Who Are You Writing For?

A Simple Philosophy for Writing SEO Articles

A big component of SEO is having the right words on the page. Specifically, if you want to rank for a keyword then you need to have content on your site that relates to that keyword. This is a no-brainer for anyone with basic knowledge of SEO, but there is a much deeper concept that needs to be explored in order to clear up any misconceptions people may have about why their content isn’t ranking well.

Close up hand writing on paper. Close up people writing on paper.

Lose the Litmus Test

When creating content for a website, a common mistake people make is thinking they have to write articles that pass some sort of litmus test with Google. They think that they need to write an article that crosses all the t’s and dots all the i’s such as having the right keywords on the page, having the right amount of links on the page, having the right metadata implemented, etc.

While these aren’t things you should avoid thinking about entirely when creating content, there’s just one vital piece of the pie you’ve forgotten about during the creation process: the person reading your content! Google, like any company, wants their platform to best assist the people who use it, so it’s safe to assume that they would only want content ranked well that answers its user’s inquiries. A well-written, informative piece of content has a much better chance of doing this than a thin, keyword-stuffed piece of…*ahem*.

“Welcome to My Storage Website! We Have Storage Units, Storage Rentals, Storage California, Storage New York…”

Let’s be honest, it’s very obvious when you come across content that has only been written for the search engines. It tends to be thin, unhelpful and crammed together with lots of keywords making it hardly readable. If you came across a page like that, you would likely leave and look for something more useful, right? Google wouldn’t want pages like these to receive a lot of traffic from their site if users aren’t finding it helpful. They want their own users to think of Google as being the best tool to use when searching for things.

Rather than focusing so much on trying to fit a lot of keywords into your content, try to write your content in a way that would be both engaging and helpful to the reader. As you write, you’ll end up naturally using keywords that are related to the content’s topic. You can, of course, go back and tweak some of the wording if you want to add a keyword here or there, but always be sure that it sounds naturally placed within the content. As Google shifts its focus more toward topicality and LSI keywords, it may not even be necessary to try and fit certain words into the content over time if you want it to rank well.

Always Write With the User in Mind

When creating content for your website, a good motto to live by is, “always write with the user in mind.” The best course of action when creating content is to create something that solves a user’s problem, provides them with invaluable information, or both! The content should be written in an easy-to-read format, have good grammar, and exude the kind of quality anyone would be proud to share.

If you insist on wanting some kind of litmus test to determine if your content is following SEO best practices or not, then use the following question: “What sort of content would I want to read?” Thin, keyword-stuffed content or high-quality, helpful content? I think the answer is obvious.

Originally published on Go Local Interactive

How Not to Go Into a Web Design Project Blindly

4 Questions to Ask Clients Before Designing a Website

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing after I spent weeks building my client’s website.

Data Logistics

“Uh, I don’t really like it. Can you rebuild it?” the client told me over the phone.

My heart sunk as I struggled not to drop the phone.

I realized at that moment that I didn’t even consult the client on what they wanted the site to look like, I just went with what I thought it should look like.

I begrudgingly agreed to rebuild the site and made a simple promise to myself from that point on:

I will always send my clients a list of questions so I can get a better feel for what they want their website to look like.

Since I made myself this promise,  I have yet to run into problems like the aforementioned debacle.

Here are a few of the most important questions I always ask my clients before building them a website.

What is the Tone of Your Brand?

As a web designer, it’s important to get a feel for your client’s brand.

Understanding their tone will help determine the writing style on the site as well as the overall design.

If your client describes the tone of their brand as fun, warm, inviting, etc., then you’ll want to have content written on the site that isn’t overly serious and invites people to learn more about their brand.

The overall design of the site should also feel warm, inviting, and fun.

If they describe the tone of their brand as more serious, you’ll want to have content and a design scheme that looks and sounds more professional and serious.

Generally, content that is warm and inviting tends to feel more personal while serious content tends to feel more distant.

Also, brighter colors tend to give off that fun and inviting feeling while darker, grayer colors tend to be more serious and professional.

Consult your client on your content and color choices to see if they feel like it fits in line with their brand’s tone.

What Do You Want Users to Accomplish on Your Site?

Whether it be to give people information, have people sign up for a newsletter, or purchase something it’s incredibly important to structure a website so that it allows users to easily perform the desired action.

A great book to read on structuring websites so users can easily perform actions is Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.

His philosophy is simple: make performing tasks on a website so simple that users don’t have to think about it.

In other words, if you want people to find information make it extremely easy to find on the website by keeping it only one or two clicks away.

Also, if you want people to sign up for something or purchase something, have sign up forms or purchase buttons brightly colored and hard to miss on a page.

I recommend grabbing Steve Krug’s book if you plan on taking web design seriously as it will help you out a lot.

Who Are Some of Your Competitors?

Get a list of your client’s competitors and look at their websites.

Ask your client what they like or dislike about the competitor’s website, and see if there’s anything on the competitor’s website that you could improve on with your client’s website.

For example, maybe the competitor’s website has a menu bar that looks like it’s straight out of the 90’s, you could easily use a WordPress theme that has a menu bar that looks way better than that!

