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The Private Chef's Guide to Online Marketing

Aug 17, 2007
The Internet and any kind of direct-hire or freelance work go hand in hand. More and more, consumers are adapting to the Internet as the way to find what they're looking for. As a private chef for hire ("Have spatula, will travel!"), having your own website will be a great boost for helping your potential customers find you.

Web space in the 21st century is unbelievably cheap. For less than ten dollars a month, you can find a hosting provider that will give you all the web space you need. You won't be concerned too much with high traffic requirements, since your goal is simply to have a web presence. You will need a domain name. Some sites offer this as part of the package and others will charge you a separate fee for it, but even a domain name works out to less than twenty dollars per year. Do try to pick a domain name that describes you and your business, of course limiting yourself to what's available.

Once you have the site, what's next? Well, you can either take a stab at setting it up yourself, or hire a freelance web developer to set it up for you.

First, setting it up yourself: For your purposes, this isn't going to require you to be a web geek like it used to be. All web hosting deals these days come with an assortment of website management software already installed and waiting to go. If you can throw together a word document or a spreadsheet, you can make a web page. The main page of your site will be named "index.html" and that will be what guests see when they type in your website's domain name. Use the web page editor provided by your host, which will usually have a manual included.

Things to include at the least:
Your picture. Your business is personal and one on one, and people will be paying you to come into their home and cook for them. Put up a picture so they can see how nice and professional you are.
A description of what you do. You can make it like a little resume, including your fields of specialty. Brag about your credentials.
Pictures of your best work. Nothing sells food like PICTURES. Include shots of your finest culinary masterpieces. The more the better.
Your contact information, and possibly your rates and hours.

There, it's a page. Believe me, nobody expects a chef to be a computer geek. You can always hire somebody else to spruce it up and add pages later. It's good to look at the page yourself on as many different computers as possible. No two computers render the same page in the exact same way, due to different browsers, screens, and operating systems. Standards are a mess. But really, if your page looks OK on at least three different machines, you're probably well off. The good part is, the less you try to use fancy tricks in setting up the page, the more likely it will be visible the same to everybody.

Right now we have to be sure people can find it. Submit your page to search engines and web directories; every search engine on the web will have a submission form to fill in; you just have to find it. Try using a search engine to find pages with the phrase "submit your URL" or "submit your site" and you'll find dozens of places to do just that.

Be extra sure to find other chef resources online and try to get listed there as well. Anything that serves as a local web directory for businesses, be sure you're there.

If it's all too much for you, or you'd like somebody to come in later and make it more professional, hiring a web design freelancer will be your best bet. You can go to various sites which offer programmers and designers for hire. One such site is www.rentacoder.com. You can hire one person for the whole thing, or split the job up into small parts and have one design a logo, another to give your site a complete layout, and so on. A web site is a work in progress, and you will find yourself coming up with fun ideas for things to add.

While your chief purpose in life isn't to be a successful webmaster, having the best site possible won't hurt. The more content you have, the more search engines will have data to find when they crawl your page. This in turn will lead more people to your site. For instance, if one of your specialties is sushi with authentic wasabi (as opposed to "western wasabi" which is colored horseradish and mustard), put up a page on your site talking extensively about this.

Network some friends in the businesses related to catering. For instance if you frequently work at weddings, you can trade links with some decorators and entertainers. If your specialty is hosting event banquets, you can trade links with local DJs and auditoriums. Anybody with a web site related to your industry without being a competitor is fair game for an offer to trade links. Just email them and make a friendly offer.

Another big plus is blogging. Blogging is even easier to do than straight web design. Your host should provide your choice of blog (short for "web log") software which is easy to set up. Once it's up, you can enter new posts to the blog in the editing interface that the software provides. Blogs are good because they automatically release an RSS ("really simple syndication") feed, which will go to blog aggregators all over the net. Like search engines, this will also lead visitors to your site. In addition, the search engines will digest your blog's content as well.

You can use your blog to show off your expertise and professionalism! Write about new developments in the food industry, share a recipe or two, talk about a technique you use, spotlight on the latest ethnic cuisine to make the food magazine headlines. Here again, don't worry if you're not exactly Mark Twain; you're selling yourself as a chef, not a writer. Just as with web design, you can also hire a freelancer to spruce up your site's content.

A web presence is no longer an extra frill for a small business, but a necessity. Together with yellow pages ads and ads in newspapers and magazines, you'll have all the bases covered. And web marketing is now the cheapest option of all of these!
About the Author
Freelance writer for over eleven years.

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