I hear writers making confessions like this all the time. “Ugh. I really should have a website.” Or they’ve established an online presence, but there’s this twist, “I haven’t updated my blog since 2004!”
The underlying reasons vary. I know hardworking writers who are mired in the trenches. But also, at the edge of the pool, you’ll find the technophobes, and social media snobs (yes, some people out there still think Facebook and Twitter are fads). And finally, lots of us writers fall into the awe-shucks humble category, protesting, “I can’t promote myself!”
I’m an established writer, and have both a website and a blog for my business. So why am I writing? Because both of my sites are brand-new, and trust me, I’ve experienced some of the same hang-ups that may be keeping your business offline.
For many years, I worked in the corporate world as a technical writer and didn’t seem to need to promote my services much. Then, motherhood and some economic rumbles and twists changed my status quo. Wanting more flexibility, diversification, and fresh challenges, I decided to pursue a long-held dream of resurrecting my freelance magazine writing career.
Off I went. For the first years, each time I queried an editor and painstakingly attached clips, I muttered to myself. “This would be so much easier if I had my portfolio online!” But I did nothing. I’m not sure why things finally clicked, but one day I sat down, weeded through my body of work, and got my site together.
If you’re procrastinating, I can relate. But I’m also here to encourage. Getting online was easier than I thought and yielded quick results, too. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
It’s not so scary! The technical aspect has been revolutionized. Anyone can access free and easy-to-use website-building tools online. I picked Weebly and a ready-made template, but also personalized my site by doing things like replacing stock photos with my own photography.
The journey is as important as the destination. It’s tempting to just throw your work samples up “to have something there”. Yet, I found it’s better to go slow and pay attention to questions that arise: “How do I define my work in two paragraphs?” “What do I like to write about?” “How do I want to grow?” Your answers will help you build your site, but may also help focus your subsequent marketing efforts and queries.
Spread the word! I promoted my new website via social media. I added www.conniejeskecrane.com to my “bio line” in new articles, to my email signature line, and also, when emailing queries to potential editors.
Try a blog. Because Weebly happens to include a blog function, I developed two blog posts for my website launch (showcasing the type of writing I enjoy) and I’ve been adding new posts once or twice weekly since. Blogging is fun and also good exercise but most importantly, it’s another marketing tool, letting potential clients see your work.
Define success. Will editors magically jam your inbox with assignments once your site is live? Uh, no. However, I’ve found that querying has become quicker, because I’ve stopped adding article links. And best of all, new editors are responding more quickly to my queries, and giving me more assignments. Why? I can only assume my online portfolio and blog posts are assuring them of my capabilities.
Pay attention to feedback. Website programs let you see how many “hits” you’re getting, and that, plus reader comments, offers you new and valuable feedback. (For example, I’m passionate about reducing food waste, but worried this topic might come off as dry or preachy. The blog post I shared has been among my most well-received yet.) Ultimately, seeing where you’re connecting boosts your confidence. And that flows back into your work.
Don’t forget maintenance. Lastly, to avoid having my site appear stale or neglected, I regularly update site content and check links.
For those of you needing encouragement, I hope my experience helps. And if you do take a new step, I’d love to hear about it. You know where to find me.
Connie Jeske Crane is a passionate, hardworking freelance writer whose aim is to offer a fresh and personal take on everyday life. Based in Toronto, Canada, Connie writes frequently on parenting, health and wellness, green living, and feminism. Her work has appeared in many major publications including the National Post, ParentsCanada, Horizons, and Babble.com. You can see more of her work at www.conniejeskecrane.com.