One of the most daunting things about starting a business, a blog or anything in today’s modern world is the technical, digital stuff. You might be able to justify the expense of hiring a lawyer to create your LLC or investing the time you need to create your products/services list, but a $5,000 custom website or pricey graphic designer fees? Whoa.
In the start-up stage, it may feel completely out of range and make you want to quit before you even get going. And still, those are all crucial elements for getting your business off the ground. So what’s a solopreneur or small business owner to do? Today, I’m going to show you how you can, in fact, DIY your brand and stay on budget. And it doesn’t require being a techy, innately knowing CSS/HTML, or being some kind of online wizard.
1. Reserve Your Domain & Social Media Handles
Do this first, I repeat – do this first! There’s nothing worse than crafting a whole business plan, creating content, brand elements, etc. and then realizing the domain name of your dreams is taken. Test your idea across Google, GoDaddy, Instagram, Facebook, etc. to see if it’s already taken.
If so, experiment with which variations could potentially be created without violation of any trademark or copyright. It’s best if it’s not within the same industry as yours, sometimes that’s just too close for comfort.
2. Choose Your Website Platform
Like car makes and models, there are tons of platform options out there. WordPress is a faithful option that allows you to host your website with a hosting provider of your choice, whereas, say Squarespace or Showit, function by hosting your site on their servers.
WordPress itself is free, but you will pay for things like a hosting provider (see more below), a domain purchase and renewal costs. Different web platforms also come with different looks, styles, themes, and annual pricing structures. Do both visual and cost comparisons to find out which is right for you! For example, you may fall in love with a certain Squarespace template (we’ve got some cool options!) and choose to go that route for that reason alone. (See #4 below for more on this.)
3. Hosting Provider
If you do choose to go the WordPress route, you’ll need to find a hosting provider. Again, there are tons to choose from but two of our favorites are Bluehost and FlyWheel (they have crazy good support)! Each will have different costs of their own, so you’ll want to do some comparing here too.
4. Choosing a Design
Ah, the fun part! Once you’ve selected a platform and hosting provider, you get to select your theme or design. This is a way less expensive option than a custom website build. Most show a live demo which should give you some good inspiration for making it your own!
Designs are usually available within your website platform (both free & premium options) and from shops like ours (wink), Creative Market, StudioPress, and even Etsy. You’ll want to assess a theme based on its general layout, flow, ease of navigation, and whether it has the capability for certain features you may need i.e, a blog, an e-commerce/shop feature, multiple pages, etc. You can find our full guide on finding the perfect theme (or Squarespace design) for your business here!
Many themes can be endlessly customized, for example in WordPress you can download little “add-ons” known as plugins. These are like adding a new tool to your virtual toolbox and help you achieve different functionalities, like connecting to an email marketing provider (EMP). So don’t rule a design out, when maybe it just needs a plugin, a touch of CSS, or your unique branding!
Designs can range anywhere from $10 to $2k+ so your personal budget will need to be taken into account here as well. Thankfully, independent designer sites like Station Seven offer many modern, professional-looking themes at a very affordable price. (Hey, it’s where I got mine!) Many designers are also happy to provide installation services for an additional fee and answer questions when necessary. They may also provide you with “documentation” upon purchase, which is essentially a little resource to help you navigate your new site. There really is nothing more rewarding than learning the ropes yourself. The sooner you do, the less intimidating it will all feel!
5. Graphic Design Tools
Ok, now let’s say you don’t have a graphic designer (or the budget for one) and you need some content to get you started – even if it’s just for posting on social media to generate a buzz before you launch your new website. Our favorite graphic design option is inexpensive but quality templates in .psd format that can be edited and customized in an Adobe Program like Photoshop or Illustrator. Station Seven has great options for these (colors, fonts, and layout can be customized)! For a small investment, you’ll save yourself the time and headache of starting from scratch and get the in-house graphic designer look you’re going for.
Canva is another great option to create your own graphics. You can create an account for free and have access to a variety of templates for social media, email headers, etc. For roughly $12.95/month you can upgrade to a Canva for Work account, which gives you enhanced features such as the ability to save your designs with transparent backgrounds (helpful when creating logos and other elements), a place to store your specific brand attributes, and more.
Pro tip: Let’s say you can’t seem to find the right shade of gold. You can Google things like: What’s the hex code for gold?
Your results will look something like this:
You can copy and paste the code into the custom color creator on Photoshop or Canva and then adjust it to your liking. This is just a random example to demonstrate how you really can DIY because the information you need is often right at your fingertips!
6. Photography & Imagery
Now that you are getting your website and graphics pulled together, you just need images! You can’t beat hiring a professional brand photographer, but if that’s out of the cards you can DIY with your iPhone, enlist the help of a talented friend, or take your pick from the plethora of stock photography options. We have a full run down of our favorite stock photo sites plus a download of 20 free stock photos that can get you started. Always check the attribution requirements and look for ones that don’t require you to give credit, or go ahead and purchase your absolute favorites.
If you choose to DIY with your iPhone, I love editing apps like VSCO, Photoshop Fix, and Camera+. The iPhone 7 also has “Portrait” mode, which can give you some great, professional quality photos that focus on the subject and blur the background. Be sure to save edited photos with the full-size resolution – you’ll need it for the best quality once you upload them to your website.
Pro Tip: When uploading your images to your website, edit the dimensions to be less than 2000 pixels as long as the quality remains. Otherwise, they can slow down your site’s load time.
Next up, you need some killer copy to fill the pages of your website. Words that bring life to your brand and do much more than “hard sell” – words that actually resonate with your audience and keep them sticking around. We created a complete guide to writing compelling copy that can help you while you’re getting started.
A few extra pointers here:
- Clarity always reigns supreme. Make sure your audience actually knows what you’re talking about, rather than trying to be cheeky just to be cheeky.
- Talk about your customer’s needs and how you can solve them. It’s natural to want to talk all about yourself, but when your potential client/customer lands on your site, they need to immediately feel heard.
Give your first round of copy drafts your best attempt – whatever that may look like. You want to infuse it with your why and your personality. Later you can always give it other rounds of revisions by either hiring a copywriter, an editor; or having friends or team members take a stab at some edits. Your copy will always be a work in process and evolve with your brand but do your best to keep your voice consistent, as you would throughout any in-person conversation.
There you have it, 7 ways to DIY your brand and business to fit any budget! Grab our free style guide below to start pulling together all of the unique elements of your brand. You can do this!
Free Style Guide Template
Pull all of your brand elements together!
Have you already DIY’d aspects of your brand or business? What’s been the biggest success and challenge?