Or perhaps they don’t have an About Us page or a Blog page, you could easily create those for your client making their website much higher in quality.

Spying on competitors is a great way to both get ideas and ensure your client is outperforming them.

What Features Would You Like Your Site to Have?

Maybe your client wants a sexy slider on the homepage showcasing all of their services, or maybe they insist on having an About section on the front page.

Whatever the case may be, it’s always best to ask them if they have a specific design in mind or want specific features on the website.

That way you have a good foundation to build off of making it easier than simply building from scratch.

What I like to do is show my clients 3 different demos WordPress themes that are within their industry, whether it be dentistry, auto repair, etc.

You can find these theme demos at Themeforest.net.

Conclusion

Coming up with a design can be tough without guidance, so always be sure to ask your clients questions like these so you’ll have a much clearer idea of what kind of website they want you to build.

Also, be sure to never go into building a website blind – you should always consult your client before beginning a web design project.

How Much to Charge for Building a WordPress Website

Guide to Pricing WordPress Website Projects

I made a big mistake on my second-ever web design project. My client wanted me to build them a custom website that included heavy-duty HTML and CSS styling that I was extremely unfamiliar with.

how much to charge for a wordpress website

Having just started as a web designer, I spent many late nights both learning on the fly and slaving away at this website trying to get it to look presentable.

Once completed, all I got out of the project was a measly $1,500.

While that might seem like a lot, and it certainly was for me at the time, looking back I realize that a better price for the amount of work I did would have been closer to $5,000.

However, I was still learning so I bit the bullet and built the site anyway with zero complaints.

Correctly pricing a web design project is one of the most important factors in building a successful web design business.

It can save you a lot of headaches, frustration, and hours of unpaid labor.

Here are some tips I suggest you take into account if you’re wanting to learn how to best charge clients for building a WordPress website.

Have a Set Minimum Price in Mind

Before I take on any web design project, I always have a set minimum price in mind that I rarely deviate from.

Setting this price is important so you don’t end up taking on a project and feeling like you’re getting shortchanged.

Personally, my minimum price is $1500-$2000 per web design project. This price is largely intuitive and because I have a portfolio so I can charge more than I did when I had no portfolio.

If you are just starting out, it may be smart to have your price lower – anywhere from $500-$1000.

My first client paid me $500 upfront and $500 once I finished, and that felt very reasonable to me at the time.

I would not go any lower than that unless the work would end up being fairly easy and it could score you a reference.

If you have a client that wants you to build a large website with a lot of moving parts, you could easily charge them anywhere from $4,000-$6,000.

Normally, however, when working with small businesses the prices for websites will stay around the $1,000-$2,000 range.

Go with your gut when it comes to pricing WordPress websites for small businesses, and don’t go lower than your minimum if the client rejects your first offer – trust me.

In my opinion, you should never work for less than you’re worth.

Factor Time Spent on Each Project

If you’re unable to figure out a price intuitively, a great way to price your projects is to calculate the amount of time you think it will take you to finish building their site.

My first website took me about 4 weeks to finish with me working about an hour a day on it, so that would have been roughly 28 hours.

The average web developer salary is $64K which is around $31/hr, so if we use this number then 28 x 31 = $868.

Add in a few fees like setting up the site, installing plugins, etc. and you could easily price the website around $1000.

I don’t recommend including your hourly rate or fees in your proposal, this exercise is more for yourself so you can know how to price things.

Most business owners (at least in my experience) like seeing just one flat rate they have to pay and hate being nickel-and-dimed.

Include Every Detail in Your Proposal

While your rate is best structured as a flat fee, you should still include as much detail about the work you’re going to be doing as possible.

When a client sees how many things you’re going to be doing for them, the perceived value of your services will go up.

For example, if all you put in your proposal is the following:

New Website – $1,000

It won’t seem as valuable to the client since there’s not really much detail on what goes into building their new website.

Now, if you include items in your proposal like this:

  • Custom Slider
  • Stock Photos
  • Custom Favicon
  • Brand New Content
  • Privacy Policy Page
  • Google Analytics Installation
  • Google Search Console Account Set Up
  • Bing Webmaster Tools Account Set Up
  • WordPress Plugin Installation
  • WordPress Theme Installation

Total: $1,000

They will be more likely to sign with you even though both scenarios show the same price and amount of work.

The only difference between these two is one of these has more detail than the other.

Clients will be more likely to see the value of your services when they see how much work you’ll actually be doing.

In other words, the devil really is in the details – and he’s got dollar signs in his eyes!

Outline Your Scope of Work and Try Not to Go Outside It

When writing your proposal, make sure that you specifically outline the amount of work you plan on doing and let the client know what sort of work would go outside the scope that they paid for.

Make sure you communicate this with your client effectively, as there can sometimes be misunderstandings between both parties.

I told my first client that I would make any “changes” to their website for free after I built it for them, and somehow they thought that included completely redesigning the site after they’ve paid me for it!

What I meant by that was if they didn’t like something after I showed them the first draft of their website, I would make changes without charging them.

Of course, I didn’t explicitly say it like that in the proposal, so they thought I meant I would make ALL changes to their site INDEFINITELY without charging them.

