Doing business in 2019 means having a website. It’s really that simple. You’re either online or you’re not in business.
But many new entrepreneurs find the task of getting their web presence established to be daunting. Let’s be honest: it’s never going to get easier until you throw yourself into it. Expecting it to just come to you without putting the work in is essentially planning to fail.
Here we’ve rounded up, in realistic terms, your options for getting online and hosting your website. Out of these ten options, hopefully one will work for you and your new endeavor.
You may already be doing this, or you may have seen others doing this. Instead of spending money and getting their own web presence, more and more entrepreneurs start out by simply leveraging social media to the max.
A Facebook group provides as much of a forum as you need when you’re just getting started, and a properly used Twitter page can lead to genuine interest in your product.
There are positives and negatives to this approach.
A positive of this approach is that you will likely have an insight into the people who are interested in you if you rely on Facebook. You can use this information to tailor your message.
A negative of the approach is that you will appear less in search engine results. If your business doesn’t rely on the general public to just make purchases, but is rather more of a person-to-person business, then relying on social media probably isn’t out of the cards for you.
However, if you want to sell products, and you want to sell them far and wide, you’re going to have to get your website online. Fortunately, our modern internet offers a wide array of options for someone looking to publish.
By far the most-used content management system in the world, WordPress is an easy-to-use virtual operating system for content. It’s easy to install, and you have a lot of options about where to host your WordPress site.
Perhaps the easiest to recommend is WordPress.com itself, which is an inexpensive way to jumpstart your business.
WordPress has a complete plug-in system that enables you to install things like shopping carts. You can also choose from an absolutely massive selection of themes. Simply search “Wordpress themes” if you don’t believe us.
As a base platform, WordPress prepares you for success. Then, if you choose, you can fine-tune its presentation and mechanics through plugins and superficial tweaks.
Nearly all web hosts – even DIY hots like VPS providers such as DigitalOcean – offer some form of express installation for WordPress. Then you just login and use your new online operating system.
By far the easiest way to publish a good-looking site, we can’t recommend it enough. It’s no mistake that millions of sites today operate on WordPress – it’s hard to go wrong with it.
Wix has grown up to be an extremely popular option for a quick website, on par with services like SquareSpace that are perhaps more geared toward a certain type of business.
For general purpose websites, Wix is useful.
Think of your website as a type of business card. You need to be reachable online. Having your own content appear in searches about you is a good way to stand out in your field.
Especially if you live in a more rural region which is still coming online, being among the first generation of businesses to get completely online is a clear value proposition.
Wix is an express way to do this. The service comes packed with a number of templates, reasonably priced hosting, and do-it-yourself. What you don’t invest in money, you’ll invest in time perfecting your site.
If you’re not looking to do daily content on your site, then Wix is a good option. You can build a decent, static “business card” style site that will help customers find you online when searching for your type of business.
Wix has a number of built-in SEO tools, and likely has a package that includes Google advertising credits.
Speaking of Google, no guide to building your own site is complete without mention of Google Sites.
Much like GeoCities was to the early web, Google Sites is the common man’s express lane to getting online. It’s not quite as fully featured as Wix, which is why it comes after it in this guide, but it does include everything you need to get up and running – for free.
For a small fee, integrated Google Domains can give you a web address. Google Sites can quickly be integrated with other services like Google Analytics and Google AdWords, so you can quickly promote your site and see how it’s performing.
Google Sites, like Wix, is useful if you’re not trying to create a site that is updated regularly with content. If you just need a way for customers to reach you, or find your business, or learn a little bit about your business and find it, then one of these options is good for you.
With little effort, you can generate a modern website that will be compatible with any devices. Nearly no coding knowledge is required, and the bit that is required depends on your desire to do custom things with your site. If you’re comfortable with a sleek design as provided by Google or Wix, you can be in operation in an hour or so with either service.
GoDaddy is best known for selling domains, but the company also has a variety of quality services for novice entrepreneurs looking to get online.
You get a lot of bang for your buck when you host with the same company that issues your domains. Similar options are available at Namecheap, but GoDaddy is in fact geared toward entrepreneurs, so more worth considering.
With GoDaddy, you can first determine what your online presence will be (your domain name) and then tailor a package to your needs.
You can, for example, create a WordPress site with a few clicks.
The downside of services like GoDaddy and Namecheap, of course, is that you have to pay for them to do things that can be done in-house with a bit of training or hiring.
The trade-off is well worth it for starting entrepreneurs, but as you progress, it’s important that you take your web presence as seriously as you take every other aspect of your business.
Thus, when possible, always upgrade to a better service or a more robust hosting package, such that your website is superior to your competition.
