Up Maker Plugin
The next plugin we use is called the Pop-up Maker plugin–just search pop-up maker and you’ll find it. This is my absolute favourite pop-up plugin these days, and the best part is the core plugin for making pop-ups is free. If you want to do fancy pop-ups like exits and stuff like that, they do offer extensions.
That’s how they make their money; they offer their core plugin for free and if you want to make fancy pop-ups they have extensions you can buy. We didn’t need any of them, though, so we’ve been able to use the free version. You’ll notice that most of the plugins we’ve been talking about are free.

Now I want to take a step off of WordPress and take a look at some of the third party tools that we’re also using. If you go to Project Ignite, you’ll find it’s built on WordPress, using the Headway theme, using all of these plugins that we just talked about.

But, as you click on some of our offers for free e-books or our opt-in offers throughout the website, you’re going to find that they link to video pages and stuff like that. If you look up to the URL, you’ll notice that they’re actually hosted on a subdomain, which is a ww3, so they’re not actually hosted on the root site.

ClickFunnels For WordPressWebsite Budget BreakdownBudget Web Design
The reason why, is for developing any kind of lead-capture funnel or sales funnel, I don’t actually build those on WordPress anymore.
WordPress is fantastic for creating pages, articles, and using the functionality to create blog pages, and categories, but when I want to get into a  specific lead capture or sales funnel, I like to use a massively powerful tools called ClickFunnels, which and be found at
ClickFunnels is a system that’s been designed specifically to make landing pages, lead capture pages, and sales pages, all using a drag and drop format. You may have heard of what’s considered to be a competitor of ClickFunnels, and that’s LeadPages.
LeadPages was definitely around before ClickFunnels, and has a pretty big market share, offering a fantastic service. You can subscribe to LeadPages and they have pre-built landing pages that you can customize for you offers, for your opt-ins, stuff like that.
The fact of the matter is, in my books–and I know I said I wasn’t going to get into comparisons, but I kind of am, I guess–ClickFunnels is by far the most powerful for quickly creating different kinds of funnels.
LeadPages is great if you want to have one simple opt-in page. But if you want to create funnels where you’re capturing leads, and putting them through different processes, I truly do not know of a tool today that is faster or easier to implement than ClickFunnels.
ClickFunnels was developed by a very smart Internet marketer, a fellow by the name of Mark Brunson, and his software has absolutely blown up. You’ll find ClickFunnels being used across thousands of websites.
The downside of ClickFunnels for someone getting started is typically the investment, because there is a monthly fee associated with that. Now I currently use the $97 per month plan, and some people think, “that’s kind of a lot,” but if you’re developing landing pages and lead pages on a consistent basis, the amount of time that’s going to save you and the potential money you’re going to save if you’re going to hire someone is huge.
There’s a ton of pre-done templates, you can point-click-create stuff, duplicate stuff, it’s very, very powerful. Probably in a future episode I’ll get more into sales funnels, but ClickFunnels is what I use.
There is a $37 per month plan to get started.If you’re not comfortable subscribing to something at that price point, there is a plugin I do use that I do quite like for creating landing pages.
It’s not as fast, or as scaleable, it doesn’t have the same robustness as ClickFunnels, but it’s still very good as well. This plugin is called WP-Profit Builder. In theory, we could have used this plugin to build our funnels as well.
WP-Profit Builder has a $47 fee to purchase a single site license for that. We could have done it for $37 per month, or a $47 one time fee for WP-Profit Builder.
Cloudflare For WordPress
The next tool I want to share with you is a tool that I don’t know why more people aren’t using it, I think it’s just because they don’t know it exists, and that is called CloudFlare. CloudFlare is a service that you can sign up with, a free service or a cheap service with more features.
Basically what these guys do, without getting into technical details, is they make your website faster. They make it more accessible to people around the world, and they make it faster. I’ll leave it at that, because I could talk about CloudFlare forever, and you can sign up for CloudFlare for free.
The last tool on the list is the email marketing system and e-commerce system that we use. I use InfusionSoft, and I’ve used it for many years; it’s a very robust CRM, e-mail marketing, e-commerce system. But to put this in perspective, did I need InfusionSoft? Absolutely not.
I could’ve set up that website with a Get Response or an Aweber account starting at $20.00. When I factor in the costs here, I’m not going to use the InfusionSoft fee, because I didn’t really need it. I already had it. If I was starting from scratch, I could’ve just used Aweber or Get Response.

So, let’s break that down here. Everything I’ve added up, if we assume you’re using Aweber or Get Response, in the first month–because there are some ongoing fees there–the total cost of all the plugins and all the themes, software, everything… The total is about $251.00.

