Today, it seems that everyone is advertising free websites. While a free website sounds like a great deal, are you willing to bet the reputation and success of your company on the least expensive available option? As with most things in life, you get what you pay for! Your website is the first — and sometimes the only thing — your potential customers see when they are searching for your products or services. What type of first impression are they getting when they visit your website? Does your website properly represent your business and make potential customers want to call you, or make them want to look elsewhere? Without the necessary skills, knowledge and experience that professional web designers bring to the table, a free do-it-yourself website can be disastrous for your business and your brand — eventually costing you thousands of dollars in lost business. Anyone who has ever tried to fix something in their homes knows that there is always a cost to hiring a professional, and a cost to not hiring one. Many small business owners believe that they can handle the daunting task of designing and maintaining a website. But many don’t realize that web design is a complicated, full-time job that is best left to professionals. Instead of spending weeks putting together your website, wouldn’t you rather spend time growing your business? Below are five important reasons why you need a professional web designer: 1. Your Website Represents Your Business Your website is usually the first thing a potential customer sees before they call you — or your competitor. A professional and functional website creates a great first impression with customers and supports your services and reputation. However, an unappealing, slow or outdated website communicates to customers that your business lacks the expertise and level of professionalism that they deserve. A web design company can deliver a product that you can be proud of and that will help your business succeed. Professional web designers seek to understand your needs in order to design a website that accurately portrays your brand and services. 2. Spend More Time Running Your Business Designing and maintaining a website is time consuming and difficult. Managing the design, optimizing for Google, ensuring that your websites looks good on all mobile devices and handling updates on time can easily become a full time job. With web design, it can be very easy to get in over your head if you don’t have the necessary skills. Enlisting the services of web design experts to create a professional and functional website will save you time that you can use to run your company. 3. Stay Ahead of Your Competition It might surprise you to learn that many small businesses fail to develop a successful online presence. Many free websites start out strong but quickly become outdated and way behind current and constantly changing technologies. Hiring an experienced web designer to create a professional, functional and user-friendly website for your business can give you a leg up on your competitors. 4. Increasing Web Traffic Having a website that people can find is crucial to growing your business. In order for your website to perform well it needs a strong presence on search engines. A high ranking guarantees that more customers will find your website. A professional web designer who knows proper SEO techniques for optimizing your website on search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing, can increase the number of visitors to your website. 5. Improve Marketing, Branding and Visibility Most businesses have trouble standing out in today’s ultra-competitive advertising atmosphere. Behind most successful businesses you will find a strong marketing strategy. A great looking web design that is not based on a strong marketing strategy can actually hurt your business. Your website must fall in line with your overall marketing strategy and should compliment your other advertising channels. A professional designer will work with you to align your traditional marketing with your online presence to solidify your brand and your online reputation across multiple channels and platforms. If you're a small business owner with limited time, consider hiring a professional web design specialist to handle the appearance, logistics, growth, optimization and maintenance of your website.