By Ori Bengal
In 1997, when I started making websites, things were a lot different. You had to know a lot of code, spend months on each site, do everything yourself, and everything cost a bundle. Today, the world has dramatically changed.
Before I demonstrate that websites are basically free these days, and can be done in less than a day, let me tell you what spurred me on to true freedom.
I never liked having a boss. I'm stubborn, and I always thought I had a better way to do things. So when Wara would complain that I'm not stacking the papers the way I'm supposed to, I was ready to leave.
It was 2005, and I was working at OneModelPlace.com - the world's largest online community for models and photographers. Yours truly was handling all of the print and design, which took more than 90 hours a week, and (this is not a figure of speech) I had my own air mattress there.
Going solo sounded like the way to go. I'd be able to work fewer hours, make more money, and be able to enjoy the outdoor activities that South Florida offered in the daytime.
After a year of being on my own, I realized that my freedom was actually kind of boring. None of my friends were as entrepreneurial as I was, so they could not go to Disney or kayaking with me in the middle of the week. So, I have suggested them them to make websites in order to change your life. It was in 2006, when my landlord called me up and said she's raising the rent, that I decided it was time for a massive change.
Rather than renew, or move back in with my parents, I decided that I'd travel around the USA completely based on "Who's couch am I crashing on next?" Then I'd find out where I want to move.
It's now 2012, and I just (last night) moved into a place. It took me 6 years to decide that Austin, Texas is where I feel at home. I've had many adventures, and changed many lives (especially my own), and yet... the number one question I'm always asked is "How the heck do you pay for it all?"
Fox Business did an article on me, and called me "The Most Highly Skilled Hobo in History" - as I do photography, videography, business coaching, life coaching, PPC, SEO, web design, print design, copywriting, and a bunch of other things... But, creating websites has always been my bread and butter.
If hearing this makes your eyes glaze over and say "Forget this article... I'm not a techie... Websites are difficult to make!" then sip your coffee, and keep reading, because you can change countless lives, make great money, and have freedom... with websites.... All without being a certified geek.
The reason I even got into websites was because I wanted to promote my other skills--the things I wanted to be in my business (such as 3D Animation, later Photography).
When my friends realized that I do websites, they'd ask me for help. Their designer locked them out of their site, or was taking too long to make a change, or... wanted an obscene amount of money for every single change.
It didn't take long for me to realize that every person in the world needs a website.
I was making more money, and solving more problems for more people, with this website stuff... but it required a lot of learning.
In 2006, my web design life changed when I discovered WordPress. It's free, it's beautiful, it's easy for my clients to use, and now it has the largest developer base... so you can get custom looks and function for free to dirt cheap.
Before WordPress, you had to be a techie, now all you need is a hosting account to change your life. It costs less than $10 a month.
Want to add a new page? Press the "new page" button.
Want to add an image to your website? Drag it onto your website.
Want to change the entire look and feel of a site? Install a theme.
It's as easy as that!
Websites Can Change Your Life!
You can get the word about your cause or business. You can generate leads, clients, or branding.
I made my parents a website for their daytrading business. I made a website to raise $2,600 for a year-old poodle that was going to die without an operation. I've blogged about my travels. I've made sites to generate affiliate sales. I've made on-line stores.
Additionally, websites are extremely profitable, should you choose to do them for other people (plus my favorite perk: you can work from anywhere)! So what you are thinking of, just change your life.
Let's Get You Making a Website
Not too long ago websites were much more difficult to put together. If you decided to use WordPress, you'd have to install it manually which took about 10 minutes. But now, you just have to push a button to change your life.
The first thing you need is a domain (your website name), and hosting (where you keep your website).
You can get a domain at most hosting sites. I change my mind as to who the best host is, and one that is always at the top of my list is http://GetGoodHosting.com.
You want to make sure that your host offers "Cpanel" - because through here you create email addresses, or install WordPress.
Rather than waste precious space in this fabulous publication with describing how to set up WordPress, I'll just tell you to youtube search "How to install WordPress with Fantastico (or simple scripts)" your cpanel will have one of those two.
The Business Suit of Communication
Many people have a website, with a gmail account. This is a wasted branding opportunity.
In your Cpanel, you can add email@example.com by clicking on "Email accounts" and then just choosing a username and password.
Don't worry, there are tutorials in Cpanel.
The Showcase Secret
Want your site to look like you had a team of designers spend months slaving for you? It's easier than you think, and might cost you $40.
Think about what your site is for. Let's say it's for a restaurant. Google search "Wordpress Restaurant Showcase" (without the quotation marks).
There's two things you may find here: examples of amazing restaurant websites done in WordPress, and restaurant themes.
Think of a theme as your house's exterior. Is it vinyl siding? Brick? Wood? IS there a lawn? Lighting?
With WordPress, you can change everything with a push of a button. Googling restaurant showcase (design showcase works great too) will find many amazing looks.
If you're on a budget, you can search "Wordpress free theme showcase".
All you have to do is choose and install the theme you like. Then, you can easily customize it.
Another place to type in "Restaurant" (or whatever you're looking for) is http://ThemeForest.net - this is a my favorite place to buy themes. They're cheap, high quality, and most have tutorials.
Many are complete applications, providing (in the theme) slideshows, easy to control menu, a booking system, a contact form (using our restaurant example) .
You could charge a restaurant owner $2,000 for that website, and it'd still be a bargain.
It's All About Content
No matter what your business, copywriting is king. Consider what the end result is... building trust? New clients? New leads? Branding?
Who is your audience?
It is always wise to have a good market to message match. Keep that in mind when you write the text that goes on any of the pages / posts or videos (which are also easy to add).
Secrets of Looking Like a Pro
Let's be honest.... If your website has no images, or low-quality images, it's pretty darn boring. Let's fix that.
What's your article, page, or site about? Consider that when adding pictures. Every post can benefit from pictures.
Where to find awesome images? http://istockphoto.com/ You can buy pictures for a dollar or two. Don't get the bigger sized images (which cost more), because those are for print.
Images on istockphoto are searchable, so you should easily be able to find something to match any post.
If you're using your own images (pictures of the staff for example), please make sure they are well lit, and decent quality. Webcam pictures tend to suck. Hire a photographer, or find a friend with a Digital SLR if you have to.
Go get started now! Every day you don't have a website, or have an ugly website is a day of negative branding!
About the Author:
Ori Bengal is a creative problem solver with an emphasis on keeping things fun. He's been traveling for the last 6 years based on who's couch he's crashing on next... which has connected him with many leaders in the marketing and business world. He is a public speaker, business consultant, and teaches people how to easily create their own websites.