What You Should and Should Not Invest in as a New Web Designer

Investing in your new web design business can seem scary and necessary. There are tools and programs that can make starting and running a business as a soloproneur easier but which should you invest in? In this blog you’ll learn about what you should and should not invest in as a new web designer to make your process run smoothly. Use this advice and these freelancing tips to help develop a solid business and financial plan without breaking the bank.

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When you start a business, any business, there are so many tools, programs, and courses that you may feel obligated to purchase. It could be that your biz bestie signed up for a CRM platform and they swear by it. Or you said the name of a program out loud and all of a sudden you’re getting Instagram ads about it daily (creepy right?). You could have even seen it being promoted somewhere as a thing that will take the pain out of starting a business (who wouldn’t want that?!).

With all of that messaging swirling around you, how do you choose what to invest in as a new web designer? How do you figure out what is worth the money and what is a waste?

Might I suggest you read on…

What Not to Invest in as a New Web Designer

I want to start with what NOT to invest in as a new web designer. If you take nothing else away from this blog post, I at least want to make sure that I’ve told you what is a huge waste of money when you’re starting your web design business. These tools could quite possibly put you into debt before you’ve even landed your first few clients!


If there is any tool I see promoted more than anything else, it’s Dropbox! And I’ll admit, I have literally signed up and paid for Dropbox twice in the last 2 1/2 years. Each time I’m fooled by the fact that I have to have it! It will make my life soooo much easier. But even as an established business owner (aka: not a new web designer still figuring things out), I still don’t see Dropbox as being worth the money.

At the time of writing this, the lowest plan is $15 / month if paid monthly and $12.50 / month if paid annually. Plus, after the 30 day free trial you HAVE to upgrade or your account gets shut down. There are stipulations and limitations to this package as well which means, you may not be able to store as much as you think you can without upgrading your plan.

Free alternative: I’m a Google Drive user through and through. You get 15 GB of free storage between Drive, gmail, and photos. While you will run out of that eventually, it will take way longer than 30 days and they don’t lock you out of your account when you hit the limit! Once you do hit the limit, the prices you pay are so low.

Paid Stock Photography Tools

Another tool you may think you need in order to design your own website or build your client’s websites using beautiful imagery is a stock photography tool like Adobe Stock. I currently invest in Adobe Stock each month but I only started this last year (almost 2 years into my business and after I had designed plenty of websites without the tool). The lowest Adobe Stock plan starts at $29.99 and in the fine print it says you can’t cancel your plan for an entire year. (I figured this out the hard way.) So unless you need hundreds of photos because you’re designing multiple websites per month, skip paying for a stock photography tool!

Free alternative: Websites like Unsplash allow you to choose from thousands of stock photos super easily. If on the off chance you can’t find a photo here, I would recommend paying for a single photo somewhere as opposed to doing a monthly plan.

Free alternative: Another free alternative for your own website is to have a friend take some branded photos for you. You never know how talented your friends and family are until you ask!

Free alternative: And lastly, another option is to bake stock photography prices into your package price. Tell a client they’ll get 5 stock photographs in their package and add whatever price you need to into the package price to cover those 5 photos.

Kristen Leigh | WordPress Web Design Studio | Web Designer Resource Library


From Side Hustle to Full Time Web Designer Roadmap, plus get instant access to 9+ resources to help you start and grow your web design business with ease!

CRM Platforms

I’m going to say this twice: You do not need a CRM platform when you are just getting started.

You DO NOT need a CRM platform when you are just getting started!

If you’re still figuring things out (and if you’re a new web design business owner, then yes, you are still figuring things out) then investing in a CRM platform is a waste of money. Wait until you have a process set in stone, you’ve fleshed out your prices, and you have multiple projects to balance at once before you invest in a tool like Dubsado.

Free alternative: Instead, use a project management system like Asana to stay organized and track your project process. For invoicing use PayPal and Stripe – they’re more than enough!


Business retreats are awesome, I won’t lie. But they’re also not cheap. Unless there is one in your hometown or within driving distance, you’ll have to pay for flights, hotels, a rental car or Uber, and food on top of the retreat price. Retreats are also typically more advanced which means they have a bigger impact once you’re past those beginning stages of being in business. Skip the retreats until you know your investment is going to have a high ROI!

Email Marketing Platform

Yes, email marketing is one of the long-term marketing strategies I recommend you use while trying to grow your business. But, in order to do that you don’t need to invest in an email marketing platform! It took me over two years to invest in an email marketing platform. I waited until I had a solid plan for my business and some sort of email list before I took the plunge to pay a monthly or yearly fee. Skip the email service providers like ActiveCampaign and ConvertKit for now because odds are even if you do invest in one, you won’t get your money’s worth from it because you’re still figuring things out!

Free alternative: I tried MailChimp and wasn’t a huge fan but I absolutely loved using MailerLite!

Team Members of Any Kind

At times, when you’re stressed, over tired, and thinking you want to give up, you may have this genius idea, “if I hire someone to do XYZ then I will have so much more time do to ABC!” True and false.

I’ve hired people before – two to be exact. I hired a virtual assistant to help me with marketing and some other basic things and I hired a Pinterest manager. Neither of them worked out as I hoped and neither of them provided me the results I was looking for. I didn’t have the time to properly vet and interview applicants for either position which means I rushed into a decision. I also didn’t have the money to spend on people who reeeaaally knew what they were doing.

