The big idea
The hardest and longest part of starting your online business is coming up with the idea. If you already have a business that you can easily convert to an online, independent location service, you are in luck. If not please look at my previous post, What is a digital nomad, where we look at a number of business ideas. Please note that this post focuses on getting your business online rather than marketing your services. That’s a whole different series of posts.
Once you have the big idea, the rest can be quick and easy as long as your realise that setting up your first website requires reading the instructions and doing what you are told. It’s really quite simple if you follow the instructions of those who have gone before you, it’s not worth the pain and frustration of trying to figure it out yourself. Once you have learned the basics, you can start exploring on your own.
To illustrate how simple the process is, I will take you through the steps that I used to set up Virtual Demons, my virtual business assistants service which took two days. I admit I have quite a bit of experience but my first site only took a week using the following process.
Your online business in 15 steps
- Find an available domain name. Most obvious domain names have already been taken, so you may need to get creative and perhaps use a phrase rather than a word. Think about your business name being passed on by word of mouth or over the phone, try not to use hyphens or anything that’s difficult to spell or understand. Think about language and UK English v US English if you are looking to attract a global client base.
- Register your domain and find a hosting provider. I have linked these together as more often than not the hosting provider will offer a free domain name with a hosting package. We used Unlimited Web Hosting, they were recommended to us by a friend and we used them for our land based business without any problems. They have a no-limits hosting service with a free domain name for the first year (.co.uk or .com) for either £2.75 paid per month or £30 per year (plus vat). You will find similar offers at places like GoDaddy and other hosting providers. Search around to find one you like or ask a friend to recommend.
- Once registered you will receive an email from your hosting provider with your new account information. Follow the instructions on how to login to cPanel, the email should contain your username and temporary password.
- In cPanel first set up a new email address, you will use this to receive information from your website and promote your new site. If you want to set up your email in a mail programme on your computer and phone later, the instructions can be found in this section and are easy to follow.
- Next choose a Content Management System (website platform) to install. I use WordPress as I am familiar with it and find it easy to use. Support is also easy to find and I’ve solved complex problems in minutes with a big of Googling. Follow the wizard to install, do as it tells you and it’s quick and painless
- Login to WordPress Admin and set up your website. There are many step by step books and videos on how to set up a WordPress site, the book I bought when I set up my first site three years ago is WordPress for Beginners by Andy Williams. Just follow step by step and off you go. There are also YouTube instruction videos that are free and helpful. I found running the video on my Tablet while setting up the website worked well.
You may also want to read some information on SEO, I stuck with Dr Williams’ as a beginner as I liked his style. He upgrades his books as technology changes and as the kindle versions are so affordable, I keep up to date too. The current SEO book is SEO 2015 and Beyond.
Next decide on the structure of your site. You may want to create a diagram to structure your content and ensure that it is logical to a customer. I create a separate page for each in my word processor and then write the copy for each website page. I recommend keeping it simple, you can always develop your site as your business grows.
- Create or source images you want to use. I use Canva a lot for creating and sourcing images for this blog. Sarah Arrow has good tips on using images legally in your content as well as links to free and paid for services in her article Choose the right images for your content.
- Set up the pages/categories in your WordPress site, add the copy and images and apply any links.
- Send the site to trusted friends or associates and ask them to proof the copy, test the links and give you feedback on usability.
- While waiting for feedback set up your social media pages and accounts for the business.
- Set up a payment method to ensure it’s easy for your client to pay, there is a good article on Making It Anywhere about payment options for a virtual business.
- Do the final testing and adjustments of your site and pages.
- Create a launch campaign. This can be as simple as, sending an email to your relevant contacts letting them know about your new business services, perhaps with an opening offer. You can do the same on your business networks on social media.
- Launch your online business.
I hope you found the steps useful for setting up your business online.
If you haven’t got the time or would rather get someone to do it for you – that’s what Virtual Demons are here for – your virtual business team.
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