It’s time for a personal academic website
A personal academic website is the best way to communicate who you are and what you do. That’s what we’re going to talk about today on The Social Academic blog.
There is a stigma in the academy against sharing and self promotion. Some of you don’t use social media. Most academics don’t have a personal academic website.
Having a website of your own, where you can share your bio and talk about the work you do is a great way to connect with your scholarly audience.
I’m Jennifer van Alstyne, and welcome to my blog. Let’s talk about why having an online portfolio is great for educators like you.
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When’s the last time you checked in with your online presence?
Google yourself every 6 months or so. I really recommend checking-in on a regular basis.
Whatever you find, save it. Find everything you can.
I want you to put yourself in the shoes of someone who might be searching for you.
- If you were a student, did you learn a bit about your potential professor?
- If you were PhD applicant, would you be able to connect with your potential supervisor?
- If you were an editor/publisher, what kind of writing, or work ethic would you expect from this person?
- If you were a grant reviewer, will this person be good at communicating their work (outreach)?
Now think back to the first 3 minutes. That’s about how long someone will give you. Often less. You only have a moment to share you are and why they should be interested.
Today we’re going to talk about why a personal website is the best way to control what people find and know about you.
Anxiety over your online identity is normal
Your web presence, what people find about you when they look you up, may be something you haven’t thought of before. Now that you have, it might make you a bit anxious. And that’s normal!
With connected HigherEd “influencers” out there, anxiety over managing your web presence can sometimes happen. Especially when people first start thinking about it. That feeling is normal.
What is a personal website?
A personal website is a series of web pages about you.
A personal website can be big, with dozens of pages. If you have a blog, your website may have hundreds of pages. A personal website can also be small, with just 1-page.
How much does a personal website cost?
The cost of a personal website depends on two things:
- Website creation
- Maintenance costs
The cost to create a personal website ranges from $0 to $20,000+. That’s a huge range! I know.
How much your website will cost depends on
- If you’ll do it yourself (DIY) or hire a website designer
- Where you want your website to be hosted
- If you need to hire help with writing or graphic design
- How big you want your website to be
Can a personal website be free?
Yes, a personal website can be free. But that’s an unrealistic option for 99.9% of people reading this blog. Here’s why.
You can have a personal website that costs $0 USD. My top recommendation for this is the website host, WordPress.com. For $0, you won’t have a lot of control over the look and feel of your website. You won’t get your own domain name, you’ll get a subdomain instead.
What is a domain name? A domain name is your website address. It’s the URL you type into the bar when you want to visit a website.
A domain name typically costs between $20-$60/year.
Some people prefer a self-hosted WordPress site, but I find most professors I talk with
- don’t have the technical ability
- don’t have time to learn how
- won’t have time for ongoing maintenance
- won’t have time to handle viruses, hacks, etc. if something goes wrong
Typical costs for personal websites are $60-$300/year.
If you create your own website including
- design of your website
- writing for your personal website
- photos and images
- logo and graphic design (i.e. infographics)
- placement of all content into web pages
Then you shouldn’t have additional costs for your website beyond the annual costs.
What if I need help creating my personal website?
A lot of people need guidance when creating their personal website. That’s why I created an online course to help guide you along each step of the way.
Needing help with some or all of these parts of your personal website is normal:
- website design and creation
- writing for your bio and other webpages
- choosing photography and images for your website
- creating a logo
- graphic design, videos, and other media
I help professors with the planning stages of personal websites more than the actual implementation. I found that was the area most people needed help in. Over the past couple years, I’ve designed a proven process for planning websites strategically.
I’ve worked with people around the world to figure out exactly what they need on their websites to communicate effectively
- writers and critics
- research labs
- research centers
I’d love to work with you, but I want you to know all your options. You can work with these people to make your website a reality
- website designer
- website developer
What is a website designer?
A website designer focuses on the look and feel of your website. Their focus on appearance of the website means they’re great at things like
- colors and themes
Website designers are skilled at creating websites. They’ll need these things from you before getting started:
- a list of pages you’d like for your website
- all written content you’d like placed
- photos and images you have the rights to for your website
A website designer may be able to help you with things like
- graphic design
- finding licensed stock photos for your website
You can work with me on a strategic plan for your website. These plans are perfect for website designers or completing the project yourself.
What is a website developer?
Website developers, on the other hand, specialize in coding. You’ll want to hire a website developer if you want a fancy website with all the bells and whistles.
Website developers will likely need these things from you before getting started on your project
- a plan for the structure of your website
- all written content you’d like placed
- photos, images, and graphics you have the rights to ready to be placed
Website developers need more from you before getting started than designers. You’ll want a good idea of these things before you reach out for quotes too, as developers will need info like how many pages your website will be to give you a proper estimate for your personal website.
How much does it cost to hire a website designer or developer?
Personal website projects range anywhere from $3,000-$20,000 USD. There’s a huge range for the cost of having your website professionally designed.
The cost depends on the skill and location of your
- website designer
- website developer
How big do you want your website to be? Will you want a blog? The more complex your website, the higher the cost.
The cost of your website project will also depend on how much you need done-for-you.
Website projects with me come in 3 steps so you can choose how much help you need. See a breakdown of strategic website planning and design with me, Jennifer van Alstyne.
What do professors include on their personal websites?
A personal website is a series of web pages. Scholar websites can
- Host your curriculum vitae
- Link to your articles and publications
- Highlight upcoming speaking engagements
- Share your teaching interests and syllabi
- More importantly, a personal academic website can show you are a human being.
Social media is a great place for conversation or sharing ideas.
But editors, potential employers, and colleagues will not be able to keep up with your accomplishments among the other voices online. Social media moves too fast.
Regardless, it’s difficult to get a full understanding of someone’s work from a social media profile.
A more robust web portfolio can highlight all aspects of your academic life. Websites allow for full control over what you showcase, and how you explain the work you do.
If you don’t have a lot of time to spend, even a 1-page website can make a difference.
Academic websites are like an online portfolio of your work
Your faculty profile on your institution’s homepage is likely not approachable for a general audience. After reading hundreds (if not thousands) of faculty profiles, this has been true for the vast majority I’ve seen.
Your faculty profile is not the most dynamic or engaging way to connect with
- people in your field
- the media
- the public
Scholars and researchers should share their work in ways the public can engage. Doing so is becoming expected, especially in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Beyond that, these people are looking for those who can talk effectively about their own work with a general audience
- grant and research funders
Having a website can benefit your personal life because it communicates clearly to a broad audience. You don’t even need a big website to do this. For many, a simple 1-page website will work for you.
A website for researchers can benefit your professional life because it provides detailed and specific information that your colleagues, administrators, and network need in one space. Discover 8 more benefits of a personal website.
When you’re ready to start on your personal website project, check out my how-to guide.
Do you need help with your website?
I’ve worked with professors, researchers, and labs around the world on their website strategies. Planning your website so that it meets all your needs is your best option long-term. Learn about strategic website planning with me.
Do you need help getting started on your personal website? Set up a 1:1 website consultation with me.
Planning to do it yourself? A DIY website can be great! Join my online training on how to make your personal academic website. It will guide you each step of the way to launching your website.
Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and public relations consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help academics, researchers, and writers control their online presence and share their work with the world.
She holds a B.A. from Monmouth University in English, and an M.F.A. from Naropa University in Writing & Poetics where she was the Jack Kerouac Fellow. Jennifer also holds an M.A. from University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Literature and Cultural Studies where she was one of four master’s fellows and a finalist for the Outstanding Master’s Graduate Award.