But really, why don’t you have a website yet?” I’ve uttered this phrase to an absurd number of people. Actresses, photographers, designers, teachers, tarot card readers, poets, therapists, dog walkers, family lawyers, freelancers… the list is long and plentiful. It’s not that I’m nosy and bossy (though trust me, I’m both), but as a freelance business strategist/branding consultant, doing my job includes digging into the emotional trenches to figure out what’s holding people back from accomplishing what they want. And I totally feel that hesitation/procrastination combo. There are a lot of reasons for having a personal block around needing (read: deserving) a nice home on the Internet (or IRL, for that matter). You’re busy. You have imposter syndrome. You don’t want to mess it up. But here’s the deal: a personal website isn’t just another project that can get pushed down your to-do list indefinitely; it’s a way to control your own narrative online. And that’s vital.
The truth is that most of us need a website. Sure, maybe (maybe) if you’re one of those people with an aversion to the Internet who’s basically got nothing about them online and no reason they’d be Googled (who are you? A social media–wary beekeeper? A hacker?) then you’re fine without one. Or maybe you work for a big corporation, and you’re fine with (or contractually required) to let their online bio of you do all the speaking. But for the rest of us living in 2016, being sought out online is an undeniable fact of life. And when that happens, don’t you want the first result to be something you created? Or do you want it to be whatever possibly unflattering tidbits Google coughs up?
But for some reason, there are four excuses that keep popping up when I talk to clients about their conspicuous lack of a personal URL. So today, in partnership with Squarespace, I am here to debunk them once and for all.
1. BUT I’m not looking for a job
Literally, no. Before you argue with me, Google yourself. Chances are, the first page is full of a smattering of content pulled from all over the web: your Facebook page full of kitten gifs, your (un-updated) LinkedIn profile, a quote you gave for a local newspaper, possibly even your embarrassing Myspace or Blogspot you never quite remember to delete. In sum, it’s the detritus of living in the digital age. And for the most part, it’s out of your control.
But when you make a site with your name in the URL (which, psst, is free with an annual Squarespace subscription)? All that changes. Now you, not your history, can determine the first impression Google makes about you. You can choose what to highlight and what to bury in the searches. True story: I once made someone multiple social accounts and project sites just to move down a particular search result that was deeply unflattering.
Here are some reasons you might want a website that have nothing to do with looking for a job:
- You’d like to be regarded as an expert in your field
- You’re interested in vying for a promotion
- You want your colleagues to know your worth
- You’d like an easily accessible archive of your projects
- You’ve been looking for a simple way to share your work with friends and family
- You need to push the horribly incorrect Daily Mail article about you to the second page of results
Bottom line: just because you’re not trying to get hired doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be proactive about your story.
2. But I’m Not An Artist/Creative
Okay, this confusion I can understand. For a lot of people the word “portfolio” has a strong visual implication. But a portfolio isn’t just a collection of photography or cakes you’ve baked in the past—it’s a collection of accomplishments. In fact, a personal/portfolio site is essentially a curated story of you. It can have links to press or academic papers you’ve written. It can absolutely have stories about the kids you’ve taught and testimonials from their parents. It should always have at least these three things:
- a bio
- a way to contact you
- an image of you that isn’t from a smartphone
It can even be as simple as a landing page with those three elements and links to your LinkedIn profile, social profiles, blog, company, whatever. What you include (or don’t) is your call. Pro tip: Look up your peers, competitors, and bosses to see what they share, if you need a frame of reference.
3. But I don’t want to brag/I’m uncomfortable talking about myself
Right, so, once I’ve convinced people they need a site, and they have enough content to fill one, the deeper issues come bounding forth. Women (aka most of my clients) are often taught not to boast, to be humble, and to be inclusive when taking credit.
Making a website is a huge exercise in letting go of that conditioning. If you’re ready to take it on, you need to sit and think of all the shit you’ve gotten done that you don’t think of as “your” win (especially that invisible labor—you know what I’m talking about). Did a meeting you set up lead to an amazing donation? Own it. Did you suggest the new app that’s streamlined your office communication? Own it. Are you regularly called on to be the “diverse” voice in office conversations (as a woman or POC)? PREACH.
And honestly, not everyone is ready for that kind of internal dialogue. Which is cool. But when you’re presenting your story to the Internet, it can’t be, “Hi, I’m mostly just a footnote, don’t mind me.” It needs to be “This is why I slay.” Figure out what you need to get that message out there, even if it makes you want to crawl back in bed and stay there. You deserve this.
Pro tip: If you’re still struggling, this is why friends and professionals exist. It’s totally not against the rules to buy your bestie dinner and ask if they’ll write a third-person bio about you as a favor. Because who’s going to make you sound more awesome than someone who already loves you?
4. But I don’t have enough time/I don’t have the skills
Sorry to break it to you, but the time when that excuse was viable has been gone so long I barely remember what it looks like. (For the record, it looks like everything that ever needed to be custom-coded in HTML). But now? If you can use email and a smartphone, then you can make a website. And I mean that literally: Squarespace recently released a new app where you can make a one-page website using your phone.
Will it be the fanciest site on the Internet? Probably not. But you know what? A minimal approach is best if you’re not a hundred percent on design skills. And with drag-and-drop templates from Squarespace and free webinars and workshops, it’s pretty much Luddite-proof. And if you really, truly don’t have the time to build it yourself, hiring someone to customize a Squarespace template, and then spend an hour or two showing you how to update it yourself, costs a hell of a lot less than you’d think. (Hint: Here’s where friends and family can come in handy again.)
It’s never been easier, cheaper, or more important to exist assertively in the digital realm. And frankly? It’s fun. You’d be surprised how badass you feel when you can stare your life’s work in the… screen and say: I did that.
This post was sponsored by Squarespace. This year we are partnering with Squarespace to bring you a series of career conversations about what it means to be a woman with hustle in 2016. If you’re in the market for a new job or looking to explore your options, one of the best things you can do for yourself is create a home online where you can show off your work in the form of a portfolio site, an online resume, or another hub where you can display just how awesome you are. Squarespace provides the creative tools that make it easy to build your online home beautifully, even if you’ve never made a website before and have no idea where to start. In conjunction with our career series this year, Squarespace is offering APWers a 10% discount off your first purchase when you use the code APW16 at checkout. Click here to get your website started today with a free 14-day trial from Squarespace