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?
Read on for my honest take on why I believe that building your own website is the smartest choice you can make as a small business owner.
I understand that not everyone has the time, or even the desire, to do this, so I will also share some insights on how you can still have control over your site even if you don’t build it.
With the right guidance, I believe everyone is capable of creating a beautiful and functional website that makes sense for your business needs and actually grows your business.
I also believe that if you have a hand in the creation of your website, you will be empowered to keep it current and to continuously add functionality as your business grows.
Building Your Own Website Has Evolved
I started building websites back in 2002, which was the year the very first mobile phone with a built-in camera was released.
You don’t have to be a professional in the online space to recognise that things have changed a lot in the past 18 years.
Building your own website in the early 2000’s was a fairly monumental task. It involved a DIY attitude, plenty of hair-tearing, and endless hours trawling through books of code.
Fortunately, today you can make your own website with far less angst.
That’s not to say that there isn’t still a place for web designers in today’s environment.
There absolutely is a need for top designers who can build the lightning fast, user-friendly websites we are accustomed to interacting with now.
And, as not everyone has the time or desire to build their own, designers play a key role in bringing the visions of busy or technically-resistant business owners to life.
Let’s explore whether working with a web designer is the right option for you, or if you’d be better off creating a website yourself.
Craving control over your website
When you’re starting a new coaching or therapy business, or are in the process of revising your existing website, there may be a little voice inside your mind asking “How hard can this be? Could I do this myself?”And there's a small part of you which is tempted to give it a go.Click To Tweet
Aside from saving money, building your own website would release you from any reliance on a web designer or agency, and you would have complete control over your ongoing marketing efforts online.
I’m all in favour of that. Here’s why.
Over the years, I have built hundreds of websites for small businesses. 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 the client so that, going forward, they can manage their own website.
I teach them how to maintain the site, undertake common tasks such as adding new blog posts and imagery, tweaking text, and implementing ongoing marketing to drive traffic to the site.
We usually save a couple of tasks to complete together, so they can have hands-on practice making the changes themselves. Inevitably, most clients are excited about taking the reins.
Then something happens.
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 these former clients won’t log in as frequently as they hoped.
You might be surprised to hear this. After all, if you had worked with me or another designer to build the website of your dreams, wouldn’t you be diligent about keeping the content current and fresh so your business would grow?
There can be many reasons why you resist updating your site.
You might lose confidence in making the necessary changes. Even though our training is recorded so you can review it as needed, you may feel anxious about ‘breaking something’. That fear may never play out, but is nevertheless very real.
And believe me, when I first started out, my fear of breaking websites was very real.
Even if you’re not afraid of messing up the site, as a busy business owner, there’s a lot going on in your day. It’s inevitable that blog posts and site updates may end up side-lined if they’re not already part of your routine.
Because you may not see them as instantly income-generating, you may be drawn to the more urgent client work that needs to be finished in order to get paid.
You’re also less likely to log in for a quick update if the platform your site is built on is unfamiliar and requires a learning curve that you don’t have time to get past.
So how do we get around that?
This makes sense if you think about it.
They have created their websites from scratch and understand how all the pieces function together.
They’ve asked all the questions about how things work, and what happens if they press this or that, during their learning process.
They’ve already broken and fixed things in a low-stakes environment, with a mentor readily available to help out and guide them.
Once their website is live, they are fully confident in all aspects of maintaining it. This includes simple tasks like creating new posts and amending text, as well as more complex upgrades like adding calls to action, shifting things around on the page, and integrating new functionality.
It means that they are in complete control of their website and how they move their business forward online.
While I clearly am a proponent of building your own website, not everyone has the time or inclination to do this.
So let’s take a look at some other options available to create your website.
Your website building options
As a business owner, you want to be able to add content to your website. In fact, it’s an imperative part of sharing value, establishing your community, and building authority in your industry.
So how do you get 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.
- Have a website built for you by a professional web designer or agency, and have them manage the ongoing maintenance of the site for you.
- Ask someone to build the site on your behalf, learn how to make straightforward changes, and you manage the site going forward.
