Archive for November, 2007

Fear And Loathing in Cyberspace: Part Two of a Freelancer’s Quest to Create Her Own Web Site

I’m back! Thanks to everyone who read and responded to my initial blog entry about the creation of my Web site. I am happy to report that the site is finally launched! It is still a work in progress, but is officially a part of cyberspace.

Though I expected to feel ambivalent about its debut—since as I wrote before I am not inherently comfortable promoting myself—I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I feel largely proud of the site. I feel like it legitimizes me as a freelancer and its launch helped me cross the threshold from someone just freelancing to fill time to a dedicated, professional independent journalist who is taking my career and my business seriously. I’m pleased that I can control the way I present myself to the professional world and the world at large.

Creating the site was no easy task. I made my share of mistakes during its creation and in the process learned a ton. Allow me to share my screw-ups and pearls of wisdom with you now:

DESIGNING THE SITE: As I mentioned in my last entry I chose to design the site on my own using the Site Solution program available free through Yahoo Small Business (YSB). I think this is a good program for an un-tech-savvy person like me. They offer a variety of appealing designs and layout templates and it was very easy to browse through them and choose ones that fit my taste. However, I eventually discovered that the program is free for a reason: its design capacity is limited. For instance, I had envisioned a fancy way in which I would showcase my clips, but after two lengthy calls to YSB tech support I discovered my idea was simply not possible. My only option—as far as I could ascertain—was to provide a simple link to the clip. I was told that to feature my clips the way I imagined I would need to use a more sophisticated program like Microsoft FrontPage. If I had to do it all over again I probably would have designed the site with a program like that, but because I discovered the limitations of Site Solution after I had already designed so much of the site I decided to stick with it.

PHOTOS: I spent a lot of time agonizing over the photos I would include on the site. It’s not that I was worried about being judged on my appearance (although I must admit that thought crossed my mind), it’s just that I believe a professional-quality Web site photo conveys the message that I am a professional-quality freelancer. I initially thought that I could achieve a professional-looking photo using a very amateur photographer—AKA my husband—but I quickly learned that was not possible. One evening around dusk we headed to the waterfront in our hometown of Hoboken, NJ and took pictures with the NYC skyline behind me. I thought these would be beautiful, but unfortunately our basic digital camera just could not capture me the way I had in mind. I was frustrated, but decided to do something I truly hate doing—asking for help. I emailed a photographer I had befriended on a PEOPLE assignment, Pulitzer Prize finalist Yunghi Kim, and asked if she would be willing to shoot me for my site. To my delight she said yes and her wonderful photos are now featured prominently on the site. In my opinion they elevate the site to a new dimension and I am eternally grateful to her for her willingness to help me with this project.

WHICH CLIPS TO INCLUDE ON THE SITE: Since I primarily decided to launch a Web site to get editors familiarized—and ideally dazzled—by my work I obviously put a lot of thought into which clips I would include on the site. I weighed the idea of simply putting every clip of mine on the site versus just uploading my favorite clips. I quickly opted to do the latter. I felt I could make more of an impact with fewer clips that made me the most proud than tons of clips that simply show I work a lot. I feel this is the right decision for me, but I can certainly understand why a freelancer might choose differently. That just felt right for me and for my style.

Now that the Web site is launched my final goal is to get people to see it. Stay tuned for my third and final blog entry, which will chronicle my attempts to publicize the site.

Thanks for taking the time to read my entry and a special thanks to everyone who took the time to drop me a line after my first entry. Feel free to keep the messages coming. I would love to hear from other freelancers or aspiring freelancers. You can respond to this entry or email me directly at Cheers to all! –KATHY EHRICH DOWD

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