If you’re going to be running your own business, especially if you’re going to be doing anything online it’s unbelievably important that you have full control over your website, social media accounts and that your business strategy isn’t dependant on anyone else’s platform.
This post is going to cover everything from how to manage your own website to social media profiles and even how not to use ecommerce sites like Amazon or eBay.
Your website is the most important part of your business online and if you don’t have full control over it this can cause a lot of headaches down the line.
There are a lot of web design companies out there which will build and host a website for you but this is one of the absolute worst ways to go.
You absolutely need a website for your business, it’s essentially your store front online and is one of the first places people will look to find out information before doing business with you.
Yes building a website can take a lot of work and it might seem complicated to you if you’ve never done it before but if you hand everything off to a third party and trust that they’re going to take care of everything for you then you’re going to have a rough time.
Disadvantages of Having a Third Party Manage Your Website
There are many disadvantages of having a third party manage your website such as:
These companies often charge ridiculous amounts of money for their services.
One company I worked for in the past was being charged thousands of dollars a month for some very basic websites. I was able to redo all their websites in a couple of weeks and from then on they only paid about $5 a month for web hosting.
No Control Over Your Site’s Content
Most of the time third parties give you extremely limited or even no control over your website. Everything you want to do with your site you have to go through them first.
If you want to update your pricing, post a new blog post or run a sale you’re going to have to contact your rep who may be out of the office or even away on vacation.
These companies often have terrible service because they’re usually managing so many websites with not enough staff. As a result they take forever to make updates to your site.
With one company I worked for it took 48 hours for them to make simple updates like add a new slide to the slideshow on the homepage, this was even when I supplied the image file for them to use.
You’re Trapped and Can’t Leave
Most third party web development companies use their own software and templates to build websites. This makes switching providers pretty much impossible.
If you ever decide that you’re not happy with them and want to switch to another company you have to start over with a brand new website.
Building Your Website Yourself
I know it can be tempting to just pay a company and let them handle everything but in reality it never works out as well as you’d think.
The best solution is to build your own website which isn’t as hard as you think and you can always get help building your site if you need it.
To build your own website there are 3 things you’re going to need: a domain, web hosting and the website itself.
I highly recommend that you sign up for Bluehost for your web hosting. For just $3.95 a month you can host unlimited websites and get a free domain which effectively takes care of two of those 3 items in minutes.
I’ve used Bluehost with several different companies and use them to host several of my own websites right now. You can of course use any other hosting company that you’d like.
For the website itself I recommend you use something called WordPress. WordPress can be installed on pretty much any web server and is incredibly easy to use. It’s also open source which means it’s free and there are plugins to add any sort of functionality you could ever need.
If you’re thinking about starting your own website I’ve put together several posts explaining how to set up your web hosting, install WordPress and how to use WordPress.
Free Website Builders or All-In-One Website Platforms
It might be tempting to use a free website builder like Wix or Weebly but if you go this route you’ll find that you have very little customization options and most of the time your website’s domain will be an extension of theirs, yoursitename.wix.com for example. You definitely want your own domain to look professional.
Other platforms like Square Space might seem like an inexpensive option but again, you’ll be stuck with only the customization options they have and if you ever need to add some kind of functionality that’s unavailable on the platform you’re stuck.
You’re also at the mercy of these companies if they ever decide to raise their prices or even go out of business. Since your website is build using their software you can’t just move it to another company if you don’t want to work with them anymore.
Getting Help With Your Website
If you don’t have the time to build a website or still find the process too complicated you can totally still get help setting it up. If you’re going to go this route here’s how to do it right.
First sign up for your web hosting yourself. Create your own password and don’t give it to anyone then install WordPress on your domain.
Once that’s done make note of the login information for your WordPress website. This login is completely separate from your hosting account.
You can give this login to anyone you want to build your website. You can hire a developer through a freelance website or get help from a friend or relative.
This way you can still have someone else do the work of setting up your website but you still have the login for your hosting and you have the login for your website itself which you can always change the password to once the freelancer is done their work.
The Benefits of This Approach
If you decide to go this route and set up your own website (with or without help) you’ll save a ton of money. With Bluehost you’ll only spend a few bucks month for hosting and your domain will be included for free (new domains cost usually $10-$15 per year to register if you ever want more).
