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This is Day 13 of 31 Days to Start a Freelancing Business (or Make Yours a Better One). If you want to catch up, click here to read Day 1.
Before you launch your freelancing business, there’s a critical task you need to complete: establishing your presence on the Internet by setting up your professional website.
Why Do I Need a Professional Website
Even if your target clients are offline businesses, you should still have a professional website. First of all, your prospective clients are sure to Google your name when they scope you out. What will they see when they do this? Hopefully, they’ll find a website that’s professional, easy to navigate and convince them that you’re the person to hire. But more on that later.
Another reason you should have a professional website is because it will work for you, like a brochure, resume or business card that’s available 24/7 – as long as your website is up and running, of course. In fact, many freelancers – myself included – don’t even use business cards or other printed marketing materials. Our professional website provide enough information to help prospects decide whether or not to contact us for possible work.
First, Choose A Domain Name
The domain name is your website’s URL or web address. For example, “adampalmer.me/freelancer” is the domain name of this site you’re reading right now.
Which domain name should you choose? I use my name, Alexis Rodrigo, for my professional website’s domain name. That’s because, to this day, I am unable to find a business name I’m really happy with.
If you have a business name, of course, you should use that as your professional website’s domain name.
But whether or not you have a domain name, it’s still a good idea for you to register your own name. This is just to make sure you own that particular piece of real estate on the web, and are in control of it. You don’t want prospects going to yourname.com and finding something totally inappropriate – even if you’re not the owner of that site, but just happen to have the same name.
Other businesses go as far as to register every domain name with different extensions, such as yourname.com, yourname.net, yourname.info, yourname. org. Overkill? I think so, but you may feel differently. If you can afford it, go ahead and register all these variations to your domain name. It will reduce the chances any possible confusion.
Speaking of which.. should you use .com, .org., . net or something else? If you’re targeting a particular geographical location, then you’ll do better in the search engines by registering a country-specific domain name. For example, if I wanted to rank well among Google users who are in Ontario, I should have registered myname.ca.
Otherwise, .com is the better choice, because it’s familiar with most Internet users and therefore easier to remember. I hear it also tends to rank better in the search engines. (Please note, I’m not an SEO expert and this is just hearsay ;-))
How Do You Register a Domain Name?
You can register a domain name either through your web host, or through a domain name registrar. I’ve done it both ways, depending. I used to register through my web host, simply because it’s simpler and I’m all for simple and easy.
However, lately, I’ve also been using GoDaddy.com. It’s been highly recommended by Internet marketers whom I trust. I find their interface to be easy to use. For example, it’s a cinch to redirect URLs – but you probably don’t need to know about that right now.
Which Web Host Should I Use?
Once you’ve registered your domain name, it’s time to sign up for web hosting (or vice versa, if you’ve decided to register your domain name through your web host).
You want a web host that’s reliable, affordable and provides a CPanel – which is a way for you to manage your site. Since I highly recommend that you build your website using WordPress, a CPanel is essential. Website hosts with site builders that don’t use CPanels won’t allow you to create a WordPress site.
It’s all very techie and I’m not good at explaining, but for now, just take my word for it. For all it’s worth, I personally use Bluehost and ReliableWebs. Bluehost has its share of ups and downs, but my Bluehost sites are up most of the time (at least, as far as I know).
ReliableWebs is slightly more expensive, but it can be very affordable if you only plan to have one site, anyway. You can do it for only $5 per month at ReliableWebs. Plus, ReliableWebs will install your WordPress site for you. It’s super easy to do anyway, but if you’re nervous about it, you can have them do it for you for free.
UPDATE: I forgot to renew hosting for one of my sites, which of course, caused it to disappear. I emailed Reliable Webs right away, at 8 pm on a Sunday evening, and my site was back up and running in under one hour.
I’ve experienced a similar problem with Bluehost (wherein I caused my own site to disappear due to my own error), and while the Bluehost support person told me how to get my site back up, that was the extent of support I received. I had to hire a virtual assistant to rebuild my site, which took a couple of days. In contrast, Reliable Webs did everything for me. I now plan to move more of my sites away from Bluehost to Reliable Webs.
Important: If you have a number of sites, it’s a good idea to spread them over several hosts, so that you don’t have all your eggs in one basket.
You should also ask your friends about the hosting they use.
That’s it for today. Two very easy tasks and, probably the first time ever in the last 13 days when you’ve had to spend a dime on your business.
Let me know how you’re doing by posting a comment below.
photo credit: manfrys