Advice to a friend for setting up a digital business

Advice to a friend on getting a service business up and running digitally, including selecting a domain, setting up email, making a blog, and taking appointment bookings.

Advice to a friend for setting up a digital business
Photo by Maranda Vandergriff / Unsplash

When you read writing advice, you often come across the idea that you should write with a specific person in mind.

This helps you find an accurate tone.

Another tip that I remember comes from Derek Sivers. In the context of running a company, he said, if you get asked something more than once, you should document it. Then, every time you get asked the question again, you can send the person to your answer.

This saves you time.

(So - Jimmy - here's my advice!!)

Finding a domain name

First up, you want to find an available domain name.

If you're stuck for ideas I like Lean Domain Search. If you have some keywords that you want to get in your domain, you can whack them into this tool and it will give you ideas for available domain names.

Buying a domain name

Once you have the idea, head to a Domain Registrar.

I like Namecheap - you can get .com domains for about $6 for the first year.

I also am a fan of Gandi, another company. There's not much difference in who you buy it from.

When you do this at checkout, make sure you apply WHOIS protection (this should be free). This means that your details, like your phone number or home address, aren't going to be published on the internet as the owner of this domain. This will stop you from getting spammed until the earth stops spinning. Turn WHOIS protection on!

I would also set up 2-factor authentication on your account with the domain registrar. You don't want this account to get hacked or get locked out of it!

Setting up an email address

If you currently use Gmail for your email, you can easily link your new domain name to send email to and from this mailbox but have it appear as if it's using your new domain name.

Check out this guide here on how to do that.

I would do that and keep it simple for now, rather than paying for an email hosting service and making another inbox to check.

Finding a platform to blog with

I really like Ghost.

It's fast, easy to use, has a great clean design out of the box, and helps you get started collecting emails.

Sign up for the pro trial. You can probably get away with the basic account.

Ghost: Independent technology for modern publishing
Beautiful, modern publishing with newsletters and premium subscriptions built-in. Used by Sky, 404Media, Lever News, Tangle, The Browser, and thousands more.

You will get a really nice professional design, the ability to make simple pages, collect emails from prospective customers, and connect up the calendar booking system (which we will talk about later).

There are some limitations to Ghost. If you want to really design totally custom pages with lots of whizzy features - it's probably not the right platform unless you want to break out the MS DOS and get coding...

Taking appointment bookings

I would go with for appointments.

You can link it to your calendar, make certain slots available for bookings, and send automatic invites if you approve a slot.

It's free for one user, and can even take payments for sessions if that's something you want to do.

Plugging it all together

So I would:

  1. Buy the domain name
  2. Link your new domain name to your current email account
  3. Sign up for Ghost
  4. Setup your blog and link it to your new domain
  5. Write your pages explaining your offerings and upload a few posts
  6. Sign up for and make a booking page
  7. Add a link called 'book an appointment' in the navigation of the your Ghost website
  8. Start putting links to 'book an appointment' in your blog articles
  9. See how it goes!

Some ideas to think about as you scale

Once you have the basic infrastructure in place, there are a couple of other things you could start to consider. But to get things rolling, you don't need to really consider this stuff:

  • Using platforms like Stripe and/or Square to take payments digitally / or on card in-person
  • Finding a great accounting platform that makes your life easy
  • Convertkit for more email marketing, so you can send messages or newsletters to existing or potential customers. Ghost has some built-in functionality here, but Convertkit has lots of features that can turbocharge how you use the email list
  • Circle for building a community - think like a supercharged private Facebook group for your customers
  • Carrd if you just want to build some simple landing pages or social media links profiles
  • Fastmail if you want a fast, secure email service