Making Your Own Website
And
Your Digital Presence

Every actor can use a website. 

​The styles, themes, and emphases can vary as much as your individual career does. In my website seminars, I focus on the freelance actor who is using a website as an aid to employment, though some might lean more toward a fan site; an actor/activist site or to market a web series or sell ones CD.  Here's what a website can do for the freelance actor:
  • It makes you available to casting personnel 24/7
  • Your portfolio is available from anywhere.
  • Get an agent
  • Market your CD, club act, book, etc.
  • Manage press and fans
  • Establish "YOU Central" (the central clearinghouse for everything about you)

From inside your head to the World Wide Web

No one ever cast a movie by Googling 'actor' and looking through search results.

Those who come to your site are there because:
  1. You invited them
  2. Someone recommended you
  3. Someone saw your work.

​Assuming you are building a website for one of the reasons listed above, your first step is to simply state what you are trying to stay and the image you want to show to the world.

Always look at your website through the eyes of your viewer. It's your first impression.

What is a Website, anyway?

Website  [web-sahyt] n. Digital Technology.

1. A Document, made up of static text, suitable for the worldwide web. Websites are comprised of one or more Web Pages.

2. Static text is written in Hypertext Mark-Up Language (HTML)

3. The web page can provide navigation to other web pages via hyperlinks

4. Web pages are retrieved by your local computer from a remote web server.

How does it work?

FIRST, JUST A FEW DEFINITIONS:

WEB HOST (or just HOST): Where your site lives on the web

SERVER: The machinery used by your host to store and transfer your site to the world

Wanna know more? Here's a good Web Glossary.

ONE 

Your design is saved in a file on your computer

TWO 

You upload your design onto the Web Host's Server

THREE 

The Server sends a copy of your site to whomever requests it.

Domains 

Your own piece of real estate on the World Wide Web

www.yournamehere.com
www.yournamehere.net
www.yournamehere.org
www.yournamehere.tv
www.yournamehere.nyc
www.yournamehere.info
www.yournamehere.me
www.yournamehere.co.uk
www.yournamehere.de
Things to remember when picking your Domain Name:
1. Make it unique.
2.Easy to remember
3. Easily searchable
4. Read it to yourself aloud

Your Domain Name will be trademark just as your professional name is. You will have it probably for your entire career, so think long and hard before you select one.

Here are some examples of domain names gone wrong.

Acquiring Your Domain

After much thought you've decided that your domain is www.georgespelvin.net. You need to acquire (i.e. pay to own) that domain. That transaction is done through a domain registrar. ​​ Here are some . The prices depend on 1) length of time you wish to own the name - anywhere from 1 - 5 years and 2) the type of domain. The extensions, .net and .info are usually the cheapest. There are popular extensions like .nyc and .me that might come at a premium price.

All domain registrars will allow you to enter your preferred name into a search box to see if it is available. If it is, that means no one in the world owns that unique domain. This is true no matter which domain registrar you use, as they all follow the rules of ICANN. (click the link if you want to know more about ICANN , otherwise, read on.) If your Domain Name is available, that registrar's price and terms will appear and you can opt to buy or not. If you don't care for the price, try another Domain Registrar. Domain Registrars are generally honest and don't overcharge, as they want you to buy other services from them. If you buy a Domain Name, however, you are under no obligation to buy anything else, including hosting or email services.

If the Domain Name you desire is already taken, the registrar will most probably suggest alternatives you can buy. You can choose one of these, or go back and re-think your Domain Name.

The cost for Securing ones Doamin Name varies from as little as $2 per year to $100 or more per year, but most domains can be had for under $50 for 2 years.

There are Domain Trolls or Cybersquatters .  These lovely people buy up domain names (like actors' names) and hold them hostage, offering to release ownership for a price.

The first thing you should do is acquire your Domain Name

Designing Your Website    

You have your Domain Name. Now you want to set about deisgning your site. Where to begin?

First, look around the web. Look at other actors whose presentation you like. Borrow liberally. Come up with a one or two-sentence discription of who you are and what you do as an actor. Does your design demonstrate that description? Draw ideas on paper. Assemble materials that you will need. For most actors these materials are:

1. Headshot
2. Resume
3. Videos
4. MP3 Sound recordings
Rule Of Thumb:

A website is always a work in progress and will change as you do. Don't try to be perfect.
The most common excuse I hear from actors as to why they have not yet published a website is that they "don't have enough material." There always seems to be that one video clip they can't find or that new headshots session a few months away. CRAP.

IF YOU HAVE A PHOTO AND A RESUME, YOU HAVE ENOUGH FOR A WEBSITE.

Stop the excuses.

Preparing Your Design For The Web  

There are three methods to prepare your sight to be readable on the web.

1. Enter the HTML code istructions yourself, using a text editing program on your computer, like WordPad or NotePad (Windows) or SimpleText (Mac)

2. Download or buy a WYSIWYG web editor. There are several to choose from, ranging in price from $0 to $500 depending on features.

