Disclaimer: I know that I use virtual professionals (virtual assistants, virtual paralegals, etc.) as an example in a lot of my posts, like the one yesterday for example. But to be honest, most of my posts, e-books and coaching materials apply to any small or micro-business providing services. I just happen to have the inside scoop on my own industry, and like most people, I write what I know. So for my readers that aren’t virtual professionals, just replace that term with your own industry, because trust me, it applies there too.
Yesterday I published a post about some pretty sucky websites that I’d observed during a web search for virtual professionals. I’m sure a cry went up from tons of people with free or template driven websites defending their choice. And I know of at least one person that complained that my website was, in their own words and spelling:
“very “busy”, bad color selection, and hard to maniplulate – very wordy and doesn’t appear “professional” like she preaches. Just my opinion… “
I’m not going to defend my choice of colors, graphics or design. All I can say is that it works for me and the services I offer and scores a 96 out of 100 on HubSpot’s website grader. (and yes, I did compare my grade to the grade of the above commenter…their site got a… oops! that would be wrong, wouldn’t it?)
My bounce rate is low, which means that people that come here, stick around and read what I have to say and most of all, I get clients from my website. But the commenter is right in one respect, my site doesn’t look the same as other ‘professional’ sites out there.
And it’s intentional.
My business isn’t like all the others, it’s unique. I’m a huge believer in the SEO power of WordPress for business websites and of using the Headway theme, so that’s what I’ve used to create mine. I’m a self proclaimed girly girl geek, so the colors and images reflect that. I advocate blogging for business, and that’s why you’re here reading Tips from T.Marie. I practice what I preach and it works. And according to most of the feedback I’ve received about the design, it does in fact convey professionalism.
But this isn’t about defending my website design. This is about using your website to set yourself apart from the crowd. Because let’s face it, you’re not the only one out there offering what you offer. And getting someone to choose your services over your competition starts with getting their attention.
Perhaps what I failed to convey in yesterday’s post was this. The business world is changing. In years past it might have been sufficient to just have a website that looked somewhat business-like. But now a site like that is just one in a sea of others that look just like it. Anybody with a few hours to spare can throw an ‘easy template site’ together regardless of their true experience and/or expertise. If your website looks just like theirs, how is a client to know that you’re different? That you have that expertise and experience to offer?
And I won’t apologize for my thoughts on free websites either. If you don’t have enough faith in yourself and your business to spend money on a website, why should a client have faith in you? I’m not pointing fingers here. I went the free website route at the very beginning, in fact, I went the free everything route. It wasn’t until I started paying for things that the clients began to call. In fact, every time I invest in my business, my client base grows.
Every single time.
So even in the shadow of a negative review of my website, I stick by my guns. The whole point of Tips from T. Marie is to share what I’ve learned the hard way so that you can skip the same growing pains I did and find success quicker.
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Tina, I think your site is fab – professional AND fun – the kind of site I’d like to emulate when I refresh my website in the next few months.
I don’t think VAs or other internet-based businesses are taking advantage of having a bit more freedom (than, say, conservative retail type businesses) to be stand-out different. If you want to stand out, you need to show the world that it’s your quirkiness or creativity that helps make you stand out and that you can have a fun website that will still relay that you are a professional. When done properly, as your site, it’s gold.
I went the low-price route (Go Daddy Website Tonight) when I first starting putting my VA business together in August 2009. I truly do like my site, and have done as much as time & Go Daddy’s site builder will allow in the way of being creative and expressing who I am, but I am also looking forward to the time when I can spend the dough to have it completely rebuilt into something that better reflects my slightly wacky, sarcastic sense of humor and love for retro-style colors and design while still relaying what a fab VA I am. 🙂 Thanks for this post, it makes a great point that I hope others will grasp as well.
@MarieFitzgibbons Hi Marie! Thanks so much for sharing. I can’t wait to see that slightly wacky, sarcastic sense of humor with a love of retro website when the time comes. I’m glad you saw the point of this post. It truly is about finding a way to let yourself shine through in such a way that people remember you and desire to work with you!
And thanks for your kind words about this site, too.
Terrific post, Tina!! I will comment again and say I LOVE your website. Why? Because its unique! It says YOU and that is EXACTLY what we are trying to convey here!!! If you want people to visit your site, you’ve got to WOW them from the first click!!! Unfortunately, I’m still in the beginning stages of my business, so for now I’ve got to go the FREE route; but hopefully someday soon, I can make the plunge to a premium fully customizable theme, and start drawing more clients!!! Thanks Tina, you’re an inspiration!!!
@tinathelen914 Thanks Tina! I think a lot of people mistakenly think that with a website they have more time to make a lasting impression than they might at a in-person networking meeting, but they are mistaken. The average visitor to your website decides within 10 seconds whether to stay or click away. So you can see why you would need to do something different to grab their attention and make them want to stay.
Thanks so much for sharing!