Websites and your online identity: before you establish a business, build a great website. If you have an existing business, make sure you spend some time on maintaining a virtual identity – it’s your online profile – project your business culture, service quality, people and products well. Properly thought through and maintained, it can be the most inexpensive and valuable form of marketing and advertising, with almost limitless potential.

A business with no website is a sign of no business (a precursor to which was “A business with no sign, was a sign of no business”)

You can then use this to leverage social and networking media forums to broadcast your message, using your Twitter handle, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, Google account, and promote your Blog or news media using podcasts on YouTube in the form of Vlogs.

Ironically, the cheapest part of a website project is getting started, and involves the following initial step.

  1. Acquire a domain name. Small cost starting at about $10 per year, although premium and re-sale domains can stretch much higher. Companies like GoDaddy and Crazy Domains offer original URL’s for sale, if still available, plus access to a virtual warehouse of additional pre-owned domains offered at auction or sale by offer and agreement. They will help conduct the transfer as a broker, and some hosting companies are now offering finance to acquire a unique domain name.
  2. Obtain website hosting. This can cost as little as $5 per month, depending on potential browser traffic, email hosting optioins, level and type of service provided. As an example, GoDaddy offer a pretty sophisticated option for WordPress hosting, with an incredible suite of service service options that maximise the value of your small investment.
  3. Purchase and configure a template. Try looking at Envato’s offering with pre-created templates on ThemeForest. You don’t have to re-create the wheel – you can utilise existing coding and software to buy a WYSIWYG (an acronym for “what you see is what you get”) template with an editor portal that provides great flexibility to style and create your own unique site, indistinguishable from the original. You can also use Adobe Creative Suite software on a monthly user-pays basis, for more advanced optimisation of website design, without the past up-front software costs, with added benefits being the creation of other marketing collateral.

If you value your time, it might be preferable to focus on your core business and find a local expert who can work with you to design and maintain your online presence. It can be a pretty substantial undertaking, preparing content and image files in the required format and dimensions, and trying different alternatives in achieving the end-product that suits your needs.

If you do your research first and get some basic fundamentals right, you should find that ongoing maintenance to keep it looking fresh and adding new content is not too intimidating. Using platforms such as WordPress give you huge flexibility to create web pages and use online forums to solve technical problems. It also give you access to almost endless “plugins” – coding that can be added free or inexpensively from the bevy of industry professionals that are continually developing new ideas. It gives you greater control and avoids the pitfalls of being held to ransom by rogues offering a quick solution which might end up costing you huge amounts to achieve your desired result, extending the scope and time delays that you want to avoid.

There are many horror stories! Trusted platforms like WordPress also greatly increase your control through the ability to engage new programmers, because it is such a good product in the industry – you will have a diverse network of professional and even home-operators or hobby-bloggers to help you. Avoid contracts: set clear project deliverables, define your scope, prepare your content early on in the peace (preferably before you engage somebody), and get a good initial understanding for industry jargon such as SEO and SEM – these are critical design elements to the ongoing success of your website business with online customers.