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Building your actor website for cheap (and why I don’t design for actors) – PART 1

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Photo by Mr Allan Amato

Photo by Mr Allan Amato

You know how when you meet someone new and you tell them you’re an actress and then they tell you how they have thought about being an actress too, or were, or think they’d be good at it, and you internally roll your eyes (or if you’re me, you externally roll your eyes) because being famous and being an actress are not the same things and “being an actress” is way more complicated and involved  (and expensive) than just choosing to tell people that you are an actress?

Yeah.

Obviously this is a phenomenon that only happens outside of LA because I know I’m not the only one who cringes slightly with embarrassment when I tell someone I’m an actress in LA (RIGHT?). Because fucking EVERYBODY is an actress in LA and unless you’re famous or currently in a commercial you’re NOBODY. You know they are going to follow up with “oh, what would I know you from?” and then you have to try and make your indie short sound really impressive, and although it took a fuckton of work to actually make and you’re really proud of it, to someone NOT in the industry (or someone who works on a studio lot every day) you sound like a fucking loser.  You might as well be bragging about your latest VINE. Seriously. Fuck that.

ANYWAY I digress. So being an actor sucks basically and is expensive as hell which is totally worse than the disappointment and rejection and embarrassment of hustling to be an actor. At least when you go to an audition, but don’t get it, you (hopefully!) took that time to practice your skills, make some character choices, impress SOMEBODY in that room and maybe next time will be the time, but spending money ALL THE FUCKING TIME on actor shit is balls.  HOW IS THIS CAREER SO EXPENSIVE EVEN IF YOU NEVER BOOK ANYTHING????

People in LA (and probably other places, but who cares about those places, amiright?) love to take money from actors. The mayor should designate a public holiday for actors where we get everything for free, like gas and Starbucks and photocopies, because the rest of the goddamned year we are being sucked dry by classes, printings, mailings, drop offs, rush hour, blah blah blah blah blah.  If you have a “real job” that pays you more than serving, bartending, or whatever, you probably have to sneak away from your desk to hit auditions and it’s a major hassle. If you’re a freelancer with a super cool skill set, and you get to make money and also do actor junk,  you’re fucking awesome and smart.

I’m fucking awesome and smart.

I’ve been a professional web designer and developer for longer than I’d like to say in fear of giving away my real age (22 for lyfe!). My specialties are WordPress development,  PSD-to-Code conversions and creating static templates for custom applications to be integrated into the Django, Ruby or PHP backend.

If you’re an actor (or not web developer) I can imagine you’re staring blankly at the screen right now. It’s ok, just skip that part, it’s not important. I’m qualified is what I’m saying.

My clients range from the local boutique, artists and other web designers(yes this happens a lot)  to American Idol, Dick Clark and Paul McCartney. (are you impressed yet? no? Ok I helped Helenna with this site a little bit. How about that?)

I’m very good at what I do.  I wish I was as good an actress as I am at CSS. I wish I could command the same client base so easily (one day, dare to dream!).  I’d be happy to design and develop your branded website for you but I probably won’t. You probably can’t afford me, I don’t want your stupid actor dollars, and I don’t want to yell at you (this also happens a lot).  Instead I’m going to explain to you how to put up your own, on-brand website, for cheap.

BY YOURSELF.

“But Verona!” you exclaim, “won’t that hurt your business?”

No.

Actors have a lot of time, no money, and are creative. You are unequivocally the template for a nightmare client.  You will ask me for one thing, then become obsessed with the creative process, then change your mind a dozen times, emailing me with out-of-context single sentences asking for features that are either useless, stupid, or extremely expensive to implement. You’ll also expect me to show you these ideas in action “just in case” for free, IMMEDIATELY.

When you have a lot of time, instant gratification becomes important. I know. I have Amazon Prime.

You will make me crazy, and since you have no money, it won’t be worth the money. I’m sorry. It’s not personal. You’re just the worst client ever and I’ve never even met you. (unless you’re one of my actual clients – Hi Emma – and in that case you’re truly infallible.)

So instead of making enemies (more enemies) I’ll just tell you how to do it on your own and when you hit the big time and need a massive overhaul for your brand you can have your assistant or publicist call me and everyone wins. Until then, stay off my lawn.

In order to make this easy for you, not only to follow, but also to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, I’m going to break this down into a couple of posts, with pictures, and I’ll probably walk you through it like you’re Encino man using a computer for the first time. Again, it’s not personal, I just need to assume for the worst possible scenario so this is helpful to everybody.

