You finally got tired of working for the man and are ready to try to make a few dollars off your side hustle. Or perhaps you love your day gig and would just like to turn your passion into a second revenue stream. Either way, that’s definitely a savvy move on your part. The question is, how do you get started designing and building a Web site for your side hustle?
The good news is that it ain’t the 1990’s any more, no blinking text, no animated GIFs on your home page. More important, Web development tools have evolved quite a bit and the most modern are remarkably sophisticated. Even grandma could make a Web site today!
WHAT’S YOUR BUSINESS?
To really start at the beginning, the first question you need to ask is what is your actual business? In other words what are you be selling that people want to buy? If you are crafty it might be handmade art work clothes or jewelry, or perhaps it’s a series of short novels that you’ve been writing for a long time. Perhaps you’re really good at finding treasures at garage sales and want to turn reselling those into a business.
It’s always smart to begin by coming up with a name for your business, sketching out a product or list of products you can sell, doing some basic research on pricing and competition. For some people, using a third party platform like Etsy or eBay might be a good starting point, and don’t forget that you can set up an Amazon Marketplace storefront too.
A lot of people want more, however, and that’s where your own Web site comes into the fore. You can design it exactly how you want, the colors, fonts, graphics, photos all your preference, and you can see exactly what you believe is best going to help sell your service or products. In a word: Freedom!
GETTING A DOMAIN AND HOSTING
In the old days, every business needed a phone number. Nowadays the modern equivalent is a domain name. You use them all the time. google.com, whitehouse.gov, askdavetaylor.com, those are all domain names. Type one in and you’ll go to that Web site and be presented with what’s on that page.
The challenge is that no two businesses can have the same domain name. Easing that hassle there are a lot of top level domains, so if you can’t get “HubcapsByBob.com” you might be able to get the same domain as a .net or .biz or .info.
You’ll also need a Web host, a company that will serve as a repository for all of the pages, graphics, videos and photographs that will comprise your own Web site. A domain name without a hosting company means you might have a custom email address, but no Web site to create that secondary revenue stream for your side hustle.
There are a lot of hosting companies too, and the best of them can help you with identifying and registering your business domain name, setting up email and building and running your new Web site. I’ve worked with a lot of them and one of my favorites is HostGator.com. Reasonably priced, professional and responsive to issues that might arise, it’s a solid option to consider.
CHOOSING A HOSTING PLAN
Remember how you used to be able to walk into a cellular phone store and just worry about picking out the right phone? Nowadays there are so many data plans it can give you a headache, and they keep changing every year so you can never be sure you’ve got the best option.
Unfortunately, some hosting companies work that way too, where they’ll nickel and dime you so that your $20/mo hosting suddenly costs $85/mo or more. Common add-ons are bandwidth, a security certificate, backups and an email inbox. All the kind of things that HostGator includes in even its most modest plan, as you can see:
In fact, using them as an example, the current hosting options are basically small, medium and large. Okay, they call them Hatchling, Baby and Business, but it’s the same idea. Since you’re just starting up with your new online venture, Hatchling might be a good place to start and it’s as inexpensive as $2.75/month! Gotta walk before you can run, ‘natch.
A CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Okay, you’ve figured out a domain name that you like and is available. You’ve landed with a solid, reliable hosting company. Now it’s time to figure out what software you want powering your new Web site. Most people choose WordPress because it’s powerful, flexible and free, so that’s probably going to be a smart move on your part too. AskDaveTaylor is powered by WordPress too!
Hosting companies generally have WordPress installed and ready to go with a new account. For your hosting administration itself (setting up new email inboxes, looking at traffic reports, etc) you’ll probably use something called cPanel. Clumsy name, fairly easy program to navigate. But don’t worry, start out with a focus on the pages you want to build.
By default, WordPress lets you set up some of the basics of a good Web site. It’s a smart idea to go back to your original notes and figure out, page by page, what you should be presenting to your visitors.
There are lots of design templates – and some great training tutorial videos on YouTube – if you want to DIY things, but there are also lots of Web design consultants who can get you set up and your site looking good quickly and at minimal cost. Your hosting company might be able to help identify a trustworthy and reliable resource. If not, ask some of your business colleagues who they’ve used.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
You’ve figured out how to turn your side hustle into a little business. You have a good domain name, picked a hosting company and have a rudimentary Web site up and running. Fantastic. Next steps are to really develop your offerings and to integrate some e-commerce features (e.g., a shopping cart, being able to accept payment online) and start marketing yourself online.
Unsure how to take these next steps? Ask your hosting company. The good ones have lots of resources and might even have discussion forums where other neophyte online businesses like yours connect with service providers too.
Most of all, good luck! It’s definitely a lot of work to turn that dream into a reality online, but the rewards can be terrific!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about how to get started with an online business for quite a while. Please check out my online business help area for more useful tutorials!