Starting a Business After 50 (Part 4): Setting Up Your Website
Talking with the other members of our community, I am amazed by how many good ideas people have for businesses. Even more surprising is how few of these ideas ever become reality.
It’s not that older adults are lacking energy or drive. Far from it! There are plenty of reasons to believe that older entrepreneurs actually have an advantage over their younger counterparts. Instead, it seems like we are lacking positive role-models and the tools we need to get started.
Now, I would like to turn to some of the practical things that go into setting up a company, starting with the process of setting up a website.
Setting Up a Website Isn’t What it Used to Be
I remember setting up my first company website 15 years ago. After leaving my corporate job I set out to start my first company, selling Indian textiles. I was passionate about my idea and I knew that having an online presence would set me apart from the pack. So, I found a web developer and, after months of work and thousands of dollars (I won’t scare you with the exact numbers), my shiny new website was ready.
I still have nightmares about having to pay my developer for every minor change to the site. Even adding a simple page of text was a battle. This is not a criticism of the developer that I was working with. It was simply how things were in the early days of the Internet.
Fast-forward to 2015 and it is completely possible to set up a professional website in just a few minutes – at practically no cost. Obviously the details will depend on your exact needs, but, the bottom line is that setting up a website is now one of the easiest parts of establishing your new business.
Unfortunately, many people still believe that they need an expensive custom website to be taken seriously. This is especially true for older entrepreneurs, who have a tendency to overestimate the complexity of setting up a website and tend to turn to professionals too quickly.
In this article, I’ll walk through the process of setting up a professional website, from beginning to end. I hope that you find it useful as you start your first business after 50.
In order to set up your website, you will need:
- A website domain – the address that people type in to go to your website
- A hosting account – the place where all the files for your website are stored
- A content management system – a way of creating pages and posting content
Let’s go through each of these one at a time…
Step 1: Choosing Your Website Domain
Your website “domain” is the address of your website on the internet. For example, microsoft.com and apple.com are the domain names for these iconic companies.
The truth is that purchasing a domain is actually the easy part. There are plenty of places to register your domain, which typically costs $3-5 for your first year, including GoDaddy, Register.com and others. As I will discuss more in the hosting section of this article, it is usually easiest to register your domain with the company that will also host your website. For this reason, I prefer to use BlueHost from beginning to end. They just make the process easy.
As I mentioned before, registering your domain is easy. The hard part of the process is deciding what domain name to register. Basically, you want to make sure that you pick a domain that is:
- Easy to spell
- Descriptive of your business
- Memorable and clear
One of the biggest complaints that entrepreneurs of all ages have, when setting up their website, is that all the “good” domains are gone. Don’t be afraid to add a descriptive word on to your brand name, if the domain that you want is taken. It’s better to have a slightly longer domain that is clear than a short, but, original name.
For example, let’s imagine that you want to sell training videos that teach people how to paint. If learntopaint.com is already taken, you would be better off registering learntopaintonline.com than to register learn-2-paint.com. The first option is longer, but, it is also easier to remember and doesn’t cause confusion with the “2” vs. “to” in the second option.
Once you have found a domain name that you think will work for your website, do a quick test. Tell your domain name to a couple of friends. Wait a minute. Then, ask them to go to the website address. If they can remember it, type it in, and not get confused with the spelling, you’re on the right track.
Step 2: Hosting Your Website
In order for you to set up your website, you first need to decide where it will “live.” When someone goes to your website, there needs to be a server that sends the content from your website to their computer. In other words, you need to set up hosting.
This is another area that first-time entrepreneurs can spend way more money than they need to. In the beginning, you probably won’t be getting a lot of traffic to your website. So, setting up a “dedicated server” or “VPS” is almost certainly a waste of money. Most developers are honest, but, there are a few out there that will try to push you into services that you don’t need, so, keep your eyes open for trouble.
Instead, in the beginning, I would take advantage of one of the “shared hosting” options out there. This basically means that your content will be on the same server as other companies. This won’t make a difference to your customers – but, it will make a big difference to your wallet.
Some of the most popular companies for shared hosting include GoDaddy, BlueHost, and DreamHost. As of the writing of this article, all three companies offer shared hosting for less than $10 a month. BlueHost and GoDaddy have options starting at under $5 per month.
The great thing about all of these companies is that they also offer domain registration services. This means that you can register your domain with them and quickly connect it to a hosting account.
Once again, my personal favorite is BlueHost as they make the process super easy – especially when it comes to WordPress, which we will talk about next.
Step 3: Setting Up Your Website
So, you have your domain and you have chosen your hosting provider. What next? Do you need to hire a developer to build you a shiny new website? Well, probably not.
Unless your website IS your product – for example, you are building an online dating site or casino – you are almost certainly better off going with a service like WordPress. No matter what that “friend-of-a-friend” tells you, you do not need to spend $100s or $1000s to set up your website. Use WordPress instead.
So, what exactly is WordPress? WordPress is a free content management system (CMS) that you can use to build your website. In other words, it’s a tool that helps you to manage your website’s pages and content and display them in a visually appealing way for your customers. Best of all, it’s free.
If you wanted to, you could go to wordpress.org, download the files and have a developer install WordPress on your blog. I’ve done this before and it typically costs $25 – 50 to hire someone on Elance to help you. The good news is that many hosting companies have an automated process for installing WordPress on your site, so, you don’t even need to hire someone to help.
To give you an idea of just how easy this is to do with BlueHost, take a look at the following 2-minute video. They also have a customer support team to help you if you get stuck.
So, to summarize the process so far…
If you use a company like BlueHost, you can register your website, set up hosting and install WordPress all in one place. The cost to set up all three pieces will likely be less than $10 a month and, once everything is up and running, you will have complete control over how your site looks and what content to add to it.
Step 4: Making Your Website Yours
One of the most powerful things about WordPress is that it has hundreds of themes (visual styles) and plugins (additional functionality) that can be added with a few clicks of your mouse.
If you don’t want to stick with the default themes that come with WordPress, you can download a new one and customize it. Personally, I love ThemeForest, which has numerous themes to choose from. After you upload your new theme, you will be ready to start adding content. To give you an idea of just how easy it is to install a new WordPress theme, check out this video.
There are other, slightly more advanced, topics to consider when setting up your website – but, even these are simpler than the “experts” would like us to believe.
For example, you may have heard that SEO (search engine optimization) is important for making sure that you appear in Google so that people can find your site. Once again, this is an area that entrepreneurs of all ages are tricked into spending $1000’s to solve. While paying someone to help with your SEO may make sense when your company is growing, in the beginning, it is usually a waste of money. Instead, read this article on the 4 things that every older entrepreneur should know about SEO.
Starting a business in your 50s or 60s can be one of the most profitable decisions that you ever make. I hope that this article, and the other articles in this series, help you to build your dream business and find the freedom that you deserve.
Have you recently set up a website for your business? What was your experience? What advice would you give to the other members of our community who may be setting up their website for the first time? Please join the conversation.