Why You Don’t Need a Website
OK so I never thought I’d write those words, as someone who, since 2010 has made a decent living from designing and building websites.
Firstly: lets clarify that by ‘YOU’ I’m referring to individuals who are creating something or providing a service and are trying to reach their ideal customer or client.
Because it goes without saying that my 70-year-old mother does NOT need a website, and that Amazon does.
So… why am I writing this?
Whilst having ownership of a chunk of the internet is something I think you will want soon if not at some point down the line, I do not think it’s VITAL when you’re starting out and simply trying to make a decent income from your product/service.
Websites are often (mis)treated like business cards of the 80s; as pure ego-boosters.
Sure, having control over what pops up when you type in your carefully picked domain is, kind of neat.
But too often they are abused – and actually, more often: neglected.
I’ve seen way too many creatives lose a lot of time and money by investing in a fancy website… only to find that just by being up and running does NOT mean people will find them – and even less likely that they turn into paying clients or customers.
For others, I’ve seen websites be complete roadblocks, preventing them from sharing their work at all. ‘Oh, I’ll get my work up online when I have a website.’
This has not been an acceptable excuse, ever since the days of MySpace and (pre-smartfeed) Facebook. We’ve had free outlets, requiring very little technical skill, for over a decade now.
What I want to show is what really is necessary for reaching your dream customers: what the minimum effective dose is for getting your work found online.
What you DO need in order to get discovered online
See how I said ‘presence’ and not ‘media’? That was to not scare you off, but really I wanted to be clear that having an account on a social media platform is NOT the same as having a social presence.
Ok… But why is it important?
It’s only with social presence that you can build a community of people who are receptive to your thing. Whatever it is: you need people to spread it and, ultimately, buy it.
Now that we’re bombarded by content all day long from multiple sources… it can feel like we’re peeing in the sea. I mean, like we’re a drop in the ocean. What we do doesn’t matter.
But I’m an optimistic kind of cat, and can trace back virtually every success in my career from social media: from my very first job (a retweet from the Behance jobs board) to connecting with the amazing people currently helping me build an epic online training program.
Cool. So, how do you get it?
Social presence is the fruit that comes from the seeds of the four C’s:
1) Choosing a platform that you enjoy AND that your ideal customer/clients use.
For many visual creators, Instagram is a great option. This post is a fantastic account on how one photographer used Instagram alone for his business. (The comments section is also worth a read for all sides of the argument)
2) Consistency – ie. showing up regularly enough that you aren’t forgotten but not so much that it drives you crazy and ready to close your account and live in a cave.
3) Content – creating content (and curating – not everything you post needs to be uniquely yours) that is interesting/entertaining/useful… Ask yourself, who would share this?
4) Connecting with people who have taken the time to follow/like/heart/react/whatever your stuff (and those who don’t yet but who are posting stuff that you enjoy)
If it wasn’t clear from that… Social presence takes effort. Not a huge amount, but it is required.
2. A landing page
When I first worked with a company on their landing page, I was instantly appalled.
Where’s the content? Where’s the navigation? Why can’t I do more things here?
The idea is that people aren’t distracted by all the bells and whistles we’re normally tempted to throw onto our website.
It’s like those restaurants with a super limited menu. In London, one of my favourites is Burger and Lobster.
You can imagine what the choice is.
By eliminating decision fatigue, you can make it super quick and easy for your visitor to click a link and get what they came for.
Heads up: this isn’t a replacement for a portfolio, shop, blog or wherever else your audience can consume your stuff.
What it IS really awesome for is getting someone to take action.
This action could be:
1) Selling the ONE thing that you want to share (that’s another post, but for now your recommended reading is this book)
2) Building an email list (which I’ll cover in a sec)
The content needs to do a lot of talking: you can’t expect someone to park themselves there (er… when can you these days) and click through your archives of blog posts, portfolio pages, witty ‘about’ pages… you need to get to the point.
A few elements of a winning landing page:
– A video, ideally of yourself/performing/making/doing/speaking…
– Social proof, like testimonials or reviews of your thing
– What’s in it for them, as in the viewer. How do they benefit? How will this thing you’re offering improve their life?
– A strong, clear call to action (be direct, we need to be told where to click when we’re on the scroll)
So… the elephant in the room:
How do you set up a landing page without a website?
Ok, this is the one thing that having a website makes much easier. You could for example, use a single-page of your website (ideally on WordPress.org or Squarespace) and treat that as a landing page.
But the point in this post was to show you you don’t NEED a website! Nor do you need to spend a load of time and cash.
Which is why I recommend Launchrock for throwing up a free, attractive landing page in mere minutes.
3. An email list
Yessss NOW we’re gettin’ to the meat of this.
An email list is a non-negotiable. Yet… it’s also often the last thing that gets added on to the ‘list of to-do’s’ for anyone who’s trying to make a buck online.
With an email, you can reach someone way more personally than posting on social media.
You also OWN that list, as in: no matter what, those emails are yours to have and to hold: unlike your followers on social media who could be whipped away from you if the powers-that-be decide to change the rules.
Now, when someone trusts you with their email address, you have to uphold your end of the deal and give them epic free stuff BEFORE you ask for anything in return.
The best way to do this is to actually think about the kind of crap that gets sent to you. I know what I open, spam, delete or respond to. What does your recipient want from you?
The power of the inbox
The beauty of it is you can deliver long-form content, like you might in a blog post, but actually have way more of a chance than it being read.
For example, I read blogs, but only when I remember to check Feedly for fresh posts. This might be a few times a week – it might be none at all.
But I’m checking my email at least a few times a DAY. That’s a lot of chances to be seen.
I mentioned you can collect emails using a landing page creator like Launchrock, but once you have an email marketing system you can send people straight to a sign-up page.
Mailchimp would be my recommendation for collecting emails and sending email campaigns – it’s free until you reach 2000 subscribers, and it’s really easy to set up and make pretty emails with.
This is an example of one of mine. You can customise this page well enough – so in theory you could even skip the separate landing page altogether.
4. A way to get paid
So this is what it comes down to, let’s face it. Whether you want to admit it or not, in order to do our creative thing, we need to feed ourselves and pay the bills.
Yes, you can use you online space to purely showcase what you do… but ultimately, people are going to want your thing and if they value it, will want to give you something in return.
There are a whole host of options for setting up an online shop (and I made this quiz to help you decide which might be best for you) but it can also be as simple as setting up on a crowdfunding site.
Payment by donation
I’m a big fan of Patreon, because some of my favourite makers and doers can be supported there (Amanda Palmer and Andy J. Miller for example.)
You basically pledge any amount you’re comfortable with, and trust that your patronage will go towards their next awesome creation.
Another simple option is the Brainpickings model: Maria Popova curates some of the finest golden nuggets humankind has ever produced, and runs the site on donations alone.
The only prompt to donate is a call to action stating ‘donating = loving’ that takes you to a Paypal checkout. Do with it what you will.
Whether you have a website or not, the point I’m trying to make is that just having a place where people can find you online isn’t quite enough. Think: needle in haystack.
In order to turn that needle into a… machete?
I’ve put together this 4-part video series that teaches the four steps you can start taking immediately in order to get your work seen online.
Click here to get access to the whole video series – it’s totally free, and you don’t need a website to put the four steps into action 😉