In this first part we’re going to buy our piece of internet, after that we’ll cover some technical stuff and then finally we’ll actually build the site. Ready? Ok.

1. Choose your domain name
This should be a no brainer. Your NAME is your domain name.
My domain name is VeronaBlue.com. Amber Plaster has AmberPlaster.com

If you have a common, forgettable or complex name you can be clever but otherwise, don’t be fucking clever. (Just now I tried to come up with some clever but bad idea domains and they were all fucking awesome. AmberTOTHEMAX.com, AmberIsSoWierd.com, yeah so I hope you get it without an example)

Here’s a GOOD example of clever… Jill Alexander uses “JillForPromQueen.com” which is not only fun and creative, it sort of gives you an idea of what to expect when you get there. She is an adult woman after all. Quirky! Comedy!

If you’re going to register a domain and start your site right away, you can probably get a FREE domain name with your hosting package. If you just want to register your domain to hold on to it, but don’t have the time or energy to do the website at the same time I recommend you register with Namecheap.com.  It’s cheap (duh) and doesn’t require any additional services with purchase.

As I mentioned, many hosting places offer you a free domain upon signing up for hosting so if you’re going to get started right away it’s usually more cost effective to use that method. YOU own the domain name no matter where you register it, you can always move it later.

Q. Should I register .com and .net and .org and .tv etc?
A. Are you about to be a series regular on a major network? If so, yeah maybe think about it. Grab your name variations so crazy fans and stalkers can’t. If you are a nobody actress like me, then don’t waste your money. Who cares?

2. Choose your hosting

I recommend HostGator.com and GreenGeeks.com (Use the coupon code CODEBLOO25 on HostGator and get 25% off all packages!)
Both offer exceptional services, good help documents and fair pricing. They do not have whacky (read: anti gay, anti women) agendas like some other companies and GreenGeeks has the added bonus of being carbon neutral which may or may not (but probably should be) important to you.

You only need the smallest hosting package these sites offer, unless you want to host multiple domains on the same account (see Q&A in section 1). The more you pay up front the cheaper your monthly cost is.

Pay at least a year upfront.

If you’re confident that you will remain on this career path, consider 2 years if you have the cash. You don’t have to think about it again for 2 years. Convenient no?

I realise some of you are like “WTF is hosting and why can’t I just keep my website on my computer?”

Duh, sorry.

So hosting is where you keep the files for your website so it shows up on the internet and other people can see the site.  You upload the files from your computer to the hosting computer via an “FTP” program that connects with a username and password. Most FTP programs are drag and drop so don’t panic about that either.

The other half (or whatever) of you are probably wondering why you wasted those last 8 minutes reading all this since you already own your own domain and maybe have hosting but really could use some help with your website.

Ok moving on.

3. Know your buyer & assemble your content
This is basic branding work so I hope that you’ve already done this.
In the context of a website you need to consider the same things you would consider with a reel.  Is this your best work? Does it get to the point quickly? Does it allow someone who’s busy to gather all the information they need without a major hassle?

What does your buyer need to know?

  • Your name
  • How to reach you and/or your reps (and who they are) – including your LOCATION (LA, NYC, etc)
  • What you look like
  • Where to see some clips of your work
  • What you’ve done & your training
  • A *short* blurb about you (your pitch)
  • Interesting, relevant links (imdb, actors access, your guest blog on backstage, etc)

Keep it simple.

4. Build your website!

5. ???

6. Profit.

 Haha. Just kidding.

Ok so now we’re going to build our website in WORDPRESS. It’s free, it’s easy to use, it’s well documented, most problems have already been asked by someone else on the internet and have a multitude of answers by the general public and are all easily accessible by Google search.  (hint)

Next time we’re going to talk about installing WordPress, themes, and adding your content. Neat!

Spay and Neuter your pets,

-Verona*

(Read part 2 »)

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About Verona Blue

Actress & Web Developer - Verona Blue is originally from Toronto but arrived in Los Angeles by way of London where she received classical conservatory training in voice, movement and text. She excels at weapons and combat, and is extremely easy to find at an airport. Realising her niche was strong, but limited, she grabbed the bull by the horns and started creating her own opportunities with a group of new, creative friends and colleagues. Her first film (and reel!) "Elizabeth" won Best Editing and was nominated for Best Actress at the Indie Horror Film Festival in Chicago. With a professional background in web development and extensive experience working on film related websites, she has a lot going on. It's exhausting.