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What Makes a Good Website with Jen Olmstead

Are you an entrepreneur or a photographer with a website? Do you think you know everything about having a great website? Or do you know that you require a website but haven’t gotten one yet? We’re going to cover the ins and outs of having a good website, and the importance of having a converting website that speaks to your brand and aligned clients.

About Jen Olmstead

Jen Olmstead is the co-owner of the Tonic Site Shop. She is a former journalist turned website designer, and it all started for her at an LA rooftop bar with her now business partner.

They refined website templates and put the control of your online presence back into your business owner’s hands. Jen is one-half of the creative duo; her partner is Jeff Shipley. She’s a writer, a designer, and a marketing nerd, a big fan of fonts, witty banter, and great podcasts. 

Jen is in business with her design soulmate. As all great modern love stories begin, they met online on a Facebook group and next year it’ll be 10 years since they met. She was working late at night and she posted something about a website she was working on. Jeff popped on and went through the entire site she designed and found every single minor error in the website and relayed it to her. 

She loved that a stranger cared enough to go through her website and try to make it better, and it spoke volumes to her about the kind of person he was. How helpful he was even for someone he didn’t know and theoretically didn’t even care about.  They met in person shortly thereafter over cocktails and they decided to do something together.

Jen’s Tonic Site Shop 

Jen and Jeff noticed that so many extremely talented photographers knew they needed a great website and how important a website was in theory. But at that time, the only options were to hire a designer for ten or twenty thousand dollars to build it for a year or get a $100 template and then stuck into that for a long time until you have enough to hire that web designer. 

It seemed a sad state of affairs for most creatives and just having to suck it up and make do for a long time and not feel like they were represented beautifully online. 

So they set out to build Tonic sites. Where entrepreneurs can have a killer website for their business, not just something that they feel they’re going to make do with. Something that’s going to serve them immediately and in the long run. Now they can feel like they’re showing up beautifully and being understood for what they do best online. 

That was the guiding principle at the onset.

How to change your website

The first one is being very clear and not being too clear. There’s a phrase “above the fold” which means anything that people can see before they scroll down. One of the common things seen, especially on photographer’s websites, is you land on the website and the “above the fold” says something like “translating your memories” and you’re like that is really pretty, but you have no clue what this person does, or what they offer. You may have questions like how they work, and what the person does, and these are left unanswered. 

This is the common thing seen with creative people’s websites. If you’re not making it clear within the first point, what you do, and how it can benefit the person looking at your website, then that’s a huge mistake. 

That’s a missed opportunity on your website because you have to realize they’re looking to solve a problem. They’re looking for someone to shoot their wedding photos. Make it clear at the outset that you’re a wedding photographer and you can take those wedding photos for them, so you don’t miss an opportunity to serve customers well. 

Creatives need to be clear and this is an easy fix. All you have to do is add a little line at the top with that beautiful brand statement that says “St. Louis wedding photographer, capturing your legacy for generations,” whatever it is. Make things clear immediately. Make sure you’re not sacrificing clarity on the altar of creativity.

Have a call to action

The second mistake is that creatives are kind of timid about the salesmanship that can happen on their website. They put this website up and it’s almost like a beautiful billboard for the business, like a brochure, a look through my work, see my photos, fall in love with me, kind of thing. What the website fails to do is, it fails to ever ask someone to do something. In website design, this is called a call to action. 

If your website isn’t inviting someone to take action throughout your website then it is a rock. Your website has to be a living salesman who says, “Hey, do you like my portfolio? Take a look at my services. Does one of these services interest you? Click here to inquire or book a consultation. I have this many dates left for 2022. Click here to reserve a date or schedule a date or learn more about my services.”

At the bottom of every page, there needs to be that clear call to action that helps people go take action on your website. This makes people spend more time on your website and makes your website rank higher. 

The more time people spend on your brand and work, the more they fall in love with your business, clear over clever. 

The important thing about websites

When you have a great website, that can be the second place that you can send people, that’s the pinnacle of your sales journey. And when you know it’s good, you can rely on your website to close the deal for you. And that means less hard work because you have this salesman on your website, that can say; this is what I can do for you, this is my best work. Here’s an idea of what it’s going to be like, now just click inquire and make that happen. When you have a great website, you don’t need to do a ton of marketing. 

A website can open up new opportunities. It’s quite powerful because it gives you this reach that you can find a customer that you’re not even able to reach in your general area, run into at a coffee shop or even get from a referral. Your website can accomplish that for you. 

There’s so much possibility when you begin to see your website not as something you should have, but as this great beacon of potential for your business that helps you show up instead. It’s a powerful tool to use in your marketing strategy and to use in your business. Just have the confidence to lead people there and just know it’s going to seal the deal. It’ll reaffirm people’s decision to book you. 

Tips for entrepreneurs and their websites

Don’t feel guilty or ashamed that your website isn’t where it needs to be. Know that your website is going to evolve with you; it’s a powerful approach to take. Know that as you’re evolving your business and growing, so is your website!

Make sure you have exactly in mind who your website is going to reach, and who you’re attracting with your website. Know that your content is not to attract everyone and anyone. Know who you’re reaching. When you target your audience, a person is going to come across your website and say this person is speaking to me. They’ll think you’re capable of doing what they need you to do in a way that’s going to resonate with their people and their needs. 

