Many of you might be under the assumption that email is an outdated form of marketing, and therefor most of you are ignoring the pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow. What do you do with it? You just send your followers relevant content! Think about it… Aren’t there any emails out there that you look forward to getting, because they provide you with something of value? I know I can think of a few.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard successful online business owners who, when asked what they regret most, responded with not building their email list sooner! The best time to start is now, and I am going to lay out the steps for you in a way that makes it easy to take-action!
Step 1: Brainstorm a subject you are passionate about, and try writing at least three blog posts about the subject to test your idea.
Step 2: Go through your contacts, and think of one person who would be the best fit for that subject and might be interested in learning more about it.
Step 3: Come up with a list of at least ten (more if possible) people who either might be interested in your idea, or would be willing to help you spread the word. This is easy if you use social media, as you can instantly find out what your friends are interested in. Also, family fit this category so if mom and dad are willing to help you spread the word, include them!
Step 4: Message this list of people with something like, “Hey ______, I am starting a website/ blog about “Your subject here” and I was wondering if you would be interested in learning more about it?” If they respond with a “no”, send a follow up email thanking them for their time and add “If you know anyone who might be interested, please let me know!”. If you do this right you are guaranteed to succeed, And just like that your network has gone from zero to hero.
Step 5: Pick one of the services above and sign up for an account. Then add your new emails to the list, and draft an email to send out congratulating all your new followers.
BONUS: Running a contest with a giveaway to get emails is a great way to 10x your results!
AWeber is the choice of many successful online adventurers, including Tim Ferris of The Four Hour Work Week. They offer tools for building email campaigns to tracking and starting at $19 per month. They offer a 30-day free trial and have a variety of mobile apps. They make it easy to get started with templated campaigns and helpful webinars.
ConvertKit is a company that I learned about through Pat Flynn of the SPI Podcast, during his email list building challenge. They offer a free 30-day trial which can be useful if you are the “see it before you believe it” type like me, but their prices start at $29 per month. That being said, they have a pretty good blog and a “Request a Demo” option that lets you see it in action before committing to anything!
MailChimp is a great email list building service for beginners because they give you access to their basic service for free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. They are banking on the fact that when you grow your audience enough you will want to upgrade your plan, and for just $10 per month, you can send unlimited emails to your subscribers. This is my recommendation for anyone who might not have a blog or website yet, or does but has not yet built up their following.
And that’s it. Get out there and build yourself an audience!
Some of you are, at this very moment, traveling down the rabbit hole looking for the best hosting option for your website or online business. To save you the trouble, here is a bit about why I chose my current hosting provider after months of careful research.
I also want to start out by being completely transparent in telling you that I have provided affiliate links for your convenience throughout this article. I tried to be stay as unbiased as I possibly could before, during, and after I made my final decision. I found so many articles written that seemed like a sales pitch for one option or the other, which prompted me to write my own. This wasn’t written to promote the companies mentioned, but instead to help you out by saving you the months of research that I spent trying to take that first leap. If you would like to go through one my links, thank you in advance!
Lets begin by looking at the facts. Hostgator and Bluehost, among many other top hosting providers, are both owned by the same parent company, Endurance International Group. People have their own opinions about EIG and seem to think they tend to run companies into the ground after acquiring them, but it is important to notice that while it may appear that you have many options, most of them fall under the same umbrella corporation. Sure, Hostgator may not be the innovative, homegrown startup that it used to be but after reading this it will be clear why they were my top choice.
I spent hours and hours skimming articles and reviews to try and make this decision and it all really comes down to three things. Speed + uptime vs. price + value. Bluehost seems to be all the rage right now when it comes to promotions that are obviously motivated by affiliate programs, and it can be confusing sorting through all the sales BS to get to the truth. For me it all came down to simply putting the shared packages side by side, and weighing the options against the price.
Bluehost will give you a free domain name upon signup as a perk, but other than that the shared plans are almost identical. In most of the studies I found, Hostgator was faster to load and had less downtime than Bluehost. They both have a c-panel dashboard, and simple 1-click WordPress installation.
Bluehost and Hostgator also both have live chat support. After running a few side-by-side tests with long wait times on both, I came to the conclusion that Bluehost’s support was a complete waste of time. Hostgator’s live chat on the other hand, while also having a long and drawn out wait time, at least gave me the answers I needed.
Hostgator Hatchling, Baby, and Business Plan
Do yourself a favor and forget about the Hatchling plan. It comparable to trying dip your foot in the pool, when you know its just going to delay the process even more. Take the leap, and go big or go home.
