Every creative freelance should have a website. This need not cost a fortune or involve paying someone else to build it for you. These days it is relatively simple to build a basic website of your own, using templates other people have designed that you can tweak to suit your own needs.
The first thing you need to think about is your domain name: this is the words and letters that appear after the www. in a URL (the address on the internet showing at the top of your web browser).
Although you clearly want your name, or your business name, or something easily identifiable as you, you also want something short, if possible. It's much easier to give out a short, memorable, domain name than a long one. You will also be able to set up email addresses using your domain name and short email addresses are better than long ones as there is less scope for people inaccurately typing in the e-mail address.
I learned this the hard way so I have gone from chris@ whealassociates.com to chriswheal.com and finally to wheal.co.
What you need for a website
These days there are web hosts that provide all you need. A basic hosting package can cost a little over £2 a month. Registering a .co.uk domain name will cost about £7 a year. So for about £35 a year you can have your own website, which you can add to and edit without paying anybody else.
A web host that provides a control panel interface will often allow you to install a free content management system, such as WordPress or Joomla. The content management system effectively is a website building tool. Within WordPress, for example, there are hundreds of free themes (templates) that you can choose from, many of them with significant flexibility in terms of layout, colour and fonts.
You don't need much on your website. You need an "about" page that perhaps includes your CV. You might want to include some examples of your work and some endorsements or recommendations from clients, for example. Your website need only be three or four pages to cover most of this. Feel free to add more.
Change is the only constant
But what your website must do is change frequently and the easiest way to do that is to blog. You do not need to blog about every tiny thing you do but try to update it with something newsworthy or a relevant comment as often as you can. Set yourself a target of at least twice a week.
You will also need to ensure your website has plenty of links to other relevant websites, particularly websites that include your own work or for whom you have worked as clients. You might also include newsfeeds (RSS) and your own social media status updates (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all have easy to follow instructions to create your own status update widgets to go on your website).
It is also worth spending a small amount of time making sure your website is search engine optimised. Most content management systems have plug-ins (extra functions) freely available that enable you to write extra information to help search engines find you. But more on that later…