How to Build a Website For a 1st Time Entrepreneur

I’m not the most computer savvy person.  Writing this blog is easy because everything is already set up for me.  I’m probably like most people when it comes to computers.  I know Microsoft Word, some Excel, I can write emails, and print things.  Keep in mind when reading this post, that this isn’t coming from the most technical of people, and is meant for the entrepreneur that is looking to get his/her business off the ground by promoting their product/service on the web and can’t afford a pro.  I am currently building a website for my company on my own.  I’ll release the website after it’s done and when I quit my full-time job, for all to see, but for the most part it will be a starter site until I get my business off the ground and have the funds to get a professional to design it.

Right now I’m using Microsoft’s Frontpage to build my site.  For anyone that’s familiar with the basic Microsoft applications such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. this should be a breeze for you after you tinker around with it and figure out all the buttons and commands.  Also, the “Help” button is your best friend if you’re on your own.  I’ve had some useful experience building a website, actually.  In college (2-3 years ago), I built a website with a friend of mine where the students at my university could upload funny/party pictures and post funny stories and videos of things happening on campus.  I got some okay traffic and made $150 on advertising in 4 months.  Needless to say, Facebook kicked my ass and my venture failed.  I did, however, gain some very valuable experience that is helping me today.

First thing you need to do is to register your domain name.  Your domain name is the www.YOURCOMPANYHERE.com thing you see in ALL websites.  That is your domain name.  I chose to go with the reputable GoDaddy.com.  You can own your own space on the web for as little as $7 per YEAR.  GoDaddy also offers web hosting for a very competitive yearly fee, which is where all your emailing, website bandwidth/memory, server space, etc. is held.  It’s simple and easy to use.  I always wondered how you get emails for certain webpages.  For instance, if you have a site called www.millionairemoney.com, you can set up an infinite amoutn of email addresses like contact@millionairemoney.com, questions@millionairemoney.com, etc.  This is all done and held by your server’s host.

Now, you need to figure out a design you want for your website.  If you’re using FrontOffice, like I mentioned, you can spend the time to design a ”template” on your own.  This could take weeks if you’re not experienced and I don’t recommend it.  What I did, was buy a FrontOffice template at www.thetemplatestore.com.  There, you can chose from dozens of pre-made website designs.  The basic layout, the navigation bars, links, etc. are all done for you.  All you need to do is tweak it to your business and add the content (or copy).  It’s VERY easy to upload pictures, videos, etc. and create your own navigation.  If you want to create multiple pages, just copy and paste like you would in Word or Excel.  It’s very simple.

The tricky part is getting it uploaded onto your hosts server.  GoDaddy.com explains this for you and makes it very easy for you to do in a few easy steps.  Once it’s up and running you can add different things to your site without having to code ANYTHING.  Just go to sites like www.websitetools.com, www.hypergurl.com, www.websitegoodies.com, www.websitetoolbox.com.  There you can add things like stat tracking (tells you who is visiting, where they’re from, how many times, what pages they’re interested in, etc), message forums, polls, guestbooks, etc.  These are great things that are pre-made and can be easily inputted into your website.  Many of these tools are childsplay for savvy programmers and they only charge you $5-15 per item.  (***Google Analytics offers free stat tracking and it is very thorough and user-friendly, try them at www.google.com/analytics

And that’s really it to tell you the truth.  The process is simple but it does require some effort, but not the effort you might think of that would scare you away from doing it or starting your business in the first place.  I enjoy the time I spend building my website.  It’s almost like an arts & crafts project for me and gets me motivated and excited about my business.  It’s frustrating at first if you don’t know what you’re doing, but that’s what the internet is for.  There are thousands of articles out there to help you with anything you need.  Need help uploading a ”Hits Tracker” for your website?  Just type in “website hits tracker” and your answer is there.  If you have a simple business that needs a professional looking website and you’re strapped for startup capital, put the time into it and do it yourself.  It’s not that hard and is a very valuable experiences when pursuing future ventures involving the web.

World’s Wealthiest People are Entrepreneurs

If you scour any list of the world’s or the United States’ wealthiest people, you’ll see the word “Self-Made” on there quite often.  Self-Made is another way of saying that the individual being discussed did NOT inherit the money they have.  Self-Made is also another term for entrepreneur.  You’ll also find that NO WHERE on these lists do they have a label for “Employees” or “Worked up the Corporate Ladder”.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  There are very wealthy individuals that are working for corporations right now that never started their own businesses.  Generally speaking, wealth is directly related to business ownership in one way or another. 

