How to Build a Personal Website (And Your Writing Career)

What’s the first thing you do when you meet someone new and interesting? If you’re like us, you go home and Google them to learn more. The freelance writing world is no different; your online reputation helps readers learn more about you and assists prospective clients in deciding whether to hire you. 

Thus, if you want to build a career as a writer, it’s paramount to have a personal website. Here, we’ll explain why you need a website to launch and sustain your writing career. We’ll also outline the steps to take to build one (it’s not as complicated as you might think–we promise). 

Why You Need a Personal Website

First and foremost, a personal website helps people find you. If a prospective writing client searches your name and doesn’t find much, they’re going to be apathetic at best and suspicious of your skills at worst. 

A personal website allows you to control the brand and image of you that exists online. It enables you to position yourself as an expert at what you do–after all, you control the messaging. It helps editors and other potential decision makers choose to hire you by showcasing your strongest work. 

Finally, a personal website helps interested readers take the next step in contacting you, whether it’s to share a juicy story tip or inquire about hiring you. Don’t make someone hunt you down, because they often won’t work that hard. Instead, use your personal website to make yourself easy to get in touch with online.

What Your Personal Website Should Do For You

As a writer, the main goal of your personal website is to spotlight your best work. Use it to showcase your versatility and highlight the pieces you’re most proud of. Again, you control the messaging, so it’s your opportunity to direct visitors’ attention to your strongest samples that might not necessarily be displayed at the top of the list in search results.

Next, your website should clearly state what you do or outline the types of opportunities you’re seeking. You might choose to do this via your About Me page (more on this in a minute) or, if you take contract work, on a page that lists your services. Don’t neglect the power of SEO here. Local search weighs heavily in Google results, so listing your services helps people who might be searching for terms like ‘copywriter near me’ or ‘hire a technical writer.’

Your personal website is the place to let your personality shine. Use a high-quality photo of yourself and be sure to include a page where readers can learn more about you. Unlike platforms like LinkedIn, which are strictly professional, your About Me page might share personal details like your volunteer work or hobbies–things that set you apart not only as a writer, but as an individual.  

Build Your Website From Scratch

Building your own website from scratch has never been easier; there are dozens of platforms that walk you through the process of buying the necessary services and setting up your site. No matter which platform you go with, you’ll need to go through a few common steps to get your website up and running.  

Domain

Formatted like this, www.yourname.com, your domain is your website’s address. Just like your physical address tells visitors where your house is in your neighborhood, your domain tells online visitors where your site is in the vast assortment of neighborhoods on the world wide web. 

Many writers simply choose to use their name as their domain, which is great for branding and search engine placement. However, each domain can only be used once, so if someone already has your name, you’ll need to consider an alternative option. 

Domain names are available for as little as a few dollars a year. You can find out if the one you want is available by using the search function on a domain name registrar like GoDaddy.com

Hosting

If your domain name is akin to your address, then your hosting is the land you build your house on. In cyberspace, a hosting service houses all of the data, files and documents associated with your website on remotely located servers. It provides the infrastructure that allows visitors to bring up your site on their computer from anywhere in the world. 

The most basic level of hosting is called shared hosting, where your site shares a server with many others to keep things economical. Several providers offer this type of hosting for under $50 a year. For most personal websites, this level of hosting is more than sufficient to manage the traffic. 

If you expect a large volume of visitors, like if you plan on driving advertising traffic to your website to sell a book, you might consider the next step up in hosting for your site.  

Design

Once you’ve got a website address and a place to put your files, it’s time to tackle your site’s design. The design refers to what your site looks like on the front end, a.k.a. how it appears when someone visits it. 

If you’re totally new to designing a website, a platform with drag-and-drop capabilities like Squarespace or Wix is a good option. If you have some familiarity with content management systems and feel comfortable doing a bit of technical setup, WordPress is an excellent choice. 

Most writers design their website using a template. This means you’re not coding the design from scratch; instead, you select an outline with the basic look and feel you like and fill in the content like text, images and menu items with your own material. The website design platforms we mentioned above all offer a selection of fee and paid templates to choose from.

Or Build a Personal Website On a Platform

If all of this seems overwhelming, don’t rule out building a personal website just yet. If you don’t want to deal with securing a domain name, buying hosting and setting up a site design, you have another option that thousands of writers use to jumpstart their writing careers. 

Online Portfolios

An online portfolio takes care of all the setup associated with building a website on a single platform. Clippings.me is one such example. 

Tailored specifically to writers, Clippings.me is readily equipped to house your writing samples and showcase your bio. After registering for a free account and inputting some basic information, you’ll be able to upload writing samples from your computer or link to them via URL. 

Because Clippings.me is built by writer, for writers, it has all the features and sections you need in a personal writing website and nothing you don’t. It eliminates confusion and leaves you with a streamlined, professional looking portfolio you can use to apply for writing jobs. The entire setup process can be completed in an hour or two. 

A basic Clippings.me account is free and includes everything you need to get up and running. If you’d like to use a custom domain like the ones we discussed above, you can upgrade to a premium account to access this and many other features for a small monthly fee. 

By setting up a personal website, you’ll stake your claim on your online brand and establish a viable online portfolio you can use to launch your writing career. 

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