On the World Wide Web

You may think I’ve stalled on the Marketing Chapter (Chapter 7) of Parker’s book – and you’d be partially right and partially wrong. Marketing is one of the aspects of small business that fascinates me personally, in a big way–which is good, since what I’m interested in doing is essentially writing marketing materials for small businesses. But chapter 7 is also one of the longest and most diverse chapters in How to Start a Home-Based Writing Business. Therefore, I’m dedicating a significant portion of time to reading through it and beginning to apply the material within.

Well, the next section of the chapter is on setting up a website. In today’s day and age, it is imperative for you to have a website if you’re going to own a small business. It is also likely that you’ll need a twitter account, and there is a good possibility that you’ll want to develop a facebook account also (although I think facebook for a B2B company like mine is fairly useless but that’s a diatribe for another day). But, unless you’re a web developer (which I am not), setting up a website can be confusing.

At first it seems simple enough–build a site in something like dreamweaver, buy a domain name on godaddy.com and get the two hooked up, which will be the birth of a beautiful relationship ending in marriage, 2.5 kids, a car, a dog and fights about the dishes. Not so.

Parker lists 16 steps, which is way too much for one post. So today, I’ll share what I consider “the basics” then ill break down the rest over the next few days, peppering in my own experiences thus far for good measure.

Parker shares that most of the writers she interviewed for the book use their websites mainly as a reference that they can point prospects to; in my experience with the web, that’s probably accurate. It’s rare that I’ll go “looking” for a service and stumble upon a fantastic small business. More often, I’ll hear about a small business and it’s mission and then go look at its website for more information. After all, as Parker writes, “Marketing and selling and usually about going to the prospect, not about waiting for the prospect to come to you.”

That doesn’t mean having a website isn’t important however. It IS essential to have somewhere for potential clients to go for that additional information – to look at your samples, to read about you, and to connect. A website is an instantaneous alternative to mailing out sales kits via snail mail. Which brings us back to setting up a website. How do you create a presence on that thing called the internet?

Parker’s first point discusses needing a “site provider.” In order to create a website you need three things. First, you need a domain name. Second, you need a hosting service. Third, you need to build an actual site.

That makes it seem easy, but unless someone breaks it down for you, understanding how those three work together can be complicated. Essentially, you need to buy a “name” for your website. This is your domain name. One of the best ways for checking to see if a domain name you want to buy is free (in my experience at least) is to look for it on godaddy.com. They have a handy search bar where you can type in any website name and they will look for it for you and, if it’s not available, they will suggest alternatives. Go Daddy also sells domain names, and offers hosting, but more about that in a minute.

Once you’ve found a domain name that is available and that makes you warm and gooey on the inside, you need to find someone to host your site. Essentially, hosting services are people who have lots of memory that is always hooked up to the internet, so that people logging onto the web can find your site at the same “location” all the time, whether you are online or not. A host stores your site for you online. So you must find someone to host your site and link your hosting site to your domain name.

Then comes the fun part–if by fun you mean tied up and being beaten by whips (hey, some people are into that). You have to build a website. This is the part of the process I’m currently at. I’m waffling between buying a wordpress theme (or finding a free one I like a lot) then essentially building a wordpress site, or building my own site from scratch and merely using a wordpress blog as part of the site. As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a techie but I do have some basic knowledge.

Finally, once you build the site you upload it to the host and the host connects it to the server and you’re live. But as I said, what sounds simple is really much more complicated. I’ll break it all down more tomorrow.

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