Start a contractor website on a shoestring
Not all contractors need a website, but in certain industries it can strengthen your reputation and may help bring in new clients.
You have to be careful that costs don’t spiral out of control, however, and one way of doing that is to set yourself a shoestring budget to build your website on. Here are our top tips.
1. Do you need a website?
If you are just getting started in contracting, creating a website shouldn’t be at the top of your priority list.
Many contractors go their whole careers without creating a website – surviving primarily off word-of-mouth referrals. It is becoming more normal to have a website but it isn’t the norm in some industries.
2. Can you afford to do it on a shoestring?
Well obviously you can afford a shoestring budget, but is it the right decision. There are lots of tools to help you make a professional looking website. But amateur websites still usually look, well amateur.
Remember that your website is a reflection of your business. If you are looking to generate a high income, you may want to invest a little extra money in your website. Doing a site on a shoestring also means that you’ll spend a lot of time tinkering when you could be doing paid work.
3. Set up a domain
The first concrete step you can take is registering a domain name. Make sure you choose something sensible like your name or a trading name. It’s easy to see if your preferred domain is available at a domain registrar like www.123-reg.co.uk or www.godaddy.com.
You also need to decide on a domain suffix. .com suffixes are the most expensive but .co.uk will be fine for most contractors.
4. Build your site
Website building services like Wix and 1and1 can be useful. With a good interface and a range of customisation options, it’s easy to do yourself. But you have to pay a monthly premium to use these services.
The easiest alternative is to create a theme website on the Wordpress platform. Wordpress is a little trickier to tinker with, but there are thousands of themes to choose from and a lot of support available online.
If you are choosing a theme, it’s important that you choose one that looks good on mobile as well as on desktop. More and more internet traffic is driven by mobile users and you’d be surprised how many business users are browsing for sites on their iPhones.
A hosting package is the last thing you need to get your website live. If you use a service like Wix or 1and1 then the hosting will usually be included in the monthly fee.
Wordpress has its own preferred hosting package, but you will get the same service cheaper elsewhere. Choosing another provider means that there is a little more technical work involved, but it is relatively straightforward if you have a good guide.
A high class brand is often what sets professional websites apart from amateur ones. Going to a big branding agency will obviously be expensive, but you can do a decent job yourself by choosing a simple but recognisable logo and sticking to a few basic colours across the website.
You can also enlist the help of a designer or branding specialist from freelancing websites such as Upwork and PeoplePerHour.
Once you have a website up and running, you can think about promoting it. SEO – the process of ranking for key terms on search engines – can be a worthwhile investment. But it usually takes time to see results.
You can pay for adverts to appear on Google and social media platforms like Facebook, just be careful that you are targeting the right people and get a good return on investment.
If you don’t have one already, start building an email list. This is a good way of building an engaged audience. Just make sure you don’t fall foul of GDPR data protection legislation which takes effect this year.