Thanks to my new friend Don, I got a question through my ‘Dear Martin’ page this week, about how to start an Internet Business.
As it turns out Don was way ahead of where I assumed he was in his on-line work, so most of what I gave him was of little use (to him, at any rate).
Also, I misunderstood Don’s question and thought he was starting an on-line real estate business – meaning the buying and selling of houses.
I was wrong.
But that’s why the post below refers occasionally to real estate.
Despite it being of little use to Don, I’ve posted my response anyway, in the hope of benefitting other people who, because of the economic situation, may be thinking about making some extra money on-line for the first time.
So here are some (very basic) steps to starting an Internet Business.
Start off with a detailed plan for your business
Get clear in your mind the precise objectives you have for your website and what you want to do with it.
For example, do you want it to act as a brochure to catch new customers and get them to visit or call your business, or do you want to allow people to actually transact on the site – e.g. make viewing appointments or search for properties, etc.
Get very clear in your mind exactly what you want your site to do for your business, as this will influence how you design it.
Outsource or Insource?
Part of this plan should also identify what bits of your on-line work you will do yourself and which bits you will outsource.
For example, if you’re good at marketing but know nothing about website design you may want to outsource the site design but take care of the marketing and promotion yourself.
This will also apply to maintaining and updating your site. By its nature a real estate site will need regular updating as new properties come on and older ones are sold.
This could become quite time consuming if you’re turning over properties regularly.
Keep in mind that writing for the web is different from writing hard copy, because people read websites differently from the way they read off-line stuff.
A while ago I listed 10 things to focus on when you’re writing for the web – find it here. And you can find other articles on copywriting here.
You should make sure that you understand how writing for the web differs from writing hard copy – or find someone to outsource it to.
Here’s a great copy writing resource – in fact it’s the best resource I know of for learning how to write for the web, and it’s a site I read every day.
Next it’s important to make sure that your website is properly constructed.
The reason this is important is that building a site properly means that the search engines will find it more easily and return it in search results more regularly.
This will greatly improve the amount of quality visitors you get.
If you plan to build it yourself and you’re new to website design I do recommend WordPress – which is the platform this and all my new sites are built on.
There are lots of WordPress tutorials on this site: this article describes what it is, you can see how to install and configure it here, and there are lots of usability tips here.
To create the design and layout you’ll need a theme
You can see how to install themes here and, if you want to create your own unique designs, I heartily recommend Thesis, which I use exclusively on all my WordPress sites. More information on Thesis here, and lots of Thesis tips and tutorials here.
Setting up a site on WordPress has so many advantages I don’t understand why anyone would build a site ‘by hand’ any more.
It enables you to get the job done quickly, and develop a site that’s well coded and very SEO-friendly.
Marketing and Promotion
You will also need to work out a marketing and promotion plan for your website.
Getting good quality visitors to a site takes time and work, unfortunately, despite all the wild promises of instant success you see everywhere on-line
“Build it and they’ll come” may have applied 10 years ago. It definitely doesn’t apply today!
So you need to develop a solid marketing and promotion plan, and you can find lots of tips and tutorials on Internet Marketing here.
And all of this will, of course, need to be funded. So create a budget for your site development based on the objectives that you set for it at the outset.
Once you’ve got all that clear in your mind let me know what questions you have and how else I can help.
You’re inevitably going to need to buy either services or training and I can probably point you in the right direction in most cases. Contact me here.