Starting a side hustle (or full time) business can be a great way to bring in extra cash and/or start doing something you enjoy outside of your career, or in retirement. I don’t really imagine my future financial independence and “retirement” as a long span of pure relaxation, but rather a fun and varied life of pursuing business ideas and other ventures.
Even if your side hustle is super part time, a little bit of DIY Internet marketing could become a key piece in finding new customers. Geographically targeted service businesses can easily leverage local business listings, while almost any type of business will benefit from having a website. My career involves helping businesses improve their web visibility, and I can vouch that with a little learning and a bit of a time investment, it’s possible to jump start your Internet marketing efforts without professional help.
Set up a Brochure Website
My favorite suggestion for businesses that want to DIY a brochure website is to use WordPress. WordPress is often used for blogging, but is also a very proficient content management system for setting up a website without a blog. While WordPress.com gives people a good way to get started blogging, a business will benefit from using the free self-hosted software available at WordPress.org instead. Luckily, you don’t have to learn how to install the software yourself, because most web hosts have a “1 click” installation option where they do the installation for you. You will just need to brainstorm and buy a domain name as well as sign up for web hosting with a company that offers a “1 click” WordPress install service. I find it easiest to buy web hosting and a domain name from the same company in one transaction, so once you have a domain name idea, you can start the sign up process and get going (check the bottom of this post for links to my favorite web hosts).
WordPress has a huge community of users and developers, and thousands of useful resources for an aspiring DIY webmaster. The first step after installing WordPress is to start learning how the software works, and getting in to the admin area to try it out. I don’t want to write a book here on the details, but it’s all pretty user friendly, and jumping in and getting started is definitely the best way to learn. A little bit of searching can also turn up lots of great “getting started” resources and tutorials on the web.
The basic idea is to use the “Pages” functionality built into WordPress to write a few pages about your business offerings and including your business name, address, & phone number (NAP) somewhere on the website. A lot of small business brochure websites will have a site structure similar to this:
- About Us
- Contact Us
Changing the look of your WordPress website is as easy as finding and installing a new “theme”, but you can probably get by using the default theme and uploading your business logo and a few photos to make it your own. If you want to venture into finding a different theme, it’s probably worth the few dollars to buy a “premium” theme, and you can easily find a theme that is focused more towards using WordPress for a business website, rather than a blog.
Google Services & Google Voice
Google has a few great services for an aspiring business owner – specifically, Google Voice. If you are just getting started, don’t have an office, and want to avoid the overhead of buying a new business phone line, Google Voice is a great solution to get a unique “business” phone number. Having a separate number for your business will prove to be important, and it’s easy to sign up for a new Google account to use as your “business” account, and then grab a free & local Google Voice number.
Once your account is set up and you’re acquainted with how the service works, you can have incoming business phone calls forwarded to your regular phone. I’ve helped locksmiths, handymen, and other part timers set up Google Voice as a business line with great success.
Because you’ve created a new Google account to use for your business, you can now explore Google’s other helpful services too, including Google Places.
Local Business Listings and Google Places
Any geographically targeted business is likely to get the most return on their efforts by claiming & submitting their business information to business listing services. Specifically, Google has “Google Places” available to business owners, allowing them to submit their NAP and categorize their business so that it shows up in local searches. Even if you’re using your home address and a free Google Voice number for your address and phone number, submitting your listing to Google Places is an essential first step to showing up in search results.
You’ve probably seen local business listings every time you type in a “local” search query – for example, “handyman Denver” returns a screen similar to the one on the right. You’ll see that the search results page shows a mini-map, and has prominent placement for 3 Denver-based handyman businesses on the page. Having a Google Places listing provides you with the opportunity to have similar listings show up for searchers in your area.
Google requires that you choose at least 1 category for your business from their list of pre-defined categories; the thing that most people don’t realize is, you are allowed 4 additional categories beyond the first, and they don’t have to come from the pre-defined list. The best way to start showing up for user searches is to use these 4 additional categories for good keyword phrases relate to your business offerings. You can learn about and start using the Google Keyword Tool to help you identify the keywords your customers are querying on Google, and then use those high volume keywords in your Google Places categories. For example, a handyman might include the following custom categories in his listing:
- Deck Builder
- House Painter
- Yard Clean Up
As you can see, you can identify specific services, or target specific types of high volume searches with unique and well chosen category keywords.
In addition to submitting your business to Google Places, it is also beneficial to submit the same NAP and similar business details (categories, description, logo, etc.) to these services:
Of course there are many more listing opportunities beyond this short list, but submitting to these should get you started, and keep you away from the spammy or up-selling services that try and sign you up for paid monthly listings.
This was just a quick overview that hopefully opened your eyes to the possibilities of marketing a side hustle business on the web… the rabbit hole can go much deeper. If there is anything specific about this subject that you’re curious about, or if you have questions about the content above, let me know, and I will gladly answer you or write additional posts. If I’ve encouraged you enough to venture off and attempt to start your own business website or local listings, I wish you luck, and feel free to ask me any questions you have!
If you’re looking for relatively cheap and somewhat reliable hosting to get started, please consider using my affiliate links below – I get a kick-back when you sign up, but are both decent options when you’re first getting started and need a budget host: