10 min read
After days of consideration, you’re excited and can’t wait to launch your first website.
It’s time to turn heads with your creative badassery and wow your prospective clients. What is there not to be excited about?
Totally with you, my friend. But before you get started, it may be a good idea to take a second and think about this new journey you’re embarking on.
Naturally, it’s an important step for you and your freelancing success. So, before you get too excited, there are five questions you need to think about and answer. They may be simple but they’re pretty important for giving your website the solid foundation it needs.
Plus, when you’re well-prepared from the start and take the time to go over these questions, you’ll be able to:
• focus on your goals a lot faster (because a website without a clear purpose won’t help you achieve much)
• save yourself a ton of time and frustration (because it’s easier to know what you’re looking for and where to look for it)
• know what to prioritize and what to leave for later (because your time is limited and precious)
And now that you know why you should ask yourself these five questions before you create your website, let’s have a closer look at each.
1. How Will You Use It?
What is your goal?
The first and perhaps most important question you need to ask yourself is how you’re going to use your website. When you know what the motivation behind your new website is, you can make much more informed and confident decisions about it.
For instance, if you want to use your website as your own little corner on the internet and are not really interested in selling your products or services, then going for a self-hosted option will not make a lot of sense.
After all, why spend money on something you’ll be using just for fun, right? There are many other options available for personal blogs these days, some of which we already covered in Part 1 of this series.
On the other hand, if you want to start a website so you can establish your online presence as a professional, showcase your work and attract clients, then self-hosting is your best bet.
This option includes website builders and website platforms, which can either be hosted for you for a premium price or hosted by a web hosting company of your choice (you can read more about these options here).
Blog or full website with a portfolio?
The next thing you need to decide is whether you’ll include a blog or if you’ll be using it solely as your online portfolio. Or perhaps you’re planning to keep it just as a portfolio and add a blog later on.
Either way, figuring out which pages you want your website to have (About, Contact, Blog, Portfolio, Services a.o.), will help you visualize it more clearly from the beginning.
And, since picking themes can take you ages if you don’t know what you want exactly, this is going to make the process a lot easier and a fair deal quicker. Certain themes are created specifically with portfolios in mind, while others are more suitable for blogs or both.
So, in the end, knowing what your website’s main focus is will help you look for themes with the features you’ll need and without any unnecessary extras.
2. What Is Your Budget?
How much can you invest in building your website?
Every new beginning comes with certain expenses, especially if it involves starting your own business, be it full-time or a side hustle. And that’s where your budget limitations come into play.
Paying for your hosting account, looking into premium themes, plugins and other services you may need can quickly add up, and suddenly you may find yourself wondering how you’re going to afford it all.
So before you even start adding items to your wish list like there’s no tomorrow, take a second to see what your budget looks like. How much are you willing to invest in your website? What is the maximum amount you can spend on your website without going broke?
What expenses should you be ready to face?
Now that you know what you’ve got to work with, it’s time to consider the possible costs of launching and maintaining your website. Of course, if you’re hiring someone to develop and set up your website, you’ll be looking at a long list. As long as it’s within your budget, though, you’re good to go.
But if you’re on a tight budget, knowing what your expenses are will be crucial to ensure you stay on budget. Some things you probably won’t need when you’re starting out. For example, premium email marketing software and plugins may be a reasonable investment when your income has grown to a certain level.
In most cases, you can easily find free alternatives to help you save money and stay on budget. Finding a cheap hosting account can also be fairly easy once you compare some of the offers available online and you cross out the ones you can’t afford.
As for email marketing software so you can send emails to your subscribers, both MailerLite and MailChimp have free plans you may want to check out.
Certain hosts offer attractive web hosting deals for small businesses or individuals looking for affordable options.
Other companies have plans that can grow together with your website and, depending on your needs, you can always upgrade or downgrade, knowing there’s always someone there to help or advise you when you’re unsure about your options.
One such host is my personal favorite, SiteGround*. Their customer support has been incredible and they’re always available to chat if you’re having any issues with your account.
3. How Do You Plan on Monetizing Your Blog or Website?
Are you going to offer any services?
The next big question is probably one you’ve had at the back of your mind for a while, but haven’t quite figured it out just yet. Or maybe it never really occurred to you to consider how you’re actually going to make money from your blog or website. Either way, you’re about to clarify things right now.
You already know you want to build a website to land clients, so this already answers the question. If you’re promoting your photography or design/illustration services, you’re basically creating a source of income through your website.
Are you planning to run an online store and sell digital products?
