First-Time Entrepreneur? Read This Before You Build a Website

Jun 08, 2015 - Joe Matar
When you're a new entrepreneur, it's easy to feel like you need to build a website immediately. You know you need to get a credible, compelling presence online if you’re going to get noticed and talked about. But establishing a web presence can feel overwhelming even for the most intrepid newbie! After all, few business owners will know how to get started, let alone understand the differences among the opportunities they see. It's easy to make choices that seem sensible at the time, but actually deliver a do-nothing, money-sink website.   The good news is, you can avoid most web disasters with just a few straightforward tips. Let's take a look at seven of the most common "first website" mistakes that keep you from generating leads, attracting clients and building a solid foundation for your business. (Click here to tweet this list of mistakes.)

1. Building a website when you don’t need one

Seminar leaders, mentors and even people you meet at parties will tell you, “every business needs a website” unless you’re a secret spy agency. That claim is partly true. You do need a professional presence online, but that doesn’t always require a website. For example, Marilyn wants to be a life coach but with zero clients and a limited budget, she doesn’t need a website yet. Marilyn could register a domain name and list it on her business card. But instead of potential customers seeing an “under construction” page that practically screams “clueless newbie!” she can set up a simple landing page to to collect leads. The time will come for a full website; but first, Marilyn needs to build her client list and generate income.

2. Not being clear about your website’s purpose

How will your website help your business? For example, a dog walker’s site recruits clients, introduces the terms of service, and makes appointments. In contrast, a boutique intellectual property law firm exists primarily to establish credibility among clients referred by other lawyers. Nail down your purpose so your website directly relates to your ideal clients, not some vague audience “out there.”

3. Being snowed by jargon

Wordpress themes, widgets, responsive design, QR codes … have you stumbled into a foreign country? Actually, yes! Many newbies feel they’ll look dumb if they ask for definitions. Fear not: I’ve been online for more than a decade and meet new terms every day. If you’re working with a web designer, Google every term in your contract until you find a clear description you can understand. Or find an Internet-savvy person who has nothing to gain from your decision, but is willing to review your documents..

4. Responding to a pitch from someone who invites you to lunch

Stanley, an artist, registered a domain name to display his sculptures. His inbox was soon flooded with invitations from web developers, including a “lunch seminar” on Internet marketing. When companies reach out to large numbers of people, they almost always enroll their clients in a cookie-cutter, mass production system. Your website blends into the crowd and you rarely get top-quality work because it’s all about the numbers. Competent people limit their lunch dates. Toss all the invitations and build a website on your own terms.

5. Signing away your online real estate

You wouldn’t let your real estate agent put her name on the deed to your home. You should protect your domain name and web hosting in the same way. I’ve worked with an interior designer who couldn’t get into her own website to change a date, a pet sitter who paid $200 to buy back her domain name after her developer forgot to renew it, and an accountant who couldn’t change his domain name … during tax season. Don’t be one of those unfortunate cases. Spend the time to set up your domain name and web host with your own credit card. It takes 15 minutes and you get to skip 90 percent of the horror stories.

6. Hiring a designer before you’ve written the content

Most people call the designer or developer first. That’s why their websites take six months to finish while the bills pile up. Smart designers will insist that the design process begins with the content to avoid delays. Your design requirements usually look completely different after you’ve crafted your message and set up the pages. Start drafting up your killer content before you sign with a designer.

7. Focusing on SEO instead of conversions and content

The goal of search engine optimization (SEO) is to be found quickly when someone searches on Google or other search engines. The truth is, your success may not be related to search engines. Your clients may come from social media, networking or referrals. Instead, turn to contemporary SEO, which focuses on optimizing content so you can be discovered all over the web. You’ll increase likelihood of getting more clients from your content. Now it’s your turn! Are you getting ready to build your first website? Or are you a veteran with tips or hacks for business owners embarking on their first websites? Share them in the comments. Emojis are welcome! Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., helps service business owners create professional, compelling websites that generate more leads and deliver more clients. She works with clients from all over the world.