ABC 123 Building BlocksAs many people know, besides running my own eCommerce websites, I do consulting on the side. I’ve got a pretty well-paid consulting side gig with a car rental company and I also provide almost all of the various consulting services at Store Coach – I even do all of the Store Coach Expert Website Reviews. Building profitable websites isn’t the only way to make money at home, after all!

It’s fun helping someone who knows nothing at all about eCommerce, walking them step by step through the process and showing them the finer details that simply cannot be laid out in perfect detail in a training course. It is especially satisfying seeing the excitement that comes with the first sale and then watching as more and more money starts rolling in for those former eCommerce novices.

What isn’t so much fun is when I get students who do not even know the fundamentals of using a computer and very basic programs. So much time is completely wasted during the paid-for one hour or 45 minute calls on things that everybody should know how to do already. At the end of calls with those people, I feel like I have done little to help them with their goal of building a successful online business. I suppose they get something out of it but hardly their money’s worth. I know it’s boring for me and a more than a little frustrating and even though I technically helped someone, I feel like I had much better things to do with that time.

Instead of making solid progress toward a site that will generate income, they have learned how to download a picture and save it where they can find it again, they’ve learned how to create folders on their computer or in Email programs, they’ve learned how to use Excel or OpenOffice Calc. In other words, not the things they have paid for at all but things that they should have known before EVER deciding that they were going to build a website.

It doesn’t matter what your goals are on the web. Whether you are just putting up a blog for fun, creating an information site for a company or selling products via the affiliate or eCommerce model, you are going to get absolutely nowhere if you cannot complete very basic tasks because no website training program is ever going to teach you those things.

I decided that I’d do everybody a favor – both students and those who train people, alike – and put together a list of basic skills that students should possess before wasting a single dollar or minute of time on anything related to websites.

Building a Website Prerequisites

Website under constructionNo matter your experience level, being successful online is no different than in anything in life. Every single day presents new challenges and opportunities to learn something that will make you that much better than you were the day before.

Some of the skills you will absolutely HAVE TO know how to do. Others are things that will save you money that you would otherwise have to pay other people to do for you. There are even advanced skills that, once you learn them, will offer you opportunities to make money, charging other people for your abilities and expertise. You’ll also need some basic equipment and software.


  • Computer – Okay, this may seem like a “no duh” but any old computer won’t cut it. You don’t need anything super high-end but it should have some basic things like speakers (or you will need headphones you can plug into it) as well as a built-in camera and microphone (or an external camera and mic that you can plug into the computer). Your computer should probably have at least 2 GB of RAM and at least a 1.5 GHz  processor (preferably dual core or quad core) in order to run some programs that you will undoubtedly need down the road and so that it does not lock up when performing multiple tasks at the same time.
  • Internet Connection – Again, this may seem like another “no duh” but any old internet connection won’t cut it. You really need to have a dependable high speed connection so that you can watch training videos without having to wait for them to constantly buffer and to take advantage of things like Skype in order to communicate with people all around the world (unless you don’t mind running up your phone bill).
  • Word Processing and Spreadsheet Programs – Undoubtedly, the best known word processing and spreadsheet software is Microsoft Office but you really don’t need to fork out a bundle for it (surely Bill Gates has enough money by now).  You can download OpenOffice for free and it has programs that do everything you will find in the most expensive Microsoft Office package.
  • Image Editing Software – If you have a Windows computer, it comes with a program called “Paint” and it should suffice for all of your basic image editing needs. I’m not an Apple convert, so I know very little about what their computers come with, but I believe they have their own version Of “Paint” called “Paintbrush”.


Sorry folks, but if you don’t have the following basic skills, your computer is little more than a social tool and, perhaps, a device you use to order things online. Learning the most rudimentary skills and programs will open up a whole new world of possibilities and organization in your life.

  • Basic Windows Skills – How to open/close files, how to save things to where you can find them, how to create folders, how to copy, paste and cut, how to open Emails and save them to where you can find them.
  • Basic Windows Programs – How to use Excel (or Open Office Calc) and Word as well as how to save files in different formats.
  • Basic Internet Skills – How to open things in different windows or tabs, the difference between an address bar and a search bar, how to copy and save things you find online, how to save favorites and create bookmarks, how to create folders to organize your favorites and bookmarks.
  • Basic Image Editing Skills – At a bare minimum, you should know how to crop and re-size images and should know how to save them in different formats (JPEG, PNG, GIF, etc.). You should also know how to add words to images.

All operating systems have tutorials that teach you how to use your computer and if that fails, do a search online for free basic Windows (or Mac) courses.  Pretty much every program like Microsoft Office (paid) or OpenOffice (free) has a Help tab to assist you and, again, you will find more online tutorials for using those programs than you can count. Even browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari) have help sections with tutorials.


