The Starter Kit
In order to get started with your online business, you need to have a few basic ‘tools’ in place. Like any business, online or offline, you need some basic stuff in order to be able to showcase, market and run your business, and this will cost a few bucks (I don’t know of any business that you can start without any start-up costs…). I assure you that I use these tools myself and let it be said that it cost me an arm and a leg when I started out with my online business, not knowing anything, to the point where I can confidently recommend these tools to everyone.
In the new Digital Economy, the following tools are an absolute minimum in order for you to monetize your online business;
- Web Hosting
- Website Builder
- A Theme
- An Email List
- A way to make Landing Pages
These tools are essential; you pretty much can’t get off the ground without them. Skip one and it’d be like trying to drive a car with less than 4 wheels on it. There are a lot of stuff you can buy down the road to make life easier, but these 6 you need immediately. I have tried at least 3 options in each of these 6 categories of tools before settling down on what I will recommend to you, and if I could sell the stuff I discarded along the way, it will probably come close to $50k, I kid you not! You can choose to go through the school of hard knocks yourself or save a ton of money and time by just using the tools that I do; your choice…
So, I call these 6 The Starter Kit.
This page will outline each component of the Starter Kit and, as you’re probably well aware, there are other options out there besides the ones I recommend here. So, you may ask, why should you stick to the tools I recommend on this page? Here is my answer;
- Every tool I recommend here is software or services that I personally use for my business.
- I’ve been in the online space for some time, and tried a lot of different tools (and lost a lot of time and money). What you see here is the result of loads of legwork.
- Since I personally use these tools, I have a pretty good all round understanding and working knowledge of them, and will be able to provide you with first-line support questions you may have on any of them. Simply put, if you use a tool I’m not as familiar with, I may not be able to help you as much.
Oh, and for the record…
Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you, but I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. However, I only recommend products if I can put my name behind them and if I truly believe they will help you. As with any recommendation, only purchase these tools if you feel they will help you.
So, let’s get going…
#1: Web Hosting
A web hosting account is where your website is going to sit. Essentially, you’re renting space on a computer (called a server) which is specifically set up and connected to the internet in order to serve up your website to the world out there.
I personally use SiteGround to host all my websites.
Like any large hosting company, SiteGround offers a huge list of features, too complex to summarize here (refer to our Web Hosting page for more detail).
At the entry-level, there are 3 plans;
This first plan starts at $9.95 per month (payable annually in advance) and supports one website, 10GB of space, and support for 10,000 visitors per month. You’ll also get all of the features you know and love from a company like this, including, but not limited to;
- Free domain
- Free setup and transfer
- Free website builder
- Free daily backup
- Free CloudFlare CDN
However, the best part of this plan is that for your first year, it will only cost $3.95 per month – A total saving of 60%! This translates to only $47.40 for the first 12 months, which is about what other, comparable vendors charge on a monthly basis.
The next tier of hosting starts at $14.95 per month (payable annually in advance) and offers support for multiple websites and more traffic on a monthly basis. With this plan you’ll get priority support and increased caching resources for ultimate speed. With a free SSL certificate for the first year, you’ll be good to go.
Again, your discount for the first year will be 45%, at only $7.95 per month!
The ultimate form of shared web hosting comes in the form of GoGeek, at $29.95 per month (payable annually in advance). This is for hardcore websites and online businesses.
This is a great solution for eCommerce websites as it allows for a large product lines and includes high level security through industry standard SSL cryptography and PCI compliance. All of the features you need and want are present and accounted for here as well.
And, as with the two shared hosting plans above, the GoGeek plan offers a discount of 50% for the first year, at only $14.95 per month. This level of service and product offerings at this price is unheard of in the Hosting universe, and one of the reasons for SiteGround’s astronomical success. Their philosophy of enabling growth from acorns to oak trees is a key differentiator.
And this Shared Hosting offering is just one of the 4 main focus area of this dynamic organization, which I am humbled and honored to recommend.
#2: Website Builder
Don’t even attempt to implement an online business using anything other than WordPress. The good news is… it is completely free so it is an absolute no-brainer.
NOTE: I am NOT talking about the “free” blog you get over at WordPress.com, and I do NOT recommend using WordPress.com. It is convenient and they’ll host your blog for free, but they’ll own you. Almost literally. They can unplug your blog at any time and you won’t be able to do real monetization of your online business on their servers.
The SiteGround Web Host above has an easy one-click installation of WordPress (and you can even install a separate instance of WordPress on any number of sub-domains, enabling you to create many websites for each top level domain you own, which will save you loads of money). So, this step is trivial. Simply get signed up for SiteGround in Step #1 above, register your domain (e.g. yourdomainname.com), then hit the button to install WordPress.
