Have you ever thought about starting an online business? Have you been putting it off because it all seems too hard?
If your answer is yes to these two questions you're like most people I speak to and there is a solution, one that is easy and can be a lot of fun!
Let's look at a few of the common barriers to launching an online business.
Setup and running costs
This is an interesting one as it almost always costs considerably less than most people expect. There are a number of costs to consider in planning, building, launching and maintaining a website and online business, but for most small businesses and solopreneurs, they should not be excessive.
One way of reducing your upfront costs, particularly when it comes to website design, is to launch lite, adopting the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach – high return, low risk. Launch with the minimum required to establish your online brand or business and focus on building your content and promoting your products and services in the initial launch phase.
Start with a logo and some key style and branding elements, like color and theme, to establish your business or concept identity. You can always build upon this later.
Knowledge and skill
If you don't know where to begin or what technologies to learn, how will you ever get started?
You can either invest your own time in learning the necessary technical skills involved in building a website, or you can partner and learn from someone that has done it before.
Be willing to outsource and contract the tasks needed to get what you want. Shop around and ask friends, business colleagues and Google who they would recommend.
You don't need to know all there is to build and launch a website on your own. Remember, the goal is to just get started and launch your online business or website. Iterate as you go.
Building a website takes time. If you're a business owner, you need to spend your time running and building your business. Leverage other peoples time to get started. Partner with a developer that asks the right questions and makes you comfortable engaging or partnering with them.
Determine up front how much time you can invest in the project to get it up and running. Break the project down into small, achievable tasks and allocate who is responsible to ensure it gets done.
Trello is a great tool to use for this.
Choosing a platform technology
For many this can be a difficult decision and often is determined by the budget available. Setting yourself up with the right Content Management System (CMS) and framework is an important step in laying the foundations for a solid, reliable and suitable platform on which to launch your website and online business.
Be sure to consider:
- Ease of upgrading
- Support community
- Access to developers
- Customisation options
- Themes and templates
- License fees
- eCommerce features
- Ease of use
- Can the content be exported and imported
- SEO support and integration
Don't get caught up in what coding language (PHP, ASPX, HTML, JSP) is used, this will just make the decision more confusing and it's almost always irrelevant anyway.
In many cases, almost everyone I speak to jumps straight in with WordPress as the platform and CMS of choice. It's free to download and setup and is open source so it has a thriving developer community and plenty of plugins you can leverage to get your website just right. However, just because it is free, don't assume it will not cost you anything to get setup. You never get everything you want and need out of the box. In almost every instance you will need to engage with someone that has the skills and knowledge to be able to customise your CMS installation to meet your individual requirements and your customers needs.
Some platforms include:
Shop around and invest the time in trialing some online demos of various CMS's to find one you like. More importantly, do your research and speak to people you know that have already established their own platform seeking advice and guidance. There is no one size fits all solution.
The security of your website should certainly be taken very seriously. There are many precautions you can take to ensure the security of your website, it's admin and hosting service.
In the end, it certainly pays to do your due diligence. Don't go in blind thinking your website will never get hacked because it doesn't yet contain any information of national importance or confidential customer data (such as logins and credit card details). Websites of all sizes get hacked every day. Ensuring adequate protection however is very easy and should not cost you too much to implement. In fact, you could implement almost all of the necessary precautions yourself with a little guidance. The important thing here is to just be aware of the risks that could potentially occur.
Earlier I mentioned SEO support and integration as one of the requirements of a CMS. If you get this right, you won't really have to worry too much about SEO. That being said, you should always put your audience before a search engine. Write your website copy for the user, not a bot. If your content adds value to your readers it will be recognised accordingly by search engines.
There is a general school of thought that I subscribe to here. I cannot recall where I heard it so I cannot claim any rights to its origin. It's this:
Google won't love you until your audience loves you.
I think this quote really sums up SEO today. If your audience likes you, they will share your content, stick around and read more (contributing to a lower bounce rate), return and become subscribers and ultimately, advocates of your brand.
Don't worry too much about the technical components of good SEO. Just deliver content that your audience wants and needs and you will be on your way.
It's actually easier than you think!
Once you take your first steps, you usually find it's easier than you thought. You gain momentum and interest and want to make your project a success. Partner with others that can help you get there and have the same interests in mind and want to see you and your online business succeed.
Start with the needs and requirements of your business. Don't try and build something you don't need or will not interest and engage your customers. Have a long term strategy and view of the sites development and progress.
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