A few years ago I started teaching English online. While I have been teaching with some commercial companies, I also have been teaching a few lessons privately, as well. Until now, my private students have all come to my own house for classes. A friend of my wife asked if I would teach her kids, who are in another country. This is no problem for me, but it gave me the idea that perhaps I should start a website and see what happens.
My wife thinks I’m a computer geek, but I have never built a website before. Having started a few different hobbies (some more successful than others), I decided that first I would do my homework and research everything I could think of before committing myself to something that I could struggle with.
First up: what do I already have?
- I have all the hardware I need to teach lessons: computer, webcam, lights, comfy chair, etc.
- I have some skill in writing blog posts (my woodworking blog has been up for several years).
What do I need?
- A web domain.
- A web host on which to put the domain.
- A blog.
- A way for clients to book classes online, preferably one that supports online payments.
- Now that I want to take payments, I need the website to be secure (https://).
None of this is a problem, as long as one has enough money to pay someone to design it.
I wanted to see if I could do all of this myself for free using free software and a free web host.
Learning to Build a Web Page
I initially thought a site done on a platform like WordPress would be perfect. However, after talking to one of my woodworking buddies (who happens to be a true computer geek), I found out this might not be such a good idea because of some security issues. He did tell me if I build a WordPress site within another web host, that those issues go away.
The first thing I did was head over to YouTube to see what other people who are smart did. One great video I found about setting up a new WordPress website was from Martie Dread. The video is long, but it goes through step-by-step how to build a website from scratch.
Great! I know how to build a site.
Finding a Web Host
For a web host I first tried byethost. Having done some reasearch on free web hosting, I thought my site would work well here. It didn’t take long to find out that this host was really good, except that it didn’t come with free SSL certificates which are needed for an https:// site. If you are building a site, and are happy with http://, this is a pretty good option. It turns out that getting SSL certificates independently can cost a lot: starting at around $100 per year.
After a lot more looking around, I found GreenGeeks. This web host isn’t free, but I feel like it was pretty cheap. I paid a little over $100 for three years of web hosting. I’m confident this host is fast and stable, and it comes with a lot of features that makes building a website easier. Best of all, it comes with free SSL certificates making this an even better deal. As a bonus, it also came with a free year of my domain name (fluencytogo.com).
Now I can build my site. It started looking really great having set it up according to the directions in the above video. I could stop here, as I have a site where I can post contact information, about me, and a blog. For me, however, I think it is important to be able to actually book classes and pay for them on my site.
I spent one whole weekend researching appointment schedulers. There are a lot out there. Many of them are great. A few of them are really good, and free. Bingo!
I narrowed my choice down to two, and decided to go with Appointlet because it did everything I needed it to do with no need to pay for upgrades in my case. I think clients will be happy with how it works on my website. I was able to put a link on every page. It works with my Google calendar. When a client books a class, it adds an appointment to my calendar. Best of all, it sees that I am now busy at that time, and prevents someone else from booking the same time. It looks and works great. You should try it for your site.
Online Payment Solutions
Another cool thing about Appointlet: it supports Stripe. This allows me to take payments online. Stripe is another free app. I only pay a small fee for every transaction. I’ve used PayPal for years, and I was happy to see that Stripe is much cheaper for me than what I would have to do with PayPal. Stripe seems to be rock-solid secure. I can take credit cards, and I soon hope to be able to take bank transfers. I think it should be as easy as possible for a client.
Best of all, since Stripe works with Appointlet, a client can choose a time on my calendar to take a class, book it, and pay right away.
I hope this post wasn’t too boring. I wanted to record what I did so someday I can come back to this post and remember what I was thinking.
If you are considering starting a small business website, perhaps the links I have provided here can help you.
What ideas do you have for my website? What would you like to provided on this website? What topics should I write about on this blog? Leave a comment, as I would love to hear from you.