How I got set up online for less than £100 in a day
People sometimes ask me how I'm different to an IT consultant or a web designer, which is really interesting as I never set out to be in either of those categories.
One of the main areas that sets me apart is my background, as I haven't received any formal training around computers or technology.
Over the last six years I've worked for or been involved with small businesses, non-profits, charities and voluntary organisations in a few different roles (with sustainability as the common theme) and because of the lack of time, resource and budget available to these types of organisations I've essentially muddled through, learning as I went along. I started The Wheel Exists to help others avoid this, and to share what I've picked up on the way in a way that “non-techy” people can understand. When I find out about something that can make my life easier, I'll share it with you so that it can make your life easier too!
Today I'm going to share about how I went from having zero online presence to having a website, logo and email address in less than 24 hours and all for under £100.
I've created this website using the Squarespace website builder, and personally I think it's really worth looking into tools such as this (Shopify and Strikingly are also good options). You will see offers of “free” website builders from people who sell domains and hosting but they can often be a false economy once you add up the monthly costs. Remember as well that the main focus of these companies is to sell their domain and hosting services, not to design beautiful and easy to use websites. A decent website building tool should also be able offer a free trial of at least 14 days so that you can try it out and see if it's right for you.
Why did I choose Squarespace? Actually, it was mainly out of professional curiosity. I'd previously used Shopify and Strikingly for other clients and so I was interested to see how Squarespace compared. It has an extremely competitive pricing structure especially as they have just introduced commerce options to every plan (which means that even on the basic option you can sell one product and accept donations, perfect for getting started).
In terms of usability and getting started I found that there was a slightly steeper learning curve than with some of the other tools I've used, but there is a lot of functionality and a huge amount that you can customise. The support is also very good and there are videos and help documentation to get you started.
I chose the basic option for my website which is $8 per month if you pay annually which works out at about £60 per year. TOP TIP! Squarespace themselves list current discount codes available so you don't have to trawl the internet to get money off your plan.
So with my annual plan and discount code, the cost for the website came in at £55. This includes all hosting costs and a free domain name. Squarespace don't currently include domain names that end in .co.uk in their free offer so you will need to purchase one elsewhere if that's important to you, and then you can link it with your Squarespace website.
I've used a company called 34sp.com a lot in the past to buy domain names and they have really excellent customer service, so if you aren't used to modifying settings for a domain name then they will help you, or maybe even do it for you if you're lucky!
For my logo I tested out a service called Fiverr where a huge range of services are offered for $5. The quality varies hugely so it's worth checking their reviews and examples of previous work (then again, for $5 you might just decide to throw caution to the wind).
Many of the basic $5 jobs have optional extras which I assume is how they manage to make any money. I opted for an extra $10 for a quick turnaround and I would have paid extra to get the logo in different formats but actually this was included already. Do ask for the original design files as even if you never use them yourself, you may be asked to provide them by others.
Squarespace now also provide a basic tool where you can design a simple logo or identity for your organisation and to be honest if that had been available a few months ago I might have used it rather than Fiverr, at least to start with. Their comments at the end of the article about the logo tool are very interesting and really resonate with my aims:
“Squarespace Logo is a basic tool for individuals and small businesses with limited resources to create a simple identity for themselves. It is not a replacement for the brand identity a professional designer can craft and deserves to be compensated for. We expect Logo, much like Squarespace itself, to drive more people to appreciate the importance of design, leading to increased demand for professional creative services.”
The total logo cost was $15 which is about £9.
The email address
For my email I used Google Apps which is basically the business version of Gmail and other services such as Google Calendar and Google Drive (for documents) that you may have used outside of work.
It's £3.30 per user per month or £33 billed annually. TOP TIP! If you want to have a few contact email addresses e.g. email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com but they all go to the same person then you can set up your main email and create an “alias” for each of the other addresses.This means that for all of the addresses it only counts as one user.
Squarespace integrates very nicely with Google Apps and so they provide clear instructions on how to link up your domain name for your email address. I have also read that setting up Google verified authorship on Squarespace can improve your Google rankings.
Incidentally, I would strongly advise against buying a domain through Google unless you are very experienced with managing advanced domain settings. It's actually a separate company which is “powered by Google”, whatever that means, called domainsdiscount24.com and I'm pretty experienced (having muddled through over the years) but when I used them for another project I found their control panel extremely confusing and their support wasn't great.
Website, domain name and hosting: £55
Logo design: £9
Email address: £33
Grand total: £97
So there you go, all in for under £100, and including the time spent on customising one of the Squarespace templates and waiting for the logo this all took less than 24 hours.