Your personal professional website is an effective tool for getting performance work, and it doesn’t require a big budget.
While singers and actors with established careers and lucrative contracts may be able to hire an expensive company to enhance their personal brand and marketing, this article is for the masses of performers hitting the pavement on their own and doing what they can to make it in show business. A useful website doesn’t need to be overly expensive if you know how to choose effective tools to assist in the process, and if you are willing to do some work for yourself.
The guidelines here are out of my own experience. A few years ago as I was finishing my University Drama degree, and with some experience in web design (not to mention a limited budget) I decided to create my own website. It wasn't long before friends were asking me to help develop their websites, which gave me a valuable small business at the time. In the process of developing these websites I learned a few key elements that performers can use to create a professionally useful website on a reasonable budget. While I come from the world of musical theatre, I believe these simple key website elements can effectively apply to dancers, singers, and actors as well.
Why have a website?
The main purpose of your website is to enhance your ability to book work. Therefore you should include materials that give the best impression of you and your talent, without having too much material for viewers to sift through (they won’t take the time…well, your mother will, but again, this is about viewers who can offer you work).
How do I get a website?
There are basically two options for getting a website: 1. Have someone custom build one from top to bottom, or 2. Use a company that simplifies the process with templates that you fill in yourself.
For professional quality, low cost, ease of set-up, and the ability to add and update website material (very important), I recommend option 2. Companies have been developed recently which provide all these qualities, though they each have unique aspects to consider. Here are a few that are available online, that offer plenty of options for clean, simple, professional-looking websites that are easy to look at and navigate:
1. StarvingArtistWebDesign - Best for Most People
If you are okay paying $10/mo and you aren't a computer wiz, this is your best option. I have had many friends and ex-clients use this company and they have all been happy with the results. If you can setup a Facebook profile then you can build a website with this company. It’s easy to use and has great quality.
2. Wix - Free Option
The designs and look of these websites have improved a lot over the years, but you won't have your own domain i.e. JohnSnow.com; instead it will be something like JohnSnow.wix.com. Also, they will have small advertisements on your page.
3. SquareSpace - Best Upside
This is the company I use now. Their least expensive plan is only $8/mo and they have some of the best designs to use. You need a few technical skills though - getting through their website and adjusting colors, designs, etc. isn't always simple. That being said, they seem to be the new industry standard for professional websites for individuals and small businesses. If you are tech-savvy, SquareSpace is a good choice.
What content do I need to have on my website?
There are 4 things you MUST have.
Make sure that it is visible, and also have a link to download a copy of it.
Not just a webpage with a list of performance credits but a downloadable PDF that looks just like what you bring to an audition.
3. Contact Info
If they can't contact you, they can't book you. Just having your information on a resume isn't enough. Make sure you have your email address or your agent's information very clearly posted.
If you can, have a couple of videos. A viewer of your site should be able to observe many of your characteristics, like the timbre of your voice, which styles sound best, how your body looks when you dance, what your stage presence is like, and more. You need a reel! If not a reel, then at least a couple of clips you had friends record. Find a way to get a video of yourself singing. Even if you have no footage from a live performance you can get a small rehearsal space for $10 or $20 and bring a friend to record you singing along to some karaoke tracks you find on YouTube. Better yet, find a friend who plays piano and have them accompany you in exchange for a drink or Starbucks. Media is king and you are only hurting yourself if you don’t have it on your website.
Other Website Content
There are other things you can have on a website, such as:
Many people have a bio. Aim for something professional, like what you find in a Playbill rather than telling the life story you think should be made into a movie.
A few extra high quality photos are great to give a better sense of what you look like. Having photos from a couple of shows is good too.
Why not? Video is better than audio, but a couple audio files can be good if they illustrate additional personal qualities.
Remember, it’s your talent, so be sure your website makes it easy for others to see your best qualities. If you need inspiration, there are lots of actor and singer websites on the Internet that you can take a look at! Good luck! Anyone can do it!