A webspace of your own: Site Construction 101

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer will share personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? Your input is welcome in the comments.

In this fast moving-social media age of Twitterers and tweets, Facebook and friending, often overlooked or dismissed as old school is, IMHO, one of the freelancer’s greatest on line tools, the personalized domain name and a custom-built website.

“Oh! How very 2004,” I hear a few of you say. And you’d be correct. That’s the year I registered my own domain name and built my website. Friendster, MySpace, and, yes, even the current flavours of the planet Facebook and Twitter may come and go, but a unique domain name linked to permanent website is here to stay. (Or for however long you decide to pay for it.)

If you Googled my name you’d find the number-one listing is my website. Anyone who knows my name can find me online anytime they want. It’s been consistently the top listing for years.

My website? I have complete control over its content. No privacy and security issues like Facebook. I tell the world only what I want. How I want. When I want. In my case, I have a general introduction. A list of relevant credits. Some recommendations from former employers. Links to my other sites and blogs on line. Examples of my work. And of course, how to contact me. It’s basic but professional, and to the point but still fun and a bit eccentric. Just like its author.

I acknowledge that I have probably never directly got an actual paid gig “cold” because of the site. It doesn’t function like a paid advertisement. But almost everybody I’ve ever contacted about possible work has at some point or another checked it out. That’s how they check me out. And call it old school, but I like to fully control how I am presented online for their first (and possibly only lasting) impression.

Domain Names

Let’s start with the basics. You first need to register a domain name. Whether it’s yourname.com or worldsmostamazingwriter.ca, this is one of the keys to your online identity or brand. Most writers seem to prefer to use their own name as a domain name, but unfortunately in many cases your name may already be in use. In which case, see if you can vary it a bit: try using a middle initial or changing the dot-com ending to a dot-net or dot-org or dot-ca.

Many domain registrars will also throw in an email address, so people can contact you at yourname@yourname.com. This is ideal because it will remain constant as your first line of contact via your site. In the years ahead, you may vary your other email addresses, but this will be the most easily remembered.

Of course, you’ll need to have it direct people to a site or blog. (I will talk about the various uses of blogs more fully in a separate post). You could also point it to your Facebook, page but I prefer to use my own website, and I’d like to tell you why.

My Website

I like that I have total control over my website. There are no privacy issues (unlike Facebook) because I am in charge of it. I can make changes whenever I want. If the web host company goes offline or I am unhappy with it, I can always switch.

Consider the website your brochure, your resume. At the very least, it’s your calling cardthe place that prospective employers will go to find out more about you after you’ve made contact with them. It can be as personal and as eclectic as you.

How do you go about getting a website made? If you have lots of money, pay a professional website designer. The look will inevitably be superior to anything you can do (unless you’re a designer yourself).

But you can also do it yourself these days much more easily at low or no cost with excellent results, depending upon your time and talent. Many web-hosting companies provide templates or easy-to-assemble standard types of sites that you just plug your content into. Or you may choose to use a free website like Google provides and point your domain name there.

I prefer to use software called FREEWAY EXPRESS put out by Softpress.co.uk to design and populate my website on my Mac. Here’s why I prefer it to the free templates and free Google sites: my website is actually created and housed initially on my computer. I simply upload it to my web-hosting site. Should I wish to ever change web hosts or should that web host ever go out of business, I can easily upload my site complete to a new one. I feel that this approach not only gives me ultimate control but it also means I feel I have a manageable local archive of my website. Those cloud-based storage systems and websites that require you to go to them to modify your content can take the control out of your hands. What happens to your content if that cloud suddenly disappears or is unreachable? Your content goes: pffft! For some of us, greater control is not a burden; it means greater peace of mind. And so for the time being I still prefer my physical multiple hard drive back-ups over any web based back-up system. Note: Not everyone would agree with me and many would recommend otherwise. Caveat emptor. It’s a topic worthy of a future post on its own: the technical superiority of cloud back-up versus its numerous possible privacy/security and accessibility issues. Neither approach is perfect for everyone, and each has its own merits.

Welcome to the growing number of satisfied domain name/website users who are now stepping forward on line and acknowledging that there is nothing wrong with these so-called old school methods when they are tried and true and used in conjunction with newer platforms. I’m pleased to add my voice to the movement!

Posted on July 25, 2011 at 10:11 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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  1. Written by Property Management Sydney
    on September 29, 2011 at 3:58 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Fantastic information! This is great for businesses just getting started, keep up the good work!

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