When you’re a self-employed freelance, finding the time to do all your ‘housekeeping’ can be tricky. Quite apart from the actual work, you have to keep on top of industry news and technology, avoid missing HMRC deadlines and clean the office. But then there are all those other ‘to-do’s’ which you know need attention but no-one’s going to do except you. They don’t seem vital when your work schedule is packed but suddenly loom large when there’s a lull.
So it is in my office this month, when for the first time in ten years I have more free time than I have work coming in. In particular, after putting it off for some months (years?) it’s finally time to face the fact that I really NEED a new web presence. But with leaner times, it’s not feasible to employ my good friends at Mixd to do their magic.
Fortunately, there are now many accessible web-builders like GoDaddy, Squarespace, Wix and Web.com that are perfect for small businesses. With a reasonable grasp of how websites work (if you’ve used a content management system that’s a good start) plus a sprinkling of visual acuity and a degree of determination, you’ve probably got the skills to pull together something reasonable.
You need to find a builder that feels comfortable and has enough flexibility to really make the standard templates your own. It's also important to spend some time digging into all the different menus and options. Fortunately most offer a free trial before you sign up.
For me, knowing that a good chunk of my web viewers were likely to be cohorts in the marketing industry made the whole thing extra daunting. “Ha ha” I imagined them saying. “That’s a basic error in the navigation.” Or “Wouldn’t have set-up my pre-footer like that.” Fortunately the current design vogue is very much for simplicity – and since what I do is very variable all I wanted to do was to create an overview and a credible introduction.
In the end the whole thing proved a relatively hassle-free (if long-winded) experience. I selected a template and tailored it to fit my existing brand guidelines. I explored all the menus to work out how to get started, watched a few introductory videos and sought out some new images from iStock. I also had several slow motion conversations with the help desk to iron out queries (the ticket system for a provider working in a different time-zone being somewhat less than snappy).
I learnt a great deal, mainly through trial and error. There are so many ways to tweak what you create that the temptation to keep fiddling with it is enormous (especially during bouts of insomnia) and for an amateur, knowing when to stop, step back and say ‘that’s done’ can be difficult.
But the best advice of all is something I always say when encouraging my older relatives to engage with IT and the internet. You can’t break it, so just have a go. The resulting sense of achievement when it actually works is well worth the journey.
And I do hope you like the website.