What does it really take to start and grow a business? That is a question that has many different answers, depending on who you listen to (and what their motives are).

If you listen to someone who has training programs to sell, then the first thing you must do is purchase their program or course.

If you listen to the local social media “guru”, they will tell you how you must have a strong social media presence and without social media, your business is doomed to failure.

If you talk to a web designer, you will need a very expensive and beautiful website with all the bells and whistles.

Here is the answer I always give…it depends.

It depends on what your goals are. It depends on what you want to accomplish. It depends on how much time you want to devote to growing your business. It depends on how much time you want to devote to social media. It depends on how much money you have to invest in your business. It depends…on any number of things.

So for me to tell you the best way to start and grow your business would be pointless without us first having a conversation where I listen and you talk. Because until I know something about you, your business, and what you want to accomplish, I can’t offer any solutions.

But I have learned over the years a few basic things are essential to growing your business.

What do you really need to get your business online…

To discuss what you really need to build a business, I will just tell you what I must use in my business.

The first 3 most obvious things I must have are a smartphone and a laptop along with tools and software to do what is needed my business for sustained growth and increasing revenue.

Tools and Software

Website

A website is an essential component, but you may not need to spend $10K to get it done if it’s a simple 4 or 5 page website. You can purchase a domain name, and set up a hosting account on GoDaddy (or the host of your choice). WordPress is a free install once you set up your hosting account.

WordPress is the platform I use to build all my websites. After your WordPress installation, you will need a WordPress theme.  WordPress give you 4 free themes when you do the install and you can find other free themes by simply doing a quick search. I’ve seen some nice websites built with the free themes. Or you can purchase a premium theme. I prefer premium themse because they generally have additional functionality built in that make them more suitable from a marketing perspective. I wrote a more in-depth blog post on websites and you can read it here.

Approximately half of all businesses do not have a website. It’s hard to believe this many businesses do not have a web presence. Even a simple one-page website is sufficient for a lot of businesses if it is set up as a lead generation website.

So now let’s break down the total cost for my main website.

GoDaddy domain registration (approximately $15)

GoDaddy Hosting (approximately $120 per year)

Thrive Themes ($228 annual)

OptimizePress Theme ($99 annual)

So the total I spend on my website annually is $462 (or $38.50 per month)

Email Marketing

It was hard to believe that many businesses do not have a web presence. It is even harder for me to believe they don’t see the value in email marketing. Although most business owners know keeping top of mind presence and follow-up is important for getting clients or customers.

It is still the number one way to build your list. Your list is the most valuable asset you have in your business. So why would you not use a tool that builds the most valuable asset in your business?

I use a couple of professional email service providers. I use them for different things in my business.

I like the simplicity, ease of use, well-designed newsletter template, pricing, and support of Constant Contact. Constant Contact has several other tools in their suite of products, such as a landing page builder, that are beneficial, but I will save those for a more in-depth overview of Constant Contact.

What I like most about Convertkit is how easy it is to set up a sales funnel. So Convertkit drives my sales funnels. It does other things too, but I will cover those in a more in-depth overview of Convertkit.  

Constant Contact ($20 monthly)

Convertkit ($29 monthly)

The total I spend every month on email marketing is $49.

So the grand total every month for tools and software for my business is $87.45.

Of course, this investment depends on whether or not you DIY everything, If you have the tech skills and knowledge to use all the aforementioned tools and software and can do everything yourself, then the $87.45 is close to what you will spend monthly. If you hire someone to set all this up for you, then you can expect to spend hundreds or thousands more depending on your needs on the front end.

I also have other expenses. I attend events, seminar, webinars, purchase courses and coaching. These are additional costs in my business. But for this article, I am just showing you the bare minimum I need to run my business.

Essential skills.

Copywriting

Copywriting is THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL YOU CAN DEVELOP. You can have a website that doesn’t look great, but if the copy you have on the website does a good job of communicating your offer, how the offer makes their life better, and an easy way for them to buy it…then you could do well with a not so great website. On the other hand, you could have an amazing website that won all kinds of design awards with bad copy and your business will fail. But if you can have both good design and great copy, that’s a plus. But given the option, I will take an ugly website with great copy any day because I know it will make money.

Website Development

You really just need to have the skill to install WordPress, install a theme, and put some words on it that will sell you product or service. No real “design” skills needed here to create a site that will generate leads and make money.

Of course, this is an extremely oversimplification of the process of building a website. I just don’t want you to get caught up in spending weeks designing your logo, picking colors, selecting images, and all the other things that could go on your website. I’m not saying these things are not important, but at the same time they should not delay your progress.

Getting your website up and running is priority number one. You can change colors, images, and all the other things over time. No matter how much time you put into these things on the front end, you will still have things you will want to change later.

The main thing you want on your website is great content, a couple of nice images, and a way to collect email addresses from visitors. That’s it.

SEO

I will not spend a lot of time on this because it is such a large topic. The main thing I want you to know is to install a plugin on your WordPress website to ensure your site is optimized for SEO. There are numerous search engines, but your main focus should be on optimizing for Google since they account for almost 90% of all searches. I use the Yoast free SEO plugin an all my sites along with Google Webmaster tools.

Pay-Per-Click Ads

Again, this is a large topic, so I will not spend a lot of time on it here. The two main Ads platforms are Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Learn what you can about both of these platforms. Your ad copy will do most of the selling for you, so write a great ad using direct response copywriting strategies. Set a budget. Split-test your ads. Pick your images carefully for your Facebook Ads. This carries a lot of weight with Facebook.

I use Square, Stripe and PayPal for my payment services, so I do not have the costs associated with having a shopping cart other than paying a percentage on each sale to one of these three payment services.

I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars over the past few years attending seminars, webinars, buying course and books, purchasing software, and coaching. I still invest in those things periodically, but I am at the point where I don’t really see much that is worth my time or money. This investment was not included because my goal was to give you a simple overview of the minimum cost of running your business online.

At least now you know the base cost of everything and can make a more informed decision when hiring someone to do it for you. This is information I wanted to share because I see so many people spending exorbitant amounts of money just to get their website up and running…and they still have to come up with the content (the most important part of their website).

Save the money you would spend on your website to hire a great copywriter to create content for your site once you get the foundation built.

Oh and there is one more thing I forgot to mention that I need to build and grow my business. Coffee. Lots of coffee.

All the best,

Mike Coleman