#3: A Theme
Your theme is simply the “look ‘n feel” design of your website (you will install it inside the WordPress website builder). Where WordPress is the framework within which you build your website, the Theme governs the design elements of your website.
And as you will soon find out, there are about a trillion and one different options to choose from; some free but most are paid.
One of the easiest traps you can fall into is to get into the endless circle of indecision (analysis paralysis) on which theme to use. It is also easy to spend so much time trying to “tweak” your theme to look just the way you want that you never really get off the ground.
Know this: The look of your site does not make or break your potential success at monetization. In fact, it is a minor concern. So, my suggestion is to just pick a solid framework and move on. You can always tweak it later. No big deal.
There are three criteria I look for:
- Must be clean code. There are many themes that look good, but under the surface are bloated. This will affect your site’s speed, which in turn will affect your search engine rankings.
- Must have a strong community behind it. When you need to figure out how to do something, you want people you can turn to.
- Must be mobile responsive. With more and more people surfing the internet on their smartphones and tablets, it is an absolute requirement that your site function properly on mobile. And we’re not talking about just “shrinking” your site. The site must adjust and be easy to read on a mobile screen.
This is the Theme that I recommend (again, this site was created exclusively with Divi)…
Elegant Themes – Divi
The reason I like Elegant Themes is because it is an incredible bargain. It is an annual fee (or you can opt for the more expensive, once-off, lifetime access fee), and for that you get access to a library of 87 (and growing) very professional themes. I personally use their Divi Theme (this website was created with Divi) since it has the most advanced, newbie-friendly page builder in the industry; the best I have ever come across. The last thing you want is to get bogged down in technical stuff; you want something simple and straight forward that is also very powerful and versatile.
They have great support and they’ll take good care of you.
Please don’t waste your time with a free theme. Take it from me, they are almost always more trouble than they’re worth when it comes to making any modifications. The small price of a premium theme is worth it – especially when you consider that it used to be standard practice to pay a Web Designer many thousands of dollars for a design. We have it easy in comparison these days.
#4: An Email List
An email list is a basic building block for the automation of your online business; and just like you need a solid web hosting company for your website, you need a solid email list host (also referred to a an Autoresponder) for your email list. This tool will enable you to work ON your business, instead of IN your business. Don’t make the mistakes I did; build your automation into the fabric of your online business right from the start.
In a word, AWeber is the best autoresponder in the world… Not only have they been around the longest, but everyone else is trying to copy them.
AWeber has been around a very long time and they have become an industry standard. They have excellent delivery and pretty much every WordPress plugin out there works with it (it will save you a ton of headache later, believe me).
I know a lot of bloggers turn to Mailchimp because they have a free level of account. Thing is, you will not be able to build the monetization functionality on your website using the free Mailchimp account. They don’t allow you to use autoresponders on their free accounts – and that’s basically the core functinality required to implement the monetization model. So, you’d end up having to pay for Mailchimp anyway… and between the two companies, AWeber is by far better, in my humble opinion.
Aweber is a 3rd Party tool, and although one of the best in the world, you are not ‘master of your own destiny’. They can pull the plug if you run into financial difficulties or stop paying the monthly fee, or, worse, they can even ban you if you do not comply to their strict rules and regulations.
Do not despair, there is an alternative; a WordPress plugin that you own and control 100%, and at a once-off cost (yup, no monthly costs).
Premium Auto-Responder / Drip-Marketing Plugin For WordPress
- Unlimited and forever yours: no monthly fees. If you install this plugin you will be able to manage your mailing lists and send auto responder marketing campaigns from any web host that supports mailing.
- Arigato PRO is a multifunctional drip email marketing suite that runs inside ordinary WordPress installation.
- This plugin handles everything the email marketer needs: sequential and fixed date auto-responders, repeatable mails, weekday mails, instant newsletters, dynamic tags, multiple mailing lists, attachments, and more.
- No high-level technical knowledge is required. And we have several easy to follow videos.
- One year of free upgrades and free support included.
No Monthly Fees!
Pay Once, Install In a Minute, And Use Forever On All Your WordPress Powered Sites. Your license never expires. Support and upgrades are free for one year. After this period you can renew for 40% of the full price or just keep using the latest version you have obtained.
And here’s the Kicker; the free version (with limited functionality) will allow you to create a fully fledged Campaign with any number of email messages, but for only 1 list. This is cool if you are just starting out and only need one list to build your Karatbars business. You can upgrade to the Premium version later.
#5 – Landing Page Software
A landing page is essentially a page designed for people to “land” on. Namely, a page designed to get their email address or to sell something. Landing pages will be the primary stop points along your online business profit funnels and it is essential that they’re done right otherwise your results will not be optimal.
