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Issue #5 • May 2017

Why You Don’t Need to Spend $10,000 on Your First Website

Digital Marketing

In 2013, I built my own website.

I went into the process fairly confident since I had designed countless Myspace pages for my friends and knew how to use brushes in Photoshop. I had it in the bag, right?

Well, in my first two years of blogging, I changed my website’s design four times. FOUR.

Looking back, I’m not surprised. The visual aesthetics of blogging evolved from large logo headers and cookie-cutter sidebars to hero images and dedicated homepages. Combine that with the change in my blog categories and overall content and you get a blogger who wasn’t afraid of experimenting.

DIY-ing my website taught me two valuable lessons:

  1. Nothing is set in stone, especially when it involves the Internet.
  2. You need wiggle room to grow and the guts to do it on your own.

While many industry leaders tell us we should be outsourcing anything we aren’t good at, which when we’re first starting out feels like nearly everything, I’m here to say there’s power in learning how to DIY different aspects of your business.

This constant state of testing and tweaking when I first started my blog didn’t make me feel lost; it made me feel empowered and excited.

I saved myself a LOT of money by building my own website. Can you imagine the tab I would have racked up if I had hired a designer for those four early versions? It also saved me a lot of time because I experimented early on so I knew what I wanted years later.

You may be asking yourself the same question…

Should you build your own website?

If you’re just starting to sell products or services online and aren’t currently generating positive NET cash flow each month, hiring a website designer shouldn’t be your first priority.

Your bottom line isn’t solely dependant on your website design so it’s not worth blowing your budget on. Your budget should be dedicated to helping you develop and promote new products or services while building operational systems for your business with software that works as hard as you do. That’s the mark of a successful, sustainable business.

Of course we can all agree that building a business takes some upfront investment, but many of us have more time than money in the beginning. This is totally normal and okay!

Spend your influx of time DIY-ing so when you’re ready to outsource in the future, you have a clear idea of what your audience wants and can better articulate it to a designer.

There are more benefits to building your own website in terms of professional development, too. Here are a few…

You don’t need to depend on a website designer for website edits

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about building websites, it’s that nothing is ever permanent. A few weeks after you press the “publish” button on your site, you’ll probably find a few things you want to tweak or add in. It’s only natural, especially with your first website.

If you’re not DIY-ing your website, those seemingly small changes could cost you extra. Some website designers book out months in advance too, meaning your project could be pushed toward the bottom of their task list. It’s understandable, but it makes it inconvenient for you.

One of the major reasons why I DIY-ed my own website was so I didn’t have to rely on anyone else’s schedule with my product and service launches. If I want to build an opt-in landing page in the middle of the night (which happens more often than I’d like to admit), I can.

You don’t need to be a computer engineer or programmer to learn the basics of coding. A little bit of HTML and CSS savvy goes a long way. From one creative blogger to another, trust me; it’s not as scary as it looks.

You don’t need all the bells and whistles when you’re starting out

A “pretty” website design can only get you so far. While you may pin it on your Pinterest board of inspiration, those bells and whistles could distract from the main purpose of your website: converting your visitors.

Don’t over-complicate the user journey. When you go to a website and see a navigation bar with dozens of links, it’s hard to know where to start. The same is true for your visitor.

I have often found this to be the case. That’s why my personal website is essentially a collection of the most basic pages: Home, About, a few Services, Portfolio, Product, Blog, and Contact.

Even with a select few website pages, I’ve been able to attract my ideal clients and book enough projects to replace my old day job income (and then some). Sometimes simple is the way to go!  

You know what’s better than impressing your website visitors with bells and whistles? Giving them a clear path so they convert.

Building your own website gives you room to grow

In your first year, you’ll learn a lot by experimenting with your product and service offerings. You may create your first website with a homepage highlighting your photography services but later learn that most visitors are interested in learning about how they can become a photographer.

Armed with this new information, you may want to create a step-by-step course that satisfies this need and edit your homepage when you launch the course. Any feedback you receive from other entrepreneurs, customers, or clients is gold.

No one gets it perfect the first time around, or the fifth time around. The most important thing is that you put something out there and keep listening to what your audience wants.

How to build your own website from scratch

The good news is you may not have to start completely from scratch! Luckily there are many tools and platforms available to bloggers and freelancers that don’t require a computer science degree to utilize. Check out these resources to find out how you can start building your own website today!

Ready to build your own website?

Remember that your first website design will most likely change and evolve alongside your blog and business. Instead of feeling pressured to “get it right” the first time, give yourself some grace and go into the website building process seeing it as a learning experience. You may just discover your newest skill!

Do you have any questions about DIY-ing your first website? If so, let’s talk about them in the comments!

 

Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and content creator for creative entrepreneurs who want their words to connect and convert. Few things make her happier than ghostwriting for clients in her studio, aka her four-season porch with a lake view. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

Experience this issue your way

Download this issue of Tradecraft as a PDF to read and reference at your own pace.

  • Awesome post Kayla! I was wondering, which blogging platform did you use when you first started out? WordPress?

    • Thanks for reading and for your comment, Emmerey! That’s a great question. I’ve experienced with quite a few during my time as a blogger and business owner. Here was the order: Weebly (1 year), Blogspot (6 months), Squarespace (2+ years). Squarespace has hands down been my favorite so far since it’s pretty user friendly for non-techies but WordPress is an amazing option too!

      • I’ve been in Blogspot for 5 years! Just recently switched to WordPress. I heard good stuff about Squarespace too. Thanks for responding Kayla! I would have to try it out 🙂

        • How do you like WordPress now that you’ve made the switch? I have many friends who use it and absolutely love it. It’s a great choice! I know Squarespace has a trial if you’d like to test it out, but I’m sure you’re settling into WordPress now which is excellent. Thanks for your comment!

    • DIY-ing my website taught me two valuable lessons:

  • Youth Corn

    I’m having so much fun writing posts and tweaking my site. I couldn’t have done it without the wise advice and tips you’ve shared on your site.
    I am too blogging with other people. Hope you will see…
    http://www.theboringstate.com/

  • Hey Kayla!!! Great article and I couldn’t agree more! I’d love to throw my free resource into the ring as an option for learning WordPress (and I totally recommend ConvertKit in it) – called the Free 5 Day Website Challenge where I teach new bloggers and solopreneurs how to build an entire WordPress site from start to finish (like, email marketing, graphics, SEO and analytics included) – it’s over at http://www.wp-bff.com 🙂

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