Getting a Start up business off the ground has never been harder, according to the most recent statistics the failure rate in the first 5 years is as high as 80%. Think about that for a second. Of 5 people trying to make new business work only one of them makes it. Overspending on start up expenses is one of the most common pitfalls. And where do new business owners overspend? And what item is the leading source of unnecessary spending? Corporate Websites.
These days the internet is highly competitive so unless you plan to spend big on search engine optimization or online advertising the bulk of your clients won’t come from the web. What you need as a local start up is a site that can show visitors who have already heard about you through other means what you are about.
An easy example is if you take an ad out in your local newspaper or the yellow pages. The ad includes just enough information to grab someone’s attention, they are then told to go to your website to find more details. An expensive designer website with cutting edge technology will not win over this type of visitor. A simple but clean website with all the important information will suffice and with a little effort you can produce such a site for under $500.
So where do you start? Well the first thing you need to do is decide on a web address. You want the URL to be as short as possible but it still should give clients an idea of what you’re about. If you can make it keyword rich that is also a bonus. This is tricky as many of the best web addresses are already taken. Just try to think outside the box, take your time and even get friends and family involved. Say you sell wooden toys rather than trying to register woodentoys.com try adding other adjectives that describe your product. Like handmadewoodentoys.com or nontoxicwoodentoys.com. And once you find a URL you like register it with a budget domain registry such as name cheap if you’re in The States or crazy domains if you’re based in Australia. If you have more than one web address there is no harm in registering them both.
Second: find yourself a website template. Using a template means that you can get a theme that has been designed by a professional with options to customize the skin with images (and colors) relevant to your business. I always go for WordPress themes/templates. They are easy to install and make managing your content easy as well. Theme Forest has a wide range of WordPress Templates starting from as little as $25.
Next you want to make that template appear relevant to your industry and this is easily achieved by adding some images. There is no need to go and do your own photo shoots (expensive!) and don’t go stealing images from other websites, it can land you in big trouble. You can find great royalty free images on istockphoto. Istockphoto has an extensive catalog of images (literally millions) so you need to think about search terms that encapsulate your business. For example a chiropractor could search ‘spine’ or a childcare centre might search ‘toys’ or ‘toddlers’ or ‘children at play’. When you find an image you like you don’t need to buy the large image for web use a small or medium will be optimal. Expect to buy 3-5 images for around $90.
Finally the hardest part is getting the images ready for your WordPress template and making any small adjustments needed. Unless you have graphic designing experience and the required software, you won’t be able to do this yourself. I’m no graphic designer so I draw a diagram of how I want the site to look and post the position on Odesk so people can apply for the job. If you can’t draw that’s fine, just cut the images up and make a collage of how you’d like the site to look and then scan the image to email to your designer..
In terms of getting the images into your WordPress template the designer may be able to help you with this or you may need to hire someone else (or option 3 watch some educational videos on WordPress and figure out how to do it yourself).
There is no doubt about it, creating your own website is much more work but it will reduce your start up costs. But you will save thousands of dollars and still create an online presence to give prospective customers the information and reassurance they need to do business with you.