A personal website is basically your own domain and space on the internet for you to do as you please. Today, it’s cheaper than ever to buy and build such a site (unless you share your name with some really famous person, I suppose) but the question does remain…does everyone need a personal website? While it may be cheap, it does involve some amount of work, since no one would want to associate their name with something that’s subpar, and surely not on the internet, at least.
Since you’re reading this on priyankabanerjee.in, clearly I thought it made sense for me to have such a site. Let me start by talking about why I think personal websites can be handy:
You can use to control and consolidate your online presence
Most people usually have little nooks and crannies all across the internet. You have your social media profiles, your LinkedIn profile, perhaps a Quora profile with a good following and maybe a YouTube channel or a blog. A personal website consolidates all of this and becomes the one go-to platform for your online presence. The best part is that you can do with it, what you like. Present your stories, your work, your struggles – anything and everything that makes you you.
You can use it to display your work
A personal website can also be used to showcase your work. Right off the bat it becomes clear that certain professionals would benefit more from such a personal website than others. Designers, artists, writers, developers, musicians and so on can use their sites as portfolios. Plus, since we’re apparently moving to a “gig economy”, which is centered around freelance, consultative, part time and temporary opportunities, a personal website can be useful to get clients interested in working with you. It could also help with potential recruiters – there’s so much more you can add on your site, as compared to your resume. Even students can use it to talk about their projects, research work and so on.
You can merge it with your blog
Right now, this is mainly what I use my site for. Your site can host your blog too! And no matter what you’re doing, whether you’re a student or a professional, and regardless of your field, you can maintain a blog and have that set up on your site. According to me, it does look better than a “.wordpress.com” domain, and just makes everything seem a little more neat and tidy.
You can use it for anything in the future
I would say this is the best part of a personal website. Since I’m in my early twenties, I’m not quite sure what shape my life will take in the next 4-5 decades (I’m not too keen on living beyond that :P). Maybe I’ll start a side project I want to display on my site. Or perhaps I’ll become a professor one day and I want to share my work through my site. Maybe I’ll be a speaker and I’ll use my site to display recordings of my previous talks, to book more sessions! I love this site for the options it provides.
Coming to the original question, no, I don’t think everyone needs to have a personal website. However, I do think everyone should at least think about it. If any of the points listed above made you think, “Hmm, that sounds like something that’s relevant for me”, go ahead and get yourself a personal website!
Have you ever started a blog, a YouTube channel or a Facebook page with much enthusiasm and discipline, but found yourself slowly reducing the posts as the weeks go by?
The last time I posted on this blog was in August. It’s been over a month since I’ve published something, and that’s quite upsetting. About a year and half back, I could churn out at least one article a week. To go from that to this is not something I’m proud of. I mean, sure, I’m busier now since I’m working, but if I’m being honest with myself, I could have easily found out the time to update my blog regularly.
So today I’m trying to acknowledge all the “hurdles” in my way and what I plan to do about them. I believe these are common for any sort of content creator on the internet, so if it helps someone else out too, that’ll be quite a victory for me.
So what are the problems? I thought about it a lot and these were the issues I found to be true for myself.
- Not knowing what to write about
- Not knowing if anyone will like/care about it
- Actually getting down to it
Here’s what we can do about each of them:
Not knowing what to write about: Now, I have a few ideas about this but I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. I’m using a few articles I’ve read to solve this (like this one here and here) but I’d rather revisit this topic a few weeks from now when they’ve been executed fully. Once I nail down a system for this that works for me, I’ll share it with you guys. For now, you can check out some posts by other authors that I found useful.
Not knowing if anyone will like/care about it: Well, I don’t actually face this much myself – at least, not anymore. When I initially started blogging circa 2010 I was quite conscious of what I’d write, second guess myself and delete almost-finished drafts. The only tip for this one is to power through. That’s literally it. I’m not saying your writing will be perfect – or that mine is, for that matter. I’m just saying that if we can work past this mental block and keep posting, we’ll get better over time.
Actually getting down to it: So there are multiple things involved in posting a blog post. Here are a couple of them:
– Having an idea in mind
– Validating that idea and coming up with all the points falling under it
– Creating an outline for the post
– Writing the post
– Formatting the post
– Selecting an image to go with it
– Sharing it on social media and sending an email to your list
The list of taks can be intimidating at times, and it can seem unreasonable to do it all in one go. I’ve thought of publishing posts on particular days but when I got down to it, everything suddenly seemed to much. The thought of coming up with an idea and writing it and editing it and looking for a good photo was quite tiresome. Plus I had to do this all in time to share it at a decent time on social media.
