6 Things You Should Put on Your Personal Website—and 6 Things to Avoid at All Costs
Especially if you’re early on in your career or don’t work in a particularly visual field, it can be easy to feel like you don’t have enough content to make a personal website worth your time.
But you’d be wrong for two reasons. First, even if you only had a page’s worth of information, putting it on a website under yourname.com is still worth it just to have some real estate on the web and make it easier for hiring managers to find you, learn about you, and get in touch with you.
Secondly, and more importantly, you have more to fill a website with than you probably realize. To help you out, we’ve come up with a list of things that you should be including in your personal website (and, yes, a few things you should avoid at all costs).
1. Include: Your Elevator Pitch
Right off the bat, when people land on your site, you want them to understand who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for.
So, somewhere that’s easily accessible (ideally your home page or “about” page), you should include a summary—no more than two to three paragraphs long—laying out the most important things about you. This could include major companies you’ve worked for, projects you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of, your “superpower” as a professional, and even a little personality. Imagine people coming to your site and only reading this one section. What would you want them to take away?
If you’re not sure where to get started, check out Alexandra Franzen’s advice on how to tell people what you do and be remembered—then translate that into your written bio.
Avoid: Your Life Story
That said, while you definitely want to tell an engaging story on your site, you’re not writing your autobiography here! Just like hiring managers don’t spend much time on your resume, there’s a good chance that the majority of people visiting your personal website aren’t going to spend hours clicking around.
So keep it short and snappy—people will get much more from two well-written paragraphs than they will from skimming over two pages, I promise.
2. Include: Examples of Your Best Work
These days, creative professionals often treat their personal websites as their portfolios, where they collect their work in a way that makes it easy for hiring managers to see their chops. If you’re a designer, artist, photographer, or the like, you should definitely be doing the same. (Squarespace offers some galleries to help you build this easily.)
But even if you’re not in an especially visual field, you can (and should!) create a sort of “gallery” of the work you’re most proud of. If you’re a writer, this could be clips to articles you’ve published around the web, photos of print articles, or links to books you co-authored or ghost wrote. If you’re in marketing, you could include examples of campaigns you ran or descriptions of events you helped put on. Even if you’re in sales or business development, try talking about some of the companies you’ve sold to or from, or give some idea about your sales numbers (without giving away anything proprietary, of course). Get creative and don’t think you can’t “show off” your work just because you don’t have anything tangible to show.
Avoid: Every Piece of Work You’ve Ever Done
You should think of your personal website as a curated gallery of your best work—not a repository of everything you’ve ever done. Think about it this way: If a hiring manager comes to your site and has to weed through a long page of work, he’ll likely feel overwhelmed, click on the first thing on the page, and then ignore the rest. But if you’ve carefully picked out your top examples, you control exactly what he sees.
This also applies to any “works in progress.” If you wouldn’t be comfortable turning it in to your boss, you shouldn’t be showing it off to potential future bosses.
3. Include: Where You Are Around the Web
We know—your personal website isn’t actually your only real estate on the web these days. You have your LinkedIn, your Twitter profile, publications you’ve been published on or places you’ve been interviewed, your GitHub or Behance profile; I could go on and on.
And while your site doesn’t need to replace all of these things, it’s a great way to bring them all together and make them easier for people to find. So, link away! Link to all your (professional) social profiles. Link to any repositories of work. Link to author pages on different websites you contribute to, or sites you’ve helped build. Link to places you’re quoted as an expert. Whatever it is, your personal site is a great way to bring your scattered web presence together.
Avoid: Links Totally Unrelated to Your Job
You should, however, avoid sharing any profiles that are totally unrelated to your job. For example, unless you’re a designer or work in another creative field, I have a hunch your Pinterest has little related to your work on it (yes, even if you follow The Muse). This also applies to blogs that are side projects, most Tumblrs, and your personal Facebook profile.
4. Include: A Great, Professional Blog
Your personal site is a great place to share your thoughts and philosophies related to your industry, and a blog is the perfect medium to do just that. It gives you a space to become a thought leader, engage with more people around the web, and easily update your network on your career news. Plus, it’ll show you have writing skills—a bonus no matter what your job.
If you think you can keep up with it somewhat regularly (two or three times a month, minimum), then consider adding a blog to your site. You can use it to talk about projects you’re working on, give your opinions on big happenings in your industry, or give advice to others trying to break in. (Here are 22 ideas for keeping your blog filled with useful, unique content.)
Avoid: A Blog You Haven’t Touched in 2 Years
On the other hand, if you don’t feel like you can regularly write good, thoughtful content (free of embarrassing grammar mistakes), then skip the blog. It’s not necessary for a good personal site, and if somebody comes to your site and sees that your last post is two years old, they’ll assume the whole site is outdated.
5. Include: Testimonials That Prove Your Worth
Testimonials from people you’ve worked with in the past can be a great way to make you look even more impressive, especially if they’re from well-respected professionals in the field. You can use quotes from people you’ve worked with before to show off soft skills that would be hard to demonstrate, to let someone else sing your praises so you don’t have to, or to simply further prove your worth.
Just as Jenny Foss suggests when you’re asking for LinkedIn recommendations, you want to ask for testimonials for your site with specificity. That is, instead of just saying, “Will you write something nice about me?” try mentioning skills you’re trying to highlight and encourage your recommenders to give examples. Doing so will help you…
Avoid: Testimonials That Just Sound Like You’re Bragging
A page full of vague testimonials of different people saying “she’s great!” or “he’s the best person I ever worked with!” is not only going to sound disingenuous—it’s going to sound a little bit like you’re humble bragging. Plus, it won’t actually help the person reading your site learn any more about you. Choose your reviewers carefully, and ask for them to be specific.
6. Include: You, Visualized
Finally, it’s important to remember that your personal site shouldn’t just be pages full of text—your resume and cover letter handle that. Instead, find ways to visualize yourself and your accomplishments. Maybe it’s creating a simple logo that represents you and what you do. Maybe it’s including a professional photo of yourself. Maybe it’s going as far as to create icons or an infographic representing your accomplishments.
Whatever it is, think of ways to up the imagery and cut down on the words on your site. It will make your site look beautiful—and make you more memorable.
Avoid: Clip Art Graphics
If you’re not an artistically abled person, don’t feel like you have to resort to low-quality clip art graphics (it’s actually better to have none than ones that make your site stand out in the wrong way). Instead, consider investing a little money in having someone help you design one or two graphics that will really help you stand out, and then keep the rest of the site clean and simple. You can also use Squarespace’s logo designer or pull images from one of these sites, which offer beautiful, free images to anyone.
See? You have more to show off than you thought. Now get going and fill up that personal website!
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About The Author
As an Editor at The Daily Muse, Erin has an unhealthy adoration of taking sentences and making them shine. In her search to figure out what she wanted to do with her life, Erin journeyed to the Galapagos to try her hand at environmental filmmaking, jetted to Copenhagen to study Urban Design, and spent hours in the kitchen contemplating quitting it all for culinary school. Follow her continued adventures at eringreenawald.com or on Twitter @erinaceously.