Owning an online business can be a lucrative opportunity to earn big, but most successful websites seem to be owned by people with extensive programming backgrounds. For non-technical people, earning money online can seem daunting. Despite the technical challenges, there might come a time where you need to launch a website for your small business to help build sales and awareness.
In this article, we review resources and offer advice for building your first website from scratch.
Developing Your Project
Before you start building your website, it is important to spend time creating a detailed project plan complete with sketched images of what your site is going to look like. Take a look at other websites and take note of what you like. What features do they use to explain who they are and what they do? What website elements do they have that encourage you to buy their products or stay on their site? Take all of these best practices and sketch a mock-up of your site that shows how you will present content to users and how you will try to get users to “convert” (where are you going to put your “Buy Now” button, for example). Ultimately, your detailed project plan will resemble a storyboard, similar to what is used to create television shows or movies.
Aside from developing your project plan, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with some basic programming and coding languages. While you do not need to learn how to use them proficiently, it is a good idea to understand which languages will help you accomplish your goals so you can hire the best developers to write your code.
As a quick introduction, most websites are built with HTML and CSS. W3Schools is a useful reference for familiarizing yourself with HTML and CSS and learning how the languages are used to structure content on a website. For more advanced coding languages, Codecadamy is a great free resource to explore different alternatives and to develop a basic coding foundation.
Selecting an Outsourcing Service
Once you have your website project plan, you will need to find someone who can do the development work you do not know how to do. Unless you have a strong coder in your social or professional network, turning to a freelance marketplace may be the most affordable way to quickly find help.
Through services like Freelancer.com and Upwork (formerly ODesk), you can directly connect with freelancers willing to work on a wide variety of projects. These sites allow you to choose agency-based freelancers or individuals. I prefer individuals, as you do not have to pay any additional markup and you can communicate directly with the person doing the work.
When you do create a job posting, be clear about your requirements and end goals. Specify exactly what you are hoping to accomplish and which coding skills you require. Most workers will have reviews in their profile so be sure to check that your potential freelancer has a strong track record.
I have generally had good experiences using Upwork freelancers and have found many foreign workers at affordable rates. If you do work with a foreign worker, be prepared to offer specific and clear instructions to ensure a successful project completion.
Managing Your Team and Your Budget
Once you bring on your outsourced staff, you have to manage them and their cost. Unlike a traditional employee, you will not have to deal with things like benefits and taxes, but you do have the added challenge of trying to manage workers from afar.
To manage a remote team, best practices include using an online task and team management platform. Popular options include Asana and Trello. These tools allow for communication, task management, and file sharing.
When you get started, walk through the storyboard with your freelancer and ask them for feedback and how long they think it will take to complete the site. Be sure to set expectations for regular check-ins and deadlines. You do not want to pay a developer thousands of dollars to work on a shoddy final product. It is important to closely manage your budget throughout the development process and to have a clear walk-away point. You do not want to get caught funneling money into a lost cause, so be realistic when determining whether to stop a doomed project. Budgeting software, such as Intuit’s Quickbooks, can be a helpful resource for tracking project costs.
Wrapping up the Project
Once the coding is complete and your website is up-and-running, it is important to ensure that you have access to all the files, code, and documentation for the website before you end your relationship with the freelancer.
After you test and launch your website, you can start working on monetization. In addition to selling your products, you can earn money through advertising and affiliate marketing. If you are able to join several affiliate programs that provide relevant ads that appeal to your website users, you will start to earn a secondary source of income in addition to your product sales. Joining an affiliate marketing provider, such as Commission Junction, can help you identify appropriate links for your website content.
Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that the revenues will start to stream in when you do launch your site. Your ability to sell products or monetize through advertisements will largely depend on how much traffic you are able to get to your site. That is why the planning and research phase is so important; prior to starting a business or launching a website, you need to thoroughly evaluate if there is enough demand for your business.
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