Jeffrey Vallis is a freelance writer and communications specialist living in Toronto.

Thoughts and reflections on my life and work.

Thoughts and reflections on my life and work.

Time to add "website designer" to my resume!

As I continue to grow my freelance writing and communications business, a website was an absolute necessity to send to prospective clients and showcase my work. And having just built a site for Sandbox magazine, I knew I could do it on my own.

Website Builder

A mobile view of my website using the stock photos from Pexels for the featured images.

A mobile view of my website using the stock photos from Pexels for the featured images.

For anyone wondering how to create a website, look no further than Squarespace. No, this isn’t a paid promotion (I’d even settle for a discount on my membership!). I’m just really impressed with the platform interface and customer service, and for anyone looking for an easy website builder, this is the route to go. Don’t worry; you don’t need experience with website design to make your own website. 

Squarespace has a ton of templates to choose from that give you a great launching pad. It’s also really user-friendly and easy to navigate. By far, the best thing about my Squarespace experience was the customer support. Anytime I had a question or ran into a roadblock, I went to live chat, and the user support staff walked me through it. They sent links to articles with more information and even recorded custom videos walking me through my issue step by step. It’s the best! I felt so supported through the entire process.

(P.S. – Use the promo code “SAVAGE” at checkout for a discount. It saved me $20. Thanks, Dan Savage and the Savage Lovecast!)

Stock Photos

I hit the jackpot when I stumbled onto Pexels, a website that provides high quality and free stock photography. Their mission is "Empowering Creators" to create amazing products, designs, stories, websites, apps, art and other work. They have over 40,000 free stock photos and I was able to find images that perfectly suited my vision.

In my campaigns section, for example, I didn’t just want to put up a picture of the campaign artwork; I wanted to showcase it more creatively. So I searched for free images that I could inject the campaign artwork into (like a cellphone or a computer). The photos also look beautiful as the category icons on my home page. 

Logo Design

The logos I received from my Fiverr purchase.

The logos I received from my Fiverr purchase.

I wanted an image that represented my brand, but I didn't know exactly what that would look like. So I turned to the Internet for inspiration.

First, I tried the free online logo creators that are not great and ended up with some pretty terrible logos. Then, I tried Fiverr, the online marketplace for freelance services. I’m not saying it’s a bad service, but I think you get what you pay for and, in my case, I paid $8 CDN for a logo and got even worse options than when I used the online logo creator.

I also learned, in talking to my friend Carl who’s in the industry, that there are some online design services that are known for stealing logos or reselling the same logo to different buyers. His advice was to find services that guarantee they are unique and won't be sold to anyone else. And to steer clear of the bidding websites because all the designers that aren't selected have done work without any pay and it undercuts the entire industry.

The different versions of the logo by Charles Honig throughout the design process.

The different versions of the logo by Charles Honig throughout the design process.

So with this in mind, I turned to Instagram. I searched #logodesign and found a great, up and coming designer who I hired to create a logo. Charles Honig is a graphic designer and digital arts student at the University of Oregon, and he worked with me to find a solution for a freelance writer and creator logo that was a little outside the ordinary.

When I asked him what his inspiration was, he said, “I wanted the mark to represent more than just being a writer, but also a thinker and innovator in the industry. The brain portion on top of the pencil was my solution to that design obstacle. As far as style goes, I also aimed for a more light-hearted, less formal style for the entire composition."

So that’s it! Easy as 1, 2, 3. Let me know if you’ve found other useful tools online for building your website and brand!