As a freelance Linux consultant, I’ve worked with many clients who have both succeeded and struggled with their online business ideas. In doing so, I’ve noticed several trends that clients have when they struggle with their business ideas (related to technology, anyways). I’ve written this series of blog posts so that others may learn from these mistakes, and avoid making them. Here are the top 10 technology tips for web entrepreneurs:
Choose The Perfect Domain
Choose your domain carefully, and make sure that it’s easy for others to remember, and type.
Your domain is the most crucial part of your online marketplace- make sure that others can easily remember and type it into their browser’s address bar. Picking a domain with excessive repeating characters (like aamra.com) is a recipe for disaster. Instead, if your first choice for a domain is already chosen, think of a creative way to get around the problem that others will remember (like howtouselinux.net).
Use Professional Class Email
Once you have your domain, change your business email address to match that domain.
Too many times, I’ve also seen business cards that had a Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo email address. This is not only unprofessional, but it makes clients doubt your dedication to your business. After all, email setup is cheap. If you must have a Gmail account, at least forward all mail from your domain to your Gmail account, and then setup Gmail to send mail using your domain.
Select The Best Hosting
Take your time, and select a good web hosting provider.
As I mentioned in a related article, Choosing a Web Host, it is absolutely critical that your website is hosted on a reliable provider. Servers can be upgraded over time, but changing hosting providers is a long and expensive process (in downtime, lost sales due to poor network performance, and the costs of switching everything over to a new server). Sometimes the difference between a reputable and stable provider, and a poor one is a tiny difference in money. Make a wise decision the first time, and choose a good web hosting provider.
Take Care of Your Document
Always have excellent documentation on your server, and the software that runs on it.
One of the most expensive and frustrating challenges can be if the coder designing software for your website doesn’t leave any documentation. This is not only limited to coders, but can also include Linux consultants, as well. Simply put, ask for documentation before you pay your coder or administrator. Don’t be rude about it, but instead just politely ask for documentation for the project that was completed. A professional freelancer will understand completely, and have no problem leaving you documentation. The documentation doesn’t have to be too detailed (for instance, a step-by-step explanation of all commands entered on your server would be excessive unless the freelancer was compensated extra), but your documentation should convey how the software solution operates, and where any configuration files are located.
Invest in your technology infrastructure
One of the biggest issues that I’ve seen is clients who treat their technology infrastructure as a one time expense. Instead, you should think of your technology infrastructure as a business investment. Common repeated expenses include server maintenance, as well as software updates and upgrades. Neglecting the maintenance of either your server, or the web applications running on it, is a certain recipe for disaster. For instance, a typical server maintenance program from a talented Linux consultant can cost as little as $40 per month, but it can help prevent much more costly issues (as well as prevent costly downtime).
Hire competent workers and retain them
The most expensive part (in terms of both time and money) of outsourcing a part of your technology infrastructure is the process of finding and selecting a talented professional. Once you have selected the professional that will be working on your technology infrastructure (be it your server, or your website), make sure that you retain that individual. If you select a new coder every time your web application needs a bug fix or feature added, for instance, the underlying code will have become so cobbled together that it will take increasing amounts of time for a coder to understand how it works. Even the most talented coders all write code a little differently. This differences (without a dedicated code cleanup project) tend to add up over time, and can result in unexpected bugs. If budget is an issue, you can save quite a bit of money by working with the coder directly (outside of a freelance bidding website), although you should only do this for coders that you trust.
Never pre-payor release funds on a project early
I’m surprised how much I’ve seen this situation come up- a client will pre-pay for some coding work, and never hear from the coder again. Another situation that I’ve seen happen frequently is that a coder will get 50% of a website or software application completed, get paid 50% of the project budget, and then will never complete the software application! This is simple- before you pay a freelancer, make sure that the project is 100% completed to your specifications. Don’t forget that documentation, either!
Don’t rush a deadline, or deploy a software application too early
We’ve all been tempted to rush a deadline on a project. Let’s face it- sometimes projects get delayed for reasons outside of our control. Sometimes, we’d like to go ahead and deploy a software application or website early, and “fix the bugs later”. This causes two main issues- first that your clients and users will see these bugs (and then might go to your competition in disgust, or at the very least have a negative experience with that application), and secondly that “later” may not ever come. As you have other projects down the road, you may forget to fix the bugs or issues that were present in the first place! Simply put, it’s best for your image and brand name that you wait until applications or features are 100% ready before deployment. Your clients will thank you!
Don’t spend 90% of a software application’s
It’s surprising how many times I see beautiful user interfaces that don’t actually accomplish anything. Your users and clients won’t care if your graphics came from 1990, as long as the interface is intuitive, and serves a purpose. Concentrate on function over form, for the initial application. After you have developed core features (that are genuinely useful to your clients and users), then you can work on the user interface.
Never underestimate the potential for SEO
Most of us are aware of the amount of business and traffic that search engines can bring your website. What not necessarily everyone is aware of, is how much business you can gain from a well-organized SEO campaign. I would estimate that with my Linux consultant business, that I gain approximately 2-3 clients per month from SEO. This may not seem like much to some people, but bear in mind that most (if not all) of my clients are “repeat customers”. This is from my limited SEO work, which I would estimate at 1 hour/month invested. Not too bad, if you ask me. The best part about SEO is that it isn’t industry specific (with regard to results), and practically every industry can greatly benefit from a well-targeted SEO campaign.
I hope that these technology tips may have helped someone prevent a costly mistake, and that this blog post have been a valuable resource for any web entrepreneurs looking for some additional tips and guidance.