February 14, 2022

Whether you’re a photographer, blogger, wedding professional, virtual assistant, copywriter, or some other kind of creative, a beautifully designed website that speaks to your ideal client is a must.

And luckily for all of us, there are many ways to get one! Whether you work with a designer on a custom website, purchase a ShowIt website template, or just DIY the whole dang thing, you can get a website up and running pretty dang fast these days.

But how do you know whether or not to spend the big bucks on custom? Is hiring a designer really worth it?

The short answer: it depends.

Since I’m a website designer, it would behoove my bottom line to convince you to spring for a big custom design project — but here on the Kleist Creative blog we tell the TRUTH (the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me blah blah blah, you get it.)

Buuuuut I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a complicated topic. So here’s the breakdown.

When & Why to Choose Custom Design

Do you know your ideal client?

No matter where you are in your business journey— just starting? Been doing it for a year? Been doing it for five years?—your ideal client is the biggest thing to consider.

I see it all the time— people pay out insane amounts of money to attract what they think is their ideal client, and then end up realizing a few months later that their energy has shifted to a different demographic or audience. All of the decisions that you’re paying for in custom design — fonts, colors, UX, SEO — ride on whether or not you know yours.

However, if you’re just starting out on your business journey, don’t let this stop you — if you’re anything like me when I started doing website design, you may already know your ideal client. The amount of time you’ve been in business has nothing to do with it. The sooner you nail this detail, the sooner you should hire out your design projects.

Trust your gut on this one.

Do you have the funds?

When starting a business, the question is not “should I get custom design?” — it’s “when should I get custom design?”.

Eventually, you want to be so successful that not having a custom design would be weird. (Imagine Oprah Winfrey designing her own TV Network website, hahaha. Like, can you imagine!? But also, this is a bad analogy because you definitely don’t want to wait until you’re Oprah-level successful to get custom design either. WHATEVER, I’m leaving it in ‘cuz it makes me chuckle.)

Long story short: bad design often costs your business more money than hiring someone would. However, please don’t go into debt because some beautiful instagram graphic said ~ custom design is the only way to start or run a successful business ~. It’s simply not true.

Be smart with your money and the right time to invest.

How solid are your services and processes?

Allow me to take you on a trip down memory lane.

When I started Kleist Creative, I was doing resumé writing and design. I thought, THIS is what I’m meant to be doing, for SURE. Helping people show up authentically on their resumés and get the job of their dreams? Hell yeah!

….until I got sick of adhering to the standard resumé “norms” and ATS tracking systems and all that BS. Less than a year into my business, I discovered I could use those exact same skills to design brands & websites — without the limitations of employers and Corporate America.

Luckily, I was DIY-ing my website at the time, so it was easy for me to switch everything and be like “actually jk I’m doing this now!” — but if I had spent the big bucks on a custom design project, I’d have probably been like “ugh but I already paid for this, maybe I should just stick with resumé writing instead”. And had I done that, I would have missed out on the thing I was actually meant to be doing!

I don’t say this so that you’ll overthink your entire life. The best part about embarking on new endeavors is that you have absolutely no idea where they’ll take you. But it’s best to be at least 70% sure of your services and processes before you hire out for custom design. Of course, if your web designer is any good, they’ll make sure you feel equipped to make any changes or edits yourself (or, ahem, maybe they offer a design day for this kind of thing? — link VIP day).

Getting clear on what you offer and how it works is an absolute must.

The Ultimate List: Custom Design is Right For You If…

  • You know your ideal client.
  • You have the funds.
  • You want to show up in search engines.
  • You’re feeling solid about your offerings and processes.
  • You’re sick of your current look and it’s stopping you from creating content or promoting yourself.
  • You DIY-ed your site and you’re ready to enter a new phase of business.
  • You just simply don’t have time to eff around with these website platforms anymore.

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you’re ready for custom design. And bestie, if this is the case, you know where to find me.

When and Why to Choose a ShowIt Website Template

Just as custom design has a time and place, so does using a template. I’m a ShowIt queen (and tbh, out of all the platforms out there, templates created for Showit are the simplest to use and most aesthetically pleasing) so for the purposes of this blog post, let’s assume you’re looking at a Showit website template.

Do you have a good eye?

With truly any DIY website moment, you’re going to need a good eye, otherwise it might actually harm your business. (I don’t make the rules.) The beauty with ShowIt website templates is that you have all the power in the world to change fonts, colors, images… you name it. But… that means it’s all on you, bestie!

If you’re the kind of person who actively avoided art classes in high school, DIY-ing may not be the thing for you. (Shameless plug: I do offer template customization, though, so if you still wanna go the template route and need someone to do this part for you, I gotchu!)

Are you (at least a little) techie?

Purchasing a ShowIt website template will require you to take the time to learn the platform and hook up your domain yourself. There are countless guides on the internet to help, but for some people, the sheer thought of adding new domain settings is sure to trigger hives.

If this is you, you may want to look into hiring a designer. Time is money, after all, and there’s nothing less motivating than having to troubleshoot a tech problem when you could be out, getting clients & doing what you actually do best.

Are you just starting out?

As I mentioned in the custom design section of this post, if you’re clear on your ideal client, the amount of time you’ve been in business should have nothing to do with your decision between hiring a designer or using a template.

However, there are a few reasons that new business owners start with templates. Besides the cheaper cost (which… let’s be real, when you’re first starting out, is usually a huge selling point), many people actually want to learn the platform.

We’ve all worked for the CEO that barks orders and actually has no idea how anything works in their business. No one wants to be that guy. In fact, if you learn the platform first, having a website professionally designed in it later may just feel that much sweeter.

If you’ve got the time to figure it out, go for it, bestie.

The Ultimate List: Purchasing a ShowIt Website Template is Right for You If…

  • You’re still experimenting with most of your services, audience, and processes.
  • You have more time than money.
  • You have a good eye.
  • You’re open to learning.
  • You’re a little tech-savvy (or at least can follow directions).
  • You found a template that will match your business’s needs.

So, which route is right for you?

No matter where you are in your business, having a website is basically a pre-requisite. Whether you’re looking for custom design, a Showit website template, or something in between, I would love to help!

Hi, I'm Sarah Kleist.

Brand & web designer, personal brand strategist, and marketing educator obsessed with the power of connecting with audiences.



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