Is there such a thing as a free lunch, when it comes to starting your online business?

In business, there really is no such thing as a free lunch, at least not a feast big enough for you to munch your way through if you really want to scale your business in a big way.

Though it is possible to find some great free training courses and platforms to get you started, at some point along the line, you will need to consider investing in your business. Whether your choice or investment is time or money or both, in order to succeed in your venture the likelihood is that in the end, you will need to invest both!

I’m speaking more here with reference to those who want to set up an internet marketing business however, the principles can be applied to most types of businesses.

Consider what you have at your disposal

When you embark on your new venture, consider whether you have capital available to invest in products, tools, and training maybe, to get you started. If you don’t have much spare capital to invest, then you’ll need to set aside time to build your business.

However much or little time you have, it’s important for you to think about your daily routines and commitments, and work out how much time you can put aside each day to focus on your business-building activities. Whatever time you give to your business, make it a priority to keep consistent. You’ll achieve greater results with consistent activity, even if your hours are limited, rather than if you do a mass of work sporadically with large gaps of nothing in between!

Though it can be a slower process to grow your business when you only have your time to invest, that’s not to say that you can’t get off to a good start.

As your venture begins to show signs of return on your time investment and you start seeing some profits come in, then you can reinvest those profits into your marketing activities which, in turn, should help scale the speed of your business growth.

That’s right, don’t go off spending your newly earned profits on something like a new television! Remember that if you invest in your business in its formative months and years, the compound effect will reward you greatly in the long run.

What tools will you need to set up your online business?

When setting up your business, investing in the tools you need is an obvious must. Though with careful planning, you can set up an online business relatively cost-effectively, you will need to invest in some infrastructure. Here are some examples of costs you can expect to incur (there are some recommended resources at the end of this post):

  • For your online presence, chances are that you will need a website (either you build this yourself, or you pay someone to set it up for you).
  • Your website will need hosting and a domain name (ideally a name that will reflect your business).
  • Capture pages, landing pages or lead pages, will help you to attract your audience and potential customers, and “capture” their details and permission for you to add them to your database.
  • For you to market and promote to these contacts through email marketing you would need an autoresponder.
  • Other tools you could consider are the various social media sites that would allow you to schedule your content in advance across multiple platforms (Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook etc.) so that when people visit these sites they see fresh updates.
  • Training programmes. If you’re completely new to internet marketing and don’t know where to start, then consider either signing up for some free training, or purchasing a training programme that also offers you some of the tools you’ll need to get started in your business.

Websites

Websites with good SEO (search engine optimisation) will help you to get found when people search for your products or services online. So remember to focus your articles and pages using keywords and phrases that people might enter into the search engines.

There are some tools, both free and paid for services, that can help you identify the popular keywords and phrases searched for in relation to your niche.

Your website might have a static page design, where people always see the same home page when they come to your site, or you could have a rolling home page that changes each time you add something new.

The pages and posts within your website might display physical goods that you sell, or could consist of blog posts for example, where you talk about different aspects of your area of expertise.

Hosting

There are a couple of options regarding your website – either hosted or self-hosted.

If you choose hosted, this means that your website is built on a hosting platform that acts as the internet hosting service provider for you. Hosting can give you the advantage of having everything you need under one roof (hosting, domain name, registration, the necessary software, alongside maintenance and security). It can be an ideal option for people starting out with their first website.

In most cases, companies offering hosting services have certain packages and offer different amounts of storage space depending on what plan you sign up to.

If you choose to go down the self-hosted route, this means that you are hosting your website on another hosting service provider, but have full control over it.

A self-hosted site, in comparison, can give you the freedom to create whatever you want, whereas the disadvantage is that maintenance and security will be your responsibility. So you have to ensure to backup your website correctly and keep your software updated in order to keep your website safe.

Domain Names

A domain name is the name of your website, eg, JoeBloggs.com or ABC.com. Ideally, your domain name needs to reflect your business or, as in the case above of dear Joe, if you want your website to be your own name, you can search to see if that is available.

Generally, you want to make your domain name as short, memorable, and relevant as possible. If it is too long or difficult to spell or has a ‘strange’ spelling, people will be less likely to remember it! It also helps if the name includes all of your keywords for SEO purposes.

There are some very cost-effective domain name providers out there, and whether you choose to purchase a domain name to then use for a website that you will host yourself, or whether you choose to purchase the domain name as part of a hosted package, is ultimately up to you depending on your preferences between your hosted or self-hosted website.

Capture Pages, Landing Pages, Lead Pages

There are different interchangeable names for the “pages” that people land on when searching for something specific online. A landing page can be described as the page that someone is directed to after they’ve clicked on the search result that appeals to them. The landing page could simply be information about your product or service and may be more informative than anything else.

A capture page, or lead page, in contrast, can capture the contact details of any prospective clients who are interested in your product, service or offering. It’s important to note that capture pages should be informative but not overly promotional.

According to HubSpot, “A capture page is a single web page where visitors can submit their contact information for you to follow up with an email marketing message.”

When promoting a lead or capture page, you are basically offering someone something (information, product, freebie, free report or pdf for example) in exchange for their contact information (which can be as minimal as their email address).

There are different types of page builders online, and the products can vary widely in price. There will most likely be an ongoing monthly or annual cost for using a page-builder. Having said that, if you don’t particularly want to run a website, it’s worth knowing that you can launch a profitable business without a website or blog, and simply use capture pages and an autoresponder, thereby saving the cost of your website and hosting.

Autoresponders

Again, these can vary in price, and the cost often depends on how many subscribers (contacts) you have on your list. Many services offer a free subscription for up to a certain amount of subscribers, say 500 for instance. So ideally you want to start with a low-cost option and increase your subscription fees as your subscribers increase and, hopefully in line with that, your profits are nicely increasing.

