What you need to build an MVP website

 

Ducks in a Row

Okay, time to rest my copywriter’s hat on my head. Today’s copywriters need an online presence. However, I’d wager that when a writer first thinks of building a website, the thought process goes something like this…

OMG!! It needs to be perfect or I’ll never work again! Quick, someone tell me how to make it perfect!!! I NEED TO KNOW EVERYTHING NOW!!! AAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!

At least it did for me.

An MVP website is one way to start. By “MVP,” I mean minimal viable product. As in “What is the most basic website I can get away with and still look good?”

Now, why spend the least amount of effort building a professional website? The sooner you have something presentable, the sooner you can market yourself with confidence without getting bogged down in analysis paralysis.

To be clear, this is not about throwing up any old thing. Doing so usually results in something that’s exactly how it sounds—disgusting.

You don’t have to do a lot, just do it well. Remember, you can make updates later.

Now, on to building an MVP website.

At minimum, it needs to include the following pages:

  • Title
  • About
  • Portfolio
  • Contact

Title Page

This is going to be your portal page. Your virtual handshake. Your first impression.

It needs to include:

  • Your name
  • What you do
  • Your tagline
  • A menu to your other pages

At best, your title page has about 6 seconds to convince visitors to learn more about you. Make your title page engaging and easy on the eyes, and the menu easy to see and access so visitors can navigate your site quickly.

Be nice to your guests. Don’t annoy them by trying to get too fancy.

About Page

Few people enjoy writing about themselves, but you need to do it anyway. It can be a blurb or a longer form about your career path and background.

If you can, include an appropriate picture of yourself to humanize yourself.

Note: That means no thong shots, keg parties or anything that could make others question your ethics, professional expertise, self-respect or basic humanity.

Portfolio

As in 5th Grade Math, you need to show your work. Good news is that your portfolio doesn’t have to be complicated, just easy to look through.

People looking to hire writers don’t have the time to read a novel’s worth of portfolio work for each candidate. They just want to see your best work. How many pieces you should include is up to you. If you can’t be objective, ask a colleague you can trust to give you a solid opinion.

Each portfolio piece should include:

  • Short description of what was asked
  • Short description of your role
  • Screenshot of final piece in layout if possible
  • The ability to read or view the piece in its entirety

That last one’s important. It’s difficult for people to evaluate your writing skills if they can’t read your writing. I’ve been on the hiring end of the process, and I can tell you it’s irritating when I can’t read a candidate’s writing samples.

Contact

I’m not a fan of putting my personal contact information online for the world to see. True, you can get an business phone through an instant messenger service such as Skype. But we’re aiming for minimal viable product, remember? For now, you can get away with a simple contact form.

Contact FormInclude the following fields (all required):

  • Name
  • Email
  • Subject
  • Message

Many will argue that a form is impersonal and won’t generate the leads you want. And they make a valid argument, especially if you’re building a freelance site that needs to generate leads from online searches.

But remember, not all sites have the same objective. While it may be a valid argument for some, it may not be right for you. Besides, you can always go back and change it.

Avoiding Analysis Paralysis

This is an easy bare minimum to build yourself a professional online presence. You don’t have to do a lot, just do it well.

There’s no limit to the additional pages, restructuring, widget adding and general tinkering you can do to make yours the greatest writer’s website since writers first discovered that the Internet is a nifty place to put words.

What you can do, though, is build an MVP website and use it as your foundation to build the best website for you.

Caveat #1: You’ll still have a certain degree of analysis paralysis because you’re a writer who has to write about yourself and it comes with the territory.

Caveat #2: For the sake of this post, I’ll assume you know where you’re going to put your site and how you’re going to build it. If not, WordPress has plenty of templates, is cost effective and lets you do some spiffy stuff in a flexible environment. (And no, I’m not being paid to recommend it; it just works for me.)

Now, over to you. Is there anything you’d add? Any questions you might have? Share in the comments.

3 thoughts on “What you need to build an MVP website

  1. You must have picked up on my, “I need to ask Erica…” vibes! The one client I’ve been rolling along with has re-organized and my hours have dropped precipitously. I’m going to have to start courting other potential clients so need a website and a portfolio and..you tell me. Please, tell me. While I’m waiting, I’ll be re-reading all you’ve written on freelance writing. This is very helpful (and clear enough that I have no excuses).

    • Hi Jessica,

      I’m so sorry to hear that one of your clients went “pft” on you. That sucks, no doubt about it. One of the best sources I’ve come across to get started freelancing is Peter Bowerman’s book, The Well-Fed Writer. Here’s the link: http://www.wellfedwriter.com/ordertwfw.shtml

      He also has a blog, downloadable materials and additional resources for those who buy the book. Now, I don’t know what kind of writing or freelancing you do, but his methods and mindsets are applicable across the board.

      It’s straightforward, makes sense and gives you the nuts and bolts of getting set up. Start there and keep it handy.

      One thing I’d also recommend (can’t remember if it’s in the book or not) is to make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and matches your website’s look/feel (I’m talking about the banner and language). Nowadays, most people will look you up on LinkedIn and it helps build your brand if your page has the same feel as your website.

      A fellow creative recommended the book to me when she interviewed me for a job. She has all of her creatives, freelance and cube-bound, read it. I agree and recommend it to every one who could benefit from it.

      Good luck!

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