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      How To Create a Self-Signed SSL Certificate for Nginx on Debian 10


      Introduction

      TLS, or transport layer security, and its predecessor SSL, which stands for secure sockets layer, are web protocols used to wrap normal traffic in a protected, encrypted wrapper.

      Using this technology, servers can send traffic safely between the server and clients without the possibility of the messages being intercepted by outside parties. The certificate system also assists users in verifying the identity of the sites that they are connecting with.

      In this guide, we will show you how to set up a self-signed SSL certificate for use with an Nginx web server on a Debian 10 server.

      Note: A self-signed certificate will encrypt communication between your server and any clients. However, because it is not signed by any of the trusted certificate authorities included with web browsers, users cannot use the certificate to validate the identity of your server automatically.

      A self-signed certificate may be appropriate if you do not have a domain name associated with your server and for instances where the encrypted web interface is not user-facing. If you do have a domain name, in many cases it is better to use a CA-signed certificate. To learn how to set up a free trusted certificate with the Let’s Encrypt project, consult How to Secure Nginx with Let’s Encrypt on Debian 10.

      Prerequisites

      Step 1 — Creating the SSL Certificate

      TLS/SSL works by using a combination of a public certificate and a private key. The SSL key is kept secret on the server and is used to encrypt content sent to clients. The SSL certificate is publicly shared with anyone requesting the content. It can be used to decrypt the content signed by the associated SSL key.

      We can create a self-signed key and certificate pair with OpenSSL in a single command:

      • sudo openssl req -x509 -nodes -days 365 -newkey rsa:2048 -keyout /etc/ssl/private/nginx-selfsigned.key -out /etc/ssl/certs/nginx-selfsigned.crt

      You will be asked a series of questions. Before we go over that, let’s take a look at what is happening in the command we are issuing:

      • openssl: This is the basic command line tool for creating and managing OpenSSL certificates, keys, and other files.
      • req: This subcommand specifies that we want to use X.509 certificate signing request (CSR) management. The “X.509” is a public key infrastructure standard that SSL and TLS adheres to for its key and certificate management. We want to create a new X.509 cert, so we are using this subcommand.
      • -x509: This further modifies the previous subcommand by telling the utility that we want to make a self-signed certificate instead of generating a certificate signing request, as would normally happen.
      • -nodes: This tells OpenSSL to skip the option to secure our certificate with a passphrase. We need Nginx to be able to read the file without user intervention when the server starts up. A passphrase would prevent this from happening because we would have to enter it after every restart.
      • -days 365: This option sets the length of time that the certificate will be considered valid. We set it for one year here.
      • -newkey rsa:2048: This specifies that we want to generate a new certificate and a new key at the same time. We did not create the key that is required to sign the certificate in a previous step, so we need to create it along with the certificate. The rsa:2048 portion tells it to make an RSA key that is 2048 bits long.
      • -keyout: This line tells OpenSSL where to place the generated private key file that we are creating.
      • -out: This tells OpenSSL where to place the certificate that we are creating.

      As we stated above, these options will create both a key file and a certificate. We will be asked a few questions about our server in order to embed the information correctly in the certificate.

      Fill out the prompts appropriately. The most important line is the one that requests the Common Name (e.g. server FQDN or YOUR name). You need to enter the domain name associated with your server or your server’s public IP address.

      The entirety of the prompts will look something like this:

      Output

      Country Name (2 letter code) [AU]:US State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]:New York Locality Name (eg, city) []:New York City Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]:Bouncy Castles, Inc. Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:Ministry of Water Slides Common Name (e.g. server FQDN or YOUR name) []:your_domain_or_server_IP_address Email Address []:admin@your_domain.com

      Both of the files you created will be placed in the appropriate subdirectories of the /etc/ssl directory.

      While we are using OpenSSL, we should also create a strong Diffie-Hellman group, which is used in negotiating Perfect Forward Secrecy with clients.

      We can do this by typing:

      • sudo openssl dhparam -out /etc/nginx/dhparam.pem 4096

      This will take a while, but when it’s done you will have a strong DH group at /etc/nginx/dhparam.pem that you can use in your configuration.

      Step 2 — Configuring Nginx to Use SSL

      We have created our key and certificate files under the /etc/ssl directory. Now we just need to modify our Nginx configuration to take advantage of these.

      We will make a few adjustments to our configuration.

      1. We will create a configuration snippet containing our SSL key and certificate file locations.
      2. We will create a configuration snippet containing strong SSL settings that can be used with any certificates in the future.
      3. We will adjust our Nginx server blocks to handle SSL requests and use the two snippets above.

      This method of configuring Nginx will allow us to keep clean server blocks and put common configuration segments into reusable modules.

      Creating a Configuration Snippet Pointing to the SSL Key and Certificate

      First, let’s create a new Nginx configuration snippet in the /etc/nginx/snippets directory.

      To properly distinguish the purpose of this file, let’s call it self-signed.conf:

      • sudo nano /etc/nginx/snippets/self-signed.conf

      Within this file, we need to set the ssl_certificate directive to our certificate file and the ssl_certificate_key to the associated key. Add the following lines to the file:

      /etc/nginx/snippets/self-signed.conf

      ssl_certificate /etc/ssl/certs/nginx-selfsigned.crt;
      ssl_certificate_key /etc/ssl/private/nginx-selfsigned.key;
      

      When you’ve added those lines, save and close the file.

