Computer Geek Corner: Why a 'Free' Website Is Not Always a Good Idea

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Computer Geek Corner: Why a 'Free' Website Is Not Always a Good Idea

Chris Rogers

By Chris Rogers

Most performers know they need a website for their entertainment career but are unsure how to start. There are lots of free options available — and who doesn’t like something for free? Companies say it is easy. They say it takes only a few minutes. But they don’t warn you about the severe limitations that come with that “free” website. Limitations like slow speeds, hidden fees, colors and themes that can’t be changed once created, or the inability to transfer your website to another hosting company. Gradually, that “free” website is not so attractive.

In the business of show (and it is a business), image is everything. Right or wrong, you are judged by your presentation. If you are going to spend all the time optimizing your headshots and pictures from set, your resume, video clips, etc., you want a website that you are proud to send people to 24/7.

Open source software is becoming more mainstream every day. “Open source” means it is built by thousands of programmers in a collaborative environment where everyone contributes and the software belongs to the public, and anyone can download and use for free. In your favorite internet search engine, type in your favorite paid software name, then add "open source" at the end (e.g., Office open source), and you can see how many free, open-source alternatives there are.

WordPress (WP) is a free/open-source website-creation software that dominates the web. One of its main selling points is its famous five-minute install. There are two versions: wordpress.com and wordpress.org.

Wordpress.com is for bloggers who just want to write and publish on the internet and that is it. The cost: $0. WP hosts your website, maintains the backend for you, etc. The drawback is your internet address will be something like wordpress.com/YourName. Not very attractive for a union actor.

The more professional/attractive option would be to buy your domain name (about $12 per year), rent server hosting space (about $5 per month), and install WordPress software from wordpress.org. Your internet address would be YourWebsiteName.com.

There are thousands of themes and plugins to customize your website so you can control the look and feel of your site. Some are free, some you pay for. There are many meetup groups of free monthly meetings on how to use WP. Facebook has many groups and pages to help you learn how to use WP to create a website you will be proud to send potential employers — and your mom — to.

In union solidarity,

Chris Rogers

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