Whether you’re using a free site or a self-hosted site, this post is for you! It doesn’t matter if you’re a new blogger, established business owner, online content creator, etc., it’s important that your online presence looks professional. Even if your brand is laid-back, you still have to appear as a professional that is worth hiring.
Updated: March 6, 2018
If you haven’t met a potential client or customer in person, someone’s first impression of you will be your website or social media page. Let’s talk about how important that first impression is.
An article by the Missouri S&T online newspaper states, “When viewing a website, it takes users less than two-tenths of a second to form a first impression, according to recent eye-tracking research conducted at Missouri University of Science and Technology.” After that small fraction of time, it takes about 2.6 seconds for the site visitor to fixate on what is influencing that first impression. [Source: http://news.mst.edu/2012/02/eye-tracking_studies_show_firs/]
You have a very short window of time to show someone your blog is worth reading, or that your business is worth hiring.
Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which mean I will earn a small commission, and these commissions help keep this blog running. Using the links will NOT make the item cost more.
Tips for Appearing Professional Online:
Have a Great Headshot
I recommend working with someone who actually knows what they’re doing. Look at the photographer’s portfolio before hiring them. Make sure their style matches what you’re after. A great photographer knows how to capture flattering, attractive photos, and can provide you with files that are the correct resolution for displaying online and for printing on business materials.
Take your photos yourself. I have a DSLR, so the majority of my photos are taken by myself using a tripod and shutter remote.
A cell phone photo is fine if you follow these tips:
- Take the photo outdoors in natural light.
- If you’re limited to indoors, aim to take your photo near an open window to utilize natural light.
- Edit the photo! (I’m not talking about airbrushing, removes blemishes, etc.) If your photo is dark, brighten it. Your face needs to be seen! If you don’t have Photoshop or Lightroom, you can use an online photo editor, or you can download free editing software like GIMP or Paint.NET. Or use an app such as VSCO.
Being that I’m a professional photographer myself, I like taking my own blog photos. Here’s my current headshot for my photography business. I took this using my camera set up on a tripod & using a shutter remote.
Equipment/Software I Use (I own the products linked below & highly recommend them.)
- Camera: Nikon D3300 (with basic ‘kit’ lenses included): https://amzn.to/2nEIQKF
- I film my YouTube videos with this camera. This is considered an “entry-level DSLR.”
- Nikon 35mm Prime Lens (my favorite lens! I use this one for all my photos.): https://amzn.to/2OBo9un
- I use this lens for all of my photos. It gives that amazing blurred background (known as ‘bokeh’) when used correctly. I also use this lens for YouTube videos.
- Tripod (Sunpak 61″): https://amzn.to/2KSWtyW
- Shutter Remote: Official Nikon Remote (I use this one.)
- Remote by Amazon for Nikon: https://amzn.to/2KS4Paf
- Remote by Amazon for Canon: https://amzn.to/2MJIg9q
- Adobe Lightroom (Editing Software; I actually use this one more than I use Photoshop): https://amzn.to/2nEJlEx
- NO subscription needed! Once you buy it, you own it forever.
- Photoshop Elements (Editing Software): https://amzn.to/2KTVBKk
- You can change the background, fix things like flyaway hair, and other more advanced things
- NO subscription needed for this product as well! Once you buy it, you own it forever.
- If you’re also a YouTuber and need video editing software, I use Adobe Premiere Elements (https://amzn.to/2nBaMyO). (No subscription needed as well.)
- You can save by bundling Premiere Elements with Photoshop Elements here: https://amzn.to/2KTFRa9
- If you’re a student with a school email address, be sure to check out the student versions to save money.
Other Equipment Worth Checking Out
Nikon’s D3400 (successor to the D3300): https://amzn.to/2KUAFTs (“Entry-level DSLR”)
These are less expensive point-and-shoot cameras, so purchasing a lens isn’t necessary because the lens on them is fixed/non-removable. So research the megapixels and zoom capabilities before purchasing one. These were under Amazon’s “Best Sellers” and “Most Wished For” for point-and-shoot (as of 8/14/18).
