Running a website doesn’t have to be difficult and it doesn’t have to cost much money. Nowadays if you want a website, you can quickly sign up for an account on Blogger or WordPress.com and have a website in a matter of minutes. But therein lies the problem. Everybody and their brother can do that. But you? You want to be taken seriously. You want to run your site like a pro.
If you’re ready to leave the amateur league and join the pros, here’s what you’ll need.
Nothing screams amateur more than a .blogspot.com domain. Sure, I get it, a domain costs money. But who wants to do business with someone who’s site is at .wordpress.com? If you’re intent on using a free site platform, at the very least spring for a domain name. Namcheap offers domains for under $11 a year. Such a cheap way to instantly look more professional.
Now while a domain is probably the most important thing if you want to look like a pro, I totally recommend splurging for some hosting as well. Not only will it allow you tons more in terms of customization, but you don’t have to worry about your free platform suddenly deleting your site for no reason. While hosting can cost a lot, it really depends on how popular your site is and what your needs are. I use and love A Small Orange. They even have a $35 plan for really small sites, so you can start small and upgrade as you grow. Their other plans are pretty reasonable as well. If you want to start off with a cheap host, many people recommend Bluehost.
Related: Hosting 101
Professional Email Address
So you’ve got a domain, but you’re still using a gmail.com email address. Tsk tsk. It’s time to look like a pro! Many hosts offer email with their plans. And if not, Google Apps is only $5 a month. Sending out invoices from @yourdomain.com looks way more professional, doesn’t it?
Photo Editing Program
When you hear photo editing program, your mind probably instantly goes to Photoshop. And while Photoshop is awesome, depending on your needs, you might be better off spending your money elsewhere. If that’s the case, there are some great free alternatives out there, such as Canva, PicMonkey, and Gimp. And if you do think you’ll get a lot of use out of Photoshop, you can subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $9.99 a month.
You’ve no doubt put a ton of work into your site. But what’s going to happen it disappears in an instant? It can happen. And it probably will at some point or another. That’s why a backup plugin is ridiculously important. If (or when) something does happen to your site, your site won’t be lost forever. There are a bunch of backup plugins out there, many of which are free, but I recommend spending some money to get a good quality one. My favorite is BackupBuddy which is $80 a year, but I’ve also heard great things about VaultPress.
You do have a contact page, don’t you? What’s on it? If you’re just throwing an email address up there and calling it a day, then your contact page could definitely use a dose of professionalism. A contact form makes it incredibly easy for people to email you directly from your site. My absolute favorite contact form plugin is Gravity Forms. For $39, you get a feature rich contact form. If you’re trying to save some cash, you could try Ninja Forms or Visual Form Builder for easy drag and drop forms. Or if you want to get really basic, Contact Form 7 is a popular choice.
If you’re blogging at all, you know how important it is to post consistently, whether that’s once a week or 5 times a week. Regardless how often you blog, you’re not going to be very productive if you sit down at your computer without a plan and just start to write. That’s where an editorial calendar comes in. Spend some time at the end of every month planning out your posts for the next month. Not only does this give your blog variety, but it saves you time. Now you can use a plugin such as Editorial Calendar or even CoSchedule (which allows you to schedule social media as well), or you can go old school and grab a piece of paper. There are even a ton of printable blog planners available if you want to get fancy.
Having an FTP program is far from necessary, but knowing how to use one could save you a headache if something suddenly goes wrong with your site. And sure, you can always login to your control panel and use the file manager, but for some things, FTP is the way to go. I’d recommend Filezilla or Cyberduck.
What would you consider a must have for those that want to go pro?
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