Attract and repel guide

The attract and repel guide is kind of the prep work you do before you even sit down to update your website, what you can do just to ensure that it’s actually attracting the clients that you want and then repelling the rest. A lot of that comes down to the images that you choose for your site. You’re putting images on your site that your ideal client looks at and goes, that’s the kind of work I want someone to do for me. 

Your image selection is very important. The copy on your site, is it going to be more elevated and kind of fine art and tone? Are you trying to reach someone who cares about things like the experience and the logistics? Are you reaching someone who’s a busy type? A New York planner bride, who’s on the subway, who doesn’t care about much except for the work rates?

Who are you trying to reach because that is going to inform every decision you make with your website. And your website can be simple! It can be one page, but if it’s specifically laser-targeted to your person, then it’s going to be powerful and effective. So do that work first, take a look at our Attract + Repel guide. It’s really helpful just in terms of making sure that you have that focus.

Creating your strategy

That’s what’s going to stand out. You don’t need fonts or colors or crazy design to stand out, you need informed strategy and when you start with the intention you create with purpose. That’s what great websites have: they have a purpose, they have a strategy, they have cohesion, and that’s informed by knowing exactly who you want to reach.

Your website is the beginning of the customer experience. So treat it like that. What experience do you want someone to have on your website? Do you know what they want? What do you want them to learn about you? What do you want them to see that you value business and relationships?

Why a template over a custom designer?

Templates have just changed so much over the past few years.  There’s a time and a place for custom design. 

If you are someone who has like 18 different things, you know, if you are super multi-hyphenated you have all these different things or you have like a huge eCommerce shop, or if there’s some level to which you have very specific needs that a template can’t provide, then it’s worth exploring something customized. 

The second level of that is Jen has a lot of her clients who are podcasters and business coaches and photographers. They will purchase one of their templates and then work with a designer to have it customized a little bit. 

And that’s cool because you know what you’re getting already. You’re not hoping this designer gets your vision or that you’ll find out in six months when it’s going to be $10,000 or $15,000 or $20,000.

There’s a level of immediacy of knowing it’s going to be something like what you purchased. This helps all of those visual people and gives them something to start work from. It is also beneficial for a lot of designers!

Tonic Site’s templates 

Tonic site’s templates are helpful and their templates are completely customizable. You can change everything;  it’s not like Squarespace or Wix or any of these websites or even WordPress. 

You can change anything that you want: fonts, colors, layouts, order. If you look at their showcase, go to their site and click on showcase, you can see there are hundreds of versions of the same template.

And that’s what is different about Tonic’s site. They show you the most important tool for your website that fits your business and they definitely treat it like that!

Visual storytelling

People are looking for a point of view on your website. And you have to imagine like, what would make someone be attracted to my work? What would make someone be attracted to my brand? Jen’s background was in journalism and storytelling and she believes that great brands tell great stories. 

They’re telling them with visuals, they’re telling them with their words, they’re telling them with their images and you can use whatever combination of those things feels most accurate to your brand. Some brands are much more verbal, and they tell stories because that’s reflective of the person that’s operating the brand. 

Jen’s the writer for her company. So there are a lot of words, on their website, in their newsletter, on their Instagram, and that’s reflective of who they are. If you’re not that way, then maybe you should let your images do the majority of the talking and that’s okay. 

But there is this level of people who want to see your point of view. That goes back to that strategy of, what story am I telling? Who am I telling the story to and then how do I make that story as engaging and experiential as possible? Because people make time even when they’re super busy, like to sit down and binge Netflix. 

People love stories

There’s a reason and it’s because people are naturally attracted to stories. They want something that they can remember, that they can grasp onto. And stories do that! If you’ve looked at your company, and you look at your photography business, and you look at your website and go, Okay, this is supposed to tell a story of who I am, what I offer, and how I can get someone else what they want. That changes the framework of how you show up and be different.

You don’t have to do crazy designs. All you have to do is have something that supports the story you’re telling. The thing that you have to consider when you’re wanting to stand out is just how you express that UVP and how you put that on your website and understand what makes you different!

Final thoughts

Lean in to what makes you different. Lean into your UVP. Someone is out there looking for what makes you different. Someone is out there looking for that thing that you do, that you can provide that sets you apart. And if you don’t show it, they’re not going to be able to find you. 

Don’t feel like you have to falsify a level of differential that you don’t feel. For Jen, for example, for their email newsletters, they write the weirdest, longest, not normal marketing newsletter that’s out there. 

Anyone good at marketing would say it’s a bad idea. Because it is just her telling long random stories from childhood or embarrassing moments from her life, and then vaguely tying it to like a marketing or business example.

But they get people that like them as weird as they are and this is what makes them unique and they lean into what they can only do by themselves. If there’s something only you can do, lean into that. 

Jen can be found on her website, www.tonicsiteshop.com. You can also find her on social media at @tonicstateshop and get on their long and weird email list on their website. If you have any questions feel free to just drop a DM for her on Instagram at @jenolmstead.

what makes a good website
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