Are you poised to launch yourself as a freelancer or start your own business but you aren’t sure why to start?
Let’s get something important straight.
Opening your doors for business doesn’t need to be complicated, it also doesn’t need to cost the earth. Far from it.
Being able to market yourself online is a godsend for any small business or freelancer. You can start promoting yourself to a worldwide audience in a matter of minutes.
For very little financial outlay – under £100, or less if you shop around – you can set up your website, get your social media accounts up and running, open an email marketing account and start talking directly to your ideal customers.
So what’s stopping you?
Yes, you could write a proper business plan first.
Yes, you could put together an all-singing-all-dancing marketing strategy.
Yes, you could wait until you’ve got enough cash to hire a fancy web designer.
But here’s the truth. You DON’T need all the bells and whistles to get started. If I’ve learnt anything since I started working for myself it’s that taking action – however imperfect – is ALWAYS the wisest move.
The beauty of creating your own online business is that you can tweak and fine-tune as you go (but not too much, therein madness lies!).
Don’t let what you think you SHOULD be doing stop you from doing anything at all.
Don’t let perfectionism or comparisonitis hold you back.
It took me decades to get my own business off the ground because I was in a constant battle with my inner perfectionist. If I couldn’t do it perfectly I thought I shouldn’t do it all all. What poppycock!
As I frequently remind myself now, done is better than perfect.
Yes, competitor X has a super-duper professionally designed brand and website, and a crack social media team. But they’ve been in business for five years and have very different goals and aims to you.
I forget who said this, but they are wise words worth remembering:
“Don’t compare your start with someone else’s middle.”
I’ve created all by my websites myself – this one, and my business site – and I often get asked, “Who designed your site, could you pass on their details?” – which makes me feel a bit smug and self-satisfied.
Just being yourself and running at your own speed is always the best strategy.
“Pursue simple, get fancy later.” Amy Porterfield
So here is my pared back ‘get yourself online in one morning’ plan of action! By the end of this post you’ll have:
- A website to shout about how fabulous you are.
- A logo, brand colours and images to use on your site and social media accounts.
- Your social media and email marketing accounts set up.
I warn you, at every stage of setting up your online presence there is endless scope for procrastination and dithering. Usually, the dithering happens over details that REALLY DON’T MATTER.
Try not to indulge your inner perfectionist. Set yourself a time limit – I’ve put a suggestion in brackets – so you can get it done and starting bringing in business!
1. Buy a domain name (30 minutes)
There’s not point naming your business and then finding you can’t get the domain name you wanted. So bypass that roadblock by quickly brainstorming a few options then doing search to see what you can get the best domain for. I’d always go for .com if you can get, or .co.uk as a second option.
If in doubt just use your name, eg. emmalouisesmith.com. It gives you room to change and evolve what you do if you want to. But think about how it will show up in search engines. I use my middle name for my business name because without my name must be just about one of the most common on the interwebs!
- As I use TSOHost* to host my sites I find it easier to have everything in one place, but you could buy a domain cheaper elsewhere and then link it to you hosting account. Try GoDaddy.
- Cost: TSOHost charge £11.99 for a .com site, or less for .co.uk.
2. Set up hosting & install WordPress (10 minutes)
To equate website building to house buying, having a domain gives you an address, then the hosting is the building itself.
This the pretty dull part of building a website, and it does mean another cost. But I recommend setting up a self-hosted site rather than setting up a free site on Weebly, Blogger, or WordPress.com. Firstly, a [insername].wordpress.com domain name doesn’t look professional, you don’t your own little space on the world-wide-web, and you’ll quickly outgrow the limited functionality.
Your host provider should make it clear how to install WordPress. So follow the instrucionts and swiftly move onto the fun part in step 3!
- Cost: Again I used TSOHost*. Lite cloud hosting (what I use) is £14.99 a year for up to two sites.
3. Choose and install and theme (let’s limit this to 30 minutes!)
Back to the house-buying analogy. You’ve got your address and your building, now you need rooms and decoration. That’s where a WordPress theme comes in.