      Creating a Configuration Snippet with Strong Encryption Settings

      Next, we will create another snippet that will define some SSL settings. This will set Nginx up with a strong SSL cipher suite and enable some advanced features that will help keep our server secure.

      The parameters we will set can be reused in future Nginx configurations, so we will give the file a generic name:

      • sudo nano /etc/nginx/snippets/ssl-params.conf

      To set up Nginx SSL securely, we will be using the recommendations by Remy van Elst on the Cipherli.st site. This site is designed to provide easy-to-consume encryption settings for popular software.

      Note: The suggested settings on the Cipherli.st site offer strong security. Sometimes this comes at the cost of greater client compatibility. If you need to support older clients, there is an alternative list that you can access by clicking the link on the page labeled Yes, give me a ciphersuite that works with legacy / old software. That list can be substituted for the items below.

      The choice of which config you use will depend largely on what you need to support. They both will provide great security.

      For our purposes, we can copy the provided settings in their entirety. We just need to make a few small modifications.

      First, we will add our preferred DNS resolver for upstream requests. We will use Google’s for this guide.

      Second, we will comment out the line that sets the strict transport security header. Before uncommenting this line, you should take take a moment to read up on HTTP Strict Transport Security, or HSTS, and specifically its “preload” functionality. Preloading HSTS provides increased security, but can have far-reaching consequences if accidentally enabled or enabled incorrectly.

      Copy the following into your ssl-params.conf snippet file:

      /etc/nginx/snippets/ssl-params.conf

      ssl_protocols TLSv1.2;
      ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
      ssl_dhparam /etc/nginx/dhparam.pem;
      ssl_ciphers ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA512:DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA512:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA384;
      ssl_ecdh_curve secp384r1; # Requires nginx >= 1.1.0
      ssl_session_timeout  10m;
      ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10m;
      ssl_session_tickets off; # Requires nginx >= 1.5.9
      ssl_stapling on; # Requires nginx >= 1.3.7
      ssl_stapling_verify on; # Requires nginx => 1.3.7
      resolver 8.8.8.8 8.8.4.4 valid=300s;
      resolver_timeout 5s;
      # Disable strict transport security for now. You can uncomment the following
      # line if you understand the implications.
      # add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=63072000; includeSubDomains; preload";
      add_header X-Frame-Options DENY;
      add_header X-Content-Type-Options nosniff;
      add_header X-XSS-Protection "1; mode=block";
      

      Because we are using a self-signed certificate, SSL stapling will not be used. Nginx will output a warning but continue to operate correctly.

      Save and close the file when you are finished.

      Adjusting the Nginx Configuration to Use SSL

      Now that we have our snippets, we can adjust our Nginx configuration to enable SSL.

      We will assume in this guide that you are using a custom server block configuration file in the /etc/nginx/sites-available directory, as outlined in Step 5 of the prerequisite tutorial on installing Nginx. We will use /etc/nginx/sites-available/your_domain for this example. Substitute your configuration filename/domain name as needed.

      Before we go any further, let’s back up our current configuration file:

      • sudo cp /etc/nginx/sites-available/your_domain /etc/nginx/sites-available/your_domain.bak

      Now, open the configuration file to make adjustments:

      • sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/your_domain

      If you followed the prerequisites, your server block will look like this:

      /etc/nginx/sites-available/your_domain

      server {
          listen 80;
          listen [::]:80;
      
          root /var/www/your_domain/html;
          index index.html index.htm index.nginx-debian.html;
      
          server_name your_domain www.your_domain;
      
          location / {
                  try_files $uri $uri/ =404;
          }
      
      }
      

      Your file may be in a different order, and instead of the root and index directives you may have some location, proxy_pass, or other custom configuration statements. This is ok, as we only need to update the listen directives and include our SSL snippets. We will modify this existing server block to serve SSL traffic on port 443, and then create a new server block to respond on port 80 and automatically redirect traffic to port 443.

      Note: We will use a 302 redirect until we have verified that everything is working properly. Afterwards, we can change this to a permanent 301 redirect.

      In your existing configuration file, update the two listen statements to use port 443 and SSL, and then include the two snippet files we created in previous steps:

      /etc/nginx/sites-available/your_domain

      server {
          listen 443 ssl;
          listen [::]:443 ssl;
          include snippets/self-signed.conf;
          include snippets/ssl-params.conf;
      
          root /var/www/your_domain/html;
          index index.html index.htm index.nginx-debian.html;
      
          server_name your_domain www.your_domain;
      
          . . .
      }
      

      Next, paste a second server block into the configuration file, after the closing bracket (}) of the first block:

      /etc/nginx/sites-available/your_domain

      . . .
      server {
          listen 80;
          listen [::]:80;
      
          server_name your_domain www.your_domain;
      
          return 302 https://$server_name$request_uri;
      }
      

      This is a bare-bones configuration that listens on port 80 and performs the redirect to HTTPS. Save and close the file when you are finished editing.

      Step 3 — Adjusting the Firewall

      If you have the ufw firewall enabled, as recommended by the prerequisite guides, you’ll need to adjust the settings to allow for SSL traffic. Luckily, Nginx registers a few profiles with ufw upon installation.

      We can see the available profiles by typing:

      You should see a list like this:

      Output

      Available applications: . . . Nginx Full Nginx HTTP Nginx HTTPS . . .

