Whenever we talk about creating a website for your professional life, one of the first things we hear is, “Okay, but what if I’m a lawyer?” (Or insert another traditional career here.) And I get it. It’s all fine and good for us to talk about creating an online portfolio when we’re pulling from ten years of creativity. We’ve got visuals! And easily represented accomplishments. We can wear crop tops in our head shots! But if you aren’t in a creative field, don’t run your own business, or think of yourself as a “brand,” where do you even start? What’s the point? Well, those are the questions we are going to answer over the next few months.
A few months back, my lawyer husband was reading me the group text his work friends were exchanging during a miserable professional development seminar. One of the lawyers (who I particularly like) mentioned that her dad had bought her a URL when she was fifteen, and she hadn’t figured out what to do with it yet… and the seminar really wasn’t helping. And since I’m always one to step into a void/you should never say things like this where there is even a chance I might find out about it, I immediately decided this was exactly the time to show you what you should put on your website if you’re a lawyer—or fill in the blank here. Luckily for all of us, David’s friend Joanna (who’s also engaged!) was game to leave her virtual professional life in our hands, and we promised to not put too much glitter on it.
So this month, we are partnering up with our longtime sponsor Squarespace to do just that. We’ve used Squarespace for several of our own websites, including The Compact, so we know firsthand how easy and flexible their platform is (plus their templates are the perfect kind of minimal-meets-modern that you want for a grown-up website). Before we can get down to those brass tacks, we obviously had a few questions for Joanna. And beyond that, we have a few questions for all the rest of you lawyers and corporate professionals in the house. (Are rainbow holograms okay on your personal websites? We kid, we kid.)
But first, let’s talk about what might be holding you back from creating a website in the first place. Or specifically, what is holding Joanna back from turning that fifteen-year-old birthday gift into the website of her dreams. Joanna’s litany of concerns and roadblocks may sound a whole lot like what’s going on inside your head. Which is why next up we’ll be bringing her (and you) practical tips for the non-design inclined, including creative ways to make the most of Squarespace’s all-in-one website toolkit (which spans everything from custom URLs to designer templates to analytics, and now even manages email marketing). Plus we’ll be giving you hacks for your semi-corporate headshot. And you know, advice on how to design a website when you can’t see into the future and predict exactly who might be checking out your site and why.
But before we show you how to bring your kinda corporate website to life, here are all of Joanna’s thoughts on her long abandoned domain.
APW: Okay, let’s start with what are you even doing here? (Other than, um, we asked you to be here.) Do you have a goal for creating a website?
Joanna: My goal is to create an online presence that takes the best pieces of all the places that I currently exist online (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, company bio), but then add way more me to it. None of the sites I listed allow very much customization or individualization. It’s a lot of just filling in the blanks that somebody else has decided need to be filled in order to create a complete picture of a person. I would like a website that showcases my professional self (and I do truly love my job!), but with a large dose of the personal. I go horseback riding in Iceland once a year. I’m obsessed with my dog, Davey. I just got engaged. I’ve been a pescatarian since I was born. All that stuff makes me a whole person, and it would be super cool to figure out what it means for a website to reflect that.
APW: What kind of practical uses can you imagine for your website? Who would you want to visit it?
Joanna: If I met someone out in the world I wanted to connect with professionally, I would probably just give them my business card. But again, my business card would just get them to my company bio, which, as I mentioned, is missing a lot of detail. So I think in a situation where I might want to give someone a business card—but isn’t directly related to my firm work—I could instead direct them to my website.
For example, I just applied to be on this committee that advises the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on early child care and education issues. (I did not get on 😞.) And at the end of the meeting I gave the supervisor and his aide my card. But I felt like that was weirdly limiting because they’re going to end up on my company website, where it’s really just a sliver of who I am. I think I could also include a link to my website in my personal email signature, and I could include it in the header of my resume.
APW: What’s holding you up from making a website? What’s your creative block?
Joanna: I mean, what isn’t holding me up? On a very basic level, I have no idea how to design a website, what program to use, how to make all of the decisions that go into it, color scheme, font. I just have no clue where to start. I have this sense that I need to figure out exactly what purpose the website will serve and who specifically I want to visit it—not just now but for forever. Not to be totally overwhelming or anything, but it has seemed like, before I can get going, I need to map out my whole entire career and figure out what role my website will play in getting me there.
Here is a sample of the things my brain is worried about: Do I want to stay at my current firm and try to make partner? If so, better play up how awesome the firm is and what great work we do. Do I want to be a lawyer somewhere else? Better play up how transferable my skills are. Do I want to stop being a lawyer altogether and go back into education? Better focus on that angle. In other words, I have looked at building a website through the same lens as drafting a resume and cover letter—meaning, tailored to the specific job I’m applying for. But since I don’t know what job I’m applying for, I don’t know how to start.
APW: What aspect of creating a website do you feel you need help with most?
Joanna: Every aspect? Definitely the mechanics of it. And I could probably use some help from, like, a vision-setting angle as well. I also don’t know anything about graphic design. And there are probably other things that go into a website that I don’t even know about.
APW: What do you feel like is missing from a company bio that you would want to get across in a personal website?
Joanna: The main thing I think is missing is a sense of humor. And… just my personality in general. I wrote my bio, but then someone at the firm edited it, and it just doesn’t sound like my voice. Also, there are a million things that are important to me that are nowhere on there. My family, my hometown, a link to the website for my beauty shop quartet, etc. There’s even some law school and professional stuff that’s not on there.
Over the next month or so, we’ll be working with Joanna to answer her questions and help her put together a fun, fresh, professional website for a young lawyer who likes glitter, but can’t really have it on her website.
But in the meantime, I’d love to hear from the lawyers, educators, and other more traditionally employed folks in the room. Do you have a professional website? Do you wish you had one? What’s holding you back? What questions would you like to see answered as we work on Joanna’s website?
tell me what you want, what you really really want. (In your website, at least.)
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 2018. 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 URLs 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 APW18 at checkout.