5 Things you need in order to start an online biz
I get asked all the time about how I built my own website and what tools I use and recommend. Here's the 5 things that you absolutely need if you want to have a successful online business (or online presence for an offline business).
If you want to have an online component to your business then you probably should start my building a website.
If you're selling a physical product or have a "bricks and mortar" business then you could get away with a Facebook page or an Etsy store, but a website is going to enable you to be more findable, as well as adding credibility to your business.
I built my site using Wordpress, a free system that allows you to design, build and maintain your own website. I've had over 5 years experience with Wordpress and I think that it has become easier to use over time. I taught myself how to use it as I went along, and if I ever needed help, I just googled my problem and found an online tutorial to find the answer I needed.
The other major contender in website creation is Squarespace. I personally have never used it but I have plenty of friends that do. Squarespace sites look amazing but have less options for functionality compared to wordpress. That doesn't necessarily matter, in fact, having less options can make it easier to choose what you want.
You might have also heard of Wix and Weebly. In my opinion they are just not as good as Wordpress and Squarespace, their sites look like they're made with a free template and therefore feel less professional. But check out all of your options before you decide.
2. Domain Name & Hosting
If you want to have your own website then it will need to have a unique domain name and have the site hosted somewhere.
I use Digital Pacific for all of my domain name registrations and hosting. They are based in Australia and have incredible tech support, plus they are a carbon neutral company and I like having a green website.
Regardless of your business name, I suggest registering yourname.com as well, even if you don't use it for the time being. I know quite a few people that have had to pay thousands of dollars to acquire their name as a domain name when they really wanted it and it was already owned by someone else. Get it now and just sit on it until you want to use it.
Some of the website options above include domain registration and hosting, so do some research and find a solution that works well for your needs.
3. Email list
If you have a business without a mailing list of some kind then you're leaving things up to luck.
Business always involves some level of risk but you can reduce that risk by keeping in regular contact with your customers and reminding them that you have something useful to offer them!
If you have a physical mailout list that's working for you, then great, keep doing that! But do email as well.
Why is email precious? Because everyone has an email address and most people hold email in high regard. It's a direct route to their eyeballs.
I use Mailchimp. They have a free version for up to 2000 subscribers so it's a great place to begin. I am now on a paid plan with Mailchimp but I still love them. Some other popular email providers include Aweber, Mad Mimi (they also have a free version) and GetResponse.
Whether you email your customers weekly or only a handful of times during the year, email is a powerful tool to increase engagement and sales.
If you want to earn money online then you need to have a way for people to pay you!
If you're selling products then you need to have a store on your site. I only sell digital products, so I needed to make sure that I chose a store that could dispense my downloads quickly and securely. I trialled ALOT of different plugins and options for my online store and I wasn't 100% happy with any of them until I found WP E-Store.
It does everything that I need it to without being complicated or difficult to navigate. If you're using Wordpress then I highly recommend WP E-Store. Some of the other template websites listed above come with free commerce platforms too.
5. Social Media
I don't believe that you have to be everywhere on social media. I think it's best to choose the platforms that you enjoy and that your ideal audience is likely to be hanging out on.
I direct most of my energy to Facebook and Twitter and I also post photos on Instagram and sometimes cross-post to Google+. I used to keep up Pinterest and LinkedIn posting too but I didn't find it to be very beneficial to my business.
Try them all out and see what works for you though, if you're making physical products or creating recipes then Pinterest will probably be great for you! I just found it hard to actually get any good traffic from there.
Choose 1-2 platforms to start with and just try them out, see where you're customers are at and meet them there! If you're audience changes, then you can change with them.
Leave a comment below and tell us where you're up to with your business?
Which tools are your favourite?