You are officially granted permission to create a non-perfect first website

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There are a few conversations I have so often with my coaching clients that they must become blog posts.

This is one of them.

Here’s the deal

When you first start out in business, experts from all over the planet tell you that you must have a targeted niche, a clear and compelling brand and a snappy unique selling proposition.

This is very wise advice to people who want to have thriving businesses, not expensive hobbies.

Here’s the problem

When you are first starting out, you may not KNOW exactly who your market is. You need to work with some people to see exactly whom you like working with, the kind of work you like doing, and the kind of people who will pay for what you have to offer.

But to get any clients at all, you need to have some kind of website. A place where you can have a simple “About” page, and a description of your services. And if you are looking to share content over the long-term, you need a blog.

Here’s the metaphor

Your first website can be like a bland, basic, boring house. It is functional. It meets your needs. It is agreeable to many, but exciting to few.

But as you grow and develop your business, and clarify your brand, you can add rooms to your house, and paint the walls, and plant beautiful flowers out front and fill it with music.

The foundation and basic structure will be the same. But it will look and feel quite different.

Here is the permission

It is OK to put up a website that is not perfect. You will not lose branding karma points or be laughed out of your web neighborhood.

Most importantly, you will stop obsessing about clarifying your perfect brand before you have had the experience necessary to define it properly.

The important thing is that you get a web presence established so that you can move on to more important things like getting clients.

Here is the caveat

Please create your first site on Wordpress. It can grow and flex with you, and there are thousands of talented designers who can help you with it.

Please do NOT create your first site on Godaddy or some other web host site. It  looks clunky, and you are going to have to move it to a more elegant site later.

Please do not mistake my advice as saying that a clear, crisp brand and well-defined niche is not important in the long run — it is. It is just not important at the very beginning of your journey, when you are testing everything about your business, and building a relationship with your market.

Here is the opportunity for web designers

  • Create a really simple, affordable ($500 or less) web package on Wordpress that will allow clients to get started without having a totally snappy brand name or tagline.
  • Don’t freak them out with too many questions about branding — they don’t know the answers yet.
  • Create a follow up plan with them so you can check in when they are ready to do a more extensive, full-on branded project with Twitter page, banners, color palates, business cards and other critical pieces for a well-established brand.

Here is my wish

Those of you who have been freaking out about your perfect brand can relax. Get your dang starter site done, and feel a flood of relief.

Take the time to discover your right market, and your brand will emerge.

Update 8/26:

My delightful buddy David Billings (aka SparkyFirePants) wrote a brilliant and related post on branding (the day before this one) that is like peanut butter to my jelly. You will get the analogy when you read his post Where’s the Hurry, Murray? What’s with the race to create your branded visuals?

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71 Responses to “You are officially granted permission to create a non-perfect first website”

  1. I have created new site about Godaddy Coupons ? How can i make people see my site ???

  2. Hi Pamela

    I can’t tell you how much you are spot-on with this post. I found it by accident while searching in Google for some blog resources for a client.

    I have actually told a few clients that WordPress is a good start, and while this is actually true, the possibilities are endless when it comes to choosing themes, widgets and plugins for all the various elements of a new WordPress site, which can leave new users quite overwhelmed – to the point where people might tend to give up once they get the site started. Just doing a web search for WordPress themes, or plugins yields over 800,000 results on Bing.com alone (so much for being the more “filtered and direct” search engine).

    While WordPress is an excellent tool for bloggers of all kinds, beginners and experienced, it can be a bit difficult to try to use it as a regular web site platform, since the main “out of the box” formula is meant for it to be a blog. However, I’ve successfully helped clients create web sites through WordPress.

    Maplewood Historical Society (http://www.maplewoodhistoricalsociety.org) is one recent example of how a WordPress setup can be used for a web site. I used the Arthemia theme for WordPress to get this site started, and modified it quite a bit to make it more unique to the organization, who I do public relations, marketing and promoting for.

