The foundation of any entrepreneurial journey, especially one on the go, is a strong website. Your website serves as the digital home for your online business. It’s the key to converting anonymous internet users into engaged fans and customers.
Building a website used to require a lot of technical know how. Many still believe it does, and fail to launch their own online businesses because they fear they don’t have the skills or resources to create a site.Nothing could be further from the truth.
With a little guidance and knowledge of the steps and tools to use, anyone (and I mean anyone) can plan, build, and launch their own website in four days.
Day One: Your Plan
Before we get into anything technical, we need to ensure you have a solid plan for moving forward. All too often, I see smart, motivated people get so excited about an idea for a website that they dive in without making a plan first.
Those are often the people who find themselves stuck a few months later, not getting the results they want and unsure of what to do next.
Let’s focus on a really simple way to create your basic website plan: think about desired outcomes.
Ask yourself the following questions:
What is the desired outcome for my life?
Having a website, even a wildly successful one, is not a desired outcome. Instead, you probably want more money, freedom, prestige, etc. Get in touch with what you want in your life from a successful website.
What is the desired outcome for my website?
Once you know what you want in your life, think about how your website can provide that to you. Whether that’s money, free time, or something else, think about how your website can deliver the outcome you want.
What is the desired outcome for my website visitors?
Your website isn’t just about you. To reach your desired website outcome and your desired personal outcome, you need to help your website visitors reach their own desired outcomes. What are they looking for and how can you provide it?
If you can gain clarity on these questions and stay focused on achieving what you answered for each one of them, your website decisions will be much easier to make and your direction much clearer to follow.
Day Two: Your Brand
The next thing you’re going to want to do is register a domain name for your website. Your domain name is the website address where people will find you. For example, the domain name of this site is suitcaseentrepreneur.com. My domain name is sethleonard.com.
A few things to keep in mind about domain names:
- Your domain name does not have to be the same as your website name. You can use your own name as your domain name and call your site something else, like “The Yellow Submarine.”
- Choose a name that is easy to share with people. Avoid weird spellings, dashes, or numbers.
- Try to use a .com if you can (versus .net, .co, or something else).
My favorite domain registrar is name.com. It costs about $10/year to register a domain.
Day Three: Your Foundation
Now that you have a domain name, you’ll need web hosting. Purchasing web hosting means that you are renting space on a fast computer with a fast internet connection so that you can easily serve your website to the world.
Web hosting for a small site runs anywhere from about $5 to $20 per month. My favorite host, and the one I use, is Site5. They cost about $7/month and have excellent support. Natalie uses HostGator, which is another fine option, and costs roughly the same amount.
Both use a tool called Fantastico, which makes installing WordPress (a free website management tool we’re going to use) very easy. So if you decide to use a different host, make sure they have Fantastico.
Once you order your web hosting, you will be provided with an IP address. The IP address is the “raw” address of your website, the one that computers like, but humans don’t. So you’ll want to connect your human-friendly domain name with your computer-friendly IP address.
Quick Disclaimer: the next few steps sound more technical than they really are. You don’t need to memorize them, just take them one at a time. If you have trouble, check out the link to The Web Launch at the bottom of this post, which offers even more detailed step-by-step instructions.
To connect your domain name to your web hosting IP address, login to your domain registrar and edit your DNS settings for the domain you registered. Add an (or edit the existing) A NAME record to point to your IP address.
Using name.com, I click on my domain, then DNS Record Management:
Then I create one A NAME record, leaving the first box empty:
and another, entering ‘www’ in the first box:
Once you make those changes, it takes a while for them to take effect. So, while we’re waiting, we’re going to install WordPress. WordPress is a free tool, and will allow you to easily manage the design and functionality of your website, as well as your content.
Login to your hosting account control panel and launch Fantastico. Click on ‘WordPress’ in the left sidebar, and then ‘new installation’.
Choose your domain and leave the directory blank:
Create an administrative user and enter the basic information for your website, like your title and tag line (these can be changed later).
Click ‘Install WordPress’ and then ‘Finish Installation’ and you’re all done. Print out the confirmation page you get and that’s the end of your work for the day.
Day Four: Your Launch
Finally, the day you launch your website.
The first thing we need to do is customize your WordPress setup. You can login to the administrative section of your WordPress website at yourdomain.com/wp-admin (your URL should also appear on the confirmation page you printed out at the end of day three).
Here’s how you can customize your website:
Choose a Theme: Themes are the design and layout for your site. You can find hundreds of themes to choose from under Appearance > Themes.
Add Widgets: Widgets will fill your website sidebar with content you want displayed on every page. You can choose from available widgets under Appearance > Widgets.
Once you have your website looking the way you want, add your initial content. There are two types of content you can create:
Pages: Think of these as more static pages that will remain constant on your site. Highly recommended: add an “About” page as well as a “Contact” page.
Posts: Posts are your more dynamic content. They’re posted more regularly and cover a specific topic. What I’m writing here is an example of a post. It is current and featured, but will soon be replaced by new posts from Natalie in the coming days.
That’s it. Now to truly launch your website, you need to tell people about it! Send an email to your friends and show them what you’ve put together.
Need more help launching your website? I’ve created a free course that walks you step-by-step through each of the days’ activities above (in greater detail, with video, and even more screenshots). It’s called The Web Launch, and it includes:
- Video demonstrations
- Step-by-step tutorials
- A more robust planning worksheet
- More tips on domain name selection
- An in-depth guide to setting up web hosting
- Advanced customizations you can make in WordPress, including how to create your header
You can sign up for the free course here or below
Completed your website? Already have one? Want to get your site reviewed and learn what you can do to make it even better?
Natalie and I are going to be reviewing websites from the Suitcase Entrepreneur community! Submit your website below in the comments, or enter it on Natalie’s Facebook Page. Extra bonus points if you Tweet this.
In two weeks, we’ll share another blog post looking at websites that you all submitted, along with tips, tricks, and suggestions for taking them to the next level!