If you’re setting up everything yourself, this is my shortlist of recommended vendor resources to help your business. That’s not to say that there are no other great options out there. However, I’ve worked with a lot of different tools over the years and these are the ones I prefer and use in my business today. I’ll continue to add to this list and hope this is helpful to you. The recommendation categories are listed in the order that you should think about as you’re setting up your business. Feel free to reach out if you need help getting started.
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This is going to end up as a long list so here’s a quick index if you want to jump a specific area:
- Legal Stuff
- Domain Registrar
- Hosting Company
- Payment Processor
- Logo Creators
- Graphics and Images
- Keyword Research
- Email Autoresponder Service
This is critical to get right when you start your new business. These services will help you get everything filed appropriately and provide the required legal content for your website.
- LegalZoom – LegalZoom will help you get your business structured properly. They can help you file the appropriate paperwork, file for tax id numbers and setup business licenses. They also have attorneys available that can answer any questions and help you select the right type of business to setup.
- FreePrivacyPolicy – You’ve got to have the right legal disclosures on your website to stay compliant with the various privacy laws as well as meeting other state and federal requirements. It’s labeled as “free” but there could be some charges depending on the type of business you’re creating and the required content you’ll need to add to your website.
- Cookie Notice Plugin – By Digital Factory. If you’re going to have users in the European Union, you’ll have to make sure your website is GDPR compliant. This is the easiest plugin I’ve found so far to help you have the correct notifications on your website.
You’ll need to create your address on the internet. If you need help selecting a name, read my post on how to choose a domain name. One important thing to look for when you register is a “privacy guard” service. As part of your registration, the domain owner’s name, address, and phone number can be easily looked up online. By using a service like this, you’ll help prevent some of the scammers and marketers from bombarding you with spam.
- We’re long time customers of Namecheap and have been extremely pleased with them. Their prices are competitive, and their account management system is simple to use. All of their domain purchases include a privacy guard service for free.
Now that you have the domain name, you’ll need someplace to build the website. A hosting company will provide you with the space to store all of your website files on an internet web server. So when someone goes to your domain, they will see the content you’ve uploaded your website host. Both of these are outstanding providers and will give you what you need to get started.
- Bluehost – If you’re brand new to this, Bluehost is a good place to start. They’re one of the top recommended companies by WordPress and it’s extremely easy to get your site setup with them. Choose a “Shared WordPress” hosting plan and they will walk you through it step by step.
- A2 Hosting – A2 is slightly more expensive but the server hardware is a step up from what Bluehost provides. I really like their cloud hosting options. If you think you’re going to really scale you’re site up, a cloud option lets you easily add capacity to your server as needed.
If you’re going to sell anything directly on your online business, you’re going to need a way to process payments. PayPal and Stripe are both a couple of strong options here that are pretty similar. At last check, processing rates for both were the same. You’ll pay a transaction fee of around $0.30 each and 2.9% of the total sale. Both are widely supported in e-commerce platforms like WooCommerce, Shopify or various WordPress plugins. Ultimately, you probably want to have both available as options if possible. Here’s a quick rundown on each.
- Paypal has been around the longest and is going to be most recognizable by your customers. Your customers are going to recognize it and probably feel more comfortable using it with an unfamiliar brand. PayPal offers a couple of versions with Standard and Pro. Standard is the easiest to setup but it requires your customer to leave your website to pay for the transaction. The Pro version will integrate directly into your website but it comes with a $30 monthly charge.
- Stripe started in 2009 and will allow you to accept payments directly on your site. The only charge to use Stripe is the payment processing fees. The downside to Stripe is that it is not accepted in as many countries as PayPal. So you should check their website here https://stripe.com/global to see if your target market is available before deciding to use them.
If you’re starting a new business, you’ve got to have a logo. These services will walk you through a few design questions and then give you some ideas to get started. All of them will let you create the logo for free but some are paid options if you want to use them. If you’re trying to create something unique, try out designs on several of these until you find something you really like. This is what’s going to represent your business so if it’s a design you really love, it’s probably worth investing a small amount to license it.
- Hatchful – Another free tool from Shopify. Hatchful will ask some basic questions about the type of business, give you a few ideas and let you customize from there.
- Canva – Free and premium logo design tools. A ton you can do with just the free version. Use the premium version to unlock more designs.
- BrandCrowd – Premium logo designs. Easy to use tool that walks you through the design steps. They also give you the option to remove the base design from their library so you don’t see the same logo on another website. This is the tool I used to create the logo for this website.
- Fiverr – If you’re really not into designing your own logo, go to Fiverr and find a designer who can do it for you. Make sure to read the reviews for each one and check how many revisions you get as part of the package. You’ll have to give them some basic concepts you want to convey in the logo and you’ll be able to interact with the designer on ideas. I’ve used this one before on a project and very pleased with the result.
Graphics and Images
One of the most critical components of your online business is to make sure you have really great images and graphics. I frequently look through every one of these if I’m trying to find the perfect element for a website.
- Unsplash – Over 1 million free stock photos
- Pexels – Free stock photos
- Burst – Free stock photos from the Shopify team. Not as many as some others but a good resource.
- Pixabay – 1 million stock photos, vector graphics and illustrations. Most are free but there are some paid ones mixed in with the rest.
- Envato Elements – Premium site that includes themes, plugins, graphics, photos and fonts. I currently subscribe to this one and it is well worth it.
- VectorStock – Almost 20 million vector images. Premium site. I use the pre-paid credits on this site. They have some great vector graphics here.
- Canva – Free and premium. Canva not only has stock photography but has design tools to help you create posts for Instagram and Facebook along with presentations, thumbnails, brochures and logos. Huge amount of content with just the free subscription. The premium version has 60+ million images, videos and graphics. The premium version also allows you to create the graphics with transparent backgrounds so it will more seamlessly fit into your website.
Keyword research is an ongoing skill you’ll need to build your website. Not only is it important for choosing a niche to target but you should use it for every article or video you add to your site.
- Google Instant Search – Basic keyword research using Google’s auto-fill or related search terms results. Perfect for some basic ideas around a topic.
- Google Keyword Planning Tool – A free tool but you’ll need to create an Ads account to use it.
- Answer The Public – Type in a few keywords and see what other people are searching for. The free version is a pretty simple way just to see what other people are asking about a particular topic. This will give you insight into problems people are having with a topic that you could possibly solve for them.
- Long Tail Pro – My preferred tool for doing really in-depth, targeted keyword analysis. It’s a paid tool but well worth it. It lets you drill down into possible keywords and track the competition and how you stack up. If you really want to dig into keyword research, check out their Long Tail University offering as well.
Email Autoresponder Service
You’ve got the website and some content, now it’s time to start capturing lead information from your visitors. An autoresponder is a tool used to send out marketing messages, newsletters and otherwise communicate with your customers. While you could create an email distribution group in your email client, an autoresponder is going to help you stay compliant with the spam laws. You can get started with a base plan and scale it up as your list grows. If you’re not using an email list today, read my post on why you need an email list.
- Aweber – There are many different autoresponders on the market nowadays, but AWeber has been my favorite service by far. Not only is their deliverability great, but I think it’s also the easiest service to use.
More to come…
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