Recently, I've found the Internet most unhelpful-and it isn't the Internet's fault. The problem appears to be that people in the world have not embraced the Internet to its full potential. If you have a professional business or if you offer a service in exchange for money, there is no excuse to not have a webpage. Nothing is more frustrating to a consumer than the inability to find what they are looking for online. This is especially true for small business.
Recently, I was in the market for maternity photographers in the Seattle/Tacoma area. I searched for hours online, finding some Facebook pages (with no corresponding website), finding some Yelp pages (again with no corresponding website, and expensive professional photographers that I had no interest in (and yes, all of them had websites). The problem was that I didn't want a traditional photographer. I wanted someone local, who took nice pictures for a reasonable price, that would respect my style and not force traditional maternity photographs on me. Ideally, I wanted a college student who would charge a reasonable price and give me the digital copies without charging me $1,000. By the way, that is how I got my engagement photos, and they are amazing. I still get compliments on them.
Eventually, I asked a local stencil artist if she knew a photographer-artist that would be willing to take maternity photos, and luckily, she knew someone. So yes, if you have a business, word of mouth works. But it was a huge hassle for me and very stressful.
And then, I had the exact same issue when I was trying to find a new place to get my hair cut. I recently relocated outside of Seattle to a small suburb. I don't know anyone in this suburb, so its not as if I had the ability to get word of mouth advice on this one. I swear I tried incredibly hard to find a hairstylist. Only one salon in this city has a website, and their website made it pretty clear to me that I wouldn't like the salon. Of course, with salons, it's pretty easy to find their Yelp page. But, honestly, even if I find a Yelp page, I want to see a list of services, stylists, and prices. Just having a Yelp page tells me nothing except that some people were pleased and others were not.
So I chose one at random; big mistake. The haircut was a disaster. That was almost four months ago, and my hair still hasn't grown out correctly. With nowhere to turn, I finally bit the bullet last week and drove to my old salon in Seattle (who, by the way, has a website and does an amazing job).
I have a photographer friend in Texas, who almost never takes pictures (instead she works full-time as a budget analyst). I've tried to convince her to get a website, knowing that if people could find her, they would hire her. She is incredibly talented. But, inevitably, a variety of excuses arise. All of the excuses are equally invalid, and here is why.
1. I don't know how
This excuse is the most frustrating to me. I won't lie, I know some basic coding and I had my first website at the age of twelve. So, I did know how. But, even still, there are so many hosting platforms that will allow you to just plug in whatever information and go. It really is that simple. It took me approximately twenty minutes to set up this website. If I was completely unfamiliar with making websites, this may have taken me at most an hour. Of course, there are hosting services that are harder to use. The reason I chose the one I did was because of its simplicity.
Here are three hosting sites and a short description of each:
Having a website can be expensive, especially if you pay someone to create it for you. But as I explained above, if you have an hour of free time, you can create your own website without paying anyone. Blogger and Wordpress are free services. Wordpress you can purchase certain plug-ins that will raise the price, but those aren't necessary for a basic webpage. Weebly can also be a free service. They do have a pro version, which allows for greater customization, however it will cost you. But, as you can see, it can cost nothing to have a website.
Another expense is associated with a domain name. I paid about $12 for my domain name, using GoDaddy, and I have had it for two years. So, skip your coffee for a week and buy yourself a domain name. But if you honestly cannot get together $12, you don't have to purchase your own domain name. If you are using Blogger, you don't have the ability to use your own domain name anyways. With Wordpress and Weebly, if you don't purchase your own domain name, you can use whatevername.weebly.com or whatevername.wordpress.com, both of which will be free. While it's nice to have your own domain name, no one is going to care if your hosting site is also in the domain name. Either way, you can pay the small price for a domain name or you can decide to use a free name provided by your hosting service. Again, it can cost NOTHING to have a website.
3. But I'm not really a (whatever)
This excuse is always funny to me. My friend will say, "I'm not really a photographer" or "I don't really have a business." By the way, when my friend says she isn't a photographer, she means she isn't a full-time profession photographer, not that she doesn't take amazing pictures.
Maybe the reason you don't really have a business or you aren't doing what you love full-time is because no one knows what you are doing. And what is the best way to get the word out? A website that will pop-up in a Google search. Or a website that can be linked to on your Facebook, Twitter, or whatever page. Or even a website that is linked to a Yelp page.
Bottom line: if you want someone to hire you to do whatever it is you do, they have to know you do it.
Still Not Convinced?
I feel strongly that everyone should at least have a basic website, even if, like me, you aren't offering any service.
If you want more advice on how to get one started or what you can put on your website, feel free to contact me.
Rachel Paxton is a typer of words in Dallas, TX.