Who Builds A Better Website: An Agency, A Freelancer, or You?
In today’s market, there are so many different resources available that just about anyone, from business owners to college students to even young children, can use them to build their own website or create a social media presence.
But do they really work?
I can easily go out and buy a hammer and some lumber, but that doesn’t mean I have the necessary skills or talent to put them to use the way an experienced architect could. The same can be said for the resources I mentioned, as the templates and tools to construct a website are worthless to you if you know nothing of design principles or marketing strategy, and those are not simple skills to pick up. As I said in a previous blog, students are putting themselves up to six figures in debt so they can master fields like web design and programming, do you really expect to gain comparable knowledge just from watching a few tutorials on Youtube?
While there’s nothing wrong with trying to pick up new skills that can better serve your business, knowing the difference between what aspects you should handle yourself and what areas you should entrust to a professional can determine whether you succeed or fail. Maybe you do have the time and ability to manage your web presence on your own, or maybe you’d be better suited contracting a freelancer to take over the task, or maybe your business and budget are big enough that an agency would bring you the best results?
Only you can answer this question, but before you decide, let’s look over the pros and cons of each option first.
Doing it Yourself
If you are not a business for profit or won’t be relying on your website to bring you customers, then by all means, make it yourself. A personal site that will only be visited by friends you told to go there isn’t worth the hassle or expense of professional involvement, and there are enough premade templates out there to help you make a respectable portfolio of your work. Of course, if your work is web design, then you’ll have the skills and technique to make a site all on your own, but you may not have the time.
If you are running a business for profit, then you should be focusing 50% of your time on marketing, and maintaining your website can take away from that. After all, you could have a fantastic looking website that you pour hours into developing, but all your work will go unnoticed if you haven’t marketed yourself properly. Even a poorly designed site can get high traffic if it has a strong presence and social media campaign. You can’t rely on your handful of Facebook friends to spread the word about you, unless of course you’re a celebrity with millions of followers, but my guess is that you probably aren’t.
That’s why it’s imperative that you fully understand not only the details but dedication required in organizing and operating your own web presence, making sure you are understanding of and efficient with coding and keywords, otherwise this option really isn’t best for you.
Hiring a Freelancer
Those students I talked about earlier could really use some work to help pay off their loans, and many of them are so eager for a gig that you are sure to find a freelancer who will meet your needs while working within your budget. Granted, it now falls on you to do your research on these freelancers, browsing through their portfolios and looking up any reviews from people they’ve worked with before, but you’ll still end up saving time in the long run once you find your ideal match and can trust in them to handle the matter while you attend to the rest of your business’s needs.
Now, it’s worth remembering that some freelancers are more experienced than others, and the quality of their work can usually depend on how well you work with them. The speed with which you provide them images and other materials, the quality of the materials you provide, the clarity in what you’re asking from them and the ability to make them understand what your company’s goals are all fall on your shoulders. They can’t take your business to the next level if you don’t give them a direction to head in, though you may not be the only one they’re trying to steer. Keep in mind, Freelancers take on multiple clients at a time to make ends meet, so your big important tasks may have to get in line behind the rest of that provider’s other duties.
They can’t always promise you undivided attention, and their services will cost you more than doing the projects yourself, but the results really are worth the investment in the long term.
Hiring an agency
Many small businesses hesitate going to established agencies because of the cost, fearing they won’t be able to afford the kind of service such places offer. Yes, agencies come with higher fees, but you get what you pay for, and you are paying for a team of specialists to go over every detail of crafting you a website and marketing campaign that meets your needs. They have copywriters to write your content, designers to design the materials, coders to crunch the numbers and project managers who are ready to learn more about your business and your competition than even you know. Imagine it, 5 to 6 minds working together to achieve the goal you put in front of them, bringing several expertly crafted solutions to the plate for you to choose from.
They’re ready to work with you, but you need to be ready to work with them.
I had a customer that came to my agency for help just this year, his story is what inspired me to write this very blog. Like any good business owner, he wanted to find the most results at the lowest price, but his lack of understanding when it came to marketing had turned his search into a wild goose chase, stubbornly trying to get more than he could for less than it was worth.
He came in for an initial meeting and explained that he’d tried building his own website but couldn’t get it to work, always having to fix one thing or another and never having the time to keep it updated. He then hired a freelancer from India who promised to design a stellar website for $1500, but delivered only half the work after charging the full amount. Having struck out twice, this man then decided to hire a company to meet his needs, but felt they were very expensive and fired them before paying their fee. He ended up getting referred to my agency, and wanted to see if I could serve him better than the others before.
While listening to his story, I immediately sensed this would be a difficult customer. He was already upset at his earlier experiences that brought him to me, but I still paid careful attention to his goals and his design concept. He wanted a website and a social media campaign, so my team and I sent him a proposal for a full deployment of both, but he wasn’t pleased. The client sent us back a detailed email going over how he felt the cost was too high, comparing our quote to the other providers he’d worked with before.
I reminded him how those previous services did not meet his standards, but he wouldn’t listen, even proposing edits to our proposal like trimming the number of webpages and lowering the amount of posts per week to meet a budget he was more comfortable with. My team and I have no problems changing plans to meet our clients’ goals, but what did cause an issue was that his proposals went well below the minimum required to achieve his goals. When I saw that happening, I sadly had to inform him that we would not be able to take him on board as a client, there was simply no way to achieve the results he wanted with the changes he demanded.
He came back begging for our help and asking us to make a compromise, developing the website close to the original proposal but spacing out the campaign so he could have more funds. At that time, I didn’t understand that he believed having us build the website alone would be enough for him to start gaining customers and raise the money for marketing campaigns. We built a beautiful website for him, uploaded it, tested it ourselves then sent a version over for him to test and see if he was pleased, but he wasn’t. The client located a few issues during the testing and started complaining, asking why there were errors if he hired a professional company to build it for him, why he didn’t have any visitors to the site, and many other arguments of that nature.
After several phone calls explaining and educating the client about product testing process and how the web world works, I saw that he still didn’t understand when he started insisting we hand over what was already built so he could take control himself and make it better. I finally emailed him and explained that working with an agency was not for him or his business at this time, asked for the final payment and release of contractual obligations from both sides.
It may not have been the most pleasant project I’ve taken on, but it certainly taught me a lesson about the industry, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you here. No matter what industry or agency you work in, always be sure to screen and survey your clients about their readiness to utilize your services and carefully explain all available options before moving forward with them professionally, it can save you both a great deal of time and money. Only if you mutually determine that the desired goals can be reasonably reached should you place your trust in one another, otherwise you shouldn’t waste the ink printing out the contract.
So, with all that established, what do you think is right for you?
Should you learn it yourself, hire a freelancer, or sign a contract with an agency? It’s always your call and you may find the best result may be utilizing a bit of each, perhaps having a freelancer complete a design you don’t have the time to implement, or hiring an agency to build you a frame work that you can then manage on your own. As long as you remember that the three pivotal aspects are expertise, time, and money, you’ll be sure to find a solution that’s right for you.