I know one thing for sure: your website is the only online space you own. And it’s a great place for people to get to know you. When people reach out to me for help to build their personal brands, the first thing I’ll do is check to see if they have a website. Many people don’t have one.
That is a missed opportunity.
Building a personal brand can be intimidating, and so can building a website, but neither has to be complicated. If you are serious about building your personal brand, then you need to get serious about building your personal website. Let me explain why, and then show you how to build a website like you would build a house.
Websites help people find and get to know you
The issue with not owning a personal website is that it makes it hard for people to find information about you. They might scour Google, news sites, employer websites, or social media platforms and posts to piece together your identity. It can become a time-consuming search.
But my company has a website already
Since I work with a lot of executives and entrepreneurs, they often tell me that they have a website for their company, and don’t see the need for a personal website. If you want someone to get to know you, why would a company website do the trick?
Sure you might have your bio on the founders or team page of your company, but will that give people enough information to really get to know you? Nope.
Your company website is about your company, not you. (Unless you are a solopreneur, when your personal website can double as your business website) Your company website is all about attracting business and staying relevant.
Having a dedicated website to showcase who you are, what you enjoy doing, your work, your blog, and/or contact information, is enough to have its own dedicated home. And don’t worry, if done correctly, your personal website will help drive business to your business page.
Everyone needs a home base
When I teach clients how to build their personal brands, I remind them that most people do the right things in the wrong order. I did that too. For the first year I was starting to build my brand, I didn’t have a website to share with my readers, and I wasted a lot of energy blogging without a plan.
This was a missed opportunity for people to learn more about me. I didn’t even think about it at the time. But when someone shared with me the importance of my own personal website, I realized the mistake I had made, and in 2015, I got my own personal website up and running.
The reality is that people will Google you. So why not help them find you, and find out more information about you, from you!
In this busy world, you need a place that people can access and scan to understand whether they would want to do business with you. And this applies whether you’re in college, looking for a job, gainfully employed, or starting a company. Some examples: if you’re in college, having a website could help you land a job.
If you’re a librarian, you could share your knowledge of book trends on your blog that might land you a promotion. If you are an entrepreneur, help investors learn more about why you are worth their top dollar.
A mistake many people make is relying on social media platforms to be their “home base.” But you know what? Social media platforms are NOT your property. Think of it as leasing that space for corporations to profit from your personal data. And social media platforms are not immune from cyberattacks.
Recently, my Twitter account was hacked. Yep. My “property” was broken into, and my profile was stolen. It was a terrible feeling, and the hackers not only tried to scam others under my likeness, but they also deleted over 50,000 of my tweets. Yes, over 50,000 of my tweets. Gone. Poof. And there is nothing I can do to get them back.
Furthermore, social media companies can change their algorithms and terms, suspend your account, or even ban you from their platforms forever.
That is not much control if you think about it. That is all the more reason to have a place, and a space online that you own. And that place is your own personal website! People will find information about you one way or another. You might as well have control of your story!
If you’re not convinced that you need a personal website, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Are people searching for you online?
- Do you have a portfolio that you want to showcase?
- Do you want to have control over the information about you online?
- Do you want to make it easy for people to know how to contact you?
- Are you looking to build your reputation online as someone trustworthy?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should consider building your “online house” as a personal website. And it’s not as hard as you might think.
For your website, you can make it very simple, no novels are needed. You could create a brief homepage, with tabs that lead to your bio, services/products you offer, possibly a blog, and a contact page for people to get in touch with you, and link out to your social profiles. Or you can design it as one page. It’s totally up to you.
There are platforms like Wix, Webflow, and a ton of other options that don’t take much tech skill to put together. I prefer using WordPress due to its reputation, security, and customizable nature, which does require a few steps. Regardless of what platform you choose, there are specific steps to take, and I’m going to share them with you.
Building a house takes effort, so does your website
Think about building a website like building a house. You need the foundation, the framing, then drywall, paint, furnishings, and decorations. And you will have a physical address for people to find you! It takes energy, creativity, and effort to make it happen, but it’s worth it because it’s YOURS.
So, here are the seven steps you can take to build your website, AKA your online home.
Step 1: Pick your address –
Every house has an address, and so too should your website. Your website’s address is the URL that people type in their browser to search. So that is why I suggest you start your website construction by thinking through and securing your domain name. You’ll want to keep the domain easy for others to find you, so make it memorable.
You might be most familiar with a dot com extension, but there are many different extensions to choose from. If you have a common name, then yourname.com could likely be taken. If that is the case, then you can try to add a Mr or Mrs, to the front, or you could add a word at the end like “speaks” if you want to be known as a speaker. Get creative to fit your niche, but really try to make it personal, and try your best to include your name. After all, your name is what people will be searching for, and if your domain name has your name, it will rank high in searches.
It can be as simple as ryan.online, which is mine. You can usually get a deal for the first year of ownership on domains and then pay for subsequent years on auto-renewal. You can choose pretty much any domain name you want as long as it’s not taken.
Notice that my domain has a dot online domain extension. If you want to see if your name is available with a dot online, then you can visit ryan.online/dotonline and search to see what is available. (Also, if you use the code “GINGER” you can get a discount!)
I also own ryanfoland.com, but I like the dot online extension because it is so easy to remember. I tell people, if you want to find me online, then just go to ryan.online. I have had issues in the past where people don’t know how to spell my last name, so telling people to go to ryanfoland.com, has a chance that they might enter it incorrectly into their browser, or even worse, forget it. And don’t get too stressed, because the nice thing about domains is that you can have more than one, and they can all point people to the same place. If you go to ryanfoland.com it forwards to ryan.online.
