Don’t build your own website

As explained by the theory of comparative advantage.

This economic theory basically explains why your time is more cost effectively spent doing some activities rather than others – chiefly the ones that you are better at and hopefully those which are your core business or are going to directly enhance it and get you more paying customers.

There’s nothing here so far that is specific to web design but it’s relevant because web design does seem to be one of those areas where many people think that with a bit of reading, the right software package, possibly a build it yourself template and x number of free hours to learn how to do it, they could eventually produce something passable themselves and not have to pay our fees. And do you know what? They are right. It can be and is frequently done like this.

What I’m going to show here though is that the misnomer of saving money is a false economy based on a lack of understanding of the way that economics and business works.

That’s not to say that it’s always wrong in all circumstances to want to learn how to build and maintain your own website, but just be clear about the reasons behind it and what the true costs and “savings” are.

So let’s say you come to us and tell us about the website you want. We spec it out and quote you a price of £2000+VAT.

You feel that this price is very fair / perfectly reasonable but whichever way you look at it, it’s still £2000. Or even £2400 if you aren’t VAT registered. To a company that’s no big deal, but if you are a sole trader / one man band or at the very beginning stages of trading that’s still a wad of cash and if you aren’t yet bringing in much business then an outgoing of that size is fairly noticeable.

So instead you decide to learn how to build the site yourself. “How hard can it be?” is a question that many people in this situation might ask themselves.

Well I’ll tell you! Like many things in life if you want to do something basic that will tick the boxes you’ve asked it to it’s not that difficult. If you want something bespoke, unique or that looks like it was designed and built by a professional then you are going to need to use a professional.

Whilst you’ve spent the last 12 years in business, training or learning, we’ve been doing the same in the website industry.

So the first point is that if you think in a month or 2 you will be able to produce something of the equivalent standard that you would get if you paid a professional then you will be in for a surprise.

The second point, and this is where we get to the economics, is when we calculate the true cost of your “free” website.

How long would it take you to build an equivalent website to the one we quoted £2000 for?

A month (possibly but optimistic) 2, 3? Let’s say 200 hours just to put a figure on it? That’s probably being generous anyway but we need to start somewhere.

How much do you value your time at? Well how much do you charge it out for? What could you have earned in those 200 hours? £50 per hour, £40, £30.

Being really conservative let’s say 200 hours at £30 an hour. Well that’s £6000 whichever way you look at it. 300 hours and £50 an hour so a cost to you of £15,000 is equally possible.

So we’re saying that you spent somewhere between £6000 – £15,000 to save yourself £2000 and end up with a website that isn’t as good.

There are 2 main counter arguments that you might present to justify why building the site yourself isn’t really as bad an idea as I’ve just shown.

The first is that you would quite enjoy it and therefore wouldn’t necessarily see it as work / a chore. That might well be true but if that is the case then you should probably ask yourself how committed you really are to your business and its long term growth.

If you’d rather be doing our job than your own (whether in working hours or free time) then have you chosen the right business venture in the first place?

The second main objection is one more likely to be used by somebody who is fairly new in business / just started their company and that is that they didn’t have that much work on anyway.

By their logic my maths didn’t quite add up. They wouldn’t have earned £6000 in those 200 hours yet anyway. Maybe they wouldn’t have earned anything at all as the business is so new and there aren’t yet any paying jobs on the books.

This may be true but whatever you could have done in those 200 hours would have advanced your business more than learning how to build your own website – unless you are planning to open a web design agency that is 😉

As anyone who has started their own business will tell you, at the beginning in particular, it’s a long, slow, hard slog that involves putting in the hours and exploring every potential avenue of generating new business and getting yourself out there.

It’s not for us to know or say what are the best options for your business but whether it’s networking, cold calling, door to door selling, doing free work to build up your portfolio, writing a blog, tweeting or simply training or learning how to do your job even better, these will all advance your business and customer base more in 200 hours and one would hope earn a lot more than the £2k you saved.

So in summation:

Don’t waste time learning how to build your own website. Pay us (other reputable web designers are available) to build it and spend the time more wisely on endeavours that will benefit your own business directly.