There are an endless amount of writers out there. Just look at the amount of submissions the average writing contest receives or how many sketches fill the Newsjack inbox each week. The numbers are growing all the time and thanks to the pandemic, a lot of people finally have the free time to pursue that lifelong dream of theirs.
It is amazing that any of us ever get any work. The odds are insane. Frankly, it’s basically impossible to win a competition, have your material broadcast, get a book published, have a series commissioned, or whatever it is that you’re working towards.
Yet it happens.
Today, people will have signed a development deal with a production company, had a nod from an agent, received a heads-up that their script has been shortlisted… It happens all the time. But why was it those writers and not you?
There are a million reasons. Maybe they’re more experienced, maybe they know a guy, maybe their Dad is someone famous, maybe they’re privileged enough that they don’t have to work a day job and support a family and pay bills like you have to, so they get all the time in the world to develop their ideas and work on their craft.
Or maybe they were just easier to find.
Now I’m not saying that if you get a website, you’re instantly going to get lots of work. But I do genuinely believe that it will improve your chances. If nothing else, it will help to professionalise you as a writer. You can go onto Google and search YOUR NAME + WRITER and there will be at least one result. And isn’t that the dream?
I started my website (this one right here!) back in 2019. I was attending a Learning and Development conference as part of my day job. I’d been to a Newsjack recording the night before and the combination of the two resulted in me wanting to pass on everything I’d learnt about unsuccessfully writing topical comedy (hence Comedy Loser). I grabbed as many complimentary glasses of wine as I could and left to sit on the steps outside the ExCel Conference Centre, overlooking the Royal Victoria Docks.
I don’t remember my thought processes but within minutes, I’d joined WordPress and had registered The Comedy Loser. Things were slow over that first year. I exclusively used the platform to share my thoughts on Newsjack and to link to my agent’s website. I wrote a little bit about myself, including contact details and if I’m honest, I didn’t give the thing anywhere near enough thought. I had 710 hits that year.
After a while, I started getting messages from people. They’d read my posts and had found them useful. They started asking specific questions about their own writing or sending me jokes to read. I started getting to know these writers quite well and at the same time, I was beginning to immerse myself in the online writing community. This eventually grew into my interview series, Writers in Various Stages of Development. A series dedicated to these working writers. The stories behind the names that you see in the credits or on competition shortlists. An exploration of the life of a writer. I was fed up of interviews and biographies that jumped straight from wannabe writer to hugely successful superstar. What about the middle bits where things actually happened?
In 2020 I had 5,517 hits (a 677% growth on the previous year) and at the time of writing, halfway through 2021, I’ve had 10,600. Now I’m not going to say those are big numbers. They’re very modest by modern web standards but the important thing is that the platform is growing.
People enjoyed the blogs and started supporting by sharing them with other writers. I added a Ko-Fi account so people who wanted to support even more could do so by sending me money to buy a coffee, or a pint (or a Funko for my office). Suddenly my little blog that I started on a whim was bringing in actual money. I’m not talking quit-your-job money, but still, it became a new source of income for me as a writer. Through my blog, I’ve also been invited to read scripts for competitions or give feedback notes to writers, both of which generate income.
Most importantly, I now have an online presence. A dedicated space that showcases my work and makes me easier to find. You may already have your credits featured on platforms such as British Comedy Guide, IMDB, or your agent’s website but by having your own space, you can bring all of this together and control how you and your career are represented. It’s also likely that these other sources only paint a part of the picture. If you take ownership, you can make sure everything is there (apart from the early videos you made and put on MySpace and are now too embarrassed to share).
Why should you start a website?
When I interview writers, I spend time researching their work. This process is made so much easier when they have a website. Everything I need – their profile, achievements, credits – is there and it helps me to very quickly build an understanding of who the person is. If this helps me, then it’s also going to be useful for any producer or agent who is looking to see if you’ll be a good fit for them.
As a writer, you are a business and it’s important that you represent yourself in the best possible way. As a business, you also have a brand. Who are you? What do you do? How do you do it? How good are you at doing it? Why should people work with you and not any of those other writers?
A website, if you want it to, can be used to demonstrate your voice. I’ll drop some sample websites at the end of this blog so you can see how this can be done. You’re a writer so it’s reasonable to expect that you’re going to showcase this on your website. This could be an ‘About Me‘ page that shows your personality and ability to make people laugh, a blog about all your crazy little adventures, or something completely unique that only you could ever think of.
As I demonstrated earlier with my yearly increase in traffic, it is possible to use your website to build an audience. This takes commitment and an investment in energy from you and it may not be your goal. But if you’re a writer/performer, promoting a self-published book or podcast, or are someone who is actively looking to network, then you should be paying attention to your numbers.
Why do I need a website if I’m already active on social media?
Social media is important for writers and yes, people can get all of the above from your Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn profile. But the important thing to remember is that a website is for everyone. By keeping your online presence exclusively within social media, you are risking alienating anyone who isn’t on that platform.
People often don’t like to talk business over socials. So again, if you’re not giving people an easy way to find and contact you, then you could be limiting your opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had success from blindly messaging people on Facebook but often a person’s profile is for their personal life and they’re not open to engaging with you about work stuff.
Social media moves fast. Your post about getting a joke on Breaking the News or winning a competition will quickly be pushed down your feed and forgotten. By having a website, you can ensure your achievements are presented in a way that anyone can easily find them.
Social media should be seen as one ingredient in your overall online presence. Having it will help you to network and find opportunities. It will also work with your website – both as a tool to direct traffic to your site and as a resource to simplifier the web design process. More on that in a bit.
Alright, fine! I’ll make a website! What should I put on it?
At the very least, you should have some information about yourself and details of how to get in contact. Contact forms are okay, but you’ll probably do better putting your email address on there, as well as your socials.
