Why You Might Need a Personal Website (& How to Start One)

If you don’t have a personal website already, part of the reason might be that you haven’t considered it necessary. In industries like marketing, visual design, writing, or software/web design, creating an online portfolio is part of the industry standards for showing your work. But websites serve a function for people in business, science, education, customer service—and the many other industries out there, too.

For any professional, creating a personal website is a smart way to establish your identity, own your own content, and speak to your audiences. Here’s more about the benefits of a personal website, and strategies for building one.

What are the Benefits of a Personal Website?

The first benefit of a personal website is that it establishes your identity on the web in a way you fully control. Even a single page of content with your name and details of your experience says more to hiring managers than no site at all. Since you know employers will be searching for you online, it’s good to get your own perspective on the web.

You might consider your social media presence and other web hits about awards or volunteer projects to be enough to impress a potential employer, but that content isn’t in your control and could disappear any time. Plus, in the best-case scenario, you are requiring the employer to do more work to learn about you than an applicant who does have a professional site.

The benefit of being able to speak to your audiences as a professional—including hiring managers and prospective employers—is a key benefit of a personal website. By writing a blog, making videos, or curating a library of your content like white papers and articles, your professional purpose can find a home on the web.

How Do I Create a Personal Website and Brand?

Creating a personal website starts with purchasing the domain name and web hosting services. Some website building services like Wix, GoDaddy, and Squarespace offer domain, hosting, and content management in one platform for a monthly subscription fee. Or, you can purchase the domain and set up hosting through another vendor. Many people turn to WordPress for a free content management system that can be used to set up the website. This allows you to install custom themes and plugins that give your site features like a real-time social media stream, polls, or a carousel of images.

It’s important to know that wordpress.org is different from wordpress.com. At wordpress.com, you can set up a personal or hobby blog without paying for a domain and hosting, but the URL will have the word “wordpress” in it. Plus, visitors will see ads that you can’t control or change, and the site can be deleted at any time. For all these reasons, it’s recommended to purchase a domain name and use wordpress.org, or one of the other CMS services we mentioned.

How to Market Yourself on a Personal Website

Once the website is up and running, then you face the question of what to include as content. The most important strategy is to be authentic. When people land on your website, make sure they know right away what you do and what you stand for. This might come through as a powerful statement you came up with as a headline, or something more narrative to introduce yourself. Everyone’s style is different and your personality should also come through. However, don’t get too detailed. Visitors want to get to know you a little on the homepage, not scroll past your entire life story.

Outside of introducing yourself and what you want in a career, the site should feature your best work. This could be through testimonials from customers, a blog describing your projects and processes, your reactions to news and industry trends, or checklists and other guides to professional success. There’s a way to feature and share every kind of experience, so think outside the box. One caveat—if you choose to add a blog, make sure you commit to update it at least once a month for the sake of consistency.

Creating a personal website is an important way to get your presence on the web, the way you want it. Though there might not be negative news about you online, that isn’t the same as having something good. Use a personal website to share who you are and what makes you an asset to the industry.

Freelancing 101

Our cultural approach to and view of work has been changing rapidly over the past decade. Along with ideas like four-day weeks and remote work that have transformed internal company cultures, the opportunity for freelancing has become more and more prominent. According to Forbes, 56.7 million Americans do freelance work, which can extend to nearly any profession or area of work. This could include programming, writing, videography, website design, financial consulting, and more. How can freelancers stay productive and deliver the same quality of work that companies would find from internal employees? Let’s look at some basic needs in our Freelancer 101 guide.

Workflow for Freelancers

 One of the hallmarks of a freelancer’s career is often a busy workload. The more clients or contracts you have, the more you’re able to earn. However, without a robust and reliable workflow in place, it’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. There won’t be an established system in place like an existing agency would have, so you’ll need to create your own. Not only will a project workflow help you accomplish tasks, but it will also allow you to provide documentation and file sharing services for clients.

There are many online tools that can help you track projects. Google’s suite of cloud-based resources like Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Calendar is trusted and free to use. It’s easy to set up shared folders for your work or a calendar that reminds everyone of established deadlines. These can all be detailed with unique permissions to prevent one contracted business from seeing the work of another. There are also paid options such as Podio, Asana, Trello, and Bonsai which can aid in project management. Whatever option you choose, make sure it’s something that your clients can access and use easily.