Canon PowerShot SX420 Digital Camera (20 Megapixels + built in Wi-Fi & NFC): https://amzn.to/2BaxS98
Canon PowerShot SX720: https://amzn.to/2MlW9xD
Nikon COOLPIX B500: https://amzn.to/2MMB1NP
Have a well-designed Logo
A logo or blog header is important to have whether you’re a business or a blogger. Trying to do your own branding is not ideal for a few reasons:
- If you do not have design experience, you will spend a ton of time researching how to create a logo, how to create a color palette (yes, this is important!), how to create call to action buttons, what size should XYZ be, etc. The long goes on and on.
- You should spend your time focusing on other aspects of your business/blog.
- Another thing to note is that if you’re a business that will be printing materials, such as business cards, brochures, flyers, letterhead, signs, or anything else that your logo will be going on, you will have to provide the printing company with a file that is the correct format and if you want your logo to appear as it should, it has to be created in a vector program, such as Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator allows us to create a logo that can be scaled to ANY size whether it’s as a small as business card or as big as a billboard. Or you can have your designer custom create these materials for you, so your only task is sending them to a printer.
Here’s my blog logo that I created using Photoshop.
Eventually you will want to work with a designer so your branding is cohesive. But if you can’t at the moment, you can create a header in Canva (free), GIMP (free), or another resource. A header should, at the minimum, include your name or blog name plus some decorative elements, such as clipart or ‘confetti.’ Note: Be sure the clip art is licensed for how you plan to use it.
Budget-friendly Option #2:
Also, some designers (such as myself) offer pre-made logos for a low price. A pre-made logo means multiple bloggers are able to purchase that same design before it’s retired, but it will be customized to your liking. My pre-made logos are currently $25 on Etsy. I provide the customization for you!
Use Correct Grammar and Spelling
Please double-check and triple-check everything before you post, especially if you’re running a business. Use spell check. Read your text out loud. When you hear your text, you’re more likely to find your mistakes because they will stick out.
A business or blog not using correct grammar and spelling appears unprofessional and untrustworthy.
Things to note: Slang or informal words are totally acceptable when used appropriately. Example: I live in Alabama, so of course I say “y’all” A LOT. I use “y’all” in my social media posts, blog posts, etc. I probably would not use “y’all” in a email to a potential client or if I were trying to pitch to a brand. Can you imagine writing to EOS, “Can y’all send some free lip balm for review?” (OMG *crying face emoji*)
If writing is not your strong suit, consider outsourcing copy-writing and/or blogging to someone who is great at it.
Budget-friendly Option: Just use your spell check, please!
Utilize Your Sidebar
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a blogger or a business owner that associates your brand with yourself/face. So to utilize the most of your sidebar, you should have these essentials on it:
- Your picture (unless you’re an anonymous blogger of course)
- A brief excerpt about you.
- Use your about page for a longer description.
- Call to action buttons or something else you want to draw attention to something.
- This could be a button that says “Etsy Shop” or “Book Now.” Or it may be a graphic that draws attention to a popular post, an e-book you wrote, etc.
- In my sidebar, I draw attention to my blog posts with the most reads and my YouTube channel’s latest video.
- Tip: Don’t overload your sidebar! Too many items, especially ones with a large file size, will cause your site to load slowly, which is a turn off to visitors.
Here’s how my sidebar currently looks.
Use the Correct Legal Polices on your Site
[Disclaimer: I am NOT a lawyer, and I cannot give you legal advice. These are general tips.]
Disclaimer Policy: This is used to tell visitors that you’re not responsible for how they use or perform information on your site. Example: Fitness, health, medical, and blogs run by lawyers have disclaimers that tell you to consult with a qualified professional, and that what you’re reading does not initiate a relationship with the site owner.
Disclosure: This is something used by bloggers to alert readers as to whether or not their blog contains paid advertisements, sponsored content, affiliate links, or posts that review items that a brand sent them. A disclosure statement should also be provided at the beginning of a post containing content that falls under the previous sentence. [Note: This may not be a complete list. Again, I am NOT lawyer, and this is general information.]
