In July 2014, I paid over $10,000 to re-brand my website, which, just 15 months later, I completed deleted and designed this myself.
How did I manage to spend that much money on one website? Well, it was quite easy, actually. I hired everything, and I mean everything, out, including:
1. Professional photography
Cost = $3,729 CDN: this is by far the thing that I would invest in again. I got almost 250 professional images of myself, my son, some healthy food, plus my kitchen and office. I've used and re-used those pictures in countless ways, and I'd totally invest again in another high end photography session. When people come to me and say how much they loved my site, it's the images that catch their eye right away. This is also true when people show me other websites that they love. The bones of the websites are usually nothing special, but it's the pictures that make the difference. Note that the above cost included both a professional hair and make-up person, who were present for the entire 7 hour shoot, as well as one hour of travel time to and from our house.
2. Website design
Cost = $4,500 US: all I can say is thank God that the exchange rate was only 10% last year ... because it would have cost 20% more this year! My web designer mocked up every single page of my website, and spent time with me to go over each one before it was developed on the actual site. If I didn't like something, we worked together to change each page until I was perfect. I'm actually quite proficient in my own graphic design (everything you see on this site is all me), so I wouldn't necessarily hire anyone again. However, if you have absolutely no eye for colour, design, or making things look the way you want them to, then this would be something you'd want to consider. My designer also worked on multiple sites for me, including a membership site and the 30 Day Calm Mom Challenge, so technically this was 3 sites for that price. I estimate that the cost of my main website was $2,500.
3. Website development
Cost $2,650 US: until last year, I had no idea what the difference between a website designer and developer was. Basically, the designer mocks up what your website is going to look like. They design any logos and branding visuals. The website developer takes that design and brings it to life on your website with coding. So, the designer is like an architect drawing up a blueprint of a house, and the developer is like the person who actually builds it.
Cost $980 CDN: on my last site, I hired someone to write every single piece of content on every page other than the blog posts, which I wrote myself. I had no idea until last year that you could even hire that out! It was well worth it, as the Calm Mom Challenge sign-up page had a 35%+ conversion rate (meaning for every 100 people who came to the site, 35+ signed up for the challenge). At the end of the day, however, I didn't write it, so I couldn't replicate it unless I hired someone again. I feel like I would invest in a copywriter again for pages like my "About Ashley" page, but not for a sales page. That has to come from me. For the record, everything on this site I've written myself, with the aid of a copywriting course to teach me how to do it more effectively.
Sigh, wasn't it pretty?
Well I sure hope so! The grand total, not including the Canadian to US exchange rate, was $9,859 ... which is still sitting on my line of credit today. So why the hell would I delete a website that cost me as much as a new car?
Because I didn't listen to my gut.
Last year when I was re-branding, something inside of me was saying: "Develop a new website at ashleysrokosz.com. Start business coaching. You're going in a different direction, and it's not all about food".
For the record, my previous website was www.lovewhatyoueat.ca. Despite the fact that other people were telling me that it was my website, and I could technically talk about whatever I wanted, I just didn't feel right about talking about anything other than food and health on that website.
In true Ashley fashion, I decided to ignore my gut, and pour thousands of dollars into that site and brand. I thought that if I just made it look so beautiful and professional, that I would get super excited about it again. Which I was ... for a little while. Kind of like how going and buying a new sweater makes you feel better about your shitty life for about a day. We all know how that turns out.
It was a classic case of feeling like I needed something outside of myself to "be successful", when all I really needed to do was to follow that little voice inside of me.
Less than a year later, my gut was still telling me to transition to ashleysrokosz.com, and to start sharing the biz lessons that I've learned. I couldn't take my old website with me, as I didn't code it in the first place and had no idea how to change a thing without screwing up entire pages of my site.
I had to start from scratch.
Now, I was already very proficient in Wordpress. Before the re-brand, I did all my own website development and design. I knew I wanted to create my own website, all by myself, so that I could teach other people how to do it (because it's really not as hard as people think, everything I know I taught myself with the help of Google and YouTube). When I went looking for a theme to use, they were all clunky and not easy to implement at all.
Believe me, I purchased and tried out 2 or 3 difference very expensive Wordpress themes that promised that they were "easy to use" and were "drag and drop" builders. Easy to use, my ass! After 8 hours of trying to build one freaking page on my website, I was ready to pull my hair out. I quickly asked for refunds on both, and then thought "now what?".
