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I get asked this question a lot.
‘What tools, software, courses and resources should I invest in first?’
Since I started my online business, I have invested in countless tools, software, online courses, books and coaches. Some of them were a great investment and some were (although it’s hard to admit it) just a waste of money – but I know it was all a learning process!
The beauty of starting an online business is that the start-up costs are relatively low compared to manufacturing a physical product or a bricks and mortar businesses. But obviously the costs can add up if you’re not careful, especially if you’re hiring a business coach or are a serial online course purchaser!
So today, I wanted to share an honest list of what tools, software, courses and resources you should invest in first when you are just starting out.
This list is for anyone who already know what sort of services and products they want to offer and know their target audience.
I truly believe that every business owner should have a website. Whilst some online business coaches & experts say that you don’t need to have a website to get clients if you’re in a service-based online business, I personally think this is a false statement.
This is where you can say who you are, what you offer and look how you want.
I don’t know about you but if I were to make an appointment with a nutritionist or yoga teacher, the first thing I would do is to check out their website - regardless of where I found them initially (for example from a Facebook group).
And if the website doesn’t look professional or is terribly designed, I move on because it doesn’t give me an assurance that the person is legit or an expert. And guess what, that person may have just lost a potential client!
So, as soon as you know what sort of services and products you want to offer and who your target audience (ideal client) is, I highly recommend starting the process of building your website.
Should I DIY My Website or Hire a Web Designer?
Before you get started, you’ll need to first figure out whether you’re going for a DIY website route or hire a web designer.
The great news is that I have a perfect quiz for you to assess whether you’re a good fit for the DIY website route or should hire a web designer. Click HERE or the image below to take quiz now!
So hopefully, my quiz “Should I DIY My Website or Hire a Web Designer?” was helpful for you to decide as to which route you should take in order to save your time & money so that you can focus on what you do best!
So here is what your investment may look like to get your website up and running.
2. DIY Route - Domain & Hosting Provider:
Investment: $10-$20/year to purchase your domain name and $50-$150/year to host your website (depends on which web hosting provider and package you choose). Check out here for my recommended web hosting providers
3. Graphics and Logo Creation for your website
Another element of website design is creating your own business logo. If you’re a creative person I suggest designing your own logo.
Alternatively check out Canva - which is user friendly and importantly... free.
Even you’re not a super creative person, you can use logo maker such as Adobe Spark Logo Maker or Graphic Springs where you can use different graphic templates so you won’t need to design your own logo from scratch.
If you decide to outsource it, I can recommend my Graphic Designer colleague I collaborate with! Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch :)
Related Blog Post:
#2 Professional Email Account
Having a custom domain email address is important as it looks professional.
Your custom domain email address will look like this:
email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org
I see many people using email@example.com – please don’t do this! It just doesn’t look professional at all.
Luckily, getting your custom domain email address isn’t costly at all.
There are a couple of options as to how you can set up your professional email account.
1. You can either purchase your professional email account with your web hosting provider such as BlueHost or SiteGround.
You can get started with G-Suite from £3.30/month or £33/year (UK) or $5/month or $50/year (US). If you live in the UK, get in touch with me for a 20% off coupon code!
#3 Email Service Provider (for email marketing)
Next up is an email service provider – and this is really important for your business!
Email marketing can be a really effective marketing method, especially for online based businesses. If you want your website to capture your reader’s contact details via sign up or ‘opt-in’ forms then you will need an email marketing service provider.
Your email list is one of the biggest assets you have so make your email marketing service provider one of your top investment priorities.
Email service providers allow you to:
Build your mail list automatically via opt-in forms on your website - to capture your readers contact details (even whilst you sleep!)
Create email campaigns and sales funnels
Segment users into groups
Track the performance of your email campaigns
Save you huge amounts of time in organising emails
Take your email marketing to the next level
Here are a couple of email service providers I highly recommend:
For example, if that contact opened a particular email and clicked the link to your sales page, you can automate an email reminder to be sent out to that particular contact about the service/product you are selling. It’s genius!
You can get started with ActiveCampaign from $9/month (if you have less than 500 contacts) or $17/month (500+ contacts). It also offers a 14 day free trial.
ConvertKit has a great automation feature similar to Active Campaign and comes with 4 landing page templates and 3 opt-in form styles. You can get started from $29/months up to 1000 contacts.
