The best thing I ever did for myself was building this website.
That may sound like a rather weighty statement, but it’s true!
Being able to promote myself digitally has been my number one most valuable resource, as a freelancer.
Here’s how you can do it too!
Get a domain name.
First, find a site to register your domain at. I use godaddy.com & I’m really happy with it but I’m sure that there are a bunch of other excellent websites out there.
Once you’ve found such a site, see if the name you want is taken already. Give alot of thought to what name you pick, because this will be your main identity on the web. It should be easy to remember, and easy to spell. Also, be conscious of other websites with similar names.
You don’t want to be confused with another site, especially if that site is affiliated with something unsavory.
A friend of mine picked a domain name that was one character off from a popular adult website’s name. He ended up having to change it.
You might also want to consider the possibility of buying several domain names. If you are purchasing a .com, you should look into who owns the .net and .org of the same name. If nobody owns them, then you might want to consider buying them yourself before someone else does. A friend of mine owned a popular .com site for several years, and another group bought the .net without his knowledge. He didn’t like being affiliated with this group at all, and it quickly became a fight over who should own the name. It might be wise to avoid this possibility altogether if you can.
A quick note on the Whois database.
When you register your domain name, you are required to fill out a form with your name and address. This information goes into a database that is open to the public. You can check out who owns any given website at whois.net. If, like me, you are freaked out by the idea of total strangers finding out where you live, I would highly recommend making your info anonymous. Many of the domain registration websites (including the aforementioned godaddy) provide services to do this, however, it does cost extra. If you don’t want to pay extra to be anonymous, think about getting a p.o. box.
Once you’ve purchased a domain name, you need to find a place to host your site. If you’re unfamiliar with how this works, think about it like real estate. Your website takes up space, and you need to find a place for it to live.
There are many, many different companies that provide hosting. Often times hosting can be bought as a package along with your domain name, so check out what your domain provider has to offer.
Make your site look good!
Once you have a domain and a host, you have the daunting task of building your site ahead of you.
This is perhaps the most difficult of all the steps to starting a site. If you have either design or programming skills, as well as a fair amount of time, I’d recommend trying to do at least part of your site yourself. If you’re short on either skill or time, then hire someone to do it. There are tons of really talented webdesigners out there who would love to work with you. If you can’t afford to pay much for it, consider trying to find a design student who needs to expand their portfolio.
Think about branding.
Your website should have a visually recognizable look to it. This look should also be present in any other marketing materials you have, such as business cards, postcards, even your myspace page. I change my branding every time I redesign my website, but there are elements that always remain present. Perhaps it’s a consistent color scheme, or maybe a re-occurring theme. Find something that works for you!
Don’t let your domain name expire!
Accidentally having your domain expire is a terrible thing. Losing ownership of your digital identity is no small thing. You can spend a lot of time promoting yourself, only to have all your work undone in seconds.
Sometimes if this happens, you can go ahead and re-purchase your domain. No harm, no foul….just a matter of setting it up again. Other times, however, somebody else can buy your domain out from under you. If this happens, you have little option other than to buy the domain directly from them….and they can charge whatever they want.
Thankfully, most domain providers give you a heads-up if your domain is about to expire. However, you should always check in before the one year anniversary of your domain purchase, just in case.