So how can we make this less overwhelming? By breaking it down, of course. Even after writing hundreds of articles and posts in the past I still find it challenging to do it all in one sitting. And looking back, I’ve always had a system in place. Take DU Beat for example. We had our Monday meetings to come up with ideas for articles. Over the course of the next two days, we’d validate these ideas by contacting sources, figuring out our opinion on topics, gathering facts and so on. We’d then get writing and send it to the copy editors by Thursday evening. That’s when most of the editing was done post which the designers took over and put everything together by Sunday night.
So clearly, a process helps. I’ve come up with this process for myself –
Monday (evening): Come up with 2 potential topics of the articles
Tuesday (evening): Sketch an outline for the post – heading and main idea for each section
Wednesday: No blog work cause it’s a packed day at work
Thursday (morning): Write the post
Friday (morning): Editing
Saturday (afternoon): Coming up with all the material for the post (image, tweets, FB post and email body)
Sunday: Hit publish and share
I’ve even calendered myself for these in the coming weeks – if it’s on my calendar, I end up finding a way to do it!
This is my plan. If my experience sounds similar to yours, I’d encourage you to make one of your own. Let me know what hurdles you’ve faced (or overcome) while creating content of your own. I’d love to hear your experiences!
I wrote a post recently called “10 ideas for a side project” and after I shared that, a lot of people asked me how they can be sure if something is worth their time or not. I also had a few juniors asking me if they should intern this summer, attend summer school, study for the CAT or do something else altogether. While I’m always in favour of trying new things, I have to say that not every opportunity is worth the time and effort it demands in return. So, how do you calculate the ROI of taking something up? Here are a few questions that might help…
Who will you get to work with?
Whenever I took something up in college, I almost always learnt more from the people I was working with, than the actual work that I was doing. If you’re taking something up, make sure the people you’ll get to work with are people you can learn from and people you’d like to pick up traits from. For example, when I interned at IIM Ahmedabad, I wasn’t very sure what my day to day work would be like, but I knew I’d get to meet some interesting entrepreneurs from the Indian tech space (and I did!) so I jumped at the opportunity.
What will you learn from it?
Whether it’s an internship or a society you’re joining, you’ll want to make sure that the skills you pick up from it are the sort you actually want to learn. When you start, you won’t master things right away of course, but you’d want to make sure the time and effort you’re putting into something is actually worth it. If you don’t actually care all that much about the markets, it makes no sense to join the Finance and Investment Cell of your college, just cause you see a lot of other people joining it.
What are the long term benefits of taking it up?
A lot of things don’t have mind blowing advantages right away. Take blogging as an example; you start out small by sharing your thoughts and maybe your Mom is the only one who religiously follows your posts in the beginning. But think about the long term benefits. You can learn things like SEO and CMS, build a platform you can leverage to meet new people and even make a bit of side income from it.
What could you be doing instead?
At the end of the day, it’s all about the opportunity cost of doing anything. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, it means “the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen”. Time is a limited resource and you can only do so many things at a time. By taking up an internship over the summer, are you missing out on the opportunity to really and truly work on setting up your freelance web designing path? Does it make sense to squeeze in a Brand Ambassador program (even if they’re giving you coupons 😛 ) while neglecting your academics? If your time is better spent elsewhere, then you might want to think twice before signing up for something.
What factors are “non negotiable” for you?
These are factors that you don’t want to compromise on. This could be something like wanting to do a paid gig or perhaps joining something that won’t require you to travel across the city (cause who likes traffic and/or public transport, right?) It could also be a requirement like wanting to work with a well known brand. Whatever it is, make your list of non negotiable factors and evaluate the opportunity accordingly.
How easy is it for you get out of it if you don’t like it?
All said and done, at times you can only find out if something is worth doing when you actually, you know, do it. Some things are easier to get out of than others. Like when I took up a course at the King’s College London Delhi Summer School program, it was a commitment of 3 weeks and Rs.25,000. I couldn’t have tried it for two days and then quit. So I had to be very sure of my decision. If it’s like a passion project, that might be easier to leave if you realise that it really isn’t your cup of tea.
Have you done your research?
This is pretty much the most important question because it’ll help you answer all the other questions on the list. How will you know who else is involved in this initiative? How will you know what growth and the learning curve looks like? By doing your research, of course. Read up about it thoroughly online. Email people who’ve done the same program before. Read reviews and pay special attention to critical ones. Discuss it with your mentors, seniors, friends, parents or whoever you think can ask you the right questions to get to the right answer.
What’s an important decision that you’ve had to make in the recent past? What did you keep in mind while making that decision? I’d love to hear your story, so leave it in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!
A side project, simply put is a hobby or interest you work on, on the side. It might not be your main gig (like say a full time job or your undergrad course), but it’s a great way to work on what you love and pick up new skills. The best part is you have complete flexibility over what shape you want it to take – there’s no boss or teacher telling you what to do.
I’ve put together a list of 10 ideas for side projects that I hope comes in handy for anyone out there who’s looking to do just a little bit more with their time. I’ve skipped ideas related to coding and starting business ventures since they’re usually talked about really often.
