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…
For anyone with a product-based business, selling online is relatively straightforward. In fact it should easily cover the cost of maintaining a website in the first place. But for those running serviced-based businesses, recouping the cost of your website may seem impossible.
However, here are three easy and proven ways to ensure that not only does your website bring in more physical business, but that it pays for itself every single day…
If you run workshops, speaking events or courses, consider setting up an online booking system for these. People who would not otherwise email or call will often book online through your website. This is one of my favourite ways to book because it is instant and can be done at any time of day. Integrate your own calendar of events or use services such as Eventbrite or TicketSource to manage your bookings. For smaller events, you can simply add tickets to a shop on your website (such as on the Create platform). Sharing these through your social media channels will spread your message further still. For my own Digital Training I use a WordPress plugin called Events Manager Pro. It links directly with my Paypal account and allows me to track bookings straight through the site for both online and offline payments.
Become an Affiliate
Affiliate marketing is BIG BUSINESS! If you use a product or service and you love it, then why not consider becoming an affiliate for them. Every time someone clicks through your website to theirs and makes a purchase you get a small percentage of that sale. Each affiliate program is completely different and I would only ever recommend signing up for programs that you honestly believe. It’s your reputation on the line as much as theirs! I’m an affiliate for Create because I love their website builder and use it for lots of my clients and also for Danielle LaPorte as I LOVE her products. You can also find affiliate programs for many of the larger online retailers such as Amazon or you could think of setting up your own program for others to recommend your products and services!
Sell Digital Products
If you have a program or book that you can sell online as a digital product then this can also bring in a great residual income. It often requires very little effort (after you’ve created it of course!). Just be aware that if you are located in the UK and sell to a consumer in any other EU country, you will fall into the messy business of VAT-MOSS. Now I’m no expert on this at all so it’s worth checking out the HMRC Website and speaking to your accountant. It applies to supplying things like ebooks, templates, apps and purely online courses. You can get around this by selling through a third party that is already set up for VAT-MOSS such as Etsy. They collect the VAT and pay it for you. I actually run a hobby business completely set up with digital products and it’s definitely worth it.
Implementing just one of these ideas on your website can cover the annual cost of your site without costing you too much time or effort. And of course there are many, many more ways to leverage your website such as membership sites, creating a YouTube channel, creating apps and licensing your own programs – this list is just the tip of the online iceberg!
I love to write and love to talk too, so never really run out of blog ideas and things to write about. But I often get asked by those new to sharing their stuff on the web “what should I blog about?”, “I have nothing to say”…
Well, here’s a list of 50 ideas for your blog – maybe one or two of them will inspire you to put your fingers to the keys and share your unique view with the world:
#1 HOW TO – pick something you know how to do and explain how to do it – pictures help with this one too.
#2 MAKE A VIDEO – known as a vlog, this can be a welcome change from text, text and more text. I must admit that I have not done this yet, but it is on my list for this month!!
#3 SHARE A DOWNLOAD – a short post to a download or printable – everyone loves getting something for free!
#4 BACKGROUND – tell your readers a bit about yourself and why you do what you do. Prove you’re a human just like them.
#5 PROBLEM SOLVER – solve a problem for someone. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, just something that you already know and want to help people with. Think about the questions your clients often ask and turn those into a blog post.
#6 BREAKTHROUGH – share a breakthrough you’ve had with your readers. It gives them a sense of hope that if you can do it, so can they.
#7 A DAY IN THE LIFE – it’s often the day to day stuff that your readers are most interested in, so take some photos and blog about your daily routine. The amazing lady behind Snapdragon has changed her focus to ‘behind the scenes’ and it’s definitely far more enticing than the normal sales patter from everyone else… I love her stuff anyway, but sharing how her business runs is why I now actively read her newsletters!
#8 QUESTION – ask your readers a question. It could be anything. How they deal with a problem, where they have stayed on holiday, what they think of Vegemite (horrible, horrible stuff, even though I’m Australian I can’t stand it). It makes your readers feel that they are a part of your business and that you care about what they think.
#9 BLOGGER FEATURE – do you love other blogs? Write a post about a blog you’ve been reading and share their link too. Contact them to let them know and you may get even more traffic.
#10 LIST – anything will do – a list of your favourite productivity tools, your favourite essential oils, your favourite dog breeds – whatever fits your blog.
#11 REVIEW – a product, book, film, person. Be brave. Put your views online and let others know what you think.
#12 TOP TIPS – a staple of the blogging world, adding your top tips on a topic is an easy blog option.