    Also, for starter/basic web sites, don’t rule out content management systems, or CMS. Many have probably heard of the larger platforms such as Joomla! and Drupal, but these are heavy-weight and elaborate solutions which aren’t really meant for the small start-up solo-preneur or basic business site. There are simpler, more lightweight and user-friendly CMSs available, such as Cushy, LightCMS, and Etomite.org. I have been using Etomite CMS to create custom sites since about 2004, and highly recommend it.

    Most of my client sites in my portfolio use the CMS, and although some CMSs require limiting your design to their template structure, Etomite has allowed me to custom design a site specifically for a client’s needs and then have Etomite embrace the design as its own template.

    If anyone’s interested in a basic starter site using Etomite which is very easy to log into and make changes to, I have a special offer going for $450.00. And I’ll help you along the way. If you are handy at all in MS Word, enough to be dangerous, Etomite is child’s play. I have many clients using the system successfully

  3. Hi there: Can attest – Johnny B. Truant is wonderful. He had my site up and running in just a few days!

  4. Graydon says:

    It’s always good to hear someone say that what I’ve done is actually permitted. Like some others, I’m on the ##th iteration of my site (joomla based though).

    For those still looking for options… I ran across Johnny B. Truant’s site (good reading)… and he offers a site / blog setup service that looks interesting for those trying to get something going (http://johnnybtruant.com/services/).

    It’s good to see that he notes that the low price is possible due to being subsidized by the affiliate fee he would get when you sign up for the hosting he recommends.

  5. I recently pulled the trigger & put my website up. It wasn’t perfect but it’s better than having nothing up at all. Hopefully, people will give me honest feedback so that I can make any changes for the better. Now if I could only hit publish on all these posts I keep editing to death.

    And if you ever want your desktop analyzed, just click my name.

  6. Pam,

    Here is my comment on TJ McCue’s post, 7 Powerful and Free Website Builders for Small Businesses, on Small Business Trends:

    “TJ: You could also start out with sites like Posterous and Tumblr. It is very easy to get started and you could update your site in a “snap”.

    I have purchased a WordPress theme called Headway and you could say it is similar to the Thesis premium theme. We will use it for a new online venture.

    My personal favorite nowadays is Squarespace. I learned about this company when I heard a sponsor message during a Net @ Night podcast show at TWiT.tv with Leo Laporte and Amber Mac.”

    http://smallbiztrends.com/2010/08/7-free-website-builders-small-businesses.html

    My first post on Ego Sole Trader:

    Welcome to the “beta” [Editor’s note: “alpha”?! ;)] version of Ego Sole Trader! I have displayed John Cox’s Banner Rough at the moment and later on I will shift the header to Step 2: Blog Banner in Progress and after that the final version of EGO banner.

    After eight years of blogging, I will conduct a podcast interview with John Cox on May 23. The show will be powered by Blog Talk Radio.

    http://www.egosoletrader.com/journal/2010/5/11/ego-under-a-rough-banner.html

  7. I realize I am echoing many of the comments, but thanks Pam. This post came at the right time where I’ve been fussing too much about my blog. It’s always a work in progress, and that’s OK — I really appreciate the reminder.

  8. LexiB says:

    I like this article because I am constantly changing my website/blog. I want it to be attractive and one-of-a-kind. It’s a work in progress. I’m glad you said this because I believe some spent entirely too much time planning and are missing potential income for prospective clients.

  9. Thank you for this post, Pam!
    I’m creating my business on a shoe-string budget and designed my own website believing in your post even before I read it.
    How do I get people to look at it? 🙂
    I’m looking into websearch optimization.
    Does anyone have ideas?
    Thanks,
    Kathy

  10. Dahlia says:

    Hey Pam, thanks for the comforting advice.

    Starting a business isn’t as easy as it sounds. It involves a lot of processes and steps that is surely overwhelming. This is going to be a very long road to travel and times may get tough. And throughout that journey, we collect bits of information that will be very useful in building our business. Nothing is easy in the business world, especially when you’re a neophyte.

