You’ve decided to take that special skill of yours and turn it into a business. Exciting!
That’s no easy feat, and it may feel like a lot of obstacles stand in your way, but there’s one that definitely shouldn’t: your website or online presence.
We’ve heard the same thing from so many of our members: that they have a website, but it’s not finished, or it really needs to be updated, or that they can’t really launch their business until they’ve paid a professional to create it.
Let’s take a step back and think about what you need out of your online presence. You need a place to tell your story, describe your service, engage customers, and provide ways for them to easily find and access your services. Perhaps the most important thing you need is a captive audience to market your service—there's no point to create a website with no potential customers.
So does this really require a full-fledged, custom website—especially when you're starting out? To build it, you could use generic website tools like Wordpress, with endless options around colors, fonts, templates, and layouts—but that dizzying array of choices can quickly feel overwhelming. And it does nothing to get you in front of customers or other like-minded people building their businesses, too.
Your business shouldn’t have to wait in the wings while you get everything “perfect.” For you to get your first (and 50th) customer to buy what you are offering, there are just a few simple but important things your website needs to do for you:
1. Clearly communicate the service(s) your business is offering
It may seem obvious, but at its core your website should clearly convey what you are offering the world. Describe your business and be clear about the services you are providing. Talk like a human. This is especially important for when a customer searches for you online. For example, when you need a dog walker, you likely search exactly those terms, not something overly clever or cheeky, like “dog recreational expert.” While these creative descriptions seem appealing to you, they’ll likely prevent your target customers from finding you online.
2. Create trust
Customers want to have some visibility into who they are working with. Saying a bit about your background and qualifications, whether that’s schooling, previous related positions, or organizations that lend credibility, helps to establish trust. If you’ve had great customer interactions, you’ll want to ask them for feedback and display that proudly on the site. It also never hurts to share a bit about your community connections, personal passions and interests, so the shopper can connect with you a bit as a person. For a great example, check out how Pepperlane member Cintia Leone presents her house cleaning business here.
Not a natural writer? We’re here to help. You can chat with Pamela, Pepperlane’s director of community outreach, to brainstorm the best ways to describe your business, or even hire one of the many talented writers and editors on Pepperlane if you’re looking to give it that extra layer of polish.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, quality photography helps reinforce everything you are telling your customers. A great photo will grab their attention and get them excited about your business. In addition to your avatar, Pepperlane includes a place for a primary photo, where you can show yourself in action, and a service photo, so you can display your finished work product. This second piece isn't required, so don't get too hung up on it! And if you feel you don't have the right imagery for this just yet, consider working with a professional photographer (the Pepperlane community is full of them.)
3. Make it easy for interested customers to get in touch
Now that you’ve hooked visitors with your quality description and images, your website should make it easy for them to get in touch and book your service. This is why your Pepperlane website clearly calls out your availability and the location of your business, so customers can easily identify whether you’re a good fit with what they need. And our brand-new messaging feature allows customers to contact you and let you know exactly what they’re looking for, plus manages all of these communication in one convenient inbox.
4. Be shareable and discoverable
Many of us are so focused on crafting the perfect website that we forget an even more important question: how will my potential customers find it? When your business is approved on Pepperlane, we publish it to our marketplace, where interested buyers can shop for your service. We’re also doing a lot behind the scenes to make sure it surfaces nicely in Google searches (what’s known as search engine optimization, or SEO for short), so when someone just recalls your name and service, your Pepperlane site should appear.
Not only that, but your website can and should be shared beyond the walls of Pepperlane. Put it on a business card or in your email signature. We’ve just made it possible for your to personalize the name of your Pepperlane website link (URL) to show some personality, and if you own a domain for your business, you can easily forward that to your Pepperlane website, eliminating the need for you to build a website from the ground up elsewhere.
5. Be fast, responsive, and easy to use
File this under the actually important stuff you didn’t know you needed. Why? To start, a website that loads slowly can lose customer attention, which is why we’re working behind the scenes to make your Pepperlane website fast. Given that many people are now browsing the web on their phone, your website should be responsive on mobile, which means it should provide an easy reading and navigation experience and people shouldn’t have to scroll in weird ways to get the information they need. While this all sounds a bit complicated, the great news is for you it doesn’t have to be. Because—you guessed it—we take care of it for you. We’re also constantly evaluating how visitors are interacting with our webpages and improving that experience. Instead of needing to become a website usability expert, you can focus on building your business and offering great service.
We’ve built Pepperlane to offer you all the website you need—without the customizations you don’t—but we know there are some additional elements that many of our members would like to see. Because your feedback is important to us, we have a lot of improvements planned in the coming weeks. Those include:
- Adding a Logo: A logo is a great way to give your business that bit of personality and recognizability. Soon we’ll include a place for it on your Pepperlane website.
- Connecting Your Social Media Accounts: Social media provides an opportunity for constant conversation with your customer base, and soon we’ll make it easy for you to showcase yours on your Pepperlane website, so interested customers can easily follow you.
We’ve also got some tricks up our sleeve for allowing you to add more photos and display your work product, plus style text so that it pops a bit more (think bold and italic), so stay tuned. For now, we’d love for you to get started building your Pepperlane website. If you need some help discovering what services you should offer, schedule a time to chat with our community outreach director Pamela. And if you’re feeling like you need something more, take a look at our Get Help Building Your Business collection. From graphic design to tax services, our community of mother-owned businesses is here to help.
We'd love to hear from you! What are things you thought you needed to start your business? What do you think still stands in your way? How can Pepperlane help? We're all ears!