#13 GUEST BLOGGER – invite someone in a collaborative industry to write a blog post for you on a topic that is of interest to your readers. It gives them a backlink too so it never hurts to ask!
#14 A-Z – an alphabetical list for your business, sector or specialty, whatever that may be – the A-Z of Chocolate, or the A-Z of Advertising.
#15 MAKEOVER – everyone loves a before and after (me included) so make sure you have your camera ready while everything’s still crappy looking and don’t be afraid to share your makeover triumph with the world! It can even be a makeover of your desk from messy to clean!
#16 INSPIRATION – Who inspires you? Share your own opinions on why they do and how they have inspired you.
#17 CASE STUDY – What have you done in your business? Who have you helped? Write a post sharing how your business has made their life better.
#18 RUN A CONTEST – well, we all love to win something don’t we??? Run a competition on your blog to engage your clients.
#19 TRADE SECRETS – share something that you do that makes your business amazing. It doesn’t have to be your family’s secret recipe, just an insight into how you do your job. Again, we think everyone knows this stuff, but they don’t because they are too busy doing what they do best!
#20 PHOTO POST – easy peasy lemon squeezy! Share a photo…
#21 POEM – Ah, we are all poets at heart… even if your poems are rude and obnoxious! Get them out there or share some funny ones from your industry.
#22 TBT – write a ‘Throw Back Thursday’ post sharing something about yourself when you were younger. Always good for a laugh as well as a great way to show you’re human! Here’s a pic of me to show I was young once too… Two years old and already obsessed with getting my message out!
#23 MYTH BUSTING – one of my favourites! Choose a common misconception and bust it right open. Go on, you know you want to!! Like a recent post I wrote to bust 5 SEO Myths.
#24 RUN A GIVEAWAY – a little different than a contest, this one allows people to enter just by sharing, liking or commenting and is great to link to your social media channels for extra punch.
#25 REBLOG – share something you’ve written before – there’s nothing wrong with sharing your skills again as visitors aren’t likely to scroll through your entire blogroll to find something.
#26 COMEDY – share something funny- whether it’s something that’s happened to you or just a joke or image about your industry. You don’t have to be serious all the time…
#27 UPSETS – show you are human. Turn a struggle in your business into a blog post that shows how you learned from your situation and overcame it.
#28 UPDATE – share an update or solution to an old blog post. Is there something you were moaning about in the past that you’ve now solved? Let everyone know. Again, you assume they all know this but all too often they don’t!
#29 FEELINGS – this type of post can be hard, but giving your readers permission to know that everything is NOT plain sailing no matter where you are in your business journey is really important – and it even has a place on a blog by a web designer!
#30 QUOTES – share a quote from someone famous, either in text or image format (I use Canva for all of my images coz they are ace – and FREE). Here’s an example:
#31 MELTDOWN MOMENT – just as you would share your successes, share your meltdown moments too. You are fallible, you do make mistakes and your readers will thank you for your honesty.
#32 ‘WHY’ POST – share why you do what you do. This is often overlooked, again because we think that everyone else knows this shit too. Well, I can tell you that they don’t. It’s your responsibility to tell them why you are where you are today…
#33 OFF THE WALL – post something completely random. Go on – I dare you! Like my new favourite time-wasting website PhotoFunia, that I used to create this:
#34 BUILD YOUR LIST – write a post reminding readers that if they join your email list they will get something – FOR FREE!!! Oh how we love free stuff, even if we never read it or use it….
#35 POPULAR POSTS – yes, once you have been blogging for a while (under 6 months if you do it every week) you can post a blog about your most popular post. Simples.
#36 BLOG ABOUT BLOGS – like this one?! Well, yes… Blog about blogging, why not?!
#37 PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE – I have heard so many times recently that ‘People buy People’ and it is so true. So even if you are in a MLM business you can make a difference. Just like my Neal’s Yard Consultant, Harriet. She is part of an enormous network marketing company and yet I buy from her because she not only uses the products she sells, but can identify the benefits for her clients and truly understands the MLM model. So much so that she sold 5 of their biggest earners in one small networking meeting last December because we all loved her story about how much it had helped her. Go Harriet!!!
#38 WHY YOU BLOG – this should be easy by now… Why do you blog? Why do you want to share your stuff/shit with the world??? For me it.s because I just have too much stored in my head and it’s a way to get it out…
#39 TUMBLEWEED – if you blog every week, leave one out… Whoaaaaa… Was it scary for you? Was it scary for you readers??? Blog about that…
#40 DOWN MEMORY LANE – a little like the #22 TBT post, but featuring something from your industry that people will remember. Like when we all stored information on floppy disks! You can then make comparisons showing how far we’ve come since the ‘good old days’. Back in 1984 a 3½ inch floppy disk stored a massive 880 KB to use on my Amiga!
