I'm a lucky guy. For work, I get to talk to hundreds of entrepreneurs and people who help small business owners. I've talked to piano teachers, wedding photographers, and roller-derby merchants. I've talked to bloggers, designers, and musicians. I even talked to a guy building a castle for his business in New England. Stone by stone. See what I mean? Inspirational, creative stuff.
A lot of them have one thing in common: they know they should be online, but something is keeping them back.
What is it? Is it too technical? Is it like learning a new language? Maybe. In a lot of cases, it's all of the stuff they think they need to worry about that holds them back: cloud-based computing, HTML, WordPress,Twitter, A/B split testing, analytics, metadata, SEO, image resolution.
Listen, getting online is a lot like learning anything else. No one pulls out Rachmaninoff when they first start learning to play the piano. They learn Chopsticks. They learn Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. They start small, get good, and then go bigger. Getting online is the same. There are three initial steps that you can complete in a couple of hours, and once you're done, you'll have something cool to put on your new business cards.
And it's about as hard as learning Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Step 1: Register Your Domain Name
Naming a business can be tricky. Some of you already have a name ready to go. Your business is something you’ve been dreaming about for 20 years and you know exactly what you’re going to call it. Most of us, though, we stress about business names like we stress about naming our children. What if it’s too playful? What if it’s not playful enough? What will it look like on a bumper sticker? What will it look like on a sign? What if my friends make fun of me?
And what if the domain name is already taken? What then? Am I going to end up with a name 25 characters long?
That’s a lot to think about. And honestly, it’s worth wrestling over. The right name inspires you to keep going and it can make it easier for customers to remember who you are.
Here’s some good news: you have to worry A LOT less about domain names. The Internet is changing. It used to be that you had a select group of domain name endings that mattered to choose from. Endings like .com or .org or .co.uk. All domain names are unique; once someone buys a domain, it’s taken. You have to think up something else or try to buy the domain name, at a premium price, from the person who owns it now. For these popular domain name extensions, a lot of the good names are already taken.
Well, now you have options. A lot of options. Throughout this year, more than 700 new domain name endings are entering the market. Names like .guru and .club, .photography and .lawyer. And, here are a couple I love – .nyc and .uk. This means there’s a good chance that no matter what you name your business, you’ll be able to find a great domain name to match it.
Want to see a list of all the names on the horizon? Check out the new domain extensions page over at GoDaddy.
Step 2: Get a Professional Email Address
I know, I know, you already have an email address. Yeah, me too. Most of us got one 15 years ago and we use it for everything. But once you have a domain name for your business, you want a professional email address for your business that includes your new domain name. You’re going to put it on everything: your business cards, your social media profiles, inside fortune cookies, on the side of your car. You get the point. You want a branded email address.
It’s professional. It’s exciting. And, firstname.lastname@example.org is so much better than email@example.com.
My big recommendation here? Make sure you get an email account that can grow with you. Right now you just need something to get you started, but eventually you might want to manage calendars, share files, and add more addresses. Check out something like Microsoft® Office 365 from GoDaddy.
Step 3: Build your website
I’m saving the scariest step for last. It’s time to build your website. You’ve got a lot of different options, but let’s keep it as simple as we can. You can do one of three things: use a simple website builder, brush up on your coding skills, or have someone do it for you.
Me? I’m about speed. I think it’s better to get something up and running as quickly as possible. You don’t have time to talk to your niece about building a website. You don’t have time to pick up a book about HTML5 and CSS3. Right now you need to get something live so you can print your website address on your business cards and start taking phone calls. You need something you can put together in a couple of days.
It’s simple. You need a landing page. Something with a photo that represents your business and a way to get a hold of you. That's it. You can grow it into something else later. That's one of the great things about websites. They're pretty easy to change.
There are a number of simple website builders out there. Google® it. Type in “simple website builder” to see what your options are. Here’s what you want to look for:
- Beautiful templates
- Social integration
- Easy to customize
Just in case something goes wrong, you’ll want someone to talk to 24/7. That’s important. Building your first web page isn't difficult, but it’s nice to have backup.
Check out GoDaddy’s website builder. You can get a three-page website up and running in a couple of hours. That gives you plenty of time to update your business cards and prep your brilliant Facebook® posts.
After you’re live, you can think about moving to WordPress® or hiring your niece. You’re just getting started, after all.
See? No need to overthink it. This is something you can get up and running today. Stick with these first three steps and you’ll have something to write home about before you know it.
Shawn’s been working in communications for more than 20 years. Fifteen years ago, he built his first website at a public library. Despite the miserable Internet connection, he was hooked and has been helping others get online ever since. Shawn’s passionate about teaching and is convinced that a good story is the best way to do it.
At GoDaddy, he’s led multiple creative teams and been a loud, positive voice for customer service and entrepreneurs. He currently runs the editorial department where he gets to put his creative writing degree to good use.