The agency model is dead. Build your own website.

Alex Tapper
min read

Have you ever built a website with a traditional web agency? I used to run one, so I’m pretty familiar with the process. Let me guess… Their initial estimate of 4–6 weeks ran over. It didn’t cost you more money, but you might have missed out on a crucial press release or sales opportunity.

In our mind, the traditional agency model is dead.

Sure, there are still plenty of large organizations without an in-house team. And those folks will always want to outsource their creative work to specialized agencies. And they will continue to do that — probably for decades.

But most of us aren’t large organizations that require custom creative work. Most of us are small business owners, bakers, musicians, entrepreneurs, consultants, creatives — people with a single-minded mission to change the immediate world around us. And when you have that singular focus, you want to represent it perfectly.

Which is why you turned to an agency, a professional group of creatives, to help you create that representation: your website. It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

They brought you in for brainstorming, drawing on a whiteboard. That was fun. They drew up some wireframes. Those were cool, but it’s hard to see how it would look scrolling on a screen. Then the first round came. Woof. Time to take out the red pen. After that, silence. You emailed your account manager, who passed you off to the designer, who reply with the VP CC’d. After a few more rounds and a few more weeks, you ended up with a mediocre product, and the agency folks probably felt that you underpaid for it too. Both sides unhappy.

Why is it so hard to get it right the first time?

Reason #1: Inefficient communication channels

All of the back-and-forth between you and their designer, account manager, developer, and others just wastes time. Rounds of changes and comments, presentations and edits… all of this stuff takes time to schedule and execute.

And that’s just during the design process. Want to change a line of copy after you launch? Email your AM and CC three other people and pray someone reads it and makes the change. Feels like you’re in shackles, right?

Reason #2: Generalists don’t have a process for specialized tasks

Most agencies are pretty good at a lot of different creative things. They can write copy, design & animate graphics, produce videos, shoot product photography, build websites… it’s nice to have a one-stop shop.

However, because they do so many different things, it’s hard to get them to do just one thing to the best of their ability. This isn’t because they aren’t good at it, it’s because they often don’t have a repeatable process for that one thing. Because they don’t do it often enough to design that process.

So what’s the new model? How can we improve this process?

The Rise of DIY Tools

Online, cloud-based software, like Squarespace, is becoming more democratized by the week. New services pop up to solve pain points of business owners all the time. There are tools that let you build your own logo, print business cards, setup an ecommerce store, run an email newsletter, chat with visitors on your website, print labels and fulfill shipments to your customers, do your accounting, and so much more!

But it takes time to learn each software tool and even more time to get it exactly right. So what happens when you get started on one of these platforms, and become overwhelmed? Who do you turn to? Let’s look at your options:

Option #1: Agencies

Most agencies will ignore your request to “help me finish my website” because they don’t want half-projects. They want to control the process from the beginning and get retail price on the project.

Option #2: Freelancers

If you can find a quality, reliable, communicative freelancer who’s also affordable and available for a project. Please let me know. We’ll hire her tomorrow.

Freelancers should be a great alternative to agencies, but they are unfortunately burdened by the same logistical nightmare that agencies hire account managers to solve. Which means these one-man-shops are typically spread too thin and booked out for weeks or months. And if you do get a great one to build your website (they are out there!), just hope that they don’t leave for vacation during crisis mode.

Option #3: Your tech-savvy nephew

Sure he’s cost-effective, but do you really want to put your business future in the hands of a teenager? Short answer: no.

How Sixty Solves these Problems

If you’ve read along this far, you’re probably wondering: is this whole process hopeless? Am I going to have to commit 100+ hours over the next 4 weeks to learning Squarespace so I can build it myself?

Flattening the Learning curve

Sixty’s mission is to empower DIY. We do this primarily by improving communication, handling administrative work for creatives, and flattening the learning curve.

Sixty sessions are all conducted over screen-share. That means real-time collaboration and instant feedback. This minimizes wasted time by designing together. Meaning, if you know what you like and make decisions quickly, you’ll be able to have one of our designers execute your creative vision fast.

Help with any project size, at any stage

Another reason why agencies don’t like small projects is because it usually takes the same amount of upfront admin work to sign on a client with a small project as it does a client with big project. So they’ll usually ignore small requests.

Sixty handles marketing, sales, payment, scheduling, rescheduling, briefing, and more for our designers. We just leave them with the fun part: designing! This also means our platform attracts the best designers out there.

Do it together

Finally, we believe that anyone can build a website. It just takes a little bit of learning a new system. We call this learning process: do it together. You’re learning a DIY platform with a professional who spends 40+ hours a week on the platform. That means they’ll show you the pitfalls to avoid and teach you their tips and tricks.

Our goal is for you to not need us. And you shouldn’t! Squarespace is a do-it-yourself tool anyway, right?

Agree with us? Hire a Squarespace designer for by-the-minute help over screen-share.

Disagree? Let me know why.

Alex Tapper

Alex Tapper is a cofounder of Sixty. He attempts one handstand per day.