In today’s internet consumer world, your website is your business.
If it isn’t the first point of contact with your audience, then it’s still the face of your business that potential Clients or Customers validate everything they’ve heard about you from other sources. With an estimated 44% of online purchases starting on a search engine, It’s no wonder then that the days of a blocky, slow-loading, unresponsive and poor content websites are over. Simply put, you will lose all the opportunities that the internet has to offer if your business doesn’t have a website or your website is not up to scratch. With this in mind, not every new business can afford to splash thousands of pounds on a website, leaving the temptation to cut corners. While you can build websites done on the cheap, cutting the wrong corners will leave you scoring own goals and actually reduce your chances of converting business online.

 

Starting off

Some people think that self-building a website is something that can be done quickly, requires very little to achieve and is going to win the hearts of everyone who visits. The market is flooded with website developer tools and web builders that allow you to drag and drop pictures, sections, elements and insert wording. It can be tempting to create your own site as a quick-fix solution to getting your business online, but the reality of a self-build website is often far from ideal. Keep in mind that that these tools use generic templates that are not specifically designed to meet your business needs. If building your own website seems too good to be true, that’s because it is. If you are going to try and build your own website then avoid ‘drag-n’drop’ builders like Wix or Weebly, people can tell what you’ve done and it’s not a good impression to make. Instead, if you’re not in a major rush, use the vast resources online to learn the Wordpress CMS and basic front-end languages like HTML and CSS. About 100 hours of diligent study over a short time span will allow you to create something decent enough (As long as your website is very basic). If, however you consider yourself non-tech, this too may be worth avoiding. A word to the wise: Proceed with caution.

 

False economies

Unfortunately, the price of hiring an agency can be intimidating and for most business owner it can be tempting to try to save money by making your own website. The question “Should I build my own website” seems to come up a lot among starting businesses. In reality you can build your own website but this doesn’t mean you should. Web development requires behind the scenes coding that’s done by skilled web developers.

Designing a website also can take hours, days or even weeks. It takes time to work out the elements of a design based on its needs, and because of that you will often go through various concepts before you have the final product. The time you might spend designing, creating and implementing could wind up costing you more in lost business revenue than what you pay to an outside contractor or agency. Every hour you spend fiddling is an hour you’re not out there promoting your service. For instance, if you consider yourself worth £250/day on the market then 15 days of studying wordpress and coding languages and then another 20 days to plan, design and code your site is costing you £8,750 in lost earnings. What’s more, you’ll never be sure if you duffed something critical up along the way. It’s obviously a different story if you’re trying to develop these skills anyway, then it’s an investment in yourself, however if you will ultimately return to selling widgets then you might have benefitted from 25 days of doing that instead, right?

 

So what are my options?

Basically, you have two standard options: hire an agency or hire a freelancer.

Working with a larger agency, you’ll probably have a more formal relationship. Agencies have large overheads and they need to work as efficiently as possible to be able to make enough money on a project. You’ll get an account manager assigned to your project who will be your main point of contact. At larger agencies, your account manager will have lots of other clients, just like you and they’ll try to spend as little time as possible on getting the work done.

The account manager is not directly responsible for the development of your website but is part of a larger team. They will work with a team of designers and developers elsewhere in the company (sometimes based overseas). Some agencies hire very knowledgeable account managers who are great dealing with clients and help you to scope requirements very accurately. Be aware however, that this is not always the case so look for reviews and case studies.

 

Working with a freelancer is more informal and you are more likely to receive a personal service. Freelancers have less clients and most likely work on your website themselves instead of delegating it to others. They also have less overhead so should charge you far less compared to an agency. There are of course risks to using freelancers as they are often less inclined to help you scope a project and take your direction which means you better be clear about what it is you want. Additionally it can be hard to find good quality freelancers, let’s face it, how many freelance developers do you actually know? You can find freelancers on certain websites but tread carefully, these sites are self-service. Your experience depends on how you articulate your needs, price your project and your ability to vet the freelancers who want to build your site.

 

The solution

Luckily, trends in the market suggest that a useful middle ground between the paid options is emerging, one championed at Brainbroker. The idea is to give you the service of an agency but the price of engaging a freelancer a so-called ‘Virtual Agency’. In this format, you get access to a human being who can help you scope the project and also source and manage the freelancers as and when they are needed, on your behalf. Since the vetting is also done by the ‘virtual agency’ you can rest easy that the top people are on the job. This approach means you can get an insight into the day to day of a project and communicate with all parties freely.

 

Things to keep in mind

The job isn’t over just because your website is up. After putting it online there are a long list of tasks to actually get people to see it. You need to optimize your code for search engines like Google and Bing which means working on a variety of page content tasks including: links, meta tags, image attributes, and written content. Search engines, and the people using them to find your website, will need to be able to decide if your content is what they want from a search term. Because of that, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) work is a crucial part of building a website. An Agency will normally do some basic SEO for you as part of the website and most freelancers (although not all) may do this on request. It’s worth keeping in mind that if you chose to build your own website using a web builder, it’s unlikely that it will be SEO optimised and if you decide to build it yourself on Wordpress or another CMS you will need additional plugins.

 

If you have a comment, please share it with us in the comment section below. Have you built a website, taught yourself to code or did you pay someone else to do it? Let us know what trials and tribulations your encountered.