I recently set up personal websites for myself and business partner Holly. We plan to travel regularly in the coming months, and continue working while we’re away, so the sites were aimed as an online business card we could update with local contact details when we settled in new countries.
So far, our personal sites are fulfilling this basic purpose perfectly, but it’s the unexpected benefits which I want to talk about here. Specifically, the convenience, professionalism, and independence a personal website brings, and how they change the way you think about presenting yourself online.
A personal site keeps all your contact information in a single place. More than that, with people now constantly connected to the internet on their mobile devices, it’s one of the easiest ways to present this information to people you meet—pulling up your details on their phone or tablet. And unlike a business card, a website doesn’t get left behind on the table. It’s always up to date, and you don’t need to worry that you’ve run out of them. I’m not advocating you ditch business cards completely, because they are more appropriate in some cases, but you should certainly have a link to your personal site on them. That way you’ve covered all your bases.
I have also experimented with vCards, using them as a way to quickly add all my contact details to a person’s phone in a matter of seconds (try it with my vCard now). My name, photo, phone numbers, addresses, links to social media, birthday, and even a little note to add a touch of personality are all on there. Put the vCard on your website and when someone hands you their phone asking for your number, you can throw in a custom URL that downloads all this information directly onto their phone or tablet. Simple, fast, and let’s face it, kind of cool.
It may be a small detail but having a personal site and registering a domain name for it tells people you’re serious about your online presence. Yes, it’s a couple bucks a year, but it shows you’ve thought about it and cared enough to spend money to gain that credibility. While you’re at it, it might be time to refresh your contact details, laying to rest the “sexymuffin” or “cartonofcustard” email addresses of the nineties. If you own a domain, you can create an email with whatever username you want, such as [email protected], or [email protected] It’s more memorable and a hell of a lot more professional.
You can even go a step further and replace chunky email signature blocks with a simple link to your personal site where all your contact details (and more) are ready and waiting. To get even smarter, add Google Analytics campaign tracking code and all of a sudden you have data about the number of people using the link and what they get up to on your site.
A nice side-effect of setting up a personal website is how you start thinking of other interesting ways of using your piece of the internet. Now you have somewhere to store your files and have 100% control of what is done with them. The “Indy Web”, as it’s known, is a backlash against giant companies being able to do as they please with your stuff as soon as you agree to their terms of service. If you have the development skills, or you’re comfortable with open source software, you can become self-reliant and do away with third-party services that might, or might not, be around in the future. This can only be a good thing for the vibrancy and strength of the web.