You Need Your Own Domain

My dad once set his own pinky after popping it out of place during a karate class. It still sticks out a little funny. Just because you CAN do something yourself, doesn’t always mean you should.

When starting a business there are things that it’s possible to skimp on by doing it yourself–building a press list and doing PR, for example–but not having your own domain name and website isn’t one of those things. A big part of creating a successful start up is about image: telling clients confidently that you can solve a problem they have better than your competition, even though you may be new.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you may recall when I switched from a wordpress blog to a self-hosted site; and you probably know I recently found a new hosting service and redesigned my personal website. A website has been and I believe should be one of the most important pieces on becoming a freelancer. In the words of P.S. Jones: “OMG You Need a Website!”

However I strongly disagree with a number of recent business articles like the one by Heather Allard, at The Daily Worth, writes that startups should postpone their custom website, and instead start a blog on wordpress or blogger.

Here are just TWO of the reasons it’s a bad idea:

It’s a pain in the rear to switch– You’re bound to lose readers/customers when you eventually choose to switch. My traffic dipped significantly when I first made the change. Also, free hosting services have a limit to the number of page views you can get a month before you have to pay for hosting. Otherwise they wouldn’t make money.

Free hosting sites include their URL in your URL. So, for example, when I was hosted on wordpress my site was www.jargonwriter.wordpress.com. That’s bad for two reasons: First, it’s less professional. It makes it clear to customers that you are still only a start up. Companies with their own domain name natural give visitors a sense of legitimacy and create a sense of trust. Second, it’s longer and harder to remember, which is bad from a marketing standpoint.

BUT that doesn’t mean you have to spend oodles of money in order to have a website.

Buying a domain name is fairly cheap. Go Daddy is selling .com domain names right now for $11.44/year. My hosting through Site5 costs me about $15/month. Those aren’t big numbers.

Getting a custom website built from scratch IS expensive, but having your own domain name and website does not necessarily mean you have to build something from scratch. I built both of my websites myself, with some help from friends who knew what they were doing, using a wordpress framework (for those of you who are confused, wordpress is a software and a hosting/blogging site–I used the software; it’s the blogging site that you should not use as a business website).

Of course not everyone can build the site themselves (there is quite a learning curve there). So if you can’t DIY your site, I think you need to suck it up and pay for a site. Make sure to look through a few designers’ websites and ask for quotes to find a designer that’s a good fit for you–a basic website shouldn’t be overly expensive and you can always add to it later.

Besides, having a self-hosted website has several other perks:

You typically get an email address@yourdomain.com. A professional email address helps project a professional image. Don’t want to have to check another inbox? That’s okay; with most hosting services it’d fairly simple to set your email up to forward to an existing account.

A website, rather than a blog, can be designed specifically to sell your services. Setting up a blog means posting regularly. Which means that while the content may be helpful for your customers, it won’t always be about selling you (and if it is, you probably won’t build much of a regular audience). Google also sees blogs and websites differently, so using one format like it’s something it’s not can negatively affect SEO (search engine optimization).

There are far more tracking services available, if you choose to set them up. You can have a better idea of who is visiting your site and what they are looking at. This can help you make decisions that will positively affect your business.

If you’re still not convinced, think of it this way: If you needed surgery who would you rather have do the operation, a guy who worked out of a back room of his house or someone who worked for the hospital?

Having a blog on a free hosting service and using it as your website tells clients this may be just something you do on the side–a professionally designed website at a custom domain says you mean business.

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