Sure, and while you’re at it go rent an office, buy business cards, upgrade your computer, order letterhead and lease a photocopier before you earn a nickel.
Don’t hire a professional designer for your niche site or blog if you’re starting out. It’s a total waste of money at that stage.
I’m not saying that custom and professionally designed websites and blogs don’t have their place, but when you’re just starting, why spend so much money on something that’s not going to make one iota of a difference.
You’re much better off using those funds on buying content and/or generating traffic.
Themes look great as-is
There are thousands of premium themes and even more free themes. Surely you can find one that looks good enough.
I only paid for a professional design once
I’ve only paid for a professional design once and that was for my brick and mortar professional services business. I didn’t know about WordPress. I had no online experience. That professional design was for a profitable business.
Since then, even though I have some successful niches, I have yet to pay for a customized design. Sure, I’ve paid small fees here and there for some CSS tweaks, but I’ve never hired a designer for thousands of dollars to create custom design. It’s just not worth it to me. I think my sites look good enough. They perform well enough.
When should you pay for a custom design?
1. You need a site for a s mall business: I think small businesses that are profitable warrant paying for a custom design. These sites are typically small and usually owners don’t have the time or interest to learn WordPress basics. In this case, spending a few thousand on a custom website makes perfect sense.
However, there are many small business themes that look just fine out of the box too and that don’t require too much WordPress know-how. If you’re the business owner and have the time to figure out WordPress sufficiently to get a small business site up and running, go with some small business theme.
2. You need specific functionality: If you have an idea for a site which can’t be executed with any theme and/or plugin, it’s worth hiring a professional to code that functionality for you.
3. You make oodles of cash from your existing site(s): If you make tens or hundreds of thousands per month, go for it. Spending $10K won’t matter one way or another.
4. You inherited millions and want to give a niche site a shot for fun: If money is not a concern, go for it. Even then I prefer each site to pay for itself early on, which means keeping start-up costs to a minimum. This is more out of principle than anything else. I simply can’t justify spending $5,000 on a site design given all the awesome content I could get for that amount.
Do people really care?
Yes and no.
The issue is do they are enough that you stand no chance to succeed early on? I don’t think so. I simply can’t see that failing to get a custom design when starting out will prevent you from building a successful niche site.
On the flip side, if you spend all your money before you have one visitor, that could hurt in the long run.
That said, once you have millions of visitors and waves of cash pouring in, a custom design based on testing could very well be worth it. At that point, a custom design could add $2.00, $5.00 or more in RPM. With millions of visitors, even a modest bump in RPM makes the investment well worth it.
Don’t fall in the “need to properly set up trap” when starting
Too many businesses, online and offline, never go anywhere because the founders spend all their time and money “setting it up.” There really is nothing to set up because there isn’t a business.
Your absolute number one focus needs to be only spending money and time on things that directly generate money. In the case of niche sites, your focus needs to be on publishing outstanding content and getting website traffic to that content. That’s it. Yes, it will take time to make decent money, but it’s those two activities that will generate money. A custom vanity site won’t do anything for your bottom line for quite some time.