I’ve faced this myself. And what I asked myself was, “What experiences from my past are relevant to what I am doing now that enhance my credibility in this new area?” For example, when I first started offering web design services and my portfolio consisted of only two websites, I focused on my coaching skills and my other marketing skills — the fact that I had 15+ years of media experience like writing, editing, video production, and public relations. These are all relevant to creating a website for someone. I also utilized the fact that my father was nominated for four Academy Awards for Art Direction for feature films, and that I worked with him on one of his last projects. And, I got very strong testimonials from those first two clients about what it was like working with me — how I helped them beyond just delivering a well-designed site that met their specifications.
And is there anything to avoid? Any big no-no’s?
The biggest no-no is creating a website that looks like you did it yourself. What I mean by that is using pixelated images, colors that don’t work together, having one image overlapping another image, typos and so on. This is the biggest problem I see when people create their own sites — a lack of attention to details that make the site look unprofessional. The other big problem I see is people trying to oversell their skills and hyping what they have done.
Let’s say I’m looking for someone to help create my personal website. There are so many web developers out there. How do I pick the right one?
That’s an important question, and for me this is one of the best parts of the process from my end — discovering if I’m truly a fit for who the person is and what they need.
One great thing about hiring a web designer is that they will have examples of their work to show you. So I would start there. Does the quality of their designs and their “design sensibility” match what you’re seeking? If it does, then I would set up a time to talk with them. You can learn a lot about a person just by spending a little bit of time on the phone or on a video conference with them. Do they listen? Are they connecting with you and what is important to you — your ideas, your challenges, your fears, your aspirations? Or are they simply trying to sell you their service? Observe and trust your intuition.
Do you have any further advice for those looking to create their own sites?
I would recommend having a professional review your site or tutor you if you are going to create it completely on your own, just so you can avoid the pitfalls I mentioned in the no-no’s section above. And, make sure you test your site on all of the widely used browsers to make sure it works correctly (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari) and on mobile devices and tablets.