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The best ways to use your website to grow your business

As a web developer, I obviously am a pretty big supporter of websites for businesses. What I do not support however, is a website that has little other purpose other than just existing.

Having a website in this day and age is obviously important (and can add a level of validity to businesses that might not have a physical storefront), but I’ve found that some people are unawares of just how useful a website can be.

 


 

Have a goal in mind

Every page on your website should be guiding the viewer to take a certain action. Whether it’s subscribing to a blog, buying a product, following your business on social media, etc., your website is there to accomplish a task for you (not just take up space on a server). When working with your web designer/developer to build your site, make sure that your ultimate goal is at the forefront of every decision.

Understand your market.

Your website should cater to your market. If your ideal client spends most of their time traveling and is rarely in front of a computer, then make sure your designer takes a “mobile first” approach, and designs a website that will be incredibly easy to navigate on mobile devices. Alternately, if you know your potential clients spend a lot of time on a particular social media platform, make sure that your website is built with social-sharing capabilities in mind. Regardless of where your target market is spending their digital time, your website should be built to cater to that.

Find a way to make your job easier.

What do you have a hard time with? Analytics? Social media? Blogging? Newsletters? General site upkeep? Be sure to explain how you are running your business to your web developer. Take the time to explain any challenges or pain-points you’ve been facing in the business lately. It is very likely that they can build your site in a way that makes your life easier, but they need to know what that would look like first.

Track your success.

What does success look like to you? If you’ve already established a goal for your website, how will you know if that goal is being reached? Is it through page visits, subscriber rates, social media followers, purchases, client leads, etc? Make sure you discuss with your developer what you want to achieve, and how you want to measure that achievement.

There you have it folks. It sounds relatively simple, but in my experience, the websites that have been built with these things in mind are incredibly useful to their owners. Don’t forget, your website is a tool!

Subscribe to my list to get more advice and some helpful freebies (or just to say hi)!

-SP

How to build a daily routine and travel the world: Part One.

I’ve been preparing for Remote Year for about a year, and now I have a little over a month before I leave.

(For those of you that missed it, on June 1st I’ll be embarking on the journey of a lifetime through Remote Year – a program where I’ll continue to work with all you incredible people, but remotely, and from a different country around the world every single month. www.remoteyear.com)

People keep asking me if I’m excited. In the words of a well traveled and wise friend:

“You’ll be excited after you’ve been there like a month.”

I’m finding this to be true thus far. Right now there is just too much to do to allow myself to feel any excitement. Vaccines, Passport renewals, Visas, Travel Insurance, flight tickets, credit cards, mobile plans/SIM cards, a range of other boring things, and mentally and emotionally preparing to leave my friends, family, and my dog (who is my life co-pilot)……

Fortunately, a large part of a freelance web developer’s job revolves around breaking down large projects into actionable steps/timelines.

This is kind of my jam.

I’m finding myself diving even further into my work, as it will remain the backbone of my daily routine in my life over the next year. I’m thankful that I’ve already been working remotely for 3+ years, and thus already used to creating and maintaining a daily routine.

Having a routine as a freelancer is KEY, and after several years of trial and error, this is what I’ve found works the best for me:

SP Creative’s Pre-Remote Year Daily Routine

  • 7:00 – 8:00AM
    • Wake up (never by alarm….this is just when I wake up, it’s weird).
  • 8:00 – 10:00AM
    • Take Doggo on looooong walk. Make/eat breakfast. Play with doggo. Stretch and drink tea.
  • 10:00AM – 1PM
    • Work.Work.Work. I like to start by reviewing/editing my Master To-Do List. I have a list of all my active projects, and the tasks that need to by managed within all of those projects.
      • I review the list each morning, and make a new list of things that I want to accomplish that day.
      • I usually start by spending a few minutes on higher-level admin stuff, then touch base with my clients (if need be), and then dive into the actual design/coding work.
        • I will probably write another post at some point that goes into this in more detail for anyone interested in freelancing.
  • 1:00 – 2:00PM
    • Make/Eat lunch. Take doggo on a long walk.
  • 2:00 – 6:00pm
    • Work.Work.Work.
    • Towards the end of the day, I make sure to update my master to-do list, and reply to any client emails that I’ve received that afternoon.
  • 6:00PM
    • Take doggo on a run.
      • If it’s not a running day (we run 4 days a week), we will either go on another walk, or go to the dog park.
  • 6:45PM
    • Stretch/shower
  • 7:30 – 10:00PM
    • Fix dinner and/or socialize with friends and family
  • 10:30PM
    • Sleep.

