Free Tools and Resources to Help Start your Online Business
The internet has an abundance of free or low-cost tools to help build your online business. There isn’t a better time than now when resources have been made available for anyone who looks for it, after all the world-wide web has at least 9.7 billion pages. But where do we begin?
In my previous blog post, I wrote about how I transitioned from a full-time day job to start my small online business. There has been a constant swirl of mental, emotional and financial challenges involved in the first 6 months of my transition, but I believed in this dream. It’s the possibility that keeps me going; not the guarantee. As the quote says,
Life has no limitation except the ones you make. You won’t realize the distance you’ve walked until you take a look around and realize how far you’ve been.
Since I started my journey to the center of the earth, (I meant my online business) I have learned so much and I would not have gone very far if not for the online resources and tools that helped me grow my small business. When I started and up to this day, there are some resources from successful internet marketers that are a constant supply of information and inspiration:
Copy Sean: An authentic and in-depth look behind making money online
Each blog presents a different approach and insight, as reflected by the experience and personality of the internet marketer. I particularly enjoy Trent Dyrsmid and Pat Flynn because of easy access to information via their podcasts. Also, podcasts make my commute more productive when I ship out orders to customers or meet suppliers. As I make my shift from physical products to more passive income streams, their blogs guide me to become a better internet marketer and entrepreneur.
There are a number of other blogs that are similarly informative, but if you are at a stage of starting out, you will be overwhelmed as to how much information you can access online. And sometimes too much information from different authority figures can leave you even more confused than when you first started.
Every successful internet marketer will have a different experience in their entrepreneurial journeys and sometimes what works for one doesn’t work with another. And what works for you may also be different. So pick a small handful of “mentors” and stick with them. Although different online entrepreneurs have different approaches, the basic principles of building an online business remain the same.
When I first started out, frankly I didn’t know where to begin. I had a vision of what I wanted but not quite sure how to get there. I jumped right in, with little research and little knowledge about online marketing. My thought at the time was I have been putting this off for years, now I finally have the time and chance to do it full-time so I’m just going to do it and learn along the way. As Trent Dyrsmid had put it, the best way to succeed in business is to be in business.
So I thought of a name then purchased domain and hosting. My starting point has been a steep learning curve with a lot of twists and turns. Knowing the online tools, resources and lessons learned now, this should have been my ideal first five steps to start my online business:
Choose the kind of online business you are passionate enough to last for many years. Do I want to set up an online store selling physical products? Start a blog? Build niche sites? Sell information products or software? Offer training or consulting services?
- Do some research when you select your domain name. Your domain is your unique internet address in the online world, very much like what a brick-and-mortar store address is in the offline world. Once you have selected what type of online business you want to engage in, do a quick keyword research to help you select a good domain name. Let’s face it, some words are more searched than others. Online keyword research tools such as Google Keyword Tool or Market Samurai help you find which terms or phrases are already getting traffic. You can use this information as you select your domain name.
- Register your domain and find a web host. After selecting your domain, look for a reliable web host. A web host is a company that will “rent” you space on their servers to host your site. It’s like in the offline world, your web host is like your building landlord that rents you office space. Many web hosting companies offer free domain registration that comes with purchase of a hosting package. And it’s also often easier to have both domain and web host from the same company. Examples of web hosting providers where you can also register your domain include companies like Go Daddy, Blue Host, Host Gator and Webhostingpad to name a few.
- Create your website. Now, the heavy lifting begins. I’m kidding. Or was I? Seriously, this took me the biggest amount of time and effort. I had no prior experience about building a website, I have zero coding knowledge and yet, have to do everything on my own. I did not want to hire a company to create and design my site as I wish to replicate this process many times. I’ve also mentioned in my previous post, being my first attempt I wanted to learn as much as I can while seeing how far I can go with low-cost tools and resources. So I learned how to build a site using WordPress themes and plug-ins. Many would say WordPress is easy but unfortunately, I don’t share the same sentiment as a WordPress newbie. It was painful the first time having to make plug-ins work properly with the themes, learning a bit how to modify php, while the whole time pulling my hair and wishing everything was just “drag and drop”. Although learning WordPress is still much, much easier than using programs like Dreamweaver or coding using html. Looking at it now, I studied WordPress learned from it, finished it, succeeded, now I can do it again!
Leverage on the power of the internet. Knowing how much time it took me to build my site, I needed to find more channels to start creating awareness about my store. I shifted my efforts to different social media, which is a great and easy way to help spread the word out. I then set up a Facebook Page, which became my destination URL at the time. Later on, I used my personal Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and then set up a Linkedin Company page to have an increased social media presence. To be successful online, I need to spend a significant amount of time to understand how these social media tools work, be familiar with good practices, as well as research about competitors to see trends and areas of improvement.
A good online tool to track metrics such as website visitors and traffic sources is Google Analytics. It’s a free tool to help you understand which of your pages are popular, where most of your visitors are coming from, what kind of visitors, and how they arrived to your site. In addition, WordPress plug-ins such as Jetpack also gives you site statistics, among many other interesting features.
This five steps are just the beginning. As you might probably know, I have chosen to set up an online store selling physical products. In my next post, I will talk more about my chosen online business and the future direction I wish to take.
Tools and Resources mentioned:
Keyword Research: Google Keyword Tool, Market Samurai
Domain and Hosting: Go Daddy, Blue Host, Host Gator, Webhostingpad
Creating your website: WordPress
Leveraging using Social Media: Facebook Page, Twitter, Linkedin Company Page, Pinterest, Instagram
Tracking: Google Analytics, Jetpack for WordPress
Do you wish to share what tools and resources have helped you start your online business? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.
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