A grown man shouldn’t cry over a website.
I am close. They say the third time is lucky. Not for me. I did everything I could to buy a brand new website the proper way this time around.
I did my due diligence. I looked at other websites they prospective companies had built. I set a strong timeline. I got lots of quotes. I wrote exact instructions a monkey could follow. Still, I got scammed again and threw thousands of dollars down the drain.
The supplier built me a website in a few hours that looked nothing like the brief. In fact, it was worse than my original website. That’s right, they can’t even copy my existing website.
I want to share what I learned with you so my thousands of wasted dollars can be recouped in savings for anybody similar to me, who thinks you can just buy a WordPress website and be happy.
The perfect web developer is unlikely to exist
One human is unlikely to be able to successfully build a website. Let’s think about the skills required.
- They need to be technical to adjust code.
- Design elements require an illustrator.
- They need to understand user experience.
- They ideally need to understand marketing and conversions.
- They need to have an eye for good design.
- They need to understand basic SEO, so they can ensure the new website doesn’t stuff up the google rankings of your old website.
See what I mean? The chance you’ll find someone with all of these skills is rare. Now you know why agencies that employ each of these people individually cost a fortune.
All the website developers I’ve worked with so far have understood the technical side fine. But they have no clue what good design is or how to get a website to turn web traffic into email subscribers, or better yet, customers.
“Just use a template you idiot”
I got that feedback last time. People are like “why not use WIX or Webflow or Squarespace or Ghost for your new website?”
Templates are a mirage many suckers like me fall for. The point of my new website is to convert traffic into email subscribers. A template website is generic and typically converts at about 2% and has a high bounce rate. There’s limited customization, so you basically slap it up and hope for the best.
Anyone who understands the purpose of a website and is good at getting conversions will tell you template websites that have been used by millions of other sites are a joke.
You may as well have no website.
Writers have unique website requirements
I haven’t come across a single website template in 7 years that supports the needs of writers. I’ve spent hours looking. Here’s why.
- We need a blog with categories, our best stories of all time, and an archive by date of all of our articles. The blog has to be easily searchable too. Templates don’t have such well-thought-out blog sections. Non-writers don’t understand the importance of a blog layout. It’s also the reason why writers need a full content management system that WordPress offers.
- We want email addresses so we can own our readers’ contact information, rather than have social media apps keep their details and pay us in likes and useless followers.
- We may need eCommerce later, too, to sell books, courses, or premium content. So the website starts out as a blog but has to be able to convert to eCommerce later. Website alternatives like Ghost and Substack don’t have eCommerce options. WordPress has content management for blogs and eCommerce.
WordPress websites are a custom job — you need a developer, an eCommerce provider, a payment gateway, and an individual layout. That means you need WordPress if you’re a writer.
Website companies hate to have skin in the game
The providers I’ve worked with so far live in La La Land. They think they quote a price, have a go, stuff up, I continue paying by the hour for them to learn on the job, and if by some miracle they finish the project, their work is done.
I realized this was a joke. Once a website is finished that’s the beginning, not the end. You want a provider who can stick around to see if the website actually converts traffic into subscribers/customers, otherwise, they’ve failed.
From now on I only work with people who have skin in the game. It’s why my business partner and I have worked so well together. We own the outcome jointly. If our business collapses then we both fail and go back to our 9–5 jobs.
A website requires more than a one-night stand to be successful. You’re looking for a husband or a wife in the web development business.
Be careful with progress payments
The third time around I paid a deposit and they asked for progress payments. We set a timeframe for the build and each milestone. They missed the timeline and didn’t deliver anything close to what they promised.
Because this was my third attempt at this, I made it stupidly simple. I literally said “copy this website exactly” to make their life easy. Zero creativity needed. I picked a website a newbie could probably build in WIX themselves.
When they sent me a black website with blue writing, and the brief was a white website with black writing, I knew they failed the intelligence test. I politely told them we were nowhere near the brief. They asked me for another progress payment to try again. Obviously I said no.
I quickly realized that a lot of website companies charge by the hour, not the project. They tell you the cost of the project but really it’s a lie. I added up — based on how much time they were taking — that a mediocre website from them would easily cost $10,000 at their current rate when the original quote was much less than that.
A quote is designed to take a buyer off the market. Once a buyer has selected a website provider, they’re less likely to quit, so the bill can be literally anything.
Thankfully, the project manager for my website realized their mistake. He was nice about it so I was friendly back.
They agreed to try again.
The second attempt was worse than the first attempt. They simply placed an image of my eBook over the top of an image of me. It looked like a kid had mashed together two photos and said “here mommy, do you like my artwork?” Talk about bad luck. Third time lucky? Nope.
What the scammers missed
Three failed websites. Each provider made some money from me. Good for them. Unfortunately they think short-term. I have hundreds of other writers in my community who ask me all the time for recommendations for websites.
Imagine I could say “no probs Jane. My website was built by this mob. Check them out. They’ll do a great job.”
Successfully building my website is probably worth at least 6-figures in referrals. It’s a shame many businesses don’t understand how dumb a one-time transaction is. You make more money when you do the job you’re paid for and generate happy customers.
Behind every sale is a mountain of referrals from a happy client.
Now you know why most people don’t bother with a website
Getting a good website is harder than it looks.
If you’re not willing to try to build a website multiple times like me and waste a lot of money, then do this: create multiple landing pages. Use a service like ConvertKit or LeadPages or Unbounce to create single web pages with one button. For content creators, especially, this is an easy option.
The complexity of a WordPress website explains why so many content creators simply rely on social media to publish their work. At least they start with a professional-looking page to display their art.
I haven’t found a way through the website minefield yet. When I do I’ll be happy to share more lessons. (Open to suggestions too.)
The good news is my three failed attempts have taught me a lot. For example this time around I will 100% be using WP Engine to host my website. Their performance is unmatched and the free plugins they include like Yoast SEO are cool.
Takeaway: Failures are investments in your future. Fall down nine times. Get up ten.