Writer Websites: Do it Yourself or Hire a Professional?

This week I’m celebrating the launch of my new website! If you missed the giveaway in the last post, make sure you head over and leave a comment by midnight tonight (Friday July 30) EST.

Today, I wanted to share why I chose to hire a professional to design my site rather than doing it myself. After all, why would anyone pay big bucks to have someone else do a website when there are inexpensive and fairly easy ways to design one yourself?

Originally I’d considered designing my own. I jumped into blogging and quickly learned the ropes, so I figured a website couldn’t be much harder. Initially, I signed up for Yahoo’s Sitebuilder. With the help of my friend Jill Kemerer, I got off to a great start. (Check out Jill’s articles for do-it-yourself website tips.)

Why then, did I stop my own efforts and hire someone? Here are just a few of the reasons I decided to have a professional set up my site:

1. To Save Time.

Anytime we try to learn something new, it takes more time and effort, even something as simple as a point-and-click build-your-own website. After I got my book contract, many other things began to demand my attention, things I didn’t want to give up (or couldn’t) like researching and writing the next novel (go figure!), rewrites on The Preacher’s Bride, blogging, writing interviews, marketing, etc. I needed to find ways to save time. Designing my own site was one thing I could give up.

2. To Ensure Professionalism.

When I was trying to decide whether to hire a web designer, I did an experiment with my husband. I picked several published author websites and showed them to him. I asked him to tell me which ones he thought were professionally designed and which ones were done by the author. On almost all of them, he was able to distinguish the difference.

Obviously not every professional web designer can live up to Pulse Point in their creativity and attention to detail. But for the most part, a trained artist who designs websites for a living is usually going to be able to put something together with more ease and skill than someone who’s not an expert.

3. To Stand Out From the Crowd.

With all the other websites vying for readers’ attention, I wanted something that could stand out from the rest. I didn’t want mine to be “just another website.” But I needed help to get beyond ordinary to something that reflected me as an author and helped set me apart. Isn’t that one of the things we’re working toward with our book too—letting our unique voices shine through?

Pulse Point was careful not only to tailor the site to meet my needs and likes, but also to help magnify my unique presence. They considered everything, from using a scroll font that matches what's on my book cover, the fun quiz box on the Reader Fun page, to their specially designed pop-up box for buying the book. (Check it out on the Books page, under "Pre-Order this Book." It's really cool!).

4. To Maximize Internet Potential.

Even if I had the time to set up a professional and stand-apart website, I still wouldn’t have the capability or understanding to maximize the potential the internet offers. Pulse Point's creative director, Kelli Standish, informed me that 43% of users still have dial-up. Because of that, Pulse Point carefully chose every picture and detail to help optomize the load time, particularly for dial-up users (many in the Midwest, which will possibly comprise a large chunk of my readers). Also, Google is now placing some emphasis on how fast sites load when determining the search engine rank.

In other words, the PulsePoint team has worked to make it easy for people to navigate my website. And since they're the experts in key words, search engines, etc., they also have the knowledge for how to drive more traffic to my site. Who wouldn't want to increase their potential for attracting visitors?

Summary: I look at my website as a business expense. My husband, as a private practice counselor, had start-up costs when he went into business for himself. My website is one of my start-up costs. My husband has to pay on-going rent for his offices. And now, my website is my online office and I’m paying “rent” for it.

As an added bonus, through Pulse Point, I’ve gained an incredible support for my writing career. Kelli Standish and her design team didn't just put together an excellent online brand for me. They also have a passion to walk along side me, encourage me, and do all they can to help me succeed.

So, should you hire a professional or do it yourself? Ultimately everyone has to make a decision that works for them. Before getting a book contract, I’m not convinced it’s necessary to invest a lot of money into a site—a well maintained, professional blog may even be enough. (See these posts: How Important is a Website for an Unpublished Author and How to Maintain a Professional Blog) However, after getting a contract, an author needs to give serious weight to the website issue.

What are you planning to do (or have you already done) with your author website? Are you considering hiring a professional or doing it yourself? And why?

*Make sure to read the comments! Kelli has included 4 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Web Designer.