Both Linode and DigitalOcean are good VPS options for starting entrepreneurs, especially those who will have a significant web footprint.
If you expect your site to get a lot of traffic, for example if you’re going to sell content of some kind, then this option will be more aligned with your goals.
While Linode and DigitalOcean both have one-click installations, using these platforms is going to require you to have or be willing to acquire some basic system administration knowledge. If your business is doing well enough, you can also consider hiring someone for the task.
Securely running a server can be a daunting task at first, but it can be significantly cheaper in the long run to invest in learning how to do so as opposed to paying excess hosting fees. For example, at Linode, $5 can get you a relatively powerful web server with 1 TB of transfer. That’s enough to support an awful lot of traffic with no overage fees.
The drawback is that you need to have some knowledge of Linux and server management for an inexpensive option like this.
WordPress is one great CMS, but it’s not the only one. You should have a look around the various content management systems to see which one fits with your style.
People who like to have a lot of control over every aspect of their site, for example, might prefer a WordPress alternative like Drupal or Joomla.
Both have an entire ecosystem of plugins, just like WordPress, and either one may in some cases be better suited for your purposes.
Careful research is an important part of the process in getting your website online for a reasonable budget. Once you know exactly what you need to do, you can consider where you stand and what it will take to get you there.
For example, if you’re a web hosting novice, you may determine that you’ll need to learn how to install a CMS and properly (securely) manage it.
You may think that option #7 is for you simply because you’re looking to run an online storefront, but in the modern era of the web, there are a number of options available which can be more expedient.
If you’re looking to sell handmade or craft goods, a solid community-based site to check is Etsy. Etsy is like a cross between Facebook and eBay, enabling you to fully customize your storefront, handling checkouts for you, and having an in-built reputation system. Etsy is also well-known around the web, which lends your store some SEO credibility.
Other options that have low or no start-up costs include Fastspring, Big Cartel, and, of course, eBay. For selling on international markets, you can check out Alibaba, which will essentially give you access to the world outside the US.
You can use one or all of these. Managing your store will be far easier using these sites – everything will be point and click, and if you have a problem, each site will have a support staff.
The downside to this option will be the time invested in maintaining all of the sites. It’s important to note, also, that you can use these sites in addition to building your own site. A common early-phase setup is a mixture of this option and the next – a business owner will create a custom website and use one or more of the above-mentioned store systems for checkout.
Building your own website can be a fun and rewarding experience.
Thanks to modern web technologies, you can build a relatively beautiful site with little effort. The time you invest in learning basic web development techniques wouldn’t be wasted, since you can re-use those skills at a later time.
If your business is primarily service-based, and all you need is an elegant, static website to funnel customers to your phone or e-mail, then building a handmade site is actually one of the best options.
Most WordPress and other CMS templates are designed for continuous content, and if they’re not updated regularly, they look abandoned.
However, with a static page, it makes sense that the content hasn’t changed – the information hasn’t, either.
All you need to do is pick up some web design skills using a free course on YouTube or elsewhere online, and find a nice modern template to start with. Libraries like Bootstrap and Material will give you a huge boost, and you’ll find yourself with a pretty, modern website in no time at all. Many templates even include responsive code, which means they can work with mobile devices.
If the work outlined in this guide sounds like too much of a headache, your best bet is hiring a team to handle all the mess for you.
These days, web design skills are fairly common, so finding a reasonable rate is definitely within the realm of possibility. You should expect to spend from $500 to $2500 for a decent basic website, and some fixed regular fee for maintenance.
If you know that all of the above is going to be too much effort for you, it’s wise to build web development costs, including the potential hiring of professional help, into your business plan.
Now that you’ve built your website and put it online, it’s time to take in the exciting new world you’re entering.
Have you considered all the ways that you could be utilizing technology in your business flow?
For example, are you getting the best price on all your stock?
Have you considered employing digital consultants to help you track down the best possible situation for your supply chain?
What do you know about your payment processes?
These are the some of the questions you can now begin to explore as you learn just how much more money you can make by fully partaking in the world wide web with your business.
There is one more crucial consideration for any entrepreneur looking to get their business online, however: in 2019 and beyond, it’s all mobile, mobile mobile.
Providing a great mobile experience is paramount in modern business.
Imagine: someone may be looking you up at a red light. Ideally, within a few clicks they need to be able to find your business or service. This should be kept in mind whenever you are working on the digital aspects of your business, as well things like modern payment options and processing.
Overall, though, as sad as it is, just getting your business online will give you an edge. Ensure that all your directories (such as Google Maps and Yellow Pages) are updated and accurate. If you own a restaurant, ensure that your menu is accessible, respond to as well as encourage reviews, and find other ways to build your online presence, such as giving out coupons to followers on Facebook.