The Fastest and Cheapest Way to Build a Great-Looking Website for your Side Hustle Service [Case Study]

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fastest way to build a websiteA couple weekends ago I finally got around to creating a website for a new side hustle of mine; non-fiction book editing.

Now I should mention that this is something I’ve been quietly doing on the side for the last year or so without a website, landing clients via word of mouth and even a few through Fiverr.

When your service business is just starting out, you absolutely don’t need a website. In fact, it can be one big giant distraction from your primary goal of winning paying clients.

And that’s just one reason why Bryan Harris advocated starting a service business as the fastest path to quit your job.

But I wanted to put up a quick one to “legitimize” the operation to myself and others, and have an easy-to-remember domain to promote word-of-mouth sharing.

In total, I spent $23.52 and 5 or 6 hours setting up this site.

I’d never “launched” anything that quickly before, so I wanted to share the how-dey-do-dat behind the scenes.

(You can certainly launch cheaper, but it may take more time.)

Step 1: Registering the Domain

This almost never happens, but the first domain I checked happened to be available, BusinessBookEditors.com.

godaddy domain available

No, it’s not the most clever or catchy name in the world, but I wanted the domain to clearly explain the service offered — editing for business books — and niche it down even more from the general non-fiction work I’d been doing so far.

I also specifically wanted the “plural” version so the business could grow beyond just me at some point. And with the growth in self-publishing, I absolutely believe that it can.

(I also registered the singular as a hedge.)

I use GoDaddy for my domain registrations. Their checkout is obnoxious — just decline all the extra crap they try and add on — but their support has been good to me and there’s almost always a coupon deal going on.

Cost: $13.52 ($11.34 for 2 years of the plural domain, $2.18 for 1 year of the singular domain.)

Note: You can actually get a domain name for free for 1 year with your hosting account. Details below.

What if the domain you want is already taken?

You can use a tool like BustAName or Domainr or Name Mesh to help brainstorm alternative domains, register a different extension (.net/.org/.us/.co, etc.), or even make an offer to the current domain owner – which is actually how I came to own SideHustleNation.com.

Step 2: Get Hosting

If you don’t already have hosting, that will be your next step. The common recommendation is NOT to host your website with the same company you registered the domain with.

I’ve never really researched WHY that’s the case, maybe just for the sake of diversifying your assets, but I don’t host with GoDaddy.

Instead, for smaller sites like this, I use Bluehost. They are cheap and reliable, and when you’re starting out that’s pretty much all you need.

(You can set-up your account for as little as $2.95 per month through this link.)

Here’s a little walkthrough I filmed on selecting a domain name and getting your hosting setup. It’s for a different site than BusinessBookEditors.com, but you’ll see how my domain name is actually free in this video:

If you already have a hosting account for a blog or another website, you can generally add your new domain to your account for free, which is what I did in this case.

bluehost add-on domain

This process is really simple. In this example, I added BusinessBookEditors.com as an add-on domain in my Bluehost cPanel and updated the domain’s nameservers in GoDaddy to NS1.BLUEHOST.COM and NS2.BLUEHOST.COM.

Cost: $0-5.95 per month.

Note: Pricing for shared hosting is cheaper the longer term you commit to. The $2.95 price above is for a 3-year deal all paid in advance, or $106.20.

The 1-year rate is $5.95 per month or $71.40 for the year. You can even get a free domain if you don’t want to mess around with maintaining separate registration and hosting accounts.

Step 3: Install WordPress

WordPress is the powerful free content management system I use to power all my sites. The easiest way to install WordPress on your new site is to login to your hosting cPanel and use their installation system.

In Bluehost it looks like this:

bluehost install wordpress

Next:

bluehost install wordpress mojomarketplace

Then you’ll select your domain from the dropdown and let the system work its magic. Just leave the directory field blank.

how to install wordpress bluehost

This process is free and takes only a couple minutes.

Cost: $0.

Step 4: Find a Theme

One of the awesome things about WordPress is the extensive library of free and premium themes. That means you can start your website with a beautiful-looking template with absolutely ZERO programming or design skills.

And because all themes are built on top of the WordPress platform, they’re all customizable after the fact. So if you find one you like but isn’t 100% perfect, you can probably tweak it to get it they you want (or find someone to help you do it).

In this case, I wanted a really simple one-page style site so I searched Google for “free one-page theme with pricing table.”

You can search whatever keywords are important to your site, or browse from within your WordPress admin panel.

Go to Appearance > Themes > Add New and browse or search away:

add a new theme to wordpress

(If you find a theme through Google or another marketplace, you’ll use the zip installer shown.)

In the past I’ve used sites like FabThemes.com, which is where I found the theme for the latest version of Side Hustle Nation.

Searching for the perfect theme is something you can spend DAYS on, but I was determined to go “Lean Startup-style” and move quickly. The One Engine theme was one of the first ones I looked at and I thought it was really cool.

Cost: $0.

