Why you shouldn’t pay someone to build your website

If you’re just starting out, you might as well throw your money away as give it to someone to develop your website for you.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but…

I’m sorry. I hate to be the one to break the bad news to you. But if you’re just starting out — be it as a freelancer or a startup or a small business or an up and coming artist… You don’t know anything yet about how this whole thing is going to actually WORK to make you the wildly successful [insert-your-thing-here] of your dreams.

I know, I know. You absolutely can be the exception that proves the rule.

But I have my doubts.

You might be the #1 expert in the world at what you do. You might have the most perfectly thought out plan for your business. You might even have your first customer or two.

But do you have customers banging down your door to get what it is that you’re selling? (If so, my bad, you should def come talk to me about a website!) If not, keep readin’…

The #1 reason new businesses fail

Don Sull did a study and found that the NUMBER ONE reason new businesses fail is…

Sticking to their initial business plan.

No matter how good you are at what you do, when you start a new venture it’s just that: new.

The businesses that make it are the ones who are able to learn and change their plan based on what they find when they go out there and try to do things based on how they thought everything was going to work.

So this post is not an insult. It’s actually my way of showing that I have faith in you as an entrepreneur. Because, even if we haven’t met yet, I have crazy respect for every single person who puts them self out there to try something new. And I want to see you kick ass. Because that’s what makes the world a better place.

But it also means…

You’re not ready to throw down for a website

You first need to get wicked clear on:

Who, exactly, your target market is (hint: it’s not “everyone who sleeps” or some other ridiculously broad target. what’s the market that you, as a startup/freelancer/small business/artist are going to be able to stand out in today? let’s start there), and

What, exactly, it is that these people are REALLY looking for (willing to pound down your door to get)

It’s not until you start to seriously hone in on these two things that you can fully articulate the right messaging for your venture.

Messaging that speaks directly to your very unique, specific, target customer. Messaging that presents your offerings as precisely what they’re going to do for these people. Messaging that tells them why they should give a shit about what it is that you’re selling.

When you’re just starting out, there’s just no way to know. When you’re just starting out, all you have are guesses.

Error is a key pattern of innovation

It’s not a flaw. It’s not a lack of expertise. It’s simply the way of innovation.

I love this quote from Steven Johnson in Where Good Ideas Come From (awesome book, btw, highly recommended)

A shockingly large number of transformative ideas in science can be attributed to contaminated lab environments

The thing is, when everything is going just exactly as expected, that’s great, but you’re not learning anything new. It’s not until something happens differently then you expected that you have to back up and examine things and figure out what’s different… and that’s when you learn.

People like to talk about “failing fast” which sounds like an annoying buzzword by now, but that’s what it’s about. When you’re still new you have to get out there and talk to as many customers and potential customers as you possibly can until they start breaking your theories about how all of this will work. Because that… is when you know you’re onto something good.

Something new and unexpected that’s going to allow you to stand out from the competition.

So, please. If you’re just starting out, money is tight. Spend it on the things that you really need at this point in your venture.

Yes, a website is extremely important to put your name out there and establish your venture as a Real Thing. But make sure the amount of website (just like anything else in your business) is appropriate to your current stage.

Just in time everything

I’m all about Just in Time. Only buy, create, do what we need right now. Everything else can wait until we actually need it – by which point, the wonderful thing is, that we’ll likely be better equipped, have more resources, be better informed — to pick out (or create or do) just the Right Thing.

If you’re still trying to figure out who your target customer is, you can’t create a website for them. And, of course, your website is FOR you customer, not for you (you already like and know all about yourself, you don’t need a website to help you figure that out).

There are some great DIY options that I’d highly recommend at this stage. Squarespace and WIX make it easy to create nice looking websites as simply as picking out a template and filling in the details. Even better, unbounce let’s you create single page websites with which you can test out different messaging to figure out what will stick before you build out your real site.

So, okay, when should you go to a web designer with your hard earned cash? Simple. Just in Time. When your DIY site can no longer give you what your venture needs.

What if that never happens? Even better. Saves that cash for all the other things you need.


Have questions? Let me know in the discussion below and I’ll do my best to answer!