Table of Contents:
II. Quickstart Plan
Step 1: Domain Name
Step 2: Webhost
Step 3a: WordPress
Step 3b: WordPress Themes
Alternatives: Shopify & Squarespace
III. Some Notes on Design
V. Next Steps
The goal of this tutorial is to show you how to set up your first website in a short period of time and without spending a lot of money. Your site probably won’t be beautiful or amazing at first, but that’s okay—done is better than perfect, and you have to start somewhere.
You can also listen to the audio tutorial, where I first presented much of this material in a special “Extended Cut” episode.
Build a Website in 90 Minutes
I recommend that you don’t skim this material. If you’re able to follow this plan, it will work but it will also require some focus and follow-through. Block out an evening after work or a weekend morning or afternoon to go through it, and try not to get distracted with anything else during that time.
Are you ready to rock? Me too! Just one thing first…
But First, a Disclaimer
“What, start a website in 90 minutes? That’s crazy!”
Not really. Like a lot of things in life, building a website can be very simple or extremely complex, or anywhere in between. Sometimes I work on my sites for 90 minutes a day, every day.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Your goal is to start with simple and add complexity only as you need. Many of us struggle with getting started far more than getting better. I want you to get started, and this plan can make that happen.
In other words, this is not meant to be the comprehensive guide to building a website; it’s the “get it done quickly” guide. Cool?
And now on with the show…
II. Quickstart Plan
For best results, you should read everything below. But if you’re wondering what the main action steps will be, here’s a brief rundown:
- Step 1. Register a domain name (usually about $10/year)
- Step 2. Get a hosting account (as little as $3.49/month)
- Step 3. Set up WordPress and a WordPress theme (either free or ~$100, depending on what you want)
Of course, there’s more to it, but those three actions are the foundation for everything else. The first two are pretty simple, so plan to spend the most time on the third one.
Side Hustle Philosophy
AKA “Do you really need a website?”
The best answer to “Do you really need a website?” is probably.
You can use starter platforms like Wyzant, Fiverr, Etsy, and others. In fact, you very well may want to continue using starter platforms even after you have your site.
Step 1: Register a Domain (Your Website’s Address)
A domain name is the address of your website.
Domains are cheap and easy to get. They usually cost about $10 a year, sometimes a few bucks more or less but not by much. They’re so cheap that if you see a domain you like, you should probably buy it.
You can get your domain name from any web hosting company or “registrar.”
1. Check to see if the domain you want is available
You can check for availability using the same company I recommend for hosting, or plenty of other places.
2. Search for alternatives until you find something you want
Tip: if the dot-com isn’t available, consider another extension like .net, .org, .me, or .biz. Note that some of the extensions will cost more than $10 a year. Spending a bit more is usually okay; spending a lot more usually isn’t.
3. Register it!
It’s pretty simple: once you see that it’s available, click register and then pay for it.
You now “own” the rights to that domain and can “assign” it wherever you want online. As long as you renew it each year (typically for the same price you paid to register it), it’s yours.
Recommendation: Purchase your domain from wherever you host your website.
Probably the only thing to be aware of about domains is if you’re like me, you might end up with a lot of them… so then instead of paying $10 a year, you pay a lot more. But at first, that’s not an issue.
I own at least 50 domains, if not more. It’s not a problem; I can quit anytime…
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Step 2: Get a Webhost (Where Your Website “Lives” Online)
A domain name is your website’s address; a web host is where your website lives.
Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server owned or leased for use by clients, as well as providing Internet connectivity, typically in a data center.
Once you have a domain, you need to “assign” it to a hosting account. If you buy the domain direct from InMotion, they’ll do it automatically. If you buy it elsewhere, you just need to tell the other place to redirect the settings over to the host.
It’s important to understand what your web host does and doesn’t do. They won’t actually make your website (we’re coming to that next).
Think of it like renting a kiosk at the mall. Once you’ve rented it, the kiosk is waiting for you to do whatever you want with it. You can decorate it, stock the shelves, add a cash register—but all those things are up to you. A web host is an empty kiosk for your website. Get it set up and then we can do everything else!
Recommendation: Sign up for the cheapest plan (just $3.49/month!) at InMotion.
[Brief interruption: “But what about other options, like Squarespace?” Okay, well–technically there’s more than one way to do it. I just don’t want to stress you out! So keep reading and decide what’s best for you.]
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Step 3a: Set up WordPress (Where Your Content Goes)
More than 90% of all blogs are published through WordPress, and many other sites are too.
