Of course professionals need a blog
This is not the post (or place) to delve into whether you need a website or a blog. Or whether you need a content strategy. In this post we assume you have decided to get a blog, get a domain name (e.g. www.firmname.com.au) and hosting.
Well and good, but how do you do you start? How does an untrained professional – lawyers, accountants and all superannuation, insurance and finance professionals – know where to begin? Mao wrote that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Hopefully our journey will be a lot shorter and get off to a more substantial start.
You first have to decide which blogging platform you will use. My very strong preference is to use WordPress as your blogging platform. Of course there are other choices, including:
- Blogger (owned by Google) – very quick setup, drag and drop editing, easy to use.
- Tumblr – interesting fusion between a blog a Twitter-like feed. Now owned by Yahoo.
WordPress is a popular open source blogging platform (it’s actually much more, a full content management system). That means its code is freely available and anyone can build add-ons to it. You can set up a WordPress blog on their own server (there is no charge for this) at WordPress.com. This is a big mistake and there will likely come a time when you will want to upgrade – so don’t do this if you have any intentions to create serious ongoing content. Instead use the WordPress.org platform, which you can download and install for free. Many services will combine the domain registration, hosting and WordPress installation.
For hosting I use VentraIP. I have no business affiliation with them, but my experience over four years has been consistently excellent, and they respond to queries efficiently. I like the fact that their servers are domestically based, though many well known Australian bloggers swear by overseas providers. Do some research, make up your own mind.
WordPress gives you a basic structure for your blog – a “Theme” builds on that basic structure, like accessorising a piece of clothing to create a different look. In other words, a Theme is a skin for your blog. However, the basic structure of a WordPress blog is the same for everyone. Happily for us, WordPress is kind enough to make the code for that structure freely available, so programmers can create “skins” to overlay it. This is achieved by incorporating “templates” into the WordPress structure. Some of these Themes are free, some are not, and there are plenty of good examples in both camps. Every designer, free or not, offers a gallery to preview the themes.
DIY or consultant?
There is no doubt that it is easier to pay someone to build a website, and they will handle all of the above. If you merely want to start a blog – a place for you to build an archive of articles for clients and prospective clients to search – including some basic contact information, then you can DIY, but you should do some research first to get a feel for what lies ahead. There are many books that cover the basics of WordPress
If you want a website – Home and About Us pages, some resources, information sheets and a blog – then unless you have the time to research the issue thoroughly, it is better to consult a web designer. Which one? I have been through this exercise, and also built a website largely on my own, and in truth I found the process with the web designer fairly exhausting. If I had a preference, I would build a website myself just as a learning exercise and then shop around for a designer. Why? Because I would know lot better what to expect and what to ask for. Obviously this is unwieldy and will only work for a few professionals, probably the ones that have an interest in online tools (by the way, it’s quite an interesting challenge and for me a lot of fun because I did it with my son). For myself, I enjoyed the challenge and I needed the skills as part of a joint venture that required a very steep learning curve.
Where do I begin to DIY?
I would read, and then read some more. There are hundreds of good books that cover WordPress – I would recommend an eBook so you can read on your computer while you follow the steps and set it up. WordPress For Dummies will do the job, in fact it will explain a lot more than you need to know.
The worst that can happen is that you don’t like the results and call in a designer to handle the job. Again, it will only be a minority of professionals that have the time or inclination to tackle this. From my experience, it helps to have a tech savvy child!
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