From promoting your small business to getting yourself noticed by a potential employer, having your own website offers better control over the information, stories and images attached to your online persona. The task of creating a website from scratch can seem daunting. Luckily, there are tools even novices can use to create and maintain a personal site.
Start a blog. The easiest way to create your own a website is to establish a blog. Google's Blogger (www.blogger.com, custom domains for $10/year) has an easy, beginner-friendly format. Customize the look using multiple background images, flexible layouts and easily rearranged widgets -- just drag and drop. Wordpress (http://wordpress.com/, custom domains for $17/year) offers more intricate customization options, but it has a steeper learning curve. If you start a blog on Blogger and wish to switch to Wordpress later, importing your existing blog is fairly easy. You can try each format to see which you prefer.
Keep in mind that blogs are meant to be updated regularly with new posts and information. If you're looking for a create-it-and-then-forget-it page to function as an online advertisement, the simplicity of setup may not be worth the ongoing maintenance to keep a blog fresh.
Create your own Web page. You don't need to take a course in coding to create a webpage that highlights everything you'd like to share about yourself or your business. With Flavors (http://flavors.me/), you can create a personalized webpage containing social media links, photos and videos in one location. The free version offers basic access to fonts, layouts and five services such as Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, YouTube, etc. For $20 a year, you can have a personalized domain name, access through your smartphone and real-time statistics regarding how many hits you've received and where they're coming from.
AOL's online profile service About (https://about.me/) is free, offering many of the same services as Flavors. Your Web page will be about.me/yourname on the free model, or pay $4 a month to integrate it with your personal domain. Both offer free business cards through Moo Inc. (http://us.moo.com/) after you establish your account, which is a nice bonus. Play around with each site's layout and offerings to see which better accommodates your needs and preferences.
Highlight your resume. The tagline for Re.vu (http://re.vu/): "Don't send a resume. Share your story." With Re.vu, create a graphical resume so you can give prospective employers that "wow" factor. When creating your account, you have the option to import data from LinkedIn. If you don't already have a LinkedIn profile, consider setting one up; it's a great resource for connecting with potential job sources. If you already have an account, make sure your education and job histories are current and accurate before importing to re.vu.
Once you've imported data, use Re.vu's custom backgrounds or import your own. Use logos from previous employers and share vital stats regarding everything from the number of businesses you've started to your favorite pastimes. Upload portfolios of your work in PDF or Microsoft Office formats to show off your accomplishments.
When you've created your brand, promote yourself. Include the URL for your personal page in your email signature and in your Facebook and Twitter bios. Create or revise business cards with your personal URL on the card. Register your page with Google and Bing so people will see your page when they search for your name.
(Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds on Call, a company based in Redding, Calif., that offers on-site computer and home theater set-up and repair. Contact her at www.callnerds.com/andrea. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.)