#1 Keep at it: Take up a 30 day challenge
30 day challenges can be fun and engaging – the idea is to stick to one thing for 30 days. It’s not too significant if you do it for a day, but to do it for 30 days in continuation? That could be very interesting. Give up caffeine for a month. Or perhaps commit to writing a letter a day to 30 people in your life. Here are 100 other ideas.
#2 Get to the bottom of it: Explore what interests you
A great idea for a project is to study something that interests you. You can draw inspiration from things that are around you and explore them further. Are you interested in email marketing? How about signing up for 10 different apps and studying the first email these companies send you? You can evaluate them based on various criteria and look out for areas of improvement. Share your “research” as a PDF with the world, or maybe write a guest post on a blog. You could even send it to the companies as feedback.
#3 Keep the momentum going: Start a newsletter
If you have something to share, a newsletter is another great way to do it. It’s like having a blog but better, cause you have more flexibility and you know you have an audience already. (Cause you’re sending it directly to people, you know?) And for most things on this list, any interest can be moulded into a newsletter. If you’re into music, you can send out a bi-weekly newsletter with links to lesser known (but still amazing) songs that launched in that period.
On that note, I’m starting a monthly newsletter that will be focused on careers – how to navigate through the working life and kick ass while doing so. I’ll be putting together information from across the web for this and also get in touch with some cool people who’ve been there, done that. If that sounds interesting to you, please take a minute to sign up for it here. It’ll also be a great way to get to know some awesome folks and expand your network.
#4 Teach them how to fish: Become a consultant
Take a minute to answer this: What’s one thing people always ask you for help with?
Are you known for your cooking skills? Pick 5 friends of yours who can’t cook to save their life and teach them to cook one dish. Or five.
Are people always complimenting you for your driving skills? Take up the task of teaching people around you how to parallel park. (The Parallel Parking Project, anyone?)
And of course, you can document this if you wish to – how about a vlog on the journey?
#5 Write, right now: Start a blog of your own
There are just so many perks of blogging and it’s so easy to start a blog that I’ve gotta include it on the list even if it’s a super obvious one. If you’ve been toying with the idea for a while, just go for it already. And if you’ve been having trouble thinking of what to post, maybe you can combine the idea with one of the other side project ideas. Like using a blog to document your 30 day challenge, how you fared, what it taught you, and so on.
#6 Bring people together: Build a community
I personally love this idea for a side project. How exciting would it be to get people together based on one common interest or theme? If you’re a movie buff, start a Facebook page where you and your squad reviews the latest movie each week. Put together a group of people who love history as much as you and visit one place of historical significance each weekend.
Once you have your interest narrowed down on, invite your friends and ask them to invite their friends. Boom.
#7 Pour your heart into it: Write an ebook
A lot of us (myself included) harbour the desire to write a book one day. Till we work on that, an ebook is a relatively less daunting challenge to take up. Pick a topic that interests you and write an ebook of say, 35 pages on it. Or if you’re into fiction, weave a story into your ebook. Self publish it, put it on Amazon, and promote it the way you like.
#8 Don’t stop learning: Pick up a new skill
Say you ARE the friend from point #4 who can’t cook to save their life. Pick up learning how to cook as a side project and maybe challenge yourself to master one dish from each state in India. However skilled you consider yourself to be, there’s got to be a ton of things you don’t know (yet). It doesn’t even have to be something huge, like learning a new language. Maybe you can just learn how to play ONE song on the harmonica for starters. (Also there’s a resource out there on the internet for pretty much anything you might want to learn, so you have no excuse!)
#9 Shoot and upload: Start a YouTube channel
Another content centric idea, YouTube channels make for a great side project because you not only get to share ideas with the world through audio/video, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to learn many tools and softwares along the way. You don’t have to be perfect when you start out – a good enough camera, an idea that resonates with you and basic editing skills, are all that’s needed. In fact, YouTube makes this super easy with its YouTube Capture app.
#10 Raise your voice: Start a podcast series
Podcasts have been around for a while now, but I don’t see the playing ground to be too saturated in India. A podcast is basically an audio log of whatever it is that you want to share. They’ve become increasingly popular over the years because you listen to them while traveling, working out and so on. It’s also a great way to build a rapport with an audience!
You could start an interview series talking to one interesting person a week. Or a podcast summarizing and discussing all that happened in a particular sphere that week (for TV shows, maybe?)
You don’t need fancy equipment to begin with, just a recording device and a way for people to subscribe to it, like SoundCloud or iTunes.
Did I miss a great idea for a side project? Let me know in the comments below!
PS: I’m starting a monthly newsletter for career driven young professionals and college students. It’ll have a round up of resources from across the web, a way to expand your network and share the cool things you’ve been up to. If you’re game, sign up for it here.
Featured image: Negativespace.co