How to Establish Your Professional Presence on the Internet
By Chris King

Do you have a professional presence on the Internet? As free agents, independent professionals and freelancers, we must realize that the Internet is here to stay - IT (Information Technology) is not optional.

Even if you are presently using all of the latest technology programs and equipment to run your business, not having a professional presence on the Internet will rob you of credibility in the minds of your clients and/or prospective clients. The Internet is also one of the most expedient and cost effective ways of marketing your services and products. In this article, I will discuss the major channels for Internet marketing: e-mail, articles, a website and e-books.

The ever-present e-mail is a terrific way to let others know what you do. First of all, I am not and will never suggest spam (mail sent to those who haven't requested it). I don't even send e-mails to current clients unless they have asked for it or know that it is coming. But I do send out a huge amount of e-mail to the people in the organizations for which I volunteer, to lists and discussion groups to which I belong and to others who have e-mailed me with a request and/or a question. So, how do I let people know what I do? I use the signature files in my e-mail programs. I have set a regular signature file with my name, address, phone number and links to four of my websites.

Even if you don't yet have a website (and we will be discussing this), giving your title with a short statement about what you do along with contact information will spark readers' interest. Setting up a signature file and/or files has been a huge boon to my business. Including my address and phone number also speaks of credibility - people realize that I am not some fly-by-night operation. I know some free agents who also add a tip or an answer to the most frequently asked question about their business.

Start an e-newsletter (e-zine). This is a whole topic (or actually a full book) and there are many resources available on the Internet. You may already subscribe to several e-newsletters, yourself. Again, never start sending one to those who haven't asked for it (it is called opt-in). If you are reading this article, then you know that I have a free e-newsletter that I send out bi-weekly. Yes, it takes work and discipline, but the rewards are almost too numerous to list. The good part is that it keeps me posting new articles on the off week (thus, directing readers back to my sites). It keeps me in touch with clients and new friends from all over the world (my list of subscribers keeps growing). And, it makes readers aware of the reasonably priced Special Reports that I sell. Because of the information and techniques I have learned by starting the newsletter, I am now designing HTML newsletters for several of my clients (extra business) along with speaking to local users groups about starting and maintaining an e-newsletter (more visibility).

Start writing articles and offer them to website owners with sites that relate to your topics. I know, having three information sites, how much I appreciate a well written article that pertains to my subject. It adds variety to my pages and gives me a break from having to write an article every other week. So, what's in it for you? If the site you are writing for gets lots of visitors they will read your article and in return you will gain exposure. Make sure that they use a short bio about you and what you do, along with how to get in touch with you. This works especially well if you have a website they can link to.

If you don't already have a website, get one. And, if you do have a website, visit it with critical eyes. Does it represent who you are? Are you proud to send potential clients to it? Yes, the actual process of setting up a website can be surprisingly easy. Yes, there are also many opportunities to set up free websites (at yahoo.com and tripod.com, for example). Having one of these is better than having no website, but, in my opinion, you should get a domain name of your own (godaddy.com is reasonable and accredited) and have your own website at your own address. Business people know whether or not you are located at a free site or at your own, and prices today are so competitive, this doesn't cost a huge amount.

Even though it is relatively easy to set up a website, hire a designer to help you. I know that I mentioned in the previous paragraph that setting up a site is easy. I even attended a meeting this past week where the speaker was showing us how easy this is to do with the powerful and straightforward Microsoft program, FrontPage. If you think you want to try to create your own website, here are a few of my tips:

  • Realize that even though FrontPage is a simple program to use if you are already familiar with the Office suite, it will eat up a huge amount of your time.
  • Do not use the templates and themes that come with the program. They are already all over the Internet, so that when people visit your site it will cry, "Amateur."
  • Content and usability are the two most important factors to consider when designing a website. There are books and articles galore on both.
  • Graphics (including photos) add color and pizzazz to a website, but make sure they are optimized to download quickly. If a site takes too long to appear, we all know that we go somewhere else (do visit www.websitesthatsuck.com).
  • Check out your site in different browsers. One of the frustrating (or challenging) truths of the Internet is that viewers are using different browsers, different resolutions, different sized computer screens and different connection speeds. All of these will affect their experiences at your website.
  • Once you have a website, let people know about it. Put the address in your e-mail signature, submit it to the leading search engines (a book in itself), and add it to all of your printed material. I know many free agents who also add it to their voice mail message, so potential clients can visit it while waiting for your return call.

Write an e-book. Presently, E-books, from most reports, are not selling big time, but they still are selling. In my opinion, they will never replace the printed book, but they will continue to grow in sales. The advantages of writing and selling an e-book are: you can update them in a timely fashion, you can price them reasonably (all the profit is yours and they are nearly cost-free to produce), they give you credibility and visibility (establishing you as an expert on your topic), they are a way to combine your free articles and they are fun to write. So, what do you know that others would like to know about? What experience have you had that others can learn from? Again, there are many resources on the Internet about e-books and producing e-books.

I hope that in this overview article I have whetted your interest in ways to establish a presence on the Internet. It takes time, discipline, commitment and patience. It is, however, worth it!

Need some help? Check out my business website at www.creativekeys.biz.

 


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