    The web offers a wide variety of solutions these days, and yup, you’re right Pam, there are a lot of talented web designers out there who will definitely provide outstanding results. Putting up your name into the public is a very crucial stage, similar with giving a good first impression. So I think it would be a good idea to ask help from the experts.

  11. Matt says:

    I use weebly.com. It’s far from perfect but totally FREE . I bought the web domain for $10 and now get it hosted for free on weebly. I took several hours and made the website and content myself. Check it out. You can do it… it won’t be perfect.

  12. Rebecca says:

    Love this article!

    I have to second Monkey, though– self-hosting is not necessarily the wrong choice for a new business. Trying to build your own site from scratch on GoDaddy?– yes, that’s far too overwhelming (and not a great option for a lot of businesses, I’d argue) and won’t look good unless you really know your stuff.

    But spending 10 bucks a month or less for a hosting account and installing a WordPress site on it might be a better choice for some folks than doing a free WP blog. (I would, however, agree that WP is the ideal “starter home” software on which to build a site quickly and without a lot of expertise, regardless of whether it’s hosted for free on wp.com or installed on a host account from wp.org.)

    I have a friend who’s starting a business who needed a site put up quickly. When I started working on it for her, I realized that the best free theme I could find for her needs (lots of photos, with a particular way we needed to categorize things) was not available on wordpress.com. Setting her up with a WP site on a hosted account was really not that much more difficult than creating a free site, and does not look different or worse than a free blog would have.

    Plus, if you set up your site initially as a free WP blog, there are many circumstances under which you might eventually need to move it to self-hosting. While WP tries to make that as easy as possible, I’m pointing it out because people could read “Please do NOT create your first site on Godaddy or some other web host site. It looks clunky, and you are going to have to move it to a more elegant site later” and take it to mean that if they create a free WP blog, they will never have to move it, which is not necessarily true.

    I think it’s a great idea for a new entrepreneur to spend a little money to hire someone to help them get something quick and dirty set up– someone who’s patient enough to help you clarify what you’re asking for and who can then translate that into something you can use is incredibly valuable and can save a lot of time and heartache.

  13. Allen Snook says:

    Amen Pam!

    The key word is “overwhelmed.” There is so much good advice out there and in our personal networks on launching and marketing and growing our businesses, and for someone just starting out, and especially for someone with one foot in the cubicle, there are just so many good things to do but not enough time to do them all.

    Having a perfect website really does stand between many people and moving forward. Having a perfect business plan does that too.

    As my mother-in-law insightfully said recently about trying to do it all and over-thinking it in the process, “it’s time to stop philosophizing and time to start doing.” In other words, find a few things and do them well – choose a few elements for your first website and GO.

    Keep up the great encouraging work!

    Cheers…
    Allen, Web Designer
    designgeneers!

  14. Allison says:

    Great post Pam, especially good for new start ups to hear.
    One thing I’ve found is that with each project, you feel as if you’re never going to get there, then when you do, it’s straight on to the next thing on your list and you’re back in ‘I’m never going to get there’ mode!
    We should keep looking back and congratulating ourselves on what we have achieved and not beating ourselves up for being less than perfect.
    Allison
    Allison Galbraith
    Moving you from Redundancy in to Business Success
    Email: allison@macintoshwright.co.uk
    Website: http://www.macintoshwright.co.uk
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/Allison_M_G
    Facebook: http://tiny.cc/4psfF

  15. Leisa LaDell says:

    Thanks Pamela –
    I totally agree. I could have used this permission about 6 months ago. But…probably wouldn’t have ‘heard’ it then anyway. After going through the phases: Great vision. Excited for future, Daunted by all there is to do, Depressed cause I’ll never be able to do all that, I am now living happily in the landing of Imperfect action, learning as I go and looking forward to future improvements.