Thankfully, the client was understanding when I explained to them what I meant and I still work with them to this day.

When you’re first starting out, it may be difficult to tell a client “no”, but in situations like this it’s paramount you do so or you could end up working several hours unpaid.

Of course, there are certain circumstances where it would be unreasonable to charge a client (i.e. updating a plugin for them on their website), but a good rule of thumb is never do anything unpaid that could take more an hour to complete.

Conclusion

Pricing WordPress websites can be difficult at first, but following these tips should help you determine how much to charge your clients.

Remember to always have your set minimum price in mind, estimate the amount of time you think it’ll take to complete the project, provide lots of details in your proposal, and never go outside the outlined scope of work unless it’s a quick fix.

The Smart Way to Get Your First Client

How to Start a Web Design Business With No Portfolio

With sweaty palms and a queasy feeling in my stomach, I sat outside a local dentist office in my car trying to figure out what I was going to say. I told myself that today was the day I would start my web design business, so I Google’d a few businesses, got their addresses, and decided I would visit each of them to see if they needed a new website. The only problem was that I had no portfolio to show them.

Business people shaking hands

“How are they going to trust me if I’ve never worked with clients before?” I thought to myself.

Feeling defeated, I drove away before even hearing a yes or no them the business owner.

Are you trying to figure out how to start your own web design business without having an established portfolio?

As someone who has made thousands building websites, I can relate to the fear of not knowing how to get your first client when you don’t have a portfolio.

Unfortunately, most businesses won’t want to work with someone unless they have a portfolio of work to show them.

The question is, though, how are you supposed to build a portfolio if you need one in order to be able to build one?

It’s like the Screen Actor’s Guild: you can’t get a SAG card unless you’ve been in a SAG movie, but you can’t be in a SAG movie unless you have a SAG card.

Sounds pretty insane, doesn’t it?

Well, thankfully, there actually are ways to start building your web design business even if you don’t have a portfolio to show people.

Follow these tips and you won’t be running around in circles like most people when they first get started!

Lay the Right Foundation for Your Business

Starting a business can definitely be overwhelming, so before diving into it you’ll need to figure out a few key elements that will work as the foundation for your success.

A few of these elements include your business structure (sole proprietorship or LLC), business bank account, business credit card, invoicing software, accounting software, and proposal and contract templates/software.

I personally have an LLC, and I would recommend getting one, but I know plenty of people who work as sole proprietors and they like it better that way.

There are plenty of pros and cons to having both, so do your research and figure out which is best for you.

I also have my own bank account for my business at Central Bank, my own business credit card from Chase, Freshbooks as my invoicing software, and Bonsai as my proposal/contracting software.

As for accounting, I keep track of it all on my own using Google Sheets.

Freshbooks has a great expense tracker as well if you don’t want to keep track of it yourself.

Having all of these things in order will help establish your credibility as a web designer when prospecting for clients if you don’t have a portfolio.

Build Websites for Yourself

Before you even think about building a website for someone else, you need to have some experience building websites.

As mentioned in my post showing how to get into web design with no experience, the best way to learn something is by taking action.

Build your business’ website using WordPress and a nice looking business theme from Themeforest.

You should also try building niche websites based on topics you like (e.g. you’re a fan of quinoa so you start a website showing all of your favorite quinoa recipes).

Having a point of reference for your web design work can help local business owners decide if you’re right for the job, so don’t be afraid to show them these websites as examples of your expertise.

Build Websites for Friends and Family

Know somebody in your family or circle of friends that has a business?

Ask them if they’d be interested in having you either build them a new website or redesign their old one.

Having already established a relationship with them, it’s easier to sell them on your work even if you technically don’t have a portfolio.

Remember, though, that doing business with family or friends can end up doing harm to the relationship if not done correctly so be careful.

Have Friends or Family Refer You

If you don’t have anyone close to you that needs a website, ask them if they themselves know someone you don’t that needs one.

My first web design client was a referral from a friend, and even though I didn’t have a portfolio they hired me anyway because of my friend’s reference and reasonable pricing.

Just bring it up casually when you’re with friends or family and you might get lucky!

Befriend Local Business Owners

People tend to only want to work directly with people they like, so try to build a friendly relationship with local business owners.

Perhaps there’s a local restaurant you go to often that has a crummy website – befriend the owner and let them know that you know how to build websites.

Offer to build them a website at a discount, and see what they say.

You’d be surprised at how willing many business owners are to work with freelancers, and having an existing relationship will help you get your foot in the door even without a portfolio.

Conclusion

While it’s much easier to build a web design business with a portfolio, we all have to start somewhere.

Thankfully, there are ways to begin building your business even without an extensive portfolio.

How to Quickly Get Into Web Design With No Experience

Use These Simple Steps to Decode Web Design

If you’re anything like I was before I learned web design, you might be overwhelmed at the idea of building a website. So many moving parts, so much code, so many headaches…

Start Building Websites

Whenever anyone talked to me about web design I would think back to the scene from the Matrix where Neo speaks with Cypher about the code of the matrix.

Neo: Do you always look at it encoded?