If you have credits or published work, stick those down. If you’re a writing team, then I’d suggest putting all of your credits together up top and then include any solo projects underneath. That’s what my writing partner James and I do. Credits could be formatted on a webpage or you could just upload a PDF. The main thing is that they’re available so people can see what you’ve done.
It’s important to try and capture yourself in your website. Some people like to play it straight, but it’s always great to be able to see someone’s personality in their website. If you’re a comedy writer, you absolutely should include jokes!
If you’re a writer/performer, include some clips. Hey, even if you’re not a performer, you could include a showreel of things you’ve written. If you’re an author who also illustrates, get your artwork on the site.
You might want to do a blog. I suggest that if you do this, make sure you keep it updated. I’m not always the best at keeping mine active, but if you’re committing to something, you should deliver.
And like you would with your writing, consider your audience. Who are you trying to reach and what would they want to see from you? If you’re interested in attracting an agent, then you probably want to be showing that you have numerous projects in development and make it clear that these are available on request.
If you’re thinking that you would like to monetise your website, then what does that look like? Are you selling stuff? You’ll need a store. Are you offering a service, such as script reading, speech writing, or joke punch-ups? Back this up with experience and testimonials from clients. You could setup a Ko-Fi account and link that or sign up for a paid adverts programme, or make money by getting people to click on affiliate links.
It really comes down to what you want to achieve but at the very least you should have an “About Me” area and contact details. That might suit you forever or you could grow the site in the future. The main thing is that you will now have a place where people can find you.
How do I get started?
If you’re like me, you probably don’t know anything about websites or web design (maybe I should have mentioned that earlier?). For years I put off getting a website because I couldn’t get my head around how it worked or even where to start. It’s the same reason why I don’t have a podcast.
Don’t overthink it.
It’s way easier than you think it is.
There are lots of services out there that will allow you to get up and running in no time with no need to understand web coding or anything like that. You might look at Wix or SquareSpace for this. They both seem decent and there are always discount codes about.
Personally, I went with WordPress. I don’t remember why. Maybe it was the top result in Google or I’d seen someone else use it. But I’ve been really impressed with the experience. It’s free to setup and run a basic website and you can do this either on a computer or via a tablet/phone with an app. It’s designed to be used by novices. You’ll be fine.
There are limitations with the free package and so I did upgrade earlier this year. Quick note on that – don’t jump straight into a paid package. Get yourself started and soon enough they’ll email you with various offers to upgrade at reduced rates. I ended up going for one of these deals and as a result have access to more templates, features, and a custom URL instead of the standard WordPress one.
That worked for me and I felt the spend was justified but if you’re just looking for a basic space, the free option will 100% deliver what you need.
If you’re concerned about building your site, again, don’t worry. This can be as simplistic as a single page. It all depends on your needs. Have a think about what you want to achieve. Do you want a static page that you update every once in a while and requires minimal maintenance or do you want something more interactive and content driven?
When you start looking, you’ll see all kinds of things about hosting videos and file storage limits etc. I wouldn’t recommend paying for this type of thing unless you’re going to be generating so much content that you’re considering a paywall system (see That Kevin Smith Club as a great example of this). My suggestion is to use the resources that are already available to you:
- Stick your videos on YouTube or Vimeo and embed them to your website.
- Create a SoundCloud and upload clips of your audio work (don’t forget to credit the other people involved). Then link you website to it. Bingo – free storage plus it’s available outside of your website too.
- If you have credits on British Comedy Guide, IMDB or your agent’s website, just link to these instead of creating your own credits page.
You’ve registered a website and are starting to create content – WAIT! Here are a few considerations to keep in mind
Don’t create placeholder pages. You know, when you click a link and get a message that says, “This area is under construction” or “Come back soon”? Nah, forget it. Don’t waste your time or your visitors. If you give someone a link to click on, make sure it goes to where they’re expecting it to. If you have any idea for something, create it then promote it. Don’t promise something that you can’t deliver on.
Don’t overcommit. If you’re not sure if you can keep a blog active or post a weekly joke or add a new video every Friday – DON’T TELL PEOPLE THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO DO. To begin with, be realistic with yourself and your audience and don’t get carried away. Focus on doing a few things really well.
This one is super obvious but make sure you make a note of how to edit your website. The service you used to build it with, your login details, things like that. You know, so you don’t get locked out of your own website.
Keep it up to date. I know that it’s easy to focus on the work and lose track of the admin (I have a folder of loose receipts and paperwork to prove it) but if you’ve got a new credit, industry recognition, book, whatever, then make sure you keep your records up to date. The whole point of this thing is to showcase you’re work and achievements! This also goes for keeping your contact details current.
I know you’re not going to do this because you’re a creative person and understand craft and have respect for people’s work… but don’t copy someone else’s website. Similar to your work as a writer; be inspired by others and take bits and pieces from your influences, mix it with your own story and experience, then CHUCK it all into a big blender that spits out something that is original. Something that is unique to you. People can tell when you’re faking it so be authentic.
If this all still feels like too much. If you’ve looked at WordPress and shut it down in terror. If you’ve got a big idea that’s beyond your reach… It’s totally fine to pay a professional. This could be a web designer, a graphic designer, or an artist. If you need a copywriter, you’ve probably got bigger problems than a website. I’m no artist but had a distinct idea for my branding that I couldn’t achieve so I commission an artist (Andrew Thomas) to create designs for me. It gives me a better product and if you need to do that too, then do it.
Before you head off to create your new website that will DEFINITELY be better than mine (seriously, I have zero idea what I’m doing here), here are some excellent writer websites to check out for inspiration.
Good luck with your new website. If you decide to create one after reading this, please let me know, I’d love to see it. And if this was useful, please consider buying me a coffee.