  1. What a beautiful new look. Love it.

  2. Jody, the new site definitely meets the criteria you enumerate as reasons to have a professional design your website. While I always loved your old site, this one is gorgeous and achieves your ends. I don't have a personal site, only a blog I run with another writer. She knows the ins and outs of html and all the other technical stuff I would never be able to deal with alone :) If I ever have a site for myself, I know who I'll be calling!

    Thanks, Jody!

  3. Jody, your website is gorgeous! And it was brilliant for your designer to incorporate your blog so seamlessly. Bravo!

  4. Well, you've sold me! I think Kelli (we're on first name basis, now, right?) did an amazing job. And the way she seamlessly incorporated blogger into your site is amazing. And I understand about load time. I get irritated on DSL when a site won't load quickly. And my mom has dial up being out in the country, so people do have dial up.

    Anyway, I still can't believe it when I click on your new posts and your site pops up! Congrats again!

  5. I'm in the midst of the next step--combining two blogs into one site. I paid to secure a domain name, help set me up, help create my header, be there for troubleshooting. All on my way to when I turn out my first book and need a "real" website.

  6. Your site was well worth the expense. Looking professional is key to standing out. I've been to a couple very well-known authors' sites that are still created using html. Their sites are blah.

    For now, my site is made through iWeb. Once my book sells, I'll consider different designers and make a choice. What made you decide on PulsePoint?

  7. I love your points and your site is gorgeous.
    I'd like to hire a professional too. Right now I just have a blog that claims to be my website. *grin*
    I still have to buy my domain name and it's not even available, which stinks. Not sure how that will pan out. lol

    You're right about this being rent. Great way to look at it!

  8. You had me at 'to save time'. There are only so many minutes in the day and we're all stretched to the limit. So anything that can save us a little time (so that occasionally we can take the time to recharge instead of running ourselves into the ground) is a good thing. And our families will thank us too.

    You make a very sensible and practical point that it's a business start up cost. I'm not at the point of having my own blog yet (and once again, I'm left wondering where I'm possibly going to have the time to write for one, let along run one...), but from a business aspect, I think you're absolutely correct that it needs to be looked at simply as a business expense. And look at what a beautiful job they did! Worth every penny...

  9. I used to be a professional web designer, so I'm not sure if I would do it myself or go pro.

    Sometimes it's nice to get a fresh view point. Plus, as you point out, there's the time factor. Even when you already know how to create a website, there's still the time it takes to create it. Time when I'd hopefully be writing.

    On the other hand, if I find a good visual hook for my design, I'd want to do it myself!

    I love your design and I think you and your design team did a great job!

  10. I frequent published author’s websites not only my favorite authors but also well-known and up-and-coming authors to see what they’ve done with their sites. Some are plain and professional, some mimic the style they write (sci-fi, fantasy, mystery), and some are slapped together. You’re so right about this being part of your office. The nicer the office the more likely I’ll return to find out when the next book is available or what the author is working on.

  11. Again, it's STUNNING!
    I hired a professional and don't regret it FOR A MINUTE! There's just so many features I wouldn't have known to include--plus the research time would've left me without a second for WIP!

    Spanning Seas and Secrets connects my readers with me. Hopefully they will sense the power, the joy, the hope, in Romans 8:28, God working for good in all things in the lives of those who love Him, who call on His name.

    Have a great weekend, dear one!

  12. Agreed! I also used a professional with mine and am happy I did. :O)

  13. I am so impressed with your site. It was the right way to go! I use a web-design program that comes standard with my web-host, and it's good for basics, but I would have to spend big bucks on Publisher or Dreamweaver to have a site that looks as good as yours. The cool tabs and separators just aren't available with standard design programs.

    And as with all of our writing expenses, at least they're tax deductible, right? :)

  14. If I had the money, I'd certainly hire a professional. There's so many neat things the pros can do. Plus, you're right: it is ALOT of time and work to get your site looking even halfway decent...and still, everyone and their dog can tell it's home-done.

    But what I do like about doing my website myself is the control I have over it--not to mention the cheap factor. If I want to change or update, I can do it as as soon as the urge strikes. I don't have to wait for someone else's time-frame to get it done, or pay an extra fee to add a new page.

    So, I guess there are pros and cons both ways.

