If you’re just getting started or your craft is a part-time hobby, if you hope to increase sales or turn your creativity into a full-time endeavor, you need some sort of online presence.

Don’t be intimidated by the wonders of the world wide web! In the beginning, you just need something functional that looks nice and lets potential customers know who you are, what you make, and how to reach you. You can hire a professional to create an expensive custom site when you’re raking in the big bucks.

Help people find you

There are several (free!) services you can use to quickly and easily build an attractive site that leads people to you. Did you know that 80% of people search online when they’re in the market to make a purchase? If you want them to find you, you should be online, too!

Lets look at some options:

Set up a free blog

One option is to create a weblog, blog for short. A blog (like this one) can easily be updated to include news and events, and a plethora of attractive templates and designs are available (for free!) all over the internet.

Blogger/Blogspot: It takes less than 5 minutes to set up a blogger site, and the new-ish design tool can be used to create simple, pretty sites like this in minutes.

WordPress.com: Setting up a WordPress* site is as easy as signing up and  choosing a design from one of the options presented. The dashboard is a bit more sophisticated than Blogger’s, but you also have more control.

*Note that there’s a difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org–both are free, but WordPress.com is hosted on their servers, while WordPress.org actually refers to free content management software that requires you to purchase your own hosting.

Tumblr: Tumblr allows you to easily post text, images, videos, links, quotes and audio to a short-form blog. There’s a convenient bookmarklet you can add to your browser that makes it extra simple to quickly add content to your site.

Bonus: all of the above blogging tools include an RSS feed, which means people can subscribe to any updates you make in a feed reader, or via an RSS-to-email service like Feedburner.

Free website

Options have improved since the days of Angelfire and Geocities! If you decide to use a free website builder, your best bet is to stick with a simple template with a clean design.

Yola: You can use Yola to set up a simple, easy-to-use site. Choose from one of the many templates and customize it to suit your needs.

Wix: Wix helps you create flash websites with drag and drop editing. If you’re adept at creating and editing images and graphics, you can create a fairly sophisticated-looking site.

Google Sites: Building a page with Google Sites is similar to editing a document. If you use this service, it helps to know some HTML.

If you build your own blog or website, make sure you include real information about yourself and your business or hobby. A well-designed, informative site projects an image of professionalism and quality.

Social Media

Facebook: If you really don’t have an hour to set up a free blog or website, a Facebook page is the third best option. In my opinion, Facebook is a better substitute for email marketing as it’s a free way to reach as many subscribers/fans/”likers” as you can accumulate. It’s also a great way to further personal interaction with people who support you and your business.

Twitter: Twitter is another great tool for networking and making connections online. Use Twitter as a news feed to learn about events and activities, as a way to connect with potential customers, and as a way to broadcast information.

LinkedIn: If you provide professional services, LinkedIn is a great resource for people seeking and providing information and advice.  Use it to learn what other independent business owners are doing and show off your knowledge and expertise.