Let me tell you the story of a girl who had no coding knowledge but wanted these REALLY AMAZING WEBSITES and the EXPENSIVE mistakes she made by buying pricy themes before she was ready.
I spent so much money on blog themes that I never used. Why? Because I would get it, install it, and then realize that I STILL had no idea how to make it look how I wanted. I am not a coding pro and WordPress can be difficult – it’s not easy to create your dream site and it almost always involves coding beyond your skill level. With these expensive themes, I often ended up just as unhappy as I was with free themes.
I don’t think there is ever a theme out there that is 100% what you want it to be. There are always little tweaks or changes that you would have made had you designed it yourself. So I was stuck messing around with this expensive theme, getting so frustrated with my website, and on the verge of giving up. Then, FINALLY, I found something that turned it all around – but we’ll get to that later.
First, here are the 7 reasons that I don’t believe new bloggers should use expensive themes or designers.
1 . E V E R Y T H I N G L O O K S B E T T E R I N T H E D E M O V E R S I O N
Let’s just be real – the theme you get almost NEVER looks like the demo. I think this was always my big disillusionment when buying themes – they looked SO great with the professional photos and not the same when I added my own stuff. Try to look at the theme objectively and picture it with your own designs.
Pro-tip: When buying a theme, make sure to watch fonts + photos. These are the BASIS of a theme and are some of the most important design elements. You need to make sure that the theme either matches your branding (fonts and color stories) or will still look the way you want it to when you change these things to make it your own.
2 . I T C O S T M E A L O T O F M O N E Y T H A T I S H O U L D H A V E U S E D E L S E W H E R E
When you’re just starting out, money is usually tight. I did have a bit of extra money to play with from my day job but after buying and messing with themes, the biggest thing that I felt was buyers remorse. I had spent money that I didn’t have + that could have been better spent elsewhere on a theme that I still didn’t like. I do believe in investing in your biz but it has to be something that propels you forward. I would rather have saved my $100-$200 a theme and put that towards a private community or advertising or any great service that would have grown my blog.
The other crazy thing is that I was doing all this to my website – and I barely had any traffic. At the end of the day, while your website matters – it is NOT the end-all. I have seen a lot of people make lots of money on websites that I don’t particularly like or that aren’t particularly well thought out. You need to be spending your money and time in places that grow your business and push you forward. Someone is not subscribing to you because you have a great website – it’s because of the content you provide, the places you promote to get seen, and how you serve them.
Pro-tip: Don’t get me wrong – I definitely believe in investing in your business. You have to make some investments so that you can thrive. But my new rule for investing in my business is this: I don’t spend money on one-offs. I spend money on things that better myself. This way the money is never wasted – I can always take what I’ve learned to any business I work on. I believe in spending on courses to educate yourself and on coaches or groups/communities that can help motivate and better me as an entrepreneur. Or even Services that change your life – like ConvertKit or Tailwind. But nothing that’s a one-time win where I haven’t learned anything (more on this in no. 4 & 5!)!
3 . M Y B R A N D I D E N T I T Y W A S N ‘ T C L E A R Y E T
This was probably the hardest part. Because I was buying themes too early – before I really had much traffic and before I had spent enough time in my business – my brand identity was ever changing. I would play around with new colors, new fonts, new layouts, new features. I wasn’t sure what my website would offer long term and so I wasn’t sure what features I really wanted or needed or what my final design and vibe would look like. Needless to say, this is not a great time to buy a theme. You out-grow it as your ideas change and as you scale your brand. When you’re just starting out, it’s better to spend time on your business, play around with ideas and offers, and then invest in something that supports what you’re trying to do.
Again, a beautiful website is a GREAT perk, but it’s not the benchmark of your success. It is further down on the list of things that make you money – the first being what you give to your visitors through your content and opt-ins. Spend your time there and you’ll be fine.
Pro-tip: If you are going to invest in a pricier theme, you really want to wait until your brand identity is strong. Is your look modern and minimal or colorful and big? Even changing fonts can make a BIG difference to the look of your site. If you buy a theme, ensure that it matches your brand identity. And if you’re going to invest in a really expensive theme or have a developer do something for you, you need to make sure that you’re 100% happy with the identity you’ve chosen – or else it could be an expensive and time consuming fix.
4 . I T C A N T U R N I N T O A C O N S T A N T I N V E S T M E N T
If you pay someone to design a theme for you or buy a with limited customizability, you don’t learn anything about how to design or code. So when it comes time to make any changes – where are you left? Probably stuck and confused on how to execute that thing you want. Not knowing how to tweak or change things can lead to more investments in the future, when you need to call your developer back and say ‘help me with this now’. I would rather be frustrated learning how to tweak my theme myself than to pay someone or buy something as a quick fix – and then have the same problem a little while later.
Pro-tip: Sometimes you might want to make a change that’s beyond your capability – and that’s fine. In those cases, you might want to get someone to help you out. But I would have them do it on your framework. For example, I have a theme that I like and I build my sites with Visual Composer – a front-end editor that I swear by (more on this at the end). So if I were to have anyone make changes, I would have them make them in my theme with my tools so that I’m not reliant on them if I want to make changes or have an issue.
5 . I T W O U L D H A V E M A D E M E C L U E L E S S I N T H E F U T U R E
This ties into the last one in the constant investment sense. If you just buy a one-off theme, you haven’t learned anything. You still haven’t LEARNED how to get the website you want – you’ve just gotten the website you want right now. And that might change – your dream website will adapt and evolve. But you might be clueless about how to change your website now to fit your vision. Yes, doing things the hard way takes a little longer but I’m not a slave to my current coding or to a developer. If I want a change in my website – I do it. Because now I know how.
Pro-tip: I remember hearing this once and it has ALWAYS stuck with me – probably because it’s just so true. When you’re hustling in your biz, you WILL have to spend a lot of time or a lot of money. And there is no right or wrong balance – it’s all about what you can afford and what works for your lifestyle. I’m the type of person who would rather spend the time and I always recommend the same for my clients when they first start out because they usually don’t have the money to spend!
S O H O W C A N Y O U G E T Y O U R D R E A M W E B S I T E O N A B U D G E T ?
Enter Visual Composer. I don’t see this talked about nearly enough for the awesome tool that it is. It’s a front end editor for your website – meaning that you can make changes, add features, and do SO many cool things and watch it happen on your website as you do it. How cool is that? No messing around with coding in the back end, no making changes on the page and having to preview and save to see what you’ve done. You have so much flexibility, and if you don’t like what you’ve done, you simply hit the little garbage can to get rid of it. Plus Visual Composer works will all kinds of plugins like Essential Grid or WooCommerce so you can add them so easily into your website. And I really don’t think I’ve even played with what half of Visual Composer can do – I’m sure there are a ton of add ons.
I really believe that this is the BEST tool for people who want great websites but aren’t great at design. And it’s only $30 to add it to your existing them or there are a BUNCH of great themes out there that have Visual Composer and cost less than $50. I made a whole list on it here.
It may take a little longer, but remember the saying – time or money, my friend. You can’t have it both ways.
So there you have it – why you shouldn’t invest in expensive themes or designers when you’re just getting started AND how you can get a really customizable, beautiful website for less than $50. Don’t forget to check out the post with the themes and the post on how I use Visual Composer (with video) here.