You are talented, you have skill, you have a product or a service that you excel at but you don’t know how to sell it in the digital world. Did you know that nearly 80 per cent of Canadian businesses have websites and over 60 per cent have social media accounts?1 But if you’re just starting out, technology seems overwhelming. There are just way too many options and too much information for you to parse it all. You aren’t alone.
The good news is that along with all the choices, systems are getting more connected and user-friendly. Ten years ago, you would have had to hire someone who could code to make you a website and someone else to manage it and write material. As an artist, freelance designer, and digital marketer, I have seen the digital world expand and evolve and I would like to share my experience with you.
These are the top five things you should do to get your business online.
1. Get social!
Establish digital presence by setting up social media accounts in a few clicks or taps.
Decide on the “handle” you want for your business — it can be your name or your business name. I see a lot of artists using their name with “art” after it. Using this name, set up Facebook and Instagram accounts. You can choose to make these accounts “professional”; to read more, check out this article on Facebook & Instagram business accounts. If Twitter is relevant to your business, set that up too. And don’t forget TikTok. With over one billion users worldwide, you want to make sure you have the account name you need before it’s taken.
2. Make some good stuff
Spend a bit of time developing good content. What do I mean by “good content”? I mean clear photos of your product, a solid write-up about your goods or services. You’ll need images for your social sites and for your website. You’ll also need writing.
This is purposefully the second step in setting up your online business. Beautiful photos and well written content can make or break your professional appearance online. To learn a bit more about taking your own digital images with your smartphone, visit The School of Photography.
Do a little research on what hashtags people are following or what other businesses or artists are using to gain followers. I keep a notes document on my phone with a list that I can copy/paste into my posts.
3. Make a website (yes, it’s that easy)
Building a website used to require HTML and other programming skills. Today, you can use services like Wix, SquareSpace, or WordPress to build your own. WordPress has about 60 per cent market share and can be used for free. If you want your own domain name (the URL people type in or find in search), you can pay a few dollars a year to have it registered. Many suppliers are making that super-easy and competitive. I used a GoDaddy template and rebuilt my personal brand website on a Sunday afternoon.
Many of these website builders and hosts have built-in shopping features. To read more about e-commerce tools for small businesses, check out this article from Forbes.
Personally, I chose Square and Etsy for my digital sales. Square is a “point-of-sale” application that allows you to take payments in real life.
Don’t forget to put links to all your social profiles on your website.
4. Reuse, repurpose, repost
You may have heard the old marketing adage that “content is king.” Well, one way to avoid spending all your time posting and managing your social accounts and blog is to repurpose your writing and your posts. Pick a few things that you want to focus on and show them in different ways across your platforms. For example, I really like Instagram for posting images of my paintings. I have it connected to my Facebook account so the posts on Instagram automatically get posted on Facebook at the same time.
If you want to tell people about what you do, write up a description and then pull it apart into little bite-sized snippets. Post one every few days. Then go back to the beginning and use a new image and post the content again. Depending on your website tools, you can embed widgets (little applications) that will pull the social posts into your website, keeping it fresh so people want to return.
5. Plan ahead and get something else to do the work
Decide on how much time you want to spend on engaging with your social presence. There are many tools out there that can help you make a calendar and even pre-schedule posts. If you have a couple hours you can write several posts and release them over a week or two. The key to appearing active in all your many social apps is to have posts going up fairly regularly and then take a peek at them to see what times and subjects are getting the most positive attention so that you can make more.
Here’s an article that reviews the free tools out there to help you put time back into the thing that got you reading this in the first place, your art or business.
Once you have all the components in place and things are looking very consistent, you’ll be able to see where people are finding you and understand where to focus your energy. If you like measurement and statistics, you’re in luck – social business accounts and website builders all have built-in tracking that will give you all kinds of information.
Finally, when your business grows and you have the freedom NOT to use free stuff, engage a local communications and design expert to help!
About the author: Catriona Berry is an experienced communicator, digital marketer and graphic designer. She has demonstrated her skills in small business, large corporations and as a freelance business owner. As a visual artist, she has won awards in Canada and practices her art from her home town of Oakville, Ontario. To learn more, please visit CatrionasPlace.ca.
Follow me on Instagram @catrionasplace.
*Please note that the author is not being compensated by any of the brands mentioned in this article.