Blog Post

10 October 2014

Building Websites: DIY vs. Freelancer vs. Agency

Obviously, I’m partial to one of the options posed in this blog post, but I’m going to give you an objective look at the different ways you can go about building a website. I’m also going to list some pros and cons for each so you make an informed decision if you are building a website in the near future.

Do-it-yourself

Since the late 1990s there have been do-it-yourself website solutions. Your choices were to use a program, such as Dreamweaver or Microsoft’s FrontPage, to design your website on your own computer and upload it to your Web host; or more recently, turn-key solutions such as Wix, GoDaddy’s Website Builder, or Squarespace have evolved that allow you to design your website online, and it is hosted on their servers.

I do not recommend trying to build your own website using Dreamweaver or similar tools. Web technology has progressed to the point where this is not recommend for a lay person.

Turn-key website solutions, in all honesty, are not bad.  You can create a pretty nice website using them. There are pros and cons to these websites, however.

Pros

  • Relatively inexpensive, often only $10-20 per month.
  • Easy-to-use interface to build a website.
  • They generally have good customer service when you need help.

Cons

  • Limited templates, so your website might look like every other website hosted on that service.
  • Limited branding, so you might not be able to make your website match your company’s brand.
  • Limited functionality, so you might grow out of the capabilities of what that service offers.
  • Takes your time to build.

learningAt Juice, we’ve converted many websites from do-it-yourself services, like Wix, over to a customized WordPress website. We generally hear one of two stories … we wanted to make our website match our brand (business cards, vehicle wraps, etc.) more closely, or we wanted to add <insert function here> and we couldn’t (such as a calendar or custom Web form).

So if you want a simple website that is affordable and easy to build, then a do-it-yourself website solution might be perfect for you. However, if you don’t want to spend the time learning how to build a website, you want your website to closely match your company’s brand, or you want to be able to grow your website with your company, then I recommend that you continue reading.

Freelancer

The next route that people often take once they decide they don’t want to build their own website is to search for a freelancer.

I personally freelanced for many years previous to accepting a position at Juice. I can tell you from personal experience that clients have a very wide range of satisfaction. The experience can swing from really good, to really bad, from freelancer to freelancer, and even with the same freelancer!

Pros

  • Often not as pricy as an agency.
  • Direct access to the person, often on nights and weekends even.

Cons

  • Freelancers are usually “computer people” and don’t have much experience with business or marketing.
  • Website is chained to a single person. If they decide to get another job, you no longer have your Web person anymore.
  • Don’t often have both coding and graphic design skills.

awolSo here’s some insight that you’ll probably never hear anywhere else. I’ve networked with many freelancers, and I’ve kept tabs on them over the years. What I found is that most freelancers suffer from what author of the E-Myth, Michael Gerber calls an “entrepreneurial seizure” because they think they can run a Web design business better than their boss and they’ll get to keep all the money. So they start their own freelancing business. I’ve tracked that many freelancers only last one or two years because they realize that it’s either too hard to run a business solo, or they didn’t make enough money to support themselves.

At Juice, we hear the same story almost on a weekly basis … “I’m calling you because my Web guy went AWOL” (or something to that effect).

So I’m not saying that every freelancer is going to drop you as a client eventually, because there are some good, career freelancers out there. But I am going to caution you to thoroughly vet a freelancer by looking through their portfolio well and having a conversation about their longevity in their business.

Agencies

Finally, let’s talk about hiring a Web design agency. I personally chose to work for an agency because I wanted to work with a team of experts. I grew weary of doing all the tasks involved with building websites myself (coding, graphic design, content writer, project manager, customer service …) especially because I was not an expert in all of those skills!

Pros

  • Usually a project manager keeps the project on task and meets deadlines.
  • Separate coders and graphic designers do what they do best so you get the best result.
  • Longevity, so you can be sure a year from now when you need updates to your site made, that they’ll still be there.

Cons

  • Usually more pricy than a freelancer.
  • Outsourcing (this is only a problem if the agency outsources the work).

So price is literally the only con I can think of to hiring an agency to build a website. And quite frankly, you get what you pay for anyway, so usually the cost is well worth it.

Summary

So as a freelancer gone agency employee, I’m partial to recommending business owners to hire an agency to build a website for them. I’ve observed that the experience typically is better for the client and the website gets finished faster, so who doesn’t want that?

I’m not saying that do-it-yourself or freelancers won’t ever work out. On the contrary, it works for people every day. However, if you find yourself stressed out from trying to build your own website or can’t reach your freelance person some day, please remember this blog post and give Juice a call!