Setting up a website for your online teaching business
In this post, I'm focussing on your website.
So, some of you are already all set up online - you might just need a little bit of tweaking here and there to make sure your message is coming across consistently. Maybe you need to add a Landing Page for a new freebie you're going to offer or edit your About Page to better reflect the problem your audience is facing.
But what if you're reading this and you're not set up online? What if you feel like all this tech and online biz-jargon is like listening to a foreign language? Are you stumped when you think about how you'll set up a website if you don't have a graphic designer and a programmer on staff...?
You're not alone! And it's less of a problem than you might think. There are many more aspiring online teachers out there without a website. And, truth be told, I'm actually quite excited to be taking you through this "online home building" process because you're a blank canvas! Or, I should say, an open piece of ground on which to build - you'll see the reason for the metaphor later.
The other bit of good news is that website-building software is getting more competitive. Which means the tools are getting better. And easier to use. With more customer support. So you're getting to the online party when the speeches are over and the DJ is playing the good stuff ;).
Building your website
I believe that there’s nothing like your own website to tell the world that you’re open for business. You have a choice of many website builders out there, each of them with their pros and cons, but I find that Squarespace generally meets my needs and provides enough value for a premium service. (If you decide to use Squarespace, then use the coupon code GIMME10 to get 10% off your first year of subscription fees).
Now, I'm not going to go into the nuts and bolts of actually building a Squarespace website in this post. But if you're interested in a practical demonstration of how to get a website up and running on Squarespace, let me know in the comments and I'll look at putting together a post with some videos for you.
So here's the very important, but painfully overlooked fact when you're building your website: You don’t have to build the whole thing in order to launch it. In fact, you need to get your first web page (yes, just one page) published for the world to see - STAT!
Building a house
Let’s compare building your online home to building a brick-and-mortar house.
Understanding your audience, and your offer is like building the foundation.
Now, friends of mine decided to build their dream home, but they had a limited budget, so they decided that instead of paying out money in rent while they built their home, they'd just build a bedroom with an en-suite bathroom. They lived in this room until they had enough money to build the next room, and then a kitchen, and so they went on. At each point, they equipped the room with all the fittings it needed, so that it was a fully-functional space.
Now, I don't know about the wisdom of this approach from a building perspective, but it's a pretty good idea when it comes to building your online home. You’re going to build and release each page of your website, one at a time. And you’re going to do it in such a way that your website always looks complete and is fully functional – even when it’s only got one page! (And please, don't put up any "Under Construction" notices! That is so 1998...)
Build one webpage at a time
This is the little en-suite you're going to build and live in while you're building the rest of your online dream house!
A landing page is a very simple, one-page website that announces your offer and usually asks for some kind of action from your visitors, like asking for their email addresses.
Your landing page must have a short write up about your audience’s problem and your offer to solve it. Be as clear and concise as possible about what you’re offering. Write to your audience and make it about them, not you.
Once they can see that you understand their problem, then tell them how you’re going to solve it. Ask them for their email address so that you can tell them when you’re launching your course, or so that they can stay up to date on your product’s development. You can also add your email address, and social media profiles if you want to.
An amazing tool for creating a stunning one-page website is Carrd. I'm planning on doing a post about it soon, and will add a link here when it's done.
Boom, you have a website!
Your copy on your Landing Page might be amazing, but many people are going to want something more before they part with their email address, so offer an opt-in freebie. Your opt-in freebie should solve a very clear problem that your audience has and it shouldn’t require too much commitment for them – so I’d do a PDF guide, rather than a 30-day challenge as a first freebie. Krista Dickson at Blog Beautifully has a great freebie guide.
Add an About Page, as a link on your Landing Page. Your About Page must continue the conversation you started on the Landing Page. Don’t be tempted to start a monologue about yourself. Your About Page is about how you can solve your audience’s problem, rather than just about you. Of course, as you explain how you can solve your audience’s problem, the conversation will naturally open up for you to discuss your experience, skills, and magnetic personality!
If you didn’t start off this journey as a blogger, then now is the time to add a blog and write useful blog posts for your audience. If you need inspiration for what to write, go back to Steps 1 and 2 to remind yourself of your audience’s pain points and your special skills.
The key is quality, rather than quantity – so one great blog post once a fortnight, rather than lots of fluff every day! But if you’re like me, you’ll need the caveat that your post doesn’t have to be “perfect” before you publish it!
Add a Contact Page with your email address and links to your social media accounts, if you’d like. Interestingly, some online entrepreneurs don’t actively promote their social media profiles on their websites (or leave them off entirely). The reason for this is that they want people to sign up for their email lists, as email marketing is a very effective technique to use, especially when you are selling digital products like courses.
Of course, social media is still important, but its role is bringing visitors to your site. Once you've got them on your site, you want to make sure you can maintain connection with them, and email is a really great way to do that.
Upgrade your Landing Page to a Homepage, where you can funnel people to particular parts of your site, maybe add some beautiful icons and graphical elements to help navigation, and again continue that conversation that you started on your Landing Page and About Page.
Add pages as needed
This is where each website will take its own path. Add any other pages you need to communicate with your audience. Remember to keep it concise and don’t overwhelm your audience with too many options.
Keep on building
As your business develops, so will your website – you’ll build on to your house!
You’ll be creating landing pages for new courses, adding new blog posts, and updating your Homepage to keep up – it’s a constant job. And that’s important to remember at the beginning stages of your business – your website will develop, so it doesn’t have to be comprehensive from Day 1.
Instead, build your website strategically, page by page, and you’ll gather momentum as you go!
A note on email marketing and social media
Building your website is just one part of setting up your home online.
For most aspiring online course creators, email marketing is a must. Very few people will buy from you the first time they land on your website, and so email marketing has an important role to play in demonstrating to your audience that you can give them value and to build up trust with them. Then when it's time to launch your course, you'll make the marketing and sales process so much easier.
Social media is also important, but be careful of becoming overwhelmed by social media, and don't think that you need to sign up for social media accounts on every platform there is. You don't have to - and you really shouldn't! You're just going to be spreading yourself too thin - for very little reward. Rather be very intentional about your social media engagement.
I'm planning a more extensive post on email marketing, and I'm lining up a guest post from a social media strategist about social media for course creators, so stay tuned :). And remember to leave a comment if you'd like a demonstration on how to set up your website on Squarespace.
But now, go and build that online dream house of yours! Room by room, page by page. YOU CAN DO IT!