By Jonathan Henning

If you’ve ever started a small business, you know just how expensive it can become. When you’re finally ready to launch, you have to face the reality that you’re fighting not only against more established small and medium businesses but also against large corporations that have unlimited marketing budgets and can streamline their processes.

Luckily, if you have a website, you can start marketing your services online and start attracting leads from day one.

The only problem is, you need to design a website that looks professional and converts visitors into customers, which can sometimes be very expensive, especially if you haven’t gone through the process before and don’t know what to expect.

But don’t worry, you won’t have to spend a fortune to get your website up and running – today, it’s easier than ever to quickly establish an online presence if you know a few vital steps.

There are many options at different price points to allow you the flexibility of choosing a solution that works best for your current situation. To give you a better idea, here are three options for your new website that you may want to consider.

Option #1: Use WordPress or a Website Builder

The first option is one that’s growingly popular among small businesses – instead of hiring a website design and development company, many business owners choose to try and build a website on their own by using one of the many available building tools that are available today.

The benefits of such an approach are obvious – you don’t have to worry about spending thousands of dollars for an agency and can instead build the website by yourself.

What’s more, tools like Wix or Weebly have intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces which allow even a complete beginner to put together a nice-looking website in a matter of hours. The sites also come with built-in search engine optimization and are adaptive to mobile devices, so you don’t have to worry about figuring out the technical stuff.

But even though this approach may be lucrative, it has its obvious drawbacks.

The biggest one lies in the fact that since many are using the same templates, it has become pretty easy to spot a website that’s made using one of the more popular tools as they all use a similar framework and the possibilities to customize and develop your own UX are very limited.

And even if you use a more advanced user-friendly platform like WordPress, you will also face similar problems if you don’t have any coding or design experience. While WordPress can be very flexible and can be used for more complex web development, casual users won’t have an easy time trying to figure it all out.

Another reason why this option isn’t the best for many businesses is the time commitment that it would require, at least if you want a website that looks professional and helps you accomplish your business goals.

There’s a learning curve even when using the most basic website builders, and you’ll still need to make all the creative decisions on your own, as well as fill the website with content and other relevant information.

There’s also the issue of adhering to various requirements and regulations that protect internet users, so you will need to have all the proper disclaimers and privacy policy documents.

In the end, unless you’re operating on the absolute minimal budget, this path is not a great choice – the money you could save will be overshadowed by the fact that you’ll waste a ton of time you could otherwise spend running your business, and you’ll have no guarantees that the end result will meet your requirements.

Option #2: Hire Someone to Build Your Website on a Platform

Even though the first option is obviously the most affordable, the drawbacks are also more than evident – you need to present your business in the most professional manner possible, so trying to build a website using templates is not a viable option in the long term.

Sure, it may work as a placeholder until you scrape together more cash, but that just means that your first interactions with customers online would happen on a subpar website. What’s more, when you do come up with the budget for a customized site, you’ll have to repeat the entire process all over again with a designer or an agency.

However, there is an in-between choice for those that don’t want to do it on their own but still need a website.

There’s no denying that WordPress and even the other website builders have potential and can produce beautifully looking websites if operated by someone who has experience and knows what they’re doing.

The pro-level themes that are available for WordPress can be the foundation for a stunning-looking website if handled by a designer who has enough experience.

This is an option that’s also popular among small and medium businesses because without spending too much, you can achieve a professional-looking result – these themes and templates are created with small businesses in mind, and you can even find unique templates that were designed for your specific industry.

However, even though this option does have many advantages, it isn’t right for everyone.

You can get a reasonably professional result, but since you’d likely be hiring a single freelance coder/designer to make it happen, you’d still be responsible for making sure that the website has everything that you need and would have to spend a significant amount of time researching and figuring out your own requirements.

At this price point, you should expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars, so the designer should be competent at following direction, but unless you get lucky, he won’t be able to guide you by the hand and come up with a customized solution that’s right for you on his own.

If you don’t specify your needs and communicate them to the designer every step of the way, you might end up with a cookie-cutter solution that won’t really be much better than the basic website you could have created on your own using one of the website builders.

Sure, it will be cleaner and might even look more professional, but any additional functionality or user experience elements that you want to be added you’ll have to figure out on your own.

And that presents another issue that’s hard to ignore. Today’s consumers are more demanding and sophisticated than ever, so you need to provide a seamless user experience and customer journey if you want to remain competitive online.

A freelance designer that installs and customizes WordPress themes won’t have the necessary experience and knowledge to take your company’s brand and values and translate them into a website that resonates with your audience and positions you the right way.

And since you don’t have the experience of dealing with user experience as well, this can be a huge roadblock if you need your website to be more than just a place to get your contact info and find out about your basic services.

Option #3: Hire a Professional Design Company

Finally, you have the option of hiring a professional design company that will take over the entire process and produce a website that’s custom-made for your needs.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – this can’t be a realistic option for a small business that’s just starting out, right?

Well, the truth is, you can hire an agency at a reasonable price – if you take the time to look around, you can find a reliable and affordable website design company that will work with your budget to find the package that best fits your individual needs.

When you’re working with a design agency, you are getting not only the technical side of website development and design, but are also receiving expert consultations, and guidance into what solutions would work best in your situation.

These agencies have dealt with dozens, if not hundreds of clients that have similar needs as you, so they can provide you with informed suggestions of what works and what doesn’t and give you the best chance to succeed.

Sure, this is probably going to be the most expensive option, but you need to remember why you need a website in the first place. It will be your hub for all of your online marketing campaigns, so you need it not only to look professional and match up with your brand but also to be engaging and convert your target audience into customers on a consistent basis.

What’s more, a good web design agency should be able to help you develop an online marketing strategy to start attracting leads as soon as possible, or at least refer you to a trustworthy marketing agency to get that process started.

This way, you can rest assured that your website will serve you as a valuable asset for years to come and won’t just sit there without bringing your business any value.