I took this from the Forbes 400 Richest Americans Article for 2006.  I’m lazy and couldn’t find the ’08 one in the 30 seconds that I tried, but I don’t need the most updated version to make my point.  Below I’ve listed American’s 26-50 that are on the Richest American’s list (www.forbes.com <– Great Magazine for Motivation).  I’ve put an asterik (*) for the ones who are ”self-made” or entrepreneurs:

Rank Name Net Worth ($bil) Source
26*
Kirk Kerkorian 9 investments, casinos
27* Donald L Bren 8.5 real estate
27 George B Kaiser 8.5 oil & gas, banking
27* George Soros 8.5 hedge funds
30* Philip H Knight 7.9 Nike
31* Philip F Anschutz 7.8 investments
32* Keith Rupert Murdoch 7.7 News Corp
32* Pierre M Omidyar 7.7 Ebay
34* Charles Ergen 7.6 EchoStar
35* Dan L Duncan 7.5 energy
35 Edward Crosby Johnson III 7.5 Fidelity
35* Sumner M Redstone 7.5 Viacom
38* Donald Edward Newhouse 7.3 publishing
38* Samuel Irving Newhouse Jr 7.3 publishing
40* Leonard Blavatnik 7 Access Industries
40* Ronald Owen Perelman 7 leveraged buyouts
42* Eli Broad 5.8 investments
43 Robert Muse Bass 5.5 oil, investments
44* Michael Rubens Bloomberg 5.3 Bloomberg L.P.
45* John R Menard Jr 5.2 home improvement stores
45 Robert Rowling 5.2 oil & gas, investments
45 Eric Schmidt 5.2 Google
48* Micky Arison 5 Carnival Cruises
49* Steven Paul Jobs 4.9 Apple Computer, Pixar
50* David Geffen 4.6 movies, music

This is very significant to me.  Though this is the farthest possible end of the entrepreneurs spectrum, this brings up a good point.  These individuals OWN their companies OR they have very large ownership stakes.  The fact that they became entrepreneurs put them in the driver’s seat of their business’ and their financial destiny’s.  Reading Success Stories of Entrepreneurs is one of the biggest motivations for me.  Although their wealth might be out of reach, the principles of entrepreneurship and business ownership are still the same. 

Want to Handle your Business’ Finances? Start Off with Your Own

I am currently at the stage with my own business that I am needing to analyze different costs and create a revenue model to see what a balance sheet may look like now and in the future. I am writing down all the possible start-up and variable costs associated with conducting business and projecting those over the next several months. I’m also trying to come up with possible ”if-then” situations for the potential revenue and income that may come in. These are very important to me as I am still working my day job and the net income that I bring in from the business, the loans I may need to pay off, the personal capital I need to give up all factor in when I can quit my day job and focus solely on growing my business.

If your personal finances are in a mess, how are you going to manage the finances of a growing business?  The financial literacy of citizens of the United States is atrocious, especially for such a ”wealthy” country who puts such strong values on economics.  Check out some of these articles of financial literacy statistics in the US:

http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/consumersmarts/archives/132892.asp

http://www.sec.gov/news/testimony/ts052306cc.htm

This just shows you that most of the United States can’t start their own businesses if they’re handling their own finances (which is usually going to be the case).  LESS COMPETITION FOR US!!  Great.  Well, if this is you, and you don’t feel 100% comfortable with your finances, your debt, your investing strategies, handling your expenses, etc., you should maybe look into increasing your own financial literacy.  I am 24 and feel that I have a strangle-hold on my finances.  I went to school for business, but that’s not why I feel comfortable.  Here are some things that I do on a regular basis that I feel keep me financially literate, but also give me a stronger business foundation:

  • Financial Websites:  Yahoo! Finance (finance.yahoo.com) is my homepage on both my work and home computers.  They constantly have great articles related to personal finance, but checking your stocks, looking at real estate, budget/mortgage/loan calculators, etc. is just a click away.  Some other websites I read related to this are www.msnmoney.com, www.cnnmoney.com, www.forbes.com/finance, and www.marketwatch.com.  Just take an interest into reading all the articles on these websites daily or weekly and you’ll start to do things differently related to your personal finances.
  • Personal Finance Blogs.  There is a plethora of good information on blogs and number of good blogs to chose from.  Some that I read regularly are:

