Rebuilding My Author Site 3 Times in 3 Years: 3 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

Rebuilding My Author Site 3 Times in 3 Years: 3 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

If you’ve been following this website for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that it looks a little different than it did a month ago. Depending on how long you’ve been around (hi mom!), you may also recall that this is the third makeover to grace this site in as many years.

So, the elephant in the room: why do I keep revamping things?

Basically, when I originally launched this site, I cut a few corners. Over time those shortcuts translated to limitations that took two tries (and counting) to fix.

Today I’m sharing 3 lessons I learned in the process of getting it wrong. Feel free to learn from my mistakes, especially if you’re looking to create or modify your own author site.  

1. Easier is not always better.

In the beginning, before I launched this website three years ago, here’s what I knew this site would need to do:

  • Act as a storefront for the editing and coaching work I’d begun two years prior;
  • Showcase my writing and eventually act as an author site when I published a book;
  • Contain a blog that would be scalable if my audience grew;
  • Please the eye (read: I can’t stand websites that look like they were built in 1998).

With these needs in mind, I researched the best platforms for building a blog-based business website. All roads led to the same place: WordPress.org, the industry standard for building business sites and blogs. (Here is a helpful resource for authors about using this platform.)

But there was a problem: WordPress was difficult! It was not intuitive, the back-end seemed Byzantinely complex, and after noodling around for a few hours I had a huge headache.

Enter cut corner #1: I settled for Weebly, a low-cost, template-based website builder I’d used to make a wedding page for my husband and me. Weebly was everything WordPress was not: simple, easy, intuitive, drag and drop… I built the entire site from start to finish in under two hours before toasting my digital prowess.

But in the weeks and months that followed, I soon realized I’d made a mistake. Weebly was great for a simple wedding website, not so great for supporting a robust business and blogging platform.

2. It’s never too late (or too early) to try again.

Here’s an example of Weebly’s limitations. Although my site came with a blog, I could not customize or optimize that page to do what I needed it to do, nor (at the time) could I integrate it with Mailchimp or make use of other tools for building a mailing list.

I could have easily cut ties with Weebly—it was only two weeks after I had formally launched the website. It’s not like anyone was losing sleep in anticipation of my next blog post.

Instead, I stuck it out. As I saw it, I’d made a commitment to myself and my readers (read: the dozen or less friends and family who cared what I was up to online).  

I told myself I’d give Weebly a full year before making a decision. That was cut corner #2.     

3. Be your brand.

By the time that one-year mark came, I had signed a book contract. My website would soon need to do double duty as an author page.

But suddenly I got cold feet. Wouldn’t people get confused by a website that featured me as both a writer and writing coach?

I didn’t feel confident, charismatic, or smart enough to be my own brand–to house all my professional activities under my own name. What I didn’t realize was that branding isn’t about being flashy or snazzy–it’s about being yourself (or a curated version of yourself, at least) and letting your personality shine through in intentional ways. Like it or not, you are the link that cinches all the disparate sectors of your skills and services together.

Instead of sitting down and hammering out a single branding strategy for all my professional skills and services—one that was big enough to encapsulate both my business and my writing—I started thrashing. Before I knew it, I’d severed the two hemispheres of my professional life and created a second website (new domain, new business name, new design) solely devoted to my coaching and editing work.

This was cut corner #3.

One step in the right direction, though: I managed to build that new site with a simplified template under WordPress.org. (My author site and blog still stayed on Weebly.) Spoiler alert: it didn’t kill me.

But although I assumed having two sites would allow for greater simplicity and two distinct brands, it only left me feeling fragmented and discombobulated a professional.

The truth is, my work as an editor and writing coaching IS inherently tied to what I’m continuously learning as a writer—and vice versa. I barely did anything on either site during this time because in separating the two areas of my work, I lost sight of my vision and purpose.     

Conclusion

Several months ago, I finally took the plunge and retraced my steps. I set out to put everything back under one hat—my writing, my coaching, my editing. To do this, I knew I’d have to dig a bit deeper and identify what unifies all of what I do professionally. And I’d have to do all of this using the WordPress interface.

In the end, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

The hidden benefit of recrafting your website for the third time in a relatively short period of time is that you develop a lower tolerance for fluff and nonsense. While it’s sort of embarrassing that it took three years of trial and error to get here, what I’m not embarrassed about is this website. It’s the first one I feel truly, unreservedly confident about (though still a few minor kinks to work out!). Despite still being a work in progress, it reflects who I am and seek to be professionally and creatively.

So, welcome to the new site. I’m looking forward to continued progress in these and other areas in 2019!     

 

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