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 www.dreamhost.com and get it. Use your full name (middle included) unless you have a compelling alternate URL in mind.
  • You need software. Go to www.wordpress.org 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.

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