Whether you are selling your leatherwork, making tools, or teaching classes, having an online home for your business can be important for potential customers wanting to learn about your offerings. You might already be on Facebook, but social media isn’t always enough information for someone wanting to learn about your business.
Building a website can seem like a daunting task, but here are a few steps to take (learned by trial and error) that should help you be up and running in no time!
Step 1: Figure Out Where You Want To Host Your Site
If you read other articles on this topic, most guides don’t start here. However, I’ll tell you up front that everything else is easier if you figure out this piece first. I’ve built a number of different sites and it’s always several extra steps of fairly technical, and potentially expensive, hoops to jump through if you have to change this later.
Think of a web host as a computer that’s always on, even when yours is off, to make sure that your website stays online 24/7/365. There are some web hosts that claim to be free, but you often get what you pay for, and end up with other people’s advertisements on your site.
Some may have heard of something called WordPress, but be cautious: there’s a Wordpress.com and a Wordpress.org and they are very different. On Wordpress.org, you can get free hosting, but you likely have to purchase a template and, even then, you have to be familiar with coding to make it look like you want it to. Wordpress.com allows you “plug-ins” that make the process much simpler, but it still has a few extra technical steps involved, and you’ll still need to purchase WordPress hosting. I’ve never personally used GoDaddy, but have heard a few horror stories, and would generally advise against using them.
My personal recommendation would be building your website with some type of “site builder” tool. There are several of them out there, such as Wix and Squarespace, however I’ve found the website builder on HostGator to be the most intuitive. These types of pages are a little bit more expensive, but you can usually get a much better rate if you pay annually (or even several years at a time) versus paying a monthly premium. These builders typically are all-in-one solutions that walk you through everything, making it pretty easy to figure out, even for those who aren’t as computer savvy.
Step 2: Decide On A Domain Name
Once you’ve decided where you want to host your site, now you want to figure out your domain name. Most web hosting companies will also allow you to purchase the domain through their service and link it for you automatically, however you can also purchase through websites like Domain.com for about $10 per year. If you are using a site builder, the domain price may be included in the monthly or annual service fee.
Ideally, your business name is available as a .com address, however sometimes it might already be taken or someone is wanting to sell it for much more than the $10 per year… potentially $1,000s! I strongly recommend against buying an expensive domain name for your first site since you don’t know how much money it is going to make just yet.
Instead, if “www.leathertooling.com” is unavailable, you might be able to buy “www.leathertooling.net” or even “www.topleathertooling.com” or “www.bestleathertooling.com”. You can get creative and save yourself from spending hundreds if not thousands for a specific web address by adding an adjective to the business name.
Once you’ve purchased the domain, the site builder should walk you through the next steps. If you decided to venture out on your own with Wordpress, you may have to look around or use Google to figure out your next steps. Some websites have very helpful chat support, however some (such as Wordpress) primarily rely on online forums for support for other users, which can be frustrating for an impatient beginner.
Step 3: Decide on Content
What do you want people to do when they are at your site? Don’t make them guess! Think through the user experience and try to make your content relevant to why they are there.
Maybe it’s to learn about your tools, or to browse your leatherwork, or maybe it’s to learn about your next classes you’ll be teaching. Whatever it is, make it easy for the visitor to know what to do once they’re on your site by making that information front and center on your home page. If you’re trying to sell something directly from your page, there are eCommerce options with many of the site builders, however there may be other platforms to sell on.
Also, make sure you share an interesting story on your “About” page! Although your homepage should focus on what you’re offering, the About section is where you can tell everyone about how you got into leatherwork, who inspires you, and what awards you’ve won. It’s a great way to connect with your visitors and establish your credibility.
That’s all for now! If you’re interested in other resources on how to manage the business side of your leather shop, check out the video workshops How To Make Your Leatherwork Pay For Itself or How To Turn Your Hobby Into A Business.
Michael Magnus is a Strategic Communication lecturer and digital marketing consultant in North Texas. When not at work or with his family, he’s often found contributing Elktracks Studio’s mission of teaching, preserving, and advancing the art of leathercraft.