This article is the first in this Series. Links to all published articles in this Series will be posted here and at the end of each article. This article is designed for Beginners.
I have written elsewhere about the importance of integrating several important elements to create a great business web site. However you obviously can’t plan your web site without certain other elements in place. Remember: a web site is a marketing tool (even if you have a personal site or “blog-for-a-cause”).
This Planning Series lays the foundation for the steps that precede the development of your web site. This Series lays out the steps you must have in place first, concluding with a strategic plan for building your web site.
I start at the very beginning, and assume you are just beginning. If you are farther along in your business development, just identify the stage most applicable to you and move on from there.
As with most of my Intro or “101” articles, I begin with a look at the “big picture” — the 30,000-foot view. Here you can see which steps are required and their sequence.
In future articles in this Series, I dissect and detail the specifics of each step. Let’s get started!
The Big Picture
Here are the major phases of the journey to building a great web site, whatever your site goals may be. They are presented here in the most logical order. As I said above in the introduction, if you are already somewhere in the Planning process, just identify the phase that most closely represents your current stage, and go from there. However, it would certainly benefit you to read over the preceding steps to make sure you haven’t left out a critical component!
Major Planning Phases
Remember: the following are major Planning phases and as such, each will have many smaller tasks. You should consider each one of these as a mini Project in and of itself.
These steps apply to you if have decided to freelance, but do not have a specific business concept or niche picked out. It also applies to you if you are unsure just who your customer is…
1. Get Clarity!
- You must do some additional work to figure out where your specialty or niche will be.
- You may need to do a self-assessment:
- what do you like?
- what are you good at?
- what’s your passion? (you can have more than one passion, but for now, you need to zero in on just one!)
- where does your experience lie? (if you want to continue doing that; if not, how can that experience be translated into what you do want to do?)
2. Is there a Demand?
- Once you come up with some potential areas of interest, you need to assess the viability for business!
- All the passion in the world won’t do you any good if there isn’t sufficinet demand in your service…
- If your ideas are in an unfamiliar industry, you’ll need to some in-depth industry research!
- Is the industry growing or declining?
- Who buys what you want to sell?
- Is is costly to get started? (will you need extensive training, equipment, or permits?)
- How much competition will you be facing?
3. Can you compete?
- This goes back to your answers from #2 above…
- If your concept turns out to be too expensive, or have too great a learning curve just to get started, are you willing/able to live with that?
- Do you have the resources to support a high investment?
- Even if the entrance requirements are low, if there is too much competition, you need to re-examine your concept:
- Is there any small segment (niche) that is under-served or ignored at the moment? If so, it’s possible this niche would be a market just waiting to be exploited.
- Beware, however, and still do your “demand” research! The same caveats apply to the niche: if there is little or no demand, you better keep brainstorming!
4. Now what? Write it Down!
- If your idea has passed all these steps, Congratulations!
- Now…craft your idea into a sentence or short paragraph explaining:
- what you do
- why you do it
- who you do it for
- how you do it
You now have clarity…and can move on!
If You’re Already in Business…or at Least Decided on Your Niche
1. Develop Your “Message“
- Your “Message” is what distinguishes you from all of your competition!
- What makes you different?
- in your approach
- in your philosophy
- in your vision
- in how you deliver your service
- Why are you in business?
- If you could tell your ideal customer/client just one crucial idea, what would that be?
2. Your Business Strategy: Creating Your Business Plan
- Don’t panic! It’s not that bad!
- Your Business Plan is your road map!
- Many freelancers don’t take themselves seriously, at least as far as “really being in business” is concerned…
- Your freelance business is a business!
- If you don’t take yourself seriously as a business, neither will your clients/customers!
- This will directly impact how you are paid! If you undervalue yourself, so will your clients and your fees will suffer!
- Investing in writing your own Business Plan forces you to take yourself and your freelance business seriously!
- There are many benefits to going through this process: don’t hire it out!
FREE Business Plan Outline!
3. Creating Your Design (remember: it must support your Message)
- Conduct preliminary theme research: examine lots of possible themes!
- Consider potential web site elements that you might want to include:
- subscription sign-up forms
- Portfolios or Galleries
- free reports
- visitor polls
- Social Media Links
- real-time Social Media Feeds
- liberal use of images
- Choosing a web site model (services-only or “hybrid“)
4. Designing Your Content Plan
- Topics outline
- What do your readers want to know?
- What broad categories should you include?
- What sub-topics can you include?
- Design a potential Main Menu structure based on these topics and sub-topics
- Draft a preliminary implementation plan
- How will you actually build your site?
- will you DIY it?
- will you outsource it?
- all or part?
- which parts?
- building the site?
- designing the site?
- Creating your site Content
- who will do the writing?
- where do you get a continuous stream of ideas for content?
- where will you get images?
- Creating an Implementation Schedule
- When will you launch your site?
- How long will it take to design & build?
- How long will it take to complete all of the content for your site launch?
- How will you handle Social Media?
- How often will you update your site?
- How will you actually build your site?
5. Site Implementation
- Building Your Site
- Registering Your Domain (if necessary)
- Selecting a Hosting Plan
- Installing & Configuring WordPress
- Security settings
- Recommended Starter Plugins
- Selecting, Installing & Configuring Your Theme
- Getting Familiar with Your Theme
- What options are included?
- Reading the Documentation
- Getting Theme Support
- Creating your Content
- Promoting Your Site
- Refer back to your Business Plan: Marketing
- How will you promote Site Launch?
- Social Media
- Press Releases
- Memberships (Chamber of Commerce)
5. Launching your site!
- Pre-Launch Checklist
- Post-Launch Checklist
- Analytics & Stats
- Site Review
- Getting indexed by the Search Engines
6. Preparing to Move Forward: Next Steps!