Cypher: Well, you have to… You get used to it. I don’t even see the code. All I see is blonde, brunette, redhead…

Staring at a black screen with cryptic letters I have to somehow learn how to translate?

No thank you!

Thankfully, web design is nothing like that at all.

In fact, it’s actually not that hard to learn if you are willing to put in the time and effort to do so.

I can tell you firsthand that I have very little coding experience and yet I have built dozens of websites and made thousands of dollars thanks to my expertise as a web designer.

If you have no experience building websites and are looking to get into web design, then here are some helpful tips on how to do so quickly.

Build Your First Website Using WordPress

If you’re thinking about getting into web design, then I suggest building your first website using WordPress.

WordPress is one of the best content management systems around and is super easy to pick up.

As a freelance web designer, I’ve built all of my websites in WordPress and wouldn’t even think of using another CMS.

To create your first website, all you need to do is buy a domain, a hosting server, and install WordPress in the cPanel area.

In my opinion, the best way to learn anything is by doing, so if you haven’t played around with WordPress yet then I recommend doing that before reading any more articles.

Create Projects for Yourself

I learned how to build websites by creating website projects that had specific purposes for me.

My first ever website was a fan site for the show Pretty Little Liars.

The show was extremely popular at the time, so I wanted to make an affiliate website that advertised PLL merchandise.

While the site did make me a few dollars, it didn’t take off like I wanted it to – and that’s OK.

I learned a lot through this experience, including how to install themes, plugins, and make edits to things like CSS files and header.php files.

Plan out what kind of website you want to build, whether it be an affiliate website or a blog, and get to work creating it.

Having a project in mind rather than arbitrarily building website will help you focus and finish what you start.

As you finish your projects, you’ll be able to look back and see how much you’ve learned along the way!

Block Out Time Each Week to Learn

Got an hour or so each day to spare?

You might not think you do, but in reality, we all have at least an hour or two to spare to spend time intentionally learning something.

Rather than spending time watching YouTube videos mindlessly in bed, why not spend an hour playing around with WordPress?

When I first got started building websites, I spent a good couple of hours each day on my websites.

I took breaks not nearly as often as I should have, but I don’t regret it now since I have so many logged hours to work off of at this point.

If you really can’t find time each day to spend on building websites, just use a good chunk of your day off.

Sure, it’s your day off, but how successful you are is determined by how much time you’re willing to put in.

Read Tons of Articles

In between the time you spend building websites, spend time reading articles from reputable sources on things like WordPress, web design best practices, SEO, etc.

Sites that have helped me tremendously include WPBeginner, WordPress.org Forums, SearchEnglineLand.com, and Moz.com.

I’ve also read plenty of one-off articles I’ve found from Google that answers my questions.

As I mentioned, the best way for you to learn anything is by doing, so while reading articles is great don’t let it steal time away from taking action.

Use YouTube

I’ve learned an incredible amount of web design and SEO knowledge from YouTube.

If you’re trying to figure out how to do something web design related, it’s a lot easier watching a video explaining it rather than reading an article.

Just don’t get sidetracked by cat videos – it’s happened to me too many times to count!

Use Free Coding Websites

Sites like Codecademy are truly a godsend when it comes to learning HTML and CSS.

While it’s not completely necessary to know HTML and CSS to build sites with WordPress (particularly if you’re wanting to build websites for local businesses), it can save you a lot of headaches having some basic knowledge on these two topics.

I recommend going through Codecademy’s free HTML and CSS courses just to wet your pallet, then try to learn on your own.

Conclusion

Even if you have no experience as a web designer, there are still several ways to easily get started in the industry.

While you won’t be working for a Fortune 500 company as a web designer or building websites for local businesses overnight, you can certainly start building your own websites right now!

If you invest the time and effort needed to succeed, there’s no doubt you can become a web designer.

5 Free Tools to Help Automate Your Business’ Online Presence

Implement Automation Without Spending an Arm and a Leg

If the thought of keeping in constant contact with your customers online sounds overwhelming then you’re not alone; 24 percent of small businesses don’t use social media at all. The biggest reason for this is a lack of time. Social media doesn’t stop when the workday ends, so it can be a daunting task to commit to a strategy. And your digital presence doesn’t take vacation time – and you wouldn’t want it to. Digital marketing and social media are great ways to continue to build and engage your customers to drive conversions. With the help of free, online resources, automating your business is more attainable than you think. Use these five tools to get started:

Business Automation

1. Facebook’s Response Assistant

This tool allows you to cut back on time spent monitoring your messages like a hawk. It allows you to automatically respond to anyone who messages your business’ Facebook page with a personalized message. While it’s still ideal to have an employee manually go through the messages at some point to give your customer more relevant information, this feature will help you maintain your page’s response rate. To access this tool:

  1. Go to your Facebook page’s “Settings”
  2. Then “Messaging”
  3. Under “Response Assistant” click “Yes” next to “Send Instant Replies to anyone who messages your Page”

Pro Tip: Place the answers to some frequently asked questions in the message to save yourself some time.