To read more about blogging disclosures, read these links:
Published by the Federal Trade Commission: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking
To generate a blog disclosure, you can visit this link (free): http://disclosurepolicy.org/
Use the free resources in the checklist.
Use Professional-looking Photos on Your Site and Social Media
If you’re photographing products or taking photos to use as blog post images or social media images, an expensive camera isn’t necessary. Even a point-and-shoot camera or phone camera is fine for this type of photography because there is usually enough resolution for a web photo.
Photograph near an open window for natural light so your photos appear bright.
Of course, don’t forget to edit them. If you’re adding text to the photo, you can edit them in any of the programs I mentioned above. Many bloggers recommend Canva (free/online). I personally have not used it because I use Photoshop, but I’ve heard great things about it.
If photography isn’t your strong suit, this is another thing you can outsource. You can find a local photographer that specializes in photographing products. If you need blog post images, you can buy styled stock photography and templates or hire someone that can take custom photos for your brand.
Using free stock photos are also great. Just be sure to check the license terms, and make sure the website you’re downloading from is legit.
Which images look better? The ones on the right of course, because they’re styled and a lot of thought went into setting them up. *Images found on pixabay.com.
My favorite stock photos sites are:
Another tip: Please edit your photos!
I’ve seen so many photos that I know would look better if the blogger would just edit them. Dark photos are incredibly unflattering, and will not get as many likes/views as well-lit photos. I use Adobe Lightroom (https://amzn.to/2P7Rxtr) to edit my photos. And to make all of your images look cohesive, you can save your edits as presets and apply them to all of the photos in a set. Here’s a screenshot of Lightroom editing I did to save my most recent Instagram photo.
Use the free stock sites above if you’re looking for stock photos. I have also included more free sites in the checklist. Non-expensive styled photos can also be found on sites such as Etsy, Hungry Jpeg, and more.
Take your own photos using the recommended equipment listed above. Here are some more photos I’ve taken myself.https://www.instagram.com/p/Bn6zUlXhSx2/ https://www.instagram.com/p/BdvvFiZAD1j/
Have A Contact Page
You must have a page where people can contact you. Be sure the emails are forwarded to an account you actually check! There is no cost to do this and even free blogs/sites have the tools to create a contact page.
The contact form plugin I use is “Contact Form 7” found here https://wordpress.org/plugins/contact-form-7/ (for self-hosted WordPress only). If you’re using free WordPress, Blogger, or Wix, they have contact form plugins already built in.
Be Friendly and Natural in Your Online Interactions
Branding is not only the appearance of your site and social media, but it’s also the way you “carry yourself” online. This topic deserves its own post at a later date. But briefly, I can tell you this: The way you talk and interact with others online is how people will perceive your brand. The way you write your captions is also how people will perceive your brand (i.e. types of captions: song lyrics, popular quotes, Bible scriptures, quirky sayings, long thoughtful paragraphs, etc.)
If you are polite, helpful, and reply to comments, people will say, “This is definitely someone I want to work with.” If you are brash, or you’re one of those annoying people that comment under someone’s photo, “Hey! Check out our services! We could do so much for you,” you will repel people! The latter shows you are desperate and only use social media to self-promote rather than build relationships and network. I delete those comments very quick!
Thanks for reading, y’all! To download the free checklist, go to my DropBox. The checklist includes 20+ links to free and paid resources that are not listed on here. Click “No thanks, continue to view” if a sign-up page comes up.
I invite you to join my Facebook group “Millennial Bloggers Collective.”
(A millennial is usually defined as anyone born between the late 1970s up to the year 2004, if you’re wondering if you’re a millennial.)
It’s open to fashion, beauty, lifestyle, travel, faith, and food bloggers as well as creativepreneurs.
There are daily threads for social media engagement and blog promotion. You’re also free to post any blogging/business questions and collaboration opportunities/ISOs. We also have three group Pinterest boards, so we can help each other grow on Pinterest. The MBC group has 1600+ members!