 Collaboration for Freelancers

 Another big part of any freelancer’s life is the need to engage and collaborate with stakeholders during a contract. This could include content editors, subject matter experts, customers of your client, and even other freelancers. This process is extremely important, as figures published by Bit.AI Blog found 86 percent of employees and executives feel workplace failures were caused by a lack of collaboration and communication. If that’s true for colleagues in the same office, you can imagine how much more difficult it is for freelancers working independently and remotely.

One of the most important elements of collaboration for freelancers is an ability to handle feedback. It’s not uncommon for people to recoil in anxiety and fear when critical conversations and critiques come down the pipeline. However, it’s vital that this kind of insight is viewed from a place of positivity. Whether it’s regarding creative work, like writing and video editing, or something more tangible, like how someone is handling business analytics, hearing opinions from the client will most often strengthen your work. Welcome these opinions with open arms and an open mind. Be ready to actively listen while building a strategy for revisions and changes.

 Invoicing as a Freelancer

 Freelancers have the unique opportunity of varied projects, the chance to work from home, and the ability to call themselves their own boss. But, at the end of the day, we all still need to get paid. You’ll need to be responsible for creating invoices that are easy to understand and enforce during your work. Though it might seem daunting, there are some basic components that go into invoices to ensure they’re properly executed.

  • Write accurate service descriptions that outline everything that was done
  • Make it easy for customers to pay, such as with PayPal or Venmo
  • Emphasize due dates for payments and any relevant penalties for late payment
  • Find out who handles freelancer payment and send it to them only
  • Don’t be afraid to be assertive in collecting owed payments

Establishing Work/Life Balance for Freelancers 

There is an image of freelancers as people who work from their bed or watch TV while responding to client emails. However, the best independent contractors treat the remote workstyle the same as someone in an office. It’s important for freelancers to establish a concrete schedule, not only to stay productive but also to ensure there’s a healthy work-life balance. Without it, there’s a strong chance you’ll find yourself working late hours or erasing those all-important boundaries between personal and professional time.

First and foremost, create a work schedule. True, freelance workers often are more flexible than 9-to-5 jobs, but without designated worktimes, it’s easy to put in way more than 40 hours in a week. This schedule can really be your own; if you’re a night owl, establish those evening hours as your time to get work done. If you prefer rising with the sun, follow that instinct and knock out projects early in the AM. What’s important here, though, is the ability to unplug once the day’s work is done.

The freelance life is alluring but making your own way in business takes a lot of hard work. Not only are you untethered from traditional work environments, but there’s no supporting staff to handle things like project management, payment, or relationship management and collaboration. However, by following some simple guidelines and self-advocating, freelancing can be much less intimidating and become a fulfilling career in the long run.

How to Network

People love to say, “It’s all about who you know,” when discussing professional development.

And though it’s been around forever, this sentiment is incomplete, at least in today’s world. Landing a great job or building up a career is often made through great networking practices and techniques that communicate values and insights to your peers. Perhaps, then, it’s not about who you know, but rather how you know who you know. Let’s take a look at three essential steps to anyone looking to network in business.

Developing Your Networking Style

It might sound a bit like marketing-speak, but at its core, professional networking is another important form of personal branding. Brand is really a conversation, just the same as the expo-floor small talk that scored you a sit-down with a new employer or client. So, it makes sense that your approach to networking be rooted equally in staying true to yourself.

That does sound pretty Zen but developing a networking style that feels comfortable and personal is anything but simple, and it’s safe to say it’s going to take some time. There some tried and trusted approaches to engaging with people that can help set you up for success in growing a network.

  • You’ve got to go to them. Don’t expect people to contact you to see if you want or need anything.
  • Listening is just as important as talking. Maybe more! Use Active listening techniques to improve your understanding and general interactions, even online.
  • It’s what you say AND how you say it. It’s easy to spot someone armed with bravado while being light on substance. Try to make both parts of your pitch equal.
  • Don’t put off a follow up, it’s part of the pitch. A networking interaction never ends at a handshake. Start fostering the relationship right away with a timely reintroduction.

