You own your own business; you’re fearless. There’s a world of success and wealth in your future. You can accomplish anything; you should be able to make your own website, right?
How much of my business website can I do myself? Ah…the million dollar question. I get asked this question so often, it makes my head spin. Like the answer to so many things people ask me, the answer is it depends.
It depends on your answers to a few questions…
- How much time do you have and what is your time worth?
- How much do you know about website design and programming and how easily do you learn and self-teach?
- How much can you handle being frustrated by your website?
- How much of a control freak are you?
- How serious are you about your business? Will a home-made website give you the professional look and function to give you the credibility you deserve?
I think that by asking yourself these four questions and by being honest with yourself about the answers, you can determine how much of your website you can handle on your own. Hopefully, I can convince you that you don’t necessarily need to have someone else do your entire website for you, but 9 times out of 10, unless you are a web designer or developer (or both, actually) you will need a connection to someone who is. It’s best to build a relationship with ONE person or agency that can get to know your website intimately so they can offer the best suggestions and support, rather than fragmented bits of tips based on general principles, not knowing your entire site front to back. It’s much like a doctor – you want that doctor to meet with you and talk about your specific symptoms rather than diagnose you based on general practices. Let’s examine each one of these questions a little more in depth:
How much time do you have and what is your time worth?
There are many Build Your Website Fast With No Coding Required programs and software out there and generally speaking, I’m skeptical of them. Like the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it isn’t. The same is true for websites. Let’s not forget that there are technical, bachelors and masters degrees out there for web development and that the science and art of web design is one of many disciplines. I’m drifting, but the point is, websites do take time to develop correctly and make work well. Yes, you can start a website easily in minutes and nearly for free, but the quality of the site will often be low and may not do what you want it to do in the end. I’m not saying anything that makes building a website go faster and easier is a bad thing, I’m simply saying you have to know what you’re getting and that you get what you pay for.
Many times people will come to me after having spent long, grueling hours trying to accomplish something that they didn’t know how to do and end up spending a lot of money getting me to fix what they’ve done. They could have saved that time if they had come to be me in the first place. People often feel attached to something because they’ve invested time and money into it and their attachment ends up costing them even more time and money while they continue to move down the wrong path. A web professional can accomplish things in half the time you can.
- How much do you know about website design and programming and how easily do you learn and self-teach? Maybe you’re the kind of person who likes a challenge and doesn’t let anything stop you. Or, maybe you’ve researched a little bit and are genuinely interested in learning more about how websites work. Most people are not these things and unless you are, you may find it’s not worth the amount of information you have to learn in order to accomplish some basic things. You might be better off hiring someone to do it for you. Granted, web technology has grown dramatically in recent years. There are many tools that will give you a jump-start in building a website. They don’t require you to know much code to get started, but I promise you, you’ll find out relatively quickly, that you’ll outgrow their capabilities and will never have a website that is completely maintenance-free and that won’t require some small amount of coding to make it what it needs to be. Unless you plan to learn PHP, HTML, and CSS, you’ll need to find someone who can help.
- How much can you handle being frustrated by your website? Like every marriage, you will have ups and downs. Your website journey will ebb and flow and some days, you’ll be astonished at how little you accomplished that day because you spent most of it tweaking something that wasn’t working like it was supposed to. If you’re energized by a challenge, step right up. There are so many puzzle pieces to fit together with a website that you will often find yourself frustrated and feeling confused by its mind of its own. Be prepared to have a love-hate relationship with your website.
- How much of a control freak are you? If you are someone who just can’t stand the idea of someone else handling your website and you want to be involved in every intimate detail of it, DIY might be the route for you. We’ve become a DIY society and I’m sure there are many reasons. Aside from the recent recession, we tend to want to be in control of everything in our lives and business websites are no exception. The thing I find interesting is to watch how the DIY frenzy affects some industries and not others. For example, you see lots of people trying to make their own websites, but you don’t see too many people trying to fix their own cars. I’d argue that there’s the same amount of knowledge required to make websites – more in fact – but that doesn’t stop people from going way too long without calling in the pros.
