So you're finally ready to take the plunge. After a few years of working in agencies, you finally decided to go into business for yourself. You now have the experience, design resources, and design inspiration to guarantee your success in the freelance world. The next step, logically, is creating a website for yourself. You may think that you can make due with just a Facebook page and a Behance portfolio, but that's not really the case. Most professionals in the field do have an online portfolio on their own website and it really does help to generate business.
So you're going to create your website. Piece of cake, right? You've been working in the design industry, how hard can it be to create a successful website for someone like you? Pretty hard, as it turns out. You shouldn't panic, but you should definitely not take this lightly either. Your website is an integral part of who you are as a freelancer, and if your website doesn't look professional, or doesn't have a professional-looking, easy to remember URL, that reflects negatively upon your qualities as a designer and will influence the number of jobs you get. Simply put, your website is your business card, and if you hand ketchup-stained cards to potential customers, odds are they won't be calling you.
1. Your Domain Name Is Very Important
Most businesses, when creating a website, treat their URL with negligence, thinking it's not all that important. That is a mistake. Your domain name is one of the most important things about your website. It's your address and it's important that people be able to remember it. So here's how you choose a compelling domain name.
First of all, it's important that your domain name be similar to the name of your company or your own name or pseudonym. That is to say, if you were starting out in web design under the pseudonym Dead Pixel, your ideal domain would be deadpixel.com. Of course, sometimes that specific domain name is taken, so you might have to settle for something else.
Secondly, you should keep your domain name short, so that people can remember it. If your company is called Dead Pixel Web Design Solutions, you don't want your URL to be deadpixelwebdesignsolutions.com. It's way too long and nobody will remember it. You need your domain name to be short and easy to remember.
More so, if it's possible, keep your domain name free of dashes, numbers or other symbols. People usually find those hard to remember and may get confused by them.
2. Your Hosting Plan Is Essential to Your Success
Much like the domain name, the hosting is essential to your new website's success. It's highly important that you pick a hosting plan that's right for you and your needs and not just get the first one that pops up. You may need to do some research before settling on any one hosting plan. Basically, the hosting plan that gives you more control over what goes on with your website is usually the one you want to go with.
You can find a lot of helpful reviews of various hosting programs at webhostinggeeks.com/besthosting.html, where they discuss the best web hosting companies of 2013.
3. Look into Search Engine Optimization
So your website is now up and running and it's time to get it noticed. How do you do this? You need to make it stand out from the other websites that cater to the exact same topic, need or provide the exact same service. How do you do this? By getting listed above them in various search engine searches. There's such a thing called Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and you should find out more about it.
While this article will not give you a crash course in all SEO entails, it will give you a few tips on the subject matter. One of them is to generate lots of backlinks, especially at first. What's a backlink? It's basically any link to your website. The more websites linking to your website, the higher your website will rank in search engine results. The more reputable the websites linking to your own, the more important the backlink.
In order to create backlinks at first, it's important to use social media. Create profiles on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Tumblr and so forth. Another medium in which to generate backlinks is that of blog comments. If there are blogs discussing your particular niche, go ahead and read a few articles per day and comment on them, while attaching the URL to your website to your comment. Also remember to use specific keywords whenever leaving a link to your site, as the keywords will be attached to you URL in search engine results for that keyword.
For instance, a web designer with the domain deadpixel.com would select keywords such as “web design” and “web hosting” for his backlinks and use them whenever linking to his website in order to get higher up in the results lists for searches containing those terms.
4. Have A Lot Of High Quality Content
Now, what good are backlinks if they're linking to a blank website? Many people start with the idea that they'll make the site and then generate content as they go along. That's the wrong way to go about it. You need a lot of original content from the get-go. Otherwise, your website is sure to flop, that is to say, never pick up, or pick up much slower than it would have would it have had a lot of content from the start.
A lack of content means a stagnant brand and a website that will slowly but surely become less visible. Needless to say, that being less visible than your competitors is tantamount to losing a lot of contracts to them.
Not only does your content have to be original and engaging and in large quantities, but it has to be updated regularly. If you're going to blog (but more on that later), pick two or three days a week in which you update your blog. If you miss the update once or twice, it's no big deal, but you need regularity. It helps keep users engaged, it helps create the association between a certain weekday and your website for habitual readers and so on.
5. Decide If You're Going To Blog
Attaching a blog to your website is a big decision. If done properly, it can help your site's growth a lot. If not, it can hurt your online presence. For one thing, having a blog means that you can update your content a lot more frequently. This means a better online presence. On the other hand, if you have a blog that you never update, that just looks unprofessional and will hurt your presence, as we have previously discussed.
We've reached the end of our list and we hope they help make your new site a success! If you have any other tips for people trying to set up their first website, please leave them in the comments section below.