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Practical Guide to Starting Your Dream Business

Starting Your Side Hustle, Pt. 3: Creating Your Website

You've set up the basics of your business — now it's time to get out there.

By Andrea Cannavina

In Part I of this guide, I covered the best way I could devise to set up your side hustle, including getting the right domain, your email and telephone in place, and a little bit about building your brand through the creation of a logo and business stationery.

In the second installment, I spoke of ways to control the day-to-day flow of information, data and documents, including how to process email and keeping your tasks and notes neatly contained a la Bullet Journal.

So, now that we have your business set up and you have the necessary tools to keep you organized enough to run it — we need to let the world know that you and your business exist. After all, your business card can’t do all the heavy lifting!

The best way to generate interest in your business is by putting together a credible web presence and posting interesting and valuable content.

What Do I Mean by “Credible Web Presence”?

A complete and credible web presence consists of your website, naturally, but it also encompasses all the places “you” can be found on the web, including social media platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram, online directories and, of course, Google. While your website gives your business legitimacy, it is through the major social platforms that customers will likely find you and your website.

Start with the domain. If you haven’t already secured your domain, hop over to Part 1 of the guide and follow the directions posted there. For my thoughts on choosing an appropriate name, see my article “Your New Website ‘Do’ List: Cover the Basics.” Once you have the right domain, you will need to build a professional-looking, fast-loading, properly rendering, thoughtfully crafted website. But, since that will take at least a few months (and time is precious), you can get a head start by creating your online presence with social media.

Let social media be your first contact. Begin creating your web presence by opening a LinkedIn account and filling out your profile page. Once you have done that, go in and administratively forward your website address to your LinkedIn profile page. If you followed my directions in the first part of the guide, this is quite easy. Simply log into your Whois account and scroll down until you see the words Domain Forwarding. Click on Manage Domain Forwarding and in the Destination URL copy and paste the LinkedIn URL that LinkedIn provides for your unique profile page. Hit save.

Now when anyone lands on your website, it will automatically forward that visitor to your LinkedIn profile page instead of an “under construction” message. (Note: It may take a few hours for the forwarder to populate over the web, so if it doesn’t happen instantly, that doesn’t mean it’s not working.)

On your LinkedIn profile, be sure to fill in the information most important to those looking for your website and, of course, add all the ways people can contact you. People should be easily able to navigate to Twitter, Instagram and any other social media you plan to use on behalf of your side hustle directly from your LinkedIn page.

Google My Business (GMB). Some marketers say that today Google is your homepage because once you claim your business, you can add a lot of valuable information that customers look for, including FAQs and reviews. That said, I could write an entire article just on GMB! Rather than reinvent the wheel here, here’s a link to a great article that explains why it is so important to keep this up to date.

Your business website. Finally, we have arrived at the actual creation of your website. Some people see a TV commercial and believe they have all the skills necessary to create a credible website in one night. But that’s TV and not reality. Sure, you can go with a pre-built template and fill in a few words — but when you go with a templated site, you are hobbled in your ability to properly configure your site for optimal search engine optimization and what I call “SEO juju.” So, investigate your options thoroughly — you know the old saying about things that sound too good to be true.

Where Do You Start in Creating a Website?

Your website has to appeal to two very different audiences. First, it must speak to the humans looking for a service, product or person to solve their problem. Second, it has to attract the bots that are going to get the site listed high enough in Google so the human searchers know you exist.

This means your website needs clean, fast-loading code and unique content to attract the bots, along with a great story and a little structure so the humans who ultimately land on your site can easily connect with you.

For the record, in the 18 years I’ve been doing what I do, I have not once met a single human who possesses all three skills necessary to build a credible website: content, design and code. Those who understand content usually don’t design (well); designers may be able to code (a little) and write (a little) but not consistently or reliably; and those who code, well … they don’t do much else. So, while you certainly can do it yourself on the content side, I highly recommend leaving design and coding to a professional. Also, just because you write for a living as a lawyer does not mean you will be able to create the kind of content necessary for your website. Unless you are willing to invest time researching how to create credible website content, you will be better off hiring a professional.

No matter who you hire, however, you need to be the driver of process. For example, if you created a logo for your business, you already have colors and fonts and have thought about the general look, feel and personality of your business. Make sure your designer understands your thinking and uses your logo as the jumping-off point for your website design (and other collateral marketing materials). For content, this means you need to know what you are doing in your business — and why. And you need to be able to articulate that mission or vision statement clearly to your writer and designer so they can help you create a compelling story for your site.

Creating a website really is similar to writing a story — the story of your business. You want that story to show your business’s strengths, identify your expertise and highlight you as the professional you are, while at the same time creating a connection with visitors and leading them on a path toward … something. For example, you might want visitors to:

  • Click on your free download.
  • Sign up for your newsletter.
  • Use a click-to-call button or web chat option.

If your website visitors aren’t doing something active when they visit, your site may be working technically (you’re getting visitors), but it still isn’t working for your business. You need to get your visitors to actively do something to move them closer to hiring you or further validating your expertise and product.

Give Away the Best You’ve Got

To be successful with any marketing, you must do two things: get and give. You need to get attention for your services or products by giving away something — your best possible content. To be successful online you also need to get and give. But in the online world, a big goal is to secure third-party links. This is because the bots score the number and quality of third-party links in and out of a site very high on the yum yum scale of SEO juju. So you want as many high-quality inbound links as you possibly can attract. How? With your best possible content.

For example, my best possible content is the productivity system I created and gave you in Part 2 of this guide. I have been writing about it and giving it away for over a decade. As such, I have numerous links back and forth to different websites — including here at Attorney at Work. This is the type of linking you want to have for your site and the content you create for it.

When you create valuable content and give it away for free, two things happen. The bots are attracted to your unique content and the people you are trying to attract are given the opportunity to see if you can help them.

In fact, even if all anyone ever does is download and read your freebie, you know your website is working. That another person may be helped because you gave away something of value? That part is priceless — at least to people like me!

That said, providing valuable content further validates your expertise to the human seeking help. Done correctly, it deepens their connection to you and moves them down the path toward purchasing your product or hiring you. Remember the path? Ideally, you start visitors at the entrance with what you intend for your website (to credibly tell your story and move them to do something, or click something), then continue on to what you intend for your downloadable (to give away your best content, along with your contact information). Then, you lead them to, for example, accept an offer to sign up for a free consultation or free trial and, ultimately, hire you.

In the end, when you mix clean code, good design and valuable content, you create the recipe for your side hustle success: securing clients or customers through your website.

Read the rest of the “Starting Your Side Hustle” series:

“Part 1: Three Essentials for $300”

“Part 2: Three Ways to Control the Flow”

Starting a new law firm? You might like:

“What Does It Really Cost to Start a Law Firm” (free download)

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Andrea Cannavina Andrea Cannavina

Andrea Cannavina is a personal productivity coach, LegalTypist CEO and Director of the Virtual Bar Association. She specializes in helping stressed-out professionals run organized and efficient offices. From clearing the clutter to working the web, Andrea understands the realities of running a business in the digitally driven world.  She is a trusted resource and ally to attorneys looking for help upgrading their office processes and the products they use to get work done.

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