*UPDATED – October 6, 2021.
I launched my first online business back in 1998. I launched my first WordPress site in 2006. In both cases, I did all the work myself. My first business site (I sold “How-To” booklets) was built with a modified template. Before that, I went the blank screen route. I put some text here and there, dropped in a graphic here and there… and then sat back rubbing my chin. That was the hard way to build a site. I spent a fair share of my time staring at blank pages.
Nothing ever looked exactly the way I wanted it to. I had somewhat of an eye for design. The problem was, I barely understood html at the time. I felt like an amateur competing in a world of professionals. The Internet was fairly new (back in 1998) and I didn’t understand how some people seemed to blow right by me in terms of progress. They were already sporting polished looking websites and their sales copy was really convincing.
I used to wonder, “How are these people getting so much accomplished so quickly?” They weren’t just building websites, creating products and writing world class sales letters. They were doing so on a regular basis. Again, it was the late 1990s, but my best efforts couldn’t match theirs by a longshot.
What I didn’t realize was, these individuals were already outsourcing graphics and website design while I was trying to figure out how to do everything myself. Back then, there wasn’t a system like WordPress that made it easier to build and manage a website. There weren’t any plugins and templates to speak of that made things like landing pages and sales copy easier to create.
Everything was basically done by hand more or less.
That was then… this is now. The newbies back then faced different obstacles than the newbies of today.
Today there are more things to do, but on the bright side, there are more tools available that make these tasks easier than ever. Perhaps best of all, there are crowds of freelancers out there who will help you build whatever you need for really reasonable prices.
Back then, you had to buy expensive software programs if you wanted to make graphics yourself. Today, you can go to a site like https://www.canva.com/ or https://shareasimage.com/ (Now known as Get Stencil) to create nice looking graphics quickly and easily.
If you don’t have an eye for design, you can go to https://www.fiverr.com/ and have nice looking graphics created for all your social media profiles very inexpensively. All you have to do is find examples to show the designer what you’re looking for and send them along with your order. Over the years, I met some great freelancers on Fiverr.com that I do business with to this day.
Another option I recently discovered is called EDIT.org.
EDIT.org brings the best of products like Canva, Get Stencil and a few others into a single package. EDIT.org is one of the newer options in the marketplace, but they already have (in my humble opinion), the best collections of quality, predesigned templates out there. The UI (User Interface) is really well done. I was able to create and download my first image in under a minute without referring to a tutorial or help guide. Below is an example of a design I made for a YouTube Channel Graphic.
When I first got started, it took a long time to learn how to create graphics and websites. But here’s the thing, most online entrepreneurs don’t want to go into the website building business. They’re just looking for a professional looking blog or website they can use as their online store or business hub.
Speaking of online stores, if you have a lot of “stuff” to sell, you can create an entire store with all the bells and whistles using http://www.shopify.com/ . They have everything in place already including your credit card processing. You don’t even have to open a PayPal account if you don’t want to. With a service like shopify, you’ll have a whole team behind you that’s on the cutting edge of the online retail space. You can bypass all of the expensive startup costs and web development fees.
No matter what type of business you want to create online, there are tools available to make things easier than ever before.
GETTING OFF TO A FAST START
To get started fast – why not leverage some of the popular, cost-effective tools in the marketplace? Take WordPress for example. Tools like Beaver Builder, GeneratePress, Astra & Kadence (all tools that I’ve personally used) make it easier than ever to build a solid, professional looking website. These tools also provide their users with a number of templates and pre-built design templates to choose from.
In 5 days, you can make more progress than most people will in 5-months. Looking back, I made things harder than they needed to be. I told myself, “It costs too much to hire designers and programmers!” Of course, I never actually priced any of those services myself at the time. That was my mistake when first starting out.
Today we have 10x the number of tools (maybe more) than existed back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
WordPress is perfect example. Even if you don’t know anything about how to setup a WordPress site, there are tons of people out there who can help you setup themes, plugins, landing pages and more.
Unless you’re going to the website development business, you’ll usually burn time, energy and money producing average or below average results on your own. The point is, choose carefully what skill-set you want to personally master. Then, learn how to outsource some of the other tasks. This is the difference between building a business or just creating a job for yourself.
For example, how many people burn untold hours just getting an opt-in form to work properly on their site? How many people go back and forth with tech support – burning hours of time and energy when they could have paid someone to handle the job for them for a nominal fee? I’ll give you a hint… more than a few!
I remember wrestling with one technical issue for a week. It practically consumed my every waking moment. Finally, a programmer talked me through it. I thought, if I ever face this problem again, I’m going to hire someone to do the job. So I asked the guy who helped me, “If I ever come across something like this again, I’d rather pay someone like you to go ahead and fix it for me. How much would you charge?
His answer, “I’d do the job for $50.” If that wasn’t a palm to the forehead moment, I don’t know what is.
I burned an entire week of time and energy trying to accomplish something this person could have accomplished in 30-45 minutes for $50.
BOOTSTRAPPING YOUR WAY FORWARD
I know, I know… you don’t have a lot of money. You can’t afford to just open your wallet and (fill in the blank). Also, some people are natural do-it-yourselfers. That’s fine as long as you recognize that everything involves time, energy and money. We have a finite amount of those things to work with. If you’re getting ready to launch something new, maybe you can buy the WordPress theme, a few premium plugins, and then pay a subcontractor to put everything together? Or, maybe you have five different things on your to-do list to launch your site. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, maybe you can setup the website while you pay someone on www.upwork.com to write sales copy? Just a thought.
Or, maybe you can bring the project to 80% completion by yourself and then have to pay someone on www.upwork.com or www.fiverr.com to complete the remaining 20%? Sometimes our expertise can take use partially through a project, but we need help with some of the details. A friend of mine who ran an organization with offices in Florida and Tennessee used to tell me, “I like to have my fingers in everything but my hands in nothing.”
Instead of focusing upon right or wrong in terms of how you’re going about things – consider a done or not done approach when you’re getting started. Websites are always in a state of change, anyway. Items are added, removed and so forth. Software updates gets released. Nothing happens, though, until you finally launch your project. Don’t become one of those people who are always buying but never selling.
You have to focus on selling, not buying. People will be happy to sell you solutions all day long. Buying new stuff is fine – once you’re already making money.
If you’re 80% happy with the final product, launch it and improve things as you go forward. The truth is, you may never be 100% happy or satisfied. It doesn’t matter what the project is. That goes for books, websites, podcasts, marketing campaigns, social media efforts, etc. Things can always be improved, but you can waste valuable time tweaking this and that into infinity!
EXPERIENCE VS BOOK KNOWLEDGE
If you want to build an online business, I encourage you to get started as soon as you can and don’t be afraid to experiment (unless you’re in a do or die situation). You may find there are certain things about a certain type of business that totally drive you crazy. For example, I would never develop software products.
Why? I’ve sold them in the past and the amount of customer service they require can really be a nightmare. But that’s just me. You may be different.
Reading and talking about a certain type of online business and actually doing it are worlds apart. That’s why I encourage people to get started as soon as they can. What you learn from hands on experience will be invaluable. One final piece of advice – achieving just about anything worthwhile usually takes a combination of time, effort, and patience. Many people want to give up if they don’t succeed quickly. Overnight success is great, but if it doesn’t play out that way in your business – don’t give up. Keep moving forward!