Some weeks ago, we needed to hire a designer –not a web designer– for a job. We had a list of names with good references and recommendations from other people. As expected, we searched for them on Google.
Surprisingly, from a total of ten, only two had a web page. For others, Google search results revealed little more than their personal Facebook page. In one case, you could see some cute pictures of her family’s vacation to Disney World, but no information on how to contact them professionally. Another one LinkedIn’s profile was almost empty.
If you run a personal business or are a freelancer, here is a list of basic things you should do if you take it seriously:
(Disclaimer: none of the following are affiliate links, and I am not related to any of the companies although I use some of the services mentioned.)
1. Get a domain name for your business
Domains are cheap ($15/year for a .com domain). If you are a freelancer, see if it makes sense to register your own name.
If you live in Perú (where I live), .pe domain names are registered by punto.pe. They are not cheap (around $44/year, compared to around $15/year for a .com domain), but they are the only registrars in Peru.
The upside with a .pe domain is that you can probably find many more names available than .com domains.
2. Consider having a webpage
You need a webpage to put information about your business, your background, and your portfolio of clients if it is relevant to your business. What you do, why you do, how you do it… This is what people wil find when they google for your business, for services related to it, or for your name.
Like your mail, this webpage must be under your business domain name, not under a free service like tumblr or the free tier of Wordpress.
Some people ask me if I know a ‘programmer’ who can help them build their website, and a good hosting service. Don’t do this. Webpages for small to medium businesses is a problem has already been already solved by companies like SquareSpace. Wordpress.com also offers convenient plans and take care of hosting and maintaining the platform up to date. (You can check some facts about Wordpress and its impact on the internet on Broadbandsearch.)
For $96 a year, SquareSpace offers a simple interface for building a professional-looking webpage, with most of the funcionality you would expect. If this is over your budget, then at least create a Facebook Page sepparated from your personal profile. Unless you are freelancing, have a LinkedIn Page exclusively for your business.
3. Use an email address under your business domain
Get an email for your business domain name and use it in your business cards and everywhere business related. That is, don’t print firstname.lastname@example.org, but use email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Google used to offer up to 10 mails for free for custom domains via Google Apps. They don’t anymore. But there are alternatives. Some registrars like hover.com offer a ‘forward only’ email address for domains registered with them for a small fee. (That is, all mail that arrives to email@example.com is automatically forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
If you are willing to pay for a professional mail service, you can pay $5/month for Google Apps for email and other services. A good alternative is fastmail.fm.
You should answer mail sent to your business address within one business day.
Having a professional-looking presence on the Internet has become very affordable. If you have an excellent product or service, there is no excuse for giving a poor first impression to your customers.