Overall, I really like this new tool from Microsoft (http://smallbusiness.officelive.com).
It’s easy. It’s free. And, it’s great for people with no web experience.
If I had one gripe, it’d be that you can’t name your own links. The system decides your URL …and it’s not pretty (or easy to remember).
The site I created is here: http://lifeascanvas.books.officelive.com/default.aspx
Of course, I’d have much preferred something easier like www.bonniestravelstories.com. But, for that privilege, you have to upgrade to Microsoft’s paid service. (That said, the upgrade costs just $15 a year, so, depending on your own personal requirements, you may find it worth the investment.)
Not only is their system easy to use (I created the site above while watching TV), it includes everything you need to sell your stories and photos (or, indeed, any product), too.
You don’t have to know anything about the web or marketing to get up and running. The website builder comes with customizable templates that walk you through every step of the process. It even gives you writing advice.
Plus, you get advanced tracking tools, so you can see how many potential customers are peeking at your site…and how they’re finding it.
Unlike other free website builders, you don’t have to agree to run ads on your page. Most free services place ads on the top and bottom of your pages, in the hope that your visitors will click through and buy something. That’s how they make their money.
Not so with this Microsoft freebie.
You can even create a newsletter and e-mail campaigns with it, too. For example, you could launch a monthly travel newsletter to generate interest in your stories and photos. You get up to 200 free messages per month.
Is there a catch? Not really…but you have to act fast.
While Microsoft continues testing the program, it’s available for free. But, the company plans to charge for certain portions of it later.
If you sign up during testing, though, you’ll continue to get the free services at no cost, even when Microsoft starts charging people later. You can start creating your site here: http://smallbusiness.officelive.com
So give it a shot tonight after dinner. I promise you it’s easy. And, at the very least, you can post links to some of your travel articles or photographs for your friends to enjoy.
ATTENTION ITWPA MEMBERS: Your membership in the ITWPA already comes with a free website builder at http://www.MyGalleryPlace.com.
The big advantage to this service over the Microsoft Program is that you can designate certain pages within your site for certain editors. I, for instance, can put up Paris pictures for one editor on one page and Thailand pictures for a different editor on another… all while hiding pictures of my last family trip to San Francisco on another.
If you haven’t tried it yet, you can log in with your e-mail address and password “itwpa00” at http://www.MyGalleryPlace.com
ITWPA members get all sorts of cool bennies, including:
* Their own newsletter with press trip listings,
* Generous discounts on workshops, programs, books, magazines, and more,
* Monthly passwords to access to the ITWPA website, with free e-guides, including a tax guide and a quick start travel writing guide,
* An insider forum where you can meet and share experiences with fellow members
Find out more about becoming an ITWPA member here.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]