}

Do It Yourself (DIY) Website

To pay or not to pay that is the question

The first thing a person usually does when they get a business idea is go online to get a website. You Google your idea, you even search for domain names to see if anyone else has it on a website. Now you are really excited about your idea, you search for domain names and even decide to purchase one. But you also need the actual website so you search for free websites to arrive with a list of interestingly named sites such as Wix, Weebly Yola, Doodlekit, etc. all offering free website builders. You figure, hey let’s try one of these free website builders and once it takes off then I’ll get something else. But you see there is nothing completely free, at some point you will have to pay.  Then the dilemma begins, to pay or not to pay? and what to pay for? While website hosting is free (to a certain extent) with free website builders, and sometimes you get a one page site when you get a domain name, depending on the goals for your business it may be too limiting.

If you are a an artist and you want to display your beautiful portfolio you look for professional photographer websites for ideas. You find a beautiful laid out website with large photos that load quickly. Now you try to do it yourself. You upload photos to your new free website site and things are not aligning, your pages are not loading fast enough. You noticed you are limited in the size or number of photos you can add. Now you have to start doing research and asking questions. But you are not getting answers and you realize that with most free services you can’t call customer service. You look through their forums and submit questions in hope someone answers you at some point. Now a venture that was exciting and fun, begins to be frustrating and you start getting discouraged.

Maybe you can’t relate to that example, maybe you’re not an artist. Instead you want to sell a product or service online.  For this you will need secure e-commerce service, or a way to integrate some of the already existing services like Zazzle, eBay, Etsy, etc. Maybe you want to just write about your area of expertise or interest and want to get advertisers or affiliate links. For these things that I mentioned you will need to do a lot of research to learn how to do it right. Even if you start with a free website you need to learn about the limitations and conditions of a free website.  Some of those conditions can include limited pages, file sizes, load speed, ability to advertise, looks of your website site and even the ability to take your content elsewhere should you want to. Whether you’re just having a little entrepreneurial fun or are hoping your side hobby takes off, this decision will have an impact. So what do you do instead? Here are my suggestions:

Make sure you own your content. That means that you can easily take it out of whatever free service you chose and take it with you. Some free services charge you to do this export and that’s how they lock you in. They make the move so complicated that you either pay them to do it, or hire a professional to do it.

Choose a service that gives you ability to fully customize. You want to be able to make your website look how you want and change it as your idea changes or your business takes off.

Look for customer support. Many free services do not offer telephone support or immediate customer support. Instead they have extensive forums, Q&A sections, explainer videos and limited email support. Look into the response time for inquiries and support, anything within 24 to 48 hours is ideal for a free service.

Make sure any service you use online is current and updated periodically. Technology is constantly evolving and the online world is more of a universe than a world. That means you need to make sure your website is up to date because in order to ensure is secure. Nothing is hacker proof, but using outdated website services makes you a target. Think of it like securing your car, you lock the doors, have an alarm and put in a club on the steering wheel. This doesn’t mean your car can’t be stolen, it just means, it will likely be by passed for a less troublesome car.

With all this said, if you are looking to start up a business idea or just want to get your own website to see where it can lead you, do some research. My first step to almost everything is to Google it! YouTube offers a wealth of information as well, I’m not big on watching long videos but when the need arises, I take the time. I like WordPress because of the flexibility it offers, and the forums are full of answers. For price ideas some web designers offer free consultations or have price ranges on their websites. With WordPress you have the flexibility of using themes, you can get free themes or purchase a theme that may come with more functionalities to fit your needs. Also, free is never entirely free, find out when it will begin to cost you and for what.

Ultimately be realistic with your expectations. When you see an awesome looking site and you try to do it yourself, keep in mind, it will not look the same way particularly if you have no content to put on the website (pictures, articles/posts, products, etc). Just like an amazing wall unit you get from a catalog that arrives in an oddly shaped box with what seems like a million pieces to assemble, a website will have to be assembled as well. If you do it yourself (DIY) give yourself time and be patient. If you hire a website designer to create or set up your site, make sure you know exactly what you want and provide all that the website designer needs to make your website.

I started with yahoo geocites back in 1999 where I entered basic html code onto a one page website, years later I used different free blog platforms until I landed on wordpress.com (free up to 3GB) and played around with several free themes. When I decided I wanted my own domain name and hosting in order to have full control of my site I turned to GoDaddy. Since my husband entered the field of Web Design and Development I don’t do my own site maintenance anymore (which honestly I often slacked on so I had set it up for automatic updates) and I purchased domain and hosting from him (because I might as well pay into my own household). I currently use the Genesis Framework on one site, and EvoPro on another which was developed by my hubby. By the way my use of his theme drives him nuts, because I am not using “right” in order to employ its “full capacity” but it’s my site and I do what I want to.

I hope this is helpful if you are considering a Do It Yourself (DIY) website. Good luck and have fun with it!!

What I’ve Learned Throughout My Years in Public Education

10 of the Most Important Things I’ve learned in my years in education.

