Should you build your own website? The pros and cons

on 26 June 2017
This may seem like a crazy article for me to be writing. I’m a web designer, and I love creating client-attracting websites for my coaching and therapy clients. So why would I be discussing reasons as to why you may want to build your own website? Well, I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I started building websites back in 2002 which was the year the very first mobile phone with a built-in camera was released. OK, that makes me feel slightly ancient. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognise that things have changed A LOT in those past 15 years. What was a fairly monumental task back then involved a lot of rolling up of sleeves, plenty of hair-tearing, and a lot of sleepless nights trawling through books of code. But building a website can now be achieved with much less angst. That’s not to say that there isn’t still a place for web designers in todays environment. There absolutely is. But I’d like to explore whether working with a web designer is the right option for you, or if you could be better off creating a website yourself.

Craving control

If you’re starting a new coaching or therapy business, or are in the process of revising/revamping your existing website, there may be a little voice inside your mind, asking you how hard it can be to build your own.
And there's a small part of you which is tempted to give it a go.Click To Tweet Aside from saving money, building it yourself would release you from any reliance on a web designer or agency, and you would have complete control of your ongoing marketing efforts online. And I have to say, I’m all in favour of that. Here’s why. Over the years, I have built hundreds of websites for small businesses. And I can genuinely say, that I have put my heart and soul into all of them. At the end of each project, I run a training session with each client so that they can manage their own website from here onwards. I teach them how to maintain the site, undertake common tasks such as adding new blog posts, including imagery, changing contact details and we discuss ongoing marketing to drive traffic to the site. We usually save a couple of tasks to complete together, so they can have a hands on approach of making the changes themselves. And inevitably, most clients are excited about taking the reins. Website challenge

Website anxiety

But here’s the thing. Despite having the very best intentions to hop into the site several times a month and upload new content, it’s often the case that you won’t log in as frequently as hoped. In this case, you can sometimes lose confidence in making the necessary changes. And even though our training is recorded so you can go through it time and again, you may still feel anxious about ‘breaking something’. That fear may never play out, but is nevertheless very real. And let’s face it, as a busy business owner, there is a lot going on in your day, and so it’s inevitable that the new blog posts may occasionally be side-lined. So how do we get around that?
What I've found is that people who create their website in a structured program, ie. with guidance, are far more confident about the ongoing marketing of their website.Click To Tweet Think about it. It makes sense. They have created it from scratch, asked all the questions about how things work, and what happens if they press this, during their learning process. Once their website is live, they are fully confident in all aspects of maintaining it – not only creating new posts, amending text here and there, but the bigger stuff – adding calls to action, shifting things around on the page, integrating new functionality. It means that they are in complete control of their website and how they move their business forward online. Granted, not everyone has the time or inclination to create their own website. So what are your website building options?

Your website building options

Business owners want to be able to add content to their website. In fact, it’s an imperative part of sharing value, establishing your community and building authority in your industry. So how do we make sure that you have a website which you’re proud of and which YOU can keep up to date? In my mind, there are 3 options open to you.
  1. Have a website built for you by a professional web designer or agency, and they manage the ongoing maintenance of the site for you.
  2. Ask someone to build the site on your behalf, you learn how to make straightforward changes, and you manage the site going forwards.
  3. You create the website from scratch yourself and manage it yourself.
All of these are viable options. You have to decide which is the best option for you. So let’s break it down.

1) Have a professional website built

If this is the route that you’re going to take, I commend you. Investing in your business is a terrific stepping stone for growth, and if you choose the right partner, you will end up with a valuable asset in your business which will serve you well and bring you lots of new customers. Here are some of the tips before you get started:
  1. Create a shortlist of agencies or designers that you think you could work with. You may have had recommendations from friends, or you may have seen websites that you like, and have found out who built them.
  2. Be sure that you look through their portfolio, and be clear that you like the work that they have done previously
  3. Seek out testimonials and if possible, speak to a previous client to discover what their experience was like working with the company
  4. Shortlist three companies that you would be happy to work with, and ask them all for quotes
  5. Speak to your key contact within the agency/company and check that you have a good rapport with them as you’ll be in regular communication with them throughout the project
  6. Be clear about your ongoing costs for the website in terms of hosting and ongoing maintenance once the site is finalised.

2) Have someone else build your website, and manage it yourself

This is a great option if you’re in a rush to have a website built, don’t have the time to build it yourself, or learn how to do it properly, yet still want to have a hands on role with the site going forwards. Be sure that the handover is complete when the website is finalised. You should be confident in all the most common tasks that you’re likely to be undertaking. Also be clear with the agency/company about any possible ongoing costs if you need further customisation which is out of your comfort zone. Having some kind of ‘manual’ or recorded training that you can refer back to later, will give you the confidence to maintain the site. It also makes it easier to hand over the task to someone else if your role changes.

3) Build your website yourself

I’ve saved the best for last because I truly believe that it is imperative that you have a good understanding of how your website works. It is the best way for you to truly take control of your online marketing. And when you have created it yourself, there is never any question of how any of it works. It also removes any anxiety associated with your website.  As long as you have invested in program to teach yourself how to do this properly, you will have moved to a place of confidence in your own ability to work on your website. You’ll also be able to implement new marketing strategies on your site as you need to. So your next question may be, what should I use to build my site with?

What should I use to build my website?

You have a couple of options.

1) Website Builders

You can use a website builders such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace.

