As an author website designer, I often have conversations with authors who are still making up their minds as to how much they’re ready to invest in a professional author presence online. There are folks doing similar work at various price points — a simple search for “author website designer” will bring you to many of them. So even if you don’t want to do the work yourself, you can easily find someone who will create an author website for you for a variety of budgets.
And the first decision to make is whether you want to hire someone to help you, or whether you want to do the work yourself. I frequently work with authors who either attempted to do the work themselves and it didn’t end up as they were hoping, or who created a simple website that worked for them for a while, but they’re ready for an upgrade. So there are many examples of author websites that were built by the author themselves as a starting point. There are lots of great platforms out there that will let you create a nice-looking website yourself, and, of course, everyone has different skills they can put to work or their project. I’d recommend Squarespace as a DIY platform, but I also know authors who use Wix successfully — although they make it more difficult to move off of their platform. And, of course, WordPress is the leader in website creation giving you the most flexibility and power, which is the reason I use it as the platform for all the author website designs I create.
A few things to ask yourself when making the decision as to whether to do the work yourself or hire someone include:
- How much time can I realistically devote to this project? Especially if you haven’t done it before, folks are often surprised at how long it can take to make a good website, even with a platform that is easy to use. If you want something that looks great and functions well, you’ll need to spend the time needed to make that true. Like with many things, it’s possible to make something elegant and simple look easy, even if it’s not.
- Do you know the content you want to include on the site? A gorgeous website won’t get you very far if the content of the site is presented in a confusing way, or it’s unclear what you want your website visitors to do. Make sure you have a good list of what you’ll include on the site and know why you want to include it — a good way to help you figure this out is to look at other author websites that you like and/or echo your reader audience. I’ve written about What to Include in Your Author Website to help get you started.
- Is the person I’d work with to create the website a good fit for me? If you’re leaning towards hiring someone to help, make sure their style suits your project. Look for examples of their work that map to what you want for your own website. Make sure they’re easy to communicate with, responsive, and will still be available to you after the site launches. And, ideally, they have some experience working with authors.
The second decision to make is how much of an investment to make. This is a trickier question to answer because of course, it depends on your budget as much as anything else, and that is very personal. If you’ve decided to create the website yourself, you’ll need to determine the platform you want to use, and there’s an investment to be made there. You can read more about Why Your Web Hosting Service Matters So Much to learn my suggestions for web hosting, but with a self-hosted service like Squarespace or Wix you’ll be making an investment as well. Usually, choosing a platform based on what is cheapest won’t give you the best option. Choosing based on what is best supported, what has the most tutorials available to you online if you’d like to do some or all of the work yourself, and what is being used by the websites you like the most will give you the best result.
If you’ve decided to hire someone, you’ll find author website designers who will create a website for a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars — so how do you decide other than your max allowable budget? Here are some things to consider:
- What’s their level of experience working with authors like you? It’s important not only to be familiar with the needs of authors and publishers, and the book launch cycle, but also with the type of author you are/want to be. If you’re launching a self-published book you’ll have different requirements than someone working with a traditional publisher. If you’ve written a book as part of a successful career as an expert in your field, you’ll want to factor that into your choices. If you also have a speaking, consulting, podcast or writing career beyond your work as an author, that will need to be taken into account. Someone with experience in these areas will help you make the right decisions for your goals and your project.
- Where are you now vs where do you want to go? Sometimes starting with something really simple is the right way to go. I’ve written about Essentialism and Your Author Website to explore this idea further. You might want to test the waters of your concept, or you’re self-publishing now but have the goal of writing for a traditional publisher, or you’re still in the midst of your full-time career and haven’t yet jumped ship to be an author full-time. There are many reasons you might not need or want more than the basics. Starting simple now doesn’t mean you’re locked into that forever. If you start simple, you can flesh things out further whenever you’re ready without feeling like you flushed a bunch of work down the drain.
- What level of service are you interested in? This isn’t to say that at a lower price point you won’t receive professional attention, but when you start to consider the value of people’s time, someone who doesn’t charge enough to cover the kind of attention you’d like to have during the project (and after) will either be more unavailable than you’d like or, worse, start to resent you during the project for asking questions or making changes. So be realistic with yourself about how much time you want to be made available to you, the quality of that attention, and what happens if you end up wanting more than is included in the starting price. Ideally, the person you hire has priced their offerings so that what you believe you’re getting as an end result is actually what you’re getting. You don’t want to make your decision based on what they show in their portfolio only to discover those examples aren’t actually what you purchased.
The creation of your author website is an important decision to make after investing so much in the creation of your book(s). From something simple to something bespoke, take the time you need to find the right path forward.