biz ladies: hire a designer or DIY your website?

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Stephanie Peterson, founder of the web design/development company Fairground Media. Stephanie helps small businesses build their online presence through content-based and e-commerce sites. Today she offers some valuable advice for deciding whether to hire a web designer to build your site or to go the DIY route. Thanks, Stephanie, for this very helpful post! — Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Hey there, I’m Stephanie Peterson. I’m the founder of Fairground Media, an e-commerce web design/development agency. As an entrepreneur, I know that one of the hardest decisions is whether to hire a web designer/developer or build your own website, particularly when you’re just starting out. It’s clear why: Web services are expensive. Still, creating your own site can be tough and can lead to a sub-par result.

The fanaticism on both sides doesn’t help the confusion. This issue, oddly, is a real divider of people. Most anyone you ask will SWEAR up and down by one or the other.

So as someone who offers website design/development services, what I’m about to say may surprise you.

When you’re starting out, DIY-ing can be the right thing to do.

Here are some reasons why:

  • Most businesses fail (unfortunately); we hear it all the time. So maybe a domain name and web host, WordPress installation and simple pre-made template are all you need website-wise to start testing the waters. Get the word out. Score your first customers.
  • Putting off the investment of a professional website gives you time to step into your business. Perhaps the branding you first had in mind will change once you start to interact with customers and get a feel for their personalities. Or perhaps you set out to be a virtual assistant and then decide to become a life coach. These things happen.
  • Building your own website conditions you to actually USE it. People who build their own website starting out are likely to feel comfortable making updates. It doesn’t matter that updating is simple (I only build websites that are super-easy for clients to manage); doing “website stuff” can be intimidating. Having DIY-ed in the beginning means you’ve already beat the fear.

When should you hire a web designer/developer to build your website?

  • When you’ve gone all in. You have a reason to believe your business is sticking around, you know what type of customer/client you’re targeting and you know the direction you want your business to go in.
  • When a pre-made template is no longer enough. You’ve begun to realize ways in which customized functionality could serve you — slick tweaks to your clunky shopping cart, having your opt-in box react to clicks, etc.
  • When you’re ready to take your business to the next level. You want to join the big leagues. You need a website with laser-sharp branding and messaging all your own, with strategy behind it, and all the tiny designer-y details that make you look like a million bucks.

Let me leave you with an analogy: Being a web designer/developer these days is a lot like being a makeup artist.

Almost any woman can buy some cheap tools, follow some pre-made guidelines and learn how to apply her own makeup. It will feel intimidating at first, but she can put more time into it and get better. Invest in better tools and pre-made guides, even.

Let’s say you’ve got the basics down solid for doing your own makeup.

But imagine now that you’ve agreed to do a televised interview for a viewership of several million people. In HD.

Chances are, you’re opting for the makeup artist. And a hair dresser. And a stylist. I mean, sure, you can pick out your own clothes just fine. But when you have to look absolutely top-notch, you’re calling in the professionals. You can recognize the difference it makes.

It’s all about you.

I believe that building your own website can be a smart move as you’re starting out in business.

I also believe that hiring a professional web designer/developer or agency to build your website can be a highly profitable investment when you’re ready and can take your business to new heights.

Take stock of your own business and understand where you’re at before deciding to hire professional help (or not). Only you can make the best decision.

  1. alicia says:

    Great advice. I didn’t do this the first time around and regretted it. With my second business I did and now that it’s going so well I feel comfortable hiring someone to expand on what I’ve built. Plus I was able to learn a lot from the 1.0 version of my site.

  2. Laura Trevey says:

    Fantastic advice and I love the makeup analogy :) Especially in HD, yikes!!

  3. Nisha Vikram says:

    You’ve answered the million dollar question for me. Thanks! :)

  4. Anni says:

    Great advice, thank you!

  5. rachel says:

    as a designer, I tend to approach other forms of expertise as valuable, because I see the value in what I do and know. that said, if you do smartly invest (and it can be a very smart investment) in a web designer/web developer, then you are tapping into expertise that is just as valuable as what you are offering your customer. If your only presence is on the web, then hiring someone who knows the internal in’s and out’s of the web (SEO) and getting your site at the top and functioning at it’s best is priceless for your business. Some good guys to check out:

  6. sisi says:

    I totally support shopify as a web hosting store, you can design your own online store with ease, and it look professional, well design, and very practical. In my opinion, after spending thousands on web designer, save your money people! Use shopify!

  7. Megan says:

    I started my blog a year ago using Blogger because it integrated well with other Google services. While I think blogger has been great, I want to move away from the ‘blog’ look as my homepage for creating a professional website. I have considered Wix, but I don’t know anyone who uses it to get their advice. What are some DIY-friendly website hosts and builders that you recommend?


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