I’ve dabbled in micro-business ownership for a good number of years, and from my first venture in 1999, I’ve created a web presence. There are various reasons why I’ve moved on from each venture. My dog training business left me in total burnout, and I had to completely switch gears and do something different for a while. My Esthetics/Reiki business was plugging along until I jumped into animal dermatology and moved to Phoenix. The businesses I’ve embarked upon in the past were all face to face businesses. By focusing solely on Reiki, I can work from home and sometimes meet clients only on Skype. This is providing me the leisure of growing at a slower pace, with less on the line. If you are looking to create a web presence for yourself but find that you’re not loaded with capital to jump in the deep end, maybe the resources I’ve found can help you out.
Several years ago, I purchased my own domain and had a website. Since moving to Phoenix, it became way too much of a time and money suck, but I didn’t want to lose my domain. So I have it still, but no website. That costs me about $10/year through GoDaddy. I have found that a Facebook page is a great free alternative, and most people are already on it all the time anyway. A Facebook page can be much more easily dynamic and engaging, and there are so many tools available now that you can pretty much run your whole business through your page. (I haven’t even scratched the surface yet, and I’m sure many of you could teach me a thing or two.) Facebook is really moving toward lots of videos, and you can “Go Live” and stream to your page if you want to commit to a regular schedule of checking in with your followers via video. I have a friend who runs a fitness coaching business and she uses the “Go Live” feature just about every day. I recently uploaded my first video to post to my page, which I shot on my cell phone, propped up by a $10 selfie stick! I talked about Reiki and attunements, just to give people a little idea of what it all is. We’ll see what kind of response I get, but I think it’s a nice touch and provides some validity to let people see you, especially if you’re running a business completely online.
Having a personalized email is a very handy tool, and if someone owns their own domain, they can get email hosting through Google Apps for Work for $5/month for a single user. That way I have my personalized domain email I can use, without the hassle of maintaining a website. UPDATE: I recently canceled Google Apps and joined Zoho Mail and have my domain email hosting for free. Their free account offers up to 25 addresses on one domain.
MailChimp is a free newsletter service you can use to email your clients. They have great templates, and you can set up a sign-up page right on Facebook. It is really advantageous to have that domain name and email hosting for this, though, as they warn that using a Gmail or similar email address as a sending address can increase your chances of being marked as spam. Before I found Google Apps, I did use my Gmail account, but I don’t think I got the same response as when I was using my own domain email. From now on, I will use my domain email for my newsletters.
Facebook also offers integration with Appointy‘s scheduling site. There, of course, are premium services you can purchase, but their basic scheduling is free. And you can install an add-on to your Facebook page, enabling people to book right from your page. You can even set up Appointy to take pre-payment through PayPal when people book appointments with you.
I was super uneasy about including my personal cell phone number on my marketing material. I wanted a layer of privacy, but I didn’t want a second phone, so I did some digging and found the answer – again from Google! With Google Voice, you can set up a free local phone number, which you can send to your existing cell phone. It took a little tweaking and playing around with it for me to discover that when someone calls on my Google Voice number, a message plays when I answer. I have the option at that time to accept the call or let it go to voicemail before the caller even knows I’ve answered. So I don’t have to worry about answering a call that I’m not prepared to really answer – like if I’m out running errands or something. You can set up a separate voicemail box, and you can even use the number to text with people, either through the Google Voice app (if you want to keep things separate) or your phone’s messaging app.
For writers, WordPress is free and you can set up a very simple blog-style website. It’s a perk when people have a reason to check in with you, like predictable new content, such as a blog. I have my site set up with a contact page, which includes my phone number, email, Facebook link, as well as a link to my Appointy schedule page and MailChimp sign up, in case they want to schedule an appointment with me or join my newsletter. The only maintenance I have to do on the page is adding blog entries. If you’re unsure about your writing skills, there are several copy writing programs available online. I love Marie Forleo, so I’m considering her Copy Cure program.
Of course, Twitter, Snap Chat, Instagram, Google+, and all the other social networking sites are also free and offer other ways to get attention and potential clients. I find myself busy enough with Facebook, WordPress, and Twitter, so I don’t get into the other sites much at this time. Maybe when I’m able to quit my “day job” and focus 100% on Reiki I’ll have more time for that stuff. 🙂 I haven’t read it myself, but I just heard about the book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, which gives information about appropriately utilizing social media. I plan to pick up a copy.
For about $6/month, I have set up a decent web presence. I hope you can utilize some of the ideas here so that you can set up your own small business without the burdens of large capital investments.
What jewels have you found in establishing and promoting your business? Do you know of better options than I’ve found? I’d love to hear from you about how you started on a shoestring.
With much love, light, and gratitude,