- How serious are you about your business? Will a home-made website give you the professional look and function to give you the credibility you deserve? We all recognize when websites are lovingly and painstakingly home-made by their owners, whose passion for their area of expertise is radiant. But, it’s really hard to overlook the use of bright, flashing graphics, mis-matched fonts, BOLDED and underlined things galore, and a background color so bright that you’d think you were looking directly into the sun. Compare that to the website of a business who has carefully branded itself, has an easy to navigate interface and some really great features. We all know who you’re going to choose. Whether you want to believe it or not, looks are important and your business is being judged by its cover. I hear entrepreneurs say so often, “it’s just something I threw together” or, “it’s probably not the greatest website you’ve seen.” Well, why not! It’s YOUR business and YOUR website! Why shouldn’t it be the best website you’ve ever seen and why would you want it to be something you just threw together. Will you treat your customers the same way?
Let me recommend an option that will suit most Solo Entrepreneurs who are considering doing their own website
If you didn’t notice, I’m generally against doing your business website completely by yourself. Save that for your family blog. Your business needs to be taken seriously and so does your website. Nowadays, it’s the gateway to your customers. More and more business are turning exclusively to online marketing and you don’t want to fall behind the crowd. Having said that, I do think there are some really good ways you can be involved in creating your website and save some money, without giving your website that my 12-year-old son built this late last night look.
- Hire a web consultant that’s proficient in design, development, and marketing, but only for what you need done.
However, the key is getting this person involved in your website from the get-go. Find someone that you can establish a consulting relationship with – someone that can advise you on making the right choices in selecting a host, software, content, and marketing. You can actually execute the tasks, but will have someone to hold your hand when you get stuck. It’s so much harder to get someone else involved after you’ve already made mistakes in choosing the wrong host and have a website that has started down the wrong path. That isn’t to say you can never changes courses, but having someone whose job it is to make these decisions day in and day out will be able to steer you in the right direction.
Work with that person to determine what parts of the site you want to do yourself, versus what they will do. This will depend on what you know and what you’re willing to learn. Having someone else to talk you through it and evaluate whether or not you really do know what you’re doing will go a long way.
- Use a Content Management System, like WordPress. Maybe you don’t need to make your own changes for major things on your website like the layout, graphics, and overall theme. Using a CMS (WordPress is my recommendation, hands-down) will allow you to edit the content in a Microsoft Word-like way that makes it easy and quick. Having a designer/developer will be a good partner to handle the more complex customization you’ll require. Avoid tools like Front Page (think dinosaur), or proprietary sites where you don’t actually own the code. What happens if you want to move your site or make custom changes to the code? Examples of these types of sites are: Weebly, Intuit Websites, Google Sites, or just Google “free website” and you’ll get an entire list of places to avoid. These are all ways to give someone else the ability control the way your business operates – what if they discontinue a feature or go out of business? Then your website just disappears? Be sure you have a complete copy of your website code. At least if you have it all and the unthinkable happens, you can move it to another host.
- Be a little bit brave and try to learn something new. If you want to make your own site, but are unsure of your capabilities, I’d definitely hire a consultant to advise you through the process. Cherry pick some specific things that you want to learn and let them know that you want to handle those specific items. Be sure to ask their guidance and advice on the subjects. That way you won’t be overwhelmed with having to know every aspect of creating your site, but can feel accomplished in the parts of it that you choose to do. The key to a successful relationship with anyone you hire to advise you is to communicate your expectations and capabilities as clearly as possible. Tell them what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, where you need their help, and where you want them to take over.
- Know your limits. One of the most frustrating types of projects I get (for everyone involved) is one where someone has bit off more than they can chew and has made a change that is difficult to fix. You will be frustrated because it will cost you to get it fixed and your developer will be frustrated because they will likely have to sort through hundreds of lines of code to figure out what happened and how it was functioning before the mistake was made. If you’re trying to do something that you’re not sure will achieve the results you want, it’s best to reach out for help.
I think the best strategy you can have for building your website is to combine your efforts with those of a web professional. Stick to the thing you know best – your business and your market. Write the content, make sure you know the big picture for everything, but let the pros do the hard stuff. Websites aren’t as easy as sewing your own curtains.
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