So, you’re running a business and the next step is to create a website.
The question is:
Can I build that website myself?
And the simple answer is YES – of course you can!
There are some amazing website builder packages out there that I recommend and use for my clients. My favourite two are Create and Squarespace, depending on what my clients actually need their website to do.
But before you hurry off and buy a domain and get cracking, I want you to ask yourself these 5 questions:
- Do I want to design the site myself
- Do I enjoy learning new skills and keeping those skills up to date?
- Can I spare the time to build the site myself?
- Do I know how to build a website that converts visitors to customers?
- Can I solve and technical issues that arise?
If you answered YES to most of these questions then off you pop and I hope that you enjoy the challenge of building a great site – I love it and I know you will too!
If, however, you have answered NO to even some of these questions then I would argue that outsourcing your website will actually pay dividends in the long term. It will also free you up to spend time in your business doing the bits you really love.
And, if after answering these questions you are still confused about whether to hire someone or not, ask for some advice. Contact a few different website companies and ask colleagues who already have websites for their thoughts on the best way to go. The more questions you ask BEFORE creating a website the better.
My niche is working with clients who want to have control over their sites once they are launched but need help with getting the site launched in the first place. Here’s what one of my clients has said about this option:
If you need any help deciding or just want some honest obligation-free advice then please get in touch.
It is so easy to get caught up in branding and sleek design when creating a website – and a business for that matter – but without the right content on your site it really won’t matter how professional it looks.
That’s not to say that bad design is OK either, because the way it looks will catch the attention of potential customers. However, if they are going to stay on your site, there really has to be something of value to keep them interested and convince them that you are the person or company they want to work with. And only content can do that.
SEARCH ENGINES LOVES CONTENT
Or to be more precise, search engines love relevant and freshly updated content. Did you know that according to a Netcraft January 2018 Web Server Survey there are over 1.8 billion
websites online? But of these, only a very small proportion are actually active or updated regularly.
The easiest way of keeping your own site active is to write a blog and add posts regularly. Each new post becomes a new gateway to your website and gives search engines relevant topics and text to crawl. This will ultimately help your site rank higher in searches and give you a platform to show your expertise in the area you are trying to get business in.
And if you have a clear idea of your target audience then this task becomes infinitely simpler to achieve, but if you still struggle for ideas on what to post, check out my list of 50 Awesome Blog Ideas
– see you can even blog about blogging!
OVERSHARING IS GOOD
Some marketing gurus will insist that hiding details from visitors and only offering them answers once they click and sign up to your email list is the way to go. However, if you’ve got an overflowing inbox and little time to read through five emails a day telling you why you need to buy from someone, then employing this tactic won’t win you any new clients.
I’m all for oversharing on my website and giving as many details about my services as possible – including prices. Why? Because if people see how much I charge upfront, they can make a decision there and then if they think my services are worth it to them. And sharing ‘secrets’ about web design via my blog may empower some readers to build their websites themselves but they are not my ideal clients anyway and I am thrilled that they want to learn a new skill and go it alone.
GRAPHICS AND VIDEO
Content isn’t just words – your images and videos are content too. So branding and keeping your visual content relevant is also important. It also helps break up long pieces of text so that readers don’t feel overwhelmed with long blog posts or pages on your website.
I’m a big fan of Canva
and use it to create all of my images (including the one below) but whatever image software you use, try to make the images your own and steer clear of stock images wherever possible.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA
All that content you create in the form of blog posts and tips about your own industry can and should be shared via social media. You are creating a library of specialist information when you write a blog and sharing it with as wide an audience as possible is what social media is there for. So, share that post you’ve just written across Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and get your message out there.
Oh, and don’t forget to share blog posts more than once. Not everyone will see your post the first time and if the content is evergreen there is nothing stopping you sharing it time and time again across your social media channels.
So, what are you going to do to make your content stand out and keep your website active?
You’ve made the leap to go self-employed or you already run a small business – hooray!! Welcome to the most amazing ride of your life…
What you may not have counted on when you went solo was the multiplication of skills required. Not only are you now doing the thing you love, the reason for your business, but you are now also the boss, administrator, customer service representative, accountant, web designer, publicist, sales manager, and chief coffee maker! It can all seem overwhelming and as your business grows and I hate to tell you, it’s only going to get worse.
At some point, you are going to need to look at outsourcing one or more parts of your business if you’re going to maintain your sanity.
You may have already decided that you need to do this, and I’m here to explain why I believe that outsourcing your website is one of the best things you can do for your business (unless, of course, you’re a web designer). I outsource something I don’t like doing, but you’ll have to read through to the end to find out what that is – and you probably won’t guess unless you’ve read my bio.
