In my networking adventures and other travels in the world of small business, I come across quite a few people who don’t have a website. To be honest, I’m a bit shocked when this happens. Unless you’ve got a constant set of clients, with new ones on the horizon to fill in any gaps if you lose one, then you’ll want to be findable.
When you think about getting the roof done, or finding a cleaner, or sourcing flowers for an event, or buying a product, where do you look?
Even if you look for a tradesperson on a Yellow Pages style website, I bet you like to have a URL to click through to, to look at their details. Right?
If you don’t have a website, even a single page with your name / company name and information about yourself, then what will people find when they search for you?
How do people search for companies, products or services?
People come to my website in one of four ways:
- They search for my name
- They search for my company name
- They search for something that I do
- They search for the answer to a question (“is it en route or on route?” “How do I repeat the header row of a Word document on every page?”)
This is what would happen if I didn’t have a website:
- If they search for my name, they’ll find my Twitter or Facebook feed, or photos of me socially, or mention of me on forums. All fine, but they’d probably rather find either my Facebook or my company information in one place
- If they search for my company name, they will find my Facebook or Twitter feed, however, those mention and feed back to my website, as they’re not enough in themselves to maintain interest and get me business
- If they search for something that I do, they’ll find someone else’s website and if they’re looking for someone to do that work, they’ll hire that someone else
- If they search for an answer to a question, someone else will answer it, and if they’re looking for someone to work for them, they’ll hire that someone else
This is what happens because I have a website:
- If they search for my name, they’ll find my website and my other feeds, which all link together. They’ll find out what I do and if they want to talk about work, they can contact me
- If they search for my company name, they’ll find my website, find out what I do, and possibly hire me, getting in touch via my contact form
- If they search for something that I do, they’ll find my website, find out that I do that, find references from people who I’ve done that for before, and possibly hire me – getting in touch via my contact form
- If they search for an answer to a question, if I can answer it, they’ll find out that I know what I’m talking about, and note me for later or sign up to receive emails when I post, and might hire me in time, or ask me a question or engage with my blog
The bare minimum
As a bare minimum, you should have a page somewhere that includes …
- Your name
- Your company name (if it’s different)
- A list of your services or products – make sure that you mention all of the forms of the things you do on that page (so I would include transcriber, transcription services, editor, editing, etc.)
- References from satisfied customers
- A way to get in touch with you – a contact form, a phone number (most people like to see this), an email address
- Professionally produced text – by which I really mean have someone check it for typos and spelling mistakes. Those will seriously undermine your reputation and send people running from your services – whatever they are
It’s a good idea to have your company name in the url for your website, but personally I don’t hold it against small companies if they have the word blogspot or wordpress in their URL – you don’t need to pay extra to have that if you don’t want to.
You can use a Facebook page as your company web page, however I would hesitate to ONLY use something that changes so often and is as unpredictable as Facebook. A company Facebook page is better than nothing, however!
You can add these extras if you want and if they add value. If you find that you’re getting a steady stream of enquiries via your simple website, and they turn into paying customers, then only add these items if you can see a clear value in doing so, rather than doing it out of vanity or because someone’s persuaded you to buy their service.
- A URL that’s just your company name – you will have to pay for this, probably renewing annually
- A professionally designed website – there are so many “themes” on offer that look as good as professional websites.
- A blog – this is GREAT for driving people to your website and setting you up as an expert in your field. If you only do one of these things, write a simple blog
- Someone to write web text and blog posts for you
- Search Engine Optimisation – a professional can ensure that you’re showing up in the search engines etc. But shop around – this can be expensive and there are lots of things you can do to SEO your site on your own (just have a little search engine search and see what you can find)
- A shopping cart and catalogue – very useful if you’re producing craft items or any tangibles – but you can sign up to services like Etsy and eBay which will do this for you
The big caveat
It’s really important to have a web presence so that people can find you.
It’s really important to be super-vigilant, because unscrupulous companies prey on small businesses’ lack of expertise in this area.