2. Buffer

If you’ve tried to manually publish a social media post every day at the same time, you know how hard it can be. After all, we’re only human. Thankfully, digital tools have a much better memory than we do. Buffer allows you to schedule posts to your social media accounts with ease. On the free plan, you can schedule up to 10 posts per account on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram. Buffer also provides in-depth analytics on audience engagement, which is a great way to see what works and what doesn’t. Try adding a mix of photos, videos, questions, and promotions to keep your audience both entertained and engaged.

3. Hootsuite

Like Buffer, Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts to your social media accounts beforehand. On the free plan, you can have 3 social profiles, basic analytics, and an unlimited number of scheduled posts. Hootsuite can also run lead capture campaigns through sweepstakes and even has RSS feed integration allowing you to pull content from other websites. As with Buffer, experimenting with different forms of content can help you determine what’s working.

4. IFTTT: If This, Then That

This tool can be a little confusing at first, but can deliver some truly powerful results. IFTTT allows you to set up simple automation “formulas.” It can do everything from automatically posting to Twitter when you publish a Facebook post or keep track of the time you spend on projects. There are plenty of pre-existing formulas that are great for work or for your personal life, but you can also set up your own. There are seemingly endless possibilities with IFTTT, so play around and see how it can benefit you.

5. MailChimp

As one of the best email autoresponders out there, MailChimp just got better because it’s now completely free for less than 2,000 subscribers. MailChimp can help you keep in touch with your audience by sending automatic emails. You can send a ‘Thank You’ email after someone completes a purchase, ‘Welcome’ new subscribers to the club, and even keep your followers up-to-date with a regular newsletter. MailChimp also collects data on your email campaigns and can segment your audience based on email clicks, open rates, or even geographic area. You can then use this information to drive new marketing tactics and increase your conversions.

Make the Most of Your Digital Marketing Strategy

While tools like these can help you save time, remember that nothing beats real human interaction. You and your employees will be able to better answer a prospective customer’s question and provide more empathetic customer service. At the end of the day, a customer wants a genuine relationship with your company. Meanwhile, it’s also important to continually update your strategies to cater to your audience. These tools can help you strengthen your online presence while letting you focus on your brand and your customers.

Originally published on MarketingBitz.com

4 Tips to Increase Your Business’ Instagram Engagement

How to Best Engage With Your Audience on Instagram

Is your business on Instagram? If not, you may be missing out on an opportunity to reach a huge audience! In December 2016, Instagram reported that their user base had grown to an astonishing 600 million users, with their numbers rising each day. If your business is already on Instagram, but struggling to get more engagement, here are 4 tips to promote interaction.

Business Instagram Engagement

1. Take Advantage of Hashtags

Hashtags are searchable indicators of what your posts are about. It’s important to add relevant hashtags to your posts to expose your content to a broader audience. Using a good combination of both general and specific hashtags in each of your posts is key.

For example, if you own a salon, use general hashtags like #salon, #hair, etc., as well as more specific hashtags such as #losangeles if you are located in Los Angeles or #aveda if your salon sells Aveda products.

2. Exclusive, Behind-the-Scenes Access

Consistently creating new content is hard work, and often times consuming. Save your best bouts of creativity for special occasions.

Try documenting things around your business. By posting the work you already do, you can highlight your services and an endless supply of content.

A salon’s Instagram page will often post photos of recently completed haircuts. This shows off the stylist’s skill and keeps their followers’ content cravings satisfied.

People are generally more drawn to content that is organic versus photos that are staged. Once the pressure is off to “be creative” and you are free to document the daily experiences at your business, you’ll not only seem more genuine to your audience but you’ll also find it much easier to post things throughout the day.

3. Victory in Videos

Videos are visually compelling and proven to have higher engagement than photos. Instagram videos can be up to one minute long on your profile, and ten seconds long on your story.

While your content is limited in duration, it shouldn’t be in creativity or production value. Even minimalistic videos are successful when they adhere to your brand voice, and don’t suffer in quality.

While a quick, unorchestrated video is great for the Instagram Stories feature, a video post should be properly strategized and executed.

4. Use Clear Calls-to-Action

A call-to-action (CTA) is a simple phrase that invites your audience to do a specific task. Whether you place these phrases in your images or in your captions, a strong CTA will encourage interaction with your post, and your brand.

You can use CTAs as a tool to initiate feedback, engagement, or word-of-mouth marketing. CTAs have been proven to increase customer interaction and deepen your audience’s relationship with your brand. Experiment with different CTAs to see which works best for your business.

Start Building Your Instagram Brand

Social media marketing is all about meeting your customers where they already are. Instagram has been increasing its user base over the last few years, providing businesses with new opportunities to reach a broader audience. Start developing relationships on Instagram today; and watch your business grow as you implement these simple strategies!

Originally published on MarketingBitz

How to Make Money Building Websites Part Time From Home

Make Five to Six Figures Working With Local Businesses

“Here you go,” the business owner said as she handed me a check for $500. As I took the check from her, it’s hard to put into words the excitement I felt as I saw my name in the “PAY TO THE ORDER OF:” line and that beautiful “$500” amount smiling back at me.

Young man working on his laptop in a coffee shop

After we shook hands and I made my way back to my car, I felt a deep sense of accomplishment as I had just sold my very first client on a web design project.

