Ahhhh, the wonderful world of side-hustling. I’ve said this many times, but I’ll say it again because it’s true (and relevant)…I have what I like to call “entrepreneurial ADD.” I LOVE doing a bunch of different things all at once, and I feel like going insane if I’m doing the same thing for too long. I’ve started several side businesses that have been pretty successful in a short amount of time, and probably could have been REALLY successful if I stuck with them for longer…but hey, I’m a rolling stone.
The trick to making side businesses successful? Treat them like a business.
I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes…and that’s fine. But it’s the simple truth.
There’s a big difference between a hobby and a business, but that’s not to say you can’t take your hobby and turn it INTO a business. You just need to start by treating it as such…a business, that is. Can I say business one more time? You get it.
So what goes into starting a successful business? Well, a lot of things. Developing products/services, coming up with a name, branding, time management, marketing, etc. But one major thing that a lot of people don’t think about right away when marketing their business is creating a website.
Even if your business is something that you do on the side for only a few hours a week, your business needs a website. Even if your business is something that you don’t think is popular enough to take off, your business needs a website. Even if you don’t know shit about website development, your business needs a website.
The real question…why? There are MANY, many reasons why your business needs a website. But for now, here are the top five.
Why Your Business Needs a Website (even if it’s just your side gig)
1. Customers can Google you: I Google E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. And I don’t think I’m in some strange, Google-obsessed minority. In this day and age, most everyone has the internet at their fingertips at most times. When they need advice, they search online. If they want to build a house, they search online. If they are looking for certain products/services, they search online.
Here I am, stating the obvious again, but here goes. Nobody will be able to find you online if you aren’t online.
“But I have a business Facebook, Eden.”
Which is great. And I’m not dissing Facebook whatsoever. But there are downsides to only having a Facebook business page as your web presence. A big one being that nothing stops multiple pages from having the exact same name.
So let’s say you have a fruit stand called “Awesome Fruit Stand.” Pretty generic name, but you think it’s great and you proceed with creating your brand around that name and making a Facebook page with that name. Okay, now: somehow, somebody else thought of that name…what the fruit?! And now they have a fruit stand with the exact same name as you. Annoying, yes, but it happens. Somebody, somewhere, visits the other Awesome Fruit Stand and gets home only to find that their fruit is rotten on the inside, smells like vom.com AND has a bug in it. THEY ARE FIRED UP and ready to rip Awesome Fruit Stand a new one on social media.
Here’s hoping that they post their nasty review on the correct page and not on yours…and that people searching for your fruit stand later on will find your page and not the other page with the nasty review. So on and so forth.
While it is true that in real life nothing is really stopping anyone from having the same business name as somebody else, one thing that is certain is that nobody will have the same website URL as you. Once you have locked down your unique URL, that’s it. Nobody else can use it. So when you give it to your customers, you know FOR SURE that they are going to find the correct business.
While we’re on this note, let’s segue into my next point…
2. Customer testimonial page: The unfortunate truth is this: angry people are the ones who REALLY like to write reviews. For example, while we were on the search for home builders in our area, every one that I looked at had all bad reviews with the BBB. Admittedly, I started getting a little worried that I wasn’t going to find a quality builder, all because those shitty reviews planted that tiny seed of doubt in my head.
But then I started thinking how many thousands of homes these builders have collectively built, and it dawned on me: the happy people are too busy being happy to sit down and be keyboard warriors. They may be elated with their home, but you wouldn’t know that by doing an internet search…because all the comments online are from the pissed off folks.
Of course, I am the weird exception, because I LOVE giving somebody props online. I once wrote a review for a Holiday Inn in Eureka, California entitled “I wish I could live here.” Just so you know that I never lie…
Another great example of why your business needs a website: every once in awhile, somebody REALLY wants to say something nice about your business, but aren’t able to if you don’t have an online presence. Here’s what happened:
Last winter, Charlotte was hit with some serious ice. I’m a southerner, but I don’t freak out every time a snowflake farts out of the sky…so just know that this isn’t an exaggeration. I probably should have stayed home one extra day, seeing as how I drive a Mazda clown car that does NOT have 4-wheel drive, but I decided to go to work. When I got there, somebody was parked in my spot – “I hope you get four flat tires on the way home” – so I had to park in a different spot, which was COMPLETELY COVERED IN BLACK ICE. My car slid into the curb and I couldn’t get it out of the spot. There happened to be a crew from a landscape company there salting the sidewalks of an adjacent office complex, and when they saw me they immediately came over and pushed my car out of the spot. I WAS SO THANKFUL! The men who helped me didn’t speak much English, and despite the fact that I took Spanish for what seemed like an eternity, the only things I know how to say are pants, strawberry, dog, bathroom and numbers 1-10…so I decided I wouldn’t waste any more of their time with my broken Spanish, and instead I was going to write something really nice about them online.
