COVID-19 is changing how people in the Hudson Valley live and engage with the world around them. And one of the biggest ways is how small business is going to be done: it’s going to be more dependent on having a website, showing up on Google, and having a mastery over your web presence.
Additionally, after untold millions of lay-offs, many workers are either going to be interchangeable cogs for giant corporations, or attempt to become self-employed. This article is intended as a resource for aspiring self-employed people who are interested in how they can create a job for themselves online.
If you’re starting out alone to see if you can make a one-person or micro business work, it’s usually best to not invest a ton until you get some customers. Once you get some customers, and are looking to grow, then maybe it’ll make sense to hire us for your web design or search engine optimization needs in the Hudson Valley; but until then, we made this guide for you on how to get started with a minimally viable product. If it shows promise, then it’ll make investing in your web presence a much easier decision in the future.
Please note: any links to online services are affiliate links; we will make a couple of bucks if you end up signing up for them.
What service are you going to offer, and when?
Before you launch a website offering a service, make sure that it’s something you can do from home/remotely, or it’s considered an essential business that can be conducted in public while taking precautions. Empire State Development put out a comprehensive list, and some essential businesses include:
- child care services
- bicycle repair
- animal care including dog walking, animal boarding
- landscaping, but only for maintenance or pest control and not cosmetic purposes
- residential moving services
- for-hire vehicles
If your idea for a business or service doesn’t fall into essential categories or can’t be done from home/remotely, don’t get discouraged! You can use this time to get your online presence set up for when social distancing rules are relaxed. It is much harder to get a brand new website to rank on Google, so if you have a six month or year head start, you’ll be ready to go when your business is legally allowed to operate.
How to make your own website
If you’re just testing out how to make your own website, we recommend two different routes. If you’re not tech-savvy whatsoever and don’t care about search engine optimization: check out Squarespace. If you’re somewhat tech-savvy and care about search engine optimization and future upgradability: Godaddy + a WordPress template.
Squarespace makes it really easy to get started. Odds are, no matter that kind of business or project you’re looking to launch, they already have a template for it that looks good out of the box. All you need to do is put in your content and imagery.
You can do a 14-day free trial, and if you end up liking how it works, you can then sign up for one of their affordable plans, which will probably range between $18-26 a month.
When picking a domain on Squarespace, keep in mind that you want it to line up with the kind of service and the area that you serve. So if you’re opening up a bicycle repair shop in Kingston, NY, kingstonbicyclerepair.com would be good. If you’re opening a dog walking service in Ossining, ossiningdogwalker.com would be good.
If you opt for the $26/m “Commerce” option, you’ll also be able to sell products and accept payments directly through the website.
The only downside to Squarespace is that the functionality can be somewhat limited and future growth of the site can be problematic. While it’s really easy and foolproof to get started, if your business or project takes off, it can be hard to build on new functionality, and Squarespace does not do a great job with search engine optimization, making it harder for people to find your site.
Godaddy + WordPress
A somewhat cheaper option that leaves more room for future growth, but has more things you can screw up, is Godaddy’s website builder package.
With prices ranging from $15-20/m for a basic informational site, to $25/m for an e-commerce site, it’s a little cheaper than Squarespace, and the templates for different kinds of businesses are still there. The advantage of going with Godaddy and WordPress is that in the future, as you learn more, you may want to tinker with your site’s plug-ins or hire an outside firm to increase your visibility online. WordPress provides a lot of room to grow with functionality and design.
Just as with Squarespace, when picking a domain name, you want to line it up with the kind of service you’re offering and the area that you’ll serve. So if you’re going to do pest control in New Paltz, pestcontrolnewpaltz.com is a great domain name.
If you’re a local service-based business, one key tip for getting found on Google is having consistent Name, Address and Phone information across your website and all third-party directory websites. Once you have your info set up on your website, go set up a free Google My Business and a Bing Places for Business account and use the same Name Address and Phone information across those as well.
To further juice the process, we often recommend using BrightLocal’s Citation Builder service. You can get your business’ Name, Address and Phone information out across dozens of directory sites for somewhere ranging between $50-100 (depending on how many sites you pick). It provides a huge advantage if you’re just starting out.
Another tip is if you have existing clients or customers, send them a link to your Google My Business page and ask them to leave you a review. Getting a few reviews is a great way to build trust to attract new customers.
Free public relations idea
A dominant media narrative is going to be that businesses and entrepreneurs are transitioning to online models. Journalists are looking for stories about everyday people starting businesses online. If you’re launching a new business online, you can take advantage of some free publicity by writing up a few sentences about yourself and your website and sending it to the local media. It will not only get some traffic to your site, but the links you’ll get in the article will help your site grow long-term.
Need professional help?
If you decide that your business goals exceed what you can accomplish with do-it-yourself tools, check out our branding, web design, search engine optimization and content marketing services. We have lots of examples of past clients and projects that we’ve completed.