You have a website? Has it been updated recently? These are the two most pressing questions we need to address today. If you don’t have a website, I will suggest ways to change this and if you do, some ways you can improve it.

    For those of you without a website, it costs you money every day. Money in lost bookings, lost contacts, lost advantages that go to those of us with a website. Simply put, if you don’t have a website, you aren’t a serious businessperson in the 21st century. For people under the age of 40, your website must also look good on a smartphone. Folks born after 1974 are surgically tied to their cell phone and for many of them, their phone “is their life!” In order to get to this immense market, you need a website.

    Perhaps this sounds intimidating- it need not. The free program Word Press allows anyone with a domain name to make their own website for the cost of the hosting itself. Many companies will sell you a domain name, which is simply “yourgreatname/idea/product/service, followed by a .com, net, org, biz, etc. If you’re just getting started, companies like Host Gator, GoDaddy, 1and1, etc will sell you a domain name and even provide tools to make your own website. You can check out books about Word Press or other web creation software from the library and learn how to start marketing your brand online. If possible, try to make your business website a .com ending. You might have to create a more clever name for your business in the process, but that’s fine.

    I began this fascinating sideline in 2005. I had just written and self published “Guitar Made Simpler-An Intelligent Approach” and wanted to sell the book direct to consumers as well as get new guitar students. Since I’m a Mac guy, I purchased a program called Rapid Weaver, (www.realmacsoftware.com) allowed me to make my website and publish it by myself. Both my websites, www.guitarmadesimpler.com and www.wrileywilson.com were done by me using Rapid Weaver. They look good and help me drum up new business 24/7. The best thing about this approach is I began putting my live gigs calendar online in 2009. I sometimes need to change this more than once a week. I can change a few dates, modify the theme, which is how the website looks and then hit “Publish Site.” In just moments, the website has been brought to date without calling a consultant or paying them to make small changes. Rapid Weaver helps me be on the ‘Net around the clock, keeping my name and brand in front of potential clients.

    The most important things a good website will have is your business name, a phone number and way to contact you as well as some content that would entice a potential client to reach out to you. High quality photos are a real plus, as is clean, concise text that relays your purpose for business. Let’s say you are a solo pianist and call your website.www.solopianoboy.com. A great photo of you at the keys, a phone number as well as some comments from past clients might be all you need to get more work. You could add audio or video links, best if kept on YouTube, maybe a separate page of your repertoire, an About The Boy page where you tell your professional story and a contact page. This can be done a myriad of ways but will help you pop up when people do a Google or Yahoo search for a piano player, solo entertainer, etc.

    A great way to see many different websites is go to Gigmasters or Gig Salad, find some successful musicians doing what you do and then find their websites. Don’t slavishly copy verbatim someone else’s approach, but take the best parts of all them and use this to create your site. Look at websites in other businesses and borrow ideas from them. I am not in favor of Flash or other graphics intensive gimmicks on a music site. In order to load quickly and look good on a computer or cell phone, keep the videos on YouTube, since they will load much faster for potential buyers. If you include audio clips, keep them under two minutes in length. Sell your sizzle, don’t give away your steak!

    For those of you who already have a website, is it time for a makeover? Both my websites have been updated within the past few months and load faster, have less unnecessary content and do a better job of helping potential customers find me and my services. If your site was designed more than five years ago, it’s probably time to make some changes. Get a good consultant who can help you trim the fat, tighten up your copy and make things pop. I host my sites with Host Gator and they provide weekly checkups to be sure I’m not being blacklisted on Google, resubmit my site maps, etc. If you have the money to do so, getting an expert to help you with search engine optimization (SEO) tools can bring your site to the very top of a Google search. This usually means more customers coming to your website.

    As I have pointed out before in this blog, the rules of our business has changed. Prior to the year 2000, a band’s press kit was their big selling vehicle. In the 2000’s this changed to some folks creating electronic press kits(EPK). By 2010 or 2011, the website was firmly entrenched as the numero uno way to sell one’s unique talent or skill set. If you don’t have one yet and are still reading this, you now know what to do next.

Riley Wilson has been his own webmaster since 2005 and has also created websites for other businesses. He is the author and publisher of “Guitar Made Simpler- An Intelligent Approach,” a full time guitar and bass teacher and voice talent based in North Texas. His business websites include www.guitarmadesimpler.com and www.wrileywilson.com .