I wrote this post for those of you who don’t have a website yet, but also for those who are afraid of investing in it. You might be thinking your Facebook page is as good as your website (psst – it isn’t). Or, you might have a website but it kinda sucks. You still have the red headline at the top and the design looks like it belongs to 1999. You have the flashing graphics and hard to read fonts. If you identify with any of these people, you will benefit from reading this post.
Believe me when I say I know exactly what’s going through your mind. There are many, many things going on in your head that are preventing you from sorting your website. And all you need is a little education and some myth busting to inspire you to take action.
#1 Do I really need a website?
If you already have a website, you might think this one is a bit odd. Just bear with me. This applies to anyone who doesn’t have one yet.
I see lot of people who start building their presence online via social media. Somebody I know has recently started her YouTube channel. One person has hundreds of people added as friends on Facecbook and only just started her business page. Some people might start on Instagram or Pinterest if they are more visual and want to attract their ideal audiences that way.
All of this is good but you have to remember that you do not have control over your content and audiences on these platforms. Not real control anyway. Firstly, what happens if these sites suddenly decide to change the rules (Facebook, for example) and your reach is heavily affected? What if they decided you did something wrong and banned your account?
Most importantly, you have no way of getting in touch with your audience (the audience you spent so much time and effort building) when you please. You are at the mercy of these platforms. You don’t have these people’s email addresses.
This is precisely why you need your own website. You need a way to capture these people’s addresses and you also need to be in full control of your platform.
And then there are other reasons. You build your brand, establish credibility and trust, showcase your testimonials and press, and sell your products and services.
#2 I am scared of technology
“I am not a tech person” has got to be one the biggest excuses I hear from people who don’t have a website up yet. They may or may not already be using social media, and their smart phones and their tablets, but when it comes to getting a website, all they can think about html and code.
For once and for all, you do not need to learn html or coding to get yourself a basic website. Actually, there are only two ways to deal with your technophobia. You can either learn to do it by yourself, or you can outsource this.
If you want to learn it, start with Google. There are tons of tutorials there. You can also turn to Lynda.com or enrol in some basic courses. Try Udemy or ask people for help.
But you don’t need to learn to do this all by yourself. Your second option is to hire somebody to get you started. Yes, you do have to spend some cash, but it is not as much as you think. You need a domain, and you need hosting. Then you need a platform to ‘build’ your website. If you decide to have your website on worpress, a wordpress expert can easily register your domain, buy you hosting, install WordPress and a high quality theme which may be free or premium, and the plugins you need. This only takes a couple of hours of their time.
I highly recommend asking your tech expert to take you through the process and show you how they do this. Record this session for reference. You don’t need to become a programmer but as a business owner, it is worth having some idea of how your website is set up and how it runs.
#3 I am confused with all the platforms
To make matters worse, there are many platforms out there for you to choose from: WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, Weebly, Wix and many more.
And last and not the least, people have been given the advice of starting a blog first as it can be cheaper (or free) if they feel overwhelmed by the thought of getting a full-fledged website. In that case, add blogging platforms like wordpress.com, blogger, tumblr, etc.
Let me set this straight. When people are saying start with a blog, what they really mean is have your own blog on wordpress.org and not on wordpress.com. Although you can start a free wordpress.com blog which you can transfer over to your own site later but I don’t recommend it. This is an unnecessary step that may frustrate people. If you need to move it to wordpress.org later, why not start there in the first place?
So you buy your domain (yoursite.com) and some hosting (Bluehost, Dreamhost, etc). Then you install WordPress. This is what people mean by starting a WordPress blog. This is an easy option because you install a blog style theme and you are up and running. This is definitely an easier option than building your website on WordPress from scratch.
I recommend WordPress because it is an open source software and you don’t rely on a single company for maintaining your website. You are not limited by design choices or tied to specific email providers. You can’t go wrong if you go with WordPress.
That being said, I understand your choice will depend on your budget, skill level and business model. So do take some time to research these platforms.
#4 I don’t have thousands of dollars of spare cash
So I have actually answered this question above. You don’t need a premium website with all the bells and whistles to do everything a website is supposed to do, which is attract your ideal audience, get them to hand over their email address, look through your offerings and begin their journey as a reader to lead to prospect to customer.
I have outlined the minimum expenses for you. You need to buy a domain, hosting, WordPress install (which is free if you can it yourself), plugins and a theme that forms a container to hold everything together. Most of the plugins you need are free and you can find a professional looking theme for free as well. If you are happy to spend around $100, you can get yourself a premium, customizable theme from Studiopress themes, Elegant themes, Headway, Theme Forest and so many more. But remember a website is so much more about pretty graphics. It needs to do everything to achieve business goals.
