It always amazes me how many business owners avoid making a business website. They create a business plan, polish their pitches and then twiddle their thumbs waiting for customers to magically break down their door and drop their credit cards on the table. A few months later these same business owners start looking for a full-time job.

“It’s just too hard to find clients,” they say.

“What about online? Your website didn’t generate any leads?” you ask.

“I could never afford one.”

You’d be surprised how little money it takes to get started with a professional site you create yourself. There’s truckloads of free stuff tailored to solopreneurs looking to acquire a professional image who don’t have the cash to invest.

You Don’t Need a Web Design Degree to Get Started.

Actually, you don’t need any degree to get started.  All you need is a little money and a lot of patience. With the right tools and a solid strategy, you’re well on your way to creating a professional web presence that makes you look like you hired an expensive web designer. Simple to use content management systems and WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors give even the most unsophisticated computer user the power to make a website work for them.

Speaking of Strategy, Start Small.  Really Small.

If the thought of a full-blown website gives you nightmares, keep it simple. A one-page mini-site is all your business needs to get started. Buy a template, plug in your text and photos, and you’re ready to hang your virtual shingle.

If you don’t want to buy a template to start with, there are thousands of free ones available online in many different formats. WordPress makes it easy to change your template right in the admin panel. The Live Preview feature also allows you to see what your site will look like with the template applied before you commit to it.

Essential Business Pages

If a mini-site isn’t your cup of tea, at a minimum, every website should have these basic pages:

  • Home Page: This is what customers see first. Keep it simple. Stick to one or two extra-large images and a short introduction, along with a call to action telling visitors what they should do next (call you for a quote, click on the services page, read your blog, etc.)
  • Contact Page: Include a quick contact form to make it easy for people to get in touch. Other important info needed here includes a map to your office (if you allow client visits), mailing address, phone number, email address and social media widgets so visitors can connect with you on their favorite sites.
  • About Page: If you’re trying to sell something, it’s essential that you have a page that explains to potential clients who you are. Companies don’t buy from companies; people buy from people. Tell your professional story in a way that makes prospects want to give you money. That’s the point of being in business for yourself, right?
  • Services Page: What do you do as a company? Your homepage should tease people into wanting to know more. This is the page where you give potential customers an in-depth explanation of how you can solve their problems.

 Other Important Considerations:

Platform/Software. Choose an industry-standard software to create your site. Mom and Pop free sitebuilder may not be around in a few months when you need to update your site, forcing you to recreate your site all over again. WordPress is the dominant player now. Take some time to explore your options and decide what works for your learning ability and financial resources.

Hosting Companies. If you’re technically savvy, you want to make sure you choose a web solution that will grow with you as your knowledge and comfort level increases. Learn more about what different hosting companies provide at different price points. Consider FTP capabilities, web software installation capabilities and technical support.

Support. WordPress is a free web-based software with an active community of advanced users willing to help you at a moment’s notice. Your hosting company also provides support, many times based on the amount of money you pay them per month.

Data Backup. You don’t want to spend hours of time getting your site just right, only to lose it all because of a technical glitch. What if your web hosting company goes bankrupt and disappears overnight, taking your precious website with it? Be sure you have a plan to backup your website data online or on your own server to avoid a potential disaster.

Responsive Design. Google is now penalizing sites that are too cumbersome to use on a mobile phone by placing your website lower in their search results. The lower you are, the most likely you are to never be found by all those great clients who can’t wait to hand over their money to you.

SEO. Search engine optimization used to be really easy. A couple of strategically placed keywords in white text on a white background, and you skyrocketed to the top of all the major search engine pages. Increasingly complicated algorithms shrouded in secrecy makes it difficult to know the best way to get started with SEO. The best advice I can give is to stick with long tail keywords and write your content for people, NOT search engines. Search engines will get the eyeballs to your content, but it won’t keep them there.

Blogs Are Websites, Too!

If you’re a blogger, you may feel this stuff doesn’t apply to you. You’re not a business, you’re just a writer. The most important thing you need to do is get the right content in front of the right people at the right time. If you treat your blog with the same professionalism a business owner brings to their business, you’ll be amazed at the results. These principles don’t just apply to people selling a product or service; they work just as well for bloggers.

Wrapping It Up

Don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from getting started. Create something small and improve on it every chance you get. Learn from others and do what works best for your business.