At the beginning of May, I officially launched my freelance ghostwriting and editing business under my new business name, PurpleInkPen. Woohoo! I feel like a big kid. Up until that point, I had just been applying to jobs as I found them on job boards and on the freelance contracting site, Upwork. I had a nice portfolio built up, but I had nowhere to show it off because I didn’t have a website. Okay, so I had a portfolio section on my Upwork profile, but it wasn’t winning any prizes for visual appeal and I hated updating it because I found the system’s mechanics tedious.
So, making a website was my first step in launching PurpleInkPen, and I am so happy with the final result. Let me tell you, though, it was a huge undertaking. I met with obstacles that I hadn’t anticipated. That’s why I wanted to write this post and lay out the basics of the process so that you can be better prepared than I was when you launch your site. Pretty much everything here will apply to the making of any website. If you aren’t totally ready to get serious about freelancing yet, but you have lots of personal writing out there that you want to advertise, creating an author site is a logical step to creating a successful author platform.
Choose a Web Host
Now, if you are just making a personal webpage, you probably just want to use one of the free website creators like Wix, Weebly, or WordPress (the .com version). I have personally used Wix for a portfolio requirement in one of my college courses.
However, while free sites like that are easy to use and have some good design options, the mechanics of the design themes will restrict you when it comes to making a business site. You may have a great idea for how people order your services or for an exact color or arrangement to make the front page pop that you just can’t do because the free options don’t have the ability.
There are a number of web hosting services out there to choose from for a business site that give you plenty of freedom with design, but not all of them are created equal. Once your business takes off, you may have problems with site crashing because the hosting system doesn’t have the capacity to handle your traffic. If you have sensitive material like your PayPal account attached to your site, some hosting services may not offer you adequate protection from hacking.
After some research, my husband and I chose SiteGround. We’ve been spoiled by fiber optic internet, so my husband is a sucker for super fast loading speeds, and SiteGround has the fastest at 1.7 seconds verses the average 4.7 of competing sites. It can also handle a huge capacity of traffic, which you won’t need right at the beginning, true, but why go through the trouble of switching everything over later when you’re a rockstar business person with tons of people flocking to your site? They also have some of the best security and they offer immediate service on their helpline so you don’t have to wait around listening to crappy music when you need an answer like right now.
Through SiteGround, I get access to WordPress.org, which is the version with all of the great customizable widgets so you can make your site look exactly like you’re envisioning, so long as you are willing to put in the time.
Prepare for the Time Commitment
Making a completely customized website isn’t going to happen in a day. It’s a huge time commitment, so be prepared and plan your time accordingly. Still, remember that your main goal is just to get the thing live and ready to draw in customers. Don’t use perfecting every aspect of the website as an excuse to postpone taking the full leap into starting up the business. Make sure it’s attractive and that it functions properly and then publish the thing. You can add all those extra widgets later if you want.
Learn Some Basic Coding
This will make things so much easier because you won’t be confined by any aspect of your chosen theme or widget because you will be able to completely customize everything. Thank God I have a computer-savvy husband always willing to learn new things. He’s a perfectionist, so he learned a whole lot more than he necessarily needed to. Thus, I had the luxury of being able to toss the laptop at him when I got frustrated, and he always made my idea happen (I’m a lucky lady *eyebrow wiggle*). I then learned the basics by watching him work. For instance, I know how to go into the html code and adjust the appearance of text and pictures (color, italics, size, extra line spacing, etc.) However, if you don’t have the luxury of passing off the bigger coding jobs to someone else, you can use the free, hands-on training program, Codecademy.
Anticipate Your Audience’s Needs
Your business website (even an author website) is not really about you. It is about what you can do for your audience.
First you must decide:
- Who will visit your site?
- What will they expect?
- How can you exceed those expectations?
- What would make their time on your site fast, efficient, and enjoyable?
For instance, my prime target audience is authors, whether they need a copy editor for a completed book or a ghostwriter for a book they have in mind. My front page (which you can take a look at here) is visually appealing with a purple feather quill pen as part of my logo and a cool stock image of an arch of books in the body text. Both images draw the audience’s eyes somewhere. The tip of the pen points toward my menu bar, more specifically towards my prices tab. The books direct people’s attention to the list of services and perks that I provide my clients. I don’t talk about myself at all on my home page except to say what I can do for my clients. I have an About Me page for blabbing about myself.
Some of the basic things all audiences expect to see from a business site are an about page, a contact page, a prices page, and a portfolio. I had all of these figured out before I got started, but I tried to be real clever with my prices. I have cute little logos on my homepage that link to the price pages for each service I provide. However, after I started cold pitching and getting responses from authors, I noticed that a lot of people were asking me about my prices even though I linked to my site in my pitches. So, I asked one of the clients who had contributed to my testimonials page (a feature I strongly recommend you have, if possible) if he had thought to click on those cute little icons when I’d sent him the link a few days before. He said he hadn’t and that he hadn’t seen any of my price pages, though he had praised me for the site’s visual appeal.
I still have those icons on my homepage because I think they contribute to the site’s appearance, and they still link to my rates, but I have also included a prices tab on my menu bar. I would recommend having someone you trust (preferably someone who would fit into your target audience) take a look at your site and make sure they can easily find every page and successfully click every link once you think your site is complete. Somebody who will give you honest critiques about the content is a huge plus as well.
Your website should showcase your personality, and it won’t unless you have fun with its creation. When you start getting stressed (notice I didn’t say “if”) because that damn picture gets blurry every time you try to resize it or your header image wants to pull down in front of your body text every time you scroll, go do something else. Your website is a key marketing tool that, if done correctly, can sell your services to clients without you even raising a finger. It’s worth the initial time and effort.
I should have made a website a long time ago so that I could showcase my portfolio. Don’t let uncertainty or a lack of design knowledge stop you from starting yours. Take your time and craft both visual elements and body text that draw in your audience, but don’t use the creation of your website as a shield against your anxieties about actually starting your business. Do it, get it out there, and start reaping the benefits of your hard work.