In Basics, Brand, Visual Design

Your first meeting with a business vendor that you’re considering working with to help you build your personal brand website can feel like an awkward first date.

You’re in that surreal, getting-to-know-and-impress-you stage, but there’s a cloud of uncertainty hovering over you ominously.

Sure, their credentials seem impressive, they are enthusiastic, and are telling you all the things you want to hear, but to ensure you are compatible, share the same vision and goals, and will work well together, you need to scrutinize what’s below the surface by asking pointed, revealing questions. 

For entrepreneurs in the early growth phase of building their personal brand, a critical initial step to building online credibility and brand awareness is to create a personal brand website.

Finding the right website design solution provider is vital to success. Yet—just like navigating the dating scene—you have to put yourself out there, have several conversations, and ask the right questions to find your match.

Committing to a solution provider without being confident that they have the skills and knowledge to help you meet your goals could set you back in the creation of a vital tool that should serve as a foundational element of your brand development and revenue generation strategy.

To help you choose the right website design partner, we’re offering six questions that you should ask before hiring anyone to build your personal brand website.

These questions come from our experience working with industry-leading personal brands and learning from them the challenges they have faced when choosing the right solution partner.

1. How are you going to design my homepage to generate leads?

Spoiler alert: This is a trick question.

That’s right, we suggest starting with a zinger, but don’t feel guilty. You’re making a critical hire that will result in significant capital investment. You owe it to your reputation and years of hard work to ensure you’ve found the right partner. 

The reason why this is a trick question is that your homepage shouldn’t be a primary component of your lead generation strategy, and anyone who makes their living designing websites for entrepreneurs should know that. 

The answer you want to hear should focus on how the vendor will help you create a website that will showcase your thought leadership content and integrate with your lead nurturing funnels to drive prospects to form submissions on other relevant pages. Even better, the vendor should suggest that you take a step back and ask about your overarching goals.

To build your website, they will need to understand if your primary goals are brand awareness, lead generation, conversions, or something else.

From there, your design candidate should be able to offer tactical solutions to achieve your goals, rather than allowing you to lead with a tactic that may not be best suited for helping you achieve your goals.

The answer you don’t want to hear is that the vendor will place call-to-action (CTA) buttons on the top, middle, and bottom of your homepage.

If they were to take such a blatantly salesy approach, they would lose an opportunity to use your homepage as it should be intended—to showcase your personal brand value proposition and motivate visitors to engage further with your website to learn more about you and your offering.

2. Do you hand code your clients’ websites, or do you build them using a content management system?

As recently as the early aughts, websites were still being custom coded.

If you were to hire a freelance website developer, they would hand code your website using a programming language like HTML, Flash, and ColdFusion from scratch. Unless you knew how to code, if you wanted any updates made to your personal brand website—even something as small as adding an upcoming speaking engagement to your Events page, your programmer would need to make the update on your behalf.

Content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace have changed this reliance upon programmers by making basic web design and updates accessible to non-technical content managers using front-end tools that do not require a deep understanding of modern programming languages.

For most entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, an easy-to-use CMS will make for an ideal website development solution.

Your goal should be to find a website design partner who will create a custom website for you that reflects your personal brand and helps you to achieve your goals using a CMS that you can navigate on your own.

Once your initial launch is complete, you can learn to update on your own for things like upcoming events, new products and services, blog posts, and your latest offers.  

Using a website designer for the initial website creation will allow him to handle the more technical aspects of implementation that include things like hosting, security, and customizing your CMS template, but won’t leave you reliant on him for every minor update. With this arrangement, you will likely only need to reenlist your designer’s services for a large-scale project, like a full redesign, an integration with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, or the addition of a gated, customer-only sub-page.

When you ask a prospective website design partner if they use a CMS or hand code websites, the answer you want to hear is that they use a popular CMS and that they will train you to make updates and edits so you can manage your website post-launch.

Stay away from offers of proprietary website design tools, custom coded content, or anything that will leave you reliant on a costly monthly retainer just to keep your website functioning.

3. Where will you host my website?

There is a clear-cut wrong answer to this question, and it involves the website designer saying that he will host your personal brand website on his servers. Consider this a nuclear bomb of red flags.

Times have changed. While this may have been a tactic that some freelancers employed over the past decade or so to earn additional recurring income, it is not a secure, stable, or reliable way to host a personal brand website.

That’s because of the available, modern, third-party hosting solutions that are accessible today and affordable to businesses of all budget sizes.

Even if the prospective website designer attempts to sell you their hosting service by offering it as a free add-on, be firm that you want them to set up secure, third-party hosting with a reputable solution provider.

