Jim teaches you how to build a website from scratch in under 24 hours.
OK, a great topic this week where I get to do what I love most, TEACH. Hopefully you’ll find this post both motivating and educational as we talk about how to build a website from scratch in under 24 hours.
We’ll be pulling together a culmination of several things that this blog talks about:
1) Personal branding. I spoke about why you should own your own URL a few weeks ago in episode 185, and this will build on that.
2) Passive income. The concept of taking time to create a really great product once, whether it’s a book or podcast or website, then be able to sell it and generate revenue
“in your sleep.”
3) Entrepreneurism. As talked about in books such as The Lean Startup or The $100 Startup that I read and reviewed recently, you can build a passive income product, but do it as fast as possible and as inexpensive as possible to see if it is something people want, and then either build on it, learn from it, or kill the project.
4) Tools. The products and services that are out there to help you get this done.
So let’s jump into it.
How to build a revenue-generating website in 24 hours
Step 1 – Come up with an idea or product that solves a problem
The first thing you need to do is come up with an idea. Maybe you’ve had a business idea for years that you’ve been dying to test. Maybe you have no idea what to do. The best place to start is to solve a problem around:
a) Something that people are incredibly passionate about
b) Something that serves as a major pain point
An example they use on Internet Business Mastery for the former is how to take a few strokes off your golf swing. People are crazy about golf and continually improving their score to the point where they buy $500 drivers and special putters and gloves and shoes and metallic bracelets that are supposed to help your balance.
An example they use for the latter would be something like a special diet that you need to adhere to or a woman that was confined to bedrest during the final months of her pregnancy. If all of a sudden you can’t leave the bed or are restricted to only certain types of food, you need to know a lot of information around that quickly.
So your idea could take many forms, be it an ebook, or a website or a webinar.
For me, the problem I saw was that people were not creating a presence for themselves on the web, even though it is becoming a crucial process in the way we socialize. One study said that 75% of recruiters were required to do an internet background check on job-seekers. Not suggested, required. And if you don’t think the odds are high that the person you are going on a date with is going to see if your name comes up, you’re mistaken.
So my idea was to create a very clear, very easy, step-by-step video to walk people through the process of registering their own domain and creating a simple presence on the web.
Now to be fair, this isn’t a home run of an idea. Maybe a 5 out of 10 at best. And to be honest, it’s more of a personal project of mine. In reality, I don’t think people are walking around saying “Oh no, if I only had my own website, my life would be so much better.” Or “The thing I want most in life is to have my own website, but I don’t know how.” To me, it’s almost a problem that people don’t KNOW they have.
However, I viewed it as a really good first project to test, and for the people I DO come across that need this service, it saves ME time because I can just send them to a place that spells it out vs having to explain it.
This is a great takeaway for any business by the way. Take the top few things that you spend a lot of time explaining over and over and do it right. Are you a social media consultant and your #1 question is how to set up a brand page on Facebook? Spend a day or a week making the ultimate tutorial how to do this, then you never have to answer it again. Are people always asking for directions to your business? Create a professional PDF with directions, a map, landmarks, and photos that make it incredibly easy to find your place and impossible to get lost; your customers will thank you for it.
Step 2 – Determine how your product will make money
I knew right off the bat that the way I would generate income is through Go Daddy’s affiliate program. For those of you unaware, many websites offer an affiliate program that will pay people a commission for referring new business. How can they do this?
In the case of Go Daddy, once someone signs up for a website URL, they are automatically billed each year until they stop. What’s more, many people move up from just a domain name (at $12 a year) to full website hosting and other add-ons (which can run $100s per year) and it’s frankly, a pain in the butt to switch companies so like your first credit card or toothpaste brand, once you’ve started with one company, you’re more likely to stay with it for awhile.
While there are dozens of hosting companies, I chose Go Daddy for this project because they had the best name recognition among new users and I was very familiar with their site.
Go Daddy offers a base commission rate of 30%. That means if someone registers a basic .com domain name for $11.99, you receive $3.60. OK, so that’s barely enough to buy you a medium latte. But things can add up quickly. If users start adding on an additional .net and .org address, decide to lock in for 2 years, and also choose web hosting, now you’re up to $127.90 and your commission is $38.37 for just that user.
To see how crazy this can get, head over to Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income monthly report, where he breaks down his revenues every month. In April 2012 he made, are you ready, $20,100 from his Bluehost referrals.
I’m a far cry from those levels and don’t plan to become someone that only does affiliate marketing, but again, if I can help people solve a problem and get a little money along the way, great. As my friend John Murch says… just make that first dollar. Don’t try and make enough to retire, just try to make enough to pay your phone bill one month.
Step 3 – Create your product – fast and inexpensively
A) Secure Domain name. Cost: $12. Time: 15 minutes.