What made this moment even more fulfilling was that I had only just started building websites 3 months ago.

As I drove back home from this meeting, a litany of thoughts began to plague my mind:

“What if she thinks the site sucks?”

“You’re a fraud, you barely know how to build websites!”

“How are you going to have the time to build her a new site?”

Thankfully, I overcame these thoughts and within a few weeks I built the site, collected the remaining money owed to me, and continued working with the client to this very day.

Since mid-2014, I have made 5 figures (xx,xxx) building and maintaining websites for clients.

The work I did was completely part-time and only with a handful of people, so had I spent more time marketing my services I know I could have made even more.

I didn’t quit my day job, worked a few hours each week on my client’s websites, and still made a lot of money.

So whether you want to build your own digital marketing agency, make side money as a freelancer, or learn skills that can get you a career in digital marketing here are some tips that I’ve used to become a successful freelance web designer.

Start Building Websites

Before you even think about marketing yourself as a web designer, you have to actually get out there and build a website yourself.

I know, it sounds pretty obvious, but plenty of people these days love to talk big games on things like entrepreneurship, digital marketing, etc. when they literally have nothing to show for it.

Don’t worry, though, because gone are the days of having to master coding, HTML, and CSS thanks to software like WordPress.

What You Need to Build Your First Website

  • Domain Name (yourwebsite.com) – This can be bought through a domain registrar like Namecheap for as low as $10 per year.
  • Hosting Server – This is a server where your website’s files are kept. I recommend using Siteground as their pricing is affordable and their site is easy to use.
  • WordPress Software – This can be installed for free on your hosting server with literally one click.

That’s seriously it!

Try building a simple website about anything, whether it be your own personal blog or a fan site about your favorite show.

Spend time each day learning how WordPress works, play around with new themes and plugins, and, of course, Google anything and everything you can think of related to web design.

Trust me, it’s better to jump in and learn as you go rather than waiting to take action until you “know enough”.

Had I done that, then I wouldn’t have had the skills to build a website for my first client 3 months after I started learning web design!

By that point, my first client’s website was the fifth website I ever built rather than the first, so I had a better grip on what I was doing.

Also, that client may have found someone else willing to build them a site instead of me, and I could have lost out on that opportunity completely!

Thankfully I didn’t, and you won’t either if you just start.

Tell Your Friends

Once you start building websites, let people know about it.

No, I’m not saying you should be like Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration, but I am saying you should make others aware of your new found skills.

The reason why I tell people to do this is simple:

I found my first client through a friend after a chance conversation with him at a wedding.

I told him I was building websites and he told me a local ballroom company that he spent time at needed a new one.

So, I got the owner’s contact information and have been working with them ever since!

I’ve redesigned their website twice, have done SEO work for them, and even found another client thanks to a referral by them.

Let’s just say that chance conversation was what propelled me to not only make several thousands of dollars independently but also gave me the skills to get a job in the digital marketing field.

Who knows? Maybe there’s a chance conversation waiting for you someday after you let people know what you’re doing!

Get Your Logistics in Order

Ideally, you want to do this before you have a meeting scheduled with your first prospective client, but it’s OK if you end up having to scramble the day before like I did (just don’t expect much sleep that night!).

You’ll want to create a proposal that includes your scope of work, pricing, and how long it will take you to complete their website.

There are tons of proposal templates available on the internet, so just find one you like and add all the necessary information – it doesn’t have to look perfect.

It’s also recommended you either show them your portfolio or a mockup of what you have in mind for their new website.

Again, this doesn’t have to be perfect – just come up with something and do your best to sell them on it.

You will learn a ton just by meeting with this first prospect even if they don’t end up going with you, so don’t be discouraged if things don’t go the way you want right away.

Tips When Meeting With Prospects

  • When meeting with your prospect, have your proposal printed off and ready for them to sign.
  • Make sure the proposal not only looks good aesthetically but is easy to understand.
  • Try to limit your proposal to only a few pages (maximum of 5 in my opinion).
  • Be as descriptive as possible, but at the same time try to only include the necessary information (explain the importance of responsive design but don’t rattle on about a specific WordPress theme you like).
  • Look your prospect in the eyes, and make sure you act very engaged and interested in their business.
  • Sit up straight and speak confidently.

The biggest mistake I made when I first got started working with clients was I priced myself way too low for the amount of work I did.

Price yourself accordingly, for example:

I set my price at $1000 for the first website I built and had my client pay me $500 upfront and $500 when I finished.

Personally, I find this pricing to be sufficient for your first client.

Make sure that you explicitly state in your proposal the work that you will be doing, and advise them that if you end up having to go outside the initial scope of work that it will cost extra.

Of course, you want to be understanding and ensure that your client is satisfied, but getting this out of the way upfront will save you hours of working late into the night for free (trust me, I would know!).

Look For Local Opportunities

I’m gonna be honest with you:

You’re probably never going to build a website for Coca-Cola.

You might, however, be able to build a website for that local restaurant you drive by on your way to the bank every Thursday morning.

Make a list of all the small businesses within driving distance of your house, Google them, and see what their websites look like.

