Is it time you had your own digital shop window?

A personal website where people can find out more about who you are, what you can do and where you main interests lie, can be an important asset, particularly if communicating is your business. Penny Kiley, a member of the Oxford branch, has just set one up for herself. Here she explains why she thinks other members could benefit from doing the same.

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When I found out I was being made redundant, one of the first things I did (after contacting the union) was to start looking at freelance journalists’ websites. After eight years working for a commercial publisher, one thing I’ve learned is the importance of what my now ex-employer calls ‘competitor analysis’.
Other things I’d learned in that job were how to plan, write, edit and manage websites. If I was going to be self-employed I wanted to continue using those skills to make a living. And if I wanted the credibility to sell myself in that area, I’d need my own website.
I’ve already got a pretty large digital footprint (social media was part of my old job, and you learn by doing; I also find social networking enjoyable and useful). But a website is a step above that: a professional showcase.
To me, it seemed a bit of a no-brainer: as a small business, why would you not want a website? It’s a shop window, something that says you exist, a chance to highlight what you do and what makes you special.
So when I started going through the NUJ freelance directory I got a surprise. I thought I’d be looking AT freelance websites – in fact, I was looking FOR freelance websites. To narrow things down, I’d searched for freelances working in the south east who advertised themselves as ‘online journalists’. I’d estimate that around 50 per cent did not have a website included on their listing. And these are people who say they work online!

WHO WOULD YOU COMMISSION?
Who would you commission for online work if you were an editor? Someone with a website – who appears to be at home online – or someone without?
I did find some freelances with very good websites, enough to make me realise how strong the competition actually is. My own website (pennykiley.com) is pretty basic at the time of writing, which is my first day as a freelance. But it was live by the time I left my job and it’s something to build on.
I’m not expecting that a website on its own will cut down the time I need to put into networking and pitching. But once I’ve made those initial contacts, it will be something that people can use to check me out – to tell them a bit more about who I am, and to confirm I am serious about what I do.  

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1 Comment

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One response to “Is it time you had your own digital shop window?

  1. I did as you did – in my case, I left the NHS as a PR having took the money and ran. The first thing I did was spend some of it on commissioning a website, over a year ago now. There is a potential problem if you are thinking of changing direction, though – as I have. We built the site on the assumption I would be straddling the PR/writing areas, then I decided to take a Masters in journalism for a year. Oops? Shouldn’t make a difference really, but altering site architecture to reflect major life change while still laying out your store can be pricey unless you are savvy in website design (as opposed to running the CMS), which I ain’t. But yes, definitely set one up, even if it’s relatively simple in structure and functionality. Alan Taman (Vice-chair, Birmingham Branch)

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