      You can see the current setting by typing:

      If you followed the prerequisites, it will look like this, meaning that only HTTP traffic is allowed to the web server:

      Output

      Status: active To Action From -- ------ ---- OpenSSH ALLOW Anywhere Nginx HTTP ALLOW Anywhere OpenSSH (v6) ALLOW Anywhere (v6) Nginx HTTP (v6) ALLOW Anywhere (v6)

      To additionally let in HTTPS traffic, we can allow the "Nginx Full" profile and then delete the redundant "Nginx HTTP" profile allowance:

      • sudo ufw allow 'Nginx Full'
      • sudo ufw delete allow 'Nginx HTTP'

      Your status should now look like this:

      Output

      Status: active To Action From -- ------ ---- OpenSSH ALLOW Anywhere Nginx Full ALLOW Anywhere OpenSSH (v6) ALLOW Anywhere (v6) Nginx Full (v6) ALLOW Anywhere (v6)

      With our firewall configured properly, we can move on to testing our Nginx configuration.

      Step 4 — Enabling the Changes in Nginx

      Now that we've made our changes and adjusted our firewall, we can restart Nginx to implement our new changes.

      First, we should check to make sure that there are no syntax errors in our files. We can do this by typing:

      If everything is successful, you will get a result that looks like this:

      Output

      nginx: [warn] "ssl_stapling" ignored, issuer certificate not found for certificate "/etc/ssl/certs/nginx-selfsigned.crt" nginx: the configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf syntax is ok nginx: configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf test is successful

      Note the warning in the beginning. As discussed earlier, this particular setting throws a warning since our self-signed certificate can't use SSL stapling. This is expected and our server can still encrypt connections correctly.

      If your output matches the above, your configuration file has no syntax errors. We can safely restart Nginx to implement our changes:

      • sudo systemctl restart nginx

      With our Nginx configuration tested, we can move on to testing our setup.

      Step 5 — Testing Encryption

      We're now ready to test our SSL server.

      Open your web browser and type https:// followed by your server's domain name or IP into the address bar:

      https://your_domain_or_server_IP
      

      Because the certificate we created isn't signed by one of your browser's trusted certificate authorities, you will likely see a scary looking warning like the one below (the following appears when using Google Chrome) :

      Nginx self-signed cert warning

      This is expected and normal. We are only interested in the encryption aspect of our certificate, not the third party validation of our host's authenticity. Click "ADVANCED" and then the link provided to proceed to your host:

      Nginx self-signed override

      You should be taken to your site. If you look in the browser address bar, you will see a lock with an "x" over it. In this case, this just means that the certificate cannot be validated. It is still encrypting your connection.

      If you configured Nginx with two server blocks, automatically redirecting HTTP content to HTTPS, you can also check whether the redirect functions correctly:

      http://server_domain_or_IP
      

      If this results in the same icon, this means that your redirect worked correctly.

      Step 6 — Changing to a Permanent Redirect

      If your redirect worked correctly and you are sure you want to allow only encrypted traffic, you should modify the Nginx configuration to make the redirect permanent.

      Open your server block configuration file again:

      • sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/<^>your_domain^>

      Find the return 302 and change it to return 301:

      /etc/nginx/sites-available/your_domain

          return 301 https://$server_name$request_uri;
      

      Save and close the file.

      Check your configuration for syntax errors:

      When you're ready, restart Nginx to make the redirect permanent:

      • sudo systemctl restart nginx

      Conclusion

      You have configured your Nginx server to use strong encryption for client connections. This will allow you serve requests securely, and will prevent outside parties from reading your traffic.



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      How to Create a  Freelance Writer Website That Actually Gets You Writing Gigs


      The future is freelance. Did you know? By 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will do some type of freelance work — and it’s predicted that by 2027, freelancers will make up the majority. Whether you work exclusively freelance or take on additional side projects in conjunction with your full-time work, you’re joining an ever-growing population of successful, flexible, untethered, and creative craftspeople.

      What’s more, the innovation and growth of technology have made the work environment more fruitful for freelancers: 64% of freelancers found work online — a 22-point increase in the last five years.

      And you freelance writers, bloggers, and web content writers — we see you. We know you’re out there, coloring the world with your beautiful language and lightbulb ideas.

      But because freelancers must do their own marketing legwork, you need to take advantage of every tool available to you in building a prolific writing business. One of the biggest weapons in your arsenal? A relevant web presence. Forget scouring the wanted ads to find work — establishing an online presence and showing off a strong virtual CV is vital for getting seen and earning $$$.

      How to put your best foot — and word — forward online? A top-of-the-class website. For writers, a killer freelance writer website is a make-it-or-break-it tool for getting you leads on quality writing gigs. And we’re going to show you how to do it. Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide (in case you want to jump ahead):

      With a website, you can flaunt your talent and personality, create sustainable sales, build your writing portfolio, and connect with potential and return customers, building your business and financial success — all in one place.

      Build Your Online Portfolio with DreamHost

      We make sure your freelance writing website is fast, secure and always up so you never miss a gig. Plans start at $2.59/mo.

      Why is Having a Good Freelance Writer Website Important?