    Thanks for all you do, Leisa

  16. That was a freaking awesome post. I just spent the last 6 months obsessing about my perfect website and getting absolutely nothing done. Then today I just said screw it I’m not getting off my computer until I have a website/blog running. So this is my 3rd comment using my 1st “perfect” website.

    Thanks for the awesome post.

  17. Yes, you are absolutely correct. People don’t start businesses having the perfect product and the perfect business model. The reality of business is these elements evolve over time. You start somewhere with an idea and refine the points of your businesses as it comes in contact with customers and the marketplace. Unfortunately, many people procrastinate in starting their businesses because they feel they should know everything before they get started and getting started means executing a step-by-step plan. But that’s not how business works – it’s a discovery process. And let’s face it, every bsuiness changes over the years and it’s important to know how to change and evolve if they expect to stay in business.

  18. […] There are a few conversations I have so often with my coaching clients that they must become blog posts.This is one of them.Here’s the dealWhen you first start out in business, experts from all over the planet tell you that you must have a targeted niche, a clear and compelling brand and a snappy unique […] Original post […]

  19. Kim Steadman says:

    Permission granted? Permission TAKEN! Pam, thanks for getting me on the right track. I’ve been stressing on TOO much TOO soon! Just ‘gitter done!

  20. NENM says:

    Great article. Small businesses, particularly mom and pop businesses, do need to hear something like this and get started the right way. When I say the right way using the Wordpress as the website platform to start with. I still see that many designers overwhelm the business owners with bespoke designs and a lot of questions. This sure takes more time and result in more cost door the business. But, with some good information like this I am sure that more and more businesses and designers get incremental approach.

    I am certainly going to use and point to this article. Thanks.

    Shruti -NENM

  21. Cool designer says:

    Making a website is really not that tough, and top of all, you can create a website or more website for free.
    Building a website is a extremely individual skill and is different with each client.
    It is more about revealing your business to new probable clients and generating new sales.

  22. Kate says:

    Great article, and I couldn’t agree more!

    “Create a really simple, affordable ($500 or less) web package on Wordpress that will allow clients to get started without having a totally snappy brand name or tagline.”

    I actually have one! A nice clean and simple design; build with WordPress so people can tweak and grow their site over time; and video tutorials to help them get started. Details are at http://www.artemisdesign.co.uk/services/part-custom-websites/.

  23. Great post, and that’s exactly what lots of people need to hear.

    Thanks.

  24. David Wang says:

    Amen Pam! I’ve noticed that this is a big problem for lots of people. Unfortunately designers kind of perpetuate that idea. (Not Tzaddi though, she’s a dear).

    I’m planning on launching a new product. It’s a pretty significant deal for me so I hired a friend to design the site. I told her please do the blog header first. I’ll launch with that and then fill in the blanks later.

    She looked at me aghast and asked how I could launch an “incomplete” site. I told her it’s not incomplete, it’s just in Beta and will continually be improved.

    Most times you actually don’t need a designer at all. Here’s my review of the Headway WordPress theme that allows you to turn WordPress into a small business website without needing to have web design skills:

    http://buzzmedia.com.my/resources/wordpress-small-business-headway-theme

  25. Monkey says:

    Whoa there, sistah. Don’t be taking away my procrastination tools. Then I might actually have to get something done!
    You are, of course, 100% correct. Just get it going, is the moral here. However, for total newbies I’m afraid you might be unintentionally misleading (or at least confusing) about GoDaddy. Yes, get a Wordpress site! But if you use wordpress.org vs. wordpress.com you will need to get your own hosting….that’s where GoDaddy can come in. Not as a place to design the site, just to host it.
    The benefits of .org vs. .com are mighty if you’re a business. Or even if you’re just a blogger who might want to a). own the domain and/or b). make money on the blog. The list of benefits goes on from there, but I won’t deprive someone else the opportunity to use this decision as a procrastination tool. That one kept me busy for days!

  26. Wendy Cholbi says:

    I see that I’m a bit late to this party, but I’ll chime in to say that I’m so glad to see this post, which is spot-on! It matches exactly what I tell people who come to me for website help.

