The biggest issue new businesses face when planning to DIY their website is knowing where to start.
If you’re a multi-passionate creative, you’ve probably got a dozen different business ideas and offerings swirling around in your brain. When you sit down to think about how to set up and manage all the moving parts and create a website to house it all, overwhelm and paralysis inevitably sets in.
If this is you, dear reader, I ask you this:
✍️ What is your Minimal Viable Product?
Back when I worked in tech marketing I was introduced to the concept of the MVP. The MVP is the most basic version of your product (your website) with juuuuuuust enough features to attract your core audience. From there, you measure what’s working, what’s not, and decide how to move forward iteratively.
The reason you don’t build out every feature (or try to launch every idea) is you might end up spending a lot of time and money creating the wrong thing.
If you start throwing everything but the kitchen sink into your website and business, you might end up spending 20K on a site only to realize you can’t manage a podcast, referrals are actually bringing in more business than blog posts (which you’ve previously been spending hours of time creating), and you aren’t able to create and market enough products to justify the cost of your e-commerce platform.
The truth is, you don’t need to launch with four 1-1 service offerings, an e-commerce shop, a cutesy 404 page, a podcast, or even a social media business account!
(Yes, I’m SERIOUS.) You don’t need a backlog of blog posts or a robust resources section.
➡️ Start small and build iteratively.
Here are the 4 basic things you need to launch your business with a minimally viable website so you can start making money and stop wasting time.
1) Four Core Website Pages
Goal: Show people what you do, who it’s for, and how to get started.
Keep your website simple. The only pages you absolutely need are:
- Services (or Products)
Wondering what happened to the blog page? Creating valuable content to drive traffic to your site can be hugely important for some businesses, but you don’t necessarily need it for your MVP.
It’s good to get the blog set up on your backend (and most site templates include blog setup automatically) but until you’re able to commit to a content writing cadence, hide or disable your blog and remove the link from your navigation.
Nothing says “this site is neglected and under construction” like an empty blog page with demo blog posts that are two years old.
When you are ready to start penning some posts, head to Bonus Tip #5 to make sure you’re choosing the right content for your audience.
2) Opt-in freebie
Goal: Prove your value.
Opt-ins, sometimes called lead magnets, aren’t only for building up your email list. They are a great way to give your prospective clients or customers a taste of your work or physical product quality.
Start with one piece of free content and step into your audience’s shoes to make sure this freebie is a valuable takeaway worth giving out your email address. It can be something highly interactive like the Brand Personality Workbook, or something that solves a bite-sized problem, like the Audience Research Checklist. If you’re a product business, a discount code or a free sample (like 50 free stock photos) is a great way to help people decide if what you’ve got to offer will work for them.
Because a lead magnet can sit on your site for a long time it’s worth taking the time to consider how to create the perfect freebie for your audience that will compel them to take the next step and either book your services or purchase your products.
Freebies are also a great way to learn more about your audience because you can see which content is resonating with your site visitors and start to steer your business offerings and future products toward what’s performing best
A strategic and valuable freebie will attract leads for years and is one of the best ways to nurture the people in your audience who need to sleep on a purchase decision before deciding to buy.
3) Email Service Provider
Goal: Deliver your promised sample.
If you’re unfamiliar, an email service provider is different from, say, your gmail account. ESPs like ConvertKit store the emails you collect from your freebie sign-ups and allow you to set up email automations.
The first automation you need is the opt-in delivery email to thank your visitor for stopping by your site and giving them their freebie or discount code.
An ESP is how you would send weekly/monthly emails to your list with relevant news, information, or educational content. I send my Drop Cap Newsletter out every other week and use it to highlight new brand strategy and copywriting tutorials and tips, review my favorite business tools and workflows, and drop exclusive discounts on BP Shop products.
You can make email automations as simple or complex as you like, but at the very least, you need to be able to deliver the opt-in you’ve promised your subscribers.
Goal: Help people make a buying decision.
The reason not to snooze on a welcome sequence (also called a welcome series) is that it’s the only tool you have to engage with your audience once they’ve left your site.
If you sell digital or physical products, memberships, courses, or group programs, the welcome sequence is your go-to marketing tool to help you convert browsers into buyers.
In a perfect world, your readers would search for a solution to their problem, click over to your site, review your offerings and products, and immediately make a purchase or request to work with you.
In reality, this is not how we make buying decisions, and it’s certainly not the case for more expensive investments. Typically we do a lot more research and compare features, and need to be shown the benefits.
Your audience needs to be nurtured before making a purchase — enter the welcome sequence.
Your welcome sequence allows you to pop into your future buyer’s inbox every day for a few consecutive days and nurture them through the buying process, like a sales associate, minus the dress code and name tag.
It sounds counterintuitive, but the key to creating a welcome sequence is to continue to serve value and guidance, rather than selling to them. Each email in the series aims to accomplish different things but you should never perform a hard sell (and some people recommend not selling at all.).
A great welcome sequence feels a lot like when you invite your crush to a party on a Saturday night:
Email #1 – First, you welcome them inside.
Email #2 – Then you take their coat and show them around, maybe introduce them to a few people.
Email #3 – Next you get cozy and acquainted and strike up a casual conversation. You’re both interested in each other and looking for signs that you’d be good for each other.
Email #4 – You’re having a great time and you share a story that makes your date says, “wow, I didn’t know that. I’m going to try that tomorrow.”
Email #5 – When the night ends you’ve both made a decision to make future plans together. You review your options and make a second date!
5) BONUS Your “Top 3”
Goal: Demonstrate the breadth of your expertise.
What are the three most valuable pieces of content you want to share with your audience that showcases your knowledge, process, and/or solution?
A reflection piece
A discount code
The beauty of the Top 3 is it allows you to showcase different elements of your business or process and frees you from feeling like you need to pump out a ton of free content on the regular. Creating your Top 3 is a great alternative to having a blog, and are great assets to nurture your audience within your welcome sequence.
It can be tempting to see our favorite online biz influencers and think we need to have everything they have, but remember that it took them years to build their businesses, and where they started looked completely different from where they are now.
Reigning in your ideas and focusing on your MVP gives you, the DIY creative entrepreneur, a greater chance of launching a website without overwhelm, and prevents you from focusing on the wrong things.
Put your blinder up and start with the essentials first.