This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti, a contributing Buffer Blog columnist. More about him at the bottom of the post.
Personal websites are, without a doubt, the biggest networking tool that you are missing out on.
The benefits are obvious for some groups, but those aren’t the people I’m talking about here, as they usually need personal websites for their businesses.
No, I’m talking about the folks out there who constantly talk themselves out of building a simple and effective personal website because they are convinced it is far too complicated for the effort, or that they won’t see any benefits from it.
Both of those things could not be farther from the truth!
Below, I’d like to outline the 3 reasons I believe that you need a personal site, and the potential dangers of not having one.
1.) You Control What People Find
If you’re a wanted criminal, stop reading, because I don’t want you using SEO to outrank your placement on the FBI’s most wanted list .
For everybody else, this is an important point.
Whether you’re just a college kid or a seasoned professional, from time to time, there will likely come moments when people need to search for you online.
You have likely “Googled” yourself before: what were the results?
If you don’t have a personal website, it was either a brand you’re connected to, or worse, a hodgepodge of nonsense.
Why does that matter if you have social networking accounts?
Let me ask you this: do you really want the quick snapshot of your 140 character Twitter bio being the only thing out there that sells “you” as a person?
Or would you rather have a fully functional personal website that not only ranks for your name, but gives the person browsing a full-spectrum view of who you really are?
Talents, projects, aspirations, all things that sell “you” to anyone who might be interested, and all things too large to contain in a simple social media bio.
If you do actually have some projects to your name, this is the spot where you display them all, proudly.
2.) Your Experience Changes… Your Resume? Not So Much
No matter what you’re pursuing in life, you are hopefully getting better at it as time goes by.
More skills, more accomplishments, more personal experience, and yet, how are you suppose to notify anyone that’s interested that the paper resume you sent them is now out of date?
Do you tweet “HEY GUYS, I NOW HAVE EXPERIENCE IN ____” on Twitter for 2 weeks straight?
Without a personal website, you’re stuck until you finally sit down and update that boring, static resume of yours.
To give you a real life example, I’m currently doing work for a Mayoral candidate in my city (maintaining the website & content).
I didn’t get the job because I sent in my Times New Roman, vanilla-flavored resume.
I got it because I was found online through a mutual connection, I got an email saying, “Hey, we like the projects that you’ve been working on, could you help us with ____?”
Even if my Facebook profile had mentioned what I did, does it really sell me?
With as limited space as we all have on our social networking platforms, I’d have to go with a resounding NO.
My personal website, however, is all about me, or rather, all about what I can do for you.
“But Greg, I’m a college kid/young person with no good experience to put up, why should I bother with a personal website?”
Listen here good lookin’, the whole point I’ve been making above is that websites are dynamic, you’ll have time to update your site as your skills progress.
More importantly, it’s good that you start now because you are getting yourself out there, establishing the brand of “you” and separating yourself from the pact by creating a hub where people find out more about you.
Website’s are the new business cards, why drop your name and email to a new contact when you can just leave your website that has everything they need to know, with a touch of “Wow, I’m impressed!” thrown in to boot?
3.) You Can Differentiate Yourself and Establish Authority
You’d be surprised how many people I’ve impressed just by saying, “I have my own website, check it out.”
To those of us used to building websites, that’s a huge yawn, but to a massive percentage of people who know nothing about websites, you typically just earned a +1 in their book by knowing something that they don’t.
Better yet, if you have already found your “passion” and you have multiple projects and maybe even some professional work to showcase, you’re guaranteed to turn heads in the non-web savvy crowd (of which there are still a surprising majority).
Here’s an awesome example: I’m a born and raised Delawarean (Delawhere?), and in a few of the entrepreneurial classes I took as an undergrad, I had the opportunity to hang at a few conferences hosted by First State Innovation, an investment initiative for startups in Delaware. I’ve had the benefit of hearing a lot of stories and even working with a few startups thanks to my part-time First State SEO consultancy gig.
At one meeting over at the University of Delaware’s Clayton Hall, I noticed a young woman who I hadn’t seen on the presentation roster (young entrepreneurs giving their pitches to investors, essentially), and asked her what she was up to.
She had said that someone from FSI had found her through her personal website via a friend emailing a contact.
It’s a good thing to, because she has no way to email her on any of her social networks.
The ending result?
She won 1st in the “startup competition” (there was a set amount of money put aside to fund the top 3 entries) which was over $10k, not a bad piece of change to begin your lean startup!
