How to: Get Your Business Online Fast & Cheap

There has been a lot of social media posts I have seen recently about how to fill up what people consider to be endless hours of free time. I don’t know about you but I have a lot less free time than I used to. Now, instead of the kids going to school, they are at home all day long looking to be entertained. Instead of one night a week and some Saturdays doing my Masters, I now have college online 3 times a week, and I still have the ‘work from home’ business to run, assignments to do and plenty of sleepless nights to worry about what’s going on. If, like me, time is not your friend, and maybe money isn’t either, let’s look at how you can get your business online and fast.

There are a few sections here, so if it’s easier, scroll to the section that best describes your current issue. The sections covered are:
  1. If you have no online presence at all and want a website
  2. If you just want to update your website with new information
  3. If you have no online presence and just want to communicate new information with customers
  4. If you haven’t sold online before but now you want to
  5. Local Enterprise Grant available to assist with costs of trading online

1. If you have no online presence at all and want a website

WordPress.com

You may be a ‘bricks and mortar’ business and want to set up a website now just to have an online presence. The best way to do this is to go on to https://wordpress.com/start/user?ref=logged-out-homepage-lp, choose a template for your website, and build it yourself. This is pretty easy to do.

If this seems like a very daunting task, don’t worry. If you are reading this in Cork, and your business has been affected by Covid-19 and you want a basic online presence, get in touch with me. I want to help and I will offer a free basic* website build to anyone who has been affected by Covid-19 and needs help getting online.

*basic website for free: Basic means I will just get you up and running. No fancy stuff! If you want the fancy stuff, let me know and I can give you a quote.

WordPress.com DIY set up

Just click on ‘get started’ and follow the steps.

Step 1: Sign up for an account

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Step 2: Choose your domain name

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This will be the url (website address) that people will see your website at. You can get a free domain name which will include .wordpress.com or you can pay for your preferred domain name. At the moment some are these are also free for a year, with renewal being anywhere from €18 to €50 for each year after that.

Step 3: Select Plan

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To get the free website, click on the red text at the top that says ‘start with a free plan’

Step 4: Dashboard

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It is a good idea to have the dashboard open in one tab and the website url (your website domain name) open in another as you are making changes, so that you can click refresh on the website tab and see what your changes look like once implemented. Don’t worry- nobody will be able to see the website yet.

Step 5: Choose your theme/ design

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It is a good idea to choose your theme that you think best fits your website at the beginning. You will then be able to see what information you need for that particular theme.

Step 6: Add your content/ information

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Once you have chosen your theme, go through the dashboard options on the left hand menu and fill in the information on the center pane, saving as you go.

Step 7: Launch

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Once you are happy with your content, Go to ‘Settings’ and launch your website. You will need to have confirmed your email address to do this. It will try to get you to choose a payment plan again, but again click the ‘start with the free plan’ option at the top as before.

Step 8: Privacy

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Make sure you choose the public option under ‘privacy’ and enable serach engines to index This will make the site go ‘live’ meaning that people (and search engines) can now see the website online at that url.

Well done! You have just built your own website!

2. If you just want to update your website with new information

If you have a website, someone designed for you and you usually don’t have to do anything with it, but now you want to update it, and you don’t know how, there’s a good free guide here for how to use the WordPress dashboard https://easywpguide.com if your website is WordPress (many small business websites are)

Again if this sounds daunting, don’t stress- give me a shout, and we can work through the issue. If it’s a small thing I can show you how to do it, or I can do it for you. I really want to support as many small businesses in Cork as I can at the moment to keep their virtual doors open so that their real doors can open again once this is all over.

3. If you have no online presence and just want to communicate new information with customers

Email

One of the simplest ways of doing this is to use email. (This will mean you would need a database of email addresses of customers that’s GDPR compliant: https://www.dataprotection.ie/– they should have opted in to receive mail from you).

You could use Mailchimp to create a nice email template (more on this another time, but if you want to check it out here https://mailchimp.com/, it’s very user-friendly and free for up to 500 contacts if you send less than 6,000 emails per month), but in this instance I would recommend keeping it simple and just writing an email with the information about your business as you would to a friend.

A couple of points to bear in mind if you are using this method are not to overload people with information, as there is an overwhelm right now, so keep it short, say what you need to say and offer a contact method for further queries (this could be your website, your social media, the option to reply to the email or your contact number- whichever is most likely to have the information the customer needs when they need it) and don’t contact them by email too often. Also please bear in mind that you can’t just list the email addresses of your customers so that they can all see each other’s, check out this article for how to send an email while keeping the recipient’s privacy intact using gmail (for other providers, google it and test it first). https://www.lifewire.com/how-to-send-an-email-to-undisclosed-recipients-from-gmail-1172104.

Social Media

If you don’t have a list of customers’ emails, or need a website, but you just want to give some important information to customers. Social media is your next best bet, and also simple and free (apart from your time). Depending on where your customers are, if it’s B2B LinkedIn might be best, if it’s B2C Facebook or Instagram might be the best way to reach them. If your customers are younger, it might be SnapChat or Tiktok, however I suspect that if you are targeting this group you may already be online. Facebook is probably the best place to go if you aren’t sure. Again this is simple and free. See below for how to set up business pages on each of the platforms:

4. If you haven’t sold online before but now you want to

Shopify

If you want to start selling stuff online, Shopify (https://www.shopify.com/) is a good bet. You can do a free trial of this for 6 months, but remember that there is a monthly charge after this and a % of your earnings will go to Shopify.

Step 1: Start free trail

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Step 2: Enter details

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Step 3: Enter your information

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Step 4: Add your address

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Step 5: Dashboard

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This is your dashboard where you manage all aspects of your website.

Step 6: Choose a theme

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Under the ‘Online Store’ menu, you can choose your design for your store. There are free or paid themes to choose from. Once you choose your theme, you can then build other elements of your website such as blog posts, pages, etc from this menu.

Step 7: Add your products

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In the menu, under ‘products’, you can add your products here. Fill in a short description, add images, and stock levels. You can set your pricing and charge tax for each product by setting it up here.

Step 8: Settings

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Once you build your website, you can finalise your settings such as your payment settings.

Congratulations! You now have an online store and are ready to start selling.

WordPress E-commerce Store

You could also build a WordPress website with an e-commerce facility. I can help with this, if you need someone to design your site and get you going.**

**This I can’t do pro-bono, as there’s a bit more to it than a basic website, but talk to me and I will do you a competitive quote.

5. Local Enterprise Grant available to assist with costs of trading online

The local enterprise office offers a financial assistance grant to those who wish to begin trading online. There are terms and conditions, but this grant offers up to €2,500 in assistance, up to 50% of costs associated with trading online as well as training and support. Get further information here. https://www.localenterprise.ie/Discover-Business-Supports/Trading-Online-Voucher-Scheme-/

If you have any questions about any of these options, please contact me on 083-3588482, or email me at diane.higgins.cork@gmail.com  

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