Why Is It So Hard to Brag About Your Own Work?

Imposter syndrome is real, even for us

Last month, I sat down to read some of the guidelines that Google releases every year for webmasters (that’s the fancy term for people like me who run websites). And I discovered something that alarmed me. Google expects everyone to brag about themselves online. It’s one of the ways they decide if you’re good at your job or not. More than that, they expect everyone to enjoy bragging about themselves. One line reads, “Websites are usually very eager to tell you about themselves.” And they want everyone who writes for a website to have a robust online presence. That means having a portfolio site, where you brag about all your accomplishments.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the thing we’ve told you one million times that you should do. And even though we’ve been partnering with Squarespace for well over four years, it’s the thing all of us personally struggle with. Well, newsflash to Google: womxn are taught not to brag about themselves. And that (unfortunately) includes womxn running websites. AKA us.

We Are Bad at Taking Our Own Advice

After reading Google’s guidelines, I did a poll of the office. Who had a personal website? And the answer was staggeringly basically nobody. Nobody but me, and the one man on our staff. Not Maddie, who’s worked on the internet for eight years. Not Dana, who’s an established food writer. And worse than that, we realized that we didn’t have a place to brag about the work we produce at APW. We are an office full of womxn who work on the internet, largely keeping our personal accomplishments off the internet.

Thanks to the website I’d just built for my vow renewal, and my sudden realization that Squarespace is incredibly easy to use and has such pretty results (OMG HOW DID IT TAKE SO LONG FOR ME TO LEARN THIS FOR MYSELF),  I knew what the answer was. “Squarespace,” I told the office. “Everyone is making themselves a website with Squarespace, like it or not.”

They didn’t like it. Because even though we’ve removed the time suck obstacle (Squarespace websites are remarkably easy to build thanks to their designer templates and user friendly tech), womxn are trained on such a fundamental level to not brag that’s it’s easier to simply do nothing at all. So I knew that I had to be the one to get the party started. And I knew exactly where I needed to start.

A computer screen displays various website gallery images

proof that i take my own medicine

In the past seven years, APW has art-directed, shot, and produced a ton of brand campaigns, DIY projects, and fashion editorial. And whenever I’m faced with showing someone the kind of work we do… I realize that I’m stuck. “Go to the website…” I say. “If you google this brand name… or maybe just look for the tag that says ‘partner posts’. You know, I think I have some photos on my phone.”

It’s a mess. It’s embarrassing. And it’s proof that one website cannot do everything. Remember when I figured out that APW couldn’t be my personal portfolio website? Well, apparently it’s not a portfolio of our work either. So today, in “proof that I take my own medicine,” I want to talk about putting together a website for the work we do at APW.

What Kind of Story Are You Trying to Tell?

At this point, I’ve personally created a few Squarespace websites: my own portfolio website, the website for The Compact, and our anniversary party website. All three of those websites are designed to tell a story. They have a lot of words, and some form of a single scroll front page. If I can use this opportunity to brag (since we all need more experience doing just that), I’m getting pretty good at making them.

A computer screen displays the APW Studio agency website

But the website I needed to create here was different. I needed something similar to a photographer’s portfolio, where I could show lots of our work visually, and create case studies. I also needed a place on the website where I could explain who we are, what we do, and most importantly: how to work with us. (I cannot tell you how often people forget to tell you how you can work with them.)

So I went to Squarespace and started poking through sites. Did we need a site built for professional services (like lawyers), or a website built for photographers? How could I balance sharing images, and sharing information?

The amazing thing about Squarespace is that I didn’t know the answer, but it cost me no extra money to test different options. The first template I tried I loved. For ten minutes. And then I realized it wasn’t going to let me create what I wanted, so I started over with a new site. This time, I picked a kind of site I’d never used before: a true portfolio site, created for artists and photographers (this template to be specific). And it worked beautifully. Here are a few things I learned while putting it together:

A computer screen shows the APW Studio Agency website

Don’t overlook what Squarespace has baked into their platform: Most of us start building our websites with some idea of what we want it to look like (and that’s a good thing), but it’s best to keep an open mind so that you don’t accidentally box yourself into something much more difficult than you need.

For example, after years of not loving APW’s logo, we finally have a brand identity I’m super proud of. So I wanted to incorporate the design elements from APW into our new agency site. Luckily, Squarespace is the kind of platform where you can do things like install custom fonts. But it turns out the team isn’t quite as skilled at custom coding as we thought we might be, so for now, we’re using one of Squarespace’s built in fonts for our logo and text treatments. And you know what? It looks pretty damn good. And in the meantime, we’re taking advantage of Squarespace’s 24/7 customer service support to figure out what we did wrong on that font installation. 🙈

A computer screen shows a Squarespace designed website

Figure out what you’re trying to say first: Squarespace has a lot of beautiful templates to choose from. Which makes it tempting to pick your website design based on looks. But the most important part of your website is what you put inside it. So start gathering up your images and mentally writing your copy now. And then pick a template that best features the kind of work you want to show off. For us, that looks like a site with lots and lots of images, with little snippets of text to explain what you’re looking at. But don’t worry, if you find yourself like me, realizing you made the wrong choice ten minutes it, you can always change your Squarespace template at any time for no extra charge.

Creating this site was a delight. Not just because Squarespace made it easy, but because digging up years of my past work was really fun, and full of surprises.

A computer screen rotates showing various portions of a website.

It turns out that part of not bragging to others is not bragging to yourself. It’s getting impressive things done… and then forgetting them almost immediately. It’s never getting to sit down and look at the depth and breadth of your work, and the way you’ve grown. When I started gathering projects, I realized that I’d art directed about twenty more photo shoots than I realized. And I noticed that the work was really good, and had gotten better and better over time. I got to walk down memory lane, and pull all of my favorite photos. (Because another great part about creating a portfolio website is that you get to feature all the stuff you’re most proud of… not the stuff your clients or bosses like the most.)

The website isn’t quite done yet (though it’s really close). But I’m so proud of it.

And next time someone asks me, “What do you do?” I have a website I can send them to, beyond just APW.

This post was sponsored by Squarespace. We are thrilled to be continuing our partnership with Squarespace talking about what it means to be a woman with #goals in this modern world. Whether you’re stepping up in your career or striking out to do your own thing, one of the best things you can do for yourself is create a place online where you can show off your work in the form of a portfolio site, an online resume, or another hub that displays just how awesome you are. Squarespace provides an all-in-one hub (including everything from custom domain names to beautiful templates, analytics, and now even built-in email marketing) that makes it easy to build your online home beautifully, even if you’ve never made a website before and have no idea where to start. Click here to get your website started today with a free 14-day trial from Squarespace. APW readers get 10% off your first Squarespace purchase when you use the code APW19 at checkout.

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