websites, tips and tools for creatives

#Issue 001

By far, the most empowering resource for a creative is their digital identity. To create a way for customers, clients and audience to find you online. It can be frustrating knowing where to start, what platform, social channels and tools to use. What makes it confusing is different and conflicting advice you get. Here's a list of steps to take, tips and recommended options to do your due diligence. 


What do you want your site to do?

A ~ Sell something
B ~ A way to build my profile, show my work and create an email list
C ~ Both A + B
D ~ I want to create digital products, courses, and build a community. I want full control to be able to scale with flexibility.

Other than your shop, site and social channels. The minimum requirement for building a sustainable business is to create a relationship with people interested in your products or service with an opt-in to subscribe to your list. To receive your news, offers and updates.  

The CHALLENGE:

The challenge is not choosing a platform. The bigger challenge is it is how long will it take to build, the hidden costs, and the sunk costs if you want to make a change. 

a bit of advice

The most important thing is to be real with yourself and not have bigger eyes than your appetite. In other words, don't bite off more than you can chew either with your skill level, the time you have to invest, the pricing options or money to cover outsourcing someone to make the site.

Time is money but it's also a drain on your attention. It is better to create a simple system, get it up online and a platform that is easy to maintain. You don't want the digital side of your business to be a massive time suck. Choose what you need right now with options to expand later.

where to start:

I have created a suite of recommended software providers, tools for starting out, and the next level up suitable for different stages of growth, tech skills and budget. 

step 1. The DECISION-MAKING process

Set aside some time to use the trial option of the two platforms I'm considering investing in, based on the criteria above and then go to step two. My decision-making criteria are a combination of: 

  1. Design and usability of the platform are my number one benchmark to pass go before I consider anything features. If the platform ugly, elementary, out of date or too complex, I will not go any further to see if it ticks other boxes. 
  2. What is the training like to learn how to use the software? Is it easy to navigate and find things quickly? Is there a good third party/independent trainer offers a course to speed up the learning process? 
  3. Does it integrate with other services and tools like email providers? 
  4. Cost and return on investment. 
  5. Set aside some time to use the trial option of the two platforms I'm considering investing in, based on the criteria above and then go to step two. 

step 2. investment of time & money

How I test and compare which platform comes out on top for both time and money is: 

  • I found the best way is to start a free account of different platforms at the same time and experience the design, usability and training at the same time.
  • Compare the cost against certain features. There may be one feature you need, and it outweighs one of your preferences on step one.
  • Also, take into consideration how long you will need to learn the platform.
  • How much would you have to invest in outsourcing the design and set up if it's above your skill or time available? 

Start where you are - and consider where you want to be

level 1. #Smart Start

You are ready to start your creative business, you need a domain name and start your social media channels. The 'smart start' is to collect emails early to build your audience. You are not sure if you need a site yet, maybe a shop or a landing page will work to get started, and you can build a site later. The new TinyLetter platform is perfect to start a list of contacts to keep in touch with, and you can convert the list to MailChimp or Convertkit when your business grows. 

level 2. #Quick Start

You know you want a website to promote your business and attract clients and customers. 

Choose a simple platform that you can add a shop. Integrate with an email service that is all you need to get started to grow your business. As a creative, good design is important. Squarespace is popular with photographers, makers and artisans. Either MailChimp and ConvertKit are great email providers for all levels.

level 3. #tech Savvy or Unique design focus

If your site is your calling card as a designer Webflow is one you might like to check out. If you have the skills to use Adobe, you can master Webflow. It may take you some time, but it will match the look and feel for your design ascetic. Either MailChimp or Converkit is a great CRM option for all levels.

level 6. #tech team/scale - all the bells and whistles

You are OR want to be a dedicated digital content marketer, you want options for plugins to offer all the content creation you can muster! You are on a steep learning curve, and comprehensive tools are the right choice for you. 

I have paired WordPress and SiteGround hosting because it is a winning combination. Also Thrive Themes because I believe it is the most user-friendly, conversion-focused theme builder on the market. With the addition of an online course plugin. Superior online business courses and tutorials. Either MailChimp or ConvertKit is both a great CRM option for all levels. Active Campaign CRM offers the most flexibility. 

resources ~ 

These are the tools I use and recommend to help you on your creative digital journey. I have not used the eCommerce tools yet, but both are well recommended. 

#HOVER 

The registration company to buy your domain name. The only company that passed my first criteria i.e. design and usability of their platform. 

#unsplash

Beautiful, free images and photos that you can download and use for any project. Better than any royalty free or stock photos.

#PLANNTHAT

A complete social media suite for planning, scheduling and using analytics for beautiful brands. Create custom media collections to stay on top of your content plan. Upload your own media or discover free stock imagery to post.

graphics #easil

Great marketing starts here. Easil is the drag-and-drop design tool that empowers your whole team to create visual content so good, it looks like a pro designed it.

graphics #CANVA

Thousands of templates. You can customise with easy-to-use tools and thousands of photos. Simple to use Interface. Priority support. 200K+ companies on board. 

shop #bigcommerce

BigCommerce’s mission is to help merchants sell more at every stage of business growth. Simply put, we are: built for growth so merchants can realise their vision without compromise; designed for powerful performance to enable businesses to scale seamlessly with the technology they can trust; efficient in both time and cost.

shop #shopify

Making commerce better for everyone. We help people achieve independence by making it easier to start, run, and grow a business. We believe the future of commerce has more voices, not fewer, so we’re reducing the barriers to business ownership to make commerce better for everyone.

