Do you want to start a website, yet feel overwhelmed with where to start? When I started my first website (a lifestyle blog) in February 2017, I felt the same way.
Starting a website feels like you’re tackling an endless to-do list (I can confirm, five years later, that the to-do list is indeed endless).
One of the most important parts about my journey is that I didn’t let my endless stream of ideas or tasks hold me back. I just started.
Finally starting that website helped me:
- Earn my first $0.44 commission on Amazon Affiliates
- Make over $9,100 from my website in my first year
- Eventually co-found my dream company, built 100% remotely
A big decision I made when I first started my website was whether or not to pay money upfront. Growing up in an Asian-American family that lived paycheck-to-paycheck, I am a penny-pincher by nature. I felt scared taking a leap and investing under $200 in my website.
Looking back, I realize $200 is a small amount to invest in a website or business. Our generation has it easy when it comes to building digital businesses from scratch.
And because so many people pop into my Instagram DMs asking about how to start a website of your own — here are my answers to all your questions.
Reasons to Start a Website
- Create a space where you can share everything you’re passionate about;
- Start writing amazing, influencial content;
- Connect with a supportive online community;
- Empower yourself an give yourself confidence;
- Inspire others through your content;
- Grow your skillset, including social media management;
- Open opportunities to collaborate with other businesses;
- Have an online space where you can showcase your services and offerings…
- and so on!
A website can be a creative outlet, a marketable asset, a living resumé… like all things, it will be what you make it.
Your website is the way you communicate with the world. And it starts with you.
I. Brand Identity - It Starts With You
The first step before building your website is honing in on your brand identity.
Your brand identity is the bridge between you and your website visitors. By starting with your brand identity, your messaging will be recognizable, consistent and authentic across platforms.
Starting with this foundation gives you a clear path to grow whilst delivering a cohesive story and experience to potential visitors.
When you put time into your brand, you walk away with messaging themes that guide your content, feelings to evoke, and action steps needed to fulfill your brand values.
Every post you make, every piece of marketing material, and each piece on content you create will connect to your clients on a deeper level.
All of your brand assets – everything you create, post and launch – should fulfill your overarching mission.
Before you dive in further, here are a few ways you can stand out:
- Narrow down your audience. Who do you want to reach and impact with your website? Millennials? Women? People with wanderlust? eCommerce business owners?
- Write down what brought you to where you are. One of the most powerful ways to stand out apart from the rest is through your STORY. So, what lifestyle transformations helped you get to where you are today?
- Take time to design your aesthetic. Choose a website theme that represents you. Likewise, choose fonts and colors that really give off the vibe you want others to feel about your brand. Are you edgy? Feminine? Rebellious? Professional? Choose photos, colors, and fonts that communicate that.
- Connect with others. Once you know what type of content you want to write, connect with others who have audiences similar to yours! It’s easy to talk to someone when you have the same interests. And it opens potential opportunities for collaboration in the future.
Mission & Vision Statements
Your mission is an action statement describing what you do. For example, TED’s mission statement is “spread ideas.” Econalu’s mission statement is to “provide sustainable solutions to global problems.”
You can also take your mission one step further and describe who you are and who you help. For example, our mission statement at kapwa studio is:
We create lifelong brand advocates for POC-owned businesses through intentional community building, data-driven organic growth, + storytelling marketing.
To write your mission, answer the questions what you do and who you help. Turn the answers to those questions into an action statement.
Your vision statement goes one step further and describes the impact you want your mission to achieve. For example, Apple’s vision statement is “we are on the face of the Earth to make great products and that’s not changing.” This vision statement sets the tone for Apple’s innovative product line.
My own vision statement is:
Krista Aoki helps people and brands feel fully expressed so they can tell stories, build relationships, and make sales.
You will learn that these statements will be the foundation to build your authority and inspire visitors to take action. Using these statements will:
- Connect with visitors – by acknowledging what they care about
- Communicate the impact you make – and how working with you makes that impact
- Call visitors to take inspired action as you guide them to the next step
Your brand values are the core of the experience you create. They are the beliefs that you stand for, and beliefs that your customers resonate with. They are the overlap between what you care about and what your clients care about.
Everything you post, create and launch should align with your values.
