As a working creative, you NEED a website. When people are looking to hire someone, whether they need a plumber or a graphic designer, they will either ask their friends for recommendations, or they will go to the web, or both.
Even if your business is based on word-of-mouth advertising, you still need a portfolio website to display your past work and advertise your services. If you advertise through social media, that’s great! But it is still important to have a customizable website, on which you can display your personal brand, to help establish your online presence. When you apply for a job or a gig, there’s only so much you can put on your resume. But if you include your website address, and the employer takes the time to check it out, you might just win them over with your amazing site!
Here’s a list of things you need for your website:
A sampling of your best work
Quality over quantity. Show only your best work, even if it’s just a few pieces. If you have a demo reel, make sure it’s front and center. You can ask past clients (happy, satisfied customers, hopefully) to write reviews of your work, and then include these on your site.
If you don’t already have one, create a professional-sounding email address. Star-Lord86@whatever.com isn’t exactly professional. You can create a free gmail address, or for a cost, you can set up email through your web hosting platform, and it will look like [yourname]@[yourdomain].com. Make your contact info clear and easy to find. Placing it in a header that appears on every page is a good idea. If you prefer not to disclose an email address, you can create a simple contact form for people to get in touch with you.
A domain name
Coming up with a domain is important, and can be tricky if you have a very common name. If you are have an unusual name, it probably won’t be hard (or expensive) to simply purchase your name as a domain. Of course, no one says your domain HAS to be your name. Coming up with something creative and memorable is a great idea!
If you work in a visual medium, this one’s easy. But what if you’re a writer, or a voice actor, or a music composer? Find creative ways to include visuals on your site. Some ideas could be header images that capture the feel of your work, images of you doing your work, videos that include your audio work, or a photo emblazoned with a quote from your writing.
An “About” section
Your whole site should reflect your style and your personality (ie, your brand), but your “About” section is where you can tell people who you are and why you are passionate about what you do. This can be tough. Like writing a cover letter for a job or a personal statement for college applications. But it doesn’t have to be. Think of it as your elevator pitch + some interesting highlights about your life. It doesn’t have to be all business either. You can include some fun personal details too. After all, your clients/potential employers are people too!
A social media presence
Having professional-looking social media accounts can really help with your networking. With Facebook, you can set up a page for your business (or yourself, if you are a freelancer or sole-proprietor). Linked In may not be the best source for freelance gigs, but it’s still important to have a Linked In profile because many employers will search for you on Linked In when you apply for a job. Instagram and Twitter are also great for sharing your professional work. Don’t forget Pinterest, which can be especially helpful if you do a lot of visual work. People are on social networks, and you gotta go to where the people are.
Make your site well-organized and easy to navigate. Design pages and content so that the user doesn’t have to click too may times to get to something. Get honest feedback from friends on the design and navigation of your site.
A blog is not an absolute necessity, but it can help you with search engine optimization, as it allows you to frequently add tags and key words to your site, which helps you rank higher in search engine results. Blogging regularly also gives you fodder to post on social networking sites to (hopefully) draw readers back to your site. With blogging, try to outweigh promotional posts with educational posts. People will tend to ignore a constant barrage of promotional content, but if you regularly produce helpful, educational content that adds value to people’s lives, they are more likely to pay attention to the promotional things your post every once in a while.
With free and low-cost web hosting options, such as Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace, you can be building your portfolio website in no time. Get honest feedback from friends, and make sure you proofread everything. Keep it up-to-date with newer and better content. Think like the user, and let that guide your design. And have fun!