      You’re a writer — you know, good ‘ol pen and paper. Why do you even need a website in the first place? With a well-built freelance writer website, you can:

      • Showcase Your Online Portfolio. One of the most significant advantages of creating a freelance writer website is having a living, breathing portfolio that is easily accessible online. Prospective clients can access your work, and through a broad range of content, get a feel for your style, voice, and writing ability. They can view your previous work and a wealth of relevant content that will help them trust their business to you.
      • Increase Brand Visibility. Your website is a visible showcase of your writing ability and a crucial tool for establishing awareness of your brand. With a powerful online presence, visitors don’t have to go digging around to discover info on your offerings. Not only do you make it possible for people to find you online, but your website also helps you build likability. With great content and engaging content, visitors start to care about you and your work and will entertain the prospect of working with you. It illustrates your legitimacy as a writing professional and helps you position yourself as an authority in your field. By making your work accessible, you broaden your visibility and provide social proof which, in turn, increases your chances of getting rewarding freelance writing work.
      • Strengthen Brand Legitimacy. Let’s be real. Companies without a website or an internet presence tend to raise some red flags in the e-commerce ecosystem, right? Everything’s on the web. These days, a dot com is an essential requirement in the biz world. If internet users can’t find your virtual corner of the web, customers seeking out a particular product or service will instantly think: can we trust that business if they’re not online in an everything-digital age?

      It’s a no-brainer that if you want to do business and market a product or service in the world we live in, potential clients need to be able to find you with just a couple of clicks from their browser. So on a very basic level, having a website helps establish your brand as a legitimate business, rather than just operating amateur or letting customers rely on what they gather from your social media presence. What’s more, the better you are at outfitting your site with great content and strong visuals, the more that legitimacy will increase and work in your favor. To bless your bottom line and earn trust from internet visitors, it’s crucial to demonstrate not only your tech-savvy web skills but also your ability to establish a professional and valuable web presence.

      We know you’re wondering: Do I have to have a freelance writer website if I’m just getting started? The short answer: No. BUT — having an established site for your freelance writing (your services and a showcasing portfolio) is the best way to build a marketing funnel and establish a legitimate, cohesive, and authoritative brand. It’s a clear way to put your best foot forward and secure quality writing jobs.

      OK, but hold up. It’s 2019, you say. Can’t I just use social media, like a LinkedIn company page, instead of a website to promote my writing business? Sure. But a website, even a simple one, is a good idea. With a well-established freelance writer website, you build authority as a brand, and increase your chances of getting seen by potential clients. Plus, you’ll own all the content on your site — something that isn’t always true on social media sites.

      Perhaps building a high-performing and snazzy-looking freelance writer website seems like an overwhelming task. But putting in the effort to set up a website is an investment with guaranteed returns.  A site to be admired — and get you hired.

      How to Build a Great Freelance Writer Website (7 Steps)

      Like we said, creating a great-looking freelance writer website doesn’t have to be rocket science or overly time-intensive. We’ll show you how to set up a website in seven easily-manageable steps.

      1. Brand Your Business

      Time to pick a name, business owner! If you’re branding yourself and marketing your skills, you can use your own name, but ask yourself a few of the following big-picture questions before nailing down a moniker:

      Would you ever sell your business? Even if you’re not entirely sure of your long-term business plan, you probably have an idea if you ever intend to pass the torch on your writing business or include others’ services or products in conjunction with your business.

      If you’ve entertained the idea of selling your brand one day or partnering up, don’t brand yourself with your own name. Obviously, that is unique to you and won’t transfer. Also, if your name is difficult to spell, pronounce, or remember, consider the possible confusion using your name might cost your business.

      But then again, your personal name might help brand you uniquely as potential clients can differentiate you from other common-name writing businesses. So consider your options before jumping into a brand or business name haphazardly. You never know how you’ll grow, adapt, and change in your freelance writing business. You’ll want to choose carefully in order to set yourself up for long-term success.

      Freelance writer at laptop.

      2. Choose a Content Management System

      Now that you’ve got your brand’s fancy new name tag, you need a content management system (CMS) to facilitate the creation and publication of your content on the web. The best part? You don’t have to know how to program a single line of code to use one! Take WordPress, one of the web’s most popular content management systems out there (it powers 30% of the internet!)

      With the WordPress platform, you can create and manage your web content without the pressure of a deep learning curve — you can get a website set up with little-to-no technical know-how.

      3. Register a Domain and Set up Hosting 

      OK, you’ve decided you want to use WordPress, and you’re full of great content ideas. Good to go, right? Well, first, you need to find your site a home on the web so that visitors can actually view and engage with your content. All those great ideas won’t amount to anything if your website isn’t available online. That means you need two very critical components: a domain and a hosting provider.

      A domain is the unique web address where your website can be found. This is what visitors will type into their browser to navigate to your site (for example, www.dreamhost.com). Your domain is unique to your website and should match your brand or business name. You should also consider your choice of top-level domain —  meaning .com or .blog or dot-whatever —  in order to position yourself as an authority in search engine rankings. Whatever domain name you choose, you purchase it through a registrar.

      Next, you need a hosting provider. Hosting companies sell unique-to-you plans that include space on a server so that your website has a place to live online. Without a server, your website won’t be available to visit. For the best chance at scoring quality gigs, you need a quality hosting provider.

      There are a lot of providers out there, but only DreamHost can offer you the best of the best: one-of-a-kind features, high-performance tech, and responsive support. Plus, we make things easy: domain registration and hosting services under one roof and one-click WordPress installs. With Shared Hosting, just check the “Pre-Install WordPress” box during sign-up and boom! We install it for you.