- What things do you believe, that guides your work?
- What is the overlap between what you care about, and what your clients care about?
Your Signature Framework
Once you finalize your mission and vision statements, the next step is to determine what sets you apart from your competitors?
📝 Questions to Answer
- Based on your mission, what sets you apart from your competitors?
- What do you want to be known for?
- What makes your process and the way you approach work unique?
To distinguish yourself from competitors, can you turn that into a signature framework?
A signature framework is a way you can communicate what you offer and differentiate your services from everyone else. It makes it easier for your clients to understand what you do.
II. Designing Your Website
In an increasingly digital world, your website is your 24/7 employee, modern day business card and the first impression clients get of your business.
46% of site visitors say a website’s design is the #1 criteria that establishes the credibility of a company.
💡 How Much is Your Time Worth?
Do you want to save yourself the time and energy designing your own website? Partner with a website designer who can design a professional website that creates instant trust with potential clients.
What's the difference: free vs. self-hosted?
When you have choice between a free host (like WordPress.com or Blogger) and a paid host (like Siteground or Bluehost) is in front of you, the choice seems obvious. Who doesn’t like the word “free”?
Actually, free hosting isn’t all it’s cut out to be.
- Your host can shut your site down at any time.
- Your host may have restrictions when you start to grow your website.
It might be confusing, but yes. WordPress.com and a self-hosted WordPress blog are different. WordPress.com starts as a free hosting service. Self-hosted WordPress websites (or WordPress.org software) can be installed to your very own WordPress website. With a self-hosted WordPress website:
- You can have a personalized and professional e-mail address
- Your website will perform better on search engine searches
- You have far more control over the customization of your website
If you are serious about your website, the small investment to start your own self-hosted website will be the best decision in the long run. It will be a time-consuming pain to transfer your content from a free service to your own.
I am going to guide you through the process of purchasing your very own self-hosted website through a host that offers a simple one-click WordPress installation.
Step 1: Get a domain and hosting
Starting your self-hosted blog requires two things: a domain, and hosting for that domain. I recommend Bluehost if you are looking for a host with great uptime, and 24/7 customer service.
Benefits of Using Bluehost
- Bluehost offers helpful, fast 24/7 customer service
- They install WordPress for you for free in one click!
- If you already have a website, they offer free website setup and transfer
- Industry leading in terms of uptime
- You get a FREE domain with purchase!
Bluehost offers three options for hosting plans. You can use this link to sign up and get hosting for as low as $2.95/month! Their online offer is as low as $4.95/mo, so you save up to 60% off by using my link!
After you select your plan, you can either claim your free new domain, or use a domain you already own.
After you either purchase or transfer your new domain, all you have to do is take a few minutes to fill out your information.
Step 2: Install WordPress
Immediately after you set up your domain and hosting, you can take advantage of Bluehost’s easy, one-click WordPress installation right after you purchase your plan.
And, if you ever run into any trouble, Bluehost has quick 24/7 customer service who are more than prepared to answer any questions you may have (trust me, I’ve taken advantage of this, too!).
As a former WordPress developer, I’ve worked with other hosts who charge MORE than Bluehost does – hosts who don’t offer 24/7 customer service … and when you finally do get in touch with them, you get in touch with snarky agents who make you feel like you’re burdening them.
Once you install WordPress, you can access your WordPress Dashboard by typing in:
Step 3: Learn to navigate your WordPress dashboard
If you’re new to WordPress you might be overwhelmed by its Dashboard. Don’t worry, once you learn all the terms, you’ll realize how simple it can be. Let me walk you through the WordPress dashboard options on the sidebar.
The “Posts” option helps you organize your posts, including your post categories and tags. You can view “All Posts” including drafts and edit your posts from here.
When you add a new post, you can also manage its categories and tags.
Please, please make sure “Uncategorized” is unchecked. Give each post the love and recognition it deserves. Assign it to a category.
Categories are your blog’s overarching concepts. Like, for example, my categories are lifestyle, travel and blogging.
As for tags, think of them like subcategories or hashtags.
The “Media” section showcases files you upload, including images. You can see what you’ve already opened by clicking Library. To add a new photo, click “Add New”. You can also add to your media library when you are editing a post.