#4 Appointment Scheduling Software
If you’re a service-based business owner, investing in good appointment scheduling software is a must!
I recommend Acuity Scheduling for newbies as you can sign up for free. It doesn’t give you many great features compared to a paid version but if you’re just starting out a free version will be more than enough.
The only downside with the free version is that it doesn’t send an automatic appointment reminder the day before.
I have the free version and I send reminder emails manually and I have no problem with it. I prefer to send a personalized email to people who made an appointment with me! But if you prefer this part of your business to be automated, definitely go for a paid version which is $10/month. You can also customize the look to suite your brand with a paid version.
#5 Build your Marketing & Sales Skills
I’ve been talking about online tools & software up until now. Let’s move onto resources where you can learn how to market your business. And this is probably the most confusing part!
If you’re in the online world of business, you’ll see there are many coaches and online courses about marketing, all trying to sell you all these incredible services & products.
Unfortunately, if you’re not careful and if you become a serial online course purchaser or jump from coach to coach, you’ll end up burning through so much cash without learning much or getting the results you hoped for.
I know this because I’ve been there!
Now, what should you spend money on?
When you are just starting out I believe that these two are the most important. I suggest focusing on:
Email list building + sales funnel course
Copywriting is a skill (and industry) in itself, but there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to learn the basics and massively improve you ability to write about and sell you products.
Copywriting is about learning how to write about and sell your services and products - effectively. This will be essential when you are writing for your website and emails.
Building your email list and using it effectively
As an online business it's vital to learn how to build your mail list. As I mentioned earlier, your email list is one of the biggest assets you have in your business! It's also important to know how you use that list effectively and not just bombard them with sales emails!
If I had to sum this up though, most resources I have seen will tell you to:
1. Build your relationship and trust with new subscribers by sending 2 or 3 emails that add value and are useful to their business (demonstrating you know what you are talking about!)
2. Hit them with an offer of your services or product that they can't refuse!
Now, I personally haven’t been on any copywriting or email list building online courses so I’m not going to list anything here, because I only want to recommend something that I have personally tried.
I have learnt these things through trial and error, but I recommend that you put some effort in now to put you on the right path from the outset!
What I would say though is that make sure you do your research when looking for online courses. If you can speak to past and existing students - ask them their experience of the course and the results they achieved.
My Favourite Podcast Episodes on Copywriting:
Amy Porterfiled's Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast: Episode 33 - How to Write Copy That Sells
Amy Porterfiled's Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast: Episode 60 - Copywriting Tips to Persuade, Promote & Profit
Rick Mulready's The Art of Paid Traffic Podcast: Episode 77 - Why Your Copywriting Needs C.P.R. with Laura Belgray
My Blog Post About Email List Building
#6 Getting a Coach or Mentor
Being a solo-preneur can be a lonely and challenging path to take. You many have considered hiring a business coach or mentor to help you on this journey.
Getting a coach, mentor or accountability buddy (who already has a successful business) can be a great way of seeking advice and support, but I truly believe that you don’t need to pay thousands of dollars for it.
GO LOCAL FIRST!
As you will probably know, there are many business coaches and mentors in the online world of business. I actually suggest looking into your local business mentoring services first and see if you can find someone that may be a good fit. The cost for these mentoring services will be lot lower than those business coaches online and you will get to meet that person face to face, which can be very insightful.
If you can't find something appropriate locally, you may want to look for a coach or mentor online.
There are a few things to remember when you are hiring a coach or mentor.
#1 Make sure you do your due-diligence:
There are many business coaches and mentors in the online world of business. And there are so many super convincing marketing messages, promising all sorts of results. I highly recommend doing your due-diligence before hiring any business coach or mentor. The best way to do this is to get in touch with their past clients and speak with them. It’s totally fine for you to ask them to give you their past clients contact details.
#2 Make sure the coach or mentor you are hiring has experience working with people in your industry and niche:
Most coaches teach you the strategies that worked for them and tell you to implement the same strategies – which is all good but remember each business is unique and what work for others may not work for you.
#3 A premium fee is no guarantee of quality:
Be aware that paying a premium fee doesn’t mean that the coach or mentor is the best and can guarantee results. You don’t need to pay thousands of dollars on a coach or mentor - especially if you don’t have that kind of money to spend. If they have a lower priced e-course or group program, start with that first and see if you could benefit from one-on-one support.