Networking doesn’t have to be a specific, focused, or strategized interaction. Instead, it can be so personalized it simply becomes shorthand for good communication.

Public Event Networking

Love them or not, professional expos are one of your best chances for face-to-face time with the people you need the most. Data published by Bizago showed that 84% of business leaders believe in-person events are critical to their success, meaning a lot of effort is placed into these gatherings. As you maneuver between crowded floor spaces and busy booths, it becomes obvious that making a new contact for your network will mean approaching another stranger just to say hello. But once the social anxiety of breaking into a conversation passes, the question is what will you say about yourself? And how will you say it?

Context plays a big part in any communication style. Just as you wouldn’t want to yell to a friend in a quiet library, you don’t want to approach a casual social hour with the intense vigor of an elevator pitch. Many of these folks are people you’ve never met, so how can your networking leave a good lasting impression?

  • Do your research. Knowing details like your industry demographics and the people at an event can help you to refine your messaging and voice.
  • Participation is required. You attended this conference to meet people. Going to more events gives you a chance to interact and engage with more folks.
  • Ask questions first, ask questions later. Research from Harvard Business Review found that not only do people respond better to questions in conversation, they like you more. Try asking follow-up questions, the data shows they have the best response.
  • Did you follow up yet? Seriously, though, this is important. Always do this.

Public networking events can feel like a junior high school dance. It’s loud, there’s always music, it inexplicably smells like floor polish and french fries, and you’ve got anxiety. But by remaining confident, putting yourself out there, and remembering to make it appealing to talk with you, these things can feel more like you’re the belle of the ball.

Social Media Tips

It’s no secret that social media has become the primary meeting place for anyone looking for networking. The instant and digital connections are far-reaching and help to grow your brand beyond geographical trade show hall exit doors. A recent statistic from CareerArc shows that 91% of employers are using these social platforms to find their employees. The flipside? With everyone in such a crowded place, you’ve got to go further to set yourself apart.

While it’s still just a form of communicating, networking via social media has its own unique wrinkles. These are sites and apps with technical requirements, and missing them could actually prevent your posts from getting to the right people. Even though we’re all a superstar online, it’s a good idea to keep your notepad out with these steps on the page.

  • What site are you even on? Each of these sites have different vibes. You’re not going to want a Facebook status posted on a Linkedin wall.
  • Maintain that quality control! Consistency is ever-important, so be sure the post schedule and content types are similar in planning.
  • Use DMs to schedule a professional meeting. Chatting online might be comfortable, but the more professional approach is to offer chances to speak in-person or over the phone.
  • Did you…follow up yet? Well?

Networking plays a big role in developing your personal brand and salesability. But instead of treating the interactions as a systematic sales pitch, make sure to stay comfortable and sincere, just the same way you would with a new friend. By thinking critically about your branding, focusing on personal interactions in public events, and using social media efficiently, you can quickly grow that ever-important list of who you know.

The Mentorship Checklist for Mentors and Mentees

The journey up the mountain of measured professional development is rarely an easy journey. Ahead lie career obstacles that block paths, a standing ground that’s slippery at best, and a road without signposts telling you the next move. With so much to consider, sometimes even the first step toward becoming a self-assured professional can be daunting.

However, when you meet the right guide, the trek suddenly feels a little lighter. A great relationship between mentor and mentee is a two-way street and becomes more of a conversation than a seminar. But, the requirements of a mentor are drastically different than those of a learning mentee. Let’s look at some tips for finding a mentor, inspiring your mentee, and working together.

 

Checklist for Finding a Mentor

Statistics published in the Centre for Workplace Mentorship 2016 found that employees with mentors were 20 percent more likely to receive a pay raise, got promoted five times faster, and had higher levels of retention. However, unless you’ve got a connection to a mentorship matchmaker, finding the right fit takes time and an ability to see potential in every candidate. Knowing the right questions to ask and how to best interact in this situation will make you more aware and help you select a better match.

 

__Dedicate time and effort into the search process, think critically about what you want to be like and who best exemplifies that.

__Perform a kind of background check to ensure you know exactly what this person has done in the past.

__Don’t rush into asking for mentorship. Establish a relationship and keep the request less-than-formal.

__If the individual says no, you might ask if they have recommendations for somebody similar to ask.

_Instill a sense of respect by sending a rapid follow-up message.

