Does your business or product have a website? If you’re a small business owner, author, musician or artist, you should have a business website. Even if run a business on the side, your website is your online business card, your portfolio and street sign. Don’t be daunted by the idea of setting up a website for your business, you can do this!
You need your own website for business.
More than a decade ago I blogged on and off for fun, that was it. Then life got very busy and I stopped. Do you know where those blog posts are now? Nowhere, because the domain was owned someone else. That’s wasn’t a big loss because it was just for fun.
Keep that in mind as I discuss these valuable social platforms which you may already be using for your business:
- Do you have an Etsy store? That’s great, I love Etsy and what they have done for vendors.
- Selling your products via Facebook “word of mouth? Excellent, some products fit that market well and Facebook can be a great way to network.
- Speaking of networking, I’m assuming you’re putting the word out on LinkedIn and writing posts in Pulse to highlight what you have to offer and making use of Twitter to connect and maybe two or three other networks.
I don’t know which platforms you’re using, but if you’re using them right, I trust you’re getting some good results from those platforms as long as you know how to be genuine and reach out to people with warmth and humor.
The problem? Those aren’t your platforms! Your page on that platform doesn’t belong to you.
Because these platforms don’t belong to you, you don’t have control over the rules. If you’re a vendor on Amazon, I don’t have to tell you the pros and cons of working with Amazon, you already know. If haven’t had a hiccup as a vendor on Amazon, you just need to wait your turn. Just google “how to reopen a suspended Amazon account”
Actually, you might want to be proactive and order this book for your library:
Suspension Prevention: Get Reinstated and Protect your Amazon Account, by Ms. Cynthia G. Stine
The point is, people have been suspended from various platforms, often for good reason and often for understandable errors. You need to be able to operate your business from another platform, your website and not put yourself entirely into the hands of anyone else. Besides, even if it seems daunting to you, setting up your own website is doable and inexpensive. Additionally, there are many tutorials online to get you started.
I’m going to get you pointed in the right direction and I’m betting you have someone in your life who can help you if you run into hiccups. You just need someone to give you a little push… That’s me.
Your first step: Chose a hosting company.
Choose your host company and sign up with them. Unless you run a big business (in which case this is the wrong blog post for you to read), you will probably choose an offsite host for your website if you’re unsure what web hosting is, read, The Basics of Website Hosting (In Plain English), by David Hartstein. The explanation I would give you might be too simplistic. 😉 Host companies which may sound familiar to you are Bluehost, iPage, Godaddy, and Hostgator.
I use iPage, I’ve heard good things about Bluehost and Hostgator, but honestly, I’m not an expert in the ins and outs of what people have experienced with their host companies. I advise you to take a look at the following reviews, pick one of the top four and take the plunge:
- I really like the way WhoIsHostingThis works, they stay up to date in their ratings and reviews and have a link for hosting coupons.
- PCmag.com has their own favorites, but there’s some overlap. I noticed the lack of iPage as tops on their list. Hmm.. wonder why…
- HostingAdvice.com has similar top picks to PCmag and WhoIsHosting as well as articles on choosing a domain name.
Choose one, don’t agonize to the point of being paralyzed with indecision. At some point, you have to take the plunge!
Step Two: Choose Your Domain Name.
Once you’ve chosen a hosting company, go to their website pay for an account, they will take you through the steps to sign up for your own website. That’s where you’ll use their search engine to discover which domain names are available. If the one you want already belongs to someone else, they’ll suggest alternatives.
- Fiddle around with the search and record a few name ideas which are available, rather than signing up right away.
- Consult with friends, family and business friends about what to use for your domain name.
- Ask them if your domain name is easy to remember and is something they associate with your business or brand.
- Ask a stranger in a coffee shop… If they know nothing about you then they might be able to give you an unvarnished view about whether your name clearly communicates your business.
I thought carefully about my domain name: MyWordsforhire. It wondered if it was too obvious a name, but I decided to own it.
What I have to offer is literally my gift for words to people:
- Who need help putting their value into words.
- Who need their podcast to have written words as a summary.
- Who write well but don’t have the time to.
- Who do business well but don’t write well.
Search algorithms (like Google and Bing) use words for indexing websites so a website rich in images and/or audio still needs words, to be indexed correctly so that it can be found in word searches (I know, obvious, but essential).
Do your research so that your domain name is:
- Memorable so that people who want to come back won’t have a hard time remembering your URL.
- Might contain a word people will search for to find your product (Example: Cowbells.com).
- Could contain your location (If most of your business is local, for instance, a coffee shop, but not if it’s mostly online).
- Makes it clear what your product or service is (painter, coach, art, music, author, editor, consultant).
Your name matters, get it right.
Here is an Entrepreneur article, byJane Porter, which I thought had some important first points. Before you even dive into the host you want for your business read, Does and Don’ts of Securing a Domain Name in that link. Don’t miss this piece of advice, it may seem obvious, but you had better pay attention if you have someone else set up your website for you:
Some business owners make the mistake of not checking to ensure whoever registers their domain name does so under the business owner’s name. It’s very important to be sure you are the domain owner and administrative contact, says Bedord. “It’s just like a piece of property. If you don’t own the property, you can’t sell an existing business,” she says.
It’s an obvious, yet common, mistake made by business owners. Three years after Graham Hunt, 44, started his real estate firm Valencia Property in Spain in 2000, the two-person web design team he hired to build his site split and he had to choose between them. Hunt soon discovered the partner he didn’t choose had registered himself as the owner and administrative contact for the domain name, so Hunt didn’t own his own website. It took three years and he ended up paying the disgruntled partner nearly $6,000 in sales commission fees to get back ownership of the domain, which originally cost just $15.
Use an online tutorial.
One of the wonders of the internet is the availability of online tutorials paid and free. I paid for a tutorial on Udemy to lead me through setting up my first WordPress website. I purchased the one by Andrew Williams called WordPress for Beginners. His tutorial starts with setting up an account with a hosting site all the way through creating a WordPress site that’s ready to go; I highly recommend his course (I believe I spent less than $20.00 for it).
However, don’t neglect a search online for free tutorials. I love Youtube for that. Below is one for setting up a website through iPage. The wonder of Youtube and other online tutorials is that you go at your pace and work according to your schedule (at times your spouse, dad, techie friend might not be awake or available). Below is one for setting up a website through iPage. I like that he starts out with a list of what he plans to teach you by the end of the course.
This second tutorial is great, the only drawback is that he goes at the speed of light. That’s what you get sometimes with people who are pros (He’s a professional web designer). Still, you can pause it, slow it down and rewind…
If a slower pace and more thorough explanation is your style, you might want to utilize this one (complete with an annoying song at the beginning). Tyler Moore has many more tutorials like this with various theme styles which you can view on Youtube.com Tyler Moore
Last, but not least, this one is short and visually appealing using Bluehost as the hosting service.
If you haven’t taken the plunge and created a website for your talent, your product or your service, it’s time.
A website is going to do these things for your business:
- Create an online portfolio you can send people to.
- Help you tell your story and create a brand.
- Enable people doing online searches to find you.
- Ensure that you have a site to call your own if you run into snags on other platforms (Etsy, Amazon etc.)
You can do this! Hey, I did, and I’m the poster child of slow-learner. But when I’m motivated, I learn!
What fear holds you back from creating your own website? What motivates you to move beyond fear to giving this a go? Drop me a line and let me know.
If you want in on the rest of the Small Business Website Series, send me your email address. I won’t give it to anyone else, and I won’t send you more than one email a week.