There are literally thousands to choose from so it’s easy to get stuck here weighing up the options for days, even weeks [ahem! Guilty!]. So I’ll make it easy for you.
When I started this site I wanted a design with a simple layout and not too many complicated design options to choose from. I’m really pleased with my choice and would highly recommend it. Again there’s a cost involved, but unlike free themes a premium theme will give you all the options you need to quickly achieve a professional design.
- Check out the Tweak Me theme by Nosegraze* here.
- COST: It’s £69 (approximately £55) for a lifetime licence you can use on as many sites as you like and the designer, Ashley, provides excellent customer support.
4. Design your brand (2 to 3 hours)
My not-so-secret design weapon, Canva, is about to become your best friend. And it’s FREE. I’m not a designer, but I’ve designed both my brands myself using this wonder-tool.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should add that I do use the premium version of Canva, Canva for Work, but you do everything you need to with the free version.
Canva even has a very useful design school. Go through the lessons to help you choose colours and fonts for your new brand. You can then go ahead and create all the images you need for your new brand using their ready-made templates.
With Canva you can create the following:
- A logo. It’s easy to create a typographical logo like the one I use on this site.
- Header images for your website.
- Pictures of you to use on your About page and as your social media profile images.
- Cover images for Facebook and Twitter that match your website.
I have to admit, this is my favourite part of the process and unless you give yourself a time-limit you can easily spend hours and hours tinkering with layouts and colours. So be strict with yourself. Remember, perfection is the enemy of progress.
- COST: £0!
5. Write the basic copy for your site (2 hours)
Remember, we’re keeping things simple. You only need a few pages to get your started. You can add to it later. Here are the pages you need on bare-minimum site:
About: A few paragraphs describing how you help your ideal audience. No rambling blow-by-blow accounts of everything you’ve done since you left school – please. This is less about you, and more what your customers want from you.
Work with me: Describe the services you offer and how much they cost. Simple.
Contact: Tell people how to get in touch with you. I used to use a contact form but the insane spam that arrived in my inbox drove me nuts, so now I prefer to just spell out how to get in touch.
Your home page – the gorgeous logo and header image you’ve just designed, plus a sentence or two about what you do and who you help.
- COST: £0!
6. Set up your social media accounts (1 hour)
Social media is essential for any small business. No matter what you do you can find your audience on one of the platforms.
But DON’T try to be everywhere! Who has time for that!?
A sure-fire way to stress yourself out, and achieve very little, is to put yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, SnapChat, and then find you can never manage to keep any of them updated.
So put some thought into where your audience hangs out. For instance, there’s no point putting loads of time and effort into LinkedIn unless your audience is predominantly middle-aged professionals.
Pick two channels at the most and learn how to do them REALLY WELL.
- the profile and header images you created earlier.
- A short bio describing who you are and what you do.
- COST: £0!
7. Set up an email marketing account (30 minutes)
Start growing an email list from day one.
If you use the TweakMe theme as I have, it’s really easy to add a sign-up box to your site.
If you really want to hit the ground running you could also create a quick freebie pdf to give away to subscribers in return for their email address (like the one in my sign-up box below). A cheat-sheet or checklist that relates to your main business and gives your audience a quick-win that relates to the service you provide.
- COST: A basic account with Mailchimp is free for up to 200 subscribers. Or I now use Convertkit* – plans start at $29 (£23 approx) a month.
And that’s it! You’re ready to start promoting your new business online. As I said earlier you can fine tune it later.
You have to start somewhere so it may as well be now, today.
Perfectionism will only hold you back, so start as you mean to go on. Done is better than perfect. I’ll leave you with one my favourite quotes:
“Perfectionism is just fear, in really good shoes.” Elizabeth Gilbert.
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Got questions? Leave a comment – let’s chat!
* This post contains affiliate links which means if you click and buy I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. I’m super fussy, I’m only an affiliate for products and services I use and recommend.