Step 3: It’s Budget Time.
So, you’ve got an idea. You’ve got a vision. You’ve defined your purpose. You’ve drawn a plan. Now, how much is this all going to cost? Running your business online is definitely more cost-effective than maintaining an office or a bricks-and-mortar. That said, there are costs that must be factored in, both in establishing the business and maintaining it. Here, we’ll divide them into two basic categories: Startup and Upkeep. If a cost falls into both categories, we’ll note that as well. Get quotes and leave room in your budget for these costs and services.Budget your resources so that you can cover at least 3-6 months. You’ll want to create the right product for your customers and have the flexibility to tweak it as needed.
INITIAL DOMAIN PURCHASE
A domain name is how your customers will find you on the web. For example, if your company is called Davis Broom Suppliers, you might want to invest in one of the following domain names or all:
In general extensions do not have any impact on SEO but as a rule, .coms are the most popular, usually users assume a business has a .com extension unless it’s a non-profit or governmental organization, those usually pick .org extension.
In order to link your site to a domain name, you’ll first have to purchase the domain name, then you’ll have to buy hosting services (more on that in a moment).
Depending on the popularity of the name you’d like to use, domain names can cost anywhere from $5 to thousands of dollars per year or as a flat fee.
Once you own your domain name, you’ll need to buy server space to house your content. This is called hosting.
Bandwidth refers to how much information needs to be hosted. Sites that require huge bandwidth, like ones with complicated online stores, lots of videos or social networking sites that need to house user data, cost more to maintain. Smaller, simpler sites, like blogs or online brochures, require less bandwidth and subsequently, less money to maintain.
Hosting can also be dedicated or shared. Dedicated refers to a single site sitting on a single server, which is better for large sites that generate a lot of traffic. Shared means that a server is hosting many sites at once. Dedicated hosting is generally more expensive than shared. What happens when the server options don’t match the specifications of the site? Slow loading, laggy features, freezing and other cumbersome problems are bound to occur.
Cloud-based plans and load balancing systems can also optimize sites. These innovations allow sites to allocate data where it is needed most, thereby shifting resources toward areas of higher traffic and greater data needs.
Hosting a site can run anywhere from $10 to $300/month on average, with much larger systems going into the thousands.
REGISTERING BUSINESS NAMES
In order to do business, you’ll need to register your business’s name. Different states have different rules and processes for how to go about doing this. Start here: http://www.business.gov/register/business-name/dba.html
You also may want to consider establishing a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) or Incorporating your business depending on what makes more sense. This process also varies state to state and carries required fees, usually between $250 and $800 per year.
How your online product looks and feels depends on design and user experience. It’s extremely important that you deliver an experience that resonates with your customers. It’s a key element that will help them identify with you and keep them coming back for more.
Hire the best designers to make sure you get a smart, beautiful look that delights your customers and guides them where you want them to go.
How your online product works and what it can do depends on development. Professional developers are necessary to ensure proper technical functionality of your site.
How many times have you gone to a website that was buggy? You try to enter your address into a empty field on a form only to be greeted by an error after pushing the “Submit” button. You click a button and nothing happens. Hiring top notch developers who know how to code correctly is imperative to your success.
Top developer talent will know how to craft your online property into something that elegantly enhances your business and helps you achieve your revenue goals.
Before you launch your company, you’ll want to generate buzz. There are a number of ways to build buzz for your company, which we’ll discuss more in depth a little later.
BASIC OPERATION COSTS
General monthly services like Internet access, phone lines, electricity and rent (if you’re going to have a bricks-and-mortar office) must be factored into your budget. Consider what you’ll need and add each service in as a line-item in your upkeep costs. Couple basic costs are mentioned below.
ONGOING DOMAIN AND HOSTING
Domain names and hosting agreements may need to be renewed on a yearly or bi-yearly basis, depending on the terms at purchase.
Marketing isn’t just about building buzz at the beginning. To keep traffic coming to your site, you’ll need to have a long term marketing strategy that is consistent and ongoing. What are your goals for the year? For the next 3 years? 5 years? Turn them into milestones by breaking them down into actionable to do lists that follow your strategy and production phases. The more you break things down, the easier they become to assess, execute, manage, and budget. Be prepared for the numbers to increase by 10-20%.
Don’t undervalue the power of a professional marketing strategy. Find seasoned marketers who know the web and will take time to know your business. We have helped many clients with development and marketing strategies for the past 14 years and many initially start off without thinking much about the marketing budget.
Ideally there should be a budget for every phase of the project: Strategy, Development and Marketing.