There it is. That’s the routine that has served me well for over 3 years. I’m assuming that it’s not all that different from most traditional jobs, although I tend to work from a myriad of different places (home, coffee shops, co-working spaces, friend’s houses, in the passenger seat of a van while traveling across the country, etc.) The only noticeable difference in the past few years has been switching my running from the mornings to the evenings, because frankly I just want to relax in the mornings.

I’m interested in how I’ll need to adapt my routine for Remote Year. I have often traveled while I work (one of the perks to freelancing), although not to this extent. I’m also incredibly excited to be traveling/working with 50+ other talented remote workers. One of the down-sides to freelancing is that I rarely get to work around other developers and designers. There is SO MUCH that you can learn from others in the field (and outside of the field), so I am GREATLY looking forward to honing my skills by being around some other coders, and learning about the ways they are most productive as remote workers!

Have you found a routine that works for you, and have you been able to stick to it while traveling? Tell me about it in the comments, and/or subscribe to my list to follow the trip!

-SP

3 THINGS YOU NEED FOR A KILLER WEBSITE

Unless you work in the field, it’s hard to know exactly what you might need in a website, or what constitutes a “standard” website today.

While every website is going to be different, here are 3 things that you are absolutely going to want:

 

  1. The ability to update/edit your website yourself.
    • If you’ve ever used Facebook or Twitter, you’ve used a “Content Management System”, or CMS, without knowing it. A CMS is a framework, that automatically formats and styles the information you enter into it. 
    • Modern (good) websites function in the same way. Your web designer/developer will build you a framework that you will be free to scale and update as you see fit.
    • The most widely used CMS for websites today is WordPress. I could go into why WordPress is freaking amaze-balls, but I should probably save that for a post all its own.
  2. The ability to easily integrate with your social media accounts and email clients.
    • Your website is a tool! Connecting with and growing your audience/target market should be at the forefront of every good website!
    • This means different things to different people:
      • For some it will mean a compelling blog that automatically updates on all of their social platforms.
      • For others this might mean utilizing Facebook ads and Google Analytics to understand where their leads are coming from.
      • There are literally entire careers surrounding the vast range of digital marketing, but all that matter in this context is that you have a website that can handle whatever you choose to throw at it (once again, I cannot say enough for WordPress).
  3. The ability to backup your information.
    • Whether your site is built on WordPress, or one of the other CMS platforms, a solid backup system is essential. A good backup system will automatically store a copy of the most recent version of your website, so if something goes wrong with a server or an update, you can just “restore” your website with the backup version.
    • This is actually pretty simple to do, and no decent web developer would create a site without a backup system in place… but I’ve seen some crazy things in my time and I always feel better mentioning it.
    • For WordPress, I prefer Backup WordPress. It’s an easy-to-use plugin that automatically backs up your site at whatever interval you (or your developer) sees fit. It can also integrate with Dropbox, and automatically upload a copy of each backup to your Dropbox account (which is good).

 

Like I said before… there are like a billion other things I could list in this post, but that sounds like it would be freaking awful to read.

In the next few months I’ll be releasing a Content Guide to help people gather/organize the content needed to build a killer website! Subscribe to my list to get first dibs (and other freebies/shockingly helpful advice)! Woo!

 

-sp

 

REMOTE YEAR AND FEAR: TAMING THE MIGHTY BEAST

Hey all. Let’s have some real talk today.

On June 1st I’ll be embarking on the journey of a lifetime through Remote Year – a program where I’ll continue to work with all you incredible people, but remotely, and from a different country around the world every single month. (www.remoteyear.com)

I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how excited I am about all the incredible things I’ll learn and be able to translate into my career.

But I’ve never done anything like this before, ever. And if I’m honest, it scares me to death (which is another reason I am encouraged to do it! but the fear is still there).  So to prepare, I’ve found myself a pretty great therapist (if you’re ever reading this Jon*: you’re great!) who has been helping me develop a pretty awesome “toolbox” of coping strategies to combat the anxiety and stress of such a life-changing event.

My favorite take-away from these sessions comes out of a CBT strategy (Cognitive Behavior Therapy),  which teaches you to challenge your thoughts, identify what they trigger emotionally, and (eventually) separate the thought from the negative mental/emotional reactions.

I love this because A) it has steps/goals, and B) there are worksheets!