      Shared Hosting provides ambitious WordPress beginners everything they need to create a killer freelance writing website that gets them hired. Even better? Our Shared Hosting plans start at just $2.59 per month.

      DreamHost’s Shared Hosting

      4. Choose a WordPress Theme

      Time to outfit your website with a WordPress theme. The theme you select doesn’t just dictate the overall appearance of your site (though it does do that), but it also determines what sort of functionality your site will have. The right theme will allow you to control and customize your website to your exact specifications and niche. Browse the WordPress Theme Directory or search WordPress theme developers to find and install your perfect theme.

      WordPress Theme Directory

      5. Decide What Content Your Site Needs

      So what does your freelance writer website need? What are the must-have content and features relevant to your niche? Time to make a plan. While you have the freedom to customize your website according to your brand and personality, there are a few essential pages that your site should have to set you up for the best possible business success:

      • Homepage: An easy-to-navigate and attractive landing page that can direct visitors and potential clients to important parts of your website.
      • Online Portfolio: Your website should be a solid, structured way to demonstrate your skills as a professional writer. A vital feature — nay, asset —  of your website is an easy-to-find, specially-dedicated portfolio section where you can showcase relevant published work and prove your capabilities as a writer.
      • Services: Nearly 50% of website visitors check out a company’s product or services page before any other sections of the site. That’s big. What do you offer? Give potential clients a clear and detailed description of the specific writing services you offer.
      • About: Don’t be a robot behind the computer screen. Demonstrate your writing chops, let potential clients and visitors get to know you, and help them get acquainted with your unique voice with an engaging and humanizing Get-to-Know-Me section. Showcase your accomplishments and passion for what you do but also share what makes you unique.
      • Contact: How can potential clients get in touch with you? Make your contact information easy to find and use.

      Now that you’ve got your essential pages set up, you can go above and beyond to bring your freelance writer website to the next level. While you should avoid non-essentials, you can consider adding the following optional (but helpful) pages:

      • Clients: Name-dropping your current clients on your website is a great way to demonstrate social proof and establish your authority in the field. Think of it as a virtual word-of-mouth recommendation.
      Speaker, writer, and consultant Hillary Weiss proudly displays the well-known brands that believe in her work.
      • Testimonials: The power of a good review cannot be overstated, especially in an online environment. Confidently showcasing positive feedback you’ve received from clients in your field about your writing services can be great fodder for snagging new clients and more writing jobs. It’s OK to toot your own horn.
      Writer and speaker Colleen M. Story inspires confidence with a visible display of reader testimonials.
      • Blog: In addition to your portfolio, you can showcase your writing chops and your unique voice with a content-rich blog. The extra effort and value you’re providing your visitors with relevant blog content can be an investment with rich returns.
      • Resume: Allow visitors and potential clients to check out a bulleted list of your skills and achievements with an easy-to-view CV.
      • FAQs: If you want to answer potentially common questions about your work or services or provide more specific details to potential clients about what you offer, consider adding a FAQ section.
      • Downloads/Freebies: Making free, downloadable goodies available to your visitors on your site shows that you’re going above and beyond to offer value, demonstrating the high-quality nature of your freelance business.

      Lastly, consider pricing: if you want to be explicit on your site about the cost of your services, be transparent, upfront, and confident in the value of your work. Or if you have adjust-to-fit service options, you can keep costs mum and invite interested visitors to contact you for a quote.

      6. Create the Content

      Time to get creating! You know the adage: content is king. Live by it. You need to fill your website with rich content to attract traffic and prove your worthiness as a business. Fill the content on your must-have pages first, then continue to provide valuable content regularly.

      Of just as much importance as creating content is creating it smartly — meaning, using it to get found by potential clients. How to do that? Using keywords. Consider: what are relevant topics and search terms related to your field? Being smart about how you use phrasing and common search terms in your content will allow you to position yourself for good rankings and stronger search engine optimization. So do your research and incorporate common search terms into your content. Use tools like Google’s comprehensive (and free!) Keyword Planner to create high-traffic website content with smart keyword research and build a strong content marketing strategy.

      Also, consider the tone of your content. Does it appropriately and uniquely represent your brand? Does it showcase your expertise and/or personality? One of the most marketable tools in your writer repertoire is your voice — use it smartly.

      7. Launch

      Celebrate! Toast to yourself, do a little dance, pat yourself on the back. You did it! Your website is up and running! You should be proud. We know that having something living, breathing out there on the web can be nerve-wracking. Don’t worry about your website not being perfect. The important thing is that it’s out there.

      Remember, you can always perfect and tweak over time. Most importantly, people can start finding you — and you have something you can improve on.

      7 Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Your Writer Website

      When you’re starting out with your website, it’s inevitable to face a learning curve. Some things just take time to learn. You will improve over time. But guess what? We want you to succeed —  as soon as possible. So we’re giving you some inside knowledge: a list of thou-shalt-nots when setting up your freelance writer website. Avoid these major whoopsies, and you’ll be one step ahead in attracting quality writing jobs.

      1. Bad Visuals

      Let’s talk a little science. Did you know 90% of the information processed by the brain is visual? What’s more, 80% of people remember what they see (compared to 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read.) Lastly, know that visuals help grow traffic — content creators who feature visual content grow traffic 12 times faster than those who don’t.

