5 Things I Learned While Building My WordPress Website

I’ve been working on re-launching my freelance writing and editing business, and many advised to have a writer website.

“How hard could this be?” I naively thought to myself.

After a couple of weeks of struggle, I came up with something I’m relatively happy with. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good starting place.

Here are a few things I learned along the way:

Plan Your Brand

I used a web domain I had purchased a few years ago when I was thinking of starting a personal blog: thatmelinda.com. It’s memorable and quirky, which is what I was looking for.

When I decided to repurpose it for a business blog, I realized that I should have my social media content match my domain. Fortunately, I was able to switch my Twitter handle and LinkedIn profiles to match. I had already used thatmelinda as my personal Facebook url, so I had to use my name for my business page.

I got lucky. Thatmelinda was still available. I guess I should be thankful my name is not more common.

If I were starting over, I would plan a business name and make sure it’s available across all the platforms I might want to use: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and whatever else the kids might be using these days.

Content First

My first inclination was to make my website look pretty. That’s the fun part—designing it and making it look good.

That also is the wrong way to go.

Start with what you want to say. What pages do you want (Home, About, Portfolio, Hire Me, and Contact Me are what I started with)? What do you want those pages to say?

Once you have an idea of your content, you’ll have a better idea of what designs work best for you.

This is also when you want to look for images. I purchased a stock image I liked ($12 well spent, I think), but there are also countless free image sites that you can use. Just make sure it’s a site that provides images that are free for commercial use.

Once you have images and content, you can plug those into whatever template or theme you’re thinking about using, and then preview the page to get a sense of how it looks.

Otherwise you’re just previewing a generic page, and that’s not helpful.

Self-Hosting

When I first set up my personal blog. I went with WordPress.com. I bought my domain and hosted my site there. Seemed fine to me.

Once I started working on my business site, I wanted to make a few small changes to the theme I was using.

That’s when I ran into problems. Without getting into a lot of detail, WordPress.com limits what you can customize.

The simplest way to customize a theme is using plugins, which are little apps you can install in WordPress. WordPress.com limits those plugins.

To more freely customize your website, you need to host it somewhere else.

I moved my site over to Bluehost. I installed WordPress there, downloaded and installed my theme, and was able to customize it. There are lots of options when it comes to hosting, so look for one that suits your budget and needs.

My domain is still with WordPress.com, but I’ll likely move that when it’s time to re-register.

Customizing

Customizing my website seemed complicated at first.

I didn’t like the fonts. I couldn’t get rid of the title of each page showing up in my content. I wanted to pull my hair out.

Then I discovered plugins.

There are three that I found really helpful:

  • Easy Google Fonts—I’m picky about fonts. I hate Comic Sans, but doesn’t everyone? Easy Google Fonts installs a whole new menu into the customization area of WordPress: typography. I could pick the font I wanted, the color of the font, and the line weight of the font. Nerd heaven.
  • Title Remover—I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of the title of each page showing up. Title remover adds a little box on each page in the editor. You just check “Hide title” and it goes away.
  • WP Portfolio—This plugin was a bit more complicated to figure out. It actually installs a new area onto your WordPress dashboard. From there, you can add items to your portfolio. You can set it to display your posts in groups that you create, or just display them in one big group if you only have a few items in your portfolio.

Let It Go

Thanks to Frozen, that phrase will never be usable again, but it’s true.

Once I had tinkered with it and had done the best I could with my limited ability, it was time to launch.

Now it lives on the Internet. It’s not perfect, but it’s a place to start.

I could have spent hours trying to perfect it, or I could start looking for work. I decided to move on with my life. This goes against every perfectionist instinct I have, but it was time to call it done.

I’ll likely revamp it once a year or so, but for now, I think it serves its purpose.

Conclusion

I think it was worth it to take the time to create a website. Yes, it was a pain, but I learned a lot in the process.

There are a lot of great resources out there if you’re looking to start your own website. I utilized a lot of Elna Cain’s resources, like her blog post here, but there are many others as well.

I also took the time to get feedback on my site. I didn’t agree with all of it, of course. I took what was useful, though, and went back and revamped my site before I launched it.

If you’re working on a website, let me know how it goes! You can contact me via my website or drop me a line at melinda@thatmelinda.com.