- Always ask around fellow small business owners or someone whose website you admire and see who they use
- If someone offers to make you top of the search engine results, ask what other sites they’ve worked on (always ask for references anyway) and do a search for yourself
- If someone offers to revolutionise your website and make you a millionaire overnight, they’re probably over-selling. Ask for references
- If someone offers to build your website make sure – no, MAKE SURE – that you will be able to edit and update the text and pictures on that website whenever you want to. Never hand over the full ownership of your site to another person such that you can’t update it yourself.
If you haven’t got a website, and you haven’t got a steady stream of new and regular customers giving you a good income stream, I really do suggest that you get a website!
Read more here about growing your business, have a look at my advice on blogging and social media, read about how to set up a WordPress blog and website (starting with this post) and read about my own business journey in my book, Going It Alone At 40.
WordPress 2 – adding pages to create a website
January 13, 2014 at 11:20 am
Your website needs to indicate (somehow) that you are still an active company, and willing to take work. Having a blog to update is a great way to produce content, but should remain professional enough to allow potential customers to have confidence in you to perform professionally. The cat videos you share to your Facebook friends may be cute and adorable, but if you’re not a vet, does it project the right image to your customers?
Some people add headshot photos to their site – some don’t. I think it depends at your comfort levels and what you believe a photo will add.
I would recommend setting up a specific email address for your website – I have one for my book blog, which diverts to my main mailbox and helps reduce spam
Liz at Libro
January 13, 2014 at 11:23 am
Yes, I agree; on the headshot point, I have one picture of myself on this one, in the About me section, although I do use lots of other images. I have often been told that it’s best to do this. I only use a couple of photos across all social media so people know it’s me (the vet recognised me from my Twtter stream recently, which was a bit odd).
I have posted on maintaining your online reputation before, which covers the cat videos point in more detail: https://libroediting.com/2013/09/02/online-reputation/
January 13, 2014 at 2:44 pm
Headshots can increase client confidence.
A big publisher just asked me to confirm that *I* would be the one doing the editing. They said that when they contract an editor, they want that editor, not their partner or apprentice — and they had been disappointed in the past when work was subcontracted without their knowledge.
The headshot seems to give them an added level of assurance that they are hiring a person and will be getting the qualities that person is known for.
Always interesting to put oneself in the clients’ shoes.
Like you, I try to use similar photos across all online profiles, so people know they’ve found the right person.
Pick the right shot: I look about 14 in one of the professional photos I taken for my site. It’s a quality shot, and I look pleasant, but I don’t think 14 year olds get hired for their expertise. Editing is one field in which aging is an advantage, IMHO.
Liz at Libro
January 13, 2014 at 2:57 pm
Yes, I have to be careful about that one, too! I’m shocked that people sub-contract without telling the client – I would never, ever do that! One to add to my about me and terms and conditions pages!
January 13, 2014 at 2:30 pm
A website is the contemporary business card, I agree. You need to be findable online, and you have set out criteria in this post that anyone can meet. So I will just share this anecdote:
Speaking to an editor last week who is a veteran — a leader among editors, an editing instructor — she said it’s time she got a website.
“Really?” I asked. “Even though you have a large stable of steady clients and a reputation that recruits on its own, you think you need a website?”
“Yes, because I think it is a sign of professionalism. And when old clients or new referrals try to look me up, right now they can’t find me.”
As you say in this post: with a website, old clients can confirm that you are a good fit for their next project, new clients can confirm the referral info they got, and — if you follow my advice — confirm that your fee fits their budget. http://blog.catchthesun.net/2013/09/should-you-post-rates-on-your-website/
Liz at Libro
January 13, 2014 at 2:56 pm
Yes, indeed, I always prefer to be honest and open, so my website explains all about me, what I do, my basic fee structure and my terms and conditions – it’s very handy to be able to point prospective clients to that one. So it’s a time saver for me, too, so I can just link to something rather than tell people over and over again!