In this Covid-scarred age, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a writer or a realtor, you need a website to avoid becoming invisible. Don’t worry about your budget. You can build your own website in an hour and it will cost you less than a nice lunch. You don’t have to be tech savvy to build it, either.
Indeed, if you’ve ever created a customized holiday card or shower invitation online, you’ve already got most of the skills you need to build your own web site.
“It’s really easy,” says Daniella Flores, owner of ILiketoDabble, a website about money and travel. “You can make it complicated, of course. But, if you just need a simple site that gets your name and contact information out there, it’s fast, easy and cheap.”
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Should you build your own website?
When do you need your own website? Generally speaking, you need a website when you are a full-time freelancer or business owner who is selling a product or service to the public. If you’re a restaurant owner, plumber, electrician, artist or retailer, for example, having a website makes it easy for people to find your contact information, what products or services you have for sale, and what they cost.
You may also want to build your own website if you are a freelance author, writer, photographer, or designer. In these cases, a website can allow you to show off your past work, making it easier for prospective clients to know whether you’re an appropriate candidate for their job.
If, however, your business is more of a side hustle than a full-time living, it’s possible to simply create a profile on someone else’s website. Dog-walkers and pet-sitters can create a profile on Rover, for instance. Tutors can create a profile on Wyzant or Varsity Tutors. Writers might set up a profile on Contently. Photographers could list on Snapped4U.
These online platforms essentially handle all the technology and marketing. However, they charge anywhere from 5% to 40% of your revenue in exchange. When you’re only making a few hundred dollars a month with a side hustle, that’s a relative pittance for the convenience. However, the more you earn, the more those fees add up.
If you want your side hustle to become your full-time business, you should build your own website.
Here’s our step-by-step guide to build your own website in less than an hour. Cost? About $12 a month.
Step one: Pick a name
First decide what to call your site. This is your “domain name.” Since this is how people will find you, your best bet is to keep your site name straightforward and intuitive. If you’re an author, you could name your site “Author John Smith,” for example. If you’re a loan broker, you could use your city and profession — i.e. “Pasadena Loan Broker.” Artist? “Susan Jones Art.” Or “Beautiful Abstract Art” — or “Watercolors by Susan,” perhaps.
Your goal should be to find a search-friendly name that’s likely to pop up when someone is looking for the type of product or service that you sell.
Have at least a couple of options before you start, however. That’s simply because your ideal domain name could already be taken. Also know that domain names are not case-sensitive and they can’t include empty spaces. So, someone who wants to name their site Pasadena Loan Broker, for instance, would type the domain as “pasadenaloanbroker” or “pasadena-loan-broker.”
Step two: Choose a site-building tool
There are literally dozens of different sites that will register your domain name and help you get online. WordPress, Network Solutions, Squarespace, and DreamHost are just a few. But, if you’re looking for a fast, easy and cheap way to create a simple website, it’s smart to use a site that has an intuitive site-building tool. In this story, we lead you through using the web builder at GoDaddy. However, Strikingly and Wix have web building tools that are equally intuitive. And the process is largely the same.
GoDaddy will register your domain name for one year for a price ranging from $1 to $20. If your preferred domain name is taken, you can sometimes buy it from the owner for a more substantial price. However, you’re generally better off simply picking a name out of those that are available.
Let’s say you want to be known as Los Angeles Cook, for example. Type “losangelescook” into the domain search engine. You’ll find that name is taken. So, is “lachef.” However, GoDaddy suggests similar website names that are still available. What about “thelachef?” That’s available for the standard rate of $11.99 for the first year.
When you settle on the name you want, hit “add to cart.”
Step Two: Cue it up
Once you’ve purchased the domain name and registered with GoDaddy, go to your “MyProducts” page. You find that by clicking your name in the top right-hand corner of the page. That opens a drop down menu. Click on My Products. It will take you to a list of products you’ve purchased here, including your domain name. (We’d recommend that you don’t purchase the additional security and privacy products that GoDaddy will likely try to sell you. You’ll get anything you need later, once you’ve built your site and decide on a “hosting” plan.)
Next to the domain name that you just purchased there will be three buttons: “Set Up”; “DNS”; and “Manage.” Click on “Set-up.” That will bring up three more options. Click on the first one that says “create a website.”
Step Three: Website builder
The next page will ask whether the site is for your personal use, business use, or to sell things online. And then it will ask whether you want to build the site yourself in the simplest manner possible; if you’re sophisticated and want more control; or whether you want someone to do it for you.
