The answer is, “Yes, but …”
Do micro-businesses need a website? The answer is, “Yes, but …”
In this article I focus on when a fitness class, a niche startup, or sole trader consumer services need a website. I’ll talk about how to workarounds to custom websites that work, and why these websites work better.
Pauline from Red Dirt Workwear
Pauline runs and R&D company that was starting up the physical production of one of their innovative products (see https://reddirtworkwear.com.au). The product was going into market acceptance testing. She needed a few pages about her company, a page about the product, and a place to share product news.
Steps to a Simple Website
- WordPress.com hosted free website with a free template
- Purchase an “vanity domain” (custom web address)
- Pay WordPress.com to use the vanity domain
Why Use a Free Website
The plan included moving from the direct sales in the market acceptance phase and move into supplying the product to larger distributors. The website would have very few updates until the transition was complete and there was a chance of the brand being completely managed by a single distributor.
The social media pages were not used to sell or market the product. Rather the social media pages were used during the market acceptance testing to listen to and discuss industry activity that would shape the distribution phase of the product.
Advantages of Simple & Free
The advantages of having another online service host your company information, manage your event registrations, or advertise is that you do not need to maintain the technology.
Spend Time or Money
Pauline spends about $42 per year. She only needs to pay her annual bills for her custom vanity domain and connecting it to her free site. She does not need to update the code or manage website security. If she does not visit her site, the website continues to run. If she stops paying her bills, the custom web address continues to run.
The low-cost, self-sustaining website frees Pauline up to do hands-on research, meet with manufacturers and present her product to distributors. Her suppliers and buyers can validate her business and access her basic company information.
The disadvantage is her website template is used by hundreds of other WordPress.com users. She can spend more to buy a less used paid template from the WordPress.com store but cannot add in custom plugins.
Patty Rojo-Diaz, Zumba Instructor
Patty has been my Zumba fitness instructor for years. I’ve joined her workouts at gyms, community halls, and private dance studios. Does Patty’s business need a website? No, she doesn’t need a custom website. Yes, she needs to be found on websites!
Multiple Websites & Online Services
- Zumba.com – the company running fitness certification
- Gym websites – each gym she works for promotes her classes and collects fees
- Facebook – not a website, but where most of her class activity is promoted
- EventBrite – used to sell tickets to Patty’s privately organized events
Her Zumba certification requires her to maintain her class listings on the official Zumba.com website (see http://patriciarojo.zumba.com). Additionally, she works for multiple gyms and teaches her private classes. The gyms use their own websites to promote her classes at their facility, and each gym has their own form of receiving payment – either through memberships or fees collected at the door.
Advantages of Many Services
The advantages of accessing many systems is Patty does not need to have the technical knowledge or pay for coders to build and maintain new services for her. The different services have incentives to keep up with the latest mobile and social services.
Costs of Running Events
Patty pays $250 – $400 for large privately hosted events. Most of the costs are:
- Additional paid Facebook advertising
- Credit card processing and bank fees
Her online fees are instead of paying monthly rent for a studio and monthly merchant account fees to the bank. She can work from event to event, with no expenses during non-event months.
The disadvantages are that she cannot easily do Google or Bing advertising, since she does not own the domains (web addresses) of the services she is using. And, she’s been so successful with this mix of many services, there is no driver to add outside search advertising at this time.
Cost of Doing Business
She works the online costs into her price per ticket. The costs for the credit card processing and bank fees are still less than if she paid the monthly fee for a merchant account with her bank. Her web page with Zumba.com is included and required with her Zumba instructor’s certification.
Yes, You Need a Website
In summary, yes you need a website.
But – you may not need to build a custom website. Look at how your situation shapes where you and your businesses are found on the web. Look at the typical lifetime of a website. Expect your website to be useful for 2 to 3 years with modest updates, such as adding news, listing class dates, or updating your address when you move.
Location, Location, Location
Depending on your certifications or locations, you may be listed on someone else’s website. And, you certainly should boost your connection with customers using formats they use, such as Facebook or a phone call.
Invite People to Call You
Your phone number is very important. A phone call is still the fastest way to validate your business and get information. Don’t forget to make yourself easy to reach. If you work for the local gym, you may be required to list the gym phone number, but on your personal web pages and social media, list your business phone number.
I write for engineering, construction, and technology businesses. The rate for writing single pages is $80 per page as of July 2016. I have a flat-rate and discounted rate for a set of pages in a short, fixed amount of time. (See all the hourly and flat-rate services.
My fellow writer, Penny West, writes for travel, retail, and consumer services. Penny quotes rates based on the complexity of the job.