It is estimated that more than 15 million people are self-employed full-time across the US. Each day many people are making the jump into entrepreneurship. Are you ready to get your feet wet? One of the most important things you can do is to establish your online business & professional presence so potential clients and supporters can find you. Follow this handy guide to ensure you have a solid web presence.
1. ESTABLISH YOUR BUSINESS NAME. Once you have determined the type of business or organization you want to establish, you want to decide on a business name. This will help guide all of your next steps. There are a few tricks to settling upon a business name. You’ll want to search for other businesses with that name, do a trademark search, check social media availability and see if the domain is available. You’ll want to think about things like the length of your business name, the short version or acronym, what other businesses are using similar names, etc.
2. SECURE YOUR NAME ACROSS ALL SITES. Purchase your domain name and secure your name across all pertinent social media sites. Hopefully when you did your searches you ensured that your name is available and matches the format for all sites you want to use it on. Certain sites such as twitter may have character limitations on usernames. Try to keep your names as consistent as possible across all sites so that people don’t have trouble locating you. You don’t want to be ACME Tools on Facebook, @ACMEHardware on Twitter and @ACME on Instagram.
You’ll want to at minimum, reserve your domain name and secure your name on:
Reserve your name at these sites even if you don’t currently plan to use them. You certainly don’t want to look up in 6 months and find that you want to use the site and the name is gone or that some other business is now using the name.
3. Setup your vanity email. There’s nothing I hate seeing more than a business using gmail or yahoo for their email address. Please don’t do this. A branded email (email@example.com) is a MUST. Branded email not only helps you give off a great impression, it helps build credibility and trust. Branded email makes you look like an established professional who has invested in their brand. The best part is that branded email helps people get familiar with and memorize your business name. You can generally purchase an affordable branded email address wherever you purchased your domain. Other affordable options are Zoho, GSuite and Office365.
4. Complete your profiles. Now that you have reserved all your social media collateral you’ll want to brand them and fill out as much information as possible. Whether or not you have a logo and full brand suite, you’ll want to ensure that all sites are consistent. Use the same profile and background images and colors across platforms. Ensure all pertinent information is completed so that potential clients can find out all about you. Fill out a bio that makes it clear who you are, what you do and how to contact you. On Facebook fill out all the sections for your page. Enter business hours, services offered, and physical location, if applicable. Be sure your LinkedIn profile clearly outlines your qualifications and expertise. Show off any special projects, presentations, and awards. Be sure that people know what you can do.
5. Create your website and capture contact information. While many don’t find this step necessary, I believe it to be quite important. Not all people use social media and a lot of people are still going to search for your website first before they head to social media. You want to have a website, even if it’s only a simple landing page, to show people that you exist. Much like a branded email address having a website lends an air of professionalism and shows that you’ve invested in your business beyond free social media profiles. Use this site to provide info on your services, how to contact you and any other information that my be pertinent to a potential client or customer. You can share links to your work or use the space as a professional portfolio.
Don’t misunderstand me. Social media profiles are important but please remember that you do not own those profiles. At any point your profile can be removed and your followers lost. If this happens, you’ll have to work hard at re cultivating your audience. You’ll also want to start collecting contact information from your followers. On your website you’ll want a newsletter sign up so that you can collect email addresses and send newsletters and info directly to your followers. Of course you can share your content, sales and services but you’ll also have the ability to share any important information such as a change in business name or focus, loss of social media profiles or anything else. Earlier this year Facebook and Instagram were down for a few hours. What if you had a big sale, event or webinar happening that day? How would you continue to share and update your audience? Being able to reach your followers directly in their inboxes is a must.
You can generally get web hosting wherever you reserved your domain name. Affordable options include GoDaddy, Yahoo, and SiteGround. If you aren’t very tech savvy, you can still create beautiful and professional websites with Wix, Shopify or SquareSpace for $10-20 per month. For your newsletter you can start with a free account from MailChimp or Constant Contact.
5. Create content & create a following. Begin establishing yourself as an expert in your field. Create social media posts that reflect your knowledge. Share other content from other industry leaders to show that you are staying on top of current topics in your field and know about the latest and greatest information and trends. Create YouTube videos or a podcast and begin interacting with others on social media. Start a blog and write articles for other sites. Even if you start out with very little following eventually that following will grow. When the day comes that someone comes looking for you, you’ll have content archives to show that you’ve been working for awhile and that you are experienced. Cultivate a quality following. 10 followers who will utilize your services and/or buy from you is better than 1000 followers who will click like but never go further.
Now that you have an established presence, anytime you meet a new person or you go to a networking event, you can say with confidence here is what I do and here is how you can contact me. If anyone of them goes looking to learn more about you and your business they will find that you have a well established presence and history. From here, you can move onto the steps of setting up your services and products, establish your business legally with a DBA or LLC, and begin courting clients.