Spot on information that I wish I had known my first year of blogging. I’ve definitely learned this over the course of the year. I also just requested to join your Facebook group! Let’s do this.
Hi, Courtney! Thank you for your kind words! You’ve been added to the group. If you’d like to join the Pinterest group, too, you can enter your email under the post for it.
Thanks for the tips – a good reminder that we seriously need to get some new/updated headshots for our blog!
Hi, Jen! I’m glad to be of help.
I think having a good headshot is so important. I can’t wait to get a new headshot this weekend (I just recently changed my hair again haha and I want one to show off my face this time). Grammar and punctuation are so important! I have seen so many bloggers have their posts riddled with errors that I just want to cringe.
Hello, fellow Southerner! (I just saw you’re a photographer as well. That’s awesome!) I need to get mine re-done too. I usually take them outside, but at the time of shooting, it was raining non-stop down here.
And yes, I too have seen way too many cringe-worthy posts! Sometimes I want to reach out to them, but I don’t want to come off as rude.
I love love love this post! It’s so nice to see you have everything laid out and with such detail. From headshots to logo this is super helpful. I’m still working on my headshot (waaaaah), not too excited about that, but I love the tips you have. Can’t wait to try them out for myself =]
Thank you so much for your kind words, Danielle!
Great tips, Desire! I recently had a friend take headshots for my blog, and implementing your other tips too. You CAN do it cheaply to start which is awesome ! 🙂
Hi, Sarah! Thank you for your kind words!
Thank you so much for this!
I am a fairly new blogger in quite the under-represented niche; so creating a nice looking-yet simple- website has been very important to me. However, I don’t have much money -yet- to create an elaborate page. I know I have to make some changes and these changes will be made over the course of the next few weeks.
Again, thank you for this!
Hi, Alisha! Welcome to the blogging world. If you have any questions about blogging, I’d be more than happy to answer them for you. You can post questions in my Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/creativepreneursandbloggers/
Loved this post! I need to get some headshots done 🙂
Hi, Jenny! I’m happy you found this post helpful.
Awesome actionable tips with great examples. Love this. I’ve taken down notes for my website – Thank you so much 🙂
I’m glad to be of help, Vaishnavi! And thanks for joining my Facebook group! 😀
Great tips and a good reminder to always strive to keep things professional on our websites. I like how you gave practical advice, which doesn’t require paying a lot of money…always a good thing!
Hi, Joscelyn! Thanks for your kind words. I believe some things are necessary to splurge on, and others just aren’t LOL.
Great tips! I’m a self-publishing author with a very limited budget so I had to do my own website. Did my research and many of these tips showed up. As a former college English teacher, I know that proper grammar and spelling is essential for a professional website. There is nothing worse than falling upon a website that reads like a Twitter or text message :-0.
Hi, Tam! I wish you the best with your writing career!
You’re very welcome, Kaley! Good luck with your launch! If you ever have any blog-related questions, feel free to join my Facebook Group and send me questions.
Good ideas and tips! The photography is so important. I’ve been wanting to redo my portrait. Need to stop procrastinating and do it. A blog’s first impression is like seeing the entrance of a store. Does it draw you into to stay, look around and want to come back? Or does it wow this place is a mess and make you want to leave? I’m continuously adjusting things here and there on my website until I feel it gets that “come on in and stay awhile” feeling.
Hi, Katherine! Thanks for your kind words. I love your blog’s logo by the way!
I love these tips! I just rebranded my website and purchased a theme I love. I feel like it looks so much more professional !
Hi, Sheila! I just checked out your site. It looks great!
Excellent tips! I just attended a blogging conference and there was a photographer there doing inexpensive headshots!
Hi, Jasmine. That’s awesome!
This is great advice for anyone getting into blogging. Especially the headshot photo information! Thanks for sharing!
Hi, Jen! Thank you for your kind words.