You can certainly pick any website template and use it as is without making a single change to it. If you have the skills listed, above, you can definitely make money online without learning how to do a single extra thing.

None of the skills I am going to list here are absolutely essential when you are first entering the world of building websites (except for being able to write). They are simply things that will allow you to make better websites and/or be more efficient.

  • Writing Skills – Sorry to tell you, but there is no more important skill to have when you are building a website than the ability to write. If you can’t write grammatically correct and engaging sentences and paragraphs, you are definitely going to lose credibility with anyone reading your pages. You need to be able to share your knowledge, help people make decisions and convince them to buy your products or services. Even if you are creating a blog for fun, you still need to be able to write. Otherwise, who is going to want to read anything you have to say? If you can’t write, you are going to spend a small fortune having other people write everything for your website for you.
  • HTML Knowledge – All web pages are created in HTML and if you don’t have basic knowledge of the language, you won’t be able to make somewhat major changes to the structure of your pages because most programs and shopping carts simply do not have buttons that let you easily make major design changes to their templates. Knowing how to edit things in HTML is also going to pay off down the road because, frankly, many programs and shopping carts do not have the world’s greatest WYSIWYG editors. Knowing how to manipulate images, fonts, tables, etc. in HTML is a skill you will be forever grateful having learned. It is relatively easy to pick up and you can find an excellent free HTML course that is fairly short, quite thorough and easy to understand at Even if you don’t go through the entire course, which you can do in less than a day, it’s a great resource for quick answers.
  • CSS Knowledge – If you need to make MAJOR changes to your website, you absolutely will have to know CSS (a programming language) or pay a programmer to make those changes for you. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are what controls the look of everything on your website and keeps the look and feel of your website consistent from page to page. Everything from colors, font styles, backgrounds, page layouts and more is controlled by CSS. For sure, CSS is not as easy to understand as HTML but also has an excellent free CSS course that will not only give you excellent working knowledge, but you can refer to it anytime you have CSS questions. The information you find at paired with website preview tools like Firebug will allow you to make changes that you would otherwise pay big bucks to have done by programmers.
  • Advanced Image Editing Skills – In addition to being able to re-size and crop images, having the ability to erase parts of images, modify the colors, merge images, apply special effects like shadows or glow and create backgrounds that transition from one color to the other is a huge plus. Those skills will enable you to create banners, logos – all sorts of things. To do these things, you will need a better program than Windows Paint or the Mac’s Paintbrush. Gimp and Chasys Draw are both excellent full featured image editors that you can download for free. The learning curve is pretty high for those programs, though. Personally, I paid for Macromedia/Adobe Fireworks because it not only does everything I need an image editing program to do, but it is a little bit easier to understand than Gimp or Chasys Draw.

If you become extremely good at any (or all) of the above skills, you should have no problem making money from your expertise. There are tons of websites looking for skilled writers and plenty of people making good money helping website novices re-design their sites, using nothing but HTML and CSS. is all about hooking up skilled people with other people who need their help!

Knowledge is Power

brain-powerThere is not a day that goes by where I don’t learn at least one new skill that helps me build better websites. Quite often, I’m picking up three or four new tricks in a day. It’s not that I start each day and say to myself, “what new thing can I learn today?” It really is a result of plain old curiosity, wondering if there isn’t a better, faster, cooler way of doing things and finding the answers online.

Almost all of the answers to questions you may have are out there on the internet if you have the patience to find them and the desire to learn them. You may have to read articles within articles to fully comprehend things and you may have to read three or four different websites’ answers to your question until you can wrap your head around the answer.

This article was not meant to discourage or scare people away who are thinking about creating a website. It really was meant to be more of a reality check. I didn’t even own a computer until the late 90s and knew how to do very little at the beginning. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a little bit of curiosity and determination!

The people who are truly successful in life are those who find a way to conquer challenges and who continually work at being better at what they do. Don’t treat having to learn new things as a chore, a pain in the butt, a major hassle. I look at everything I don’t know as an opportunity to make myself better. I only wish that I had the same thirst for knowledge and drive to succeed when I was young and in school that I have today. Who knows how far I would have gone, how much more money I would have made, how much more full my life would have been? Every day you postpone learning knew skills is one less day of a better life.

WebsiteCash.Net Quote of the Day: “I learned my ABCs, 1-2-3 from ‘Sesame Street’.” – Tyra Banks

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Scott McKirahan

Scott McKirahan is a full time owner of several successful e commerce websites and has been involved in SEO since the late 1990's. He has been published on a variety of websites with articles ranging from politics to sports to Website Tips to SEO and is a member of several web related forums where he often goes by the names "Scooter," "Scotty Mack" or some variant of those names.

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