Ah, your personal website. I can’t even count the number of my actor friends who have lost hours of their life, thousands of dollars, and several patches of hair in an attempt to get it right. It seems like it’s always a work in progress, heck, I was just emailing my coder yesterday asking for an update on old problems. Yes, it’s true, the whole processis simply frustrating. (Maybe even more so than those pesky auditions!) But it doesn’t have to be.
I’m always a fan of the DIY mantra, but unless you’re super skilled like Ben Whitehair or Ethan Newberry (actor/web designer/programmer extraordinaires), you’re going to have to get started by hiring a web designer. Or start dating one. Both are acceptable solutions.
Either way, you still need to know exactly what your site needs, what to avoid, and most importantly, how to communicate these needs to your web designer/coder.
Hopefully the following advice will help you avoid some of the more common website-related pitfalls.
Top 5 Mistakes Actors Make on Their Websites
1. Amateur Design - There’s a LOT of crap out there. Always look at a portfolio of someone’s work before hiring them, and remember that you usually get what you pay for. If someone’s former work looks like something from 1997, steer clear. An outdated website is worse than any website at all.
2. Third person updates - Unless you’re a huge star, it’s just plain weird to write your news and/or blog updates in the third person. It’s YOUR website, so people expect for it to be personal. The exception with this is your bio, which can be written in first or third person, but avoid mistake #3…
3. Overly pompous language - It is incredibly annoying to read bios peppered with cheesy self-importance, i.e. “With her incredible work ethic and talent, Taryn is on the rise to becoming Hollywood’s next big starlet!” Barf. Think like a journalist and stick to facts. What are your credits? Hobbies? Feel free to be funny, just not egotistical.
4. Flash website - Ten years ago, flash was the bomb diggity. Unfortunately, it’s quickly becoming a useless format because it’s not compatible with smart phones and iPads. (Not to mention the loading times can often be quite annoying.) Make sure your website is being built in HTML5, the most common and adaptable mark up language for the web.
5. Un-updateable website - If you can’t update your website with new photos, videos, bios, and/or news on your own, you’re going to have a heart attack . Make sure that however your site is built - through Joomla, Wordpress, or otherwise - that you have access to the back-end and you understand how to update the website elements. Have your designer walk you through the process when the site is complete so you can avoid having to email him/her with annoying updates.
Okay, so enough about mistakes, here’s what you absolutely NEED!
The 5 Essentials For An Actor’s Website
1. A business email - In addition to your agents/managers info, you need a way to be reached at all times Make the address separate from your personal email. Use Gmail, but feel free to customize if you see fit (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org.)
2. Embedded reels - Make sure your reels are easy to find, and use the YouTube player. The HD quality is as good as ever, and it loads FAR faster than Vimeo. If you’re worried about privacy, you can keep the video unlisted on YouTube, so that only people who stop by your website can actually view it.
3. Promotional and/or behind the scenes photos - Just posting headshots is so boring, and only gives people a one-dimensional view of who you are. Include promotional photos, press photos (if you have them), and/or behind the scenes shots of you on set. Yay! Now you’re a real person, not just an “actor.”
4. Social media links - Make sure you include links to your Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages (if you have them) and encourage people to sign up for your email newsletter (if you have one).
5. Bio - A good bio goes a long way. If you can make it funny like this one, even better. You can include your credits on this page as well.
So now you know twhat to avoid AND what you need, but you don’t know a good designer/programmer?
If you don’t have a personal relationship with any, there are plenty of ways to find one online. You can post an ad on Craigslist with the budget you’re willing to spend, or post on odesk.com, which is specifically tailored toward designers and programmers. On odesk, you specify exactly what you want, how many pages the website will include, etc., and wait as qualified designers and programmers bid you for the job! Just make sure you request someone who can both design AND code the site or you’ll end up incurring more costs down the line.
If you don’t need something built from scratch, peruse Wordpress themes (see example Wordpress theme portfolios in my previous column and set it up yourself using this free guide.
In the spirit of keeping the forum open and the advice flowin’,use the comments section to share any actor websites that you think were well done! If you are a web programmer specializing in developing sites for personalities, share links to your portfolio and what you charge.
Happy web developing!
***DISCLAIMER: Having a personal website these days is non-negotiable. Studio execs, producers, and casting directors often google talent before general meetings or when making tough casting decisions. In these scenarios, having a kick-ass website is your greatest promotional tool, and one of the only parts of your career you can completely control.***
Taryn Southern is an actress, host, writer, and producer with more than 100,000,000 views on her online videos. Check out her latest projects, anecdotes, and advice at www.tarynsouthern.com, or connect with her by sending her a message on Twitter @tarynsouthern or subscribing to her public updates on Facebook.
UPDATE: The website formerly known as oDesk.com has been rebranded to Upwork. For more information, please visit Upwork.com.