These builders help you create visually appealing websites with relative ease. As with learning any new platform, you will still need to invest your time in the process, but it will be faster than learning the likes of WordPress which is a steeper learning curve.

Despite it being possible to create something which looks good, there are limitations to the functionality of these sites. Also, the very nature of their drag and drop interfaces means that there is a lot of code behind the pages which can make them less search engine friendly. I also hear of clients who find that the added extras start to mount up and it ends up costing them more to run it than they were anticipating.

My personal recommendation would be to only use a website builder for a hobby site. Or for a site where you only require the most basic functionality both now and in the future. It’s been my experience that people soon become frustrated with the limitations that these sites inflict. As their business grows and their website requirements evolve, they start looking for a more robust and scalable platform.

2) A custom website with WordPress

WordPress now powers almost one third of the worlds websites. That’s a fairly significant statistic. And the reason is very straightforward. Because it’s robust, wildly adaptable and incredibly scalable. It’s as suitable for a one-person consultancy website, as it is for a multi-million pound organisation. You can find out more about the attributes of WordPress in my ‘why I love WordPress‘ article from some time back

Which would I choose?

I’m slightly biased. But I’m a great believer in doing things right the first time. And believe me, I’ve had plenty of practise in not following that mantra! Your business can’t survive without customers, and your customers can’t find you without marketing. So you need to get good at it. And your website is going to be the cornerstone of all your marketing for your business, so it pays to get it right. So I would choose WordPress every time. Whether I was building my own site, or asking someone else to built it for me, it would be my platform of choice. I’ve tried many others, and this is the one that I’ve always come back to. I’ve worked with companies who have paid almost £50,000 for a customised website, which was then unable to grow and evolve with the business. So they had to scrap it and start again. Next time, they chose WordPress and it cost a fraction of the price, and was infinitely more flexible for their needs. I’ve also seen clients of mine move through my WordPress Success Bootcamp and create phenomenal websites without any former website know-how. So I know that despite people’s hesitancy about technology, with the right guidance, it is absolutely achievable for you to create your own site to a very high standard. Read a case study here about Alana, a wedding planner, founding a company called Aisle & Style. Alana commissioned a web designer to build her website, and was disillusioned with the first draft, so decided to take it into her own hands. And she produced this! wedding planner homemade website If you do decide to work with WordPress, I would definitely advocate working with an agency that specialises in WordPress (there are lots for you to choose from). Or if you’re creating the site yourself, work through a program which will teach you everything you need to get started. It’s tempting to just jump straight in with some free training you have stumbled across. But the danger is that you’re taking snippets of information and trying to piece them together to create something which should be a very significant part of your business. When you do decide to invest in training, you don’t just want a program which shows you how to manage your content, you want one which teaches you step-by-step how to build a website from scratch which will attract customers.

Final Words

Whichever route you decide to go, view the cost of your website build, or your website training as an investment, not as an expense. And before you plunge right in, can I make a suggestion? Well, maybe a few.
  1. Be in business for 6 months before you start building your website. No matter which route you decide to take. Why? Because your business ideas will change. No matter how focussed you feel you are right now, your business ideas WILL adapt. I see this so often, and have had so many business owners thank me for this tip. No matter how strong the urge to build your website, be patient. Work in your new business for 6 months before you build one. If you want to buy a domain name and put up a very basic holding page on it, go ahead. But before you any time or money on a website, be absolutely clear of how your business is moving forwards.
  2. Use a professionally created logo. This may be one that you have paid £5 for, or £500 for. It doesn’t matter. But unless you’re a graphic designer, please don’t try to launch your business with a homemade logo. I realise that resources are tight when you are starting out, but this is a false economy. Using a homemade logo now means that you will have redo all your marketing materials when you realise that your branding is no longer up to scratch. It’s a big job to go through them all and redo them. I promise – you will thank me for this later.
  3. Acknowledge that a new website alone will not float your business. It should be the cornerstone of all your online marketing, but unless you are driving traffic to it through some other channels (eg. social media, networking, recommendations, flyers, promotions, advertising, webinars, podcasts – not all of these by the way, I’m just throwing some ideas at you), your website will become an online sales brochure that no one ever opens. So make sure that your traffic strategy is at least being planned out before you get started.
  4. Make sure you’re clear on your objective for your website BEFORE you embark on this process. A web designer SHOULD help you with this, and if they don’t, work with someone else. Your website partner of choice needs to understand the importance of the role your website is going to play in your marketing.
  5. And finally, let’s not gloss over this – no matter who builds your website for you, there is work involved. You will be spending time approving layouts, writing content, gazing at imagery, collecting feedback. So may sure you carve out space in your diary to make it happen.

Want A Step-by-Step Process To Plan Out Your Website?

Join me for a 5 day live challenge from 3rd-7th July 2017 where I walk you through the foundations of taking your website from a lame duck, to generating customers. We’ll cover topics such as nailing down your client profile, crafting strong messaging and creating a robust process to take visitors on your website through to being customers. Whether you’re going to build your own website, or ask someone else to – this is all stuff that you should have a really good understanding of. Details of it will be announced in my WordPress Happy Community on Facebook which is free to join. Just click the link to apply.

Vicky Etherington

Vicky Etherington has been running her own online marketing agency since 2003, and in 2014 transitioned to working with coaches and therapists to teach them how to create their own client-attracting websites. 

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Posted in: Web design

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