  15. I hired a professional when my book came out and am glad I did, for all the reasons you enumerate here, Jody. Your site is spectacular and seems to really reflect who you are and what and how you write.

  16. This is a great post, and you made the right choice. Even though I am an IT pro and have been for a long time, I still wouldn't choose to design my own website (once I've made it like you have, that is). I do have a great deal of web design knowledge and experience, but I still know that somebody else could do it better. And as you point out, that's one other thing I don't have to spend time on, meaning I have more time for important things like writing.

  17. I'm planning on hiring a professional, but I'm not going down that road until I get a contract. Until then, I'm okay with a blog. :)

    Great tips, Jody! I love your website!

  18. Jody your site looks great. I always feel I know a little more about the person just from viewing their web site, when it's professionally done. I hope to be able to hire a professional when I can afford it.

  19. Hey Jody,
    I chose PulsePoint for the same reasons. I did begin working with them before I sold, and it was God's perfect timeing.

    If other bloggers out there haven't visited PulePoint Designs website you really should. It's lots of fun to look at others personalites shining through their sites and begin thinking about what you'd like to do with your own site.

    PPD is a busy company though so if you want them to do work for you contact them now because it will take a while.

    I'm so happy with mine at If any of you have a chance to visit look at how different but how effective each of our sites are.

    And it is a business expense. You want to put your best foot forward and I for one don't have the expertise that web designers have.

    Great job of explaining all this Jody.

  20. Jody, I am SOOOO glad I bumped into your site. I loved your other one, but this really takes it over the top.

    You inspire me. So far I have a personal blog -- it was my way of taking the 'aspiring' out of 'aspiring writer' and creating a place to actually practice the craft of writing and do it regularly and consistently.

    I've been thinking about taking my online presence to new places. And now, as the 'flagship' you've opened the way for new dreams not only for yourself, but for me, and for anyone else who dreams dreams.

    Happy Day..........

  21. Lisa Jordan asked: What made you decide on PulsePoint?

    My Answer: Lisa, I asked around for web design companies that other authors were using. I made a list of them, visited author websites, and the narrowed down the two companies whose work I liked best. Then I explored the portfolios on their sites to get an even better flavor of their work. I wanted to pick the one that could best represent me, and because of the vivid graphic designs and innovative techniques, I chose PulsePoint. (And btw, I found PulsePoint's costs to be lower, even though I was willing to pay more to use them!)

    As Jillian Kent mentioned, Pulse Point's service are in high demand. They're very busy and are booking out websites months down the road. But for me, it's been worth the wait!

    And as I mentioned, Kelli Standish has incredible knowledge of the CBA market. She has a heart for authors and encouraging them to succeed. She's much more than a web designer. She's really become a friend and cheerleader.

  22. I think your site is well worth the investment. It suits you and really stands out from the rest. LOVE IT! I am so ridiculously proud of you! lol

  23. I've really enjoyed reading all your comments, (thanks for the kind words!!)and thought I'd pop in here to share a few thoughts on questions to ask when hiring a designer.

    1) DO THEY KNOW YOUR MARKET? Having worked in the Christian publishing industry for many years, I might be biased, but I believe this is really important. Any digital media firm can speak code, and can put together something "pretty", but do they understand the felt needs and culture of your market? Do they have a passion to serve your readers? That heart for service will show in the work they do.

    2.) DO THEY GENUINELY CARE ABOUT YOU? Many digital media/marketing firms exist because they love the work. Loving the work is good. Loving the client is better. Our love for the work, honestly, is intermittent (working with at least seven different code languages at any given moment, often putting in 20 hour days, battling server outages, cross-browser compatibility issues, e-mail delivery issues, reading through hundreds of newsfeeds daily to keep our clients on the cutting edge of technology... not always fun!!), but our love for our clients is ironclad. Find a firm that has a vision to be a long-term partner and advocate in your journey, a team you truly connect with, rather than someone who'll just slap up a web site and hold out a hand for payment.