Some of the free ones include: AlleyCode SeaMonkey ,   Kompozer , Dynamic HTML Editor  
Some of the ones for purchase are: Adobe Dreamweaver , FirstPage , Microsoft Publisher , Visual Studio Professional 

3. Use a Drag-And-Drop (D&D) Web Editor. Wix ,   SiteBuilder , SquareSpace , WebSiteBuilder
The difference between these three methods? Degrees of control and finding a good fit with how your mind works. HTML, though daunting at first glance is actually quite easy to master, by getting a book from the library. (or see ​​​ video , below)

The downloadable web editors have many bells and whistles that most actors do not need, but if you are doing things that require security, for instance, you might need some of the features they provide.

D&D web editors are the easiest to use and good for most actors to throw up a neat and professional looking portfolio.

Design Guidelines  

If you're an actor trying to market yourself, then your website should have three things when it first pops up:

1) Your name in such a way that it announces itself.

2) A photo of you.

3) How to get a hold of you.

When a viewer clicks on your web address (your domain name) these 3 things should appear right away. They should be "above the fold," like the front page of a broadsheet newspaper. The effect is that the most important things about you are displyed without having to scroll down or click elsewhere. (no "Enter site" pages)
REMEMBER...

1. A website is ALWAYS a work in progress

2. A website is never finished

3. Nobody can see your site until you push “publish.”

4. A website is like a marriage – it requires constant maintenance
   
Different viewers have preferences as to how they like to view actor contect. It behooves us to have a presence on as many  platforms as possible. The main ones are:

✔︎  Actors' Access . Run by Breakdown Services, Inc . Actors maintain their own profiles. A basic profile is free. Additional features (multiple pix, video, audio, etc) at a cost.

✔︎  IMDb (International Movie database) A curated free service. Information gleaned from multiple sources. IMDbPro is a pay service whereby an actor can upload multiple photos, a biography, videos, etc.

✔︎  iActor . A free service for SAG-AFTRA members. (must have a member profile on the SAG-AFTRA website ) Each member can upload photos, videos, audio and have several versions aof a public profile.

✔︎ Casting Networks . $25 to join. Free if opened by a talent rep. The go-to site for commercial, industrial and background actors. 

✔︎ IBDb (International Broadway Datbase) a site curated by the Broadway League for Broadway shows and tours. You can set up your own profile if you have one of these credits.
✔︎ Lortel Archives (Internet Off-Broadway Database) a curated site for Off-Broadway shows
Rule Of Thumb

Assume that your viewer will never click past the first page. Of course, have good content available for those who dig deeper, but most won't. 
The 3-Click Rule

In seeking content, you lose 1/3 of your audience with every click. In other words, lead with your best material. Don't bury it assuming that someone will take the journey. Web consumers want content immediately.

Social Media

Just about everyone is on one or more social media platform. There are so many. You can't be everything to everyone, so pick the one(s) that feel most comfortable. Here are the main Social Media platforms that actors are using these days:

Facebook
Instagram
Twitter
LinkedIn

But there are so many. Look   52 Social Media Platforms Every Marketers Should Know
 
Social Media Managers
There are many services, (most have a free version, but for a fee more features are availble) that will help you schedule and otherwise manage your social media posts, stats and other useful information 
   
•Hootsuite
•Buffer
•SocialBro
•Bit.ly

Rules Were Made To Be Broken

With all the rules of thumb, there is nothing more refreshing than someone who breaks all the rules elegantly. Viva l'imagination!

Platforms

Your viewers use many different devices or varying aspect ratios to look at the web, so your site has to automatically adapt depending on size and orientation .
The Eyelash Test

Looking at your site from a distance through your eyelashes (so you can't easily read it) gives a good sense of how your site meets the viewer's eye. Is it too blocky? Is it too heavy to one side? Garish or soothing colors?

Be Available - But Safely

People need to get a hold of you, and you want to make it easy for them to do so. But provide safe contacts. Any person in the world with web access can see your site and not everyone has your best interest in mind. Be safe. 
In addiiton, never put your personal telephone number on the web. Either put your agent/manager's number or, if you don't have one, use a
  • Never put your personal email on the web
  • Get a 'business only' email
  • Get a data input masked telephone number

There are a number of Data Input Masks for telephone numbers. Google Voice is one such that is free. Though, there are many others just as good. (See video, below)

Cyber Presence Update Days

February
    
1

Few things are as irritating and mark one as an amateur than a website that doesn't do what it's supposed to do. A website takes maintenance. I pick February first and August first as "Cyber Presence Update Days." Of course, you can use any dates that work for you to:

  • Test all links on your site to make sure they are still "live."
  • Update your credits
  • Update /rotate photos

August
    
1

Not ready to do it yourself? If you do hire a Professional Website Designer - know what you're getting into.
  • Will you own your site?
  • Are updates free? If not, how much?
  • Look at their work - just as you would a headshot photographer.