So far in this series I’ve covered what being a Professional means, and how to exercise Professional Practices. Now I’m going talk about Professional Presentation.
What I mean by Professional Presentation is what you show the world. This will be beyond your social media interaction, but it also includes it to an extent. I’m talking about a blog or website, something of your own that represents you. It’s getting to the point worldwide that you don’t look professional if you don’t have a website someone can visit. People will be suspicious of you not being the “real deal” or a fraud out to take them for whatever you can get from them if you don’t have a professional web-space – blog/website.
Don’t believe me? How many times have you gone to look for something online only to find no solid web-space for the person or company, so you don’t take them as seriously?
Most businesses have websites or pages on Facebook, or even Twitter accounts, where they can communicate and interact with the public, even if it’s just for coupons and sales. In that type of market and informational structure, how can you afford not to have something cyber-solid that people can visit about you? Don’t you want to get your name out in the world? What professional wants to stay hidden?
Having said that… I’ve been disappointed about literary agents and their websites or lack thereof. Most agencies have a website, but a good number of literary agents don’t even have a blog, let alone a website. This, to me, showed a lack of professionalism on their part. How are authors supposed to submit manuscripts to them? How are authors supposed to know what they are looking for and what format they are interested in? Their lack of professionalism makes it almost impossible for authors to be professional with them.
Having web-space gives people information. If you’re an author, it tells people about your books and where they can find them. It also gives contact information, so that other professionals can contact you about projects and working together. Without that, you miss out on a lot of opportunities.
You may be thinking that you can’t afford web-space or you don’t have time to maintain it. But, both are not true. You can get a free blog with Blogger or WordPress that is easy to maintain. Heck, even if you post something on your blog twice a month, that’s better than nothing at all. And, at that rate you’ll have at least twenty-four posts in a year – sounds better and better, doesn’t it? Plus, there are simple ways to feed your blog to your Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and Amazon profiles automatically! That means, you post on your blog and it feeds out to everywhere someone could possibly be seeing you on the web if you have yourself out there to be found.
Websites can be a bit more complicated, but WordPress sites aren’t too hard. If you have a handle on them blog wise, handling them as a website is easy.
You could also pay someone to build you a website, or you can take the time to become somewhat tech savvy and buy software that helps you build a website. They range from $50+. There are also Domain Hosts like GoDaddy who not only sell you a domain at a reasonable price, but a blog comes with it, and they have tools built in to help you build your site with templates!
Honestly, websites aren’t nearly as complicated as they used to be. All it takes is a little bit of time and research to know what’s right for you. Blogs are simple, so if you aren’t “techy” that’s where I would suggest you start.
[Here’s a great three part article I’ve read recently that helps explain what an author’s website needs to be successful, and other tips: http://literary-agents.com/author-website/]
Your web-space should be a place to show your Professional Presentation, meaning you should have decent photos of yourself, if not professional ones. You should strive your very best to make sure your posts/pages are proofread and they are absolutely the best they can be. Also, it shouldn’t be the main place for public rants and temper tantrums – people will not take you seriously if you behave like a ranting ex-wife (see Part 2 of this series: Professional Practices). This should be where you post informed, intelligent articles about whatever you want to talk about, which should, for the most part, be about your writing. It’s your professional space after all.
You do need to be yourself though, as much as possible. There are millions of people in the world, but only one you. True fans will follow you, but you don’t want to be intentionally abrasive, because writing is a business, at least, if you ever want to sell any books. If you don’t, feel free to keep sitting in the dark corner and don’t bother wasting your time on a website that no one will want to visit. No one likes assholes. The web-space is about Professional Presentation, not about your personal life or butt-hurt over random things in life.
[Note: If you want to post pictures or anything else about your pets and your family, they should be contained on a personal blog or web-space, not your professional area. Professional areas are for business and advancing your career.]
Even though your web-space is as professional as you can make it, there will still be internet trolls who seek to make everyone’s lives miserable and ugly. In light of this, continue your professionalism by not having their crap smeared across your web-space: make it so all comments have to be approved by you before they go live. This will keep the attention whores to a minimum and hopefully keep people who want to argue just to argue away from you. But, it’s the internet, so they will always be around; it’s your job not to give them a place around you.
Speaking of which, do not engage in a public argument on your web-space! This makes you look as petty as the one who started the commotion. Let things go that will do nothing but damage you or waste your time needlessly about things that don’t matter.
Professional Presentation will take time to start up and build, but it will be worth it in the end. You will look more professional, and more people will want to work with you. If you’re striving to be more professional, put your best foot forward for the world to see.
©Rebecca Besser, 2014. All rights reserved.