#41 PETS – if you have one, they make great blog content. Take some pictures of them helping you at work, or write a ‘day in the life of…’ post. Cuteness overload will bring more visitors to your blog too.
#43 STEP BY STEP – Similar to tips, but broken down into a step by step post, share exactly how you would do a task, like my 5 Steps to Improve Your SEO post.
#44 FAQs – do you get asked the same thing over and over again? Dedicate a blog post to your most frequently asked questions.
#45 INTERVIEW – ask someone inspiring some questions and use their answers as your blog post. You could interview them about a certain topic related to your industry or how they became successful in their own field.
#46 HACKS – give time saving tips or a specific job hack for your industry. There are entire blogs devoted to this in the DIY arena, like IKEA Hackers who showcase clever ideas and hacks for IKEA furniture.
#47 CHALLENGES – share a challenge with your readers. Maybe you’re having a social media blackout or not eating meat for a month. Share your progress and challenge your readers to join you.
#48 PRODUCT FOCUS – if you sell physical items, blog about the advantages or features of a specific product. It shows you know what you’re selling and may ultimately lead to more sales.
#49 BIRTHDAYS – celebrate your blog/business/own birthday with a blog post. Include a cake picture or some balloons to make it cheerful!
#50 TRY SOMETHING NEW – whether you’re trying sushi for the first time or going overseas to somewhere you’ve never been, share your experiences of trying something new.
So folks – that’s my list! There are countless other ideas I am sure, but I hope these keep you going for a while…
Great – you’ve decided that you need a website. If you are in business then I believe that having a website is a must, so I’m glad you’ve come to the same conclusion.
But problems arise when you rush into your site without knowing all of the options and the best way to go about getting your message out there.
So, I’ve listed the three first steps you should take after you’ve made the decision to get all creative…
Step 1 – Register Your Domain Name
Your domain name is simply the bit after the “www” and is an address for your website. It can be moved around, but it is important to choose the right domain name for your business. You really don’t need more than one, so it is important to get it right from the beginning.
Once you have decided on the perfect name, you need to register it. There are many options for registering but a cheap and easy option here in the UK is to use SiteGround (my favourite) or 123-Reg. Do this first so you own it and no-one else can nab it, but be prepared to move it if you need to as your web designer may recommend a different provider depending on how they are building your site.
Step 2 – STOP!!!!
In my experience this is where people trip over. They are in such a hurry to create a new site that they leave their logical brain at home! You really need to stop and think at this point and I recommend turning your PC off and doing a bit of old fashioned planning on paper – yes, paper!
Here’s what you need to get clear on first…
What is the purpose of your website? Think about who your customers are, what you’re trying to achieve with the website and what you intend to do once it is up and running. Are you going to blog? Be honest and build a site that fits YOU – not what some techie has decided is the ‘norm’.
Consider your Content Write out what you want to include on your site. The more of this you can do to begin with the better. This will help you keep costs down if hiring a designer and help you figure out the best structure for your site.
Create a Structure What pages/sections does your website need? This can be changed later if you really have to, but taking some time to consider HOW you want your site to be laid out FIRST is a real time and money saver! Ask someone you trust to go through this with you as an independent eye can often pick up on things we don’t see ourselves.
Do you want to/are you capable of designing it yourself?! It is important to realise that just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD!! If it doesn’t interest you, then paying someone to design it for you while you work on other elements of your business would be a better investment than doing it yourself. You can always take over once the initial build is complete if you use a designer who encourages this (like me)!
Which brings me neatly on to Step 3…
Step 3 – Get some advice!!
If you’ve taken some time to think about what you want, make sure you talk to a few designers who will give you honest feedback and costs associated with your site. You should ask them about accessibility once the site is built (the biggest complaint I hear from new clients is that they have had little or very limited access to their sites in the past), ongoing costs and what happens when the platform they are using needs to be upgraded. They should also be able to advise you about building it yourself – without making you feel like you are doing something wrong.
If your designer can explain all of this to you and be honest about any limitations of their service, you’re on to a winner!
So, that’s it. My first steps to creating a website. Of course there is far more to it and I will get to some of that in future posts.
And, before you go – if you need some advice, why not give me a call – I will tell it like it is, whether you want to build it yourself or not…