      Not having visuals as a part of your freelance writer website is a BIG no-no. But even more, having bad visuals can torpedo your chance at building a successful freelance writing business. Judgments on a company’s credibility are 75% based on the company’s website design, so take seriously the first impression you’re making with your visuals. Your visuals should be reflective of the quality work you offer, proving you trustworthy to potential clients and their money.

      To benefit from the traffic-building and engaging powers of excellent visuals, select quality images, a robust visual structure, and remember: white space is good space.

      2. CTA Issues

      When visitors come to your website, you want them to do something. But if you don’t ask them to do anything, they will click away and you won’t get any business. Not ideal. Even if you have kick-butt writing skills and excellent website design, having confusing, conflicting, or nonexistent CTAs (70% of small biz websites lack a CTA) will damage your chances of growing your business.

      So think: what do you need visitors to do to get writing gigs for your business? Whether it’s subscribing to an email list, filling out a contact form, or viewing your portfolio of work, make sure that your CTA is visible, clear, and focused.

      Elna of Innovative Ink has a clear CTA front and center — visitors know just what to do.

      3. Sloppy Formatting

      You’re not just a freelancer — you are a brand. As such, your potential clients expect a level of professionalism from you, so they need to see that the minute they click onto your site. Along with clear navigation, focused visual structure, and a frictionless contact funnel, your website needs to be fine-tuned, sleek, and polished.

      Even as a freelancer, an entrepreneurial free spirit, you need to channel those suit-and-tie vibes on your website to gain the trust of potential clients. No sloppy formatting, no error-filled copy, or overly-casual design. Concern yourself with the details. If you want people to trust you with their dollars, you need to be professional. Not only does meticulous formatting help your site design make a killer first impression (remember the eye-opening stats about visuals?), but it helps people view you as a trustworthy business.

      4. TMI (Too Much Information)

      Don’t get us wrong; it’s great to be personable and relatable. A critical part of your brand’s success is your likability. You want to be a person to visitors and potential clients, not just a robot writer behind a screen.

      But your website is not your online diary.

      Refrain from sharing too much personal info or content irrelevant to your field. Focus your content and be strategic about what you choose to share, making it all in the aim of building your business and earning clients.

      5. No Target Audience

      You have a brand-spankin’-new freelance writer website and are ready to bring in traffic, and ideally, new business. But who are you trying to reach through your website? What kinds of people are you looking to attract? In simple terms: who is your target audience?

      Your success is hugely determined by how you focus your efforts on building a business. If you cast too wide a net, you won’t be able to effectively target the high-quality clients that you want. So before you start seeking to build traffic, identify your target.

      6. Weak Copy

      You’re a writer. Skilled wordsmithing is your talent, your money-making tool, and your passion. That being said, every aspect of your website should reflect your abilities as a writer. Weak, lackluster copy will not earn you clients, build trust, or engage visitors. In fact, it will send potential clients to your competitors.

      Take special, even meticulous care in making sure that your copy is strong, engaging, and polished. Whether you’re writing blog posts, articles, or landing page copy, don’t just wing it — write and rewrite, seek a second pair of eyes for outside observation, and edit, edit, edit. The strength of your copy will make or break your business.

      7. Infrequent Updates

      Reality check: creating a money-making freelance writer website isn’t a one-and-done affair. Just like software needs regular updates, so does your website. Not only do periodic refreshes help you out SEO-wise, but they keep things relevant and professional. Update blog content, test plugins, solicit feedback, and use site analytics frequently to adjust how it operates for maximum UX. Know that you won’t always get things right the first time — continually be looking to improve all aspects of your website.

      Handy Resources for Starting a Writer Website

      Don’t worry — we’re not going to just throw you out to the web’s wolves without a few more top-tier tools for your burgeoning freelance writer website. Here, we offer you a well-curated roundup, a well-stocked toolbox of handy virtual resources destined to help you reach your goals.

      Web Hosting

      We know we’ve mentioned this before, but a good web hosting provider can make all the difference for the success of your freelance writing business. It’s true. Not only can a reliable hosting provider help make creating content easy, but it can make the management of your website a snap, leaving you to focus on the most crucial aspects of running your writing business.

      With DreamHost Shared Hosting plans, we offer you those benefits and more — including 24/7 support, high-performance tech, and budget-friendly options. Choosing a hosting provider is one of the first choices you’ll make on your journey — make it a smart choice with DreamHost.

      DreamHost’s Shared Hosting

      Logo

      Like we’ve said, your freelance writing business is just that: a business. And most companies out there are easily identified by a unique marker — their logo. Think about any famous company: Nike, Apple, McDonald’s — you can quickly think of their logo just by seeing the name, right? Or you’d be able to pick it out easily if you just saw the logo’s telltale visual?

      Having your own logo is an integral part of establishing and building your brand. It’s essential for consistency, visibility, and growth. But don’t worry; making one that your visitors will love isn’t hard to do.

      Brand Colors

      In addition to your logo, you should establish a color palette that is unique to your brand. This will help your website and materials feel cohesive and professional and can even help you grow your business by highlighting relevant sections or CTAs with specific colors. Picking your brand colors is as easy as 1-2-3, but remember to be intentional about your personal branding choices.

      Stock Images

      We’ve already emphasized how significant visuals are for helping bring in traffic and engage visitors. So where do you get professional-looking images and other visuals? Try Pexels or Unsplash for high-res, royalty-free photos, or find a photographer to take some for you. If you’re ambitious, follow a DIY at-home photography guide to snap your own for cheap. And remember, copyright rules rule, so keep things legal. Give credit where necessary and don’t steal.