Step 5: Install the Theme

If you’ve downloaded a theme from a third-party site, you’ll install the theme by uploading the .zip file through your WordPress admin panel.

(Shown in the screenshot above.)

After that you just have to hit “Activate” and you’re in business.

If you found a theme through the WordPress internal search, it’s even easier. You can install and activate directly from inside your website without worrying about where that .zip file ended up on your machine.

Step 6: Make It Your Own

Everything was flying up until this point, but then I hit a snag.

The theme was installed on the site, but the “out-of-the-box” version looked nothing like the demo!

I was like the excited kid on Christmas morning opening his new toy, only to see the dreaded “some assembly required” disclaimer.

After messing around with some of the settings and trying to figure out how the theme worked, and not making much progress, I had an idea.

I thought there must be a smarter way to rebuild this site to look like the demo version, so I turned to Fiverr.

(First time users can a get a free gig through this link.)

From the top navigation menu, I chose Programming & Tech > WordPress.

fiverr gigs for wordpress

I sorted by highest rated, and a few rows down found EXACTLY what I was looking for:

“I will set up WordPress Theme Exactly as Demo”

wordpress set up theme like demo

(The gig description actually states it’s for Genesis themes, so I sent a note to see if they could work their magic on mine, and asking how much it would cost. I got an answer almost immediately and a quote of just $10. Don’t tell them, but I probably would have paid $50 without even questioning it!)

The work was performed super-fast, which led me to believe this might not actually be as complicated as I was making it out to be. Turns out, WordPress has an “import” function you can use, and many theme files will have an .xml file buried somewhere in that zip file or documentation.

(Tools > Import > WordPress)

make wordpress look like demo

Note: I did NOT test this personally, but if you’re just starting out you have almost nothing to lose if it doesn’t work.

That xml file is the key to this little hack. But for $10, it was an absolute steal (and now I have an idea of how to do it for next time).

Instead of starting completely from scratch and attempting to re-build the site, I was able to start with the demo version and customize it to my needs. Maybe that’s a subtle distinction, but I’m convinced it saved me hours or maybe even days worth of work and frustration.

Then you can fill in the blanks and customize to your heart’s content. Is it the world’s greatest website? Of course not. But it’s good enough to serve as a decent-looking online business card.

And when you’re starting out, your website doesn’t need all the bells and whistles.

Cost: $10.

Step 7: Set up the Email

The final step in this process – and this is optional – is setting up your domain email so people can contact you through the site.

The reason I say it’s optional is that you could just put your regular email down as the contact information, or set up a separate gmail account for the business, like [email protected]

But I think that looks kind of tacky. It’s easy enough (and free) to set up an email account on your own domain and I think it looks way more professional.

Here’s how to get it done:

Cost: $0.

What’s Next?

And that’s how for less than $30 you can set up a great-looking site for your service biz if you already have hosting, and for less than $100 if you don’t.

So what’s next?

Finding clients!

This post is meant to be a quick-and-dirty walkthrough on how you can quickly and cheaply set up an awesome-looking site for your side hustle service. Until you have several clients under I belt I strongly believe you are far better off hustling for business than you are working on your website.

Let’s call this fast-and-cheap website building process the beginning of Phase 2 of your business.

You’ve:

  • Defined your offering
  • Validated the business, and
  • Found your first few paying customers.

Now you’re ready to grow, and a professional web presence is an important component of that. Please feel free to steal this process!

Even feel free to re-package and sell it as a side hustle service, like Bryan talked about with his unique “tutorial hacking” technique!

build a website

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42 thoughts on “The Fastest and Cheapest Way to Build a Great-Looking Website for your Side Hustle Service [Case Study]

  1. I like what you have done here! I am trying to go guerrilla on the internet and get my side hustles going. Instead of book editing I went with resume’ writing and blogging.

    I’m in the process of taking everything official by having a .com domain. Your information has been helpful!
    Thanks,
    Sam

  2. Great case study, Nick. I definitely used to be on the other end of the spectrum when starting new ventures..

    Now granted, these were ‘offline’ businesses, but I was sure to create business cards, a website, an 800 number, and usually some marketing materials before pounding the pavement.

    There were more wins than losses, but at this point, though, my actions are a lot closer to those in your case study. It’s nice to have those first few sales for validation, and then invest some of that profit into the usual trimmings.

    P.S. My wife & I both signed up and took our first Uber rides this weekend. Thanks for the promo code!

    • Thanks Patrick! Yep, all about finding those paying customers first, then reinvesting in that professional presence that can help find more or take the offering up-market a bit.

  3. I like the fact you say you do not need a website. Far too many people, take far too long, building infrastructure they do not need, in an off-handed way to delay the work of doing the work…

    Get out there and do it!! That is the best way to build alternate income streams.

  4. Awesome post, thanks Nick! I’m really interested to learn more about your new book editing side hustle. Is this something you plan to document on your site? I have a graduate degree and have always been told I’m an excellent writer/editor, so I think that is something I could do too. I used to post on elance but never got any inquiries. I’d love to hear more!