There are some options available where there is a one-off monthly or annual fee for unlimited subscribers, which can be a great help when trying to keep your overhead costs low.

It is important for you to build and maintain a list of your customers and contacts because, at the end of the day, this list is something that belongs to you, and cannot be taken away by any changing algorithms within the social media world.

Social Media platforms to help you grow your business

Having said the above, about the changing algorithms in the social media world, don’t dismiss the important part social media can play in helping you grow your business and make yourself more visible online.

When you are starting out, social media platforms can provide a great way for you to get more exposure and build your customer base. Most social media platforms offer free accounts and you can start to build your presence online with them by adding posts regularly so as to keep your content fresh and up to date.

As with anything else in this day and age, there are also the options of paid social media ads on Facebook and Twitter for example, which can help generate additional traffic for you if done properly. If you choose to focus on a more business-oriented platform, then Linkedin might be the suitable choice for you. It has a free membership and a paid membership available.

Training Programmes and Integrated Platforms

If you’re completely new to internet marketing or have been online a while though feeling a little lost, then you might like to consider investing in a training programme, course or integrated platform to help you get going.

Training programmes and integrated platforms can be extremely useful for beginners. The benefits of training programmes are that they’re usually well structured and provide all relevant information in easily digestible segments.

They can also be a great opportunity to learn from someone with experience in the field who has successfully made their own business online, so you can follow their expertise and hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls you might encounter when trying to do everything alone.

Some of the integrated platforms not only offer you the training you need in order to get started, though they offer the tools you’d need along the way too – for instance, website, hosting, page creator, autoresponder, search engine tool.

The price can vary hugely between one training course and another, and one integrated platform and another. It is best to do your research in this regard and try, if you can, to avoid chasing the shiny objects that promise the earth overnight!

Conclusion

I hope that the above has helped give you an overview of what you might need to consider investing in with regard to setting up and building your business. It’s not an exhaustive list though should give you a good idea of what might be involved.

And remember, although some tools will necessarily incur monetary costs, if your available capital is limited, then where possible consider trading the financial cost for your investment of time. And last, though not least, don’t go out and splash the profits when they start rolling in. Please consider reinvesting them into your business which will help you, in the long run, scale and compound your success.

Wishing you lots of it – success!

Recommended resources (some of the platforms I myself use)

Websites:

I use the hosted platform through my membership with Wealthy Affiliate. This offers you not only your hosted websites, though you can search and purchase your domain names with them too. There are also two main training programmes on offer – Online Entrepreneur Certification and their Affiliate Bootcamp – and numerous additional training webinars and articles.

There are three different levels of membership – free, Premium, and Premium Plus. If you’re interested and want to take a look inside, then you can try the free option for 7 days. Click here to find out more.

Hosting and Domain names:

As above, I use my platform within Wealthy Affiliate for my hosting and domain names. On other occasions where I’ve needed to purchase a domain name to be used outside of my website (for use with a landing page builder for example) I have so far purchased through GoDaddy

If you’re struggling to find a suitable domain name, this search tool is a good help: Lean Domain Search

Capture pages:

I’m currently going through some training units with OLSP Traffic Dominators (I’m quite new there, and really like what I see). They have a product called TD Pages. Also, they’ve just launched a great new Mega Funnel that can help you get started in collecting leads. And their Traffic Dominators Bootcamp is free to join. They even credit you with $20 if you complete the training modules within a specified time frame (easy to do)! There’s a Facebook Group too, where you can interact and learn from other members of the community.

Autoresponders:

At present, I have accounts with Get Response, AWeber and SendSteed.

Get Response is a popular choice amongst many email marketers. There are different price plans, depending on your list size and the features you want. You also have the option to pay for your subscription annually rather then monthly, which will help you save money.

AWeber, I would say is on a par with Get Response, in terms of pricing and useability. What I particularly like about AWeber is that it is easy to upload campaigns from another source (example – I belong to an affiliate programme that has given me one year’s worth of email campaigns – yes, you read that correctly – as part of the toolbox I bought). The upload of the 365 days of email campaigns only took me about 20 minutes. I haven’t, as yet, come across another autoresponder that makes this process so quick and easy. And for that reason alone, AWeber has a thumbs up from me.

SendSteed is a completely free option, and offers excellent value, along with the other marketing tools in its toolbox.

If you’re just starting out and money is tight, I highly recommend SendSteed (free).

Social Media:

What can I say that others don’t already know about perhaps. I tend to use Facebook and Linkedin primarily. Twitter occasionally. And Pinterest sporadically though I need to learn more, and set up a business account. Instagram, I don’t really know how to use it effectively, as yet. For both Pinterest and Instagram, I have some courses that I need to go through so I can learn more!

Training Courses and Integrated Platforms:

As already mentioned above, I’ve learnt and am learning with Wealthy Affiliate and OLSP Traffic Dominators. I’m also a member of MLSP (My Lead System Pro).

If you’re really needing to cut down on costs then you might want to consider Builderall. It’s a complete toolbox of all the tools you’d need to set up your online business – website and page builder, autoresponder, chat builder, webinar builder, magazine funnel builder, video funnel builder to name but a few, for an inclusive monthly fee. The list is too long to mention here. It’s worth checking out!

All the best,

Lesley

Affiliate Disclaimer: As well as personally using the above-mentioned tools, I am an affiliate for the products too. This simply means that if you were to make a purchase through any of my links, I would earn a commission. This adds no extra cost to you. And I won’t be recommending products or services that I don’t use myself.

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