- You create the website 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:
- Create a shortlist of agencies or designers that you think you could work with. Ask your friends or business group for recommendations, or find some websites that you like and find out who built them.
- Look through the designers’ portfolios, and decide whether you like their work.
- Seek out testimonials and if possible, speak to a previous client to discover what their experience was like working with the company.
- Shortlist three companies that you would be happy to work with, and ask them all for price quotes.
- 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.
- Before you make a decision, get clear about your ongoing costs for the website in terms of hosting and ongoing maintenance once the site is finalised.
- Make sure you understand the process for submitting uploads and changes, the expected turnaround time, and what will happen if the agency chooses to move away from maintaining websites in the future.
2) Have someone else build your website, and manage it yourself
This is a great option if you want to have a hands-on role with the site in the future but you don’t currently have the time to learn to build it yourself.
The most important thing is to be sure that the handover is complete when the website is finalised.
You want to be able to confidently perform all the most common tasks. These include updating your website, posting to your blog, uploading images, and adding new pages.
Get clear with the agency or designer 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 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 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.
When you have created your website yourself, there is never any question about how any of it works. It also removes any anxiety associated with maintaining your website.
As long as you have invested in a 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 your business needs expand and change.
So your next question may be, if I’m going to build my own website, what should I use?
What should I use to build my website?
The answer to this question depends somewhat on what you plan to do with the website, how much functionality you want it to have, and whether you need it to grow with your business.
1) Website Builders
Website builders such as Wix and Squarespace help you create visually appealing websites with relative ease.
As with any new tool, you will need to invest time to learn the process, but it will certainly be less time-consuming than something WordPress, which has a steeper learning curve.
I would recommend using a website builder only for a hobby site, or for a site where you will require the most basic functionality both now and in the future.
While you can quickly create something attractive with these builders, there are limitations to the functionality of these sites that come to light as your business grows and your website requirements evolve.
For example, the nature of the drag and drop interfaces means 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 the site ends up costing more to run than they initially anticipated.
I have seen numerous people soon become frustrated with the limitations of the builder platforms and start looking for a more robust and scalable platform.
2) A custom website with WordPress
WordPress now powers 35% of the internet, and it’s easy to see why.
The WordPress platform is robust, completely 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?
By now, you can probably guess that I’m slightly biased.
That’s because 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, from the start.
For that reason, I would choose to build a website with WordPress every time.
If I was building my own site, or asking someone else to build it for me, WordPress would be my platform of choice. I’ve tried many others, and this is the one I always come back to.
I’ve worked with companies who have paid almost £50,000 for a customised website, which was 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 signature website creation course, Rock That Website, and create phenomenal websites without any former know-how.
With the right guidance, it is absolutely achievable for you to create your own site to a very high standard. My clients have proved this time and again!
If you do decide to have someone else build your website with WordPress, I definitely advocate working with an agency that specialises in it. Due to the popularity of WordPress, you will be able to find many to choose from.
If you decide to take matters into your own hands and create your own website, I strongly recommend enrolling in a structured 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 online. 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 invest in training, you don’t just want a program that shows you how to manage your content. Look for one that teaches you step-by-step how to build a website from scratch with a strong marketing slant so you learn how to create a website which will attract customers and grow with your business.
Alana came on my website creation course and created a beautiful website in just 6 weeks whilst working a full time job.
Whether you go the designer route or do it yourself, view the cost of your website build or website training as an investment, not as an expense.
And before you plunge right in, can I make a suggestion?
Well, maybe a few.
- 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 have had so many business owners thank me for this tip. No matter how strong the urge to build your website right away, be patient. Work in your new business for 6 months before you build one. If you want to register a domain name and put up a very basic holding page on it, go ahead. But before you invest any time or money on a website, get absolutely clear about how your business is moving forward.
- Use a professionally created logo. This may be one that costs £5 or £500. 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 to 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!
- 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 plan your traffic strategy before you get started.
- 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.
- 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, curating imagery, and collecting feedback. So may sure you carve out space in your diary to make it happen.
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