To start retraining my brain, Jon gave me a CBT worksheet that I was to use whenever I started to get anxious. For those reading this that are endeavoring to do something that scares the crap out of them (which you totally should), or anyone who just generally gets stressed by adulting, I am publicly sharing (…on the internet) an actual instance of my own CBT worksheet (because what could possibly go wrong with that?).


CBT Thought Record:

Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with?

I’m at home by myself.

Emotion or feeling. Rate 0-100%

Fear and anxiety. Shortness of breath, tightness in chest. 90%

Negative automatic thought: What thoughts were going through your mind?

I can’t do this. I will fail. I will run out of money on Remote Year. I will have to come home and somehow it will ruin my life.

Evidence that supports the thought. What facts support the truthfulness of this thought or image?

Different client scopes mean that my income is inconsistently scheduled, and I’m still building my bookkeeping/accounting skills.  Also I have a HUGE amount of things to pay for/purchase before Remote Year.

Evidence that does not support the thought: What experiences indicate that this thought is not completely true all of the time? If my best friend has this thought, that would I tell them?

I am incredibly good at what I do, and my business is growing exponentially because of it. I have an incredible support system through my friends and family, and I’m prepping in every way I can. Also I have a launch plan in place to help market my business.

Alternative thought: Write a new thought which takes into account the evidence for and against the original thought.

Things are hard right now, but I am scrappy AF! This is my life that I built. It is mine. I’m about to do something hugely beneficial for myself *and* my clients.

Emotion or feeling. How do you feel about the situation now? Rate 0 – 100%.

Fearful still, but mostly exhausted. 40%


It’s a process.

I’m still 7ish weeks out from leaving for Remote Year. I still have moments of intense stress, but I’m noticing that they do not trigger the anxiety anymore (we did it Jon!).

Anyway, the point of this post is this: fear is surprisingly, actually fine. I can’t get rid of it, but I can cohabitate with it peacefully, and even become stronger in it’s presence.

Please, tell me what stresses you out. Let’s be vulnerable together on the interwebs (preferably in the comment section). I want to hear about your fears and how you’ve coped with them. TELL ME YOUR STORIES!

*Name changed

How Much Do Websites Cost?

I hear this question all the time. This is tricky, because depending on the context/circumstances, the answer can vary WILDLY. Let’s break it down into some general price points for different web needs, just to give you guys some idea of what you should expect.

 

Under $3000

This is a hard one. Websites are complicated creatures, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a solid custom-built website anywhere near this price point. That being said, there are always options.

If you’re on an especially tight budget, I would suggest going with a DIY option like SquareSpace. Once your business starts to scale (along with your budget), you can hire a developer to build you the site of your dreams. 

Another option would be finding a freelancer who is just starting out; a wee babe in the wild and wonderful world of web development. They will be actively looking to build their portfolios, as well as navigate the tricky world of business. They won’t have the same level of expertise as others, but they usually make up for it with dedication. Just keep in mind that there will likely be a few learning curves for both of you, and be patient (we were all wee babes once).

 

$3000 – $6000

This is the range that covers simple websites/landing pages, and customized template sites. Expect a site built on a pre-existing template, with a few custom options and some nice design. Nothing too fancy, but easily scalable.

This is a great solution for businesses that know they will eventually need to scale to something more robust, but don’t necessarily have the funds to go all out immediately. This will get you a solid, beautiful foundation to build on.

 

$6000 – $20,000

This is for custom-built, bomb-ass, scalable solutions. The higher end of this range is also where you start to find things like customized eCommerce, Membership, and eCourse sites.

A website built at this price point will be your strongest ally.

You will be pleased. Very pleased. Maybe even blown away at the ease with which you can do whatever you need with your new flexible internet home. Not only that, but you will in most cases have built a lasting and beautiful working relationship with a developer who just “gets you”. They will have your back and know your process, and this will make anything else you want in the future a snap.

A website on this level is a solid investment, and should be seen as a tool to scale your business (more on this in a later post).

 

$25k and above

This starts to creep into the territory of the digital agencies. $25k might sound like a lot (and it is), but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg for most agency projects. My colleagues at different agencies usually work on projects worth several hundred thousand!

Most of these projects are built on platforms run by the agencies themselves, and come with a host of other services like marketing, branding, content strategy, managed hosting, etc.

 


Sooo, this is a pretty bare-bones assessment of a hugely varied field, but hopefully this will give you some sort of gauge when shopping for websites. 

This is the first of a series of info-posts that aim to shed a little light on the somewhat confusing world of web development. Join my list (opt-in on sidebar) to receive guidance, freebies, and (possibly) occasional stories about my dog and how awesome she is!

 

-SP