If you’re a freelancer, or creating a business, there’s no other way around it – you need a website. It’s such a crucial tool that although having to learn to set up a website and manage it can seem off-putting, it’s an invaluable tool and will be time well spent.
- Why Do I Need a Website?
- Choosing a Domain Name
- Finding a Host
- Which CMS Should I Use?
- Using Media
- What Information Should I Include?
- Promote Your Website
- More Useful Reading
There are over 3.5 billion Google searches per day. Online searches are the primary way people find new services and products. Therefore, by not having a website you are unconsciously limiting your business opportunities. Having a website is the most efficient way for customers to find you.
Setting up a website doesn’t have to be something you dread, either. There are plenty of tools out there to make it easier for beginners, and keep the costs low.
Here are a few key reasons why a professional website is important:
- Websites help generate business, they’re a marketing tool that’s always around – even out of office hours.
- Quite simply, customers expect it. When researching a brand, a customer expects to be taken to their professional website for more information.
- A website allows you to utilise SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). It will put your website ahead of thousands of others in search results, making it easier for potential customers to find you.
- Stanford web research suggests that 75% of consumers admit that they judge businesses’ credibility based on their website design. Having a professional website adds credibility to your business, showing customers you take yourself and your business seriously.
To set up a website you need to choose a domain name and you want to put some thought into this. You want a domain name that’ll be easy to remember, ideally without any tricky spelling, unneeded numbers, or confusing punctuation.
Your domain name should be relevant to your brand and business in some way. As a domain name impacts SEO, incorporating keywords into it will also improve your SEO ranking. If you need any help with social media, you can buy the services of an SEO agency – but make sure you do your research before settling on one.
As well as this, you ideally want to have the same name across your website and social media handles. It creates familiarity and makes it easier for people to find you online. You can check domain name availability and register on 123Reg or on GoDaddy. Then, use namecheckr to make sure you can get social media handles under the same name.
Finally, before purchasing a domain name and to avoid any legal issues down the line, make sure it isn’t trademarked. You can do this through the government search here.
hosted or self-hosted?
The difference between a hosted and self-hosted website is often compared to the difference between renting and owning a home. Which I think is a really helpful way of imagining the difference.
If you rent, you have a home to house your belongings, but you don’t actually own the land or the building. You are limited in the sorts of improvements and customisations you can make. For example, you might be allowed to repaint but you definitely can’t knock a wall through and convert the space. However, when something breaks the landlord is responsible and will need to fix it for you.
A hosted site is one that’s built through Software as a Service platform (SAAS) such as WordPress.com, Wix, or Squarespace. They provide the hosting and software to build your website, but you’re limited to using their tools and templates to create it. However, a self-hosted website enables you to download the software and modify it as much as you like. It gives you more creative freedom and control over your website.
choosing a host
If you’re self-hosting, you create your website and then purchase space through a hosting company to store your site and make it available to the public. There are a variety of hosts providing different services all at different price points so carefully consider which option is best suited for you. Some of the most popular self-hosting platforms are SiteGround, BlueHost, GoDaddy.
Things to look out for:
- Pricing – You have to pay annually, so watch out for introductory rates. Your first year may be cheap but can end up costing you a lot more later on.
- Quality – You want a speedy and reliable service for your website. Ones that crash or take too long to load immediately put people off.
- Customer Service – This is particularly important for beginners. You want good access to customer service with people that can immediately help out in a difficult situation you haven’t come across before.
CMS (Content Management System) is computer software that uses a database to manage all content in the building of a website. It allows you to create a website without having to build it from code, or even know anything about coding at all. Plus, most CMS platforms come with predesigned templates that make it easy for you to customise the design of your site.
There’s a variety of CMS platforms to choose from. Some of them are free, whilst others charge a monthly rate. It’s worth doing research into them first as both their prices and features vary. What you need will depend on your individual business and not all features will be relevant to you.
Some of the most popular CMS platforms are:
Photos and various forms of media are important when you set up a website – a solid chunk of text looks far too intimidating and puts people off. However, as soon as you’re thinking about using someone else’s photos online you need to find out whether you have a legal right to use an image. If you violate copyright there’s a maximum sentence of 6 months or a fine of up to £50,000. So it’s worth making sure you’re doing everything legally.
There are two options when you’re searching for images online – copyrighted and copyright-free. Copyright-free images can be downloaded without a charge on sites like Unsplash and Pixabay, while you can buy stock photos on iStock Photo and Getty Images. Paid-for stock photos generally tend to be of a much higher quality, have greater variance in images, and you know you’ll have followed the correct copyright regulations.
You can make your website as simple or detailed as you like. However, there are a few things you must include:
As this is a business website, you’ll want to include a basic price list for your products and services. This way potential clients can see what you offer and whether they can afford you without wasting either yours or their time unnecessarily.
Include a short and simple ‘about’ section to let the client know who you are, a little bit about your business and the services and products you can offer them. This can include some history, experience, and any previous projects or clients you’ve worked with as well.
Include your contact info, phone number, email address so that it’s easy for someone to reach out to you. If you don’t have one already, set up a separate business email so that you’re not receiving work-related emails into your personal account.
Finally, once your website is all set up and ready to go you want to promote it. Post it across your social media channels, on LinkedIn, and share with your already established network. The more people you can reach, the bigger boost it will give your new business.
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