As many entrepreneurs will tell you, having great ideas rarely equates to having a great business. Everyone has ideas all the time, and many assume that the result of a shower-induced epiphany could mean they are soon to become the next Richard Branson, though maybe without the beard. #originalhipster
However, the ability to test your ideas is a crucial element to this process of discovery. Whatever your idea is, first and foremost, your to-be-successful business needs a website.
Why Should You Build A Website First?
These days anyone selling anything needs a website. Freelancers, small or medium-sized businesses, conglomerates, and so on. Why? Well for exactly the same reason you look online whenever you need something, most people Google for answers to questions simple or complex, and users who have the problem you’re solving?
They need to be able to find you. And a website is the easiest way for you to be found.
Do You Pay Someone To Do It? Or Do You Build It Yourself?
There are pros and cons to both: if you get someone else to do it, it's off your hands so you can focus your energies on other parts of the business, the flipside is it's out of your control and very expensive to change once it's been built (as well as expensive to get built in the first place.)
At CF we've witnessed the fantastic results first-time coders have produced after just a few months, as well as seeing them benefit from having learned skills they can use to update and maintain their sites without needing to pay for a web developer's time - a process that can be lengthy and expensive - as the company grows and expands.
With the right amount of dedication, learning and motivation it can take only a short amount of time to get your website built, and one that would cost thousands if outsourced to an established web developer. We'll go into the specific cost and time savings later, but what you need to ask yourself at this stage is, are you dedicated enough to commit yourself to learning to code?
At first glance it may seem easier to get someone else to do it, especially when you have a million and one other things to do to get your business off the ground, but longterm you could be costing your business a small fortune.
Aside from being able to build your own website, the real savings come later when it comes to updating and maintaing your site, as longterm entrepreneur and CEO Vinicius Vacanti summed it up for us:
"When we were working with outsourcers, it would take two weeks for a simple iteration. After we had taught ourselves to code, it would take us two hours for the same iteration. Two weeks versus two hours is the real hidden expense of outsourcing."
The Importance Of Getting Your Brand Out There
Your customers need to know what you are offering and how they can get their hands on it. They also want to know the sort of people they are buying from. Remember when we told you, “You Are Your Brand” ? People aren’t just interested in buying your products, they’re interested in buying into a lifestyle, or an idea or a person. YOU.
Which is why a skillfully designed website for your business is so crucial: this is your advertisement to the world to tell them who you are, what you do, and why you’re so much better than everything else out there.
But the mistake many entrepreneurs make is, rather than learning to build a website for themselves, they hire someone else to do the job for them.
Their business, their baby, that they have worked so long and hard over, sweated blood and tears over, lost countless nights of sleep over, they hand over to someone who knows nothing about the business, the values of the company, the branding or the kind of audience they are hoping to attract. They know nothing about why you had that great idea that you couldn’t stop telling people about. Why it meant so much to you and why it propelled you to start your own business in the first place. How could they possibly know?
Now of course no one is saying that a great web developer couldn’t incorporate all of these very specific elements (the ones that make your brand unique) into the design, structure and content of your website.
At CareerFoundry we work with talented web developers every day who can turn our lofty, sometimes impossible-sounding ideas into great-looking, user-centric web pages and apps as if by magic. But what we are asking today is, why not open that up and get more people coding? Get more people turning their great ideas into something tangible and perhaps even life-changing?
It’s not just about getting more people to code for themselves though. As a budding entrepreneur you may not be able to afford the best web developer out there. You may have to settle for your friend’s friend who codes for fun in his spare time (and who you met, you guessed it, in the pub). And it will still end up costing you a lot of money. Which, let us tell you now, if you’re starting your own business, you will need as much of the green stuff as you can get your grubby little hands on.
But, you ask, what other option do I have? If I can’t do it myself, I have to pay someone, right?
No. And I’ll tell you how. You learn to code. It will take time, yes, and it might cost you some money.
But if you build that website yourself you can be damned sure it will cost you a lot less (in terms of time taken and money spent learning to code) than to have the equivalent website built for you by somebody else. And, once you’ve learned, any additions, changes, developments or improvements you want to make to the site you can make yourself as you go along. No more additional, unexpected costs or hours wasted explaining what you want.
"Don't waste your money (hiring someone), your code will need constant maintenance."
In other words:
"Learn to code if you seek a long term investment."
And, the other advantages?
- You can be sure that your message, your values and your brand will be exactly how you want them, down to the last detail. Not how someone else has interpreted them.
- You have the best incentive in the world! Learning to code can be hard work, but with this goal in mind you know exactly where you’re headed and what you need to do to get there.
