Online Business Resources 101
What you need to start your online business.
Below are some of the tools and resources I personally use to build and grow my business. They are listed in the order you would need them. Click on the “+” mark to read each section.
Using the right online business model is one of the most important steps but many skip this step because they are eager to get started or simply because they are not aware of the options. That is why many end up struggling for a long time before they see any tangible results.
CLICK HERE to watch this free training on how to make the internet work for you!
Once you have your online business model sorted out, you will need to register a few domain names even if you have no plans to build your personal website or blog.
You can purchase domain names and have them point to whatever channel you decide to use to run your business. This could be a social media page, a blogger page, a paid service landing page like LeadPages or for your affiliate links of the companies you plan to represent.
I have used all the companies listed above for my sites and client sites and can say they all have advantages and disadvantages. Some companies have advanced registration and control features but a limit on how many sites you can host with each plan, whereas others allow you to host multiple sites on the same account. Check the hosting plans and pick one that works for you and your business model.
Based on my growing business needs, I needed an easier, faster, more secure and managed hosting service that automatically creates a back up for my site. I also needed a service that allowed me to create a staging site where I do site updates and test them before I push the updates to the live site and that is why I recently moved my hosting to WPengine. WPengine specializes in WordPress hosting and all my sites are in WordPress. So they were a perfect fit for my needs.
However, unlike other hosting plans, they do not offer email hosting mostly for security issues as most WordPress viruses tend to target the email sending feature on sites, sending spam from your domain as if it was coming from your company.
WPengine is more expensive than other hosting companies but I love the service, the speed and the fact that they keep an eye on my sites in case they are compromised or infected with a bug or virus.
For my name registrations and email hosting I still use Netfirms, I have been their client for over 10 years and very happy with the dashboard features and their customer support.
In short, when it comes to domain registration and web hosting, most of the big names are very comparable.
Just pick one and get started! You can always changing hosting plans in the future as your business grows.
When you are ready to build your online business website, you will find that a self hosted WordPress site is one of the best options. You have the ease of working with WordPress and the flexibility to use any theme and plugins you want.
Having the right theme will make a huge difference and I highly recommend you go for a premium paid theme. The price will be worth every penny.
ThemeForest has been my go to resource for WordPress Themes. They are constantly expanding their library including a wide selection of WordPress responsive themes, and I do find the commenting and rating feature very helpful. You can preview the theme in action and read all the comments that previous buyers had to say.
This website is currently using the AVADA Theme which is very powerful, responsive and very easy to use.
If you plan to build lots of landing pages and create an online training program with modules etc. or a community site, you will want to get OptimizePress. I use OptimizePress for my landing pages and highly recommend you either get the theme or the plugin which allows you to add lead capture pages to your website, no matter what WordPress them you end up choosing.
Designing highly effective and converting lead capture pages/squeeze pages and sales pages are key to grow your mailing list and boost sales.
By far one of the fastest and easiest ways to do this is to use a paid service like LeadPages. With LeadPages, you have a large selection of pre-built landing pages that you can customize to fit your needs. Plus you have built in analytics so you can see how your pages are performing and easily use split testing.
You can use custom domains and point them to LeadPages directly or you can use the LeadPages plugin and add the pages to your current website. This makes the pages appear as if they are part of your personal website even though they are hosted elsewhere. Leadpages also load much faster than some websites do. The page load speed time will have an impact on the user experience. If the page takes too long to load the visitors will leave before they even check out what you have to offer.
The service is worth every dollar especially if you are not very technical and don’t want to spend days trying to learn how to build one using themes and plugins.
This is a great option as you can do all the pages yourself and don’t need to rely on any web designer or web programmer. Plus they are constantly adding new templates you can use and you get to see which designs are converting better.
There are also several themes and plugins on the market for landing pages, however after a thorough search I highly recommend either OptimizePress or InstaBuilder. If I had to choose just one, I would go for OptimizePress.
OptimizePress comes as a full theme or plugin, meaning you can use it as your main website theme or you can use another theme and choose to have select pages controlled by OptimizePress. I also like the fact that you can have custom CSS and layout options for each page and not be tied by the site-wide coding. This is great for landing pages when you want to experiment with different styles, layouts and color options to see which converts better.
If you are a newbie and want to get started now, go for LeadPages!
To grow your business you will need to build a relationship with your clients and prospects. One of the best ways to do this is by emailing them on a regular basis and keeping them up-to-date on what is going on in the industry and what promotional offers you have for them.
