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Learn the Basics: How to Build and Manage Your First Website

& why you need a website for your freelancer business

· work online,Skills,online business,freelance

Why you should set up your own website

If you’re looking to be a serious freelancer, then a website is a must. It’s so easy to set up a website and having one instantly gives you more credibility. Having your own website means you don’t have to pay a fee to freelance sites (damn you Upwork) and you can set your own rates for jobs. Let the people come to you!

No matter what line of business you are in, it’s important to have a website. Having a website means you have somewhere to showcase your portfolio, whether it be videos, photos, writing, artwork, music samples or anything else. Of course if you are selling a product or service, it’s very beneficial to have a site where it’s easy for customers to browse and buy.

If you are cold emailing or calling potential clients, it looks a lot better when you can send them a link to your website. It shows you are established, experienced and serious about your career. If you have an excellent and unique website you will also stand out and be remembered. If you are freelancing in a creative art such as photography or graphic design, your website is an indicator of your creativity and skill.

If you are applying for a job as a VA, a well designed and laid out website shows a client that you will be able to do the same high quality work for them, especially if they need a VA to design and manage a website or landing pages.

You need 3 things in order to have a website: a domain name, web hosting and a website platform where you design your site!

Choosing a Domain Name

Before you do anything else, you should choose a domain name for your website. This is the part that comes after www.

If you are selling your own services, you could choose to simply have your own name as the domain. This can be a clever tactic in order to achieve strong branding, but I would advise against this if you are thinking about selling your business down the line. No one wants to buy a business that has someone else’s name.

Never use your own name as your domain if it is difficult to spell!

If you already have a name for your business then you’re sorted. Just register that as your domain. If you are in the beginning of creating an online business, then you need to choose a name too. When choosing a name, make sure it is a name which you will still like in 5 years time. Take into account that your business may grow and expand and in 5-10 years you may have a different target audience or vision. Don’t cut yourself off from these potential opportunities to grow.

If you are looking for what makes a great business name, read this article. After that you need to brainstorm. You can use tools such as Bust A Name and Lean Domain Search to help you with this.

Choose initial keywords that you would like to incorporate into your name, words which will help customers understand what your business does. You can then expand on these keywords by finding appropriate synonyms (using the tools mentioned above).

Finally narrow it down to a couple of options and ask your target audience which they prefer. You can do this by surveying people in Facebook groups, in-person or by email. Just make sure you’re not only asking your immediate friends and family.

When you have a domain name in mind, check that it is available. Otherwise you won't be able to have your website name match your business name… and that would just be a disaster.

If the domain is cheap you could buy many alternatives endings for the same domain name such as .com, .org, .co, .net, .co.uk which means that no matter which ending someone types in, they will be redirected to your site. Make sure that your domain name is spelled the same in different parts of the world. For example in Britain, people write “travelling” while in America they write “traveling”. You could buy both versions to avoid confusion.

Domain names start at $0.99 but can be more expensive if they are popular or if you have to buy it off someone who already owns it. You can buy a domain name from a domain name registrar, a web hosting service or you can get a free domain if you use an easy to use pre-built web platform. (More on that later!)

Choosing a Web Hosting Service

Every website must be hosted on the internet. A web hosting service provides the space and technology for your website to stay online and to be viewed by people. If you do not have web hosting then your website won’t be stored on the internet’s servers.

Okay so boring bit over.

How and where should you get your website hosting?

Web hosting varies hugely in cost. It can cost as little as $10 a year or as much as a couple of thousand dollars. The more space your website takes up on the internet, the more expensive it will be to host.

Hosting your website is very inexpensive these days. Most hosting sites will offer a cheaper rate when you purchase a plan for a long time ie 2 years or more. Before you decide on which hosting service you should use, you should ask yourself how long you intend to have your website for. Some services will do very good long term deals while others will be more cost effective if you’re only looking to have a website for a couple of months.

When buying web hosting, look for a host with excellent customer support as you will definitely need it at some stage. Siteground has very good 24 hour customer support and they respond to queries within minutes. They also work out as one of the cheapest in the long term at only $3.95 a month (paying for only 1 year!)

After you have bought your domain name, you must register it with your web hosting service. You can buy your domain name from a domain name registrar or from the web hosting service itself. The web hosting service will charge a fee to register a domain and they will usually charge less if you have bought the domain from them. Check out this analysis to see if you should buy your domain from your web host or from a different domain registrar. If you use a drag and drop page builder site such as Strikingly you don't have to pay for domain name purchase, registration or web hosting. They are all included in the premium fee.

Setting up a website: Buying domain from a domain registrar vs from web hosting service

Choosing a Website Platform

If you are not a natural born web designer and are not that passionate about learning the trade (we know you have other things to focus on) then you should chose to use a page builder. It’s so easy to make your own website thanks to sites such as Strikingly, Wix and Squarespace.

These platforms are all drag and drop and very easy to use. You can build a simple website in less than a day. All of the ready to use platforms are free to use if you choose not to have your own domain name but instead have a tag with the name of the page builder attached to the end. Pay for premium if you want to look professional! These platforms are fairly new and far less established than the most common website platform, Wordpress, and so there are not as many plugins available, but if speed and simplicity is your game…

Strikingly

Strikingly is a very easy platform to use and it creates lovely dynamic websites. Premium costs $192 a year and you can get 3 months for free if you have a student email address. Includes one free domain name and free web hosting. Choose Strikingly.

Wix

Wix works out at about the same price. It costs at least $17 per month or $120 for the year. Includes one free domain name and free web hosting. Choose Wix.

Squarespace

Squarespace costs $12 a month (for a minimum of one year) for a personal website and $18 for a business website. Includes one free domain name and free web hosting. Choose Squarespace.

Wordpress

When it comes to building complex websites, Wordpress is the best there is. It has been around for the longest time and has the most themes, templates and plugins available. It can be a little more tricky than the ready to use platforms, but is actually fairly easy once you get the hang of it. If you’re not familiar with the platform, there are loads of tutorials on Youtube and also on Lynda.

But wait… your life just got a whole lot easier.

There are also easy to use drag-and-drop page builder plugins that you can use with Wordpress. One of the most popular page builder plugins is Elemontor. It’s completely free and works with any Wordpress template. Choose Elemontor.

Wordpress is completely free. There are loads of paid as well as free templates so you may have to pay for one depending on which one you choose to use.

And that’s it folks.. Now you can build your own website. Just in case you’ve forgotten anything here’s a quick to do list:

To Do:

  1. Choose a domain name
  2. Decide whether you want to buy domain name from a domain registrar, your web hosting service or get a free one from Strikingly, Squarespace or Wix (only if you pay for premium)
  3. Buy your domain name
  4. Buy your web hosting (not needed if you use Strikingly, Wix or Squarespace as they incorporate hosting)
  5. Register your domain name on your web hosting service
  6. Decide which website platform you would like to use - Wordpress, Strikingly, Wix or Squarespace.
  7. Build your website

What's next?

Designing a website is easier than ever. With drag and drop page builders and hundreds of templates and themes there's something that suits everyone, whether you're blogging, showcasing, informing or selling.

Once you've built your website, that's just the beginning. A website ain't no good if it doesn't get seen. Check out our blog about inbound marketing which includes some practical tips on how to improve SEO for your website. A good way of doing this is having SEO optimised content such as images, videos and blogs on your website and by building high quality backlinks.

Don't underestimate the amount of work it takes to build and maintain a website. It's crucial that you fix links that are broken, produce content on a regular basis and promote it on social media as well.

Now you know how to build a website BUT if you're still not sure what your freelancer business should be, check out our guide to discover what skills you can offer to people.

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