If they’re outdated, hard to navigate or rank low in the search engines then you’ve probably got an opportunity on your hands.

Reach out to these business owners via email or just walk into their establishments and introduce yourself.

Leave them your contact information and try to set up a follow meeting with them to discuss your scope of work and pricing.

Remember: the worst thing they can say is no.

Learn As You Go

If you can’t tell, I’m purposely not being as descriptive with things as I could be because I want you to get out there and learn things yourself by taking action.

I didn’t learn how to build websites, write proposals, or work with clients through reading a handful of articles.

I learned by doing.

If you feel like you don’t want to get started working as a freelance web designer until you “know enough” then I suggest you stop reading this and just start messing around in WordPress.

I’m serious, quit reading this right now and start building a website.

Keep going, and if you hit a roadblock Google will be your best friend.

The only thing holding you back from cashing a $500 check written to you by that local restaurant is yourself, so get to work, learn as you go, and stop complaining.

Conclusion

You can read a million different articles on things like web design, SEO, etc., but until you actually open the WordPress backend and start exploring it yourself you’ll have nothing to show for your knowledge except a big head.

These 5 steps are what ultimately took me from working at a grocery store to working at a digital marketing agency with double the income and even a nice side hustle that made me 5 figures.

Get to work, and I promise you if you don’t quit you’ll do well.

Namecheap is the Best Domain Registrar and Here’s Why

A Review of Namecheap's Domain Service

If you’re needing a cheap domain registrar that both has great customer service and an easy-to-use interface, then Namecheap is by far the best choice. I’ve been using NameCheap for almost 3 years now and have had zero issues with them, so I can’t recommend them more.

NameCheap Logo

Here’s an in-depth look at why Namecheap is the best domain registrar and should be used by everyone (even you diehard GoDaddy fans…do those even exist?)

They Don’t Call Themselves Cheap for Nothing!

Just like the name implies, NameCheap’s pricing for domains is incredibly cheap averaging around $10 – $11 per year for their .com domains.

With their monthly coupon codes they come out with, however, you can get your domains at an even cheaper rate of $9 – $10 (every dollar counts, right?)

While their .org and .net prices can vary in pricing, their .com prices consistently remain low which is why I like them a lot.

Another cool feature is that the more years you buy, the cheaper the per year price will be as you can see in this photo:

Namecheap Pricing

Basically, if you know you’re going to have the site around for more than a year, it might be smarter to buy the domain for 2+ years upfront rather than waiting to be auto billed for it each year.

Personally, I recommend if you’re just getting started to just buy the one year and once your website becomes more established you can buy more years to bring the price down.

Beautiful Interface

Namecheap has evolved their interface over the years to better serve their audience.

I know this because as part of their audience, I’ve been consistently blown away by how awesome their site gets each year.

I love minimalist design, so when Namecheap updated their dashboard to look more like this I instantly fell in love:

Namecheap Dashboard

So much beautiful white space!

Easy to Navigate

Not only is the site beautifully built, but it’s also insanely simple to navigate around the backend.

If I need to transfer a domain, sell a domain, or simply update my nameservers I know exactly where I need to go.

As someone who has bought dozens of domain names over the years, having a domain registrar that is simple to navigate not only saves me precious seconds of my time but also keeps me from pulling my hair out trying to find things I need.

Namecheap keeps things simple (stupid) and that’s why they’re, in my humble opinion, the best domain registrar to use for web designers, entrepreneurs, or average joe’s looking to start a WordPress blog.

Customer Service Awesomeness

I’m personally a huge fan of the chat feature on sites as it’s way faster than email or submitting support tickets.

Similar to Siteground, Namecheap has a chat feature that allows you to be in contact with a representative within seconds.

These guys have always answered my questions in a professional matter, usually resolve the issue within minutes, and have never cussed me out once – even when I get snappy with them!

These three things alone are clear to me why their customer service is spectacular, but if you don’t believe me reach out to them yourselves and see!

The Cons of Using NameCheap

I keep things honest on this blog, so I’m being genuine when I say there’s very little issues I’ve had with Namecheap as a whole while working as a web designer and a niche blogger.

The thing with domain registrars is that you don’t really work within their dashboards for long periods of time unless you need to update your hosting, transfer a domain, sell off a domain, etc.

These things don’t happen very often unless you’re like how I was when I first got started in online marketing and bought a new domain every other day (I don’t recommend doing this).

The only real problem I’ve had with them is that I couldn’t get a refund for any of the domains I had bought either impulsively or because I decided not to create a website with that domain anymore.

Namecheap’s registration agreement tells you outright that their domains are nonrefundable, but who actually reads these?!

All kidding aside, this is very normal for a domain registrar to do so it’s not much of a complaint to make.

Plus, Namecheap has a domain marketplace where you can sell your domain at your own price with Namecheap taking 10% of the sale which isn’t bad.

I will say, however, that most of the domains I’ve been able to sell successfully sold for around $5 with only one I can think of that sold for more.

So, to put it bluntly, if you’re going to buy a domain anywhere you better make sure it’s the name you want otherwise you’ll never get all your money back.

Conclusion

In my experience, Namecheap is great, and easily the best domain registrar to use.