PLATFORMS & EMAIL PROVIDERS

# SMART TINY START 

TINYLETTER FREE MINIMAL EMAIL PROVIDER

TinyLetter is a completely free personal newsletter service brought to you by the people behind Mailchimp. People use it to send updates, digests, and dispatches to their fans and friends. Though they're built on the same infrastructure, TinyLetter is for people who don't need all the business features that come along with Mailchimp. Simplicity is at the heart of everything we do at TinyLetter.

landing page + EMAIL 

Create must‑click destinations with Mailchimp. It takes just a few minutes to design beautiful landing pages that make people want to join your audience or buy your stuff. 

# quick start 

#SQUARESPACE

Create a website with an award-winning template. Get your unique domain today. 24/7 Customer Support. Drag and Drop. Custom Domains. Free 14-day Trial. No plugins are necessary. Modern Templates. Types: Portfolio Websites, Business Websites.

crm #CONVERTKIT

Audience building for creators. An email marketing company built by creators for creators. With our particular background and expertise, we’ve designed ConvertKit to give you everything you need and nothing you don’t. From delivering opt-in incentives to advanced automation triggers, you’ll be backed by our simple and powerful tool to grow your business.

crm #mailchimp

All your marketing needs in one place
Bring your audience data, marketing channels, and insights together so you can reach your goals faster. With Mailchimp, you can promote your business across email, social, landing pages, shoppable landing pages, postcards, and more — all from a single platform.

COURSE #CHIMPESSENTIALS

The premier masterclass. How to use Mailchimp to run your online business.
In Chimp Essentials, I teach you how to turn Mailchimp from an expense into a tool that generates revenue. Engage your customers, and save you time running your digital business.

#Tech Savvy 

#webflow

Design, build and launch responsive websites — visually. Experience the power of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript in a 100% visual canvas. Free design tool. Top tier hosting. 100% customisable CMS. Types: Responsive web design, Marketing sites, Blogs, Prototyping.

GRAPHICS #ADOBE CREATIVE SUITE

Discover New Ways To Collaborate, Create, & Connect With Your Community. Work Better Together, Even When You're Apart. Join Creative Cloud Today. Step-by-step tutorials. Free product updates. Free trial downloads. No internet access needed. 

crm #CONVERTKIT

Audience building for creators. An email marketing company built by creators for creators. With our particular background and expertise, we’ve designed ConvertKit to give you everything you need and nothing you don’t. From delivering opt-in incentives to advanced automation triggers, you’ll be backed by our simple and powerful tool to grow your business.

#scale AND FLEXIBILITY

#WORDPRESS

WordPress is software designed for everyone, emphasizing accessibility, performance, security, and ease of use.
We believe great software should work with minimum set up, so you can focus on sharing your story, product, or services freely.
The basic WordPress software is simple and predictable so you can easily get started. It also offers powerful features for growth and success.

#SITEGROUND

Webhosting services crafted with care. Our web hosting services are crafted for top speed, unmatched security, 24/7 fast and expert support. Trusted by more than 2000000 domains!

#THRIVE THEMES

Conversion Focused WordPress Themes & Plugins
Themes & plugins, built from the ground up to make your entire website convert more of your visitors into subscribers, customers & clients! The Full Suite of Plugin. Build Beautiful Landing Pages. Get Your All-In-One Exclusive Thrive Themes Membership, Your Online Business Toolbox.

#ACTIVE CAMPAIGN / email provider 

Do more than automate your email — activate your entire customer experience. Active Campaign gives you the email marketing, marketing automation, and CRM tools you need to create incredible customer experiences.

congratulations

you made it to the end ~I hope this simple guide will get you started 

the happy ending:

The number of hours I wasted debating which platform or software to use! I hope now some of what I learned will be of use, and save you not only time, frustration, confusion but, a few brain calories as well. 


Last words of wisdom. Set aside time to test these tools, CRM's and platform choices. Use your instinct when choosing a platform, software and tools.  After learning new software, and creating a workflow, it's hard to unlearn so invest the time upfront so you're not tempted to change.

I started with MailChimp, and later when so many creatives were using Convertkit, I tried it out. But because I'd already invested in the course, Chimpessentials how to maximise and speed up learning the software it was hard to leave. Plus I like the way the platform works and the quirkiness of their brand, so I stayed with Mailchimp. There is no 'one right/best tool or software', there is only the right one for you.
I love the look of Webflow and the ease of Squarespace, but I am a dedicated Thrive Themes advocate. So it's a personal choice. What I've learned is just a person who I had an online business was using a tool or software it wasn't necessarily right for me.

No doubt this topic will be debated a lot in the community. 


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