Offering your services, whether that’s writing, design, web development or wedding photography is one of the best ways to monetize your website. But apart from that, you may also have physical or digital products you want to sell.
Including that in your website plan is extremely important, not only because it will affect your overall budget, but also because it will help you to better position your business online.
Even if offering your creative services is your primary source of income, selling ebooks or design assets directly from your website can be a very powerful way to establish your expertise in your niche.
Do you plan on using sponsored posts, affiliate marketing or ads?
If you’re about to launch a blog on a niche topic like children’s book illustration, macro photography, handmade greeting cards or simple exercise routines for busy mompreneurs, a popular way to make money from your blog is to write blog posts about your favorite products.
These posts can be sponsored, where you are asked to write about an event or product offer and get paid per post. Alternatively, you may also test a product and write an honest review about it.
Another popular way to monetize your blog is through affiliate marketing. This works particularly well for products or services you enjoy using in your everyday life and want to share with your readers.
You typically get an affiliate link which you can then link to within your posts, emails or on your resource page, if you have one. For every sale the company makes when you refer someone, you will then get a commission.
Finally, some bloggers choose to display ads on their websites. Many companies are on the lookout for advertising opportunities, so if this monetization strategy is one you approve, you can search for companies willing to advertise on your site. You’ll usually place their banner somewhere visible and you’ll be paid per click or per ad displayed.
Tip: If you’re interested in any of these three options, you may want to first grow your blog by providing valuable content and attracting a large number of visitors every month, which will then increase your chances of succeeding with these monetization strategies.
4. What Should You Focus on First, Design or Content?
Is having a good-looking website important to you?
When you’re starting a website or blog, the first thing you might focus on is the way it’s going to look. And, let’s be honest, everyone wants to have a gorgeous, drool-worthy website to call their online home, right?
But that’s also where the problem lies sometimes.
You see, having a good-looking website is the bomb. After all, it’s what you immediately notice before you’ve even read a post or the about page on a website. And if you don’t like it enough, you’ll be gone in a split-second.
However, you should also think about the impact your website’s content is going to have on your visitors after you’ve hooked them in. Because without content that speaks and appeals to them, they’ll also leave, never to come back.
What do you start with first?
If you’re creating a website and your blog will be your main focus, the role of your content may be more central to the choice of the theme or design you’re going to choose. Sometimes, the nature of the content can lead you to theme designs that just “click” more. Most of the time, your visual statement should either support or enhance your content.
Even if you only have a faint idea about what you’re going to blog about or focus your website on, this is often more than enough to limit your options to the most suitable themes and designs you can choose from.
Before you start searching for your perfect theme, take the time to consider the previous questions and describe in a couple of sentences what your main focus will be and what tone you want to set. Are you going to be witty and clever or chic and serious? Modern or with a hint of nostalgia?
This will help you choose a design that’s compatible with your message, your voice, and the content you plan on creating, whether that’s your creative work or the blog posts you create to share insights into your workflow.
Try not to overthink and pick the one you feel is more aligned with your work and the brand you’re going to create for yourself as you go.
5. How Much Available Time Do You Have?
The process of setting up your website can vary a lot. For some it may take a couple of hours, for others it make take days or even weeks. That depends entirely on how you work, what your experience with setting up a website is and, of course, how much time you have available or are willing to put into it.
When you set a deadline, you’re doing yourself a huge favor. You don’t leave any room for procrastination and you have a specific amount of time to start, create, and launch your website.
This may be really important, especially if you have a full-time job on the side or if you know there are certain things you may need to learn. Basic HTML and CSS can seem daunting if you’re a complete beginner, but when you spend some time understanding how they work, it will help you be in more control when you need to make some minor tweaks and adjustments.
Consider all the time restraints that apply in your case and set a realistic date for when you want to go live. After going through the above questions, you’ll have a clearer idea about what needs to be done and for what reason. The rest is simply following a plan, even if that means taking baby steps every day to create your website content, structure your portfolio, or come up with your first few blog posts.
So, now that you know which questions to ask and you’ve taken the time to consider how you’re going to answer these before you even start your website, you should be much more prepared for what follows next.
You’ve essentially laid the foundation of your website, you know what you’re trying to do with it and how you’re going to go about it. In the next installment of this series we’ll go over the setup process of your website step-by-step.
Your turn! Are there any other questions you think should be added to this list? Let me know in the comments below.
*affiliate link. I only recommend products and services I personally use and love.
Blog post photo: RAWPixel