When people find out what I do for a living, one of the first questions they ask me is, "How do you compete with all these new website building services?"
Maybe you get asked similar questions with your own business. Seems to be something folks wonder about, the idea of competing and making money as a self employed person.
When I first started, those types of questions were hard to answer. I'd get a bit defensive of my skills and wary of people expecting free or heavily discounted help on their websites just because the DIY options were out there.
My answer is almost always, "I don't!"
Here's the thing: If someone is looking to build a website for their business, but isn't interested in hiring someone to help them, it doesn't really matter what I say. Am I going to tell them that they NEED to hire a pro? Hell no. Will hiring a pro probably help produce a way better website? Yes! But does that matter if they really don't have the budget, time or interest? Then no, no it won't.
What I have to offer isn't just building a website. It's years of experience promoting businesses online. It's knowledge of some of the things that work and what things really don't. It's creating a website that's customized to the business, not built from a template.
The people who want that and are willing to pay for it are going to contact me, or someone else who does what I do. Someone who isn't in a position to hire someone, or who really would rather do it themselves, is going to go for the DIY option. So it's not a competition at all - it's two very different options. Folks will pick what's right for them.
But what if you're just not sure? You've got a website to build and think you could use some help, but really don't know where to begin?
Well, what's your situation?
You're a small business owner just getting started and really have no budget at all. You're (probably) super busy getting your business set up but realistically are going to have some down time once things get started until you build up a steady client flow.
The answer here might seem obvious but it's not so cut and dry. If you have no budget but want to get your site done, the free, DIY option is really the only way to go, unless you have an extremely generous friend who works as a web designer.
But here's the part to consider carefully: without a current website, how have you been promoting your business? Have you been making use of social media or other networking tools? Have those been at least somewhat successful? If that is the case, a great option here would be to put up a simple 'Awesome website coming soon!' page for your website, that links to your social media accounts and lists what you do and your contact info, but otherwise doesn't have any content. Then, when you have a bit more down time a few months from now, you can go back and create a full website for your business. You might even find yourself with some budget available to hire a pro to help you.
Big take home message: don't feel pressured to get your website up and running in time for your business launch if you really don't have the time to do a proper job. Do it when you aren't in the thick of setting up a new business.
You're a small business owner and have some cashflow, but not a big budget. You're willing to put some time and effort into building a website.
This is where you've got two good options.
Option A is looking for a design student who is happy to work with a small budget in order to get the experience. Of course, do make sure you like their style of work - ask to see a portfolio of things they've created, even if it's just been projects for school. This can be a nice option because they get to earn a small income and learn what working with clients is like, and you get a lovely website.
Option B is working on a consult-basis with a professional designer. With a consult, the designer helps you look at ways to improve your website without actually doing the work for you, which is a less expensive way to get that professional advice you need. This option works well if you're willing to learn how to build a website but want advice on best practices and how to write good content.
You're a busy business owner with a busy life outside the business. Your business is growing and you see the value of a better website but have no idea what to do about that. You do have a reasonable budget to spend so could hire someone, but don't really have a lot of free time.
This one is tricky. You have to be super honest with yourself, small biz owner: are you able to set aside some time? Good designers work in collaboration with the business owner, which means both parties need to put in a good chunk of time on the project. While you can hire professional content writers, graphic designers, and photographers to work with your web designer, ultimately you still need to put in a good chunk of time to make final decisions about your website. This is your business, and you need to be involved in creating this important piece of your online presence. So ask yourself: can you delegate some things to someone else during the process so you can focus on getting the website done? If so, awesome!
But if you really can't take time away from the day-to-day business tasks, or can't free up some of your time in other aspects of your life, well, that's not really a workable situation. It's really best to just wait to do your website once you can dedicate more energy to it.
You're a small business owner and really want to learn how to make your own website. It's a skill that is interesting to you and you really want to give it a go. You do have some budget to get some help if you need it, though.
This is also a situation where consulting with a professional is a great idea. They can give you some advice on getting your website looking great, and on writing good, compelling text. So, you get to learn how to build a website, and the professional gives you some feedback that will help your site go the extra mile. Win/win.
I think I've covered all the major situations, but if you have a question about building a website for your small biz, let me know!