  5. Hey Nick, I am a recent fan [stalking you on Twitter too ;)]

    I am planning to launch a service offering niche websites that can be monetized through Adsense / Amazon etc. I have quite an experience in building such websites so I thought now is the time to start a side hustle.

    I was wondering what is your strategy to bring in clients, that I can replicate.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. Hey Nick,

    And it’s just that simple, fast and cheap huh? I remember when I first started blogging in my mind I thought I was going to have to be hundreds of dollars to get it going. Having your own ‘domain name’ was a big deal in the 90s and early 2000’s.

    But now everyone can get one, and it doesn’t take long to set it up. As a matter of fact it didn’t take no more than 30min.

    But you’re right about Godaddy. I wish they didn’t upsale so much. I actually ended up paying for some of the services they mention. Luckily one of the tech support people took off some of those services which cut my payment almost in half!

    Great share Nick! Have a great weekend!

    • I’m with you! I spent $10,000 on the development of one of my first sites. Granted it was a lot more complex than this example but amazing how much user friendly and affordable everything has become.

  7. Hey Nick, thanks for re-emphasizing clients over websites. It kinda blows my mind to think about launching a business without a website but you’re right, the client is the ultimate goal! Great re-frame….

  8. This is what I have been looking for!!! It would be nice if there was a mini video for each step. I would also love an article on how to make money with an active website.

    Thanks, Nick!

  9. Hey Nick,

    Your guide saved me 10+ hours when setting up my website, so thank you! It would have been such a pain without this post.

    >> One question: how do I create a custom / static front page?

    Thanks in advance!

  10. Nick, what’s the advantages/disadvantages of using your method versus going with GoDaddy or Wix? I’m trying to start a basic site and would like to know differences – thanks.

    • Both of those are going to be relatively easy to build and are definitely better than nothing. The downsides come in customization and functionality down the road. I used GoDaddy’s WebsiteTonight builder for a while but ultimately couldn’t do everything I wanted to. I believe Wix has some disadvantages when it comes to SEO because it hides a lot of your internal pages behind javascript.

      But that said, if you just need a “brochure-style” site and don’t have plans to update or grow beyond that, I approve of getting something out there with whatever method works!

  11. Hi Nick – Really helpful post, thank you! I’d like to use these steps to establish a blog that may or may not be turned into something I can monetize. I have some content and a bunch of ideas, but I’m getting hung up on what to call it, the domain name, not having a logo, etc. I don’t want to launch a crappy site, but at least if I put something out there I’ve taken a step towards getting started. How easy is it to modify (or completely overhaul) an existing site on WordPress? What if I want to change the name of the site and domain name? Any advice you have related to these issues would be much appreciated!

  12. Your instructions on setting this up are great. I followed and everything worked as planned now I just need to modify the theme. All tutorials I’ve watched say to go to pages/all-pages but when I do this all I see is [template id=”19″]. Any idea what is going on? Thanks again.

  13. Hi thanks for your article. I’m a Web Consultant (Developer and Digital Marketer) and I try to do what I can to help save my clients (local small business owners) as much money as possible while giving them the opportunity to still compete with corporations with huge marketing budgets. My clients certainly appreciate articles that help them save some money. Well done!

  14. I have just bought bluehost US hosting for three years and installed WordPress by following your guide, I only have to add my posts and settings before it goes live. I should thank you for helping us newbies with such detailed articles, also can you please let me know with what monetising program should I go with.

  15. Just bought bluehost US hosting for 36 months and installed WordPress by following your guide, I only have to add my posts and settings before it goes live too.

  16. Hey Nick – for some reason when I try leave the directory blank as indicated in the instructions, I wind up with an error: “Install directory exists and is not empty. Please confirm that it is safe to overwrite any content in this directory. ” Any thoughts?

    • I actually got the same error this weekend, and the option to proceed anyway was greyed out. What I ended up doing was going back to the cPanel menu and choosing the “one-click install” option instead.

      It still gave me the warning that the directory wasn’t empty, but it let me go ahead with the install.

      Here’s a quick video about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlMM9t9_384

  17. The Steps are very clear and simple, Nick. I did follow all the steps as you have mentioned and now I need to add some customization which I’m trying to make it happen but some glitches do persist. Could you point me to anyone who provides customization? Thanks in advance.

  18. Your instructions on setting this up are great. I followed and everything worked as planned now I just need to modify the theme.My doubt is about security. There is no need for security plug-ins? or something beyond askimet?

    Thanks,

  19. Nick,
    I am computer illiterate.
    I just went to WordPress.org to download their FREE program.
    I got Hundreds of columns of THINGS I did not understand.
    If I follow your instructions about “Install WordPress”, what am I going to get.
    I am trying to get a one or two page web presence for my resume business. Please advise. Thank you.

  20. Word Press not user friendly at all and to start the themes leave a lot to be desired…won’t even allow to upload a photo to create my own theme…is there another program easier than word press?

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