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Do you need a website? And other poignant questions.

How many of us remember the nineties? It was a strange time. A lot of style choices stand out—shoulder pads, doc martens, stiff jeans and dog collars come to mind. Computers? Not so much. There were a few in the library at school, and my Mom used one for work. AOL Instant Messenger hadn't been invented yet, and when we could snag some time in the computer lab after school we were all sending chain letters to each other through Hotmail.

Personally, I remember a lot of oversized, uncomfortable Lee brand t-shirts with logos on them and, weirdly, a big "fill in the blank" on the back that read

It was like every product in the nineties knew they needed a website, but they didn't have one yet. They were unknowingly stuck in the print everything era, which meant get the merch out the door quick and people will fill in the blanks later. Literally.

[Side note: am I the only one who remembers this? Even Google images couldn't find me a picture.]

Here's the thing that's interesting: with the clarity of hindsight we can all see these folks (in my corner of Michigan "these folks" were Lee, Gander Mountain, Meijer and John Deere) all needed websites. They needed them for all the traffic that was going to come; the eCommerce that was going to be invented, the look books, the job boards, the retail locators and all the rest of it. But they couldn't have possibly know it at the time. They were just jumping on a trend...right?

Well, I can't say for sure since I was about 16 and didn't know much except that I wanted a pair of Doc so bad. But I can guess that those big brands were looking into the future and seeing the value of carving out their own little space in that big, wide web.

Brands and businesses, of course, need their own website. So if you have a brand or a business and you don't have a website, you're going to want to seriously consider it. That's a whole other blog post fora. different today. But for today, the question is: what about, you know, regular humans who don't have an LLC or an S-Corp?

We can all live rent-free on LinkedIn, the biggest job board of our time. If we want to hang out with Trump (breaking news), we can have a Facebook account. We can borrow time on Yahoo mail or Google Mail. But why would we pay for our own little plot of virtual land?

There are a few very good reasons to have your own website. Obviously I have my own, so I'm a big fan of gaining equity out here. But what are they? Here goes:

You wanna sell stuff someday

If you're running a business that requires transacting money and/or exchanging goods, you're gonna want to consider your own space. YES, Ebay and Etsy are great choices if you're selling old stuff or crafted stuff, but they're a little bit like those big cool antique malls that I go to on vacation. You know, the ones with the little stalls, and the tiny price tags and the glass cases filled with Madame Alexander dolls and Pyrex. Each of those stalls is run by a vendor and they pay commission to the market owner. In this comparison you as the business owner are the antiques dealer, and Ebay/Etsy is the mall. You have to pay rent, but you don't have to buy the building and that's cool. If you want full control of your store, your space and your're going to want to consider your own site.

You wanna control your image

If you're a media personality of any kind: newscaster, author, speaker, radio talk show host. Think Oprah, Michelle Obama, Dez & Ryan on the KS95 Morning Show, etc. If this is you, you will need more than the gloriously digitized resume shoppe that is LinkedIn. You're going to want to invite folks into your brand experience. Give them a space to learn more about you, feel the vibe of your personality, see the long lists of credentials you have gathered, and hear from you directly. Things like media kits would live nicely on a site like this, or blog content. This is a place to house your email listserv* and your testimonials.

* anyone still using the word "listserv"? Spell check is freaking out on me.

You have projects you need to show off

If you're a visual artist, and your work is key to your income, you need a site. Think not just about work that you would sell (see point number one above), but about tangible proof of your skills in a work place. If you do cosmetics, hair or skin care, you're going to want photographs as evidence you know what you're doing. If you're a designer or writer, you'll want samples of your projects that your future boss can review. If you're a painter, or photographer, or sculptor, featured work may be essential to winning you those gallery shows or commissioned placements. Get 'em up on there on the internetwebs.

If you don't wanna sell stuff, be a celeb or show off your your cash. You don't need a website. You might need one someday. But not yet.

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