Building Your Website in Four Easy Steps

Weekend before last, I spoke at the Pacific Northwest Travel Writers Conference. I did a talk on increasing writing revenue by observing basic business and marketing practices. I got a lot of questions about building an online brochure website to give potential clients someplace to go.

Here’s the basics of how.

Step One: Find Your Home

There are a lot of options for this, but I’ll simplify the decision by telling you what I use.

  • You need a host for your site. Go to and get it. Use your full name (middle included) unless you have a compelling alternate URL in mind.
  • You need software. Go to and get it. It’s not the 100% best out there, but they have the most support and the community is fantastic.

In both cases, the sites make it easy to understand what you should do and how. Once wordpress is set up, you’ll spend a few minutes on the header and customization. Do something simple for now with the title, and create three pages: About, Testimonials and Work Samples

Step Two: Your About Page

This should be the “landing page” and it should consist of a professional, high-quality photo of you and three paragraphs that detail:

  1. Who you are.
  2. What you do.
  3. Why you’re a rock star. 

Don’t be cute here. This isn’t the place to joke about your drinking habits, or share adorable pictures of your adorable puppies engaging in their adorable habits. Keep it simple. Keep it professional.

Step Three: The Testimonials

Here’s where you establish the first word-of-mouth campaign for your writing career. You want between three and six blurbs from clients or readers detailing how awesome you are. If you don’t have any, pull some from recommendation letters, comments on academic papers and similar notes. Or go out and ask for them.

Place each blurb next to a good-quality photo of the person who said it. Studies found this increases how much a reader trusts the blurb. It’s not logical, but that doesn’t make it less true.

Step Four: Work Samples

On this page, you’ll put four to eight samples of your best work. Do not paste the actual work into the page. Instead provide links to online work samples, and to downloadable .pdf files of print work.

If you don’t have that many writing samples yet, write some.

What’s Next?

These four steps aren’t all there is to your site, but they’ll give you a solid web presence with an afternoon’s work. From there, you can tweak, add a blog, fiddle with SEO and see to all the other details to your heart’s content.

Just get this version online.

Loving Your Inner Geek

Professional writers make a living by being geeks.

Professional writers make a living by being geeks.

Folks who’ve known me for a long time know I’m a geek. I dig science fiction, pay attention to comic books, appreciate the inherent math in good heavy metal. I run a D&D game twice a month.

I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, hard-core, unapologetic geek.

But I’ll tell you a secret.

Everybody’s a geek. In their own way.


Have you ever gotten a jock talking sports statistics? What a geek! How about the hot chick at the bar who hasn’t read anything since middle school? Listen to her tell you about what’s going on with her favorite celebrities. Total geek! Even Mad Men lead Don Draper is a geek when he’s talking about what he does best.

We’re all geeks, and that’s a good thing. Last week, I got three job offers just because I’m a geek.

  • While talking about SEO and web writing with a professional I met at a conference, the two of us geeked out about how awesome publishing is in the 21st century. I dropped a couple of knowledge bombs and now I’m writing a lot of his web copy.
  • My buddy mark runs a small company that manufactures awesome motorcycle masks. He’s looking to grow his business so I started talking about web marketing while we were riding stationary bikes at the gym. After a couple minutes, he interrupted me with “Jason. Do you want a job?”
  • I was at my insurance agent’s office, minding my own business and setting up some changes to my retirement savings. He started talking about a sideline he’s doing with some new agricultural technologies and I, once again, started to geek out about web marketing. So now his partners want me to do their website.

Here’s your takeaway from this as a writer. I didn’t go into any of those conversations looking for work. I was just talking about stuff I find fascinating. My energy and passion, and the knowledge that came from them, made the sale without me ever having to put on my sales hat.

What can you sell just because you’re passionate about it? Are you writing on that topic right now?

If not….why not?


Announcements and Conferences

If you live in the Pacific Northwest and like what you’ve seen here, come see me speak live at one of three conferences (so far) where I’ll be giving workshops this year.

March 17-18, Seaside, Oregon: Travel & Words Travel Writers’ Conference. 

I was the keynote speaker last year, delivering a talk about systematizing your writing business. This year I’ll deliver a workshop intensive where participants will develop a specific plan to double their writing income by conference time next year.

The event also includes two top-notch panels and a chance to network with people from magazines like Northwest Travel and Alaska Air.

May 17 – 19, Wenatchee, Washington: Write on the River Conference

I’ll be speaking on Saturday, a talk called The Writer Entrepreneur. It’s just what it sounds like — an entry-level talk on professional mindset and habits for writers who want to go full time.

Wenatchee is out of the way, but beautiful, and they have a great lineup of other speakers I can’t wait to touch base with. If you’re looking for a smaller conference where you can really get to know other participants, this is a great choice.

August 2-4, Portland, Oregon: Willamette Writers Conference

This is the Big One. The top conference in the Northwest, and one of the top ten in the country. I’m speaking on Friday, a talk on building a platform as a writer to increase your name recognition and build your brand. It’s a one-year plan, similar to the workshop I’m delivering in Seaside.

If you’ve never been to this event, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s the kind of conference other writing conferences want to be when they grow up. This year, they’re adding a huge series of talks on the Internet for writers delivered by a guru of mine, John Ellis. He’ll be hosting a panel on Sunday that I’ll be a part of.


Come one, come all. If you’ve not done a writers’ conference yet, you have no idea what you’re missing. If you do them all the time, what are you waiting for?