S.T.A.R.T. Workshop 2

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The letter that we want to concern ourselves with today is the second letter in our S.T.A.R.T. Workshop. Today our questions will focus on What you want to accomplish, who your audience is or will be, and what steps to take. Those steps may even include altering your strategy.

The components of our S.T.A.R.T. Workshop aren’t something that we only visit once. Each letter is a concept that has a continuing importance in your journey. The Tools that take you there, will not only follow you through to the end, your toolbox will, by necessity, fill up over time. The tool that we will focus on today is your website, and your social media outlets.

Last week, we examined the questions of why, and how to begin. This week, we will first ask what are you wanting to accomplish? Whether your goal is a book, a website, a blog, or a podcast, there are a few steps you need to take.

One of these steps is creating a web headquarters. In the early twentieth century, a person who wanted to start a business would secure a location. Whether it was a ten year old child’s lemonade stand, a lunch cart, or a storefront, it was about having a physical address.

In this day and age, it’s still about having a location, just not a physical one. You need somewhere to send traffic. If you have a podcast, people will want to interact with you. They’ll want to go to your site. If you’re a Writer, people will want to know more about you, they’ll go to your site. A web location isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.

This doesn’t mean that it has to be either expensive, or nerve wrecking. Two valid questions at this point have to be asked? The first is, “What is your project?” Next, “What is your budget, in both time and money?”

Some loved ones in my life have projects that are their business, while others have a project that is a hobby. Each group is valuable, and they both have something important to “Say”. The difference is, that they each will proceed differently, based on their goal.

Just because something is classified as a hobby, doesn’t subtract from its worth. The Apple TV was classified as a hobby, and then the profits rolled in. The question is not “What it’s worth?” The question is, “What is your current blueprint for this project?”

If the answer is that it is a hobby, then I would recommend starting with a free WordPress.com account. Perhaps a Tumblr blog, or a Facebook Fan page. If you want it to become more than a hobby, I would slightly alter my approach.

Either way, at this point, we have to address the second question. “What is your Budget?” If that isn’t a concern, then you may want to spend at least fifty dollars a year on a domain. If money is a factor, then a free WordPress account is wise option.

Even if your project is destined for more than a hobby, you may have a limited budget. If so, a free WordPress account is still a valid choice. It was actually the path that PruittWrites started with also. Now, we have PruittWrites.com, but at first, we had a free WordPress site.

Okay, you know which web option your choosing, that’s great. Don’t set it up just yet. You know why you’re doing this, you know how to begin, you’ve got your story, and you know what type of website you want. The next question, and it’s big, “What do you want to name it?”

The name is important, it’s not only proprietary, it can be permanent. Yes, there have been successful name changes, but why risk it? The identity you choose can take years to erase, if you decide later that you don’t like it.

For example, Agatha Christie created the character of Hercules Poirot, and readers loved him. The only problem was, Agatha didn’t. She, in fact, grew to hate him. So much so, that she wrote a story about his death, years before she published it.

Don’t allow your website to turn into something that you grow to hate. Take some time to evaluate your choice. Search for anything that is similar online. When you do a search for PruittWrites, you find our site, and our social media channels.

Our name communicates, on a broad level, what we are about. Even if you view it as a hobby, it will become your brand.  If you paint, if you write, if you are a woodcarver, you will have a style all your own.  People who see your work will be able to pick up on things that you do that are unique.  You will want to choose a name that does the same thing.

Once you’ve decided on it, it’s time to choose your web provider.  At PruittWrites.com, we are an Apple shop, so we used a hosting company that is also Apple based, we use Machighway.com.

The first step will be to review the different plans and choose which one works best for you, regarding pricing and feature sets.  This includes the storage size, and one very important feature, unlimited bandwidth.

If your website becomes popular, it will generate more and more traffic.  Unless you have unlimited bandwidth, which thankfully is much more common today, it could become very expensive.

Once you will request your site name, i.e. your dot com, purchase both it, and the hosting package that works for you. You can typically pay monthly, yearly, or bi-yearly. Congratulations, you now have your shingle on the web!

The next question is, what now? In my opinion, the only viable web solution today is some form of content management system, such as WordPress or Drupal. Just a few years ago, the complexity of this was overwhelming. Today, literally anyone can set up a successful WordPress site.

Many Internet Hosting companies provide an easy install for one or more cms (content management systems). An interactive wizard will walk you through the setup process. If they do not, you can obtain a free version from one of the cms sites.

My personal preference is WordPress. It has a very reasonable learning curve to it. One of the first choices you’ll make in WordPress is selecting a theme. What you choose will depend on your individual needs. A photographer will need a more graphic-centric site than a writer. Even in that case though, graphics will be a major part of any site’s success.

We will spend the rest of this article talking about your theme. Plug ins, marketing strategies, and content management are enormous subjects all their own. They will be featured in upcoming workshop articles. Today, we want to help you with your store window.

Have you sketched out, at least in your mind, what you want your site to look like?  Before you select the actual theme, imagine it in your mind.  Will it point to one particular project?  Is it all about pictures?  If you’re a writer, it will mostly be about the text, but it can’t be all text.  Graphics are not only your friend, they are your lifeline.  Even the image of your site in your head is a graphical one.

Your theme, especially the first page, is to you what the window on 34th street is to Macy’s. The theme you select needs to be big enough to grow with you. A few words to look for at the selection stage are, flexible, css, and widgets. This will ensure that you won’t have to suddenly change everything three months from now because your old theme was too small.

Once you’ve decided on your theme, you’ll need to pick the right colors. People will associate the colors you choose with your brand. You’ll want to balance your colors. If they’re too vibrant, they can drive traffic away. Too bland, and they will be boring.  Currently, one to two crisp colors on top of a white background is a popular, and successful strategy.

Regardless of what your site is about, you’ll need a good head shot of yourself.  People will connect with a brand, if they can see the person behind it.  I’m not a fan of my own picture, but it is a way of connecting with people.

In the end, everything that we have, or will talk about is about communication.  No matter what the medium, you’re sharing ideas.  It is your gift to someone else, and you want to present it in the best gift box possible.

Once you’ve added your header image, and your logo, you’re far from finished.  We are still just in the beginning stages, you’ll want a fav icon, and several other features that make it convenient for your customers.  One thing though is a must have, your social media links must be prominent.

PruittWrites has more than one way to connect with our Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and pages.  We currently feature our Instagram and Pinterest selections on our front page.  Try and think of these the same way that you think of an electrical outlet in your home.  Make them easily accessible, make them prominent, and have several of them.

In selecting your theme, you’ve added the store name on your window to the world. Even if you’re not completely ready for business yet, your store front is announcing to the world, “We are here!”

Congratulations on what you’ve accomplished so far. There is much more to come, but celebrate the steps. You’ve made a S.T.A.R.T., next month will go on from here.