Before explaining how to set up your website, it’s probably more useful for me to start with why you should have one in the first place.
The reality is that, if you don’t have a website, you have less chances of being found by your customers and clients.
And less chance of being found means there’s less chance of making any money.
After all, the first action that most of us take when we are looking for a specific product or service is to Google it.
Put simply, if you don’t have a website, your potential customers will find your competitors who are online.
Not to mention that having a website means that you will be able to use social media more effectively as part of your entire marketing strategy. All helping to bring more people to your freelance business.
So, how do you go about setting up your website?
Get a Domain Name
The first step is to get a domain name.
I’ve written about choosing your business name before – and you can read about that here. Of course, your domain name doesn’t have to be your business name, as long as it’s relevant.
For example, it can be what you do, like UK homestore B&Q, which has the domain name diy.com
It’s not their business name but it is a perfect description of what the store is about.
Once you’ve thought of the domain name that you would like, you will need to check whether it’s available.
I recommend domain registrars HostGator or HostPapa as I’ve used them both and they have reasonable costs and good customer support.
Ideally, you want a domain extension of .com which is by far the domain that the search engines ‘love’ AND it makes sense to buy the domain for the country that you live in. I’m in the UK so that’s .co.uk
You only use one of these, but if you have them both it stops anyone else from being able to buy them in the future – and potentially benefit from some of your traffic.
Build Your Site
You really have three options when building your website:
1. DIY – unless you’re a tech wizard or a freelance web designer, it’s probably best to avoid this route. Of course, if you are a freelance web designer then you probably HAVE to build your own as it’s the perfect showcase for your business.
2. Hire a web designer – not a bad idea, but if you’re starting a freelance business on a low cost set up, this might not be possible.
3. Use WordPress – OK, you can actually use any template builder. Many of the domain registrars offer them – but my personal recommendation would be WordPress. I use it for all 3 of my blogs and websites.
A quick round up of the reasons to use WordPress:
- It’s free – but good quality
- There are lots of templates to choose from – so you can tailor it to look like your brand relatively easily
- It has great functionality – which can be increased by the use of plugins (link in here to explanation of what they are)
- It’s user friendly – you don’t need any IT or programming knowledge – although of course, if you have it, that would help
- There are lots of online forums and tutorials to help you with any aspect that you are stuck with.
WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
There are 2 versions of WordPress to choose from – something that I didn’t realize when I first started blogging in 2010.
The .com version is entirely free – so it’s a great starting point for any bootstrapping freelance business. However, it is entirely hosted by WordPress so there’s no access to the database – you don’t really ‘own’ your site and potentially, it could be shut down at any time.
The .org version is self-hosted. So while WordPress itself is still free, you will need to purchase a hosting package to store your site database on your hosting provider’s server (more of which later).
Using the.org version means that you have control over your site and gives you access to the database via your hosting provider. You can sell direct from your .org site via a plugin, you can add advertising to generate revenue (see the advert on the right – that’s from Google Adsense) and you can set up email sign ups to build your list and your audience (you can join mine by signing up on the right or clicking here). LINK TO PAGE. So, in other words, with the .org version, you can do a lot more with your site.
The choice of which you use is entirely yours, and it depends on what you want to do with your website in the longer term.
If you go for the .org option, once you’ve selected your domain name and hosting provider, you simply go into your cpanel and upload WordPress – and hey presto! You have a website all ready for you to start adding your content to.
To blog or not to blog
The above WordPress recommendation is assuming that you are going to run a blog from your site – you might decide not to of course.
However, before you think, ‘well I don’t want a blog’ it is possible to run a static site on WordPress without the need for a blog.
Yes, there are other options but, given that I would recommend a blog in the longer term for your business, if you start off on WordPress you will have the option to add a blog to your site easily in the future.
Adding a blog helps to build traffic to your website as it means that you can create a buzz around your brand, get people talking about you and linking to your site.
Inbound links are yet another fantastic way to earn search engine love so guess what? Yes, you guessed it, you get more traffic and become easier to find. Not to mention that the search engines love regularly updated websites. So when you update your site by adding a blog post, it makes you easier to find again.
Blogging also gives you the opportunity to share news and updates about your business – or give customers and clients a behind the scenes view to help increase engagement and customer loyalty. It also helps people to learn more about you building more of that know, like, trust feeling that you want to build your audience.
Many people don’t consider the idea of running a blog because they think it will be too much work. However, unless your blog IS your business (as it is on Apricot Ginger) you only really need to post about once a week at the very most.
Choosing a hosting package
As I mentioned above, domain registrars such as HostPapa and HostGator also offer domain hosting and email hosting packages – so if you do your homework upfront – deciding on:
- what you want to do with your website
- what your domain name will be
- what your budget is for hosting
You can purchase your domain and hosting package from the same provider. You don’t need to do this, but it just might make life slightly more straight forward.
When deciding upon your host, consider the following:
How much space will you need? YOu might have a big fat zero people visiting your site at the moment, but what are your future plans for the site? Is there potential for it to receive 1m visitors? Choose a host that can cope with your current AND future needs.
As a guide, for a 10 – 15 page static site, you’re going to need around 20Mb of space and, as most providers start at 100Mb, that should be plenty. But, as I said, think about future growth too.
Database access – if you’re going to run a WordPress site – and you may decide not to – but if you are, you will need to be able to access the database. Does the hosting provider you’re considering offer this service?
User friendly – how IT literate are you? If the answer is ‘not very’ (as in my case) then you want a provider that is easy to use and offers great customer support. My experience with HostGator, HostPapa and GoDaddy is that they all offer good support for someone with very basic IT knowledge.
Cost – finally, once you’ve considered everything that you need, you’ll want to look at cost and what you will be getting.Figure out your business plan & marketing strategy BEFORE you launch your website Click To Tweet
What to consider BEFORE setting up your website
Before you do any of the above, you want to have figured out your business plan AND your marketing strategy for your freelance business. That way, you will make sure that your website delivers exactly what you need.
What are you selling?
Who is your niche market and how will you target customers?
What solution are you offering your customers?
Who are your competitors? What are their weaknesses that you could capitalize on?
Consider your marketing
Set up Google Analytics – so you can determine whether your marketing is working and driving people to your site.
Consider what social media channels you’re going to use and how
Look at the potential for affiliate marketing for your products and services or selling through third party platforms, such as Etsy or Not on the High Street (if you’re a craft type business).
Once you’ve considered all of these aspects, you’ll know what kind of site will be best for you.
The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.
It really is that easy to set up your website. I know because I’ve done it 3 times now and I really have absolutely NO tech knowledge whatsoever. What are your tips for setting up your website? Or do you have any hosting package recommendations – or questions? Let me know in the comments below!