You need to redesign your site – or even build your very first site. Should you do it yourself? Hire a freelancer? Find an agency? There are so many options, and the right answer for you depends on a combination of your business needs, your technical skills, your time available, and your budget.
While there are lots of options in between, this post will consider three main options for building a site: do-it-yourself (DIY), freelancers, and web development agencies.
Clearly, if your technical skills are extremely minimal and you don’t have a basic understanding of how websites work, you probably want to hire someone to help you. But even people with fairly moderate technical skills may be able to put together simple websites with DIY platforms. If your site needs more complex features however, or your business needs a more polished look for your site, DIY platforms will require higher levels of technical skill sets. Sometimes, business owners may start out with a DIY site, and find over time that what their business really needs requires the skills of a professional.
Building a quality website doesn’t generally happen in just a couple of hours – despite what some DIY platforms might advertise. It’s going to take time to put together the right combinations of text and images for each page, and put everything together so that it works effectively as a website.
Like with technical skills, the amount of time that will be needed will depend on the complexity of the website. A simple “brochure” website for a dog walking business will go together a lot faster than an ecommerce store.
The question that a lot of business owners wrestle with is whether diving into DIY is the best use of their time and skills. In the beginning stages of bootstrapping a business, it may be the only choice. In a growing business, owners may have other tasks that only they can attend to, and it makes more sense to outsource things like bookkeeping or website building.
We’ve mentioned more “complex features” several times. Here are some examples:
- a membership site, where you’re charging people fees – either to access membership sections of your website, or maybe just as the dues for a social organization)
- subscriptions, where you are charging recurring fees – maybe in combination with a membership site, or subscriptions on products, or even recurring donations
- events management where events have special displays and perhaps disappear from display when they are over, and/or events registration, whether or not you take money
- getting visitors to sign up for your email newsletter AND saving that info to your CRM too
Ecommerce sites have some complexity right out of the box, but also a range of complexity depending on:
- the number of products: 5 products are simpler than 50 products, and 50 products is simpler than 500 products
- shipping: no shipping (like with digital products) is simpler than flat rate shipping, which is in turn simpler than live rates based on weight (and live rates are simpler than trucking freight).
Finally, your budget is a consideration. If you have less than $750 to spend, you will almost certainly need to create a DIY site, although you may not have to actually do it YOURSELF – you may be able to find someone to help customize a DIY site for you.
Freelancers generally charge less than agencies, but can provide you with the professional help you need to get a site developed. The drawback is that freelancers generally work alone, so you are limited by that person’s skills and availability. If you have a budget of at least $750, you might consider a freelancer – although as freelancers gain experience and skill levels, their minimum project fees also increase. You should expect to pay at least $1500 for a moderately experienced freelancer, and much more for someone with greater experience and skills. If your project includes some complex features, do check to make sure that the freelancer has skills or experience in that area.
Website development agencies are usually a team that includes graphic designers, coding specialists (developers), and people with experience in marketing and business. Because the agency is a team, you get the experience and skills of multiple people, and your project may be able to be completed more quickly. Agencies also generally have a more structured and supportive process for website projects. You should expect to pay at least $2500 for a website from an agency, although with a full-scale advertising agency (where they can also help you with radio, TV or print ads) you might pay $10,000 or more.
Where to Find
For DIY platforms, while not the cheapest service, Squarespace will give you better SEO (search engine optimization) options than it’s main competitors like Wix or Weebly. The big drawback with Squarespace is that to change the look of your site, you basically have to start over — it’s not easy to change templates. Knowing this going in, take the time to choose a template you can live with for a while.
Freelance web developers can be hard to find, since they usually don’t advertise much. Ask around among colleagues and friends. Also check meetup.com for web developer groups in your area.
Website development agencies generally have websites themselves, so search the web for an agency. Many website agencies work with clients remotely, communicating via emails, phone and video meetings, so the agency doesn’t necessarily need to be located near you.
For both freelancers & agencies, we recommend checking WordPress Meetups. You can message the meetup organizer through meetup.com, and they may be able to refer you to freelancers and agencies that are in their community.
Also for both freelancers & agencies, ask to see examples of previous work, and it is also a good idea to ask for references. Ask the references what it was like to work with the freelancer or agency — for example, were they responsive to emails or calls?
Still trying to sort it all out? We put together a self-assessment form here. Good luck with your project!
We are of course, a website agency! If you would like to chat about your project and receive a written proposal, contact us.