Starting your own business can be filled with anxiety and questions. Can I afford to do this? Is it going to be successful? What do I need to get started? How will I get my name out there to everyone? It’s a lot to think about. I recently decided to expand my wedding photography from family, friends, friends of family and coworkers, to the paying public. I knew my photography skills were good because of all the requests from the aforementioned groups, but going outside that comfort zone to strangers was frightening. How could I reach these people? I had no doubt that if I could advertise myself effectively, I would succeed.
So, I spoke with a few people I knew who had their own businesses to see what they recommended. I had visions of newspaper ads or ads in the back of bridal magazines. Or, heaven forbid, the dreaded flyers put up around town. “You have to be on-line” was the one thing they all said. “Design a website to highlight your service”. My heart sunk. This is almost as bad as the flyers. Oh boy; computer savvy, I’m not. I’ve heard the IT people at work talk. Who can understand them? I know there’s software and hardware. I know you have to type in a website to a search engine to get to that site or click on an icon. That’s about it. Don’t even ask me about “file formats”, “bitmaps”, “windows based systems”, “booting”, “bugs” or “Trojan horses”. Thinking about trying to design my own website seemed way out of my league. A sympathetic coworker, who knows my very limited computer familiarity, suggested WesiteBuilder.com. This is a website builder that can get even the most inept, publishing a website in no time. “It’s easy”, my coworker assured me. I have to admit, the name of the site encouraged me; a website builder call WebsiteBuilder.com. At least they named it something that would be easy to remember. I think I’m ready to attempt this.
When I first logged on (don’t I sound expert already?) I had to pick a username, give them my email address and make a password. Nothing difficult yet; I’ve done this at work. Next is to pick a template. There’s a list of appropriate templates depending on the type of website you need. There are a ton of templates! I looked at the templates in all the categories just in case something caught my eye, but ended up in the “wedding” category anyway. I checked out each wedding template and picked one that had the content I thought would work best for me. The wedding pictures they had were lovely but I wanted to put my own pictures on my website. I noticed that by right clicking on the picture, a box popped up on the right side of the screen that indicated I could change the image. Excellent! I do know how to upload images. I uploaded several of my favorites. The website editor allowed me to crop the image, add a border and move it anywhere I wanted to on the page. Now I had an amazing picture that a potential customer would see as soon as they opened my website. I right clicked on the text on the template and found I could change the wording, fonts and size as well. It’s becoming my own! I felt like a mad scientist clicking everything to see what else I could do. I found a menu bar on the left side of the screen that had a ton of things I could do to customize my website. Everything from adding images, adding maps and adding videos, to having the forms for potential clients to fill out. I found I could add more pages if I wanted to, but I didn’t want the site to be too cumbersome; just a dozen or so photos of my best work. But what else should I have on it?
Using WebsiteBuilder.com really got me thinking about how I wanted to portray my photography business. I actually sat down and figured out what content I wanted and how to arrange it. Pictures were an obvious selection as well as contact information. What about photo packages? I hadn’t given that a thought. I found all the tools I needed to add the package pages and price lists. Alright, I now have an introductory page that explains my photography style with one of my favorite wedding couple moments. I have one page that talks about my experience followed by two pages of photos. Then I have two additional pages that detail the package pricing I came up with and what is included in each package. The last page is a form to fill out if more information is needed. Plus, I have my contact information on that page as well. If I change my mind about my website layout, I can change it at any time. Let’s publish this site and see what happens.
After publishing my website, I sat back feeling pretty proud of myself. I had made a website. I was hoping this would have clients clamoring for my services. After two weeks, nothing had changed. No calls, nothing. I wondered why. I tried searching for my website on Google by typing in “wedding photography (in my location)”. It didn’t show up. Back onto WebsiteBuilder.com I went. This time I clicked on the little question mark on the upper right hand corner of the site. It’s one of my favorite things, the help button. By using this button, you are brought to a page that has the basic questions many have problems with. I thought perhaps my design was off so I opted for the question about design. I noticed more selections to choose from once I was on the page that answered the design question. There were even more selections to choose from there. Finally, I found a question that looked exactly like what I needed to know, “How can I make my site easier to find on search engines”. I probably should’ve typed that in at the beginning but this clicking is addictive. I found tips on relevant links and language to bring clients to my site. There were also tools to use to optimize your experience with Google and Bing. And I also noticed there was information on having social sites linked to your website. I love Facebook, so this made sense to me. I had seen the ads on Facebook and was thrilled that I could do that as well. And I found out I could add “like” buttons to my pictures so people viewing them could “like” them. All these things equal exposure and that, my friend, equals MONEY!
All of this thought about how to get my service out to potential clients made me realize I had left out a huge group of people; those people who constantly use their mobile phone for the internet. Oh no! I had a wonderful website, but not a mobile site. Back to WebsiteBuilder.com. Guess what? I needed to pay more attention. The icon for mobile sites is right on the top left toolbar. But wouldn’t you know it, you have to upgrade your account to get that feature. What else on here is going to cost me money? I clicked on the word “upgrade” on the top tool bar and checked this out. I need to upgrade to Pro or Premium to get the mobile site. The prices actually were very reasonable. You can opt for monthly upgrades, yearly upgrades or 2 year upgrades. I went with the year Pro upgrade. Just like the rest of my design experience with WebsiteBuilder.com, adapting my site to a mobile site went smoothly. And after three months, the calls for bookings are starting to come in!
I have to say that using WebsiteBuilder.com was really easy, even for the computer-challenged, like me. I felt comfortable going through each stage of the process. All the tools were right there. In the beginning I was so excited at my progress that I neglected to look at all the toolbars to see what I had missed. This caused a little delay in helping me understand how to make my website reach the clientele I wanted to reach. Sure it probably took me longer than someone with a bit more computer experience, but the end result is quite eye-catching. I was able to create a website that portrays my business perfectly. And by upgrading my account with WebsiteBuilder.com, I was able to reach mobile clientele as well.
If you are thinking about starting a website, I would recommend WebsiteBuilder.com. Everything you need to create an eye-catching website is there. If you want to keep the cost down, the basic site is free. Upgrading will give you some options that will help increase your on-line presence. The upgrade costs are very reasonable and the money you will bring in is worth every cent. Oh yeah, I am now making quite a name for myself in the wedding photographer community. Thank you Websitebuilder.com!