Even though I graduated with an engineering degree four years ago, my programming skills were pretty sub par at the time. I took a few HTML/CSS, C++ and Matlab intensive classes but I always figured that I wouldn’t use stuff like that in real life. Boy was I wrong, all of the brightest guys at my company also happen to be excellent programmers. They’re able to build automated scripts that can optimize manual processes and save themselves and the company a ton of time and money. One guy even wrote software that he later sold back to the company for a nice little profit.
I had the idea in my head to start a personal finance blog for a couple years but I was always worried about the programming/website design side. I just wanted to write articles, I didn’t want to bother with how the site looked and functioned. But after a little research, I found out that pretty much everyone who started a blog was just as raw as I was in the beginning.
The internet has made it easier than ever to start a business from home and the longer you wait the more competition you’ll face. Brick and mortar businesses have a lot of start-up costs but with an online business, the main upfront cost is your time. You can get a domain name and hosting for a couple bucks a month and start showcasing your business or blog within a day or two.
What’s In a Name?
I think picking a name for your site is a little overrated. SEO-wise, you may want to include your site’s main keyword in the title but it isn’t necessary. I thought about the name for this site for all of about 30 minutes, can you tell(haha)? Most of the good names will probably be taken but try to think of something catchy that people will be able to remember.
For Blogs: Aesthetics are Nice, but Content is Better
After deciding on a name, you can build your own website here. In the beginning, there’s no need to hire an expensive web designer. Remember, the great thing about online businesses are the low start-up costs. I spent less than $100 on every aspect of this site in the first year and now that it’s grown, I’m finally starting to explore other avenues of functionality that will require more money.
There are some free layouts available but then your site will probably look like a lot of others. I think it’s best to spend a little money on your website design initially and see how it goes. There are some reasonable website design do it yourself sites that will allow you to customize everything you want(no programming knowledge required).
I’ve seen some really cool site layouts and I’ve seen some bad ones, but the main factor that will keep me coming back is the content. This applies more to blogs than other businesses but the principle is the same. Without a great product or great content, people won’t come back. You could have the hippest site around, but if your content or product sucks then no one is going to come back.
If you’re starting a blog, make sure that you don’t overwhelm yourself at the start. There are a lot of people who give up after a year because they can’t sustain 3-4 posts a week. I try to post two times a week and do an hour or two of work on the site every month or so.
Even though it’s good to post consistently, one of my favorite things about an online business is that you can take two weeks off and when you come back everything will be exactly the same. In what other line of work can you say that? My schedule is pretty variable so it’s nice to be able to take time off here and there and everything looks the same when I come back.
If you’ve been contemplating starting a business online, I say go for it. There are a ton of tools available that will help get you started. The costs are minimal and the potential return could allow you to quit your day job, save more for retirement or even retire early.
Readers, how many of you have tried starting an online business/blog? What tips do you have for beginners or what would you do differently if you could do it all over again.
-Harry @ PF Pro
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Brian @ Luke1428 says
Love the advice Harry. I’m still in my blog infancy having just ramped up last July. I think it is critical to not overwhelm yourself by writing too much. I’ve got a full time job and pretty much run our house due to my wife’s work schedule and 2-3 posts a week is all I can do. I committed in my mind to write for a year before I invested heavily in any site design, so I’m about ready to take the next steps.
Harry Campbell says
Thanks Brian and I’m in the same boat as you, I have a full time job, second job, and I blog 🙂 No family for a few years but I’ll probably just start sleeping less when that time comes. I think the quality of articles stays high when you only write 2-3 times too. I know I can’t think of more than 2-3 truly interesting things to write about each week.
Great article. I’m actually just starting out my blog, too. It will start out as an extension of my business and will be comprised of articles expanding on the FAQs that my clients ask. What I have going for me right now is local name recognition since I’m a musician.
What would I have done differently? Well, I would have started earlier. I have the advantage of being young and having time on my side; but that won’t always be the case, so the later I’ve waited the less aggregate money I can make for retirement and the like. What’s worse is that I’ve had the capability to create a blog easily through my host provider as long as I’ve been with them and didn’t even know it. (I’ve been with them for 4 or 5 years!)
Harry Campbell says
Hey Roberto, thanks for the praise. I think a website can definitely legitimize a lot of small businesses. A lot of younger people also look for businesses online instead of traditional methods such as word of mouth these days so without a website you could be missing out on a whole group of potential customers.
At least you started, I think a lot of people tell themselves they’re too busy but once you get a website going it’s not that difficult to maintain.
Savvy Scot says
Content is KING! 🙂 Happy Friday
Harry Campbell says
Thanks Savvy and I agree..