That’s all you’ll ever spend on your website, there’s no setup fees, no maintenance fees or anything else that a third party web design company might charge you.
You’ll be able to move your website to any hosting company you want.
Let’s say one day you decide that you don’t like Bluehost any more and you want to switch to a different hosting company. You can simply move your website there yourself.
It takes a little bit of work to move a WordPress website but it’s certainly not hard to do.
You can also make your own website backups and then if heaven forbid your current hosting company ever went out of business you could just upload your website to a new host.
You’ll also be able to update your website any time you want. You’ll have the master admin login for your website and you can go in at any time to update prices, change photos or run a sale.
You can even create additional users so one of your employees can make all the updates and changes that you delegate.
Now that we’ve covered why it’s important to have control over your website lets move on to social media.
If you decide that your business is going to be active on social media it’s also incredibly important that you have full control over your social media profiles.
The first thing you’re going to do is create a new email address (preferably a company email address) and use this to sign up for social media accounts.
One major mistake companies make is having an employee sign up for social media accounts using a personal email address. If they employee ever leaves the company or is fired you definitely don’t want them having the only log in for your company’s social media.
Take the time to create a new email with your company’s domain or even just create a brand new Gmail account. The most important thing is that you have control over this email address and you sign up for the social media accounts yourself.
Getting Help With Social Media
You can still totally get help from others to manage your social media accounts.
For Facebook the best thing to do is create a business page yourself first and then add anyone who’s going to be posting to the page as an admin. There are various levels of access you can give them depending on how much control you want to give them and if they ever leave the company you can quickly remove them from the page and they won’t be able to post there anymore.
Google+ lets you do a similar thing where you can add administrators to the page and remove them if you have to.
Twitter works a bit different because there’s only one master log in but you can always change the password if you need to take back control. Since you control the email address that created the Twitter account if you ever need to reset the password to lock someone out because they’ve gone crazy and took control for some reason you can just put in a forgot password request.
The most important thing again is that you fully control the social media accounts and if you’re getting help from anyone you give them full or limited access to the accounts yourself.
Your Own Business Strategy
When it comes to your business strategy itself it’s also very important that you maintain full control and you don’t rely fully on anyone else’s platform.
For example, in the earlier days of Facebook when you created a business page all of your followers would see all the posts that you made. Lots of businesses built up big Facebook followings and then were able to make lots of money because everyone would see when they posted about a new product or a sale.
Then Facebook changed their algorithm to make it so that only a tiny percentage of your followers would ever see your posts unless you paid for Facebook ads. Over night all these companies who had relied 100% on Facebook for their business were screwed and had to come up with a new strategy.
Another example invoices algorithm changes with Google. Lots of sites built up a huge amount of traffic by doing search engine optimization only to have their traffic completely wiped out after a major Google algorithm change.
SEO is great but you have to be very careful to do it properly so you won’t ever be penalized and you also want to have traffic to your website coming from as many different sources as possible just to be safe.
If you have an ecommerce business sites like Amazon, eBay or Taobao can definitely help you sell your products but it’s dangerous to rely on them for 100% of your business.
Competitors on Amazon for example can do all kinds of nefarious things to hurt your sales.
For example they can buy out all your inventory so you don’t appear on the site, making them the only seller of those products. Then once they sell their own products they can cancel their order from you getting a full refund. This is especially dangerous during times like Christmas or Black Friday and you can miss out on a huge amount of sales.
People can also mess around with your Amazon listings by leaving tons of negative reviews, having a bunch of people up-vote negative reviews or even messing around with your product images.
Plus sites like Amazon can change their rules at any time making things difficult for you and don’t forget that these sites always take a percentage cut of each of your sales.
The best solution is to create a following of loyal customers and send them to your own website which is fully under your control whenever they want to make a purchase.
Hopefully I’ve demonstrated the importance of having full control over everything with your business. This does require a bit more work up front but down the line it will save you a ton of headaches and money.
As mentioned you can still totally get help with your website or social media just make sure to do it properly so if anything ever goes wrong you’re still in control.
You can definitely still sell products on sites like Amazon just be aware of the risks and do your best so any returning customers buy from your own website next time.
With everything you do you want to be building up your brand and your business, not someone else’s (like Amazon).