The goal is to keep your domain simple and short, ideally including your name. You will always be you, and your personal website domain should not change. You may change, as we all do, and you can update your content accordingly, but you want to make sure to really think through the URL of your personal website.
Step 2: Get your foundation set –
Your domain name will have to point to a place where all of your information is stored. This is where hosting comes in. Your hosting service is where your code and information are stored online. I have used HostGator, GoDaddy, and Cloudflare. Think of hosting as a virtual cloud-based foundation for your online home.
Hosting usually costs $10-30 a month, and you can usually get big discounts when you buy it annually or in even larger chunks. It does not take any technical know-how to sign up for a hosting account. Take the time to research hosting services in advance so you know their costs, features, and limitations.
Step 3: Framing your floor plan –
There are many web development services. Some are super easy, and are no-code with the ability to drag and drop. These are great options if you are not tech-savvy. I have tried many versions, and my favorite is building on WordPress. I have learned that using already designed templates really helps to get things built fast. And they look great. This is the fun part, I promise!
A WordPress template is a pre-built house that has different “room” layouts and an overall structural look. Go to Theme Forest and search for a WordPress template, and make sure to add “responsive” to your search. You will see hundreds of website versions already built, usually with filler images and text so that you can see what it looks like.
You can explore the templates and see how they look in real-time before buying one. Using a responsive template design is important because it ensures that your site will look great on a desktop, mobile, or tablet. You don’t want to frustrate your site visitors with text that is too difficult to read or elements that don’t render correctly. This is really important.
With thousands of templates to choose from, it can be overwhelming. You want one that has the look and feel of your brand. If you don’t know what that look is, then spend some time looking through themes, and see which ones resonate. I’d suggest choosing one or two.
Share with some friends, and ask if they think the theme fits your personality and your professional goals. Then once you think you have the perfect templates picked, sleep on it before committing. Then you pay the $50-80 for the template, and you now have access to all the code for the website at its full capacity. When you buy it, you can then download the zip file.
If you’d rather get a fuss-free website that features hosting and no-code template capabilities, you’ll want to research Wix or other services. I get that not everyone can or wants to go the WordPress route, especially if they need to hire help.
Step 4: Layout, paint, furniture, and pictures to hang –
Brainstorm your home’s structure and look. I suggest that my clients draw out a wireframe first. A wireframe is an outline of the various pages and subpages on your site. Start with the main menu, asking yourself what main topics or areas you want to share with the world.
I find it easiest to start a Google Doc that clearly shows the menu structure you want, but is broken down with the copy and images you want on each page. The idea is that you get all your content organized first, and have it ready to go so that it is easy for a developer to migrate to a template. And if you don’t use a template, getting the information organized first will make it easy to populate your site as you build out the sections desired.
If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about getting fancy. Just get the information you want people to know on your site. The great thing about having your own website is that you can always add to it, and update it.
For example, I have added the following pages to my website that definitely were not part of it when I first built it.
- I built a page sharing my sailboat racing experience, and one that shares my passion for cruising.
- I have added my podcasts to my home page: World of Speakers, The 3-1-3 Challenge, and Good Jibes.
- I have added information about my speaking services.
- Because people kept asking me to help with their TEDx Talks, I decided to build a page for it, helping potential clients understand how I help them craft and deliver their ideas worth spreading.
- And you can find how to work with me on building your personal brand.
- After publishing my book, Ditch the Act, I made a book page on my site that pushes to the main book website, which links to where you can buy it on Amazon.
- I even made a page about stick figures, that gives information about my NFTs, then pushes to my stickfigure.store site.
My first website “house” was more of a small shack, with an About Me, and links to some of the blogs I had written. And as I made more content, and offered more services, I built extra pages that are like “rooms” to add on to my online property! I have heard many people make the excuse, “I don’t have enough content to justify my own website.” I say that’s rubbish.
You are you, and you have your backstory. So just build a one-page website, and consider it a one-room house. Then as you build your brand, create more content, and add functionality to the site, you can add pages or “rooms” accordingly!
Step 5: Build time –
Just like you would hire a contractor to build your house, you will need to hire a WordPress developer (unless you are one!) to take the template and connect it to your hosting service, and then point your URL to your site. They can take your Google Doc with copy and images and populate them on the template. They will hide or delete unnecessary elements from the template, and before you know it you will have a personal website. Yay, right?!
There are many WordPress developers, and you can hire a freelancer to help you put all the pieces of your house together. They will need your logins and the zip file with the template code, so do your research and make sure that you hire someone trustworthy.
I like getting programmers who are highly referred to by people in my network. If you are looking for a dependable programmer, send me an email and I can make some introductions. Or you can ask for referrals or post on freelance sites. Just make sure the person you hire has a lot of experience and good reviews. There is nothing worse than working with a bad programmer.
Don’t even get me started.
Step 6: Upgrades and DIY –
Once the core site is built, and if you like to DIY and want to edit your website, you can get a “builder” plugin. I would suggest Beaver Builder or ColibriWP. The WordPress person could help you get it set up, then you can edit your site anytime you want. These builders allow for making edits and additions in a super easy way, even for a non-techy person.
Step 7: Inviting people to your online home
Having a website is convenient and empowering. You’ll have an advantage over other professionals who don’t have one because you can share your truth online. Once your online home (AKA your personal website) is up, then invite people to come over and visit! Let me know when your new site is up and I’ll check it out.
I hope this article helps you, and feel free to ask any of your burning questions about website building! I’m happy to share my experience, so feel free to reach out on Twitter @RyanFoland or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, thanks for reading, and until next time, see ya online!