Great tips, With all the blogs, news sites and everything else it is hard to get noticed. Once you do you have to provide something interesting to keep em coming back. Always a challenge.
Hi, Bob! That is very true. Thanks for your kind words.
I’ve started to do everything except getting a professional headshot. I need to add that to my list! Thanks for sharing!
Hi, Kim! Thank you for your kind words. I think your current headshot is very cute!
Great tips! The logo is something I need to work on.
This should be required reading for every new blogger (and even seasoned bloggers like myself for a great reminder)!
I think a lot of people see blogging as a hobby or just a small side hustle, so they don’t take it seriously and are quick to forget about the things you mentioned in this post. For those of us bloggers who are serious and passionate about what we do, that can be detrimental. With some extra effort, you can have your blog looking super professional and attractive, and it’s so worth it in my opinion!
Great tips, Desire! 🙂
Hi, Bria! Thank you so much for your kind words! I can’t agree with you more 😀
Such great tips! I’ve definitely got some areas I can improve in like creating a contact page. I definitely see the value in having quality head shots and clear images!
Hi, Leslie! Thank you! I’m very happy you found this post helpful.
These are all great tips, especially having a great headshot. As a fashion blogger, I like to showcase a complete look as my headshot in the sidebar as well as on the about me page.
Hi, Shatreka! Thanks. Your blog looks amazing btw!
These tips are so simple and easy but I remember as a beginner blog (back in 09′!) I had NO idea what to do! Even little things make a huge difference and I think new bloggers get discouraged because they think they have to spend a lot of $$$ to have a really beautiful site and great content — and your post proves that’s not true! Love it, thank you girl!
Hi, Rachel! Thank you for your kind words!
These are great tips! We especially like your advice on having professional looking photos both on our blog and on our social media. We’ve noticed that it truly makes a difference. Love your website by the way 🙂
This a perfect post for any blogger!
So many great tips! I’ve spent money on my blog, but the thing I did feel was worth the money was a good design. But even then, it came from Etsy and cost less than $50! I have no professional branding. Thankfully I’ve studied graphic design in the past and didn’t have too many issues with branding. I have photographer friends who take my head shots. It’s great! I created a whole business that I barely spent a penny on. Nowadays I’m self-hosted of course and I pay for a few other miscellaneous tools, but what I spend is far less than what I make. So it all works!
xo, Keating | Why Hello Lovely
Hi, Keating! That’s good to hear!
So many great tips, especially the section about the legal disclaimers. I feel like that’s something that a lot of people don’t even think about when starting a blog or a website! Thank you so much for the tips!
Hi, Olivia! Thanks for your kind words!
Great advice you are spot on, anyone reading this will really know what to do to help their web presence. Thank you for sharing this.
These are all amazing tips! I’m looking to rebrand my blog and I’m always under the influence that I have to spend thousands to make it look great, when the best things to do are the cheapest!!
Ooooh you have such great tips here that I can’t wait to implement some of them myself. Oh and I totally joined your group. Love this!
These are some really good tips which I need to double check I’m doing myself and learn from. Great post!
Love this! I also like to use Unsplash for public domain photos. 🙂
This is such great advice, I am on my second month of blogging and loving it! I am going to work on my head shot soon to make my page look more professional!
I’m glad to be of help, Jade! I wish you the best with your blogging journey!
Hey Desire, thanks for the helpful post! I love the logos you create! One day I’ll have to buy one from you xoxo
These are all great tips! I will be getting photos done soon and I cannot wait to update my headshot! I love using Etsy for my blog because the prices cannot be beat.
Thank you! This was extremely helpful! Honestly, one of the most helpful blog post about this type of info! Thank you thank you!
Excellent and very helpful post! I have been wanting to look into better cameras than just using my iphone, so this helped. Thank you!
Hi, I am new to your blog. I must say it’s amazing and I am learning alot from you.
Thank you for sharing your tips! I know it’s 4 years since this was posted, LOL but I’m still planning to utilize them. Side Note: It’s nice to meet a fellow Mac n’ Cheese Connoisseur. 😉