Web News

The Hidden Costs of Web Development

January 9, 2024
January 30, 2024
Episode Number:

Subscription fees are any household budget's worst nightmare, but they're not limited to just your favorite TV subscriptions. Web developers are also constantly bombarded by subscription fees for everything from development tools, analytics software, and WordPress plugins. Perpetual licenses (one-time fees) are almost a thing of the past and so everything you reach for at the paid tier ends up becoming a recurring cost that you'll need to make the most of to maximize value. Not only can these costs very quickly spiral out of control, but they're also a hard sell when dealing with a client. Every WordPress developer has surely come across a client that expects a feature-add for free, when the plugin to do so is behind a monthly subscription. In this episode, Matt and Mike discussed the hidden costs of web development reviewing the dreaded ballooning monthly bill made up of premium WordPress plugins, SEO software, development tools, and more.


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Show Notes

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Show Notes

Cost-Centric State of the Industry

  • Web development is a relatively cheap industry to get started in, especially if you’re self-taught
  • Computers and related equipment are “one-time purchases” with the exception of maintenance and refreshes
  • Software is rarely purchased with perpetual licenses, SaaS (subscriptions) are king now
  • Subscriptions are great when the programs you’re constantly using the software and benefit from having the cutting-edge version
    - For example paying for Microsoft 365 makes a lot of sense for someone that uses the suite of productivity apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneDrive, etc.) for their daily job
  • The problem now is that SaaS products are everywhere, for the smallest functions - not just for large suites of software in a world where a suite of features are required to work or expected by customers - we’re essentially being buried by subscription fees that can quickly get out of control
  • In the world of side hustles and side projects, many of whom make little to no money, it’s crucial that you manage your budget and expectations so that subscriptions do not get out of control

Subscription Fees

Productivity Apps

  • Microsoft 365 - Office suite of apps
  • Project & Task Management -, Asana, Notion
  • ChatGPT Plus


  • Shared hosting, reseller, etc.

Domain Registrations

  • Domains are sold on a subscription model


  • Shopify plugins are often paid and required to deliver a shopping experience that many customers will expect
  • Examples:
    - Bold Membership - to sell memberships that can offer exclusive products and discounts
    - Frequently Bought Together - With Frequently Bought Together, your customers can buy related products with one single click, increasing the order value and your revenue.
    - Instafeed - Instagram feeds on your Shopify store

Webflow Projects & Plugins

  • If you’re looking to make a portfolio on Webflow, each project is going to cost you, unless you’re able to fit it within the free tier
  • Third-party features are created by external companies and many of these features are reliant on a subscription fee (many do have a free tier and paid tier)

WordPress Plugins

  • Many WordPress plugins have a free and paid tier, however, a single website can easily require several paid plugins to operate as expected

Sudden Changes 

  • Outlook debacle
    - Outlook is transitioning to a “New Outlook” that requires a license for each account that you add. Some are exempt (ie free accounts) but each work account requires a desktop license - in our case I need to sign into 2 accounts so our costs will double
    - This speaks to changes in licensing over time where yearly budgets can become quickly skewed
  • Webflow pricing change
Back in 2023, time-limited grandfathered in pricing offered for existing subscribers

Community Suggested

  • SSL Cert
  • API usage
  • Re-working due to unclear communication + scope creep
  • Dealing with broken browser features - workarounds and fixes in browsers such as Safari
  • “For me, complicated build tools and dependencies really hurt in the long run. Not just because their harder to understand, but few people take the time to learn how their build tools work, resulting in people being too afraid to touch those files, leading to compounding problems.”

Common Project w/ “Hidden Costs”

In this section we discussed a common project and how it could be created using a collection of paid services and plugins. This project is in no way budget optimized and all pricing was taken without sale pricing as of the episode recording.


  • An ecommerce brand that sells electronic components
  • Marketing & Info Website: 
    - Needs to be easy for staff to build out, modify, and delete pages
    - Blog posts for marketing and SEO focusing on product descriptions, cool electronic projects
    - Datasheets and heavy info pages: Pages that include text and/or downloadable PDF spec sheets
    - This brand has a podcast that will house their show notes on the website and embed their podcast host’s player inside
  • Podcast hosting service
  • eCommerce Website
  • Social Media Marketing

Products and Costs

  • Domain Registration ($21.99 per year)
    - A basic .com domain from GoDaddy
    - GoDaddy - | $21.99USD/year with no promo, there are often promos
  • Marketing & Info Website ($206 per year)
    - Self-Hosted WordPress | Free | Link
    - Elementor Pro | $99USD per year (up to 3 websites on this license) | Link
    -- Page builder that will allow staff to manage, modify, and build page layouts
    - Advanced Custom Fields Pro | $49USD/year | Personal license | there is a promo on right now for $39/year | Link
    -- To accommodate different fields (ie podcast specific fields, fields for data/specsheet pages)
    - Custom Post Type UI Extended | $29 per 6 months | Link
    -- To create custom post types accommodating: blog posts, show notes, and datasheet pages
    - Web Hosting ($107.88 per year)
    --BlueHost WordPress Hosting | $8.99USD/mo with no promos | Link
    - Podcast Host ($168.00 per year)
    -- Podbean | $14USD/mo w/o annual plan, annual is discounted | Link
    - To host and distribute the podcast
  • eCommerce Website ($587.88 per year)
    - Shopify | $39USD/mo | Link
    - Basic plan that will allow us to run our ecommerce side of the business
    - Shopify Plugin - Frequently Bought Together | $9.99USD/month | Link
    - Shows like-components so people can easily find other electronic components that compliment each other (ie a solder + soldering iron + soldering iron holder)
  • Social Media (??? per month)

How to escape hidden costs

  • You can’t escape them all but there are some that you can including:
    - Promos (black Friday, boxing day)
    - Annual subscriptions (or even longer term) 
    - Purchasing alternative programs that bundle multiple features into one subscription
    - Doing without - Only purchasing subscriptions that required or will increase profit beyond their cost
    - Time subscriptions (ie turn off one when you’re not using it, to turn on another that you will use this month)
  • Beware of and be aware of sunken cost fallacy


  • Michael LaRocca
    - Author of the Self-Taught the X Generation blog, at