Actually, I just made that up—I don’t know the real number. But a lot of websites are, and that’s because it’s so easy. Once you’ve got WordPress installed (more on that in a moment), you can use it to publish posts and pages. These will then magically appear to the world! It’s the miracle of our modern age.
WordPress is so easy, even I can figure it out. It’s also so advanced that if you do know what you’re doing, you can use it to trick out all kinds of websites.
For example, my genius developer has built many of my projects on WordPress, from the Travel Hacking Cartel to the original World Domination Summit site (it’s now on Github, a more sophisticated platform). As a user, you probably never notice that these are WordPress sites…but indeed they are.
Step 3b: Set Up a Wordpress Theme (How Your Site Appears to the World)
Okay, so you have a site … now what?
This is the only part of the process that can be a little complicated, but that shouldn’t disuade you! The problem is that there are literally thousands of different free and paid WordPress themes, and that kind of variety has a tendency to lead to indecision.
First and foremost, you should choose a theme that suits your needs as a business—what are you planning on doing with your newly developed WordPress site?
If your goal is to create a blog of some kind (like the Art of Non-Conformity) you’ll want to focus on choosing a theme that enhances the readability of your content. Should you be looking for something that you can sell products out of, it may be more prudent to choose a theme that will work well with an online store. Always keep your goals in mind!
From here, there are many, many options—but remember, we’re going to simplify.
Domain name: address of your site (where people go to see it)
Webhost: where your site “lives”
CMS (WordPress): how you manage content on your site
Remember the brief interruption? I promised I’d get back to it, and here we are.
WordPress is not the only game in town, and for some people, another option might be better.
The one alternative that I really like is Shopify. They are great for ecommerce (selling a product online).
Without any design knowledge whatsoever, you can create an awesome-looking website in a short period of time.
Pricing starts at $29 a month, and you can get a free 21-trial to see if it works for you.
Recommendation: Use Shopify specifically for ecommerce, especially if you’ll be selling a physical product.
A lot of other people like Squarespace, which has a clear aesthetic that you’ve probably seen online many times. In some ways, they are even simpler and easier to use than WordPress. As a downside, they aren’t free. Pricing ranges from $12-26 a month for simple sites.
I don’t have much experience with Squarespace myself, so I tend to recommend other solutions. But they are certainly a reputable company, and I know a lot of people who’ve used their platform with good results.
[Note: if using either Shopify or Squarespace, you don’t need a webhost. Part of the value they provide is that they take care of that for you.]
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III. Some Notes on Website Design
I believe in investing in good design, and I also think there is nothing wrong with using a stock theme for your starter website. I’ve done both!
These days, if I work on a major project (like Side Hustle School, for example) I usually spend several months preparing. Part of that process is creating a brand identity, which doesn’t usually happen immediately—there are a lot of steps, and I want to get it right.
In the past, however, I’ve made plenty of projects on the cheap. A good WordPress theme can go a long way. Pairing the right theme with a custom logo goes even further, without a ton of additional cost.
You can find designers (and many other professionals for hire) on Upwork.com. On that site, you can look at their portfolios and upload a description of your project for competitive bidding.
Is this the comprehensive, “Become a Designer and Web Developer in 90 Minutes” guide? Nope.
But these steps really can be enough to get you up and running, and you can always either a) learn more, or b) get some help to make the cat video site of your dreams.
May the force be with you!
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V. Next Steps
What, you need more? I don’t want to stress you out! But if you insist…
At some point, perhaps early in your website-building journey, you’ll probably want to collect email addresses from people. Not only will you want to collect them, you’ll also want to have them in some kind of program that allows you write them about your product or service.
This is often the very next step in terms of launching your hustle to the world. I use ConvertKit, and I highly recommend them (the founder, Nathan Barry, is a longtime friend).
There are other services, including Mailchimp and MadMimi. Both of those are fine (I actually still use MadMimi for some things) and if you’re already set up there, you probably don’t need to switch. But if starting from scratch, I think ConvertKit will serve you better over time.
You might need some other stuff too. I use a ton of services, some free and some paid. For example, on a daily basis I use:
- Evernote: to keep track of, well, notes
- Slack and Asana: to communicate with team members and keep track of group projects
- OmniFocus: to keep track of tasks and projects
- TextExpander: to save common phrases and other information
- Wistia and Vimeo: to host videos on my sites
- Wufoo: to receive and store survey submissions
And probably a bunch of other things I’ve forgotten at the moment.
But again, no need to complicate things—all the basics are here in this tutorial. Go make your first website!
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