You can use Paypal to accept payments. You can use plugins to create courses. You can use email providers like GetResponse. In short, getting a functional website that does its job doesn’t have to break the bank. You can always upgrade as you afford to invest.
#5 My brand is still evolving
You are not the only one. Take a look around and you will see that almost every single brand goes through iterations on a regular basis. Be it big, household brands or your favourite celebrity blogger. Their logo refreshes. Their website gets an upgrade. They even change their branding to reflect the new direction.
Don’t let this stop you from getting a website. You can always tweak things to reflect the newer you and maybe uplevel your brand by hiring a designer.
#6 I don’t know what I want
You might be ready to start but you simply don’t know what you want. I sympathize. For the longest time I wanted to hire an interior decorator to do my living space but what was keeping me from moving forward was the fact that I had no idea what I liked.
The solution? I started paying attention to what I did like. I started making note of colours, palettes, textures, styles and themes. If I saw something I liked in a magazine, I pulled it out or took a picture. I started looking at home decoration websites to help me decide what I liked.
The same process applies to you. But it is way easier. Start bookmarking sites you really like. Bookmark sites for headers. Bookmark sites for fonts, colours and visual presentation. Bookmark sites that invoke similar feelings you want to invoke. Don’t forget sites which are easy to navigate and where you find things very easily.
This will also come in handy when you want to communicate to your designer what you want. When you say you want a font that is hip and cool and modern, they don’t know what you are talking about – what your version of hip, cool or modern is. Show them examples and they are good to go.
#7 Should I hire a designer?
If you hire designer, it can cost you a few thousand dollars to have a custom website. But you don’t have to go down that route. If having a unique brand is super important to you, the ideal solution might be to hire a designer/developer to tweak a premium theme.
For example, pick a theme seller and check out their website. Often they list their top and recommended designers who are expert at tweaking their themes. Look at their work to get a sense of their style and aesthetics.
You can go further and look through their showcase of websites and click on what you like and then trace back to its designer. I have found this to be the ideal solution for those who want stunning websites but still want to stay under budget.
It might be that you have your heart set on working with a designer. You have the money but you are scared to take the first step and this is keeping you stuck. If this is the case, worry not, I’ll tell how you to get over your fear and hire someone in the shortest possible time.
#8 How do I choose the right designer/developer?
The first step is to getting very clear on what you want. Do you need a brand new design or perhaps you only like some graphics, buttons and a header. Do you need someone to code a horizontal opt-in box under your header or do you need to change the layout of your website?
Make a list of everything you need. If you don’t know what you need, you could trust someone and ask them, or just stick with a readymade theme for now.
Now ask your shortlisted designer if they can do all of this for you. Remember that not all website designers are developers (people who write code) so you might need to hire one separately. If they don’t, ask to be referred to someone who can.
I am assuming you have checked their work before you got in touch with them. Try and arrange a time to talk to them to get a feel for what it would be like working with them. Ask them about their availability. Ask them how many revisions they provide. Double check they hand over all the original files and graphics. Ask for their price. Don’t forget to shop around to find someone you can afford.
Discuss what you have in mind for your website. Really listen to what they have to say in order to see if they are the right fit. Get in touch with people they have worked for and ask what it was like working with them. Once you are happy with everything sign a contract. Give them plenty of examples and visuals of what you like to make sure both of you are on the same page at all times.
#9 What if I don’t like the end result?
People say to me they have been burned before or they have heard so many horror stories that they are too scared to invest.
They wonder what happens if something goes wrong. What happens if the designer goes MIA (missing in action), delays the project, add more cost to the initial quote, do something completely different, or worse give them something they hate.
I don’t blame you. However, if you take the right steps, you can essentially reduce the probability of this happening to zero.
Firstly make sure you ask what happens if you aren’t entirely satisfied. Put clear deadlines in place and know what’s going to happen if these deadlines are not met. How many revisions are included? What happens if any of you want to end the project half way through?
Most importantly, get them to show you the work along the way. This way you don’t get a big shock when you see the finished product.
There you have it. These are the top excuses I get from people who want to start a business, or they consider a social media platform to be their website, or they are paralysed with fear of spending money on it – even a little bit.
I hope you don’t feel the same way anymore.
You have choices and the answer is to take on little step towards achieving your goal whether it be securing a domain name, doing research on various platforms or shortlisting designers you’d like to work with. You know what to do. Now go do it.