    My clients often think that they have to have a perfect design/brand/logo/etc. before even planning to build a website, and that thought keeps them from getting started on *any* website.

    Corollary: I often see the mentality that “get the website done” is just a thing to check off on the long list of business tasks, and that once that happens, the website doesn’t need to be on the front burner anymore.

    I like to suggest that your business website will never really be “done.” And I don’t mean that in a depressing, your-work-is-never-over, keep-pushing-the-rock-up-the-endless-hill kind of way, honest! As someone who really likes checking things off lists myself, I find that the idea of a continuous work-in-progress can sometimes be really hard to swallow.

    But reframing it exactly as Tzaddi did, with her beautiful plant metaphor, helps a lot. Your website, just like your business, is an organic entity and needs to be able to change and grow with you.

    Thanks for officially granting permission, Pam!

  27. I keep telling my clients the same thing! If you want to test the waters, a Wordpress site is the way to go. I love Wordpress. So easy that even I could do it myself. Get something up and work through the details. A lot will change in the process. That said, I had a clear idea of my business so I put up the quick Wordpress blog and then paid a designer to do a nice branded website for me (hosted on GoDaddy). Their support really is pretty good. AND a domain name e-mail does make a better impression than hotmail or gmail.

  28. Chris Horner says:

    Pam, this is so true. As a banker who works with small businesses and someone who has started my own side business WAY too often I see things change drastically once money and clients start rolling in. Even in my photography venture, I started out pursuing one thing convinced I knew what would work – but it quickly changed to another. This necessitated rewording sections on my site. Thankfully starting with a simple site made this process MUCH easier and I’ve been to adjust as I go along, even upgrading the site as I learned more and response justified it.

    IMO, if you present yourself and skills correctly, that carries more weight than a superbly polished website.

  29. Robert says:

    Thanks Pam. Sound advice and I welcome you all to visit my not so great but functional website!

    Better than a typical British bungalow (single storey) but not as great as the mock Tudor houses near Marlow and Henley….!

  30. Oh thank god. Because I’m currently re-envisioning my site…AGAIN…and I still think I’m getting closer, but not spot-on, not yet. My mantra has been “it’s enough for now”, and you know what? It has been. And will be. AND, I want to rock the site–really get my “flavor” dialed in, my voice clear, my message on point.
    Now if I could just speed up the process…any thoughts?

  31. Mark R says:

    Great Advice,

    Can I suggest finding a really good designer who is willing to tutor? I have found one that adds things I am not comfortable with, fixes my goofs and listens. I do most my own stuff, but I have a back-up. I am a marketer not a computer person, he understands that, and I appreciate that.

    Everybody wins.

  32. Hi Pam. Your post was so spot on! I needed to hear that message again. It’s about prototyping and moving forward not about getting it “right” the first time. Thanks for the kind, gentle and much-needed nudge!

  33. […] rest is here: You have been strictly postulated accede to emanate the non-perfect … Analogy, delaying-the-launch, Gaps, house, kick, Launch, pants, result, the-house, […]

  34. This is SUCH great advice – I have a friend who created a beautiful website for me at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey and as I’ve evolved I don’t feel it fits as well as it should, and changing it now seems quite complicated and awkward.

  35. Mike says:

    Thank goodness, because my site is far from perfect, or even branded much. I spent quite a while sweating over my site, but then at the coaxing of peers, I just went with it.
    The branding will come too, as I feel out where I want to be.

    It’s so interesting you wrote about this now Pam, I’m living it!

  36. Jon Strocel says:

    Fantastic advice Pam. It’s basically what I’m telling everyone now as well. A basic Wordpress site is your home base, a simple about and how-can-I-find-you presence. And if you need one of those sites, go visit Tzaddi a couple comments above me, she’s the best.

