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How Solo Entrepreneurs Can Create Their First First Website for Under $100 Per Year

Copyright 2009 OnlineBizU.com

Many solo service professionals who are venturing online for the first time don't have a great of time or capital to invest in a website. Most want something quick, easy and simple at the beginning. The quickest type of website to create is what I call a brochure web site. In many ways, it resembles a printed business brochure with an overview of who you are, what you do, whom you serve, and how to contact you. It's a quick, inexpensive way to gain an online presence.

Here's the process and technology needed to get you started on your first website:

1. Research your competition. If you don't already know know who comprises your competition, this is a great time to learn about them. Go to your favorite search engine and type in keywords that someone might use when looking for a business like yours. If you serve a local clientele, don't forgot to include your location in your keyword search.

Check out the websites that appear on the front page. What do you like about what you see? What doesn't appeal to you? What do you offer that is different than their offerings? Use these sites as a starting point for designing your own. This is not an invitation for you to plagiarize the content on another site. That content is copyrighted by the owner of the site and you can cause yourself a great deal of harm by lifting the content on one site and transferring it to your own. You should use what you discover as a model for developing a site that is very uniquely you.

2. Map out the pages on your site. Most brochures sites for service businesses start with 5 pages: Home, Services, Resources (or Free Stuff), About Us, and Contact. These five areas are a great beginning that answers the who, what, where, why, and WIIFM (what's in it for me--your visitor) questions about your business. After publishing your initial site, you may want to add an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page to answer all those repetitive questions you get via email or phone calls, as well as a testimonials page so that you visitor can read about how you've helped other clients.

3. Use a hosting service that provides template websites. While an attractive initial website can be created by a web designer for as little as $350, that is still more than many solo entrepreneurs want to spend. When I created my first web site, I designed it from scratch using a very low cost website design program and free graphic resources available online. I then had some custom work done and was very dissatisfied with the results. From there I moved on to using pre-made templates for Microsoft Frontpage and have been using customized versions of those since that time for all of my sites.

However, while a customized template can be purchased for as little as $150, you still have to invest time into learning some web design program, which is a greater investment than most solo entrepreneurs want to make. That's why I suggest that many of my clients use a company providing hosting as well as an online interface for website design, creation, and updates. This type of service enables anyone who's familiar with a Microsoft Word to log in and create content, add images, and add pages to their very own website. The major providers of this type of service include GoDaddy, Yahoo Small Business, 1and1 Web Hosting. Another reputable company, SiteSell.com offers another all-one-option, but it's considerably more expensive than the others I have listed.

At a minimum, the services that you'll want in your hosting/design package include: hosting for 1 domain, 5 GB of space, 200 GB of monthly transfer volume (tied to how many visitors your site has), at least 100 templates to pick from in the website builder, 10 email accounts, 10 MB storage per email account, 24/7 support, and basic website statistics.

The downsides of this service are 1. you may end up with a website that looks like others online who've used this same service/template, and 2. the site design belongs to your hosting company, so you can't take the website with you if you choose to change hosting companies. However, once you've become more familiar with what's involved in designing a site, you can decide to further customize it or upgrade to a custom designed site at any point in time.

4. Determine the look and feel you want to convey. Are you serious or playful? Are your clients other businesses or consumers? What colors appeal to you? Make sure that your site is a good representation of your personality. This is part of the online relationship building that you're beginning, so you should love the look of your site and feel good about visitors being there.

5. Make your site unique. This is tough to accomplish when you're using a template site, but try changing the graphic that's provided as a part of the template. Some of the companies will have a graphics library from which to choose. Or, you can get a short-term subscription to a clip art website like ClipArt.com or buy royalty-free images for as little as $1 each at DreamsTime.com. You can also have a business logo designed to upload onto the site. I've used LogoRama.com with great success.

6. Persuasive content. Remember, people visit websites because they have a problem to solve. Visitors to your website will decide to hang around and browse through your site based on how well you answer the following:

Who am I and why am I qualified to do what I do?

Who is my target market? What are their problems?

Do I fully understand and offer solutions to those problems?

You've got less than 10 seconds to capture a visitor's attention. So, it's imperative that you're speaking directly to your target market on your site and that they get a good sense of who you are and what you offer so that they can get to know, like, and trust you and eventually buy from you. If you're not clear and confuse them, they'll be gone in a flash.

7. Create a contact capturing device. To make the most of your traffic, you need a contact capturing device to gather the name and email addresses of your visitors to begin to create a contact list. Typically this is done by offering visitors the opportunity to join your mailing list, subscribe to your email newsletter, get a freebie you're giving away. You can use an email broadcast program to do this for you, like EzineDirector.com or ConstantContact.com, through a discussion list program like GoogleGroups or YahooGroups, through a shopping cart program like Kickstart Cart, or a sequential autoresponder company like aWeber.

Pick wisely when you choose your contact capturing service. You want your subscriber to opt-in just once to your list. Any change of providers will force your list to opt-in again to your list at a new service, and you can anticipate losing at least 50% of your list when you change providers. Your contact list is your online gold mine, so make it as easy as possible for you to stay in contact with them.

8. Plan for future upgrades. Will you eventually sell products online? Get a service that permits an upgrade to an ecommerce package. What about blogging? Are you interested in creating podcasts? Do you want to create an online discussion forum? How about an RSS feed of the articles you write? Begin to think now about what your marketing plans will be a year from now, and invest in a service that will allow you to add services as you become more savvy to Internet marketing techniques.

Creating your first website doesn't have to be a daunting nor expensive task. Here's a summary of yearly costs if you follow the plan outlined above: Domain purchase/renewal $10, Website Design/Hosting Package $70, Short-term subscription to clip art site: $16, and Online contact management service: $0 (up to 250 subscribers). Total cost: $96. If your business isn't yet online, now you've got an easy, inexpensive plan to create your online presence.

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Business Coach Donna Gunter helps self-employed service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To sign up for more FREE tips like these and claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at Get More Clients Online. Read about running an online biz at our blog, Get More Clients Online Blog.

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Have a nice day!

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