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Side hustle to full-time – part 2: Picking a domain registrar and website builder

Check out solopreneur Joey’s tips to successfully navigate the world of domain registration and website builders.
By Joey Sabljic

Where are we headed next?  

Where did we last leave off on this journey from side hustle to full-time? Ah, right! I had quit my job, come up with a domain name…and now, it was time to shoot the puck, so to speak, and register my .CA domain.  

This, friends, was the first step towards making it all real. I was terrified.  

Okay, not really. But I’m the kind of guy that dreads bureaucracy. Despises any sort of admin work. Admittedly, I didn’t know that much about registering a domain, so it all sounded kind of tedious and time-consuming.  

Not to give the whole show away, but I’m thrilled to report that things went smoothly, quickly and didn’t cost me a bundle. Here’s how it all happened.  

Take your pick: choosing a domain registrar  

When you search to see if your .CA domain is available using the search bar below – you’ll be greeted with a bunch of companies. These are registrars, and they’re the ones who you buy domains through.  

See if your .CA domain is available today!

The first question that came to mind was, “Okay, but who do I pick? Are all these registrars more or less the same? Is this more a game of trying to find the lowest price?”  

What I soon learned was that registrars come in many different flavours. Each with their own services and other add-ons that you may or may not need.  

In my case, I wanted to register my domain, get web hosting and a professional email address in place (for my future website).  

And if I could get all those things with the same company – great! One less account to create and login to remember. Yes, that’s my level of pettiness, folks. 

One thing you’re going to want to do is put aside a little time to comparison shop and read reviews. Seriously. If you’re willing to do the same thing for a new blender purchase (got to have my smoothies), then pay special attention when choosing the registrar you’re relying on to make your website work.  

I eventually landed on Web Hosting Canada for my domain registration and hosting needs. The vast majority of reviews I found were glowingly positive, with nearly all of them calling out their excellent technical support…which is exactly what a website rookie like me sorely needs.  

Within a few clicks, I registered for three years…and it cost me – wait for it – $38 bucks. Seriously – that’s it.  

Next, I took advantage of a promo they had and scored web hosting and a professional .CA email address for $1.99 (regularly $12.99) a month. Keep in mind: Most domain registrars or web hosting companies will have sales and promotions throughout the year, so be sure to pounce when the time is right!  

Overall, though, the whole domain purchasing process was mercifully quick and straightforward. Check out this step-by-step guide on how to buy a .CA domain if you are curious to learn more about the full process. 


What do I want in a website?  

By getting my domain registered and paying for hosting, I was headed full-ish steam down the website path. True confessions time: I’ve avoided building a website for years. And I don’t know if it was laziness or complacency – or complaziness (new word) on my part.  

The copywriting side-hustle was always a word-of-mouth, referral-based thing, which was okay for the longest time.  

But if I was going to expand on my current client base, and bring completely new customers into the fold, I needed more than just a gmail address – or, heck, a rarely updated LinkedIn account.  

What I did need was – as one of my clients put it – a “proof-of-life” website. Somewhere where I could:  

  • Showcase and provide links to a wide selection of my writing work.  
  • Provide a way for new clients to reach me and book time in my calendar for a consultation.   
  • Prove that I’m a real person and a legitimate Canadian small business.  

Most of all, I needed this website to be as straightforward and painless to create as possible, and not consume hours that I could be spending doing jobs for clients.  

Picking the winning website builder  

I can’t code or web-design worth a darn…so a web building platform it was! If you’re getting into all of this for the first time, there are tons of good options all vying for your attention.  

I started by looking at the platforms I was probably most familiar with, like Squarespace, Wix, GoDaddy and Weebly, along with their pricing and plans. To help with your research, this blog has a great comparison of top website builders 

There are some basic, non-negotiable features you should absolutely go for, like the ability to connect your custom .CA domain, SSL security (which assures visitors their data is being protected when browsing your site), and website analytics.  

As far as user-friendliness is concerned, most, if not all of the website builders are designed to let you create a somewhat professional-looking site within a couple of hours.  

For me, the best balance between functionality, price and user-friendliness was Weebly. I chose their middle-of-the-road “professional” tier for $15 a month (billed annually) and began writing copy for my own website.  

So, what did we learn here?  

  • Take the time to do some comparison shopping: It’s easy to assume all domain registrars are basically the same. The thing is – they’re not. Some will just provide the basics and nothing more, while others provide web hosting, website builders, professional email – and more. Search around, compare and go with the provider that best suits your needs.  

Also – sometimes, you can score a deal by bundling services together with a single company.  

  • Register for multiple years – it’s cheap to do so: If you’re the brutally forgetful/disorganized type like me, do yourself a favour and register your domain for three to five years. It’s one less thing to worry about while you’re running your business. Typically, you will also get a better deal if you register for a longer term. 
  • Think carefully about how you’re going to use your website: Think of this as your guiding principles. If – say – you don’t plan on selling goods or services through your website, you may not need an advanced e-commerce setup.  

Like me, you might only want to create something ultra-simple that’s easy to update and maintain – and that’s totally okay! Whatever you build should work for you and not eat up massive chunks of time. 

So, what’s next? I’ll take you through building and launching my website. Then, I will cover some of the other non-website related things I wish someone had told me before starting my own business!  

Ciao for now.

– Joey 


About the author
Joey Sabljic

Joey Sabljic is a freelance writer from Guelph, Ontario, where he lives with his wife and young son. After a nearly decade-long career in marketing, he’s pursuing his dream of writing full time and sharing all the gory details of starting and navigating a small business.