As y’all know, the past few months have been full of a ton of transition over here at APW. It’s been a mixed bag. On one hand, having my longest time employee leave (after eight years!) has been intense and stressful. On the other hand, when you go through business changes that big, it gives you a chance to shake things up, and finally get to all of those to-do list items that you’ve been meaning to get to for well, ever. And top of my to-do list for… well… ever… has been to promote the creative work that we do at APW, often for brands, sometimes on our own projects… better. And by better, I mean: promote it at all. (Ugh. I know.)
What Happens When You Stop Making Excuses
Like so many womxn, I have a lot of excuses for not promoting myself. For years, I avoided having a personal website because, “I have APW!” Never mind that APW was anything but a personal website, and beyond a quick bio it didn’t tell you much about me—it was still an excellent excuse. Or so I thought, until I was disabused of that notion and got megkeene.com up to snuff. But I am an excellent excuse maker. So with megkeene.com and APW, surely I didn’t need another site to promote our work with brands. Right? RIGHT?
I kept that excuse kicking right up till the point where I pitched my publisher on letting us create the cover for the second edition of my first book. “We can do this in-house!” I said. “We’ve created tons of creative work that shows we can do this, and you can see it all…. um…. on APW? Somewhere?” I was mortified. (Though thankfully, my editor knows me and loves me, and trusted me with the job anyway. You can see the results on the new studio site right here.) But in that moment, I knew the jig was up, and we had to create a site for the creative ad agency we’ve been running on the side for years. And having a major business shakeup meant that I knew I needed to get it together and get it done… like… now. With my new found super-skills at creating Squarespace websites, I figured it would be pretty easy to put together.
Announcing: APW Studio
And it was. Thanks to Squarespace, the website creation was pretty damn easy. I mean: look at it.
(Almost) Everything We’ve Ever Made
But here is the thing. When you put off creating a site to professionally display your work for years (sound familiar, anyone? I’m looking at you. Raise your hand.), it means that you have years (and I mean YEARS) of work that you need to compile.
In my mind, it seemed like it would be easy. Just throw together all the work we’d created and voila! Except, do you have any idea how much creative direction APW has done in the last decade? (BECAUSE I SURE DID NOT.) So as I discussed a few months ago, I started digging, and digging, and digging for that content. Back in July I told you I was finishing up that project, but it took till now (um, October) to get it live on the internet. Was it supposed to be live in September? Why, yes, yes it was. Was it so much work that I couldn’t make that deadline? Also yes.
But here it is, and I’m so ready to take a walk down memory lane with y’all. On our new website you can view every last styled shoot, product shot, event gallery, travel photo, and image creative directed by APW. And it turns out that there’s nothing quite like a decade of your life’s work in one place to realize just what it is that you’ve been doing for the last decade. So let’s do it. Here is: all of our wedding work for brands, our lifestyle work for brands, our events, our travel content, and work we’ve art directed for ourselves. (I’m loosely saying that’s “all of it”, but the truth is that even after months of work, there are still things missing… which is a good object lesson. Done is better than perfect. Don’t wait to launch your website till everything you’ve ever done has been chronicled, and every word has been wordsmithed just right, because newsflash: that will never happen.) But most of our work is here, and looking at it in one place makes me so damn proud. (If you see an old fave that you remember, throw it in the comments so I can get a kick out of it.)
So, you’re happy, your friends are impressed—what more is there? Oh yes, get people to hire you.
I spend a lot of time looking at women’s websites. I look at them for work, I end up on them when personally browsing the internet, and I look at a lot of my friends sites. And womxn’s portfolio websites tend to share a few common problems: womxn don’t want to brag about themselves and they don’t want to put their faces all over the internet. But more profound than that: even when womxn do the work of building compelling beautiful websites, where they tell the world who they are and what they’ve accomplished… they often stop before they complete the final (arguably most key task) of a website. They don’t tell you how to hire them. Sometimes they leave that information off all together. Sometimes they have a “work with me” section of the site, with basically no information. (Because no, “let’s work together”, does not give anyone any clues about how you might do that.) Sometimes there is a bare minimum of information, but no call to action, or explanation of what to do if you want to know more.
