The Catch 22 of Online Businesses

catch22

This is a catch 22 dilemma that most people face when starting an online business…

When you’re just starting out, should you invest in web design or focus on getting clients first?

It can be hard to figure out what you need to invest into your business first: getting a professional looking website or getting more experience in gaining clients.

Do you need a nice website to get clients? Can you charge more if you do? How do you earn the money to invest in a website when you’re just getting started?

Let’s face it, we all want everything done yesterday.

The Catch 22 of Online Businesses

Online Businesses Aren’t Built In a Day

We all want to have a full consulting or coaching practice, a bunch of recurring revenue, all of our products created and ready to buy, sales pages and videos recorded and edited.

We want a beautiful polished website with amazing photos, stat.

Obviously each of these things take time and can’t happen simultaneously. That means you need to take it step by step one step at a time.

Because of that, it can be hard to decide what to work on first.

This is where the chicken or the egg dilemma of your business website really shows up.

As you know, your website is your storefront on the web.

It does the selling for you, and it’s important for it to be professional and to communicate well with your ideal clients… so that they know that you are the ideal provider for them.

If you have a poorly performing website, then you might not get the clients or customers that you’re looking to get.

On the other hand, if you don’t have customers paying you… you can’t invest the money you aren’t earning to have your website professionally designed.

So what’s the solution?

Start off with a simple website that you know how to edit. Then put your energy toward writing copy for your website that is clear and compelling.

You don’t need to spend a ton on the design of the site or to hire a copywriter from the get-go. Your company and brand is likely to change fairly quickly, so you don’t want to be tied into an expensive brand that doesn’t reflect your current direction.

The next step is to begin actively seeking out and having sales conversations with potential clients. This will mean putting yourself in uncomfortable situations where you need to ask for the sale, but it will help you actually make money that you can use to grow.

Once your website has been professionally done, with great compelling copy then it becomes possible for your website to do more selling for you.

But when you’re just getting started you might not know exactly who your ideal customers and clients are, so it doesn’t make sense to spend tons of money getting your website to look super polished.

The reason is that your language might change, your ideal avatar might change, you might need to change colors and even the direction or the entire focus of your business.

I’ve found that business is more of an evolution and a reinvention process that it is a linear straightforward process.

So while it might be tempting to invest a lot of dough into your first business website, I recommend that you instead focus on getting clients or customers first.

Once you’ve been able to earn some money from working with clients, you can reinvest back into your website to get even more customers, more easily.

This also be the best route to gain clarity in your business, which is something that is absolutely priceless, and happens at every step of the way as you build your business.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments:

Let me know if you experienced this chicken or the egg website problem? Do you often wonder if you should be doing one thing before the other and if so what have you decided to do about it?

25 Comments

  1. Kimberly on August 27, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    I totally experienced this chicken and egg dilemma when I first got online! (And do to some degree even now.) I didn’t like my plain vanilla WordPress site, but didn’t have loads of $$$ to spend on getting some super-fab design or customization for it. I mean, it wasn’t terrible, I bought a premium WordPress theme and all, but it still didn’t float my boat very much. ;)

    Then I asked myself what it made more sense to do — spend a bunch of cash on pro web design up front, or just start from where I was and simply get a custom header made for the site for now until I bring more clients in? I decided to do the latter.

    I agree with your recommendation to focus on getting clients or customers first, because then you can relax and breathe easy that the bills are getting paid, which frees you up to focus on creating killer content and everything else that goes with running on online biz. Now that I have a few clients, I can save up for custom web design, so it’s all good. : )



    • Nathalie Lussier on August 28, 2013 at 9:37 am

      Yay Kimberly! Thanks for sharing your story. I love that you went the “evolution” route and that you’re improving as you get more cashflow. :)



  2. Gabe Nies on August 28, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Nathalie I totally agree! It took 4 years before I invested in a website (and it’s only my first phase). Until I got an actual site, I just had one page with a photo and headline with contact button. That could be an alternative for some people until they get it together to build one.

    I know from experience through… for me it seemed like a huge undertaking to design a website but it wasn’t actually as expensive as I thought.

    The next thing to focus on after your site is built is SEO and traffic generation– that is where the real time/time/talent comes in. :) I recommend until someone’s site is up, focus on practicing writing content because that takes time! Copywriting, headlines, developing voice etc etc is an even bigger challenge (but so rewarding).

    Thank you so much for all of your posts!!! They are really great and I learn so much from them. Gabe



    • Nathalie Lussier on August 28, 2013 at 9:38 am

      Thank you so much Gabe, it’s amazing that you got everything going with such a simple site. I think that rocks! :) I also agree that it’s a learning process, when you get into the content marketing and traffic generation stuff.



  3. Southeasternfashiongroup Sefg on August 28, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Great lesson this week Nathalie. The chicken and egg saga was indeed an issue. Now I'm struggle with how all the necessary components come together to make a successful site.



  4. Salsa Sarah on August 28, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Awesome Natalie! I LOVE your down to earth, real as a deal persona and life force energy coming through yah! This was very helpful for me and I know a next step for me to cultivate and generate more energy for supporting others through the work I be and do in this world! Thank you!



