When I started in web publishing, I paid someone to help me develop a kick-ass site. It cost me $800, but it was very professional and the code was clean and efficient.
Then I found out what really determines your success on-line is traffic. And you get traffic by spending a lot of time marketing your website.
Yeah, the site was perfect, but no one knew it existed.
If I were starting out today, I would spend less time on the bells and whistles (or even use a CMS) and devote the rest of my efforts toward marketing.