So, here are my top three reasons why you should outsource your website:
TECHNOLOGY KEEPS CHANGING
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, times change. But in the field of technology the pace is relentless. Only 15 years ago I was teaching people to create websites using Microsoft FrontPage with scrolling text!
Since November 2017, we’ve seen mobiles and overtake desktops as people’s preferred means of surfing the web so mobile responsivity isn’t just something that would be nice for your website, it’s a must-have.
Companies like Google (who were relatively unheard of when I first started working – anyone remember Ask Jeeves??) are now part of the English language. Did you know that to ‘google’ is now officially a verb in the English Oxford dictionary? The power of this enormous company also means that your ranking on their search engine is completely down to their algorithms – which they can change at a moment’s notice.
And the speed of change is only going to continue. Do you want to keep on top of all of the changes – or do you want to have someone who loves the changes and will do the work for you?
THINGS GO WRONG
I spend as much of my time creating new websites for clients as I do rescuing clients from old websites that have gone wrong. This is usually for one of two reasons:
- They have built it themselves and not looked at it since it was published way back in 2005 (see my point about technology keeps changing!).
- They have entrusted it to a web designer who promised the earth but delivered manure.
As with everything you do for your business, take the time to get quotes and interview different web designers. We’re not all created equal and you need to make sure you have a great working relationship with your designer and that they really ‘get’ you and your business.
Then, when things go wrong (notice I say WHEN not IF), you will have someone you can call who will calmly sort it out for you because they speak technobabble…
FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS
I am a huge fan of focussing on your strengths and not trying to be everything to everyone. This has taken me a very long time to figure out but I am pleased to say that with the help of Marcus Buckingham and his Strengths Revolution I now know what I’m awesome at and what I should really leave to someone else (who is awesome at what I’m not).
“Strengths are not activities you’re good at, they’re activities that strengthen you. A strength is an activity that before you’re doing it you look forward to doing it; while you’re doing it, time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you’ve done it, it seems to fulfill a need of yours.” – Marcus Buckingham
If you want to figure out what your strengths are, then I highly recommend taking the Strengths Finder test. It confirmed what I already knew about myself and helped me clarify my business and personal life – and stop worrying about what I’m not good at.
In terms of your website this is really important. If you don’t LOVE logging into your website and updating it or taking time to check the colours or the coding then you should really consider giving the work to someone who does. Like me!
It will free you up to do the things you’re actually great at and bring even greater success to your business. Time is money when it comes to running your business so instead of looking at the cost of a new website and cringing, think about how many hours of YOUR time getting a website built for you will free up.
So what do I outsource? Have you guessed?
Yup, it’s my gardening. OK, so it’s not a part of my busines, but I’m a solopreneur who also happens to be a single mum and committed volunteer – and I HATE gardening with a passion. It’s not one of my strengths but I adore a lovely looking garden. Thankfully I’ve found someone who LOVES it so I get to work to my strengths and so does she…
And, if you’ve already outsourced part of your business – or something at home – I’d love to know what it is…
OK, I’m a Web Designer so you would be right in thinking that I believe that every business needs a website. Duh!
To be honest, I am actually amazed when people I meet ask me if they need a website at all. I guess I just figure that everyone accepts that they do – but that’s clearly not the case.
I believe that every business needs a website because I know that without one your business is missing a key marketing component that can’t always be measured by SEO or sales conversions. And if you’ve already got one and don’t think it’s working for you, then this post may help you realise just how much your website is doing for you too.
Recently, one of my clients contacted me about updating their website. The M.H. Vehicle Services website has been live for 3 years (a bit of a shock to all of us) and since then I’ve only made one update. It was a simple build to replace a website that wasn’t really doing anything for them and they are a successful family-run garage business that you wouldn’t actually think needs any further advertisement. The website they have doesn’t cost a lot to maintain (under £100 per year) and I was called in to update their address and add a couple of pages to the site to reflect a physical move to new premises and add some new services. Standard stuff.
And while I was there Matt (head mechanic and owner) confirmed that clients told him they look at the website and compare the photo of their garage with the building when they arrive to know they have found the right place. His wife Gill, administrator extraordinaire, admitted that people also say they look at the website before they call. Even without massive updates, this site provides potential clients with proof that the business exists and that they provide services that these customers are looking for.
So, here are my Top 5 Reasons your business needs a website:
#1 – YOU ARE WHO YOU SAY YOU ARE
Let’s put it this way, if I can’t find a website for a company I’m looking to work with, or to do work for me, then I usually don’t bother going any further. The website doesn’t even need to be fantastic. It just needs to tell me that the business is what it says it is. I go for honesty and the more detail the better. Links to social media are good too as it shows they are interested in communicating in real-time. It really frustrates me when I know a business can’t be bothered to have even a basic site.