Like I said, that ongoing fee could be reduced as well. But $251.00 for all of the themes, plugins, software, to get this up and running.

Depending on what you choose, there could be some ongoing fees with that, but those fees would likely be well under $100.00 per month, probably less that $50.00 per month. For powerful marketing tools. That was the hard cost of buying licenses.

On top of that I kept my website budget under $1000, not just $251.00, because there are costs on top of that–I’m not a developer, I’m not a coder, I’m not a designer. I need to hire people to do that for me.

The entire graphics layout was done using a designer from the Philippines. I actually didn’t find him on Upwork, in fact, I posted an ad on Craigslist in the Philippines. Most people try Upwork first to find things, but what I’ve found is that while Upwork is great and I’ve found some great people there, including the coder I use, I’ve found that posting on Craigslist and job boards in the Philippines can yield better results.

In a future podcast, I’m going to talk about how I’ve outsourced my entire organization, so I won’t get into that too deeply, but needless to say, the entire graphics package was $250.00 completed. The other side of that is the coding.

The coding here took about 20 hours of a coder that knew Headway really, really well. He was also in the Philippines, and he wasn’t the cheapest coder out there, but he did a great job. I paid him about $22.00 per hour, and it took him around 20 hours to finish it all up. That’s a total of $440.00 of my $1000 website budget.

Let’s break this down. The total cost of all of our fixed costs:

plugins and stuff like that, was $251.00. Graphics – $250.00. Coding – $440.00. That’s a total of $951.00 to build this website.

In future episodes, I’m going to go into outsourcing: how I hire people, how to get the best results, so that you can replicate this. But today I wanted to give you the tools.

You might think, “but what about all of the videos? what about recording podcasts?” It doesn’t have to be expensive! In future episodes, I’m going to show you how to do this. Do it at home, do it for cheap, without having to spend a fortune.

Now–is Project Ignite perfect yet? No. There’s always things I want to improve. If I can leave you with one thing: if you’re just getting started, just get your website up. It’ll never be perfect, and like most entrepreneurs, you’ll always see ways you can improve it. Just get it live first, and then start to improve it.

There you go. You have a whole list of the tools that I use. We’ve let you look under the covers: this is what I use, these are the tools, that is what it costs, anybody can do this. It just requires action, you just have to get started.

Like I said before, if you want the links to all of those, head over to Head over to episode 2, and you’ll find all those links in the show notes. Hope you took something away today, now go take action and start creating your success on the Internet. Bye for now, everyone!

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  1. One more question. We actually own a license to Optimize Press. We’re new to all this and thinking it shouldn’t be a big deal to use this instead of Headway Theme.

    What’s your input?

    Thanks again!

    1. OptimizePress is never going to have the flexibility of Headway. If you are happy with the page/post styles they offer and you don’t mind the workflow then OptimizePress is very capable. That said, if you know you are going to need custom layouts then you can’t really beat Headway.

  2. Great stuff. Thank You!!

    Since ClickFunnels (CF) has more capabilities now a days. Would you change anything major here? ie. use Actionetics vs. Aweber, Use CF HTML pop ups vs. Pop-up Maker plugin?

    We are modeling your recommendations and know things change so any help would be appreciated. We just wire framed and are listing to Upwork for a designer.

    Thanks so much! And keep making the great Podcasts … I’m up to #23 in just a couple of weeks.

    1. I would not change much. I am using now… It is pretty powerful.

      If you are using ClickFunnels then Actionetics is going to integrate nicely but I have not done a full comparison of it’s features to a dedicated email service like Aweber… So at this point I can’t comment with any authority.

      Glad to hear your enjoying the episodes!

  3. Great summary Derek. Lots of useful information here.

    From a techie standpoint, what’s an example of something you’d hire a coder to do – or do you normally prefer to just go with a theme that ideally won’t need these things down the road?

    1. I try to do as little ‘custom coding’ as possible. Headway is such a flexible Theme you can make it do almost anything without a ton of custom coding. Then I try and use plugins for the rest. Only time I do custom is when I can’t find a plugin or theme.

    1. I use a company called They offer shared hosting but they really specialize in enterprise solutions and dedicated servers. I’ve used HostGator in the past as well and would recommend them for shared hosting but for dedicated servers there are better options.

  4. Great episode. I learned a few new resources…

    I had a quick question though. Why put Clickfunnels on a subdomain instead of using the Clickfunnels WordPress plugin to keep them on the same root domain?

    1. Good question… when I first started using ClickFunnels they did not have a plugin so I set it up on a sub-domain but now I do use their WordPress plugin which is a much better solution.

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