I stalked their vehicle and there was a big magnet with the company name – but when I Googled it…NOTHING! Ugh I was so frustrated! I wanted to tell everyone how kind and amazing their employees are, but there was no platform to do so.
As you build relationships with customers and prove yourself as an awesome business person, you’ll (hopefully) be able to get your customers to write about their experience with you…even if it’s just in an email or text message. Any praise that you receive can be (with permission) put onto a testimonial page on your website that new customers will be able to look at when they are researching your business. This is SO important because people want to feel like they’re taking the smallest risk by hiring you…and part of convincing them that you are the person for the job is showing them reviews from your satisfied customers.
Reviews on Google or Facebook are also great, but you have NO control over those. Your website allows you to showcase testimonials from your actual customers who are familiar with your business! Hence, why your business NEEDS a website!
3. Easy way to create an email list: You may think that email is obsolete, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth, friends. Your email list is a DIRECT line of communication between you and your customers. You can post on social media all you want to, but no matter how many friends or likes you have, you are not going to reach every single one of them. Why? Because Facebook recently decided that business owners should have to pay to reach their customers.
Back before the change occurred, if you had a thousand followers and posted a new post, that post was sent out to appear on all of your followers’ feeds. Not now. Now you have to pay to “boost” your post – which basically means that they are not showing your post to people who like your page unless you pay for it…and even then, who’s to say that your post is really being seen?!
Email is, like I said before, I direct link between you and your customers. Research shows that customers are much more likely to pursue a product or service that they heard about via email as opposed to a social media post. Like I said before, this is NOT to say that you should boycott social media. But your website and email list should be your top priority…which is (again) why your business needs a website! Through your email provider, you can see exactly who opened your email, how many times they opened it, what they clicked on, etc. It is an invaluable tool for your business!
This is an example of a report from one of my email campaigns. It shows who opened the email, who clicked on links, who unsubscribed, etc. You won’t find this type of detailed report on Facebook…trust and believe.
Through your website, you can have various opt-in areas that allow visitors to subscribe to your email list. Posting articles about your business/industry, photos of your work and testimonials will show readers that you’re an expert in your niche and make them more likely to sign up for your email list. But without a website, there won’t be any cool content or opt-ins to encourage readers to join your email list. So this is another reason *ahem* why your business needs a website!! See where I’m going with this?
4. Showcase your work and new products/services: What better place to show off your amazing work than on your very own website? Along with testimonials, photos are extremely important for customers who are researching your business.
The above photo is a snippet from my personal portfolio website showing some of my past artwork. No matter what type of website you decide to go with, there will be some type of gallery tool that you can use to display your products and services. You’re awesome – brag on yourself, friend!
5. Learn who your (potential) customers are: Your website is pretty much the heart of your marketing efforts for your business. This should be where all of your content (photos, testimonials, blog posts) originates, and then if you want to share it to social media from there, that’s great too.
Like the photo gallery, no matter what type of website you create, you will be able to see how many people are viewing your site, what they are looking at, where they are from, how they got to your site and tons of other information. This information is SO important for building your business and keeping it going. You can learn so much about your audience through website stats, and you can use that information to continue growing.
The two types of websites that I am most familiar with are Weebly and WordPress. And I honestly like them both. Weebly, in my ever-so-humble opinion, is not as advanced in terms of capabilities, but it is very easy to use. WordPress is a little tougher to get the hang of (again, in my opinion), but it has ENDLESS possibilities in terms of looks and functionality. I wrote a post about how to create a WordPress site, and it can be read here. **This post was called “How to Start a Blog on Your Lunch Break” – but it is simply a guide to building a WordPress website and will be useful to anyone looking to do so!
Why Your Business Needs a Website: The Recap
- So that customers can Google you: Nobody can look you up online if you aren’t online…and they also can’t post nice reviews about you!
- So that you can share reviews from real customers: You can’t control what is posted about you anywhere else, but on your website, you can showcase all of the nice things your customers have said about you.
- So that you can create an email list: Your email list is the ONLY foolproof connection between you and your customers. Get it, use it, love it.
- So you can show off your awesome work: Create a gallery of your work to show potential customers what they have to look forward to.
- So you can grow your business with analytics: Use the reports from your website to learn who your audience is, where they are from, what they are interested in, and so much more.
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