So, the new year is looming and your sick and tired of your current job. Are you reading article after article about people running their own businesses? Does the prospect of being your own boss outweigh the prospect of listening to your line manager whinge at you yet again.

I was like that. I was sick of working my backside off and not getting the credit (or financial gain) i felt i deserved. So, i left my old job after 10 years and started my own company. I didn’t have a clue what i was doing and, to be honest, i still don’t. One year on i’m still going strong. I survived the first year of business and the second year is looking really promising. My finances are starting to look more positive and – most importantly – I’m happy.

I think you should start you’re own business; a business centered around your hobby or area of interest

Now, i’m not going to tell you what business you should start because that’s not my field of expertise, but i will tell you how to get your business online and looking professional. I’ll also be teaching you how to find your first few potential clients online using tools you’re already using and how to run your business efficiently and effectively using software that will make your life easier.

Through a series of posts this month i’ll take you step by step so that you can be ready to launch you’re new business online on the first of January.

 

Your Idea

OK, so let’s say you have your idea for a business. Perhaps you do a little painting and decorating for friends and family, then why not start your own decorating business! Are you an avid horse rider? Maybe you’re looking to start your private riding school? Love to plan a party? Start your own event organising business for weddings and birthdays? Whatever your idea you need to do some legwork before hand – do some research into what insurance you need, if you proficient enough to create a business from or whatever.
Once you know what you’re doing with your business then, go and see a company to help you start your business. My friends over at Restwell Business Services will help you to register your business and help to find funding should you need it.

 

Build yourself a Website

I may be prejudice but I think every business needs a website. Whether it’s a simple single page site or a more complex multi page website, you need an online presence of some description. At the very least you need to let potential customers know that you exist, what you do and how to get in touch with you.

Don’t use a free Website Builder

If you’ve just read the above, you might be thinking of going to a one of the ‘build-your-own-website’ providers that are popping up everywhere. Don’t!
Why, you ask? Because those builders are the microwave meal of the website world. The image on the packaging of ready meal shows a mouthwatering meal that will tantalise the taste-buds but what you’ll actually get is a pile of slop on the plate that provides little in the way of nutrition. Would you buy from a business with a website that’s the equivalent of a pile of slop? No? Neither would I. Plus, you’re website may not rank to well either – meaning you don’t get any business.

So what’t the alternative? Spend hundreds or thousands on a professional designer? Nope! For a small layout of less than $80 you can build a stunning website of your own. And we’ll show you how.

 

WordPress

For clients looking to update their website themselves we always recommend WordPress. WordPress is a Content Management System, or CMS from here on out, that essentially lets you add content as and when you like. It’s a very powerful tool and in combination with a range of powerful plugins you’ll be able to create an effective site that can turn visitors into customers. You can download WordPress for free and it take 5 minutes to install. Some hosting providers do offer a one click installation of WordPress which is very helpful so keep an eye out for it!

Is that the only tool available?

No, not all. There a plethora of options open to you but if it’s good enough for The New York Times, Ebay and Sony then it’s good enough for us! In fact, we run our own website on WordPress.

Is WordPress easy to use?

Like learning any software on a computer it can take a few minutes to find your way around but i always tell my clients that if you can use word processing software or you can upload photos to Facebook then you shouldn’t have any issues with WordPress.

 

Secure Your Name

Your domain name is important. It needs to represent your business and should match your business name, but at the same time it shouldn’t be too long or difficult to spell. Try to go for something catchy that people will remember and will easily be able to navigate back to.

.com or .co.uk?

The age old question of .com or .co.uk is a tough one but personally i would buy both if possible and simply redirect one to the other. Of course, if your business is solely running in the UK then a .co.uk is sufficient enough but .com does give the air of being a larger, international company in some cases.

There are numerous ways to go with a domain name and i think the best thing is to go to a domain name registrar and see what’s available (it’s a free service). But which domain registrar to use? Here are some of my preferred and trusted domain registrars.

1&1.co.uk

Domains from £3.49

1&1 is definitely a front-runner when it comes to low prices, but they’ve also got tons of added value bonuses that come with registration. Buy a one-year registration and you’ll get a five-page domain parking package, an email account with 2GB of storage, and free private domain registration to shield your personal info from prying eyes. They also offer free domain transfers if you’re looking to switch over from another registrar. Learn more here

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Go Daddy

Domains from £3.49

Perhaps the most well-known registrar in the business, GoDaddy is both loved and hated. On the one hand, people love it for it’s relatively cheap package deals and abundant promotional codes that can be used to get deep discounts. On the other hand, some users criticize the service for its aggressive advertising and upselling practices. Regardless, we like them for their fast customer service and wide variety of domain registration/web hosting bundles. Learn more here

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NameCheap.com

Domains from £4.83

If their name didn’t already give it away, you probably gathered that this site offers simple domain name registration services for relatively low prices — but that’s not the only reason they made the list. They’ve also gained a reputation for providing excellent customer service, and they offer a wide range of different package deals to suit just about every user. Learn more here

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Hosting

So you’ve bought your domain name and now you need hosting. Many domain registrars offer hosting for a little extra but you need to be wary of this as sometimes there are limitations such as bandwidth, storage space, security, etc. I personally recommend to use a dedicated hosting company as in the long run, it’s more effective. Plus, do you have or want two websites or more? Some hosting companies allow you host multiple websites on a single account – perfect if you and a family member or friend both need to hosy a website

There are numerous hosting providers available but i’ve highlighted 3 great hosting companies that we recommend to our clients.

