If you look around the writing niche, even around the web in general, you'll notice that there are some clearly professional (and trustworthy-looking) websites.
And some that aren't.
These are the ones that are clearly homemade or have straight out-of-the-box designs (like this blog). They didn't cost very much (if anything) to create.
And there's nothing wrong with that. We're all on a budget.
However, you should seriously consider investing a little time and money on your writer website because it can only help you in the long-term.
Also notice I said investment. You'll definitely make back the money you put in, given you have a great product or service and can market a little.
Why Should You Take Your Website to the Next Level?
Your poor or generic design could be hurting your current or future success more than you think. If you're an indie author, a poorly-designed or generic website makes you come across as amateurish and unprofessional. It's kinda like going to a book signing or writing conference in gym shorts and a t-shirt when everyone else is in classy dress pants and a blouse or tie.
You don't want that to be you, right?
You need a professional website if you want your visitors to see you as professional. You want to fit right in with the successful indie and traditionally published authors. These are your potential readers and customers so you need to create a stellar first impression.
When Should You Take Your Website to the Next Level?
Having a free theme running on your writer blog (or even having free web hosting) is okay at first if you're not sure where you might be going with the writing thing. No need to spend too much money if you're simply giving blogging or writing a try.
But if you've submerged your toes, like the temperature of the water, and want to take the plunge, now's the time to upgrade your website and go with a premium theme.
The right time to start investing in a more professional-looking website is when you look at your writing or blogging as a business. You're ready to sell ebooks or offer services (or both).
You're prepared to invest some time and money to generate a profit and make a living off of writing or blogging because you find this is something you truly love doing and want to keep doing in the long-term.
That's awesome. But as the old saying goes, it takes money to make money.
The good news is that taking your writer website or blog to the next level doesn't mean a huge financial investment, and it will only do wonders for your author platform and sales.
What Do You Need to Do to Take Your Website to the Next Level? (And How Much Is It Gonna Cost You?)
There are two main ways to take your website to the next level.
1. You hire someone and pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, depending on the kind of site you want.
2. You do it yourself. You pay for the domain, web hosting, premium theme, and child theme. It's usually around $20 for the domain, $7 a month for the hosting, and around a $100 for the premium and child themes. That comes to around $204 for the first year and $104 for every year after that (although the web hosting is per month).
If you're willing to take the time to learn how to install and set up these things along with a little coding, you could save quite a penny with option 2.
Or if you're budget is flexible at the moment, you'll save a lot of time and hassle with option 1. In that case, I recommend you start looking at some websites you like and ask who designed them and/or ask others for recommendations.
If option 1 is the choice for you, however, here's where we talk about how to go about setting up and designing your own professional-looking website.
Here are four websites that run premium themes and are well-designed so you can get an idea of of how your own website or blog could (and should) look like.
1. Jeff Goins' Goins, Writer
2. Joanna Penn's The Creative Penn
3. Toni and Shannon's DuoLit
Pretty snazzy, huh? Want your author site to look like that? It's not that hard.
First, you have to set up your website if you already haven't. You'll need a domain. I use GoDaddy . Then, you'll need a web host. I use and recommend BlueHost, but I also hear good things about HostGator.
Unless you're a tech whiz already, you'll probably need some guidance. Amy Lynn Andrews at Blogging With Amy has an awesome, super specific, super helpful tutorial series on just how to set all of these things up. She has videos and the step-by-step process on how to get a domain, get web hosting, connect the two, etc. Her tutorials are the ones I used to set up this blog so I highly recommend her.
Once you've got all of that, you'll probably be running the default Twenty Eleven WordPress theme, which is the theme I'm using right now (more on that later). Very recognizable.
You don't want that. You want to stand out among the crowd.
However, I keep hearing so many great things about the Genesis Framework and their child themes. It only costs $60 plus another $20 or $30 depending on the child theme you want. Three of the four websites above use StudioPress's Genesis Framework so it's worth a look. And Genesis is my choice, too (again, more on that shortly).
The premium theme is the key to getting a professional-looking website for way less. It's what gives your website the unique look it needs to stand out along with SEO benefits.
If you decide to go for Genesis, you have tons of paid and free child themes to choose from. These allow you to customize your website even more.
If you're not sure which one to use, I hear the Prose theme is a great choice. It's actually the one I got. You hardly need any coding know-how to customize it all you want, and it's mobile-ready, which means it gives the viewer an easy reading experience on their mobile devices. Here's a tutorial on how to set it up.
Another great thing about Genesis is that there's a ton of support from the creators and around the web. For example, Blogging With Amy has a whole page of tutorials she's created just for Genesis.
Allow Me to Walk the Walk Now That I've Talked the Talk
Why am I harping on and on about investing in your author website? Well, it's a choice I've made recently myself.
I've come to love blogging and writing and would like to turn them both into a business. I've been busy writing a business plan and doing lots of research on what it takes to start and run a successful business, and now I'm officially making the transition.
I've gotten my business license and business checking account. The next step is making my website look the best that it can be. The current design, I've decided, isn't cutting it.
So in the next week or two, be prepared to see a design revamp around here. In addition, I'll be offering copyediting and proofreading services and working on my own books in the background. I'll also be blogging about Latino stuff, lightheartedly and seriously, as I had mentioned before. And in case you're wondering, I'll still be doing Friday Features.
Just to be clear, I'm not doing any of this solely for the money, although that is a factor. I've always wanted to start my own business. I've also always wanted to be a writer. This is the perfect opportunity to combine both and make a little money to pay the bills.
As I've also mentioned, I'm also set to graduate in May with a bachelor's in Middle School Education. I'm still not sure if I want to go into teaching. I still love it, but I'd much rather run my own business at home where I can also raise my daughter full-time.
Whether I do end up taking a teaching job will just depend on how things look by next spring. Either way, my goal is to run my own home-based business as a writer and copyeditor/proofreader through my blog.
I sincerely hope you'll join me for the journey, whether you seek to making a living writing or blogging or not.
Will I see you around? What big changes are you going through? What changes do you want to make in your life? Does that mean taking your author website to the next level?
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