So you are ready to build your new website, arguably the most important marketing tool for your business. Where to start? You heard your friends, sisters, son can make websites; maybe you can ask him? Maybe you will check the Yellow Pages (remember those?), or maybe a Google search will yield a good result? However you decide to embark on your search for a great new website for your company, there are some things you should know about your most likely choices.

1. Freelancers – There are MANY amazingly talented freelancers out there. The problem with freelancers is that they are often specialized in one area, usually all design or all development. Sure they know enough to put out a full site if they need to, but it is pretty uncommon for one person to be highly skilled in both website design AND website development, not to mention SEO, social media, email marketing, mobile, etc.

Another problem with most freelancers is that after your site is launched, it is not profitable for them to continue to support your website. Usually in order for change cycles on websites to be profitable, a web company needs a high volume of clients, which one person can not handle effectively. Let’s also not forget that freelancers are most likely design specialists so adding a new feature to your website might not even be possible for them. After all, you chose them partly based on their pretty portfolio right? Trying to find someone else or another web company to support your website after launch is possible but usually comes at a high cost. Whomever you are switching to first needs to understand how your previous developer coded the website and the logic they used.

2. Website Builders – More and more of these website builder services are popping up. At first glance they seem great! Quickly and easily build your own website in minutes, and it is FREE on top of that. Most of the “FREE” offers come with some pretty big caveats that would actually make it impossible for you to get away without paying anything. One of the usualĀ up-sellsĀ for them is offering a very select few free templates to pick from, but more than likely you will need one of their premium templates to even come close to your needs. You will also need hosting, which only they can conveniently provide you, at a cost of course.

Another big problem with these free options is that they display ads on your website to make up the cost. When all said and done, this option will more than likely be an ongoing monthly fee of anywhere from $5 – $20 a month. Last but not least, the BIGGEST problem with website builders is flexibility. There is none. If your website does not fit into one of their templates, then you are out of luck. All the website files are stored off-site with them and a web developer will not be able to modify them to add a custom feature. You are basically held hostage with them unless you wish to start over with a new website.

3. Templates – Templates are essentially the same as website builders with a few key differences. There are online companies where you can simply buy a template for your website. The difference between that and using a website builder is that you are on your own in terms of editing that template, installing it and hosting it. You will definitely need more then a bit of know how if you plan on going this route. You will need to know how to add content to your template, register a domain name and sign up for hosting. Finally once you are ready, you will also be on your own for pushing that website to your new hosted server so that it is visible to the internet. However, at least when you throw in the towel and decide to hire professionals, they will be able to come in and save the day, unlike with a website builder.

4. Outsourced Web Companies – Are all web companies created equally? Clearly not. Businesses searching for a web company to help them set up their new website, can easily end up hiring an over seas or “outsourced” web company. The typical set up for these companies is to have a decent-looking website that seems local and legitimate with attractive pricing and endless “guarantees.” Unfortunately they can guarantee whatever they want because their liability and accountability is virtually zero. Communication is usually a nightmare; opposite timezones and broken English are common pain points. Of course, you won’t find that out until it is too late. Most companies have hired at least one rep on this side of the globe to give the appearance of a local company. This rep will be the person you talk to during the sales process.

Another common set up for outsourcing is a freelancer or design shop who wants to appear like a full service web team and advertise themselves that way. The catch is that once your design is approved it is sent out to a 3rd party who is then responsible for finishing the website. They never have any interaction with you, which often leads to careless and sloppy development. These 3rd party development chop shops usually work on high volume and try to move websites in and out as quickly as possible, taking any shortcuts they can.

5. Local Web Companies – If you have been reading this article, it is probably pretty obvious by now where this is going. Hire a local, well-established, full service web company to build your website. Sometimes when it comes to the internet or things we don’t understand, price becomes the biggest driving factor. This isn’t how you decide on most other decisions for your business though. Lots of other factors should weigh heavily in your business decisions such as customer service, quality of work or service, track record and portfolio, just to name a few. In life you usually get what you pay for and your website is no different. Hiring a local full service web team is your best choice. It isn’t just as easy as picking the first local company you find and move on though. As I said before, your website is probably the most important marketing tool you will invest in. It is a nonstop 24-7, 365 tool that is always available to be found and represent your company and what you do. Take the time to research your choices, educate yourself on what is important to you, and make sure the company you are choosing is actually all that they say they are. Request to set up a face to face meeting with them to discuss your website’s needs and goals prior to signing a contract.

I am biased though, right? I work for a local full service web company; of course I am going to say that is the best choice. What you don’t know is that I have also been the freelancer who couldn’t effectively support clients after launch, and the outsourced web company doing design and farming out development. Now working with an amazing team, I have heard countless horror stories of trusting business owners hiring companies they thought were legitimate and sending off deposits and signing contracts before realizing the company they hired is not what they where representing themselves to be. These clients lost lots of money and time before cutting their loses and hiring the right team.

In the end clients can get piece of mind with web teams that have long established credibility. Clients can call for help or new projects, and someone answers the phone every time, Monday through Friday, 8 to 5. Their new web team has the full time, in-house staff with years of experience who can support their every need. Clients can rely on the long track record of happy clients and long relationships. It is easy to tell if a web team takes pride in the work they do.