  5. Mona Lisa Ondevilla on August 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks for this post, Nathalie! It came at just the right time. I've actually been stuck with no website because I've been trying to decide if I should buy Headway, save up to have it designed, or just stick with a basic WordPress theme. And I've gone in circles for the past few weeks.

    The fact is, I have some content, and I want to get it up and just get going! But I didn't want to do it with a shoddy website, and didn't know if a basic one would cut it. I'm definitely going to check out the program you mentioned. It's nice to know I'm not the only one experiencing this back-and-forth!



  6. Mallory on August 28, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Good news I went with a website I could do myself and I worked with clients as I built it up. But now I am ready to offer an incredibly life changing program and need to my clients! Thanks Nathlie for the fabulous content :)



  7. Patti M Hall on August 28, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    That is the dilemma. I'm consolidating all of my cash-flow opportunities into a single website which shares the name of my memoir writing workbook, Triggering Memories. I am working on the self-created design and content goal that you talk about (haven't published the page yet). The next goals are the challenging one…revenue generation, the money-earning part. I think I will need your help one on one. What is the right stage for that? patti@pattimhall.ca



  8. Nathalie Lussier on August 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Yay Mona! So glad this was helpful for you – and I totally hear you on wanting to get it all going… you can do it!



  9. Nathalie Lussier on August 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    What components are you working on? Start with the important ones and add the others later. :)



  10. Lara Dalch on August 28, 2013 at 10:18 am

    So glad you made this video, Nathalie!

    I have a friend who’s just starting out and is struggling with this issue right now. This is essentially the same advice I gave her – based on my own mistake with investing in a website early on and then totally changing my business! – but she won’t listen to me. (Too close, I think.) Maybe she’ll listen to you…just forwarded this to her. :)

    -Lara



    • Liz Brazier on August 28, 2013 at 11:12 am

      Awesome Lara. Agree great video for anyone starting out to watch!



    • Nathalie Lussier on August 29, 2013 at 7:38 am

      Awesome Lara – I love that your experience also reflects this. :)



  11. Niight Wind on August 28, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I started with a vistaprint template website which was great for just starting out but now I have finally released my headway themes website. And in that time my business did make a lot of changes:)



    • Nathalie Lussier on August 29, 2013 at 7:41 am

      That’s amazing Niight, and so true how much a business can change in a short period of time. :)



  12. Webly on August 28, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Love love this video. The topic is so timely for me and makes me look so forward to chatting with you next month. I have the biggest catch 22 of my life. I started with a clear idea of what I wanted for my online business, the moment I hit a road block, I am very confused about what the next step should be. My catch 22 is more like I have so many wonderful ideas, cash is limited but don’t know which one to implement first.



    • Nathalie Lussier on August 29, 2013 at 7:42 am

      Ahh that’s definitely a tricky catch 22, which idea to start with first! We’ll talk about that. ;)



  13. Nathalie Lussier on August 29, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Thank you SO much Sarah! :)



  14. Nathalie Lussier on August 29, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Yes, the money generating stage can be tricky. I recommend watching the business models video and the sales video to get a little jumpstart on those. :)



  15. Siri Mera on August 29, 2013 at 8:32 am

    I feel like through each stage I reach this dilemma evolves just a little more. I decided to make a very basic website and go after clients. I am getting business and things are going better but I’d definitely like to leverage the website factor better. I guess I got the experience with writing and starting tons of blogs and having a website I don’t make any money on, but now I am wondering with all the blogs and websites I have if I should combine my efforts and really get things going. That is my goal and I am just trying to learn as much as I can and generate the money I will need to combine and update everything…my focus is still largely on clients first, website(s) second. I’ll be ecstatic on the day that my website does the selling for me.



  16. Martine Holston on August 29, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    I have basically followed your advice Nathalie and built my website myself (following your B-School tutorial!). I feel like I'm outgrowing it though, and am finding limitations in my theme's functionality versus what my vision for it is. I actually really enjoy developing my website myself, and for me the question is how much TIME to invest in improving my website (and time/money educating myself how to do it) and finding the best way how to learn how to do it myself. Do you think my site is fine as-is for now and I should wait to improve, or should I start investing time/money updating now? http://martineholston.com



  17. Sasha Stone on August 30, 2013 at 12:11 am

    THank you for this Nathalie! I am in this position right now actually. I'm trying to decide if to purchase software that will allow my clients to do all of their own scheduling and payments online. It sounds dreamy, but will cost around $80 a month, and I'm not sure it's worth the expense at this point. The software company's argument is of course that the ease of scheduling and ability to purchase gift certificates will mean it pays for itself. I'm not so convinced, but I'm thinking about it. What do you think?



  18. Sasha Stone on August 30, 2013 at 12:11 am

    THank you for this Nathalie! I am in this position right now actually. I'm trying to decide if to purchase software that will allow my clients to do all of their own scheduling and payments online. It sounds dreamy, but will cost around $80 a month, and I'm not sure it's worth the expense at this point. The software company's argument is of course that the ease of scheduling and ability to purchase gift certificates will mean it pays for itself. I'm not so convinced, but I'm thinking about it. What do you think?



  19. Natalie on December 18, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Congratulations and thank you so much for all the informations you give us!
    totally awesome!
    Natalie