Your Business is not a Side Hustle or Passion Project

As someone who owns a marketing firm specializing in website development, I often try to dissuade folks away from free CMS (Content Management Systems) services, sometimes known as “templates”, like WordPress, Wix, Joomla, Squarespace, GoDaddy, etc).

Recently my good friend, who happens to be ten years old, showed me his Instagram profile. Let’s call him Daniel. I noticed that he had a Wix website listed, and commented "Wow! You already have your own website?!" I then went through the site and discovered that he loves to cook and bake. I also saw a photo that I thought was a stock photo, but was then informed that he took it with his phone—it captured fantastic lighting and depth and wasn’t even taken with an iPhone7. Generation Z (born mid 1990’s-current day) is highly intelligent, and especially technologically savvy. They were born with an iPad in their laps and in my experience most have a phone by age eight.

So these days, even a ten year old can “make” a website. Rather it’s mobile and tablet friendly, ready for SEO, and ready to run the most efficiently—well, that’s another story.

What’s happening is that CMS’s are being adopted for every kind of purpose imaginable.

Here are some various purposes for a website:

  • • E-commerce: sell something right then and there (Amazon or Nordstrom)
  • • Entertain (Buzzfeed or People Magazine)
  • • Inform and educate (CNN or ABC News)
  • • Social media (Facebook or Twitter)
  • • Generate leads (Portland dog groomers, Seattle flower shops… or for our industry, imagine someone typing in Google, “New York home security”, “Los Angeles smart home”, “Miami hi-fi”, “Atlanta home theater”)
  • • Support and maintain credentials (A well known B2B consultant in the A/V industry—they have reached the status of being able to pick and choose their own projects. These are currently the “veterans” of our industry that were around before the internet existed. Their reputation is what has made them money for decades—not how cool their website and social media is. So their internet presence-or lack thereof-doesn’t particularly matter now, because they don’t have as much to prove as they did 30 years ago).

Here’s something you’re not going to hear many other website designers say: CMS services are a great place for many folks out there. Squarespace advertises that their websites are perfect for people who are working towards “passion projects and side hustles”. I couldn’t have said what a CMS is perfect for better myself.

If you’re a ten year old kid who loves to cook and wants to showcase your skills, Wix is it. If you work in the corporate world but like doing photography on the weekends, Squarespace is it. If you’re a college student and want to start a blog, WordPress is it.

The thing about passion projects and side hustles though, is that they’re not someone’s entire livelihood. They’re not someone’s business. They’re not someone’s way of supporting their families. It’s not their main thing, or what they spend 50 hours a week doing and perfecting. CMS’s are designed to showcase what people do in their spare time. CMS’s don’t even attempt to advertise it as a path to starting a real full time business, and rightly so.

But when you’re a small local business, the point of your website should be to generate leads or to get someone to take action (call, email, or fill out a form). In order to generate leads, you first have to be found. In order to be found, you need a solid foundation for SEO to thrive. And the best foundation for organic SEO to thrive is a professionally created custom website. Trying to gain higher SEO rankings on a CMS template is like trying to swim upstream. It’s possible, but not ideal or easy.

Bottom line: when reviewing what to do about your new, old, or non-existent website, first review what it’s for. What is the purpose? If it’s your full time business that you make a living off, treat it as such.

Your business is not a side hustle or passion project.