You’ve done your research, lined up your contacts and written a killer query. You know you’re the perfect person to write this particular article and you have faith that your targeted editor will know that, too; after all, you’ve got the clips to prove it.
But wait, before you hit that “Send” button, thus rocketing your pitch into cyberspace and onto your editor’s virtual desk, think for a minute about presentation. Are those precious clips easily accessible or are they spread all over the Internet; two on one site, one on another and three on a site that no longer exists?
Editors are far too busy to go scavenging the net looking for proof of a writer’s professionalism. The edge will go to the freelancer who can provide such evidence at the click of a mouse, and one of the best ways to do that is via your own website.
A professional-looking website has become, in this fast-paced, electronic world we inhabit, almost a necessity. Whereas ten years ago a writer could get away with being computer illiterate, now that kind of attitude is virtual writing suicide; editors are too technologically savvy to waste time with those who haven’t kept up.
But never fear, owning your own website has never been easier. No longer do computer geeks and programmers own the Internet; now even the most techno-phobic writers can maintain a web presence.
Basically, there are three avenues to consider when it comes to offering up your own site to the masses, each with its own set of pros and cons.
ISPs and Free Hosts
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) should give you a specific amount of space for a site, usually at minimal or no cost. There’s often a limit as to size, but that’s not usually a concern, since the average writer’s site, no matter how prolific s/he is, shouldn’t eat up any more than the allotted space. Free hosts, such as Bravenet.com and Homestead.com, are also good ways to get online.
Both ISPs and free hosts usually offer templates and guidelines, making it quite easy to set up housekeeping. The problem with these sites, however, is that, unless you’re very, very careful, they can look amateurish, and, even worse, they often come with a lot of unwanted advertising, along with pop-ups galore. This option is great for beginners but shouldn’t be considered a long-term solution.
Design Your Own
Designing your own site gives you ultimate control over content, from start to finish. When you know how to build web pages, you are your own boss; you can put up clips as you acquire them, add new fonts and graphics at will and change designs on a whim. The downside is that building a site requires knowledge of coding and HTML or at least a working familiarity with decent design software such as Dreamweaver.
It can take awhile to become proficient at web design and the myriad other skills associated with it, but for those with a modicum of technological skill, it is definitely worth it. And you can find plenty of free, online resources to help you; an excellent first stop for the fledgling designer is http://www.Webmonkey.com.
Buy Your Own
Hiring someone to craft a site specifically designed to meet your needs can be a shrewd business move. These sites are usually quite professional-looking and will likely impress prospective editors. In addition, a well-designed site will be search engine optimized, which will help get you noticed on the World Wide Web.
If you decide to go this route, however, choose your designer carefully. You need to trust that s/he will treat you and your site with respect, will listen to your needs and will be there to make changes on a timely basis. In addition, don’t be pressured into buying more than you want; your site doesn’t need fancy Flash animation, for example, but it does need a solid design that shows off your work to its best advantage.
So, once you’ve decided how you’re going to go about getting your site, how do you figure out what to include?
That’s easy; since you’re aiming for professionalism here – and not just trying to impress Aunt Josie – it’s imperative that you include only writing-related items.
Bio: This should include your writing history and perhaps your educational background, plus the type of writing genres in which you specialize and maybe a very brief sentence or two about your private life. Warning: This section should not feature a rambling blog about your dream of becoming a real writer or an apology about how you’re a bit behind because of your newborn’s colic. Remember; be professional.
Clips: Flaunt ’em if you got ’em. This is the most important part of your site and it’s what an editor has come to see. Can you write? Your clips will tell. Include links to your best work, whether it’s on your site (in the form of scanned images or documents) or on other sites. Just be sure that your clips are optimized so that they load fast and check the links regularly to make sure they work.
Images: A headshot is great if you’ve got one, but if not, don’t worry; editors honestly don’t care what you look like. A picture of anything or anyone other than you (except for perhaps a tastefully designed writing implement) is not advisable. An editor does not want to know about your cute boyfriend/dog/apartment and might be put off if you force that upon her.
URL: If you’re not using a free service, it’s to your advantage to buy a URL, and preferably you should buy your own name (www.yourname.com.) This will make it easy for editors to find you in a pinch, plus it shows that you take yourself seriously and it establishes name recognition. Luckily, URLS are quite cheap and can be had for $8 and up per year at places like Domainsite.com.
Wallpaper: No. Just trust me on this one; wallpaper screams amateur, as does audio. Do not add music or any other noisemakers to your site; editors will click off, and quickly, never to return again.
A word on navigability: If you want editors to be dazzled by your brilliance and thus to fling plum assignments your way, your site must be easy to navigate, meaning said editor must be able to find your clips fast. Make sure that everything on your site is easy to find and easy to access.
No matter what site design you choose, or how you decide to get it up and running, remember; professionalism is key. Present yourself, and those all-important clips, in a clear, concise, businesslike way and prospective editors will be so wowed by your business savvy (and, of course, talent) that they will soon be knocking on your virtual door.
Now, all that’s left to do is to send off that query!
Kelly Kyrik is a successful freelancer and her credits include Writer’s Digest, the Chicago Tribune, LowCarb Energy, Cat Fancy and many more. She also designs websites for both writers and small businesses. She can be reached at kyrik (at) comcast.net.