You’re in a new phase of life, and you’re ready to step out on a limb and do something crazy—like start a business. And you know what? Maybe it’s not so crazy after all. Check out these reports:
- According to a 2017 survey by Guidant Financial, business owners over the age of 50 accounted for 54% of aspiring entrepreneurs in the U.S.
- Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are driving small business growth by expanding their existing enterprises or launching encore careers (Guidant Financial).
- 70% of older entrepreneurs will have success starting new ventures compared to 27% of their millennial counterparts (Chartered Management Institute).
With all this good news, what’s keeping you from starting your next career as a solopreneur? If it’s website development and funding, delay no longer. You’ll find budget-friendly website advice here.
If you’re reluctant to dip into your savings to build a business website, your next available resources are your time and energy. Implementing the following bootstrapping tactics will go a long way toward website development (and other business development activities) at a fraction of the cost of hiring a website designer.
Website Starting Points
A website is the starting point for your brand. Whether or not you have a physical storefront, you’ll need an online presence. Why? Because people will go online to learn about you before they consider buying from you. So, you’ll need to be easily found. Ready to get started? The processes below will guide you through building an online presence.
Domain name: Ideally, your domain name (i.e., “web address”) will be the name of your business. It’s what people will see first, and it’s the first step in building your brand. You’ll want to keep your domain name simple, memorable, and accurate. Your domain name also will include the ending of your web address, such as .com, .org, .net, or any one of a dozen other possibilities. Try to secure a .com address first. Current 2018 prices for a domain name start at $11.99/year. Web experts recommend that you “claim your name” on the Internet before someone else does. This advice includes purchasing your personal name, even if you choose to name your business something else or think you’ll never use it.
Website creation tool: Tools like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal are the top content management systems for websites, and most have a free version. While there are many web creation tools to choose from, WordPress dominates with 59.9% of the world market share and is known as the “most powerful blogging and website content management system in existence today” (Ardorsys.com). For the majority of businesses, WordPress is their go-to website development platform. However, the learning curve is steep unless you’re super tech-savvy.
If you’re operating on a tight budget and want to give website development a try, check out DIY-friendly web creation tools such as Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, and GoDaddy. Wix and Weebly let you build simple websites for free. SquareSpace and GoDaddy allow you to create simple websites with ease, but charge for hosting, with SquareSpace costing $12.99 month/annually and GoDaddy $9.99/month with one month free, based on 2018 pricing.
Hosting service: A hosting service is a company that owns and operates internet servers that allow businesses to deliver content to the internet. According to hostingfacts.com (2018), the top three hosting services for small businesses are Bluehost ($2.75/month, 3-year plan), HostGator Cloud ($2.99/month, 1, 3, and 6-month plans), and SiteGround ($3.95/month, 1-year plan). Hosting is one of the primary costs associated with owning a website, and costs presented in this article reflect 2018 prices. For the most current pricing information available, check out each hosting service’s website.
Resources for Website Development
What is your tech-tolerance? A lot of know-how goes into building a website. If you feel you can handle the technology side of the project, then you are well on your way to website DIY. If your tech skills and tolerance are lacking (like mine), then outsourcing website development is smarter than attempting to build a website on your own. The good news is that countless resources are available for custom website development across a wide range of price points. For instance, basic, custom website design can start as low as $2,000. No matter what decision you make about developing a website, here are two important factors to consider:
- The time and sanity wasted with the DIY approach may not be worth the money you save.
- If you choose to outsource website development, then bootstrap in other areas of your business, such as social media, marketing, graphic design, or content creation.
Consider reaching out to the following organizations to “get smart” quickly about a wide variety of low- or no-cost business resources that are available to you, including website development:
- SCORE: A U.S. nonprofit organization that provides free business mentoring, templates, e-guides, blogs, and videos to new and established small-business owners nationwide. Comprised of 10,000+ volunteers who are active and retired business executives and entrepreneurs, SCORE also offers excellent live and recorded webinars, on-demand courses, and low-cost, in-person workshops about a wide range of topics, including marketing, social media, and website development (e.g., “How to Launch an Effective Website for $50/Month” and “Reboot Your Website”).
- SourceLink: A growing, national network of community resources for U.S. startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses, established through the Kauffman Foundation. Through SourceLink, you can access The Resource Navigator, an online database that contains a variety of entrepreneurial-resource partner programs in your area that can help you build your business.
- Your Local Public Library: Your city or county library can provide you with an endless supply of print and online resources, programs, and specialists to help you accomplish your encore business goals, including website development. To read more about the treasure trove of business resources that are available to you through the public library, here’s a link to a recent in-depth article that we published about this very subject: https://www.boomalally.com/2018/06/20/the-real-smart-card-in-your-wallet/ In short, get your library card and use this resource powerhouse to build your business.
- Local Community Colleges and Universities: Check out the online course catalogs of local community colleges and universities for both in-person and online courses (e.g., Introduction to WordPress), particularly those offered through their continuing education programs. If you don’t want to learn web-development skills yourself, consider reaching out to the institution’s computer science department to see if they can recommend any talented students who may be interested in developing a custom website for you at an affordable cost.
- com and Web Development Blogs: Meet-up.com is a free, online service that organizes groups of likeminded individuals who want to meet in person and socialize around topics of interest. If you live in a city that’s large enough, you may be able to join a Meet-up group for website developers, where you may just find your company’s first webmaster. Read blogs and online forums. Ask questions. Let organizers know your needs. Someday you may go to them for additional business, and they want to stay “top of mind.”
- Local Entrepreneurial Communities: Many entrepreneurs across the country operate from co-working spaces rather than from their homes or local coffee shops. Co-working spaces offer shared office space to entrepreneurs and small businesses at affordable prices as well as opportunities to collaborate, share expertise, grow their networks, and barter services with other entrepreneurs. Check out the membership listings of co-working spaces in your area to see if anyone is starting a new website design company. You may be able to hire a young, talented web designer to create a custom website for less money than you would pay a well-established web design firm.
CONTENT MARKETING and Other Considerations
When building a business, it’s critical for you to engage in content marketing that will drive customers to your website. This is how you build brand awareness and attract an audience for your product or service. Content marketing consists of several elements: email marketing (including online newsletters), blogging, and social media. The more active you are in each of these areas, the more able you are to attract leads who become paying clients. REMEMBER: Your goal is to attract people to your website and generate paying clients. To do so, you need content–AND A LOT OF IT. If you think your business is not content-worthy, ask yourself these questions:
- Who else has a business similar to yours?
- What content formats do your competitors use to generate leads and convert them to paying customers?
- Do they have newsletter signups on their websites? A robust social-media presence (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)? Their own “followings”?
- How active are your competitors online with each of these formats?
The more you know about what’s going on with related businesses, the more you will know where to be–and NOT to be–with your digital marketing efforts.
Most small business owners are not active enough with their content creation. It is not a matter of audience interest, but lack of time, energy, and ideas. This is where you can gain a competitive edge.
THE GOOD NEWS: Content marketing is somewhat easy to implement and maintain. Your cost will be in time and energy.
In conclusion, are you ready to introduce your business to the world? Building your website is just the beginning of the adventure.