Yes, hiring people can be so helpful for the growth of your business! I plan on investing on team members later this year. But when you’re at the beginning stages of your business, I highly recommend on NOT investing in team members.

Free alternative: Be scrappy. Those millions of marketing platforms you’re trying to maintain – you probably don’t need them all. The daily blog posts you’re trying to put out – why not cut it back to two per week? You’ll get so much more time back in your day if you become scrappy and purposeful around what you’re doing instead of trying to do all the things. You’ll have a much higher ROI and bigger growth cutting back on certain things than you will by hiring the wrong people to do things you don’t enjoy.

Kristen Leigh | WordPress Web Design Studio | Web Designer Resource Library


From Side Hustle to Full Time Web Designer Roadmap, plus get instant access to 9+ resources to help you start and grow your web design business with ease!

What You Should Invest in as a New Web Designer

Now that you know what tools, courses, and programs to stay away from when you’re just getting started in your web design business, let’s talk about what you SHOULD invest in!

A Dot Com (.com) Website

This may sound like a strange thing to include in a list of things you should and should not invest in as a web designer but it’s so important! Your business needs to be seen as legitimate and some domain extensions do not seem legit. A .com domain extension is the most popular and widely recognized domain extension, followed by .net and .org. If you’re unable to secure your domain using a .com domain extension, I recommend finding a different domain altogether. If your reason for not wanting purchase the .com is the fact that the price seems a little steap, let me explain why you need a .com!

When someone hears “Kristen Leigh Designs” and they want to go to my website, they’re more likely to type in kristenleighdesigns.com than kristenleighdesigns.org or kristenleighdesigns.net. If I had decided to go with kristenleighdesigns.net and someone was trying to find my website using .com, they most likely would become frustrated or think my business wasn’t legitimate because the website either wouldn’t be mine or wouldn’t come up at all.

Avoid this problem completely, from the start, by investing in a .com domain extension!

Good Hosting for Your Website

There are some basic costs you’ll need to accept as a web designer. Having a .com domain is one and having good hosting is another. Your clients may come to you asking you which hosting platform is the best. While cost is definitely something to factor in, it’s more important to have a host that won’t slow down your website when you increase the amount of content your putting out or crash when you have an influx of visitors. Siteground is my favorite hosting platform and I highly recommend you use them, too!

Divi or a Similar Page Builder or Website Platform

This investment is really only relevant if you’re starting a WordPress web design business. So if you’re a Squarespace lover, feel free to skip this one! You don’t need to know code to start a web design business, even if you’re building websites on WordPress.

Instead, you can invest in a page builder such as Divi by Elegant Themes. At the time of writing this, the Elegant Themes suite costs $89 / year or $249 for lifetime access. Do the math real quick… after paying the yearly fee for Divi 3 years in a row, you’re paying more than the lifetime access. If that alone doesn’t convince you to invest in the lifetime plan, maybe this will: when you get lifetime access you’re able to create as many API codes as you want. This means that every client you design and build websites for will get Divi for free because you can use your own account.

(Thinking about how you can promote a savings of $89 / year on your sales page right now? You should be!)

Kristen Leigh | WordPress Web Design Studio | Web Designer Resource Library


From Side Hustle to Full Time Web Designer Roadmap, plus get instant access to 9+ resources to help you start and grow your web design business with ease!


In the Dropbox section above I mentioned Gsuite as a free alternative. Some of it is free but the version I think you should invest in is not. Gsuite for Business is one of the best investments I’ve made. Right now I have two different email addresses connected to my account with unlimited storage on both. It also comes with Google One (previously Google Drive) that has unlimited storage (winning!). Plus there are a ton of other features I haven’t even looked into yet and I pay less than $15 per month!


Right from the beginning you should have a tool that allows leads to schedule calls with you without having to do the back and forth, “are you available at this time?” and “what time zone are you in?” conversations. Calendly is the perfect tool to help you do this! It does have a free plan so if you find that the free plan has enough features then you’re saving yourself $8 / month.


For all of your mock-up, wireframe, mood board, color palette presentation, and creativity needs, Canva is where it’s at. Like Calendly, Canva also has a free plan but I found it to be limiting. The $9.95 / month was well worth the investment when I was using Canva.

(I upgraded to Illustrator about 1 1/2 years in.)

Beginner Level Courses

Retreats are great for when you’re out of the beginning stages of business but that doesn’t mean you can’t invest in your education and business in some other way. Beginner level courses are perfect because they will teach you so much that you don’t know and they’re typically less expensive (which equals a high ROI)! When I started my business I took all three of the courses inside of The Bucketlist Bomshells Academy. At the time they were about $197 / $197 / and $397 but they provided me with so much education and growth, it was crazy!

In April I’ll be launching my new suite of courses to help you start and grow your web design business so you can experience time and financial freedom to travel the world. Join the waitlist to be notified when it launches!

So, there you have it. My complete list of what to invest in as a new web designer and what NOT to invest in as a new web designer!


Kristen Leigh | WordPress Web Design Studio | Web Designer Resource Library


From Side Hustle to Full Time Web Designer Roadmap, plus get instant access to 9+ resources to help you start and grow your web design business with ease!


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Kristen Leigh | WordPress Web Design Studio

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