You can often get the Baby for just a bit more and the potential for growth is less limiting. The Baby plan is a great starting point! It gives you the option to host multiple domain names and some extra bandwidth to work with. That being said, in my opinion the Business plan is worth a few extra bucks to get a private IP address and SSL if you really want to gain the trust of your followers, and both of these can play a role in SEO as well.
The same applies to the Bluehost plans. Give yourself some room to grow and go with the “plus” or “prime” plan and skip the “basic” one. You can often get them for the same price. Bluehost also offers a “Go Pro” plan for an extra $10 that I looked into during my search, but I don’t feel comfortable recommending yet after what I read. The idea is good, having less websites per server and charging more, but the reviews haven’t been friendly. It is however, your only option if you want a private IP address or SSL certificate within the shared plan; something that you can get with Hostgator‘s Business plan for less than half the price!
Shared VS Cloud
Be aware that “unmetered” bandwidth and disk space is not what it seems. After digging around you will see that they do monitor bandwidth and a shared hosting plan is exactly that, SHARED. In fact, it’s shared with tons of other websites, all fighting for bandwidth and speed on the same server. Because of this they will send you a message if you are using too many resources on the server, and pull your site if you fail to comply with their requests to cease doing so.
Also while you can host multiple websites on the same account, be aware that there is a limit and when you start to reach it you’re page load speed will suffer. To see all the “fine print”, go to this link, and hover over all of the question marks at the left hand side of the screen.
Both providers offer a Business cloud plan. Hostgator’s comes with Private IP and SSL, 6GB storage, and should be at least 2x faster than the shared plan. They also offer a c-panel management platform making it easier for users who aren’t computer science majors, like me, to operate. They boast 100% uptime, made possible by data mirroring and offer easy monitoring as well.
I settled on the Hostgator Business Cloud hosting plan because I wanted the extra room to grow with the benefits of having extra storage, more speed, and scalability.
Caution! Please take into account that the “introductory” price you pay for your hosting at a discount will change when the term you paid for is up. This is the “fine print” that you might have had trouble finding, and they do a great job keeping it quiet. This is why I would suggest that you purchase as long of a term that you can afford up front.
I’d say to go for at least a two year plan, as the discount is usually the same or close to the three year plan and by then you can decide if you want to upgrade your hosting or not.
Also, don’t fall for the “free first month for $0.99” trap, as they will jack the price up the next month. If you already made this mistake and are within the 45 day cancellation timeline, consider yourself lucky.
You will also need a domain name to finish the setup, and you’ll most likely want to purchase a domain name from a cheaper service. Refer to my post, “How To Choose A Business Name With A Matching Domain Name“, if you need some help getting started there. Thats it my friends.
For me, this was BY FAR the most time consuming step to starting my online business. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent trying to conjure up a few ingeniously clever business names. To add to the stress, most of us are looking for untaken domain names that are an exact match.
The truth is, it’s really not that all that important. You can start a business with one name, and change it later if you come up with something better, and do a 301 redirect to keep the traffic flowing. The important thing is that you provide something of value, whether that something is content or a product. But if you are still stuck on this first crucial step, I’ve laid out a guide to help.
Open up a document file in Word or Google Docs and grab something caffeinated. Trying to force creativity is never a good thing, so as you follow these steps and begin to brainstorm, take a break here and there to do something creative like listen to music or go for a run. That being said, rid yourself of distraction when the time comes to focus in on those million dollar ideas.
Take a look at the competition. Make a list of the top five websites or business names that you like and why. Then, make a list of five business names that you don’t like and why. This will give you a good foundation to start with.
Brainstorm all the words that you want your business to embody. Think of as many adjectives that describe your mission. Try to come up with a tagline that represents your purpose. Document everything. The more you come up with now, the better chance you will have of this list actually turning into a few usable names later on.
Look at your list and pick out the ones that stand out to you. Try creating word-mash-ups, and think of new and interesting ways to spell out your ideas. Business names often are made up of words that don’t exist yet or are born from the combination of multiple words.
Type “Business name generator” into Google and find a few that work for you. Some of these tools are really impressive and others, well, let’s just say they need some work. The ones I found the most useful allowed bulk word input, so I could enter all the names and words I brainstormed and receive a list of mashed-up outputs!
If you still can’t come up with anything, check out a website like Fiverr.com. This is one of the most useful platforms I have found for finding freelancers to help me with business related tasks and the guy I hired did an amazing job coming up with trademark-able business names with available domains!
Go to a domain name registrar like Name Cheap and search for available domain names that match your business idea. If you are new to domain names, see my blog post about it for more info.
You can do this at most hosting providers as well, such as bluehost. To make it easy I have embedded a domain name checker for you below.