          -  Get Rich Slowly- www.getrichslowly.org/blog… part of The Money Blog Network (www.moneyblognetwork.com)

          -  Personal Finance Fun- http://personalfinancefun.wordpress.com

          -  Conservation Finance- http://conservationfinance.wordpress.com

  • Read Books.  I read books about business.  Business, in general, but occasionally I’ll read a book solely on personal finance and investing.  READ READ READ.  You’re not going to read books about finance if you’re not truly interested in learning more about getting your finances in place.  They’ll feel like textbooks then.  Always have the end goal of making or saving more money in mind and you’ll find thousands of things you don’t know and would never have known if you didn’t take the time to increase your knowledge and read a book on the subject. 
  • Talk about it with Friends & Family.  Use other people’s knowedge about finance to your advantage.  Say you read a book, bring up something interesting you’ve learned and get other people’s opinions.  Start a conversation about your goals of retiring or saving or investing, etc.  People love to talk about money:  primarily, HAVING MORE MONEY.  This is a great way to learn more about others.  I heard about Robert Kiyosaki this way.  I would have never read his books if I wasn’t talking about real estate investing to one of my buddy’s in college… 

The bottom line here is that there is no way that you can become a successful entrepreneur unless you have your financial literacy in-tact.  This means you must also have a clean record with your personal finances.  Learn about expenses, loans, debt, investing, income, taxes, etc.  This will only help you now and help your business.  This will also, help you immensely when you have a massive bank account from owning several successful businesses and you don’t know how to manage the money! 

Cash Flow Quadrant – Robert Kiyosaki

The “Cash Flow Quadrant” is a very popular concept credited to Robert Kiyosaki.  If you’ve ever read Rich Dad Poor Dad or Cash Flow Quadrant:  Rich Cash Flow QuadrantDad’s Guide to Financial Freedom you’ll be familiar with this.  Actually, nearly all of his books make reference to this.  In short, the Cash Flow Quadrant is a basic and visual way of showing how all the money in the world is made. 

E:  Is for Employees-  These individuals work for someone else to make someone else wealthy.

S:  Small Business Owners- A person owns a small business, franchies, or basically works for themself.

B:  Business owners:  They own a ”system” of making money, rather than a job to make money. 

I:  Investors:  Real estate investors, stock market, etc.  Spending money to earn interest on investments.

The whole idea he’s focusing on here is the idea of ”passive income”.  Income that will keep coming in even if you don’t work any additional hours.  Passive income earners would be your B or I, or your business system owners or your investors.  The idea is to build a system or a series of investments that will give you financial freedom because income will keep coming in.  Robert Kiyosaki encourages investing in real estate and joining a network marketing company or an MLM (Quixtar, Amway, etc).  With an MLM, you build a business system by recruiting other individuals to sell your products or service and then the income keeps coming in because they recruit more folks and then those folks recruit more folks, etc, etc, etc.  Investing in real estate is the same way because you’re owning a property that you can rent out to people month after month after month. Robert Kiyosaki

I think the idea of passive income is great.  Owning real estate investment properties is something I plan to do in the future.  I hope to own multiple condos, townhomes, multi-unity properties, etc. and rent them all out and structure the deals for positive cash flow.  The problem with the Cash Flow Quadrant is, if you don’t have a buttload of cash to throw into down payments on investment properties, you can’t really pursue ”passive income” unless you start a business system like an MLM (borderline pyramid scheme).  I don’t see myself joining an MLM and, to be honest, the thought of starting a company that’s my own, growing it myself, creating my own culture, etc. is very appealling to me.  I think I can make more money growing a business than I can with an MLM or just working and putting my money saved into the real estate market off the bat.  The idea of freedom is great, don’t get me wrong.  But I’m young, aggressive, and motivated and I want to build something huge. 

In conclusion, I respect Robert Kiyosaki and his books are very informative and motivated me greatly.  Also, the cash flow quadrant is great, but only for the wealthy and the aggressive/financial illiterates that join MLM’s following their dreams of freedom.

Business Ideas: How do I Turn an Idea into Profit?

