The internet has been around and in most of our lives for a minimum of two and a half decades. Many small business owners have embraced it. Many have not. Many have done a little something with it, but not enough. Small business owners are first and foremost concerned with cost. And often, when it comes to the internet and online tech, a high price is associated with almost everything you can and want to do. Certainly small business owners can not be expected to do these things themselves? But wait...can they?
There are so many things a small business owners can do, without paying someone to do it for them. Online tech for small businesses has become easier and easier. More user-friendly than ever, so even the most technophobic small business owner can handle the basics.
Here are my top 5 things small business owners can do for themselves to get web ready. No web developer needed!
Purchase your business domain.
If you don't already have one, purchase your business domain. Your business domain name is your web address. For example: YourCompany.com, Facebook.com, Amazon.com, etc. There are numerous places you can purchase a domain. My personal favorite is Google Domains. A lot of people will go straight to GoDaddy because that's what they've heard of, but if you haven't already, go to Google Domains. It's the better choice. Here's why....
Setup your company email
If your company email is YourCompanyName@gmail.com, that is not a company email address. That is a personal email address with a company name tied to it.
Real companies need real company email. Ex. firstname.lastname@example.org. It's fairly simple to setup your company email once you've purchased your domain name. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to help clients set up their company email And they could have done this themselves. Many choose to skip it because it just seems too difficult. But it's really not.
If you've been moving along without a company email and it seems to be working for you, you may want to reconsider.
Having a business email is vital when you are looking to send marketing emails to potential customers using services like Mailchimp, Constant Contact or ActiveCampaign. Personal emails will not suffice in those situations. You're not allowed to use them. That means no @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @comcast.net, or @sbcglobal.net, etc..
I'm a Google girl, so I recommend using Google Workspace. While it's a paid service, it is relatively inexpensive, starting at $6/mo per user. For that price you get custom business email, cloud space and other business apps you're likely to use at some point. You can also create as many alias emails as you'd like within one user account. For example, you can create email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com with just one user account.
Not a Google fan? Zoho is another great option. Their cheapest email plan is $1/mo.
Secure your web hosting
Web hosting is one of those confusing necessities that takes a bit more explanation. Web hosting is where your website lives. The best way to explain web hosting is to use an analogy between a condo unit inside of a huge condominium high rise.
High rise building = Hosting server, where your site lives.
Your condo unit = your actual website that lives on the shared server.
Condo address = domain name, how visitors get to your website.
You don't own the entire high-rise, but you do own/pay for the condo unit.
With web hosting, you don't own the entire server (at least not yet), but you do pay to rent a portion of the server, where your website files live (or are hosted). Make sense?
For those of you who will be building websites using WordPress (used by over 40% of all websites and 35% of the top 10,000 websites), you'll need to choose where you want your website to live. There are tons of web-hosting companies. For WordPress, hands down I say WPEngine. Their support is stellar. They maintain their servers and you're very secure with them, which means less hacks. There are other companies you can go to, but SiteGround would be my second option.
With web hosting, you truly get what you pay for. If you're looking to mind your own site, you really need to partner with a company that has your back and a positive customer support model must be their cornerstone. Cheaper is not the best way to go.
If you're leaning toward a web builder like Shopify, Wix or Squarespace, you should really know the differences. A lot of people will say, "Go with Shopify." And yes, Shopify is great if you have a retail store with a lot of SKUs. But if you want to grow and expand into memberships and eCourses, they may not be the best choice.
Choose your own visual aesthetic
Whether you're building your own site or having a developer build it for you, the end result should be something you want and like. And above all, it must perform best for your business needs. But It's hard to make a plan if you don't know where you're going.
Web developers are not necessarily web designers. Most small business owners can't afford both. And even if you can, you can't count on them to figure out your design aesthetic for your company and your brand. Here are some tips:
Collect Creative Assets
What really makes your website unique is your imagery, copy and branding, etc. Imagery includes product photos, editorial photos, infographics, icons, videos, etc. Even a nice logo can tell a story about you and your brand. So many times, perspective clients come to me thinking they are ready for a website when they're not. No logo, no images, no copy, no nothing. Without any creative, we're at a standstill. Here are some quick ideas to help you get nice imagery for your site.
Copy is another very important creative asset and not anything to leave up to your developer or designer. You know your business better than they do. If you're not comfortable writing your own copy, again, Fiverr and Upwork are also great for finding help with your copy. Here are some copy assets you need to make sure you have:
Go back to those sites you viewed for inspiration and see how they used copy to draw you in, tell their story and appeal to their customer.
Sometimes people have no interest in doing these things themselves and will pay to get them done. And that's fine if you can do it. But if you want to take your online business into your own hands, give it a try. I promise It will make you a more confident business owner and like my Daddy says, "Once you have that education, no one can take it away from you!" Truer words have never been spoken. You'll use this new skill again. And at least you'll be inspired to try more in the future..