The real kicker: She was only invited to this competition because of the showcase on her personal site, which convinced one of the folks running the event that she (verbatim quote): “Had the go-getter and aggressive personality it takes to get things done.”
Do you think that assessment could have been made from a Facebook bio?
Yeah, I rest my case.
“Okay, I’m Sold, How Do I Make One?”
The best part about this whole process is that making a personal website has become less of a burden as technology progresses.
In fact, I’d say making a personal website has become absurdly easy to do!
First of all, if you’re reading this post and fired up to get started, I’m going to assume you’re not a web designer.
I would imagine 99.9% of web designers have their own site, so let me get that out of the way.
Given that, there are two ways to create a personal site easily, without any code/HTML/graphic design experience:
- Self-host on a popular CMS
- Create your site visually with a platform
Might sound complicated, but I assure you it isn’t, so let’s break down these two options…
1.) Create a site on a self-hosted CMS
All this means is that you will be hosting your personal site yourself with a shared account from somewhere like BlueHost or a dedicated server from somewhere like VPSnet.
For personal sites, I can’t recommend any CMS more highly than I recommend WordPress.
It’s about as easy to understand as self-hosted comes, and most importantly, you can create beautiful websites with minimal tech skill.
There is one problem though…
The difficulty with self-hosted websites, even built on simple platforms like WordPress, is that you have to deal with a hole slew of things webmasters are used to, but your average web user is not.
These include things like:
- Site downtime and hosting problems.
- Learning to use FTP clients, editing HTML, and just plain knowing how to fix your site when it “breaks”
- Dealing with site malware and getting “hacked” (check out the problems WordPress users had with TimThumb)
The point being: any amount of headaches sort of takes away from the pleasures and benefits of creating a simple personal site for yourself; why bother if it’s going to result in a bunch of problems for a non-web savvy person?
Not that WordPress itself is an easily hacked CMS, but adding tons of themes & plugins opens you up to problems, problems that can turn into big problems if you don’t know how to fix them.
If you’re willing to brave the few headaches of self-hosting, I highly recommend you check out Thomas Frank’s awesome guide to creating a personal website with WordPress.
There are many rewards to learning how to set up a site with WordPress, so if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, get to it!
2.) Create a site visually with a platform
Another option that can take out a huge majority of the headaches of self-hosting is to create a site with a hosted platform.
I’m not really talking about things like Blogger, although I guess that’s an option, I’m referring to sites that allow you to create a single (or multi) page personal site in minutes, a beautiful one at that.
You’ve likely seen a few of them before:
Lately though, I’ve been extremely impressed with the latest rollout (v4.0) of a platform called DooID.
(Disclaimer: although I am now a content creator for DooID, I created & used my account long before [about 2 years ago], and I’ve loved every update since )
What I like about DooID, outside of the fact that it totally focuses on the personal website angle, is that the “drag-and-drop” interface could not be more beautiful; Per (the founder) has really done some incredible work in that regard.
Can I let you in on a little secret?
I had one of those awful GeoCities pages back in the day, remember those…?
I get the shivers just thinking about how ugly that thing probably was.
Today though, you can whip together a gorgeous personal site in mere minutes with the options I’ve described above.
All of the options available focus on bold, single page sites that allow you to connect your social media accounts as well as add that incredibly useful bio + portfolio that I described above.
Where DooID excels in my humble opinion is that actual creation interface, it’s much more streamlined and easy to use than any option I’ve tried thus far (I used to use About.me, but switched over).
For a picky guy like myself, I was surprised to find live editing, SEO options (gotta rank for your name, after all!) as well as a few great touches like a built in contact form & the ability to upload (and have others download) your vCard or resume.
Basically, instead of spending too much time creating something ugly, you can set up something beautiful and optimized like this:
… in about 2 minutes.
Don’t you just love the internet?
I won’t sell you on it anymore, but if you’re intrigued, I encourage you to head over to DooID and set up a personal site now just to see how easy it is.
Over To You
Before we bring this post to a close I want to ask a few questions…
1.) Has setting up a personal site effected you in any way? (Business or personal, the juicier the story the better ).
2.) What’s stopped you from setting up a personal site up until this moment? (If you don’t have one).
3.) Lastly, do you think having a website will become “the norm” for people in 2013 and beyond?
Thanks for reading, I’ll see you in the comments!