Success in an online industry largely depends on your internet persona. If you have a strong social media presence or a standout website, you’re more likely to attract clients and land jobs in your market.
A well-designed webpage is one that not only showcases who you are as a person, but displays why you’d be a perfect fit for a given position. Not only does a standout website share important information about your education, background, and employment history, but it shows projects and clients you’ve worked with, your skills, and your brand.
Developing a brand is by far one of the biggest components of website building, but even before you define you brand, creating a landing page and portfolio that helps people find you and your work is essential to your growth (and success!) in your industry.
From finding a platform to host your content, to understanding what information is pertinent to share or showcase on your page, here is a list of tips for creating a standout website. Whether you already have a site and are looking to improve, or just getting started, this list will show you both what you need and why it’s essential.
1. Find a hosting platform.
The first step to creating a standout website is to find a hosting platform. A simple Google search will show you the multitudes of places you can use, but before you choose one, you might want to consider self-hosting as an option, too, especially if you’re computer savvy or know how to code.
Self-hosting is essentially creating a page from scratch (or using a self-hosted server to help you get started and build out from there). The obvious benefit is that with self-hosting you have ultimate control of your page. The downside, though, is potentially not having a service or company to help you if there are issues or the cost.
Sometimes self-hosting can be the cheapest option, but you might have to pay someone to build the site from scratch, which can be a bit pricey, depending on what capabilities you want your site to include.
If you’re not familiar with self-hosting at all, you can find developers and coders who can help you do this (Google, LinkedIn, Facebook groups, etc. can help you find people in this area of expertise!) which can take some of the stress off your shoulders. Regardless, self-hosting is a good option to research before you decide.
If you choose to host your site through a platform, keep in mind that many platforms offer customization options to keep your needs at the forefront. Though hosting can be pricey as well, the upside is that you will have a tech team to help if there are server issues, etc. You can also choose between different plans—like business, pro, or basic, for example. These options allow you do upgrade if you’re looking for more features, or just run a basic site if you’re not looking for all the bells and whistles.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to build a page from the ground up, tap into a web-building site, like this one, which can help you to create and develop a website you love (from scratch!).
2. Decide what’s essential to showcase.
After you’ve created a basic site, the most important thing is to determine what, exactly, you’re going to use the website for and how you’re going to serve that specific purpose through your content.
If you’re a food blogger, perhaps you’ll want to create a main page that showcase recent recipes in excerpts, but another page that has the entire posts and photos. Or maybe you’ll want to share some of your best recipes first, and have a separate archive and search area where users can look for specific foods. Maybe you’ll want an additional page for awards or media, too, to show that you’re an expert in your area, for example.
For me, the most important aspect of my website was to show that I am a versatile writer. I wanted to create a main blog area to showcase my relevant writing, but also link to other blogs that I own. It was also important for me to build a space that showed the different styles and types of writing, so that viewers and potential clients could easily see what they could hire me for.
Remember that your website will be a company or client’s first look at who you are. You obviously want to be professional, but create a page that shows your personality, too. It’s also important to only show your best work. As you begin to organize content, don’t feel like you have to include everything. The best and most versatile content should be a priority. If someone asks for other samples, etc. you can always send them directly.
3. Start branding.
Branding is an important part of establishing yourself in your industry. This can be anything from making a logo, to choosing specific colors, to writing in a certain style or font. This is something you can use to identify yourself across your social media, and to make your online presence recognizable.
Don’t get too stressed about this, though, especially if you’re just beginning. When I first started out, I didn’t know how I would brand Word & Sole and really didn’t even have a set color scheme or layout. Your brand can shift, but if you do have ideas for what you want, it’s best to start the branding process right away. This way clients, customers, and website viewers can start to recognize your name and your work, thus building your reputation and online persona.
4. Decide on and create a landing page.
Your landing page is the part of your website that will show when you type in the URL. It’s important to think about what you want users to see first. Do you want a running blogroll of your latest work? Would you prefer a standalone page that directs users to different subpages or categories? Or would you want an ‘about me’ page at the forefront?
There is no right or wrong answer in this. Simply choose what fits for you! For my website I ultimately decided to create a landing page that gave a little info about me, paired with navigation buttons to lead users to different sections. This might be a great idea for you, or you might want to push users directly to your blog.
5. Create a profile section or link blog(s).
I’ve talked a bit about blogs already, but especially if you’re a freelance writer, having this space designated on your website is essential. If you are a writer—in any form—you want to direct users to your blog. This can be the main page, or a subpage, but the navigation must be clear.
Your blog can be different than your portfolio. I’d say that this is important, but not necessary. A portfolio is a collection of your best work, usually described and organized in a user-friendly format. Your blog, on the other hand, is typically a running list of your most recent content with the option to search or navigate. When you differentiate these two, it allows clients to go to exactly what they’re looking for. This is pretty important if you’re looking to land jobs.
Consider separating and creating menu/navigation buttons to help users find these areas on your site.
6. Integrate social media.
To create a standout website, bringing in your social media can be a great tool. Whether you have a strong following, or just beginning, that really doesn’t matter. In fact, when you decide to integrate your social media to your website, you’ll probably end up growing that following.
Your website can simply re-share your content in a fixed place; or you can use your site to really grow your content. For example, you can re-blog an Instagram photo and then talk about it in depth in a blog post. Regardless of how you decide to do this, integrating social media to your page will help legitimize your site and use those platforms to your advantage.
7. Build connections and relevancy.
In the later stages of your website development, you’ll want to work on building connections and keeping yourself (and your page) relevant. You can do this by simply reaching out to other pages, commenting on posts, and making sure your page is updated with your latest information. (More on this in #9!)
Your website can, and should be the place where people can email and get in contact with you directly. Use these connections to grow a network, and make sure you’re not only using your site to build yourself, but to build others, too. This will show consumers and search engines alike that you’re a legitimate person in your career field.
8. Consider an upgrade.
Different hosting platforms allow upgrades to more advanced sites and features. And if you’re a self-hosted platform, you always have the option to push your site to the next level. While this isn’t a requirement, per se, continually growing your page (especially as you grow a following!) is important to offer yourself and your customers the best experience.
Site upgrades can help you to create a stronger SEO presence, to update or personalize your URL, or to sell products directly on your site. They can help to link different media profiles, to remove ads or branding from hosting platforms, or to create a faster user experience. The options are truly endless! To do this, or to learn more, you’ll have to read up on your specific platform and what plans they offer. This is definitely an option to consider if you’re getting more serious about your career or want to monetize your site.
9. Update frequently.
As you create and grow your website, it’s important to frequently update the content. Updates meaning to the blogs or posts, as well as the actual fixed pages. This will show search engines (like Google) that you’re a relevant page, helping you to come up quicker in searches. It will also help you stay engaged with other users, bloggers, or consumers. Updating your site will show them that you’re continually growing and still in business, and thus make them more likely to consider your products or services.
Featured Image Credit: Thought Catalog