So I wanted to use the APW Studio site to give a clear example of how to tell people to hire you (because you are amazing, and you should tell people to hire you). And also, we are amazing, and I want people to hire us.
On the APW Studio Site, we started with the basics. We outline who we are, and then give options of how you can work with us, an email, and a contact form. As time goes on, we may make that information more robust, but for now, there is a simple outline of how we work with brands, what our work looks like, and how to get in touch.
And it’s funny how often people leave off the “how to get in touch” piece of information completely… leaving you to try to figure out if they want you to slide in their Instagram DM’s, or… is that even professional? (Pro-tip: it’s not. So give them your contact info.)
Start with the basics
Ok, great. So I sold you on the fact that you need a portfolio website. (Like, now. Not in a decade. Don’t be like me.) You took a walk down memory lane with me. You thought about how you should really tell people to hire you. Now what? Well, as we recently told you, you can get this whole thing done and dusted in 24 hours with minimal tears, so let’s get started.
Squarespace has done a ton of work for you. They have so many templates that allow you to just plug in your images and text, you can drag and drop to rearrange, and in no time at all, you will have a visual online representation of your work. A few of my favorite templates for portfolios are Carson, with it’s bold lines, and the clean design of Avenue. If you’re in the market for more of a personal website, I love Sofia’s long scroll format—oh and Margot, too (those large images are great). For our APW Studio site, we chose this template. Squarespace really has built it all in and made the process easy—trust the tools they’ve built in to their platform.
Organize your stuff
You’ll have to commit some time to collect your images, writing the copy, and thinking about what’s most important for you to highlight. You can filter the body of your work down to your favorites, or share it all. This step can feel tedious, but it will also give you a chance to walk down memory lane, think about the work you’ve created that you loved the most, the stuff that you worked way too hard for, and the stuff you want to make more of in the future.
But creating a portfolio site is not just about collecting everything. You also need to figure out what work you’re proudest of, and what you want to highlight. We’ve started to do this on our About page: highlighting some of our favorite work. But honestly, we still should create a highlight reel. (But like I said, done is better than dusted, and that will be coming soon.)
Do the thing
Then. And there is no way around this. You have to build the website. Group your work into like categories: we went with weddings, lifestyle, travel, events, and art directionthen put it in there. Don’t stress too much about perfectionism, just get the information and images and ideas into the platform. You can tweak the minor details once you see how it starts to come to life—and Squarespace will help you automatically with all the little details like alignment, custom sizing your images, and making sure you have cool fonts. If you run into trouble, they’ve got you set with 24/7 customer service folks who are very helpful.
Then, look at your website through the eyes of your ideal customer. We reached out to Maggie Pickavance, who is a UX (user experience) designer—which means that her job is to focus on a customer or user and how they interface with a website or product. She offered some guidance for anyone building a website who wants their visitor to actually buy the thing or service they’re selling:
Think about your website from the user’s perspective, rather than just showcasing what YOU want THEM to know. On a well-designed site, you should never notice yourself looking for things—they should just intuitively be where you expect them to be. Same goes for the words. You shouldn’t really notice yourself reading. The words are there just to help you scan and navigate while you’re trying to complete a task or action. Kind of like a gentle current helping you to swim in the direction you want to go.
Tweak, edit, tweak, edit… go live
And then, yes. You need to publish the thing. It’s not going to be perfect. In fact, it might feel far from perfect. Set yourself a deadline if you need to. (Mine was… September….) and then hit publish. If you’re really brave, leave a link to your portfolio site in our comments… because we’re for sure on the look out for people who want help sprucing up their website, and that could be you.
Let Squarespace help you make it real. I’m so glad we finally did.
This post was sponsored by Squarespace. 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.