Setting up a website doesn’t have to break the bank — here’s how

Creating your business’ first website on a budget can be difficult. Let’s talk through how to do it without breaking the bank and access a global pool of potential customers.

For a successful small business, a web presence is now a necessity — not just a nice thing to have. Previously, small business owners could rely on foot traffic or word-of-mouth to get customers through the door of their brick-and-mortar stores.

But with 87% of shoppers beginning their product search on digital channels, having an online presence is now critical. 

That doesn’t mean the in-store experience no longer matters. In fact, 46% of shoppers say they prefer to purchase items in a physical location. But a further 35% prefer to buy via laptop, and 18% prefer buying on their mobile phone. Savvy small businesses will provide options to suit all three preferences.

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Setting up a website on a budget

For small businesses operating on a shoestring budget, setting up a website can be daunting. Without the budget to employ a full-time web designer, small business owners may struggle to build a polished site from scratch — not to mention maintain it regularly.

There are budget options out there for small business owners that need help getting started. Platforms like Shopify and Squarespace do the heavy lifting for you, with thousands of premade website and e-commerce store templates to choose from. Prices range from $20 – $50 a month.

On sites like Upwork, Freelancer and Airtasker you can find experienced web developers offering competitively priced on-demand services – just be sure to do your research and read the reviews. 

Julie Cruickshank is the owner of Sandy Beach Candles, a small business selling hand-poured candles based in northern NSW. From her own experience setting up a website, she says doing your due diligence is key. 

“Research the person engaged to ensure they know their craft,” she says.

“I’ve been caught out a couple of times with a guy who set up my website and pressured me … to go live when the website was in no state to go live.” 

Cruickshank suggests identifying and discussing the steps involved in building a website before putting down money.

Do not pay the full amount in advance,” she says.

“The total should be paid before going live.” 

Hidden ongoing costs were also a challenge for Cruickshank.

“Another catch to be aware of is ongoing costs,” she says.

Some pitfalls she wasn’t aware of included a yearly maintenance cost, which can be quite expensive for a small business.

“Better to take your money and pay a reputable website designer.” 

Do it yourself 

There’s no need for any coding or a degree in web development to get a site up and running if you follow these four key steps:

  • Get hosting: Select a website hosting provider – these can cost between $5 – $20 per month to maintain. 
  • Select a domain name: A domain name that references your company name or offerings is advisable.
  • Choose a Content Management System (CMS): WordPress is the most popular content management system — it’s user-friendly, functional and free.
  • Customise your theme: Here’s a chance to let your true business personality shine. Websites have come a long way in the last decade and these days it’s easy to customise a theme with no coding necessary.

Social media saves the day 

If you simply don’t have the time or money to maintain a website, you can still maintain an online presence through social media platforms. Platforms like Facebook provide a chance to build a community around your brand and reach potential customers, while sites like LinkedIn help you find like-minded businesspeople to connect with. 

With over 1 billion monthly active users — 90% of which follow a business on the platform — Instagram provides a lucrative opportunity to showcase your goods to a global audience and inspire shoppers to action. Functionality such as ‘shoppable posts’ allow businesses to tag products in their photos with descriptions and pricing — with 130 million Instagram users tapping on these posts each month. 

Every small business is different, and there’s an online option to fit all budgets. What’s important is that you leverage these online channels to get in front of customers and connect with them directly. 

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