Then I found Squarespace, and my life changed forever.
It had everything I was looking for:
- clean and open design, with lots of whitespace so that my pictures would pop
- ability to move things where I wanted to so I could create unique, aesthetically pleasing pages
- ability to easily sell digital products and deliver them securely without me being involved
- ability to blog
- ability to integrate my e-mail software and have people sign up for my newsletter
- optimized for SEO, so that people could easily find my site on Google or other search engines
The best part? The hosting was already included, so I didn't even have to find a separate web hosting company like Wordpress does.
Plus, it saved me money, because the shopping cart was already included in the $28 US/month cost. I was paying upwards of $100 US/month on my shopping cart software alone before I switched to SS, and it was a piece of crap! So, I was already $100 US/month ahead by switching to SS.
Squarespace is a drag and drop website builder, with absolutely no need to know any sort of HTML or CSS coding (unless you want to get fancy). If you can click and drag a mouse or cursor, you can build a website. It's seriously that easy.
As with anything else, SS isn't perfect. The part that is most annoying to me right now is that they don't have a recipe card function like Wordpress does, so it's not possible to get that nice "print recipe" function without doing some coding or an extra 5 steps. This really matters to Holistic Nutritionists like myself, and I don't think it would be hard for them to include as a new function.
Also, SS is a cloud-based web host, meaning you have to be connected to the internet to work on your website, but, then again, so is Wordpress. Prepare to be spending a lot of of time at your local coffee shop with free Wi-Fi if you don't have a reliable connection at home or your office.
It's also not possible to back up your site, so if SS were to shut down some day, your website goes with it. I feel that SS is now a large enough company that the chances of this happening are slim to none, however it's not impossible. Once you have your main content written, I would take a screenshot so that you can have a record of it, as well as exporting your blog posts every now and then as a backup. Hopefully SS will add in these options in the near future.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because after doing 10 Business Strategy Sessions last month, half of them were about websites. When I sent out my questionnaire when I first started this site to learn what you wanted to know about, the most popular answers were 1) online marketing (including blogging, newsletters, webinars, etc); and 2) developing online programs. From this, I can only deduce with my Sherlock Holmes detective skills that you either already have some sort of online presence OR are going to need a website soon, and a professional looking one at that.
I also know that most of you are just starting out in business, so you probably don't have $10,000 to spend on a website. Even if you're not new, who wants to spend that sort of money on something you could do in about 3 days, if you just knew how? I'd rather empower you to build your OWN website, and pay someone else for the things you truly don't feel confident in, like designing a logo or professional photography. That way, if you want to edit your sales page for your online program, you can without feeling like you'll erase your entire website. Or, if you want to go in a totally different direction or niche, like I did, you won't have wasted $10,000.
For the record, I don't feel like it was a waste or a mistake. I learned some very important lessons from the entire experience, like how my gut is always right. But did I need to spend $10,000 to learn that? Probably not.
If you're tired of paying someone else to change every little thing on your website, or sending e-mail after e-mail with no response to your little techie cousin who built your website, then I'd encourage you to at least look at switching to Squarespace.
FYI: there are absolutely no affiliate links in the post, and I'm not making any money from recommending SS to you. I just want other entrepreneurs to know about it because it's been so awesome for me to use!
If you're ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, I'm holding a free training webinar called "How to use your website to find paying clients". Sound like it'd be something you're into? Here's what we're going to cover:
- What colours and style to have on your website to attract your ideal clients (i.e. who you actually want to work with)
- The 7 steps to writing an about page that makes your ideal clients say "How can I work with her?!".
- How to set up an online store with instantly delivered and downloadable products in minutes.
- What you need to put in your blog posts so you're attracting potential new clients even when you sleep.
- How to use one particular social media platform to get your ideal clients to click through to your website and find out about you.
I'm sure we'll cover a lot more, and there will be lots of time for questions at the end, and maybe even a Facebook live party. Click below to join the training:
You absolutely have the power to design and build your website without spending thousands of dollars like I did ... you just need the right tools. It's amazing what technology is on the market today, and I'm confident that if you can attach a document to an email, you can use SquareSpace to build a kick-ass website!
I wanna know: what horrible website stories do you have? Do you love your website? What are you using now? Fill us in on the comments below!