#2 – 24/7 VISIBILITY
People surf the web at all hours. You never know when you customers are going to be online. What about shift-workers or insomniacs? Getting your message out 24/7 is one of the most powerful tools your business has if you use it correctly.
#3 – OWNERSHIP
Social media is great but if a platform goes bust or changes their algorithm so no-one sees your stuff anymore then you can’t do anything about it. Your website is YOURS. You own it. You make the decisions you want to make about what it includes. Your website is your hub for all online interaction so it doesn’t matter what the next big platform is – you’ll have content to share to it.
#4 – WEED OUT TIMEWASTERS
The best part about having your own website? You get to share the stuff that’s most important to you. Swear if you want to, use bright colours, share your personality. All of this gives your clients an insight into who you are and helps you weed out those who don’t. You may think that this cuts off your supply of potential clients but it is actually the opposite. If you create a website that you are proud of and it turns someone off then that’s great. You don’t need to waste time on people who don’t fit with you. Better to find out upfront than to be 3 months into a business relationship and find out that you really don’t jell.
#5 – IT GIVES YOU AN EDGE
There are plenty of businesses out there that still don’t have a website – and those that do but haven’t updated it for donkeys years. They don’t think it’s important or they are still living in the age of the Yellow Pages. Move with the times and get ahead of others in your industry. Create a website that people want to visit. If two businesses are up for a job and one doesn’t have a site or their site isn’t great then they are more likely to be dismissed without even knowing it. Your website gives you an edge that you may never really fully measure.
So, are you convinced yet? If you don’t have a website yet then please look at getting one with urgency if you want your business to succeed. And give me a yell if you would like some obligation free advice on the best way forward for you.
This is the question I get asked most often by clients and is usually followed by statements such as:
“I have nothing to write”
“Why would anyone be interested in me”
“I can’t write 1,000 words every week!”
“It’s all too complicated”
The list goes on and on and all of these statements have one thing in common – FEAR! They are excuses to ignore the amazing impact that regular blogging can have on your business – and also on you.
Now, I’ve already written about why your business needs a blog and given you 50 awesome blog ideas so the problem isn’t the WHY or even the WHAT, but the HOW.
Oh, and this isn’t a guide to which blogging platform to use. There are so many of them out there – from WordPress to eBlogger to Medium or even one that’s included with your template website. Here’s a great list of the Top 10 platforms for 2018 if you need help choosing. Once you’re all set up on the tech side, then read the practical soft-skills guide below to getting over that initial paralysis and putting your words out there into the digi-verse!
Step 1 – Decide You Can
I’m not being flippant here – this is simply a reminder that you can do this! Take a deep breath and remember that you have just as much right to share your opinion as anyone else. In fact, you may just be the voice that the world is waiting for. Unless you start, you’ll never know! Once you’ve overcome this initial obstacle the rest of the process actually becomes much easier.
Step 2 – Write Everything Down
I take a notebook with me everywhere I go and jot down interesting thoughts, conversations and questions all the time. You could use your phone or tablet too if you prefer. You’ll be surprised just how many thoughts you have during the day that can be transformed into blog posts with very little work. Inspiration usually hits when you’re not at your desk so don’t sit there waiting for it.
Step 3 – Start Writing
Make time to write a blog post based on your notes. Start with one post and build from there.
“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go” – E.L. Doctorow
Don’t concern yourself too much with how many words you’ve written as it can put you off if you think you’ve got too few. Those articles telling you that the ‘ideal’ blog post contains 1,200 words are not helpful here. Any length is better than none and sometimes a quick short post can say it all. Like this post by my friend Liz Abram. It’s under 200 words but wonderfully written and gained good traction for her on social media.
Step 4 – Create Structure
Every blog post needs editing. Writing everything in one long paragraph isn’t going to inspire readers to stick around. Think of breaking your post down into sections using sub-headings (like I’m doing here). Short digestible chunks are what you’re aiming for. Use the built-in Heading styles in your builder to differentiate between levels and use bullet points or numbering if appropriate.
Step 5 – Add Links
Linking to other posts you’ve written and to external websites helps boost the SEO performance of your blog post. It also helps show your readers that you have researched your topic and can point them in the right direction if you’re not covering something they should also know. At least one internal link (your site) and one external link (another site) is a good start.
Step 6 – Add Images
Images break up your text and bring more interest to your post – as long as they are relevant. I recommend using your own images where possible but if you use the work of others always credit the original source either in a caption or by linking to the original source. I use Canva to create my own images (like this one) and recommend Pixabay for royalty-free images if you really need to go there.