    3.) DO THEY HAVE A GOOD REPUTATION? Like Jody, do your homework prior to contacting a design team. Google is your friend!! Check out their blog, get a feel for their company culture, look through their portfolio, click the "designed by" links on your favorite author web sites. And get recommendations from other authors/people in your industry. One important thing to check is how long the company has been in business. There's a big turn around in the design industry. Designers open and close up shop all the time. Make sure your firm is established and reliable.

    4.) DO THEY ALLOW YOU TO CONTROL YOUR DIGITAL RIGHTS? Some design firms will maintain control of your domain and web hosting space, and require you to come to them for site updates. Make sure you have a site like Jody's, that's set up on a content management system, and manageable from any internet connected computer. Also, make sure they provide you with every username and password associated with your account (server control panel, FTP access, domain management info, etc.) Your digital property is just that: yours. Make sure it stays that way.

    Obviously there are more questions to consider, but these are a few of the most important.

    As a last thought, let me say this: choose your digital management team wisely.

    A good digital/new media marketing team is as important as a good agent. Just as your agent represents you to publishers and negotiates on your behalf, your digital team represents you to billions of viewers on line, and negotiates the tricky worlds of code, site usability, online branding, search engine optimization, and social networking on your behalf.

    The right fit is super important!

    Wishing you all a day full of sunshine and well-behaved characters, and off to prepare for our awesome programmer's wedding this afternoon! Woot!

    ☼ Kelli ☼

  24. Again, your website looks wonderful and it sounds like you had a great team to work with.

    So far, I've done my web site myself and feel it's professional enough for now. When I move further in my writing career, toward being agented or published then I will make that next decision whether or not to hire someone to bring my web site or blog to that next level.

  25. You make a lot of excellent points, Jody. What I love most about your posts is that they always have so much logic behind them - they feel so well thought-out. I loved your old look, but your new "package" is beautiful and it accomplishes everything you want it to. If I ever have a book contract, I'll seriously consider Pulse Point. :-)

  26. Hi Jody! Your new site is fabulous!! I designed my own website (obviously, I'm sure) because I'm just starting out and I wasn't sure if I was ready to pay for something that I wasn't sure anyone was ever going to come to. I may change my mind in the future, though!

  27. Great points, Jody. I think the most important one is "save time." We could all learn to do these things ourselves, but we need time to write! I believe in learning what I can -- and paying someone else to do the rest for me. (And I hope others will do the same when they look to hire me for social media... Do what they're good at, and hire me for what I'm good at!)

    I'm re-doing with for two reasons: 1. So I can have my blog there, too and 2. So I can make changes to the site myself. I'm one of those people who always wants to add or tweak content.

    Since I'm decent at WordPress, I'm building the basics of the site myself -- then hiring a Thesis (that's the theme I'm using) expert to help me customize the site, so it looks special, different than other Thesis sites. I watch her make the changes so I can learn to do them myself. Best of both words!

    Love your new site. So worth it.

  28. For starters I built a site using yahoo site builder. But it definitely took a lot of time, and isn't nearly as professional! But it's a start, and is sort of like a home base.

    I love what your team did for you, it's beautiful!

  29. Love the website. I think it's a professional looking site with all the Jody touches we've come to love. It really does look great. I think when the time comes I'll do the same. It makes sense to treat our online presence with as much professionalism as possible. Have a great weekend Jody!

  30. Personally I would do it myself since I have a design background already. I worked in graphic design and animation for about ten years. The only factor that might deter me would be time (I'm still using a default background for my writing blog. Um-ah)

  31. I've hired a pro too, for many of the reasons you state. Very well-analyzed, as usual! :-) I'm looking forward to the day mine goes up.

  32. Jody..the new look is lovely. I would prefer to hire a pro than do it myself.

  33. I love the new look of your blog, and all this great advice about setting up a website. You're shining with all this new polish!

  34. I think your site is lovely. You made a great decision. But you did your research, obviously. Not everybody does. If I ever get a book contract, I'll probably do the same (hire a professional).

  35. The site is beautiful and tranquil.

    I love it!

  36. I offer a halfway-house solution to help authors achieve a professional site but at low-cost.

  37. I understand your reasoning and I love what your designer has done with your website and blog. An author's time is limited with only so many hours in the day to do all that needs to be done for a career and family. I find it hard sometimes to balance it all. Whenever I can hire help I do. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

  38. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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