Such entities provide 24/7 support, data redundancy, and guaranteed up-times. Your website designer likely can’t offer the same, which means if your website crashes on cyber Monday, you’ll be spending your day leaving voicemails for your website designer, waiting for him to be available to solve your issue.

4. Who will be part of my website design team?

The answer you don’t want to hear is: “Me. Just me. All me.” Again, there used to be a time when the person who would hand code your website would tell you that he could also offer copywriting and graphic design services. Today, as technology has evolved, experts have moved to niche focuses, and the digital industry has fragmented, it is rare to find someone who is an expert graphic designer, copywriter, photographer, and programmer. Most people only focus on one—maybe two—skills and do them well.

Even if the person you are speaking with is a one-person website design shop, they should still have a team they contract with for specialized content, including copywriting, proofreading, photography, graphics, and animations.

Photography, in particular, is critical when it comes to launching a personal brand website. Your website will need to utilize imagery that helps any prospects connect with you and feel that you are authentic, credible, and trustworthy. If you need imagery for your personal brand website, make sure that either:

  • Your website designer has access to a professional photographer who understands the nuances of shooting photos and videos for the web.
  • He can collaborate with and coach your existing photographer through the images needed and help art direct the shot list.
  • He is also a proven, professional photographer (but don’t just take his word for it—ask to see examples).

Buyer Beware: Tread cautiously if your prospective partner tells you that he plans to contract out some of your website design or custom development overseas. For one thing, if you have agreed to use a CMS like WordPress, adding in layers of custom development may negate the benefits of using a CMS and leave you with a website you can’t easily update on your own.

Also, verify that he has worked with the outsourced international team previously and can showcase positive case studies. With a large number of programmers available in other countries working for low-costs, make sure you are partnering with reputable, proven service providers.

5. What is your team’s website creation process?

No trick question here. The purpose of asking this question is not to hear a specific answer, because there are a variety of ways that web design experts can and do create personal brand websites that help to achieve individual goals.

The more important aspect is that they have a process that works for them. Not only that, but they should be able to describe it confidently and back it up with success stories.

Without a process, you’ll be left with a designer who may not be prepared for the types of roadblocks or requests that often result in a change in scope or deadline, leaving you at a loss.

6. May I see examples of other personal brand websites that you have created?

Creating a personal brand website is different from creating a business website, or a niche industry website, like one for a restaurant, retail location, or software company. With a personal brand, it is arguably more important to create a digital property that communicates aesthetically and through content who you are, what you stand for, what you offer, and how your prospect stands to improve his life by working with you.

You need a website designer who understands this challenge and can prove that he can help you achieve your goals.

If you ask a prospective website designer what other personal brands they’ve worked with, and they respond by saying that all of their work to this point has been in the hospitality or event space, keep looking.

Or, even that they have worked on a variety of projects, but none of them have been to help launch a solopreneur: these are indications that you should take the time to keep searching for an experienced partner.

Bonus Ninja Tip: When reviewing your prospective partner’s portfolio, make sure that he shows you examples that prove that he can create highly functional and engaging digital experiences and not just websites that look like brochures, but that won’t help you achieve your goals (because that would be totally 2003). You want to find a website partner who can:

  • Integrate web forms that are tied to a CRM tool such as ActiveCampaign so that you can use your website as a lead generation tool.
  • Set-up secure, PCI-compliant financial transactions using checkout tools like Spiffy so that your visitors can make purchases directly from your personal brand website.
  • Create gated content for subscribers to help you drive recurring monthly and annual revenue.

If you’re going to invest heavily in a website, make sure it will be a functional tool that can help you achieve your business goals and that it can evolve as you move through the growth stages of your personal brand development.

7. How long will it take to create my personal brand website?

Similar to the earlier question about process, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question, so long as your prospective partner has one. What you are looking for in an ideal response is confidence.

If the vendor has successfully built and launched personal brand websites in the past, then he should be able to estimate a launch timeline for you and qualify it with a discussion of his process and the steps he plans to take to make it happen.

Final Words of Advice

Prospecting for the right business partner can be challenging, but it is a critical step in building a six-figure personal brand.

When choosing a website designer, you owe it to yourself and your goals to choose a partner who is experienced, collaborative, backed by a team of experts, and results-oriented.

Use these six questions to guide you through the process of assessing who shares your vision and earns to be more than a vendor, but rather your long-term business partner, as you grow your personal brand and your business.

If you’d like to learn more about developing marketing assets that build brand awareness, increase credibility, and drive leads into your funnels,  click here to sign up for our Income + Impact Accelerator course today.