Good job so far in preparing to build your writer platform! You've brainstormed a target market you want to work with. You've assembled a basic platform-building plan. And you've conducted some basic market research and set your freelance writing rates to make sure that target market will really be right for you in the long run. During this week of your marketing bootcamp, we're going to have you set up your own professional website. We'll be using WordPress for this, and today you'll get started by choosing a domain name (or re-evaluating the one you have), and setting up a Web hosting account. This is one of those days where you'll spend a bit of money to get things going. If you already have a professional site, follow along anyway. You might come up with ways to improve it.
* This post will contain one or more affiliate links to a Web host and / or domain registrar that I wholeheartedly recommend. In fact, they're the same registrar and host I'm using to host this very site (and several of my other blogs). Future posts showing you how to setup your site will include screenshots from these specific providers. You certainly don't have to choose them, but it will make following along easier (for the hosting, any Cpanel host should be easy enough to follow along with).
I always recommend against hosting free sites and blogs (such as with WordPress.com or Blogspot.com). This is for several reasons:
- They can limit your ability to use the site for commercial purposes (which obviously is not in your interest for this type of site).
- It looks unprofessional to visitors (why should they pay you handsomely for your work when you show even you won't invest in your business with a simple domain and hosting?).
- The domain names are longer, and harder to remember, which could affect your type-in traffic (or squeezing it onto a business card or mentioning it in an audio interview).
- Free hosts can also limit your ability to install scripts (such as quality stats systems to monitor your traffic, where it's coming from, and how your visitors behave on your site).
- You usually won't have as much freedom with the design (WordPress can be used to build just about any kind of site for example, but if you're using the free hosted blogs through WordPress.com, you can't use all of the features the self-hosted version can support).
- You don't own the site, which means that if you decide to leave later to get more robust features you won't be able to 301 redirect your old site to the new one. That means you'll lose your backlinks, some of your traffic, and your search engine rankings (not cool if your site is bringing in business).
Let's get started by choosing a domain name and registering for a host.
- Visit the Adwords keyword tool. Type in a keyword phrase or two that describes the writing specialty you chose. For example, you might want to type in "Web copywriter."
- Look at the list of results and corresponding traffic stats. Write down 5-10 options from the list that get decent traffic numbers (at least a few thousand monthly -- don't go for the super-general with millions of searches though, because it's highly unlikely you'll be able to rank in the top ten results for them in a reasonable time period). Using "Web copywriter" I might narrow down my options to: Web copywriter, Web copywriting, SEO copywriting, advertising copywriter, freelance copywriting, online copywriting, and creative copywriter.
- With your domain name, you have three basic options: 1. A domain tied to your own name, 2. A domain you feel is brandable, and 3. A keyword-rich domain name. With plenty of experience in all three of those options, I've consistently found the best results with keyword-rich domains that are also reasonably brandable (NakedPR.com, AllFreelanceWriting.com, etc.). I very strongly suggest that you look at the keyword phrases you listed in your last exercise and write down a few possible domain names based on them.
- Visit Godaddy.com. Type in your possible domain names, and find out if any of them are available. There's a very good chance that your top picks will already be taken. The site offers suggestions for similar domains (from changing the extension from .com to .net to related domains with your keyword phrase). Consider them. Go through your list. If you find absolutely nothing good, go back to the Adwords keyword tool and look for more keyword possibilities with search traffic. I've always loved PCnames.com (their word search tool) to help me brainstorm domains based on a keyword (it's how I've found the majority of mine). Unfortunately that tool is currently offline being updated for a while, but you might want to check back in the future. When you choose a domain name, register it (you can register it for one or more years at a time, usually less than $10 per year). If you register with Godaddy, you can use coupon code mtech10 to save 30% on .com domain registrations. Don't get sucked into the add-on offers (their checkout process might be confusing if you're not used to it), and make sure you set your registration period to the right number of years (don't pay for 2 if you want 1). Also, do not register your domain with the same company you host with ever, and do not host professional sites with GoDaddy -- you should stick to hosts with more typical interfaces for that, and ones that maximize your control over your own site. For example, I've just registered ProPRwriter.com and ProWebContentWriter.com to supplement my existing site at ProBusinessWriter.com.
- Now it's time to get a Web hosting account. I very strongly recommend Hostgator.
If you're going with shared hosting (which almost all of you will unless you want to invest in a dedicated server for your site -- completely unneccessary for a single freelance business site the vast majority of the time), I've found them to be the best option. I host a few blogs on their Baby Gator package (7.95 per month) because it allows for unlimited add-on domains. But if you know you won't want to add any other domains later, you could go with the cheaper package for $4.95 per month (Hatchling package). They also offer a business package at $12.95 per month that will give you a few extra features like a toll-free number if you do a good bit of business over the phone. Those are their advertised prices, and are based on paying for 3 years of hosting up front. If you want to pay monthly, you'll pay more (for example, that's $8.95 per month for Hatchling, $9.95 per month for Baby Gator, and $14.95 per month for their business hosting -- mouseover the prices on their site if you want to see rates for 1 or 2 year pre-paid pricing).
If you opt against HostGator, I strongly suggest you look for Cpanel host (the control panel they use), especially if you plan to follow along here in how to set up your site. Whatever host you choose, go ahead and get your account setup now. If you get a new hosting account, you'll need to tell the host that you're using a domain name registered elsewhere and you'll have to set your nameservers for the domain to match what the host tells you (you can learn more about that in our previous post, which will also show you how to setup wordpress on a Cpanel host if you want to get a head start on your work for tomorrow).
Tomorrow you're going to get a basic WordPress installation setup on your new hosting account, and choose a theme / design for your site.
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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.
She owns 3 Beat Media -- a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.
Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.
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