 

Checklist for Inspiring Your Mentee

Teachers in our lives provide us with more than lessons and tips; They’re also responsible for getting us excited about learning. This kind of inspiration is an excellent catalyst for personal growth. The same is true for mentors showing their pupils not only how to do it, but why it matters. The process of figuring out how to translate experience is often exciting and revelatory for the mentor.

This checklist can give mentors a good starting line for achieving the abstract goal of inspiration. While it seems like a lofty idea, you have an advantage here. Your student, as it were, has chosen you specifically because they find you compelling, informative, and maybe even a little bit inspiring. The items on this list will help you look within and distill your knowledge into information your mentee can use.

 

__Maintain focus on your pupil and avoid lengthy personal anecdotes.

__Customize lessons for individual relevance to ensure you’re imparting wisdom they need to hear.

__Try to make yourself available mornings, nights, and weekends, as your mentee might have a more restrictive schedule.

__Make conscious notes of their strengths and weaknesses, and take time to celebrate whenever the strengths grow and the weaknesses improve.

__Make it clear, both formally and informally, that there is nothing owed to you by the mentee, not even success.

 

Checklist for Your Mentorship Meeting

Once the partnership has been solidified, the progress can start. As with any form of self-improvement, you get out of it what you put into it. This final checklist is the clearest view of how this symbiotic relationship works. In a mentorship, nothing can be accomplished by one side. This is a classic give and take process.

 

__Set clear expectations for both sides by each writing a short paragraph of what they expect from one another.

__Each year, work together to create one to three goals for the next 12 months.

__During sessions, both parties will listen intently and actively, as well as avoid raising voices or making angry gestures.

__Set appropriate boundaries that protect the privacy of the mentor and the independence of the mentee.

 

Mentors and mentees could go a long time without ever meeting. However, for one reason or another, the two of you have teamed up for a fulfilling and worthwhile journey toward personal development and professional success. Whether you’re the teacher or the learner, be sure to use these checklists to get the most out of your partnership.

 

Inspiring Servant Leadership in Others

Servant leadership means doing whatever you can to help your colleagues and peers become their very best. Key elements of this philosophy include a commitment to developing others, foresight, and stewardship of resources and trust. Every servant leader will naturally encounter situations where they want to see their peers develop as servant leaders, too. As you prioritize this part of your employees’ growth, consider these steps that can accelerate their journey to leadership.

Nurture Skills and Goals

Listening is high on the list of the most important characteristics of a servant leader. The first step toward inspiring employees to practice servant leadership is to listen to what direction they want to grow. If someone wants to learn more about compliance and documentation, for instance, putting them in a customer service role might not be the best idea. By listening, you will pinpoint the various strengths on the team and learn how to develop the group in a way that moves you beyond bottlenecks or other challenges. As each person feels fully utilized and empowered, they will be inspired to lead in the workplace because that effort advances their goals.

Create a Culture of Trust

For servant leadership to truly take root and thrive in an organization, there must be a culture of trust. Employees must be able to rely on the leader to provide what is needed on the path to success. The leader must continue to believe in the employees even when one specific project or situation might seem like a step back. One study published in Harvard Business Review found that employees in a high-trust workplace reported 74 percent less stress, 40 percent less burnout, and 13 percent fewer sick days. Servant leadership and the trust that develops from the approach have major benefits to a business.

Encourage Foresight and Shared Perspective

Another beginner step in developing as a servant leader is to adopt long-term thinking and start researching what is next for the organization. When evolving an employee as a servant leader, allow them to suggest contacts or new strategies that might improve life for their peers down the road. This is especially true when it comes to networking, which is a vital skill for any leader. Not only does it help form connections that can solve problems and drive growth, but also networking builds a professional’s reputation in their own industry.

These tips, that can help inspire servant leadership in your employees, are really just advice for practicing servant leadership yourself. By listening to employees and pivoting to meet their goals, you deepen loyalty and build trust. As that trust is expressed through the culture, it is safe to try new things. In that environment, leaders will step up to help and serve each other, naturally following the example of those around them. For help achieving the dream, call on Alpha Kappa Psi for insight and support.