      Photo Editing

      You don’t have to be a Photoshop master to give your images that extra oomph. Crop, adjust, and enhance your photos to improve composition and make your website visuals a powerful tool in earning your business. Try a few simple photo editing tricks on the software of choice.

      Icons

      As another type of visual, icons or symbols on your website can make it easy for visitors to find exactly what they’re looking for — whether it be your social media pages, your portfolio, or contact form — without even having to navigate menus or copy. They’re a universal language! Get great-looking icons on sites like The Noun Project, Creative Market, or for free on Flat Icon.

      Design

      Your freelance writer website should have its own unique feel. After all, you are your unique brand. Your design incorporates not only your layout, but the style of your copy, visuals, and navigation. A well-designed website is carefully thought-out for ultimate functionality and aesthetic, and we’ve got the guide to help you make it look snazzy.

      If you don’t have an eye for design, DreamHost can help. We’ve partnered with the experts at RipeConcepts, a leading web design firm, to offer professional web design services to our users.

      Professional Website Design Made Easy

      Make your site stand out with a professional design from our partners at RipeConcepts. Packages start at $299.

      The Final Word

      Now, we’ll reveal the results of our crystal ball reading: we see a bright (and prolific) freelance writing career in your future! Getting quality writing gigs may take some website-building legwork, but with a well-built site, you’re well on your way to new clients and a growing portfolio.

      Because your success is our success, DreamHost offers you the perfect beginning-of-the-journey hosting packages to get you on your feet. Check out our comprehensive Shared Hosting plans to start taking your career to the next level with a freelance writing website.



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      How to Create a Company Page on LinkedIn to Promote Your Small Business


      With the rise of social media marketing and the prevalence of social networks in our day-to-day lives, having a presence on a variety of platforms is a must for your company. That means creating and managing multiple accounts, which can be time-consuming.

      Fortunately, building and maintaining a company page on LinkedIn only takes a little extra time and effort. By adding an air of professionalism to your online presence and showing off your products or services, a well-rounded LinkedIn page can help polish and promote your company’s identity.

      This article will explain the many benefits of creating a company page on LinkedIn. Then we’ll show you how to launch one, pointing out the important requirements you’ll need to meet along the way. Let’s dive on in!

      Build a Website to Go with Your LinkedIn Company Page

      We offer budget-friendly Shared Hosting services with robust features and resources to help you create the perfect business website. Plans start at $2.59/mo.

      The Benefits of Having an Outstanding LinkedIn Company Page

      As a social media platform designed to help people build their professional networks, LinkedIn is a crucial resource for any business that’s hoping to grow and expand. It can help you get plugged into industry-related news and even share valuable content that promotes your company.

      When compared with individual employee profiles, a LinkedIn company page can be much more effective at showcasing your business as a whole. Of course, your employees’ profiles are still useful as well. They can act as indirect company ambassadors and help build your connections organically.

      On the other hand, a company page is a useful outlet for showing off your business’ latest news, along with your specialized products or services. LinkedIn will help deliver this content to other professionals in your industry to generate buzz and business.

      Another handy feature of the platform is that you can easily monitor the impact of your page. Notifications and visual analytics reports will keep you apprised of how often your company is mentioned on LinkedIn so that you can see the effects of your presence there.

      Plus, this will help you create effective promotional content for your page. You can keep track of trending content to see what’s working, and use custom Call to Action (CTA) buttons to send traffic towards your website. In other words, a LinkedIn company page offers a lot of potential advantages.

      How to Create an Award-Winning Company Page on LinkedIn (In 6 Steps)

      There are quite a few things to consider if you want to create a company page and successfully promote your business on LinkedIn. However, with a little careful planning, it can be worth the investment of time and energy. The steps below will help you effectively plan and build your page.

      Step 1: Ensure That You Meet LinkedIn’s Requirements for Creating a Company Page

      One potential roadblock when it comes to creating your LinkedIn company page is that there are a handful of requirements you must meet to access this feature. For instance, you’ll need to have a personal LinkedIn profile of your own. That account also has to:

      • Be at least seven days old
      • Have a profile strength of Intermediate or All Star
      • Show that you’re currently an employee at the company you wish to create a page for
      • List your company position on your profile
      • Have several first-degree connections (there’s no specific number you must reach, but the more you can include, the better)
      • Be associated with a company email address that has a unique company domain

      In short, if you’re not an active LinkedIn user already, it can be challenging to get a company page started. Fortunately, anyone who’s an employee at your business can create and manage your company page. As long as you have at least one active LinkedIn user, meeting these requirements shouldn’t be too hard.

      The one criteria that might get a little tricky is providing a company email address with a unique domain. Gmail, Yahoo, and other accounts won’t work for this purpose. You’ll need an address like johnsmith@mycompany.com.

      Fortunately, we offer an affordable solution.

      At DreamHost, we provide professional email plans for creating addresses with unique domains. They start at just $1.67 per month per mailbox. You don’t even have to register your domain or host your website with us — this service is available to anyone!

      Get Professional Email @yourdomain

      Promote your website with every message you send when you set up professional email that matches your domain with DreamHost. Plans start at $1.67/mo.

      Step 2: Add Your Company’s Details to Launch Your New Page

      Once your profile (or an employee’s profile) meets all of LinkedIn’s requirements for creating a company page, you can do so by clicking on the Work icon in the toolbar. Then scroll down and select Create a Company Page.