When it comes to the home-based online businesses, you will need a provider that can can work on a small budget when you are starting and grow with you as you grow your business. Some of the names in this space include MailChimp, Constant Contact and AWeber. I have tried them all for client projects and would recommend all three for ease of use.
However for my personal business, I chose AWeber AWeber is a big player in the field and is trusted by over 120,000+ businesses to deliver the best results for any size email marketing campaign. AWeber is compatible with WordPress and other CMS on the market, which makes it very easy and quick to integrate.
As you establish and grow your business, you will need to get your own unique brand. In addition to the company name, you will need a distinct logo and marketing material that sets you apart.
There are many resources to get help in this area and you don’t need to spend your own precious time figuring it out. Outsourcing tasks like writing, design and production work is very easy when you use sites like oDesk.com, eLance.com, Freelancer.com and fiver.com.
You will find a lot of skilled workers for very reasonable rates, sometimes as low as $5/hour. However when it comes to your logo, you don’t want to go that route.
Your Logo will become your legal mark and you want to make sure it is unique, does not infringe on other design copyrights and that the designer has released the copyright over to you. That is why for logos I highly recommend you use a service like 99Design. With 99Design you can put on a competition for a logo and you will receive multiple design options to choose from. Depending on how much you bid, you can get as many as 50 to over 250 designs to choose from… all custom made for you and you only pay for the one you end up buying!
In addition, 99Design has all the legal paperwork in place allowing the designer to sign over the legal copyright of the design to you. This is a very important step as you don’t want the designer coming back a few years down the line and saying this is their work and you have no right to use it. Plus if in the future any company approaches you and says that your logo looks like theirs, you can show them the legal release forms and inform them who the designer was so they can follow up with them.
Once you have your logo, you can also get most of your marketing material completed on 99Design as well, including your website, business cards, brochures, banner ads etc..
Another service I have used this year is GraphicStock.com. For a $99/year membership you get access to unlimited downloads of stock images and vector graphics. I use it mostly for vector graphics as they have a decent selection. Usually vector graphics are at least $5-$20 each on other sites so if you only download 10 graphics, the membership would have paid for itself.
The same company also offers Royalty Free videos at VideoBlocks.com. If you are creating videos for your marketing, you will need the occasional footage to enhance them. Video footage can be very pricy usually over $50 at least on the typical royalty free sites, but at videoblocks.com, you are basically getting unlimited downloads for the price of one video!
If however you have the budget and time to search for a wider selection and looking for something unique, then you might want to check out inmagine.com. Founded in 2000, INMAGINE has grown to be the leading supplier and distributor of Rights-Managed & Royalty-Free digital stock photography in the world. With more than 10 million Royalty-Free stock images from over 100 best-selling collections, they hold the most complete list of Royalty-Free publishers in the market today.
When you are starting out and have a limited budget, you might be tempted to just pick images from google and other search engine sites to use on your blog, presentations and other marketing materials.
Unless you a blog that is for personal use and you are using the image in an editorial format to report on a topic, all images used in your business need to have the proper licensing that allows you to use them for commercial purposes.
Luckily for you there are now a lot of resources online that allow you to do just that. Search for images that fall under “Public Domain” or “Creative Commons”. In many cases the photographer might require some sort of attribution and link to their public profile but there are many new sites that allow you to get images for free with no limitations on how you use them no attributions are required.
Some of these sites include:
Also bookmark this blog post from OptimizePress as it has great list of many sites that you can use for free images.
Quick Start Guide Summary
- Decide what you want: Do you want an online job or online business. If you want a job, apply for jobs, if you want a business then start educating yourself on the right business models.
- Pick a business model that does not require product creation, storage, shipping and handling i.e. digital or information products. Once you know what you are doing, you can expand to other options
- Use services like LeadPages to get your lead capture pages up asap. This is the one area most businesses struggle with and waste a lot of time trying to figure out how to do it.
- Pick a good email marketing provider to start building and growing your list (Your email list is your most important business asset. Start building your list as soon as possible)
- Outsource, outsource, outsource! Don’t waste precious time doing this yourself when you can get someone who is far more skilled and talented to do it for a very low hourly rate on sites like 99Design, upwork.com and fiverr.com
- Just get started! If you wait, the time will pass anyway.
If you need any help getting started, contact me. I am here to help!