Small Business Websites: Should I DIY, Hire, or Outsource?

In previous posts, we’ve talked about how to write compelling website copy and incorporate content into your digital marketing strategy. But before any of this can take place, you need an actual website!

If you’re a newer brand, you likely have the luxury of starting from scratch. Honestly, who doesn’t love a clean slate? Companies that have been around for a while, on the other hand, are faced with the often-monumental task of updating or completely redesigning their site.

Either way, launching a website is a resource-intensive process. It requires a creative eye and a great deal of collaboration between corporate leadership and technical teams to get it right. How you approach it depends on your timeline, goals, marketing budget, and comfort level with technology.

So what’s the best approach to building the business website of your dreams? In this post we weigh the pros and cons of:

  • Doing it yourself
  • Hiring an employee
  • Outsourcing to a firm

(And yup, full disclosure: we’re a marketing firm offering website services 😉 )

Obviously, the following aren’t the only options. You might enlist a tech-savvy friend or try crowdsourcing to get the job done.

But if you’re serious about earning more revenue, investing in a quality website isn’t just a cost of doing business. It can be your competitive advantage.

Doing It Yourself (DIY)

Best for: solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, and early start-ups with simple interface and functionality requirements

Pros: cheaper, easier than ever for beginners and the non-tech-savvy

Cons: substantial time investment, setup and management, lack of uniqueness (pre-made templates are the norm), limited functionality options

Learning curve: steep if you have little to no tech knowledge; moderate if you have experience with other CMS (content management systems)

Cost: $/$$$ – cheap upfront, but when you consider time spent, it could become cost-prohibitive

It’s true what they say: building a website yourself is entirely possible. Today, it’s more achievable than ever thanks to drag-and-drop editors and beautiful templates. Most popular platforms are designed for beginner to intermediate skill levels with little to no coding knowledge or experience. Think Wix, Shopify, Squarespace, and WordPress.

The main lure of the DIY approach is cost savings. The huge trade-off no one talks about? Time.

Yup, the time needed to build your website is the biggest trap for business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs who are already time-starved – it takes you away from projects or other revenue-generating work and ends up costing much more than the small investment to outsource.

That said, if you’re just starting out in your business and can afford to spend time researching website best practices, reading set-up guides, watching tutorials, and designing and building the site, then DIY could be the perfect fit for you.

You’ll also need to deal with purchasing your domain (URL) and set up hosting. GoDaddy is a good place to do this, though it’s not the only option.

One downside to doing it yourself? Your website won’t be unique. Sometimes this matters, other times it doesn’t – it all depends on your business goals. Also, functionality is limited. If your business needs complex databases or e-commerce, then handling this yourself might not be a good option.

Ready to DIY? Here are some resources to get started:

Hiring an Employee

Best for: small to medium-sized companies with either extensive website needs (e.g., if your brand has 20 different websites or in-depth e-commerce functions) and/or ongoing marketing requirements beyond the initial build and launch

Pros: high-quality final product, ongoing maintenance provided, doesn’t take time away from the business owner or leader

Cons: you’re limited to one individual’s skills and experience, more costly given employee salaries and cost of website build

Learning curve: virtually none for the business owner/leader

Cost: $$$/$$$ – higher than both DIY and outsourcing

If you’ve decided that building your website yourself isn’t realistic, another option is to hire an employee. You can do this on a short-term basis or keep them on to manage it over time (and possibly fulfill other functions).

Whether a part-time or full-time employee is necessary depends on company size and your website needs. If you have several websites or one with complex database requirements, then an internal staff member may make sense.

Larger companies are able to hire one or more full-time web developers and/or designers, but this isn’t logical for many small businesses (hello, salaries). Instead, small and medium-sized companies may choose to hire a more versatile marketing manager to oversee their website build and then take things to the next level through social media, content development, video, etc.

The caveat is that creating a website from scratch isn’t part of every marketing manager’s skillset (in fact, this is rare). So in addition to their salary, you’d need to outsource some or all of the build anyway – which brings us to option 3!

Outsourcing to a Marketing Firm or Web Development/Design Company

Best for: start-ups and small to medium-sized companies with basic to moderate website needs and a strong desire to stand out and get results in their specialized industry

Pros: high-quality final product, cheaper than hiring, access to a complete team experienced in creating and managing websites, close and open collaboration between firm and client

Cons: costlier than doing it yourself, some time investment from leadership team

Learning curve: virtually none for the business owner/leader

Cost: $$/$$$ – moderate

Now let’s talk outsourcing – finding a company that either specializes in designing/building websites or one that offers complementary services like marketing in addition to websites (oh hey, that’s us!).

How does outsourcing work? The first step is exploring your company’s needs, researching the industry and competitors, then developing a website strategy and design based on your goals.

A good firm will guide the creative, content, and messaging. They’ll also make recommendations for the user interface while getting your feedback each step of the way. Once built, they’ll help you manage the back end and answer questions or deal with any technical issues.

If you choose to go the speciality web developer route, be prepared to spend more time on the strategy and messaging than you would with a marketing firm. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if marketing and brand positioning are your strengths, but if you want expert guidance to make sure visuals, content, and creative are on-point for your audience, then a marketing firm is probably a better fit for you.

Another thing to think about is what will happen once your website goes live. Will it just sit there as you wait for potential customers to stumble upon it? Or will you implement strategic social and content campaigns to draw visitors to your site where they become leads and, ultimately, sales?

Many companies overlook this, but a stagnant website lacking fresh content is a huge missed opportunity for lead generation.

Working with a web design company is usually a one-off project with technical support as needed. On the flip side, a marketing firm provides ongoing services customized to your goals to get the biggest return on investment as possible.

Not sure you’ll get enough bang for your buck? A simple calculation of leads generated from digital marketing and brand awareness (e.g., traffic, engagement) is a quick way to figure out if your investment is worth it.

Bonus points if you can find a firm with experience and specialized knowledge in your industry. Just like you wouldn’t hire a general contractor to build your swimming pool, working with a team that already understands your sector is invaluable. You’ll not only save time on onboarding, but you’ll suddenly have access to the brainpower of an entire experienced team without having them on your payroll.

The bottom line? Building a website isn’t easy, and the options are limitless. We hope this post has helped make your decision easier by considering your needs and objectives.

Ready to build your website and want to talk through the options? Schedule a free 30-minute strategy call with us!

Picture of Jennifer Andrews

Jennifer Andrews

Founder & Chief Marketing Strategist