- This isn’t a skill that is going to go out of date. And it will never be the case that if your company becomes the next Google you won’t need to know code anymore. Programming is a skill that is only going to become more important going forward, not less. When you have a team of 30 web developers working for you, believe you me, it will only be to your advantage that you know exactly what they’re doing.
- When hiring programmers in the future you’ll be in a much stronger position as you’ll quickly be able to identify which ones know what they’re talking about.
Entrepreneur, web developer and co-founder of Novim Media Jerre Baumeister explained to us the importance of knowing how to program:
“Whether you work in agriculture, entertainment or manufacturing, all industries have been turned upside down by software. Even if your goal is not to become a developer, you should still learn how to code. To quote Steve Jobs: "Everybody should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think".”
Breakdown Of Costs
The cost of paying for a web developer can vary dramatically depending on their skill set and experience so it’s hard to put a number on exactly how much building a website will cost, which is why budgeting for it can be close to impossible. And, as we all know, budgeting for your small business is crucial to its success.
The price also depends very much on the website you want to build. But at an absolute minimum, paying a web developer hourly can cost 15 euros, at a maximum it can be in the hundreds. When you consider our list of resources for learning to code (here) which is packed full of so many free and low-cost ways for you to learn, why are you even considering paying someone else to build that website for you?
Studying web development with us would set you back less than a thousand euros for a 3-month immersive, online course with your own personal mentor. An experienced web developer could charge you the same amount for a week’s work on your website.
If you study programming yourself you could be building your own site inside of a couple of months as well as reaping the additional benefits attached to being your own web developer (you can do all of the updates and maintenance yourself). And, crucially, saving a ton of money that you can spend on, I don’t know, fancy lamps for your new office (have you seen these? ).
Time-Scale: How Long Will It Take To Learn To Code?
This depends very much on the person, but many courses (both online and offline) are within structured time frames. At CareerFoundry you will be building your own website from day one, so in under three months you will have your own, working, professional website built with your own hands and for a fraction of the cost of hiring a working web developer of the same standard. Not only will you have that website you wanted you will also be a trained web developer, in a much better position to hire web developers and discuss your needs for the website in future, be able to manage and maintain your own website (develop, alter, update etc) and possess a very in-demand skill set.
Not bad for a cost-saving initiative, eh?
If you choose to learn with online tutorials and manuals by yourself this will depend a lot more on your own self-motivation - but don’t forget, when this is for your business, you’ve got a fantastic incentive to keep learning! Read Josh Kemp’s journey from Blacksmith to Web Developer. Josh was entirely self taught and it took him just seven months of intensive, fulltime study from beginning his journey learning to code to landing his first job as a coder with ZipList.
We won’t lie to you, learning without the help of a mentor, teacher or friend in the field (WiFi at the pub, anyone?) will be considerably more challenging, so we would always recommend a mentored approach over a solo one, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. With online resources like StackOverflow and of course our friend Google, you can find the answer to practically every programming question you could ever think to ask.
And, if you do learn how to code using online tools like these then the saving you will make from learning to code and building your own website instead of hiring an outsider will be even greater. If you are looking to learn in a specific time-frame, however, a structure, tutored course is perhaps a more viable option. And still incredibly cost-effective in the long run.
Some Websites Will Require A Developer
We think you should learn to code. Not just so you can save money on building your dream website, but so you are in a stronger position as CEO of your startup. However, we would never say that a beginner can jump straight in and build a website like Groupon with no previous programming experience. So it’s important to know what kind of site you want to build and if it’s something you could realistically learn to build yourself once you’ve learned to code.
This fantastic graphic from Vinicius Vacanti's blog gives you an idea of the technical difficulty of different types of websites:
Before you start on your coding journey, ask questions, do your research and have a clear idea of what you want to build. The more preparation you do now, the easier it will be when you are getting your hands dirty with code.
So, consider your options. Learn to code and build a website. Or, pay someone else to build your website. Either one will take time, money and varying degrees of stress / patience. However, if you invest that time and money wisely and learn how to code the rewards could be far greater than simply being able to build your own website. You’ll have invaluable, in-demand skills that will always be relevant in every industry.
Within your own startup you’ll have the skills to not only build your own site but to maintain it, update it, and allow it to evolve as the company grows and changes. With your programming knowledge you’ll be in a much stronger position to interview candidates for future web developer positions: you’ll be able to quickly differentiate between the good and the great and, crucially, you’ll know the right questions to ask.
And, finally, you’ll have a website that really reflects your great idea, your passion and your values so when your customers come to the site they can see what’s important to you as a person and as a brand.
So stop daydreaming on your bar stool and get coding before your big idea gets thrown out with the drunks at closing!
What do you do next? Well, using our list of learning to program resources, find an option that suits your business and lifestyle and begin your coding journey. Alternatively, check out our very own Web Development course, for a fully-mentored learning approach.