HostPapa

Hosting from £1.95

HostPapa is an affordable hosting provider who are geared towards small businesses and personal websites. Boasting 99.9% uptime (meaning you’re site won’t go offline pretty much ever), offering unlimited storage and fantastic customer support means they are worth every penny. Also, Hostpapa were one of the first hosting providers to offset all of our power consumption with eco-friendly, green energy sources. Learn more here

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Hostgator

Hosting from $3.24 (Business Plan)

Hostgator is a well-known web host with years of experience & recognition in the web hosting world with a large base of customers that love them. HostGator offers a variety of plans suitable for any website, which makes them a great, all-purpose web host. HostGator can be a bit pricey, but has lower pricing tiers with longer term plans, such as 3 years, which are great for small businesses. They also have solid performance and features, plus have shared hosting capabilities meaning that you can host multiple sites on one subscription plan. Learn more here

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WP Engine

Hosting from $29 a month

WPEngine is VIP WordPress hosting. Their hassle-free hosting offers fast and robust servers that can handle anything. Your website is pretty much hack proof, and their customer service is second to none. They offer automatic security updates, daily backups, one-click restore points, automatic caching, top-tier security, and more. WPEngine is like having an army of WordPress experts on your side for assistance. If you simply want to  upload your site and not have to deal with to much technical stuff, then WPEngine is the for you. Although more expensive that the other solutions, it’s probably the best solution for a business. Learn more here

 WPEngine

 

Make your site look good

So you’ve now you’ve got your domain name and you’re hosting sorted. Now you need to install WordPress (if you haven’t already) and find a suitable theme. WordPress comes with a preloaded theme or two but they are hundreds of thousands of themes that can be used.

Don’t use free themes!

There are plenty of free themes out there and each one is ok for your website, but you don’t want an OK website, you want an amazing website. Anything that helps you to stay ahead of the competition is a bonus and so investing a few shekels in a premium theme will ensure you’re website will more than likely look better than a rivals. Plus, with many themes providers you get fantastic support should you have an issues.

Who would we recommend?

ThemeForest

Themes from $28

Since it’s founding in 2007, ThemeForest has gone on to become the most popular WordPress Theme marketplace with around 4800 Premium WordPress Themes available for all size budgets. The WordPress themes are built by world-class developers so you know your paying for a durable, well built theme. Learn more here

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Studiopress

Themes from $59

Head up by Brian Gardner, a self-taught web designer, Studiopress is a pioneer in the premium WordPress theme industry. They dedicate most of their time updating and upgrading their existing themes to fix bugs and compatibility issues so you can be assured of the quality of their themes. As well as the quality theme you also get a solid support community that can help you quickly customise your theme and fix any problems you might encounter. Learn more here

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ElegantThemes

$69 a year

ElegantThemes have been around since 2008 has been sticking to their principles of creating top notch WordPress Themes. They are the only provider which is ranked in the top 3 in all 3 categories (coding, functionality, and graphic design). With over 80 Themes to choose from at a price of $69 per year, it certainly is a the best bang for your WordPress buck. ElegantThemes are out theme providers of choice. Learn more here

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Logo and Content

Once you have you website you’ll need to fill that website with content and of course you’ll need a logo. I always advise people to invest in their logo by employing a real designer to create you branding but of course. For the moment you probably just need something simple. Ask around, you may have a family member or friend who can design a simple temporary logo that will be suitable for a few months until business picks up. But then please, please, please go to a professional to work on your branding. A business without branding is like a burger without the bun – incomplete.

You also have to be mindful that you’re website needs content (or copy). You need to write about you’re company and why you’re better than everyone else – basically. For the moment you could just pop up a single page (or landing page) that has a bit of blurb, your new logo and a way for them to contact you. Further down the line you can start to fill up the other pages but for the time being just get you’re site online. If you’re not too confident with the writing copy side of things (like myself) then employ someone to do it. A good copywriter will be able to sell your company to customers better than yourself. You can actually find cheap copywriters on websites like Fiverr, Elance and PeoplePerHour for very little.

 

We’ll set you up for free…

Once you’ve chosen your hosting plan, bought your domain name and picked a professional theme you can start to piece the site together. It shouldn’t take more than 2 hours all told and it’s not all the difficult. But, should you run into difficulties drop us a line and we might set it up for free. As long as you chose one of our preferred partners from above we’ll assist with setting up your blog/website. If that sounds of interest or you have any questions then drop us a line

 

Sounds like too much effort?

If this sounds like too much effort then why not take a look at our pay monthly website deals starting at £25 a month.

 

Coming in Part 2

How to get noticed online and finding your first customers…

 

*There are affiliate links in this post.

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