Looking to ramp up your digital presence as a freelance writer? There’s really no better way to do it than to register a domain name and build your own website. Of course, that might be easier said than done. While building a stunning website is becoming simpler than ever, choosing a domain name that lives up to your greatness can prove quite challenging.
If you feel like you’re out of domain name ideas, or don’t even know where to start looking, don’t give up hope! Here’s some advice to help you find the perfect match.
What makes for a good domain name?
The number one thing to look for in your domain name is simplicity. It should be easy to spell, easy to memorize, and easy to recognize. Ideally, this means choosing something short, catchy, and relevant to the work you’ll be doing — but that’s easier said than done.
Here are some best practices for choosing a domain name:
- Use four words or less
- Try to keep it under 17 characters
- Avoid hyphens and numbers
- Include keywords if you can
Some keywords to include in your domain name as a freelance writer might be your name or words like “writing,” “content,” “copy,” etc. Don’t fret if you can’t find a domain name with keywords (it’s very hard to do these days and meet the above best practices), but consider it a cherry on top if you do find an option with keywords.
How to Check if a Domain Name is Available
If you want to quickly see whether or not a domain name is available, you can use a free tool like bustaname.com. You don’t need to create an account or anything, just open it up and use the “Quick Domain Check” tool in the upper right corner.
BustAName is also handy if you want to try combining different words and seeing if the resulting domain name is available.
If you want a domain name that starts or ends with a specific word or character, you can also try their free Domain Name Maker tool. Sometimes this generator mistakenly shows domain names that aren’t available — like, for some reason, it thinks zero.com is available — but it’s still very handy to get ideas.
Domain Name Ideas for Freelancers
Here are some easy formats you can consider for your domain name using your first and/or last name. We’ll use “Jane Doe” as an example.
If you have a common name, it’s likely that the first variation will be taken. On the other hand, if you have a particularly long or hard to spell name, it’s probably not wise to use your name in your domain address at all.
Most Popular TLDs
A top-level domain (TLD) refers to the ending of your domain name. By far, “.com” is the most popular TLD. However, as the number of available .com domain names dwindles, new TLDs have been created in recent years, including “.io” and “.app,” which can make choosing a domain name harder (or easier, depending on how you look at it).
People still default to typing in “.com” when navigating to a website, so you should ideally try to choose a .com domain name for your writing business. However, if you’re okay with putting in the extra leg work to get your non-.com domain name ranking and to brand yourself strong enough that people don’t get lost trying to remember your TLD, you can consider some alternatives.
For freelancers, the best TLD options include:
- .com — $10.95/year
- .co — $24.99/year
- .cc — $9.99/year to register
- .me — $16.99/year to register
- .ltd — $19.99/year to register
- .bio — $59.99/year to register
As you can see, certain .com alternatives actually cost more to register. We won’t get into why that’s the case, but keep that in mind when selecting your TLD.
Also, you might get a discount on your first year (bringing any extension closer to the $9.99 mark), but you need to check the renewal rate before purchasing your domain name so that you know what’s in store for you.
Registering Your Domain Name
Domain registrars are companies authorized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to manage the registration of domain names for a given list of top-level domains (TLDs). Most registrars these days are approved to register any number of TLDs.
The domain registrar acts as an intermediary between you and the domain name registry, which is responsible for maintaining a master database of all domain names for a given TLD. Most people go through a domain name registrar when they want to “purchase” a domain name.
All registrars provide an interface where you can search for available domain names and add the ones you like to your cart.
If you decide to “buy” one — as in register it — the registrar is required to collect certain information about you, including your full name and legal address. You can hide this information with an add-on service known as “WHOIS Privacy.” Some registrars offer this service for free while others charge a small fee.
It’s important to note that you never truly “own” a domain name. You have to pay to renew it annually and, if you forget to renew it, it will go back into the pool of available domain names and someone else will be able to register it. With that said, you can pay for many years in advance if you’re sure that you want to keep your domain name, and you might get a small discount by doing so.
Popular Domain Registrars
Domain names are a serious digital asset these days, which is why choosing the right registrar is so important for your business. First off, the best registrar won’t tack on a bunch of unnecessary fees, but it’s also important to choose a trusted registrar that’s highly secure.
GoDaddy is notorious, but did you know they recently revealed they had hackers inside their systems for 3 years and only just found out? I have personally never liked them because they try to upsell you 100x before allowing you to check out. I like to keep it simple.
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As always, do your own research. What counts is that you’re happy with the initial discount you’re offered (always look for one) and that you’re okay with the renewal rate. While it’s possible to transfer your domainto another registrar down the road, let’s just say it isn’t easy and some registrars put a lot of hurdles in your way to make the process even harder.
What’s the difference between domain registration and hosting?
While domain registration allows you to lay claim to a domain name, giving you the right to use it as you wish, you can’t do much with that domain name without a host. You can self-host if you buy your own server and set it up, but that’s a rare choice. Instead, most people use a hosting provider.
To put it simply, a hosting service will connect to your domain registrar and point your domain to a server where you can begin uploading files and creating an actual website. If you don’t have a host and you visit your domain name, you’re probably going to see the parking page that your domain registrant has set up to advertise their services (that’s just the way of the world).
Many domain registrars offer hosting services, but I recommend against it for two reasons: One, I really hate vendor lock-in and, two, most registrars offer pretty sub-par hosting compared to the incredible hosting providers available today. And, since speed, security, and reliability are all critical to the success of your website, I’d encourage you to take time to find a phenomenal web host. In fact, that’s the next step!
Next Step: Choosing Your Web Host
Once you have your domain name registered, the next step is to bring it to life with a web host. Then, you can get to the fun part and actually build your website! If you need help choosing a web host and getting your website together, check out our upcoming article.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for resources to help grow your writing business, why not immerse yourself in our friendly community? Join our Slack channel!