  37. Ali Davies says:

    Well said Pam. The reality is that no matter whether you are a start up or been in business years, the business will continue to evolve. And the more we play with it the more it evolves and develops. So totally agree that letting go of website being perfect from the start an absolute must.

  38. Excellent advice! I just begged someone the other day to choose Wordpress over GoDaddy. He said I was too expensive to hire (even though he never asked what I charge) and said he was just gonna do it himself on GoDaddy. I begged him not too. Hopefully he listens.

    I love the Genesis framework from StudioPress. It’s insanely simple and so easy to adjust as my business changes!

    Thanks for all the info!!

  39. Tzaddi says:

    I totally agree. One metaphor I use in thinking about websites is that each one is a plant. It’s going to grow and change over time. It needs pruning, feeding, and the right ecosystem to thrive. You might even decide to uproot it and move it at some point! But it’s got to start somewhere.

    So long as you start on a system that’s made for change and growth, like WordPress is, you’re on the right path.

  40. THat is such good news. Except I was wondering if you know how I could best get help for this website of mine.I hired a person last year to help me with marketing but then she said i needed a website so she built me my website on wordpress. It is not very user friendly for me. My blog is all messed up and I dont know where to go for the bst help. Thanks for any advice!

  41. These are great points Pamela! If I had waited until I was an expert I wouldn’t have started yet. 🙂 I took a great social marketing course but you have to learn a lot by doing. I realized later I need to split up my content into 2 different blogs.

  42. ericka hines says:

    HOW COULD YOU DO THAT? you just removed about 20% of my brain worrying about biz launch. And you gave me permission. Dang. I just had to take a deep breath and let it all out.

    That “pseudo” rant was to say- Thank you–self hosted wordpress.org website going to work on this weekend. And we launch from there.

    HUGS! *is it okay to do that*
    Ericka

  43. I really like this post. I really do. It really validates my current point of view that just as the business grow organically, the website should also grow organically. Thanks for this post.

  44. Scot Herrick says:

    Since 2006 I have been trying to figure out what to do when my website grows up. So far, I have had about twenty iterations. Someday, I promise, I will arrive at my perfect destination. Of course, the rest of the world will have moved on, but I will have arrived.

    Do it. Then figure it out. We learn more by doing.

    Nice job, as always, Pamela.

    • Charlie says:

      Hi Scot,

      I checked out your website, and it doesn’t show up too well on my browser. I use the latest version of Opera. For me, the text is very small (too small to comfortably read) and the e-book boxes are way on the right and cut off.

      I think the design is great, nice and clean!

  45. Great post Pam!

    I actually have a package that might work really well for folks who want not only to launch a WordPress site, but to learn how to use WordPress as well.

    It’s called “Launch and Learn” and is priced at $325. You can read more about it here: http://www.magneticwebworks.com/services/launch-and-learn-web-sites/

    At any rate, I wholeheartedly agree about WordPress, as it’s getting more powerful and also easier to use all the time, and WordPress will be around for a long time, so without re-inventing the wheel, you can always re-design and upgrade your site as your business grows.

    Best of luck to everyone!

    Doron

  46. Sigh…can’t tell you how much I needed to hear this. I have been striving to create the “perfect site” but stressing about the gaps in my brand so much that I am delaying the launch unnecessarily. Your analogy about the house is spot on. Thanks so much for the kick in the pants I needed! 🙂

  47. Tara Mohr says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I followed/am following this trajectory and am very glad I did!

  48. Deanna says:

    Thanks Pam. You alway say the thing I need to hear at exactly the right time. Like when I read your book and got to the chapter about living in a van down by the river.

    I’ve talked o a lot of people just starting out. We all seem to be overwhelmed by all the excellent advice available. Its refreshing to be reminded that what I have now is not the end product. And that my worst fears aren’t likely to happen.

  49. Colette says:

    Great advice Pam! But, I do think blogger is just a good a first start as wordpress, and with the new pages, you can accomplish all the same things as you can on wordpress.

  50. Glad says:

    Thanks. I needed to hear this.