When I started working in schools I was about 21 years old and my first job was as a day to day substitute teacher.  Today, I am a school counselor, and have been so for over ten years.  Whether in the classroom or in the counseling office there are some things that have been consistent throughout my years in education.

  1. Everyone Knows What Needs to be done.  Most of teacher trainings seem very repetitive and recycled information, yet keeping motivation to put it into practice daily and consistently proves challenging. Helping teachers stay motivated should be offered as a training to administrators and district heads.
  2. Engaging Students Works.  Students may moan and groan about a teacher that makes them work but they appreciate it. A teacher trying different approaches to make learning fun will make it more likely for the student to put more effort in class.
  3. Students Do Not Take Well to Sarcasm.  Even elementary school kids can tell when an educator is being sarcastic.  As a counselor, this is one of most frequent complaints I’ve ever gotten from students.  Using sarcasm to correct a behavior will lead students to lose respect.
  4. Technology is a Great Tool in the Classroom.  Tech is not the future, is the present and it makes a great tool in the classroom when used appropriately. However, just giving an electronic device to a student does not make it an effective lesson.
  5. Every Student Can Learn.  While students all learn in different ways and they will not all reach the same levels, getting them just one step ahead will make them feel empowered. Preparing a lesson with the mindset that they students are not going to get it will sets the bar low for the educator and the student.
  6. Demonstrating Personal Interest Opens the Doors to Learning.  Something as simple as greeting or noticing a student’s’ absence and letting them know they were missed will make them more likely to keep coming back to your class/school.  Everyone likes to feel liked.
  7. Respect is a Two Way Street.  “Do as I say Not as I do” is ineffective.  While showing respect towards students will not always be immediately reciprocated (particularly with challenging students), they do expect more from educated adults.  And believe it or not, eventually they will begin showing you respect. Keep in mind, many may not know what respect is supposed to look like, so be an example.
  8. Most Days Educators Exclaim While Shaking Their Heads, “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!”  The things that we encounter while working in schools would make a popular reality TV show, some sad some unbelievably ironic, yet we come back.
  9. Words Can Hurt As Much as Sticks and Stones.  The things educators say to students make a lasting impact.  We often say, if we don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. But silence, as well as negative body language can also be hurtful.  Finding something positive about every student is very important, you don’t need to like them the same way they don’t have to like you, but respect and appreciation has to be evident in our actions.
  10.  “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business” The Godfather, 1972.   We are in the business of educating students, taking their misbehaviors/mistakes as an attack to your person will make you ineffective, and will make your job dreadful.  Remember to tell yourself, “Today Is  New Day!” and act like it.

And of course, if you’re an educator you already know all this.  But at least you didn’t have to go out of your way to attend a lame professional development meeting administered by folks that may not have any actual school experience to tell you something you already knew. Anyway, more of this another time 😉

Why Your Online Presence Matters

online presenceGoogled Yourself Lately? What did You Find about Your Online Presence?

Student, Educator, Small Business, Freelancer, Independent Contractor, Self-Employed, Aspiring Entrepreneur, Blogger, Hobbyist no matter who you are or what you do it seems that everyone has a website these days.  Heck, even my 10 year old has a website.  In a time where Google is a verb in the dictionary as well the authority on search engines it seems that if you want to spread the word on whatever it is you do you or whoever you are, you need to be online.  Being online means you have an online presence whether you are active on social media or have a website, your online presence matters.

Nowadays people can Google you and find all sorts of information, from public records to social media posts.  How you represent yourself online is your online presence.  This can make a difference on what you do, whether you are looking to get hired for a job or trying to make a sale. Your online presence will become your personal brand.  People will look for you and/or your brand online to see what you have to say and even more importantly what has been said about you.  Therefore to set the tone of your online presence you need to start with your Website and your Social Media accounts.

A Website has evolved from a static business card to an interactive portfolio where you display your expertise and interact with your readers/visitors through blogs and other added functionalities. In this fast moving society where information is expected with one click, your website has to look good, be up to date and be accessible through a computer as well as mobile devices.

Social Media has become the virtual world’s form of traditional networking and online presencesocializing. While it doesn’t replace physically socializing with others in your field or business it can expand your network significantly.  And with the increase in social media platforms since AOL introduced to us the famous “You Got Mail” phrase along with AIM instant messenger, you need to make sure you are part of the social media world that exists.  Understanding there’s an overwhelmingly large number of social media platforms out there, knowing which are the most popular and who is your target audience should determine where you invest your efforts.

Now, I’m not saying that being active on social media will make you instafamous – as young kids say these days – but it will allow you to start a conversation with others that share your interests or want your product/service.  Neither does having a website will get you to the coveted #1 spot in Google – no matter how much you dabble on SEO – but providing good continuous content can make you a reliable source online.  And remember, in the same way that word of mouth from a trusted source can get you an interview for a job or a product endorsement, having a solid website and interacting with people through social media will position you as a trusted source online within your social media circles.

So go ahead, Google yourself or business and see what comes up, then take control of your online presence.  And if you want more than free when taking control of your website, check out PixemWeb.com, a perfect solution if you are short in time and money.  I say this with confidence because I’m not only part of PixemWeb, I’m also a client!