For many, the dream of working from home as their own boss seems impossible to make a reality. In a sense, I’m pretty fortunate to count myself as one of the people who have managed to do this.
I’m not saying this to rub it in, or make myself seem superior. The truth is that I’m not a technological genius, or a guru. I’ve just picked up the knowledge and skills I needed, piece by piece, until I knew enough to make it work for me.
I don’t see any point in hoarding all of this knowledge to myself though. The majority of my online business is working as a writer, filling other people’s blogs and websites with great content, so it’s in my interest to see as many people setting up their own online businesses.
Let’s head back to 2012.
This was a very bad year for me.
I got kicked out of university, broke up with my girlfriend and ran off to Spain to spend every last penny I had on getting wasted and partying.
When I got back home to the UK I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. I took a job working in a local shop, and spent the next three years working there and hating every single second I spent there.
But I wasn’t idle. I spent all of my free time reading, listening and watching. I was absorbing everything that came my way, trying to piece it together into an escape from a life I didn’t want.
My learning paid off. In 2015 I built my very first website, and worked on it furiously until it started making me enough money to reduce my hours at work. With the new time I had freed up, I set about making a name for myself as a freelance writer, and the result is I Need Ghostwriters.
But back when I first started out, the first barrier to my success was thinking that it was too hard to set up my own website.
I’ve talked to quite a few people, friends, family and former colleagues who all wanted to start their own business, but thought that setting up a website was something only people with years of experience as programmers and giant companies could do.
It makes me laugh. Not out of spite, but because it reminds me of myself. I genuinely believed that setting up my own website would be too expensive, and require too much technical knowledge.
I’d like to dispel those myths right now.
Setting up your own website is CHEAP.
Setting up your own website is EASY.
So how do you actually go about doing it?
How to start a website in five minutes
Choosing a domain
A domain is like real estate. A traditional business might have offices, stores or warehouses. People who want to do business with them would find the address, and drive over.
A domain is the digital equivalent of those. It’s your address in the digital world. Ineedghostwriters.com is a domain.
Deciding on your domain is fairly simple. You pick a name, and check if it’s available. If it is, then you buy it. Depending on who you buy the domain from, the cost will vary.
I bought my domain (and everything else, we’ll get to that soon) through Bluehost, so it was actually free for the first year.
Settling on a domain name itself can be quite tricky if you don’t actually know what kind of business you’re going to settle on. There’s a million different ideas for businesses out there, so just look around and you’ll find plenty of inspiration.
Once you’ve got that part figured out, try to choose a domain that reflects your business. I mostly work as a writer for hire, so the name “I Need Ghostwriters” seemed pretty good. It reflects what I do, and it’s exactly the sort of thing somebody who would be looking for a ghostwriter would be asking.
Making a domain memorable is actually pretty simple. Stick to a domain that’s three words at most, don’t use numbers or words with multiple variations.
The ‘4’ could be ‘for’, and nobody will know which you mean unless they see it written down. They’re also not particularly likely to remember which it is later. Similarly, a word like ‘your’ can be spelt in a number of different ways without sounding different, and a lot of people can’t tell the difference between them reliably. It’s also too long, and doesn’t really reflect where the business operates. This would be a terrible domain.
Unlike the first example, there’s nothing ambiguous about this domain. It’s obvious what the business is, the domain is easy to spell and will likely pop up in a google search when somebody wants a plumber in York. This would be an excellent domain to use.
If you’re still unable to decide on a name, check out this free domain name generator:
Checking if the domain you want is available is very simple. Whether you get a free domain through Bluehost or buy one through one of the competitors, you’ll be asked to enter the domain you want. If it’s available, no problem. If it’s already taken, you’ll be given the option to try again and it may give a few suggestions.
Choosing a web hosting package
If this sounds like a random bunch of words to you, you’re not alone. Back when I was first learning about all of this stuff, I had no idea what it was either.
To understand it a little better, let’s go back to our comparison with a traditional brick and mortar business.
If a domain is your business address, the web hosting is like the city the business is built in.
Although you own the domain, it has to be exist somewhere. All of the data takes up space, like the music, images and videos you keep stored on your phone.
Web hosting acts in the same way.
There are dozens of web hosting providers out there you can choose from. I use Bluehost for the free domain, and the ability to add unlimited domains with only one web hosting package if you choose the plus or prime package.
I would recommend always choosing a hosting package that doesn’t cost you more for each domain you want to add. You never know what opportunities you’ll see in the future. I’ve ended up creating dozens of websites for exactly this reason, and my hosting package has saved me a lot of money.
You’ll also get the option to choose a couple of little extra features, such as privacy protection and additional security. I would recommend getting privacy protection at the very least, to stop people from being able to discover where you live and messing around with you.
Once you’ve completed these two steps, you’ve technically got a website. The only problem? There’s nothing on it for people to look at!
You can go in a few different directions at this point.
You can design a website yourself. Unless you’re pretty experienced in this regard, it’s an option that you’re best off avoiding.
The second option is to find somebody else who does know how to design a website, and either beg, persuade or pay them to do it for you. This also has a couple of issues though. You’ll need to find somebody that’s good enough first. After that, the cost of getting them to do it can be extremely high. The final problem is that if you ever need any changes down the line, you’ll have to pay them again.
So what’s the alternative?
There are multiple ways of building a website using templates that you simply fill out with written content. WordPress is perhaps the most common method used to design websites these days. There are an insane number of free themes (layouts) that you can choose from, but they pale in comparison to the capabilities of premium themes.
If you’ve used Bluehost as your web host, then installing wordpress onto your website is very easy, and the ability to do so is built straight into your web hosting dashboard.
Despite the name, premium themes can be pretty cheap. More high end ones have more functionality, security and user friendly designs.
Different themes will suit different businesses. Have a look around and see what you can find. Look at other wordpress based websites for ideas.
The beauty of wordpress is that it’s very easy to completely overhaul the appearance of website in minutes. I Need Ghostwriters has been through about five or six different versions in the last year or so, but each change was a very simple process.
Done all that?
It’s time to fill your website with some content. Now, you can either do that yourself or hire somebody (like me!) to do it for you, depending on how good of a writer you are.
That’s it. You’ve made your first website.
Now go make some MONEY.