Money talk. Part 1 - The kickoff

So you want to be a full-time maker, indie creator, entrepreneur, self-employed free spirit. Good for you! Needless to say that 2020 and the upcoming years are the best for making your dreams come true. There are a lot of podcasts, e-books, articles, blogs (hey, you are reading one of them) on how to become a full-time maker, how to create a product, how to use no-code tools and be financially independent.

However, are there any places that teach you about the stuff you don't want to think about, aka the money you need to spend initially to start doing your thing.

Domain and hosting

Buying the domain is usually the first step. I think most of you are familiar with places where you can find domains. The most popular websites for domain purchases are GoDaddyNamecheap, etc.

However, a lot of makers are underestimating the need for web hosting. They mainly start to think about it, only when they encounter problems like, website speed, or sometimes getting into spam box has a lot to do with your hosting and IP address that the hosting provides. Why you need good hosting?

1. To get a cheap development environment if you are coding your product from scratch,

2. To get control over your website's performance.

I'm currently using the hosting that is provided by Webflow; however, in the past, I had experience with Bluehost and Dreamhost. They both have incredible great customer support, can help you to transfer your website if you're not a tech person, and I personally never had any problem with their product.

In hosting's start at relatively the same price range - 3$/month for shared infrastructure, and starting from 120$/month for dedicated infrastructure.

Mail servers

Now when you have everything set up and running, you may also want to have a dedicated email for your project. The desire is valid, and you can also get an email hosting on the web hosting servers starting from 2$/month.

I have also tried Google's Gsuite and Zoho mail servers; however, both had problems for me.

1. Gsuite is 5$/month, and the infrastructure is basically providing nothing, the same google drive, google docs infrastructure that you have with your regular Gmail. If I'm wrong, please tell me, I don't see value in what they provide.

2. Zoho is 3$/month, with a slightly more exciting offering. However, I ALWAYS get in the spam box with them. So, no, don't recommend it.

Landing page (the no-code way)

Ah, here it is. The part that I love about starting a product. The landing page. There are two ways to do a great landing page a) use already developed CMS's that handle a lot of things. I personally, as a developer, can't say that I hate anything more than creating a blog from scratch, so CMS's is a way to go for me. Especially if you don't have a designer and don't want to waste time into researching, just for the start getting a template on CMS is the best way to go.

I've tried WixSquarespace, and Webflow.

The thing about CMS platforms is that not every single one of them is providing good SEO tools. The thing about SEO is that your website needs to be working fast and use up to date technologies. Not all CMS platforms have that. So what are you getting with them?

1. Wix - with this platform, I'm always using the Premium plan, which is 12$/month (billed annually). I'm selecting this one because I prefer to have a lot of storage on-site, as I'm uploading high-resolution pictures. Advantages of Wix, the SEO tooling is awesome you can get on the top page of google search in like a month. Disadvantages, Wix has little to none flexibility in terms of design. Once you want to do something out of their functionality, you're stuck with only desire to leave this platform. Also, the website is really slow with Wix, and even custom hosting on Azure is not helping with that.

2. Squarespace - this platform is 12$/month (billed annually). The personal plan is more than enough if you want to operate a blog, newsletter, or if it is a simple landing page. The biggest advantage of Squarespace is the beautifully designed templates and not the least feature is the ability to create email campaigns straight from the CMS, so you can skip on email marketing tool. The disadvantage, also, not enough flexibility on the design side.

3. Webflow - this platform is 19$/month (billed annually). I use the CMS plan, which is what I need for my newsletter/blog to run fully independent. Why I love this platform? As a backend developer, I hate doing front-end (my rant-y tweets are the evidence). Webflow provides a good interface for CSS and HTML, so I'm sort of fully controlling my look and feel without writing any code, which is HEAVEN. The only disadvantage is that it can be a bit too much for a beginner, the learning curve is a bit hard, but it's worth it.

Also, I'm considering to get Podia, it is a bit expensive, but I'm really loving the idea of creating a community space for you guys so we can communicate in one place.

Landing page (the code way)

Hi there, fellow developer, so you wanna write your website on your own. Good for you. I don't have the courage for that. However, I have a tool specifically designed for you to have minimum growing pains. Also, hmm, completely free!

As I mentioned before, and we all know, SEO is a huge thing for the website. For the developers, it means two agonizing words: server-side rendering. This means you not only need to write a front for the website but also create a backend that renders your js-code into HTML/CSS. Sounds painful, right? No worries.

GatsbyJS and Netlify CMS are here for you. Gatsby js is a react based library that is created specifically to reduce the pains of server-side rendering, and Netlify is not only a free hosting but also provides a clean and easy UI for your backend.

Here is the detailed documentation on how to connect both of them.

Incorporation

Yup, here it is. The thing that you didn't want to think about. However, you don't need to think about incorporation when you're just testing your product and not sure how it will end up. The best time to consider incorporating is when:

1. you get a stable income,

2. you need to apply for grant or acceleration program or any other kind of investment,

3. you hire an employee.

Needless to say, that incorporation is different from country to country. Most European countries and my home country (Armenia) is providing a lot of advantages to tech startups, so if you have something like that to utilize, do it.

If you're going for a global approach and your country doesn't have access to global payment gateways like PayPal or Stripe. A solution to that problem is getting an e-residency in Estonia. I got e-residency, as I needed exposure to the European market and a smooth and hustle-free way to organize my business in Europe without obligation to physically be there.

Getting an e-residency is - 120€ (one-time fee)

Managing a business (including accounting and legal stuff) in Estonia can be done with Xolo 79€/month

Also, you can form a C corporation or LLC in the USA with stripe atlas (I've never tried this myself).

The kickoff budget

The moment of truth, how much investment you need to kickstart your online presence and do business:

Annually it boils down to 240$/year (not including incorporation costs).

In the next part, I'll discuss the marketing costs for your online business.