Everyday you may run into someone that says, “Hey, wouldn’t this be a great business idea?  You could make so much money!”  Most people who say this just leave the ideas in their head or forget about them.  They never really take the next steps into turning them into an actual business or researching the potential behind their ideas.  Typically, this is what separates the entrepreneurial mindset from that of an employee.  The employee mindset keeps smart, hardworking people at their jobs working for the man their entire lives hoping to have enough cash by age 65 to retire comfortably.  The entrepreneur will really disect the idea, find out it’s strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities to see if it a plausible concept to put time & money into.  The answer to the question in the title is to just sack up and do it.  Start your business and see where it takes you.  There should be alot of preparation involved, though, to make sure you’re allocating your resources accordingly to make consistent profits.  Here are some steps to getting to that next level of “Should I really start this business?”

Ask for opinions from friends, family, co-workers, etc.

You’re your own worst critic.  You’re also your #1 fan.  When you come up with a great business idea, there always seems to be that natural instinct to think positively on the subject.  “There’s nothing that could go wrong!”  “I am going to make so much money!”  That’s great and that’s always a great start into turning an idea into a profitable venture.  However, to be prepared for obstacles, you really need to have them in the front of your mind.  Tell friends and family about your idea.  They may laugh at you and you might even be embarrassed to bring it up.  The benefit in this is to gain outside insight that you can put into your SWOT Analysis.  You may find competitors you didn’t even know about.  Competitors with a better value-added than your original idea had even come up with.  Costs associated with your business may come out of conversations that you didn’t think of.  They also may help you with new value-added strategiesor different services, or ways to upsell that you originally didn’t think of.  Outside criticism may harm your motivation, but you need to take it with a grain of salt and see it is a market analysis of how potentially profitable, or potentially weak your business could be.

Research your Business idea and create a Business Plan

Once you put the idea on paper, new ideas or threats may jump out at you that you really didn’t know about.  Also, how are you going to make money?  First 3-6-9 months?  What’s your break-even point?  You really need to lay out a comprehensive revenue model for your business to see if 1) the idea is even plausible financially and 2) When am I going to make my investment back.  Putting all of this down on paper can truly put everything into perspective.  This alone may be able to help answer questions such as:  When can I quit my day job?  How much of my own money do I need to put towards this venture?  How much money will I make?  What are my costs?

Also, when I say research.  I mean, try to find out the ins and outs of all your competition.  Find out what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, how much they charge, etc.  This may generate some ideas for you.  Also, this may help you come up with value-added strategies to seperate yourself from your competition.  With my business, I even went as far as to call account representatives of my competitors to find out more about what their business does, how they do things, and what they’re sales strategy is.  You really need to have the end-user in mind when you’re developing a business idea.  Picture yourself on a sales call or explaining your business to a customer and how it will add value to them.  If you feel uncomfortable with your current ”elevator speech” then re-vamp it until it makes  sense to you and your customers first. 

 Also, research the costs.  Vendors provide quotes on their websites most of the time.  Even little things like marketing materials, envelopes, etc. need to be taken into account.  If a supplier/vendor doesn’t have a quote on their website, you usually need to call the 800 # on the website and talk to someone over the phone. 

Go out and do the things that need to be done

Most often you’ll have a great idea and it’ll just sit in your head.  Find the motivation to get up and start doing the necessary things to get the ball rolling and get the process in motion.  I’ve written posts on keeping yourself motivated.  My motivation is money so I read tons of articles, listen to books on tape, etc. about wealth building.  The point I’m trying to make is that if you’re not motivated, the idea will just sit there.  Most Entrepreneur’s either have that spontanious personality to them to ”JUST DO IT” or they’re calm and collected and find inner-motivation.  Whatever the case, if you have a good idea that you truly think could be profitable and you’ll have fun doing it, start researching it.  Start talking about it and put a gameplan together. 

I have a huge problem with procrastination at work.  I put off things I don’t want to do until the last minute or just drop the ball on them completely.  I’m not talking about big items of my day, but little things that will get me to an outcome.  This is the same thing with your business.  No one’s telling you to do it, there’s no boss breathing down your neck saying, “Why haven’t you started your business yet?”.  It’s easy to procrastinate.  The thing here is to keep yourself motivated and think of your business as a hobby.  You need to like to do it or you need to like the idea that you’re going to make a ton of money doing it.  Check out my motivation category for more thoughts on entrepreneur motivation.