Answer the first question as appropriate for how you want to use the site. Answer the second question with “easier the better.”
That will suggest a “Start for Free” option. Click on that. This takes you to GoDaddy’s website builder, which is free to use for the first month. (After that, you’ll need to buy a monthly hosting plan. We recommend the standard hosting, which costs $12 per month. It gets you everything you need, including site security.)
Step Four: Pick your category/theme
Website builder is going to want to know what your website is about. Let’s say, for instance, that you’re creating an author website. Type in “author” and it will ask you to choose between “book” and “writer.” Either choice will bring up a sample website that is already populated with stock photos and site features that you might want as an author wanting to market his or her novels or writing.
Likewise, if you start typing in “auto,” the site will ask whether you want to do automobile repairs, detailing, auto parts or sales. Be specific when answering these questions. This helps the web builder pick a “theme” for your site.
What’s a theme? That’s the overall look and lay-out. This includes headings, where photos are placed, and all the little pieces that you put together to make the page. For instance, a typical site might have a heading; a mission statement; a summary of services; contact information; and, maybe, links to social media or testimonials.
There are literally thousands of “themes” to choose from, ranging from simple one-page themes to complex themes that include drop-down menus and animations. One of the things we like the most about GoDaddy’s Website Builder is that it limits your choices to a dozen or so that would work well with the type of site you’re building. This can save you hundreds of hours reviewing the otherwise dizzying array of choices.
Once you’ve answered what the site’s about, the web building tool will ask you to name the site. Your site name should correspond closely with your domain name, but with proper capitalization and spacing. In other words, if you bought “thelachef” as your domain name, type in The L.A. Chef or, perhaps, The Los Angeles Chef.
Step Five: Check your choices
Once you hit return, the site will take you to a suggested theme. However, the theme that comes up immediately isn’t your only choice. On the upper right-hand side of the page, you can click on “themes” and “try a new look.” That will give you a variety of other choices. Stick with the original one, or choose another theme that you like better. It’s up to you.
When you’ve picked the theme you like best, scroll back to the top right of the page and click on “website.” That locks in the theme that you’ve selected.
Step Six: Fill in the blanks
This part of building your site is almost like customizing a greeting card. Your theme already has standard art, sample wording and several site modules.
You’ll notice as you move your cursor down the page that blocks of copy will highlight. If you want to change that copy, you simply click on the highlighted copy and plug in the wording you want.
Step Seven: Add or subtract
If you want to delete a section, you click on the little trash can icon that appears when you scroll your cursor over that section.
Want to add a section? Click on the little plus symbol that floats between the sections. The site will ask what you want to add — a blog; a photo gallery; a contact us page; a PayPal button, for instance. Make your choice and that section will drop itself into your theme right where you hit the add button.
If you want to change a photo, click on it. That will bring up a cue to “update.” Click on that and it will show you all of the stock photos included with your theme. Want to add photos of your own? Click on the empty box or the “upload photos” prompt, and you can drag and drop photos from your computer into your digital photo library.
Step Eight: Fill in your settings
Once you’ve got the site looking the way you like it, go back to the top right of your screen and hit “settings.” This is the back end of your site that tells GoDaddy where your “contact us” emails should be sent; which accounts to link to your social media icons, etc. Fill in the blanks as appropriate.
Step Nine: SEO your site
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. And while a lot of people will charge you a small fortune to do this for you, basic SEO is simple. It’s all about telling Google what’s on each page in a clear sentence.
So, let’s say your site is “Meals from the Garden,” the website builder automatically fills that name into the SEO setting. However, you have to fill in the description. You might say something like: “Meals from the Garden is a site dedicated to creating healthy meals from organic produce that you grow yourself.”
If your site has more than one page, you’ll hit the down arrow on the “Pages” prompt to move to the next page description. In the “about us” for this site, for instance, it might say: “We are organic gardeners with a passion for making great food with our own produce.
When you’ve completed describing each of your pages, hit “done.” That will take you back to your completed website.
Step Ten: Publish
Take one last look to check for typos or anything else you might want to change. Satisfied? Great. Hit the publish button and within seconds your site is online. Want to see it like a customer? Open a new window in your web browser and type in your domain name. Voila.
Think you’ve made a mistake and your site is not ready for public consumption? Go back to editing the site, click on site settings and “unpublish.” Make the changes you want and hit publish again.
Congratulations! You’re a web developer. Use your powers for good.