Imagine for a moment that this afternoon you are scheduled to meet with someone who will become your biggest client. They will spend a bunch of money with you, and because you do such a good job for them, they will send you endless referrals. Your business will grow exponentially because of that one client.
When getting dressed for that meeting, what will you wear? Will you pull an old suit out of the closet that "sort of" fits? Will you grab some jeans and a t-shirt you bought at a thrift store, because they are cheap, and what difference does it make? You'll have clothes on. Isn't that good enough?
Or, will you pick something out to wear that makes you look like the professional you are, or want to be? Your website may be the first introduction to that biggest client. A cheap, do-it-yourself, "that'll do for now" website could be your rumpled-suit salesperson who can't close a deal. It may mean your potential client chooses someone else, because they make a better impression.
Web developers, designers, and online marketers live in the internet marketing world every day. The good ones stay on top of the latest tools, trends, customer habits, search engine changes, and so much more, to make sure they are providing the type of service their clients deserve. When you hire a professional, you're not buying a 'thing'; a good website isn't a tool, a design, or a package of pages. It's an asset with the primary goal of growing your business.
Yes, you can build a website yourself. There are lots of free and cheap tools available to do so. What those tools don't give you is the creative skills, or marketing expertise that a top professional has honed over years of experience and ongoing education. They won’t give you insights into the proper use of keywords, and which ones your customers are searching for right now. They won’t tell you what does and doesn’t work in your industry. They just give you boxes to fill.
Marketing doesn’t come naturally for a lot of people, so how will you know you’re speaking the right language? Understanding your target customer, and the best way to communicate with them isn’t always clear when you’re looking from the inside – out.
Being held captive by a designer is an old business model. Through the use of a Content Management System, a professional can set up your site and give you the proper training so you can update it yourself. Ah, I can hear you say, "I'll sign up for hosting where they offer CMS installation, have someone else design the look, and I'm good to go!" For a few, that may be enough. A real professional will do a proper interview with you before starting the project to uncover your needs and goals for a website, and can customize the CMS (if they’re a developer) so it will work the way you need it to, instead of locking you into the basic functionality. Your website should do what you want and need it to do, and not be limited by the software’s restrictions and defaults.
I hear people saying “I’ll do it myself, and when it starts paying for itself, I’ll decide whether to get it redone.” That day may never come. If money is tight, yes, get something online to prove you exist. And then work on creating a real marketing budget so that you can bring a professional on board to give your business an online presence that will attract your best client.