The first thing I did was look for URLs that were available and keyword-specific for a website. All the obvious ones like “HowToCreateAWebsite.com” were available, so I just narrowed it down and picked the best available one possible, which was GetYourNameToday.com.
I figured I could cleverly weave it into a speech by saying that I believe that everyone should get their name, and not wait another day to do it. Thus, get your name today.
B) Choose your website design. Cost: $8. Time: 1 hour.
The next thing I had to decide was how to create my website. I knew that there were some sites out there and a friend recommended Themeforest.net, and that’s also where we purchased a theme for my Reboot Workshop conference.
Themeforest.net is a site where designers upload templates for blogs, landing pages, HTML emails and more for purchase. When landing at the site, I was blown away by all the awesome options. Clearly there are some very talented designers putting in a lot of effort here, using modern design principles. In fact, here is yet another example of passive income.
These creative professionals might take hours or weeks or months to perfect an amazing design, including easy to follow directions, templates that allow users to customize things for their liking, the original photoshop files, etc, and then once it’s done, can sit back and make money as they are purchased multiple times over. In fact, the top seller in April had more than 2,000 sales, with 35,000 sales lifetime. At $40 a pop, that’s $80k per month.
Here was the main decision I had to make when it came to design: WordPress or landing page.
WordPress: These designs are priced between $20 and $40, with the majority of them at the $35 or $40 price point. The advantage of WordPress is that you are given an entire theme that operates in the WordPress structure. What that means is that once you install WordPress for free via your hosting company and install the theme, all the elements are built into the WordPress structure. Since I have been using WP for years, it would be easy to add and remove elements, create pages, install plugins, etc. I would never have to touch any code.
Landing page: A landing page is basically a one page website, although the designer may choose to provide the main landing page and a template for sub-pages. This keeps things very simple, although to update all the content, you’ll need to get in there and edit the code yourself. This requires some basic knowledge of HTML and knowing how to upload files to the web via FTP.
The only reason this took an hour is because I was fascinated with all the great designs. It was a little easy to narrow things down, since I knew I needed a template that had a video window in it, since I would be displaying the tutorial front and center.
In the end, my thinking went like this. Let me try the landing page for the lower price of $8. I really wanted to keep things simple, and the landing page templates were all generally single-purpose designs, whereas the WordPress themes were geared at much more robust websites and blogs with multiple pages and posts.
I settled on a great looking page called Qloud.
C) Create the tutorial. Cost: $49. Time: 10 hours.
I created the step-by-step tutorial using a program called Camtasia. I’ve mentioned it before on the show, when I first used it when teaching an online class on Twitter. I feel I have a knack for time-line based programs like Final Cut Pro ever since I used Adobe Premier back in the mid-90s, and I was really impressed with how easy it was to use. I was excited to use it for my first project.
I luckily was able to corral my friend Jayme Tomita into being my guinea pig for the project. She was the perfect person to use, since she had just moved back to Seattle and was job-searching, was totally up for creating a web presence, and I already had a great photo of her to use as a background. In fact, it was taken by my friend Diana Levine at The Hopkinson Report’s 100th episode party in NYC.
Note that the cost of Camtasia will vary, and the full retail price is $99 for the mac version. However, I had been given a trial version when I was teaching the class, and the upgrade price came out to $49.
This is clearly what took me the most time and effort, and the workflow ended up going like this:
• I created the entire program in one day, about 5 hours of work, including a long introduction of why you should register your site, then the step by step, which in total was about 10 minutes long
• I posted it to YouTube and sent it to some friends to demo, and also announced it on the blog
• I knew that people on the web have limited attention and whenever I took a demo, I wanted to get right to the details
• Also, once I saw it in YouTube at a smaller video size instead of in the massive editing window on my 21” iMac display, I realized I needed to zoom in more on the details
• Thus, a few days later I went back in and did two things. First, I re-edited the projects, pulling out the beginning into a formal, 2 minute introduction, and re-recording the step-by-step part with a fast 23-second intro. Second, I went back and used Camtasia’s effects to zoom in on the content as much as possible, and add other effects such as highlighting and arrows.
• Then, I uploaded the two separate parts to YouTube (which of course is free). I can’t tell you exactly how long all the editing took, but it was probably 5 hours over 2-3 days.
• Take away here? Learn, iterate, be flexible. Here is the final step-by-step version:
D) Create the main website. Cost: $0. Time: 5 hours.
In the most basic terminology, the next step was just doing a massive search and replace. Depending on your coding and design expertise, this might take you a few hours or a few days.
If you don’t know Photoshop or the basics of HTML, there are hundreds of classes, both online and in person, that can get you up to speed on the basics. I had a designer show me the ins and outs of Photoshop at my job many years ago and have been dabbling with it every since, and self-taught myself HTML way back in the day.
