So you wanna be a writer…Step 2: Get Yourself on the Interweb
Ask any of my high-tech friends, and they will tell you I’m pretty low-tech. I was one of the last people on the planet to start texting. I’m just not into the latest gadgets or apps. I’m not anti-computer or tech illiterate. After all, I am using this , not this
I’m pretty savvy at learning new programs when I need to. I’m just a bit old school and prefer to keep things simple.
And yet, if my dad were here, he’d be blown away by my tech skills and all the technology I use every day. I guess it’s all about perspective.
Whatever viewpoint you come from, the reality is this: Whether you like it or not, writers today need an online presence. Exactly what this looks like will vary based on your goals, but you at least need a website.
Don’t panic. You don’t need to be a programmer. You don’t even need to know HTML (and if you don’t know what that is yet, that’s ok too!)
What you do need to do is use a simple system like WordPress to establish a home for yourself on, what I like to call, the interweb. (Just ‘cuz it’s fun to say.)
Setting Up Shop
There are many free or cheap options to choose from to create a simple site. I chose WordPress. I’ve been happy with it. You’ll eventually want to have your own domain, be ad-free, and enjoy the ability to customize your site. These all involve cost. (All totaled, I pay about $100 a year for these privileges.) If you’re just starting out and have zero to invest, just go with the free stuff to get started. This site used to be nennpen.wordpress.com, and I eventually forked over the cash for the domain so it could be nennpen.com.
What should you include on your site? Again, my motto is keep it simple. If you don’t have any freelance clients yet, you simply want a place for prospective clients/employers to go. Even a one-page site with your general info is a place to start.
Here’s the essentials:
A site people can find. Choose the name carefully. The simplest solution is to use your name. If you wanna get a bit creative, go for it (I’m pretty proud of the Nenn Pen, Ink name). But, don’t get so crazy that people won’t remember it or associate it with you.
General info. If the goal is to get people to contact you about job opportunities, then…make it easy to contact you. Include an email address on your site (and make it prominent/easy to find on the site) and include a contact form. Don’t worry, the contact form is a built-in feature you can simply select and insert into your site when you set it up.
Include a blurb about what you offer as a writer. A good rule of thumb is to emphasize three traits. Establish what you want to be known for. This is a good tactic for any type of job hunt. Nail down three things you can quickly rattle off as your strengths, that will make a solid impression on employers. Be ready to back up each trait with a sentence or two that explains what each means or what makes it true about you. Think of them as your super powers. For example, when you read: Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…who comes to mind?
You’ll see from my home page that I am creative, concise and consistent. What are you?
Portfolio. This one’s the biggie. Everyone is going to want to see writing samples. You need an online portfolio you can point people to. In fact, this is really the initial reason for your site. Every application/resume/cover letter you submit should include “For samples of my work, please view my portfolio.”
Don’t have any samples yet? That’s a tough one. It’s the vicious need-experience-to-get-experience cycle. If no one has hired you to do any work yet, you may have to create your own samples to feature. Pick a topic and write about it. Interview a friend who has an interesting job or life story and write it up. Find a writing contest and enter it, then include your submission in your portfolio. Do a search for writing prompts and create a sample that way. The goal is to provide proof that you can write – and, that you can write in different voices and styles. I promise it gets easier. As soon as you have a job or two, you should have some additional content you can upload to your page, or live content you can link to.
Better done than perfect. This one is extremely hard for me to remember. If you’re anything like me, you might get frozen in this process. You want to tweak, and edit, and change designs, and continue perfecting…and your site never goes live. Just accept up front that it won’t be perfect. Give yourself some grace. Put it out there, and you can always make changes as you go. Don’t let perfectionism or fear hold you back.
On your mark…
Ready to get started? The interweb isn’t going to write itself! Find a WordPress theme that suits your personality and get set!
Get yourself out there!