I don’t know about you, but over at TONIC, we tend to eeeeeassseee into the New Year. Resolutions are great and goals are necessary, but sometimes it’s better to take a barrel-aged bourbon approach to life and… let’s say, “get better over time,” since that sounds a lot better than “ferment.”
So, now that the “Here are the 6,000 changes I plan to make in 2017 to improve every aspect of my life including my flossing technique” craze has passed a bit (but before the busy season hits full swing), we’re looking at a few things we want to do better, more, less, or differently – bonus points if they’re changes we can implement immediately. (Instant gratification gets a lot of bad press, but it’s great motivation.)
If you’re still in evaluation mode, too, or perhaps you’re ready for action steps after making #alltheplans, we wanted to share a few tips in our wheelhouse you can implement to improve your online presence… right now. The list isn’t comprehensive or even meant to be tackled all at once, but we guarantee the sense of accomplishment as you move through the steps will feel GREAT. Even better than the six pack we’re all tooootally going to have by December.
1. Review Your Website.
One of the most common problems we see online is pure website neglect: a small business owner launches a new website, drinks champagne, passes out, and then doesn’t touch it (or look at it) again until the sudden urge to rebrand strikes three years later.
But like great businesses, great websites aren’t just made: they evolve. They should grow, improve, and change over time to fit their owners, who are growing and changing, too.
So, if you haven’t looked at your website lately, that’s a great place to start. To begin with, mix yourself a cocktail, open your website and browse every page with fresh eyes. (You checkbox addicts, feel free to give yourself a check for each page!) Then, let’s evaluate. Here are a few of our favorite prompts for your reference:
- If your ideal client had your website open with 20 other tabs, would YOURS connect with them? If so, great. Please proceed to question 3.
- But if not, why not? What’s missing? Does your site say anything at all, or is it just inoffensively pretty? Does it show you at your best, and what you do best? Does it set you apart in some way? Can it do that better?
- Are there simple changes you can make to the primary images or copy to provide better points of connection with your ideal client? Can you add a little bit of your unique perspective to your about page, or showcase images that feel more like you and the kinds of work you love to produce? (Not sure how? Great news: here’s where to start).
- If you landed on your your website for the first time as a client, not as someone who’s been there before, would you understand how to navigate through the site content? Does it flow from one place to the next, with clear direction, or are you providing too many things to do and too many places to go at once? Or, alternately, does each page feel like a dead end, without any steps forward?
- Related to #4: are you missing the calls to action (CTA)? No matter how pretty your site is, at its best, it should also be a tool. The primary purpose of your website, after all, is to generate interest in you, your work, and your services… interest that will compel clients to contact you. The best way to do this is by inviting them to do so – add a note at the bottom of your portfolio page compelling them to contact you if they’re interested. Add a button under “Reviews” (your best social proof) letting them now you’re accepting bookings for 2017. Make note of where else they can find you online. Don’t leave it up to them to reach out – extend the offer yourself.
Bonus: Expand your scope. Ask a partner, friend, peer or all three to evaluate your site and brand, too.
Grab our Free BRAND INTERVIEW worksheet here for them to fill out!
2. Update your galleries.
We allllll know you’re sitting on batches of beautiful images from last season’s work, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the task of culling them all, or like you should just wait until you have a new website you love to showcase work you love.
But while the perfect next website is always out there, even a mediocre website with a portfolio laser targeted to the kind of clients you want to work with is a HUGE improvement over what have in the meantime. Curation goes a long way, friends! If you can add even 10 images that “show you what you want to shoot” (or sell, if you’re not a photographer) to your site, it’ll be worth the half hour spent doing so. One of those shots might be the one that clinches it for the prospective client shopping your site!
Exhibit A: Camilla Binks‘ newly launched version of Negroni features a thoughtfully curated batch of images from her most recent, on-brand shoots and immediately showcases what she does best and attracts the brides she’s after. The result feels cohesive and unmistakably “her.”
3. Refresh your about section images.
Alert: This is one of the easiest ways to make your website feel fresh and updated. Hire someone to shoot some updated headshots, consider in the process how you make them feel the most like your brand (clothing, location, styling), and pop those puppies up on social media + throughout your site. If you look at our site, the vibe is set not only by our type and layout, but first and foremost by our brand and profile images (thank you, Char. Co, Evan Hunt and Melissa Kilner!). A new set of about images is like a mini-makeover – everything looks just a little more fresh, with minimal effort.
Quick tip: while you’re shooting images of yourself, also think about styling a more “lifestyle” oriented image set that feel true to your brand – you’ll be able to use them on social media, and you’ll be so glad you have them later!
Exhibit B: Tonic Regular Melissa Kilner worked with our very own Jeff Shipley to create a new set of lifestyle images for her 2017 site update (psst… spoiler alert: the Amaretto Sour design is coming to the shop oh so soon!). They shot in her home, with her puppies, family and, of course, her collection of shoes as well as around her hometown, so the images have both a level of authenticity and her classic, chic signature style. Since they approached the shoot strategically and intentionally, the image set quickly elevated the look of her site and gave her tons of on-brand images of her and her lifestyle to share via social media throughout the rest of the year. Fresh, current and on-brand. Boom!
4. Get yourself some social proof (and show it better).
We harp on this a lot, but updating your website shouldn’t only be a “you” undertaking. This is a GREAT time to ask for feedback from your friends, peers, and even past clients – “I’m working on my website” is a reason to reach out everyone immediately understands.
But don’t just ask for feedback on your site: one of the easiest ways to ask clients for reviews is to tell them you’re updating your website. Send a quick personal email to a few of your favorite clients from the past year that says something like, “Hey there, ____; I’m going through the process of updating my site (whew!), and I’d looove to feature you. Would you be willing to send over answers to a couple of questions about working with me?” with a few specific prompts attached.
When you have their answers, grab a few of the best quotes to highlight, and add those to your site (preferably with an image attached… hey there, quick and easy portfolio update!). Reviews are the BEST social proof that working with you is a great choice, and that solves a huge pain point for your potential client (who’s wondering if booking you is indeed the great choice).
Exhibit C: Caroline Logan made use of the beautiful, ready-made reviews layout from our Charleston design to showcase kind words from her clients and even more signature images. This highlights what it’s like to work with her in THEIR own words. and there’s nothing sweeter than that when it comes to social proof. Can we get an “Amen”?!
5. If necessary, consider big changes.
So, we’ve shared a few ways to make your current site better, but what if after #1, you’re like, “Jen and Jeff, this is a ‘BURN IT DOWN’ situation?” Your site isn’t connecting with your ideal client, it doesn’t show you at your best, and it doesn’t set you apart in your field? Well, especially if you’re a photographer, this is absolutely the time to consider a new site design: before you move into your prime shooting season, so you can book, accept referrals, shoot, and move through the rest of the year with confidence in your online presence.
If you’re looking for a custom design, nooooow is the time to inquire with a designer, since most book up very early in the year. If you’d like something beautiful up and running ASAP, we’ve designed a few sites we don’t think you’ll want to burn down… If you’re in the market, may we suggest you start shopping here:
We hope you feel inspired to make a few small, but significant changes that will leave you feeling more confident in the website you’re presenting online. Let us know if you have any questions!