Step 7 – Publish It!
I know people who have hundreds of draft posts ready to go but don’t have the courage to press ‘Publish’. Remember that your writing will improve and change over time. You are writing from your current perspective so be brave and let the world see it. It’s actually good to look back at earlier posts and see just how much your style has changed over the months and years.
Step 8 – Share It
Let people know it’s there. Share your blog post on social media. The image you use for your post will be really important here as this will encourage people to find out more and actually click through to the post. If your post contains evergreen content (content that doesn’t go out of date) make sure you share it more than once. Add it to your social media calendar to share again in the future. There is no use writing new content daily when you will be building a library of content to repost.
So, that’s it! My step-by-step guide to taking that first step to having a blog. Consistency really is key so I encourage you to set yourself a goal of regular writing – be that once a month or once a day – and try to stick with it.
P.S. – If you’d like to grab a copy of my ‘Evolution of a Blog Post’ printable, then sign up for my monthly newsletter below. It’s the quickest way to stay informed of new posts and every so often you can also win some 1:1 digital time with me…
Building a website that reflects how you want your business to be seen is really important. If you build your site yourself you can often find that you become ‘website blind’. You only see what you want to see. You know where things are and assume your customers will too. You’ve followed my advice and taken a fresh look at your website.
But often this isn’t the case and you lose customers because your site isn’t as clear as you think it is.
Here’s the solution to that problem. Ask a trusted adviser, friend, colleague or better yet your ideal customer to take a look at your website and answer these 10 questions:
1. What was your first impression when you entered the website?
You have a measly 50 milliseconds to impress new visitors to your website. That’s how long it takes them to decide whether to stick around or not. Seriously! So if your site doesn’t catch their eye immediately or takes too long to load they’re gone… Make sure your ‘Call to Action’ is clear and they know exactly what you do on your site within a few seconds.
2. Does the website match my offline business?
Branding is everything. If your website looks clunky but you are selling high-end goods and services no-one is going to buy them. If you’re trying to attract professional clients but your website looks like a child has designed it (god forbid it includes Comic Sans) then you’ll lose the sale. Is your branding consistent across all of your assets – digital and printed – and does it match who YOU are?
3. Is there any important information missing?
Just because you know what you do and how to find you doesn’t mean you’ve made it clear on your website. Believe it or not, 51% of people think “thorough contact information” is the most important element missing from many company websites. And that includes you!
4. What one thing could I add to make the site better?
We often miss a key piece of information that users are looking for. Perhaps it’s an image or a link but you don’t see it because you’ve gone into website meltdown. This is a broad question but you’ll be amazed what gems your friends can suggest.
5. Is my pricing clear?
Now, this topic is one that I have many discussions about. I truly believe that you should put some pricing on your website – even if it’s ballpark figures. You don’t want to waste your time explaining your pricing to customers when they contact you. If they know up front then they can make a decision whether to call or not. No pricing = too expensive in many people’s opinions. I just don’t have time for that.
6. What do you like most/least about my website?
Do more of whatever your advisor says they like about your site. Perhaps it’s great blog content or awesome graphics. This questions should be an easy one to expand on.
OK, so the answer to what they like least may sting a little if your adviser is being really honest with you. But here’s the thing:
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates
7. Could you find all of the information you needed?
If you do more than one thing you could ask your adviser to complete a simple task – such as booking an event or buying a product (you can always refund this later or run it in ‘test’ mode on some platforms). Feedback from a real consumer will help you greatly as you design how your site works. You could also ask them how long it takes to find a specific item that you think is your biggest seller. This can be really telling when it’s hidden away on your site!
8. Does my site look good on all devices?
As of February 2017, mobile devices excluding tablets accounted for 49.73 percent of web page views worldwide. Get your adviser to check out how your site looks and functions on a desktop, phone and tablet to make sure you’re not missing out on a huge chunk of business. Upgrading to a mobile responsive site may seem like a big investment, but it will pay for itself quickly if you’re missing out on half of all users!
9. What should I write more about?
Blogging is a great way of keeping both current and prospective clients interested in what you have to say. It also shows that you know what you’re talking about in your own industry. Are you making the most of your own knowledge? Perhaps this is something to devote more time to?
10. Is my website easy to navigate?
38% of users will leave a website if they can’t find what they are looking for easily or the layout is unattractive. Having to click through page after page to find what you are looking for is tedious. And with more and more users accessing the web from their phones, making navigation easy is paramount. You could ask your adviser to check the navigation on different devices to make sure all are working well.
So, there it is. My quick list of questions to ask to really get your website working for your business. Let me know how you get on and if you need any help bringing your site up to scratch, you know where I am.