I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: whether your profession is corporate, creative, or a mix, you need a website.
As a consumer, if I click on a link to a business and it takes me to a Facebook page instead of a website, I am deeply suspicious. If it has a domain name that leads me back to that Facebook page, I’m out. I am not spending money at that business.
Case in point: I spent over a year in my new location searching for a salon where I could get a good haircut. It took that long because most of the places around here only have a Facebook page, not a website. That’s not a business I trust.
It went beyond the “businesses” only having a social media page; most of them didn’t update it regularly.
Again, you are running a business. Part of that is a need to communicate.
If you believe you have enough clients and don’t need anymore. Good for you. And let’s hope none of them die or move.
One of the salons I considered, in another town, had a lovely website. I tried to use the online booking tool, which was “temporarily unavailable.” I used the contact form to ask how to go about booking an appointment, and how far out they usually book. That was in early February. We’re at the end of March, and I still haven’t heard back.
That is not good business. I will not place my money there.
Answer your email.
The salon I finally chose had a clean, easy to navigate site, online booking, and responded quickly to questions. When I arrived, the tone was a friendly and efficient and stress-free as the website. I got the best haircut and style I’ve had since I left New York, and will use them again.
Since many businesses are pretending the pandemic is over, so that they can force people back to work in unsafe conditions, they don’t get to use the pandemic as an excuse for not doing something as basic as answering email.
Demands for instant response are not appropriate, especially to a small business. But expecting a response within two to three business days is more than reasonable, in most circumstances.
With social media in turmoil right now, it’s even more important to have your own website. When you create an account on social media, the space belongs to THEM. They can kick you off, lock you out, or go out of business themselves. You have much more control over your website, and it can grow the way YOU want it to, not within someone else’s restrictions.
Purchase a domain name.
This is basic. You buy the name of your website (and try to keep it simple and relevant). That way, you own the domain name, and you renew it every year. I use Name Silo. They are reasonably priced and reliable. They are quick to answer questions and help you.
Find the Right Webhost for you.
You rent space, annually, from your webhost to park your domain. It is a different fee. Often, if you purchase multiple years at a time when you sign up, you can get a deep discount. Always read what the renewal rate is, even if you get a discount. That’s how you can figure if that webhost is compatible with your budget.
My needs include:
–Hosting multiple domains and subdomains
–unlimited email accounts
I have had some awful experiences with webhosts. I’m with A2Hosting right now, and am happy with them more often than not. Their customer service is usually excellent, and they’ve either pointed me to the right information or walked me through the steps to do what I needed to do.
Keep Your Registration Separate from Your Host
As stated above, my domain registrations are with Name Silo. My host is A2. If and when I decide to move hosts, all I need to do is sign up with the new host and point the domain to that new host. (It’s a few more steps than that, give yourself a couple of hours to get the unlock codes and all the rest, but if the host won’t migrate you, it’s not hard).
I learned, the hard way, that if the webhost holds the domain registration, then they can hold your site hostage if you try to move hosts. That happened to me two hosts before A2, and it was a nightmare to untangle it all.
Back Up Your Site
At the very least, back up your text, and have a file with your photos.
Especially if you use a host-specific template, and drag and drop, rather than building on WordPress or Divi or Elementor, if you move hosts, you will lose your setup. But if you’ve saved your text and photos, you can rebuild (and better) on your new host.
It’s Okay to Go Simple
A simple landing page with information, address/hours (if appropriate) and some eye-catching graphics is all you need. Make sure your contact information is easy to find. A way to contact you via your website is vital.
Make It Easy for People to Contact You – and Respond in a Timely Manner
Have a contact form and/or an email address connected to the site. Then check it regularly and respond to legitimate emails.
If/When You Can Afford It, Hire a Developer/Designer
As your site and business grow, once you can afford it, hire a professional to make it look its best. Also pay them to teach you the basics to keep it updated, if you don’t want to pay a retainer to a webmaster.
Update It Regularly
Keep it fresh and relevant.
If you use WordPress, there’s usually a “posts” page where you can add fresh content or run your blog. I prefer to keep some of my blogs separate from my websites, but they were established while I was still with the host who controlled both my registration and websites and held them hostage. That’s no longer an issue. This blog is part of my website. Ink in My Coffee is separate from the flagship Devon Ellington Work website, but it’s been running for nearly 19 years, and it doesn’t make sense to move it.
Share on Social Media
Share the site on your social media channels, so people can find you.
If you write articles or guest posts, or work on projects, make sure you send your traffic back to your website. The website is always a stronger choice than a social media channel, although the two can feed each other. Your website is a growing, changing, exciting part of your business, and will last far longer than most social media companies! Everything you do should lead to and from your website.
How do you use your website? Is it time for a refresh? Or is it time to build your basecamp?