Does a writer need a website to start a writing business?

Contrary to popular opinion, getting a website should not be among the first things you do when you branch out as a professional writer. Here’s why.
Do you need a writing website

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Most people would probably assume that, since I’m a web designer, I’m going to advise every writer they need to start with a writing website. You would assume wrong. 

I’ve been creating websites long enough to view starting a website differently from most of my fellow web designers. If you are just starting your writing business, you’re going to want to hold off on a writing website for a little while, anyway.

Writer, Know Thyself

A website is not a magical key to success. Websites are only as good as the messages they are used to convey. 

Copywriting and web design need to work together. Without your messaging nailed down, your author website is not likely to succeed. 

As a writer, you already know the power of words. Now the challenge is figuring out how to talk about what you do for your clients and readers as a writer in a way that resonates with them.

Marketing and selling and the stories we tell

To sell your books or writing services, and make a living writing, you need to figure out how to talk about who you are and what you do in such a way that it resonates with those who will buy your writing. 

Your messaging cannot simply be, “Buy my stuff so I can quit my barista gig!”

As an author, your messaging also can’t be, “Tell me what you need, and I’ll morph into it!” If you try to be all things to all people, you will eventually burn out. Not to mention, being inauthentic feels icky. 

The most foundational thing you can do, after writing well, of course, involves messaging. This starts with figuring out what kind of writer you are, and who you like to serve. And that only comes from… wait for it… writing and serving.

As you do it, you’ll realize what you love and what you don’t love. 

As a web designer, I didn’t realize who I loved working with and who I didn’t love working with until I had a few dozen clients under my belt. After a while, a pattern emerges. Some jobs feel energizing and authentic. Some jobs suck the life out of you.

The challenge for you is to convey who you are, who you serve, and what ways you help those you serve authentically that really let you connect with your target audience. And this only happens when you test out your message on real people, instead of playing with the words alone in your office. 

The problem with creative souls like you and me is simple. We’re too much in our own heads.

You no doubt could come up with some great copy for your writing website if you wanted to. Unless it feels comfortable in your mouth and connects with those likely to buy your books or writing services, it won’t work.

This is where the delay in creating a writing website comes in.

The clients I have had who have succeeded best are those who come into a website or branding project already certain of who they are, who they serve, and their basic messaging. 

Before getting a writing website, put yourself out there

Where do you build your writing business, then? 

You start by sharing pieces of your messaging out there in the universe… the real world… in front of real people. 

If this sounds terrifying, you’d be correct. It is. 

I find it so much easier to put something up on a website than it is to share it publicly on Facebook where people who actually know me will see and comment on it. 

I deleted about 100 blog posts a few months ago because I realized part of the problem with my messaging was that it was untested, and those old blog posts reflected this. My old blog posts failed because I kept my messaging hidden until the day when I lifted the cover and said, “VOILA!” and no one responded. 

In hindsight, this seems stupidly obvious.

Then I was listening to a video by George Kao (check him out). I bought a group coaching program with him about developing clarity in my messaging. The whole thing was worth every penny. The concept of testing my message publicly changed my approach to content creation.  

After joining a business networking group (which is far, far outside of my introverted, neurodivergent comfort zone), I started realizing that what I thought was crystal clear in things I say and talk about was not at all clear. Hmm.

So I started testing out explaining things differently, reworking how I talked about web design, websites, and internet marketing until real people who were not on my subreddit for uber-nerds understood me and responded positively to what I was saying. 

Connecting with the Public (and getting out of your own head)

Does a writer need a writing website to begin to work as a writer. Here's what I think.

You don’t have to join the Chamber of Commerce or anything like that. Although groups of professionals in your target market are great for helping you hone your messaging. 

What you need to practice is talking about you and your writing publicly via social media, friends, and so forth until you figure out the best, most authentic way for you to communicate about your writing business. 

Even better, you will figure out what kinds of things, within your wheelhouse, real, live people, would probably buy from you. 

If you aren’t sure what your why is, and your “story” beyond your writing and inspiration, start talking about what you do in smaller segments. Test it out. Put it out there. Talk about who you are, what you’re about, what your writing is all about… BEFORE you ever get a writing website. 

Your writing website cannot ever just be something pretty to dump words into. Your website’s design has to accentuate your messaging, helping your audience notice and receive it. Therefore, get your messaging solid first, then get a writing website.

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Kimberly Eddy

Kimberly Eddy is a website designer and author in Thomasville GA (originally from Michigan), with over 30 years of experience in design and marketing including 18 years of experience in web design.