You can title your images, edit their sizes, and update the Alt Text. Make sure you update the Alt Text on every image. This will contribute to your website’s search engine optimization and will help your articles rank higher on search engines.
Different than posts, Pages do not show up on your blog’s feed. You can get creative with the type of pages you make, but essential pages to write are an About Me page and a Contact page.
This section is where you can manage the comments on all your posts. You can approve comments, mark them as spam, and even reply to them!
The appearance section of your Dashboard is where you can select or upload your theme, and customize the look of your blog.
This blog’s look was put together using a free and lightweight theme called Hello and the premium Elementor Pro plugin. There is both a free and paid version of Elementor, and I wholeheartedly recommend this drag-and-drop plugin!
Plugins are an additional way you can customize your blog. Think of them like apps that help you make your blog do what you want! Plugins are what make WordPress.org software so much better than free hosted blogs.
Some of my favorite plugins are:
- Elementor Pro: Elementor Pro is an intuitive drag-and-drop pagebuilder plugin for WordPress.
- Yoast SEO: Yoast SEO is one of the easiest tools to add to a website! It allows you to customize how links from your website show up on Google and social media.
- W3 Total Cache: This plugin helps speed up your website! I recommend a caching plugin for every WordPress website.
III. Writing Your Website Copy
Keep in mind that the simpler your website copy is written, the easier it will be for visitors to absorb the information.
Always ask yourself: will visitors be able to figure out what my website is about within five seconds of visiting the homepage?
✨ Protip: Communicate in 3s
People have conveyed messages in groups of 3 since ancient Greece. Follow the “Rule of 3s” in marketing by presenting themes, ideas and concepts in 3s.
Step 1: Use your website to tell a story
“The catalyst for any story is that the hero wants something. The rest of the story is a journey about discovering what they want.” – Don Miller, Building a StoryBrand
Think about how you felt the last time you dove into your favorite fiction series. Do you remember that feeling of being so connected to the characters that you couldn’t put the book down?
People experience stories at the soul-level. You can also use storytelling to connect with potential clients. Start by positioning your website visitors as the Heroes of your story.
Then, you can use a story framework to structure your website copy.
- What problems do your website visitors have (that you solve)?
- How do your services solve those problems?
- How will your visitors evolve from start to finish?
- Where will your visitors be six months from now, after they work with you? How will they feel? How will their life be different? Because no matter what your service is, it creates a transformation.
- What is your plan for that transformation? (i.e. your signature framework)
- Building a StoryBrand by Don Miller
- Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t by Steven Pressfield
- 3 Creative Ways to Deeply Connect with People on Your About Page by Krista Aoki
Step 2: Hero Section
Next, start with the ideation for your Hero section. Your Hero section is the first point-of-contact potential clients will see when they land on your website.
“Thousands of companies shut their doors every year, not because they don’t have a great product, but because potential customers can’t figure out how that product will make their lives better.” – Don Miller, Building a StoryBrand
Start with your promise. This is a great place to communicate your mission statement and how you help your clients.
If you include a call-to-action here, think about a goal like “learn more” or “read the blog”. You want this initial call-to-action to invite visitors to learn more about you.
Step 3: Design Pages and Sections
You can build things out on a single page, or several pages.
- Resources (books, services or apps you recommend)
Step 4: Add Content
Once your website is complete, you can expand your digital presence by adding blog content throughout. Content includes shareable pieces like blogs or videos. It helps educate clients about your mission and your impact.
📝 Examples of Content
- Case Studies
- Annual Review
- Answers to FAQ
- Press Releases
Step 5: Get Traffic
As they say, “the work is never finished.” You need traffic to your website – because converting 4% of 0 traffic still means you’re converting zero leads.
Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”) is the process of setting up your website to appear higher on search engine results pages. Improve website SEO by publishing content.
- Social Media
Yes, starting a website has a learning curve.
Mistakes (or things that feel like mistakes) happen along the way, and as the perfectionist you probably are, there will be a lot that you’ll want to change. Believe me, it’s okay to learn as you go.
It’s just as important to never give up. There are days I think this isn’t going to work out… take them as they come, but find ways to get past them. Because: it is going to work out. You just need to be proactive and figure out the “how.”
Do you have any questions about starting a website?