However, don’t be intimidated. Although I was a CIS major and my brain is geared toward programming at some level, my skills are very very rusty. However, if you can see the way the code in the template corresponds to what you see on the screen, it’s fairly straightforward to replace the icons and copy they’ve provided with what you want to say for your product or service.
For example, the template had 4 benefit bullet points with icons, and I was able to use their Photoshop file to replicate the look and feel of the icons, write copy for why you should register your site, and copy and paste to expand the list to 6 bullet points.
At every point along the way, I told myself to keep things simple. If I tried to update some code or a color and it wrecked the font and I got stuck, I just reverted to what they had and kept it the way it was.
In fact, I got really, really into it. After years of fluffy marketing and social media speak, it was awesome to go back to my geeking coding days, where you got results instantly. There’s no better dopamine rush than creating a graphic and text, uploading it to the server and hitting refresh, and watching it instantly update with content that you created.
It’s important to make sure that you own all the images, and that can be a pain.
- For the magnifying glass and beer icon, I was able to find free versions and manipulate them in Photoshop
- For the baby bottle, I couldn’t find a better option, so I linked to the site where I took the image from in order to give them credit
- For the resume, question mark, and the circle with the line through it icon, I created it myself. For example, the question mark is just a question mark, but with some embossing and filters.
- I got permission from Jayme, my old intern Brandon to use their homepage as an example, and filled the third spot with my own page.
E) Create any additional pages. Cost: $0. Time: 2 hours.
Finally, I created two more pages using the extra template they provided.
First, an About page and FAQ page in order to answer any questions people might have and provide as much information as possible. I used this page to house the intro video, as well as give a background for myself to be transparent to assuage any thoughts that this page was a scam.
Second, I created a page listing out suggestions for alternative website names if yours is taken. This serves three purposes:
1) As a method to overcome an objection that someone might have if their name is not available
2) To provide additional content for SEO
3) I was able to use the content I wrote here as a blog post for episode 185, so that I could get two uses out of the time I spent writing content
Step 4 – Market your product. Cost: $0. Time: 2 hours.
You can spend as much or as little time as you want getting the word out about your site. The first thing I did was the normal promotion around any blog or podcast episode, which is to share it on Twitter and Facebook.
I also reached out to several people directly via email. These were friends and colleagues that knew of my passion for this topic. For example, because this came up during a panel when I was speaking at my college, I sent it to the other panelists and a professor that I know well who runs the honors program to get their feedback. They passed it on to some of their network.
I also sent it to some friends that I knew were looking for jobs and needed to set up a website, as I wanted to hear their first hand experience.
Step 5 – Check your results
So we’re x minutes in to this podcast and I’m sure you’re dying to know, so how much did you make on this???
Well brace yourself, Sir Charles, I’m not ready to hire a butler just yet.
Pathetic, right? I spent all this time and effort to make a measly $30?
Well, hold on a moment. Here is why I consider this exciting.
First, I’m not going to count the cost of the software I purchased since that is a long term investment in my business, just like a computer or internet access. So in reality, my specific dollar expenditure was $20 for the domain and theme. So I’m at a profit there.
However, what about all the time I spent on this? Surely the 20+ hours you spent could be viewed as a “loss” if you factor in an hourly rate.
Maybe so, but I want to look at the positive side:
- I gained tremendous experience in screen capture production and editing
- I renewed my passion for getting into the details of website production and building a site
- I built something I was proud of
- I created a revenue-generating product in days, not weeks or months
- I was able to re-use this content for other projects
- Most importantly, this is now in place and I can focus on generating additional revenue any time I want, without any further effort
Step 6 – Optimize
Which brings us to step 6, optimize. Now that I’ve lit the glimmer of hope that this COULD make a little bit of money, I can tweak the site and test some marketing to see what happens.
Many people will tell you it’s a lot easier to go from $30 to $1000 than from $0 to $30. Is this a $1000 idea? Who knows. But it encourages me to learn from this and try other projects.
I had a free $100 in advertising credit that Google had sent me, so I had some free money to play with. I set up 5-10 ad campaigns around various keywords to see what might drive traffic to the site. Since I am a little rusty here, I called in my friend John Murch, who helped me optimize the keywords, add some SEO code to the site, and so on.
Then, based on which keywords were performing, I created some Facebook ads for $20. This will allow me to target people such as, say, graduating seniors, and hit them with appropriate messaging.
From there, I plan on trying ads on reddit.com or other sites.
In the end, the moral of this post is not the revenue generated, but what it stands for. I mean cmon, clearly. I wrote 3700 words / did a 40 minute podcast bragging about making $30? Please.
But what it does show, is that you can take a topic that interests you and with a few new media skills, create and test something from scratch – in just a few days and for very little money – that can provide a genuine service for something that people want, while rewarding you financially for your time and effort.
Hopkinson Report Disclosure: I am part of the GoDaddy and Themeforest affiliate program, and earn a commission if you purchase products through this site. As always, I only endorse products that I have personally used.