When people enter into the creative process with violetminded, they usually have a pretty decent idea of the kind of website that they want. They have catchy words that they use — bold, dynamic, exciting — and amazing digital dreams for their online biz.
Their enthusiasm is contagious! And, me being me (enthusiastic to a fault sometimes — hello loud!), I want to know more about the business they’ve built over the last while. I’m curious about their Perfect People, their business model, their revenue, and their messaging.
Then, they tell me that they’ve just started their biz.
(Cue car screeching to a halt. Or a record scratch of disbelief. Or sad trombones. Whatever works for you.)
They’re concerned because their website is a mess (or they don’t have one) and they believe that in order to be taken seriously, they need the most badass website imaginable. They see what Big Budget Design does for the Big Names in the online world. (There’s that contagious enthusiasm again.)
But here’s where the whole thing comes apart: time and money.
Start-ups that aren’t funded by investment capital (and some that are) are on a tight budget and an even tighter timeline. Every penny is magnitudes of importance — it could be going to paying an engineer to produce the software or to the solo entrepreneur as she struggles to pay rent. Those pennies have emotional charge to them.
Lately, I’ve taken to saying:
“Listen, sweetpea. Your website? It sucks. I’m not going to deny that. But here’s the awesome thing about being brand new: that’s okay.”
Now why in the world would I tell potential clients that they’re not ready for me? (Yet.)
I follow the Agile Manifesto (read about that here), whose over-arching tenet is: get it shipped and improve as you go.
That’s what business — especially digital business — is about. And that’s why I send the newbies on a different quest: to get it “good enough” and get it out the digital door. Why invest thousands of dollars in a business website when your business isn’t sure what it is? (Yet.) Why spend anywhere from four months to a year getting a website polished and prepped when that could be time spent hustling your biz and getting money in your bank account?
Usually, there isn’t a good reason to invest in a website right out of the gate.
Here’s where you need to invest first:
- Great branding, which includes solid messaging (and that’s where copywriters come in)
- A technically oriented virtual assistant to get you set up with your online tools
- A WordPress Security expert, to make sure that your installation is as bulletproof as it can be
- A premium WordPress theme that you (or your new technically savvy VA) can customize fairly easily
A professionally designed (and gorgeous) website is the least useful thing for you until you…
- have an established brand with products and services that make your people sing from the rooftops
- know who your Perfect People are
- have your messaging in place and can confidently articulate who you are, what you do, and why you do it
The exceptions are:
- Community start-ups: if you’re building a business around building a community, then you need to invest in great web design AND development right out of the gate, or you’ll lose your Perfect People as soon as they land on your page
- eCommerce: if your business is to sell a lot of physical products (not necessarily the stuff you can find in online marketplaces), then investing in solid web development will save you YEARS of headaches down the line. Do it right or don’t do it at all. If you build with the wrong backend, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
The tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) version:
Before you invest in a high-touch, super customized online space, make sure that you’ve done your legwork beforehand. Showing up with a dream in your eye is amazing (omgenthusiasm!), but enthusiasm does not a sustainable business make. Once you’ve proven your concept — whether that concept is a product, service, or content — then you can move onto making sure that your content and your online space are aligned.
If your website sucks (and you’re brand new), don’t fret. There’ll be time for that.