The Importance of Having a Website

As I endeavor to network and create a larger client base for my freelance business, I have realized the vital importance for maintaining a professional presences on the web. Any time I’m looking for a store, service, or even a church to attend, I go to the Internet first. If a company doesn’t have a website, chances are slim that I will do business with them. I like the freedom of checking out a company’s policies, reputation, and selection online before actually stepping through their doors.

You’d think I would have made this connection to my own business sooner. I’m a bit late to the party when it comes to having a web presence, but better late than never. Here are a few tips I’ve found about creating a business website.

1. It needs to look professional. According to an article by Tim Knox on http://www.entrepreneur.com, “It’s actually better to have no website at all than to have one that makes your business look bad. Your site speaks volumes about your business.” With all the user-friendly software available, it doesn’t take a lot of money or effort to create an attractive, easy-to-navigate website that reflects well on your company. A simple Google search can turn up several free web template resources. You can even buy “skins” from sources like www.snowcovered.com. Shop around and find something what works for you business and your budget.

2. It needs a appropriate domain name. Netmechanic.com gives three simple tips to help you choose a domain name for your company. Keep it short, memorable, and descriptive. Keeping the domain name short makes it easy to remember. This also helps customers remember where to find you. Avoid special characters and numbers in the name if possible. Special characters may be trendy and look cool, but they can cause confusion when people are trying to find you on the web. A descriptive domain name is most beneficial. Using the name of your company or a description of what you do is very helpful in drawing people to your website.

3. The domain name should to be acquired through an accredited domain registrar. Web hosting services can help find an available domain name and secure it for your business. Domain name prices can vary quite a bit between providers, so take your time and shop around. You may have to compromise by choosing a less-than-ideal domain name based on what is available. If the domain name you want isn’t available, you may be able to do a search on InterNIC to find out who owns the name and make an offer to buy it. This can be costly, but may pay off in the end.

4. It needs a web hosting service. Choosing the right provider depends on what type of website you want to have. According to www.webhostingsearch.com, the most common website hosting types are: shared, free, and dedicated hosting. With a little research, you can choose the web hosting provider that is right for your business. Getting a site through a free web hosting provider can be enticing and may be a good choice for those who have some computer know-how. But for those of us who are computer illiterate, having a web host who can help when things go wrong (and they always do) is essential to keeping a website in good working order. A full-service web host will cost a bit more, but can be a wise investment in the long run.

I have been fortunate enough to have a friend who happens to be a software designer/IT specialist/computer guru. He has helped me navigate the choppy waters of web hosting, domain names, and website design. He also happens to be my semi-official IT guy. (Thanks, Ron!) If you can’t afford to pay full price for your web hosting needs, the best (and most cost-effective) advice I can give is to make friends with a computer expert and bribe him/her with freshly baked cookies or barter your services.

Whatever your approach, with a little research and effort a business website is not that difficult to acquire and maintain. It is well worth the effort.

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