      Creating a new Company Page on LinkedIn.

      On the next screen, choose the tile that best describes your business. After that, you’ll be able to fill in some basic details about your company. Start with your company’s name and then create your custom LinkedIn company page URL. Don’t forget to add your website’s address as well.

      Adding company details to a new LinkedIn company page.

      Next, you can select your company’s industry, size, and type. You have to choose from several drop-down menu options, so you may need to pick the available choice that’s most relevant, especially when it comes to your industry.

      After that, scroll down to upload your company’s logo and add your tagline. These elements are essential for promoting brand recognition through your profile.

      Adding a logo and tagline to a new LinkedIn company page.

      Keep an eye on the Page Preview section to get a peek at how your company page will look. When all your information is correct, check the box to agree to LinkedIn’s terms and then hit the Create page button.

      Step 3: Spruce Up Your Company’s Profile to Attract and Inform Visitors

      After you’ve officially created your company page, you can start adding additional information and brand elements. First and foremost, you’ll probably want to include a banner image. This is a large image that will be displayed at the top of your page, similar to a cover photo on Facebook.

      DreamHost’s LinkedIn company page banner image.

      You can use the small blue pencil icons to edit various features on your company page, including your banner image. You might use a team photo, a picture of your brick-and-mortar location, a popular product image, or a relevant decorative visual.

      Additionally, you’ll want to write a compelling summary of your company for the Overview in your About section. LinkedIn provides limited space here — just 2,000 characters, including spaces — so you’ll want to make every word count. Be sure to highlight what makes your company unique and better than the competition.

      Then head over to the Jobs section of your page. Here you can provide career-related information and job postings.

      Job postings on DreamHost’s LinkedIn company page.

      Since many LinkedIn users take advantage of the platform’s job hunting features, this can help to boost your page’s visibility. Just make sure to keep it updated so you don’t have people applying for positions that are no longer available.

      Step 4: Post Regular Updates to Generate Industry-Related Content

      Now that your page is up and includes all your company’s information and some key branding elements, it’s time to start filling it with content. There are a few ways to go about this. One of the easiest is to use LinkedIn to promote blog content you’ve already created for your business website.

      A blog post on the DreamHost LinkedIn company page.

      This doesn’t require you to generate any new long-form content, and it can drive visitors to your website via your blog. Simply include LinkedIn as a part of your blog promotion strategy, and you’ll have a regular source of content for your company page.

      However, you can also include recent business news, upcoming events, and other company-specific posts to keep your followers in the loop.

      An update on DreamHost’s LinkedIn company page.

      This can be a smart and simple way to demonstrate your authority in your industry, promote events, and even attract more followers. Just remember that, as with a blog, your LinkedIn company page will thrive when filled with relevant content that your followers want to see and read.

      Step 5: Promote Your LinkedIn Company Page to Gain Followers

      Your company page isn’t very useful if no one knows it exists. Especially when you’re first getting it off the ground, promotion will be vital to gathering followers. One of the easiest ways to get started is by adding your company’s location to your page’s About section.

      The Locations section of the DreamHost LinkedIn company page.

      This makes your company and job postings more discoverable on LinkedIn. Your page will be more likely to show up in searches as a result. Using relevant keywords in your page’s content can also help to increase your reach.

      Another key promotional tactic is engaging your employees on LinkedIn. Invite them to list your company page on their own profiles and claim it as their place of employment. This will help you tap into their already existing networks to make connections with others in your industry.

      Finally, it never hurts to promote your LinkedIn page on other social channels. This may mean including links to your company page in your Twitter bio or your Facebook About section. You could also include LinkedIn among your social sharing icons on your website and blog posts.

      Step 6: Showcase Individual Products or Services on Their Own Pages

      So far, we’ve covered all the basics for creating and maintaining a LinkedIn company page. However, you can take your profile to the next level and use it as a way to promote specific products or services, by creating showcase pages as well.

      These are pages dedicated to your company’s products or services. They appear on your company page in the right-hand sidebar, under Affiliated pages.

      The showcase pages on Automattic’s LinkedIn company page.

      You can write a description, share a link, and even post content on each of your showcase pages. If you offer a wide range of products or services, this is a way to provide targeted content for each of your audiences. In some cases, this technique may be more effective than offering generalized content on your company page itself.

      If you’d like to create more traditional, campaign-based content for LinkedIn, you might also consider using the platform’s advertising options. LinkedIn ads are highly targeted and can help you reach other professionals in your industry, generate leads, attract job applicants, and more.

      Linking Up

      You have a lot of options when it comes to promoting your business on social media. With its professional audience and unique opportunities for showing off your products and services, LinkedIn can prove well worth your time.

      This guide has demonstrated how to create a high-quality LinkedIn company page in just six steps:

      1. Ensure that you meet LinkedIn’s requirements for creating a company page.
      2. Add your company’s details to launch your new page.
      3. Spruce up your company’s profile to attract and inform visitors.
      4. Post regular updates to generate industry-related content.
      5. Promote your LinkedIn company page to gain followers.
      6. Showcase individual products or services on their own pages.

      Do you need a business website to go with your LinkedIn company page? At DreamHost, we offer affordable hosting services with robust features and resources to help you create the perfect website for your company. Check out our Shared Hosting plans today!



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