After you’ve calculated the benefits and the risks involved with your idea is up to you to make the most of it.  Get motivated, research it, and just do it.

Registering your Business: Sole Proprietorship, LLC, Partnership, etc.

I recently registered my business with the state.  The process is relatively simple but this is definitely something you DO NOT want to screw up.  A small error here could come back to bite you in the butt months or years down the road.  The type of business structure you classify your business is very important.  It effects a number of things, taxes, your income, write-offs, employee wages, etc.  Any issue that arises in the length of operating your business, the first thing that will be looked at as what Business Form your business is registered under.   I used LegalZoom (www.legalzoom.com) to take care of this for me.  They just had me fill out information on my business, my personal information, etc. and put together the registration for me and sent it out to my respective state. 

 Without going into too much detail on this subject, I did want to post a link to an article I read that states the basics of each form of business type:  Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, LLC, and Corporation.  The basics of how they’re structured or taxed is included. 

 http://jlp-law.com/blog/forms-of-business-sole-proprietorship-partnership-corporation/

My Thoughts on MLM, Network Marketing, Quixtar, etc.

If you read my post about my “MLM Encounter” you’ll know that I am currently not involved with any MLM.  I HAVE been researching MLM, Quixtar, Amway, etc. and have some thoughts about the business model and the idea of MLM in general.

Here is the definition of MLM as by the intellects at Wikipedia:

Multi-level marketing (MLM) also referred to as Network Marketing is a business distribution model that allows a parent multi-level marketing company to market their products directly to consumers by means of relationship referral and direct selling.”

The incentive to join an MLM is that you get a commission on whatever you sell AND you get commissions on whatever the people ‘underneath’ you Network Marketingsell.  This means that you need to recruit individuals to join your MLM company and teach them to sell and market your products, but also to recruit others.  This keeps a constant revenue stream coming in for a successful MLM participant just as long as the people beneath either keep selling, or keep recruiting other individuals to sell.  The PROBLEM I see is that no one wants to be that sleezy salesperson to ANYBODY.  People join an MLM of high hopes of selling their product and recruiting others so they can live off the income they get solely from their MLM en devour.  Their excitement about joining pushes them to purchase the startup kit for their specific MLM (Anywhere from $200 upwards of thousands of dollars) and then once the actual selling/recruiting comes into place, they lose steam.  The individuals on the ”upward line” of the MLM benefit from the recruit purchasing the startup kit.

Things I like about network marketing and MLMs are that you can do so many different things to market yourself, your website, your products, etc.   Most MLMs are online now and they will give you your own website to market your products.  This is great because you can use things like Google, making Youtube videos, MySpace, Facebook, etc. (ALL FREE) to drive traffic to your website.  Hopefully the increased traffic turns into great leads for your MLM or sales for your product.  The reason I like MLM is that it truly is a fantastic business model for those who do well to earn substantial residual (constant streaming) income.

I feel that the key to becoming successful in MLM is to truly put a ton of effort into it.  I am a salesman by day and I feel that if you’re constantly out there in front of your potential customers, you’ll be able to make sales (granted you’re not selling a crappy product/service).  If you are to join a MLM company towards the beginning of it’s inception and truly put 100% effort into growing your business by marketing and recruiting, you can earn that income stream that you desire.Quixtar

Although I decided not to join Quixtar, I do respect them for their drive towards their dreams.  The Quixtar reps that truly market themselves, their product, and their company and drive to get recruits in their pipeline have my utmost respect.  Many people see these folks as pyramid scheme jockies and feel that they are being hassled by them.  They are like any other salesperson trying to sell their products and make a buck.  I respect their business model, their drive, their passion, and their goals.  If you ever attend a Quixtar meeting, you’ll see that these people are truly devoted to their dreams of leaving their day jobs and becoming wealthy.  Although, I share that same passion, I am taking another route.  I do feel that their recruiting tactics are questionable (I was solicited at Best Buy on valentine’s day), and the thought of myself marketing their products makes me squeamish.  I do, however, respect their drive and the business model.

So, my plan of attack will be to make a TON of money in my own way and then devise a profitable MLM business model that markets products of my choosing.  Hey, just because I don’t want to start off at the bottom of the totem pole, doesn’t mean I never want to be the guy at the top!

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