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Kendall SummerHawk

 

Planning

 

Get Your House in Order Before You Build

by Phil Hanson


Stop! If you plan to skimp on planning, or to cut corners, or to skip a few steps so you can get to the end more quickly, forget it. There are no shortcuts. Just shoot yourself in the foot, right now, and get it over with. Save yourself the expense of building a Web site.

Setting up a Web site to conduct business on-line involves numerous steps. You can't by-pass any of them. Consider each, in its turn, before you proceed to the next one. Your plans are the glue that holds your Web site, and your on-line business, together. The thoroughness of your plans determines the strength of the glue.

A previous article (Vision: Seeing beyond the obvious!) presents a broad overview of important topics that you must now address in greater detail. Because planning is the most crucial phase of building an on-line business and establishing an Internet presence, it deserves your utmost attention. Your Web site will suffer from lack of a comprehensive blueprint.

If you have an existing business, your task is somewhat different than if you're going on-line to create a business. An existing business is a ready-built foundation on which to build your Web site. If you're going on-line to start a business, the Web site becomes the foundation for your business. Either way, you need the foundation.

Do some preliminary thinking about your project. Definite ideas about what products or services to sell make a good starting point. Define your ideal customer. Start gathering Web site resources, and then make rough sketches of page layouts. Capture your ideas on paper, before you forget them.

Make notes on every aspect of your proposed business. Exclude nothing. Failure to deal with even the least significant factors now doesn't mean you escape dealing with them; it only means you deal with them at a less convenient time.

Research! Know which legal hoops you have to jump through—local, state and federal regulations, your business name registration and taxes. You have certain rights and responsibilities. Know what they are. Legal loopholes either spare you or ensnare you. Learn the loopholes, now, to avoid unpleasant surprises later.

Research your market, your suppliers and your competition. Research available domain names—now is the appropriate time to acquire one. Check out domain hosting services; compare prices and levels of service, but don't sign on just yet. No need to incur the expense too soon. A week before you publish your site to the Web is soon enough.

Investigate affiliate programs, on-line billing methods, multiple income streams and the latest promotional schemes. Look for quality sites to link to.

If you need specialized knowledge or professional help in order to complete your project, look for links to numerous writing resources on the Perfect Text Web site, and find links to many other essential resources at Home-Entepreneurs.com. Some of the resources are free, some of them you must pay for, but all of them are useful.

Write your plan! By now, your mind and your notepad contain sufficient information to enable you to commit the details of your plan to paper. Start at the beginning and work through to the end. Be neat, be orderly and, above all, be thorough. A well-written plan speeds progress by keeping you focused and on track.

Gather your resources! When you were in the research phase, you made lists (didn't you?) of the various things you need to build a Web site and operate an on-line business. You should have separate lists for hardware, software, professional services, domain hosts, affiliate programs and billing solutions. Now is the time to cull the lists. Make comparisons, choose the products and services you want to use, discard the rest.

Have everything that will appear on your site ready to go. Any art, photos, charts, graphs, maps or written material you intend to use must be available when needed. Be sure you have a legal right to use the material that appears on your Web pages. If you don't own the copyright, nor have permission from the person who does, you face copyright infringement charges, a federal offense. To avoid delays, get everything together before you begin actual construction of your Web site.

Implement your plan! Once again, start at the beginning of your written plan and work your way through it to the end, taking each step in its logical order. Schedule and coordinate hired services in advance to avoid unnecessary delays. Before long, you'll have a functioning Web site and your business will have a Web presence.

Review your plan! Situations change, often without warning. Economic conditions and legal requirements are particularly susceptible to change and, therefore, they merit constant scrutiny. Allow for some flexibility in your business plan so you can quickly adjust or adapt to emerging conditions. Make changes to your business program when changes are warranted. By staying on top of things, you won't get buried.

Copyright © 2003 — 2005 by Phil Hanson
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