GoDaddy isn’t terrible, and they have plenty of promotions that are good (with a billion other upsells), but I find Namecheap to be a far superior domain registrar.

Call it brand loyalty, but Namecheap will always have a special place in my heart as the first domain registrar I ever used and will likely continue to use for years to come.

3 Best Shared Hosting Companies For Your WordPress Site

Build a Stable Website by Selecting the Best Company to Host It

When it comes to hosting a website, there are only a handful of shared hosting companies that I personally would recommend using. While shared hosting is slow compared to other forms of website hosting, it is also one of the most affordable and is perfect for people to use if they want to build a website quickly.

Best Shared Hosting Companies

Here are 3 companies that I have used personally over the years that I would recommend anyone use to get started building their website.

1. Siteground

Siteground

Siteground is hands-down the best shared hosting company that I’ve used when it comes to pricing, speed, interface, and ease-of-use.

I’ve been using them for nearly 2 years on both client and personal websites and there’s very little I can complain about.

Their customer service is also fantastic. Thanks to their chat feature, if I have any issue I can immediately get assistance without much wait time.

Siteground cPanel

Siteground’s easy-to-navigate cPanel.

The only real issue I find myself running into is that their server seems to cache my site’s files to the point where if I make an update it will not always immediately take effect.

Their customer service always takes care of this problem, but it’s a little annoying having to deal with this issue at times.

Another slight con with Siteground is that its pricing is slightly higher than the other shared hosting companies mentioned in this list.

Not much of a con as I think Siteground is the best shared hosting company and it’s worth paying a little more for a better product, but I figured I’d include this as a con for penny-pinchers (definitely know what that’s like).

Siteground Pricing

PROS

  • Overall fast hosting compared to most other shared hosting companies
  • Easy to use interface
  • 1-click installation of WordPress
  • Affordable pricing
  • Great uptime (99.9%)
  • Fantastic customer service

CONS

  • Server caching issues
  • Slightly more expensive than other shared hosting on this list

2. Bluehost

Bluehost

Bluehost is one of the most popular shared hosting companies out there, and so naturally back in 2015 I decided to try them out for both my personal and client websites.

While I did like their customer service (they refunded me after I purchased their yearly plan without question when I decided to go with Siteground instead) and overall great hosting performance, I was not a big fan of their cPanel interface.

I’m not sure if they’ve updated their interface since 2015 as I haven’t used them since, but at the time their cPanel interface was difficult for me to navigate compared to others I had used at the time like HostGator, Siteground, etc.

As you can see in this photo, their cPanel interface looks very different compared to Siteground’s:

Bluehost cPanel

#NotMycPanel

Maybe this doesn’t bother you, but it did for me when I first signed up with them.

Also, I kept running into advertising for MOJO Marketplace whenever I would try to install a site or just navigate through their cPanel.

Every time I installed WordPress on a site it would automatically install their MOJO Marketplace plugin, and sometimes I would randomly end up on their website with no explanation.

I get the need to upsell customers, but it annoyed me having to constantly see this little green guy with the eyepatch all the time.

Mojo Marketplace Mascot

“Hi there, wanna buy some themes?”

Again, this was back in 2015 so things may have changed since then (I would hope).

Overall, Bluehost is a good place to get started with hosting your new website if you can’t afford Siteground.

Bluehost Pricing

PROS

  • Good hosting speed
  • Great customer service
  • 1-click WordPress installation
  • Low price

CONS

  • Difficult to navigate cPanel interface
  • Not as good as Siteground (proof)
  • Too much green eye-patch guy

3. HostGator

HostGator

The first ever hosting company I used, HostGator will always have a special place in my heart.

They are a fantastic place to start for newcomers as they have an easy to use interface and customers can get started for as low as a penny for their first month.

HostGator cPanel

Very similar to Siteground’s cPanel design.

Unfortunately, while the insane affordability and easy-to-use interface excel with HostGator, their hosting falls apart due to its snail-like speed.

I didn’t realize it at the time when I first started using them back in 2014, but HostGator is insanely slow when compared to other hosting companies *cough*Siteground*cough*.

While they’re great to use if you need a cheap way to get started building websites, don’t count on them as being a reliable company to keep your website stationed (especially if it begins to pick up a lot of traffic).

My advice to you: use HostGator if you’re tight on cash and want to familiarize yourself with things like WordPress, cPanel, etc., then switch to Siteground once your site is starting to gain traffic and you can afford the $90 per year fee.

HostGator Pricing

PROS

  • Easy to use interface
  • Dirt cheap pricing
  • Great customer service
  • 1-click WordPress installation

CONS

  • S-L-O-W!

Conclusion

I hope this brief overview of the 3 shared hosting companies I’ve used over the years has given you a general idea of what the best shared hosting company is.

As I mentioned, many of my qualms with Bluehost and HostGator are issues I’ve experienced in the past, such as their interface, so feel free to try these other companies out for yourself and prove me wrong – I honestly don’t mind.

If I were you, though, I would throw in with Siteground as they have yet to let me down.

Of course, if something new rolls around that I end up using instead of Siteground then I’ll be sure to update this article!