How to Get Your Project Built

constructionOver the past several years, I’ve regularly had people come to me with ideas or actual domain names that they want to build out into real businesses. I have two in my Inbox right now. So rather than continue to answer each one one-by-one, I thought it would be helpful to just go ahead and put it in an article.

If you can already build you own site, this article isn’t for you. If you have an idea and no way to turn it into reality, though, keep reading.

. . .

There are at least a couple of different ways you can get your business built.

Find a Partner

This is the one that just about everybody thinks of. I know it seems like a good idea, but it’s not.

The reality is that anybody who’s any good already has more opportunity than they can handle. (See Dear Programmer, I have an idea.) Good developers are easily the biggest bottleneck to new ideas coming to life. Everybody I know has great projects waiting in the wings that they just have no time for. It can be really frustrating sometimes. There are so many ideas I’d like to develop.

So to convince someone who’s good to build your project for equity only, you’re going to have to give up at least 30% and probably much more. (Most will want at least a controlling equity stake.) If you have a vision that can turn into a tiny little $100,000 business, you’re probably going to have to give up $50,000 (or more) just to have it built. On a million-dollar idea, its going to cost you a cool $500,000 or more.

Yes, you’re offloading the risk of paying up-front to have it built, but at severe cost. Now is the time to suck it up and just…

Pay Someone to Build It

Based on your idea, it may cost you as much as $10,000 to have a first version built. Don’t spend any more than that, because you have no idea what the real business will end up being. (In a recent Inc. magazine survey, only 4% of business owners said their business matched the original business plan.) What you want is something good enough to put out there and get some traction so you can see which way to head.

You need:

  1. A logo
  2. A website design
  3. Someone to code the site

For the logo, I’d definitely pony up $500 for a contest on 99designs.

For the website design, I’d try to use one of the many great pre-built WordPress designs. Even if you’re not creating the site with WordPress, many of the designs can be adapted easily to a regular website.

Two out of the three pieces done, and you’re not even close to $1,000 yet. The last piece is the most expensive, but, depending on what you need, it could be less than $1,000 too.

You have a couple of different ways you could go here.

James Altucher likes Elance. As he notes in the answer to one of these questions:

So I outlined ten ideas I thought could be good businesses. Nine of those ideas were bad ideas. Anybody can outline ten business ideas. Anybody can outline nine bad ones.

Then I spec-ed out each business, I put the specs on, I took in over 100 possible bids from developers who wanted to create the businesses, and then I hired one for each idea, including for , which worked out well for me.

I’ve never used Elance personally, but tons of people do.

The other way you could go is with a strong referral from someone you trust. Make sure they know what they’re talking about, though. The Internet is full of people who think they’re great developers.

So maybe $2,000 to get your idea built. Certainly not more than $10,000, or you’re doing it wrong. The idea is to get something out there and see what happens.

What if you don’t have the money? Scrimp, save, use credits cards, borrow money from family, sell some assets. Anything is better than giving up control (and most of the profit) to someone else. You could fail 25 different times on a $100,000 idea before you lost more money than partnering with someone would cost you.

Am I Right?

I know many of you reading this, and I know those of you who have used various routes for bringing your ideas to life.

For you, does this information match up with your experience? Is there anything you would add or change for those who are about to go through this?

Photo by compujeramey.


  • Rodney Jansen

    January 20, 2012
    at 11:50 am

    Thank you for taking the time to write this. Though its not what I wanted to hear, it’s honest and really helpful in giving me the proper mindset and perspective.


  • Drew Meyers - ESM Exec Designs

    January 20, 2012
    at 11:22 pm

    I think the pricing you mention is a bit low. For a content only site, 10k will get you a pretty killer website. But for any sort of advanced functionality/interaction/ecommerce/etc — 10k won’t get you much unless you work with someone who isn’t very experienced and has no work in the queue. I guess elance is a way to save money rather than working with established design company, but I’d argue you have to have quite a bit of technical background to go that route b/c it means you are your own project manager

    Good topic of discussion…I get these types of inquires every now and then as well.


  • Shane

    January 21, 2012
    at 9:37 am

    Great feedback, Drew. Thanks! How much you’re able to handle on your own is the huge variable in all this. If you’re utterly reliant on someone else for everything, the cost is indeed going to climb pretty fast if you’re developing real technology. Might be worth reconsidering if you have an idea for the next Facebook and don’t know anything about programming 🙂


  • Ned Kandul

    January 23, 2012
    at 9:31 am

    A strong article and, if followed, a solid succinct plan to getting an idea off the ground and into orbit.


  • Chris @ Lakeshore Branding

    January 23, 2012
    at 11:37 am

    Shane, I just wanted to say thanks for mentioning our post about WordPress Themes.


  • Alethea

    January 24, 2012
    at 11:58 pm

    Hi Shane, This is a great article! I was wondering about your WordPress suggestion which I was thinking about using for one of my sites. Do you feel that you can effectively use WordPress as a platform to create the next lets say the next Facebook type website or do you think you would have to create a custom solution when you get tens of thousands of users for security and other types of issues?


  • Shane

    January 25, 2012
    at 8:12 am

    You can do a lot of cool things with WordPress, but you’d almost definitely want to go to your own custom platform once you a) expanded meaningfully beyond just content and b) had tens of thousands of visits. At that level of volume and technology, using WP would probably have grown very cumbersome.


  • Drew Meyers - ESM Exec Designs

    January 30, 2012
    at 4:29 am

    There are sites with millions of unique visitors every month built on top of wordpress (like TechCrunch). But to build the next facebook type site — yea, you’ll probably end up with your own proprietary platform. PHP (which is what WordPress is built on) is pretty flexible as a code base, but certainly has its limits.


  • heath

    September 10, 2012
    at 7:18 pm

    I’m curious as to any thoughts on using the web designers at like GoDaddy or something for all of these needs?? The cost is nominal, but wondering about quality though and ease of access, reliability, etc? I bought up some domain names and was looking at starting a price comparison site (for a particular service, not a product) and was considering the GoDaddy option since “If you have an idea and no way to turn it into reality” applies to me! Any thoughts would be appreciated, thanks!


  • Shane

    September 12, 2012
    at 11:42 am

    I think you’ll ultimately be unhappy with the GoDaddy option, but not NEARLY as unhappy as you’d be if you ended up not doing anything at all. We all end up virtually redoing (usually more than once) everything we did in the beginning anyway, so the most important factor is to just get started.