You may ask; “Why can’t I just do this using my WordPress theme?”. WordPress was not originally designed for this purpose – and most blog themes out there are designed to be blogs, not marketing pages. I’ve seen many bloggers try to tack together opt-in pages or sales page using their standard blog theme – and it always looks like and afterthought. And because of all the clutter on the page, it just kills their conversion rates. However, that all being said, Divi (my Theme I use on all my websites) provides vanilla landing page modules that are second to none, right out of the box. All you need is to provide your content and customize to your preference.
Landing Page Monkey
We use Landing Page monkey (LPM) almost exclusively on all our websites. It is user-friendly and has a whole lot in store for you to pack some seriously professional punches when it comes to creating landing pages. However; we also have a number of landing pages that we created right here on this website, without the help of 3rd Party tools, like LPM. Let it be said that LPM takes 80% of the work out of creating ‘vanilla’ landing pages from scratch, so it is a good solution for getting up and running fast, without the hassle. In time you too will learn how to create professional landing pages from scratch.
There are a number of other tools in the Monkey stable, but don’t waste money on them just yet; leave these for later, after you have started your own revenue streams with promoting Karatbars.
#6 – Security
The final component that you absolutely need to get started is to secure yourself from Cybercrime. You need to ensure that not only your online business points of presences are secure, but also all the computers that you use that has access to the internet. It is no use you ensuring your online presences (online businesses) are secure, but your laptop that you access your websites with is unsecured – Security is just as good as the weakest link in the chain. Therefore, there are two initial components to security that is a must for all online entrepreneurs (there are many other security features that you will need to consider later);
- Password Security, and
- Website Security
These two are just the basics, but an essential start, and here I will also assume that you have basic internet security already installed on your computers (i.e. Anti-virus, Anti-malware and Anti-spam software). Later, when you are ready to introduce payment processors (e.g. Paypal, Payza, etc.) on your website, you will need to secure your transactions with cryptography technologies, but that is not in scope for the purposes of this Starter Kit.
There are a number of solutions available that will allow you to manage your passwords, and I have used most of them… However, the one that I hung my hat on for the past two years is LastPass.
I am not going to preach accolades here, other than to say that not only has LastPass combined all the best features of everyone else in this space, but they have taken password management and security to a whole new level. You can check out this review by a recognized Specialist in this area.
There are 3 subscription options;
- Free (no support)
- Premium (Premium support for only $12 per Year!) – This is my subscription
- Enterprise (Licensing fee applicable per User; only for Corporates)
When you click on the image, just select Go Premium from the top menu, or click on Features for the free version. If you are a corporate, you may just fill in your detail and submit for a free 14-day Enterprise trial period.
And it is not as if LastPass has not had it plain sailing all the time, but the test is always how quickly one recovers from a disaster, if at all. Yes, LastPass got hacked, but their internal processes highlighted the compromise within minutes and within 1 day not only recovered, but closed the loophole. This compromise only penetrated the web security shell; it could not get to the user database, but even if the hacker did get to the database, they would not be able to do anything with it because LastPass uses Multiple Encryption algorithms to protect their database. That is why I decided to migrate to LastPass, and I have never looked back.
Again, you may get swamped by the multitude of security plugins available for WordPress, but the one I use, which you will recognize by the logo at the left bottom corner of all my website pages, has a significant array of website security features, including;
- Powerful Firewall
- Super Admin
- Security Vulnerability Awareness
- WordPress Login Guard
- User Identity Verification
- Eliminate Comment SPAM
- Track with the Audit Trail
- Automatic Updates Controls
- WordPress Settings Lockdown
And, the best thing of all is that this plugin is completely free. Just click on the logo above for access to this absolutely amazing tool.
OK, Got Everything?
Let’s Wrap This Up…
I hope you grabbed the tools in each of the 6 categories in this Starter Kit. They’re important. When it comes to monitizing your online business, these are the tools that you need to have in place.
Now, a quick reminder…
I’ve said it before, but, PLEASE don’t get distracted by shiny objects right now. Every business has startup costs. The good thing is that the kind of business we’re building has very minimal startup costs by comparison to anything else. The specific tools listed on this page are what I consider to be an absolute minimum requirement.
But, there are thousands of potential things you could buy; many of which I might recommend to you as well when the time is right. For any other plugin or whiz-bang shiny thing you might come across as you look around the Internet, I want you to remember this…
It isn’t the TOOL that builds your business or makes you any money. It is you, using the tools and actually DOING stuff with it.
You put a hammer into the hands of a little kid and he isn’t going to be able to build a house with it. So, don’t become a tools collector. When you are just getting started, you need certain basic tools; anything else can wait. Wait until you really need it before you haul out your wallet. You may also pop me a message, when you are ready to invest in another tool; chances are good that I will be able to assist.
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