Shine Through by Owning a Piece of Digital Real Estate and Create a Personal Website
In a digital, socially networked world, it is becoming necessary to manage your personal and professional identity online. With so much information available on the Internet at a click of a button, it has gotten easier to look up any content (text, sound, video, picture, etc.) available about a person. You don't have to be a celebrity to render attention, but you need to be mindful that you have an audience. Whether you want the attention or not, everyone from a potential employer to a potential date can look up information about you for any reason.
By the way, have you Googled yourself?
1. OWN YOUR NAME AND BUY YOUR DOMAIN
When people Google search your name, it's important that www.yourname.com is on the first page of search results. People (and search engines) associate these personal domains as official sites by and about you. Owning your domain name is key and you can register for one via an Internet domain registrar like Hover, GoDaddy, or through a website development service (more on this later). If you have a common name like John Smith, try using a middle initial or variation of your name to distinguish yourself from others with the same name online. The cost for registering your domain can range from $13-$15 per year.
Personal experience with domain purchasing: Over the past few years, I have registered domain names with GoDaddy because the initial costs were cheap and they had above average customer service. Steadily the annual costs started to mount, along with emails about add on services, and I decided it was time to find another domain registrar service. I switched over all of the domains I owned to Hover about a year ago. The transfer was easy. Their services are reasonable in cost for volume transfers as well as renewals. The customer support is excellent, both through online chat and on the phone (they respond at the first ring!).
2. CREATE A PERSONAL/PROFESSIONAL WEBSITE
If you own your domain name, you might be asking "what do I do with this?" Well, you've got two options: (1) hold onto it and do nothing OR (2) create a website. The former choice means that no one else but you can create a site with your personal domain name. If someone were to enter your domain name into a browser, they will get a blank page or a "this webpage is not available." Option 1 is not ideal. Why not put your domain to work? I recommend going for Option 2 and create a personal website.
Do I need to know HTML or hire someone to develop my website?
The simple answer is no. No, you don't need to know coding. No, you don't need to hire a web developer. There are tons of website building services. They make it easy for you to pick a site template and just add content to your site with a WYSIWG ("What You See Is What You Get) tool.
The two all-in-one website platform services I recommend are: SquareSpace ($8-$12/mo) and Workfolio ($10-$15/mo). Both services are reasonable in cost and offer both month-to-month OR annual subscription plans. Both offer a free 30-day trial. SquareSpace and Workfolio offer website hosting, free custom domain registration (allowing you to bypass using domain registrar services as presented above), and elegant templates. These services are one-stop shops for website development. They simply consolidate the numerous services needed to launch a website (i.e. hosting service, domain registration, and web platform selection).
My experience with Workfolio
I played around with different services (Google sites and hired web developer produced sites) before I learned about the above services. It was tedious work. A few years ago I heard about Workfolio through an episode of Spark Radio, one of my favorite society and technology radio shows. The company, based in New York City, is small and I took the opportunity to learn about their services by talking to their CEO Charles Pooley. Hear more tips from Charles via his General Assembly talks.
At the time, I had invested a lot of my time toward optimizing my LinkedIn profile and utilizing as many of their features to show parts of my professional portfolio. I was looking for a quick solution to create a professional website. Workfolio was the quickest solution. First, I selected a template. I picked the Aperture theme, which is one of five themes they offer. Next, through their step by step set-up tool, I imported content from my LinkedIn profile through their simple API tool. My professional website was published within an hour with some minor adjustments of colors and content sections. Last, I was able to connect my registered domain names to the site and later on I got my free custom domain through their service. Thereafter, I spent about an hour each month updating and editing the content on my site. Additional features on this service, include: email, blogging, promotional tools (i.e. sharing through social media), and analytics tools. The dashboard for the site was helpful, providing straightforward analytics on how many people were viewing my website and for how long on each page.
A disadvantage with Workfolio is that content features were limited and not customizable. My site was linear when scrolling through the site and the organization of content was tight. There was a benefit to limited choices; it took out the anxiety of having to figure out the creative layout of my content. The step-by-step instructions for the website template, including a progress bar on how far along I was on developing my site, was a helpful time saver. Overall, Workfolio is website platform specifically designed for working professionals to create their own professional websites.
My experience with SquareSpace
I had used SquareSpace's services to build two sites over the last three years. The first site I worked on was for my mother, Jane Ozeki, who is a part-time Aikido instructor. After seeing videos and pictures of her seminar demonstrations online, I figured the best way to centralize information about her was through a personal website. It took about two days to assemble her website, using the Front Row template. I developed a simple content strategy before building the site and to help organize content on her.
My business website, Radiance Studios LLC, was the second site I developed in SquareSpace. The site was a bit more complicated in terms of content strategy, but I had mapped and outlined this information before I dived into creating the site. SquareSpace offers several dozen templates with elegant and dynamic features. The platform is designed for all types of clients, from personal sites to business sites. The WYSIWG tools are fluid to use on a page and it is easier to embed content from other media and social network sites. Another feature I used was their shop feature, where I created a store for the coaching services I provide. It connects to my Stripe account for payment.
Recently, I decided to take the time to develop a new professional website and switch over to SquareSpace. After a couple years of facilitating professional branding workshops, I wanted to provide a new example for clients to see a professional website. This platform has so many features including blogging, photo galleries, embedding media from a variety of services, free domain service, Google analytics, connecting to existing registered domains, social media posting, etc. There are tons of tutorials as well as forums to learn from. Templates can be customized to your own tastes. SquareSpace also has a feature that allows you to preview your content in different screen views (smartphone, tablet, and desktop), which means your website content fluidly displays across these platforms. Finally, I found the customer service to be responsive via their email/chat line.
Don't leave your online reputation to chance. A personal/professional website greatly helps with your digital presence, particularly your SEO as your website should be the first thing listed on a search page.
So what are you waiting for?! Take charge of your digital real estate and create a personal website!