What I Learned From Building A Personal Website

So meta, I know. 'Cuz you're on my personal website.

Most of us are uncomfortable with selling ourselves. We think, "Our own website? I'm not that vain." Even though we curate our perfect lives on social media, for some reason, this feels different. This feels fake. But building a personal website actually the best way to show the real you, break through the noise, and get real about who you are and what you have to say.

When I first decided I wanted to change jobs, I asked several people what I should do and where to start. The best advice I received? If you want to be a writer, write. 

To which I said, "Where!?" And though I love Medium, there's no substitute for owning your web domain from start to finish. Here's what I learned in the course of developing my own website on Squarespace (no coding required):

Experiencing Your Site Is A Journey

I said start to finish because just like with any marketing experience, it's a journey. The outcome may be slightly different, but the concept is the same. 

When you design your website, you can't just think about the page you're on. Where are those people coming from? Where are they going (or what do you want them to do next?) Map out each page and what your visitor will learn. For my website, my ultimate goal was to get hired (spoiler: I did!) so the first page introduces me and my top accomplishments as a writer.

From there, a visitor can choose: my portfolio or my blog, right here. That kicks off their journey into what I've done and what I care about until ultimately, they either subscribe to my blog or call me, or both.

Be Yourself. No, Your Real Self.

No jargon, no bullshit, just what you care about. Write copy that you would use to talk to your friend, colleague, or sibling. Let your personality shine! Who are you, really? Potential hiring managers can see all the boring and dry stuff on your LinkedIn profile or on your resume. If you're not sure, Unbounce has a great Chrome extension called the Dejargonator that highlights your copy to see if what you're saying actually means something.

Second, use real photos if you can. My home photo is from a hike I did in Switzerland. It doesn't need to be a formal portrait or anything, just show off you. Make sure it's high resolution and that it looks good at all of the different breakpoints (basically, the points in a browser where it adjusts to the next "device" that would be using it—such as desktop vs. mobile.)

Make Each Page Only Do One Thing

There's a reason why "Keep it simple, stupid," is so pervasive. It works! Learn the magic of tidying up your web pages and it will change your life.

To make your pages work for you, have each page with only one goal in mind and only one or two calls to action on them. (See below for more on that.) Whether you're showing off your best photography or introducing your biography, don't have too many things going on. Streamline your content and message so that each page aligns to one goal.

If you have something to show that doesn't fit anywhere else, first: evaluate whether or not it belongs on your site. If it does, then make a landing page for it! Add a completely new page.

That said, on the theme of keep it simple, don't add so many new pages that your visitor has no idea where to go. Get comfortable with the fact that you can't fit everything into your site, nor should you. Focus on one or two key goals and the pages that support those goals. As your own person, rather than a brand, there's only so much you should be saying.

Have Calls To Action

Every page should drive some sort of action. What do you want them to do? Is it picking up the phone to hire you right now? Read a blog post? Take a survey? Subscribe to your blog (hey, subscribe to mine!)

The first rule of CTAs: have a f*cking CTA!
— Oli Gardner, #CTAConf

First: ask. We go to web pages looking for answers and next steps, so provide your visitor with them! No matter what your page is about, give your visitor somewhere to go next and make it clear what you're asking. 

Now that you know what I've learned, I have one more favor to ask: do you like my website? I'd love to hear from you. Take a look through it, and drop me a line!