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Professional people who want to build their brand within their industry should consider an online portfolio or some type of professional website, says Tom O'Neil, managing director of cv.co.nz.

For professionals such as artists, web developers, writers and photographers, a website is all but mandatory. But other people are finding a basic three or four page presence in cyberspace is a great way to stake their personal brand. Chefs are one example.

"There is a desire for a lot of chefs who want to be in the top echelon to promote and market themselves to the wider audience and not just have a CV that they send out," O'Neil says.

A CV, as the only marketing tool a candidate has, is fairly limiting, he says.

"A person picks up a CV and they're going to invest about 10 seconds in it. In 10 years time the online portfolio could replace the CV. Instead of saying, 'Here's my CV' you'd be saying, 'Here's my website address'."

O'Neil says sending your CV through email can also have its drawbacks as compared with your own website.

"You download the CV, find it's in the wrong format and send it to IT for them to figure out. They send it back but it's in a different font from the original so it doesn't look as nice."

To keep your online presence from potentially looking like a train wreck, a personal website may do the trick. It's interactive, colourful and generally easier to find your way through than someone's CV. From an employer's perspective, a website is an easy way to have a good look at you.

"It is a more casual and less threatening environment. If I send you my CV it means I'm after a job. If I direct you to my personal profile site it's really more about me as a professional rather than looking for work."

Your web address will be on your business card and your email signature so it's going out regularly to business contacts in a way your CV never would.

Your site should include what you offer, your experience, a little personal background, your portfolio and your email address. If you have concerns about privacy or fear an old date from school might track you down, remember you control what goes on there.

"A website is less invasive than a CV. A CV has all your contact details but with a website all you need is your email address on there."

Your site is a chance for people to do personal research about you and for you to share something with them. Think of the different types of people who are in your audience and offer something for each of them.

"Try and have something that you can give away on it. For instance, if you're a chef, include some recipes that are your personal favourites. It just includes some flavour of you," O'Neil says.

Giving out tips in your industry will show some degree of competency and enable you to reinforce your brand. The professional website is a great tool for people such as writers or photographers who can display their work online. Just remember to protect your work from copyright theft with passwords or watermarks. But O'Neill says not everyone will need an online presence.

"Over the next short to medium term the more blue-collar or entry level office role candidates would be wiser to spend money on a professional CV rather than a website."

O'Neil says a small website could cost around $500 to have built plus around $150 for the site to be hosted on a web server. Although the goal of these sites is to drive business your way, it's unlikely a website on its own will drive customers to your door offering work.

"Unless a person is actually seeking your specific name and the website has been up for a period of time, it's difficult for that to happen."

You can pay for online search engine ads which may drive additional traffic to your site.

"If you're willing to spend $50 a week on ads, it's a good way to get people out there interested and talking about you."

But at the end of the day, your website is there to increase brand awareness of you as a professional and to market yourself to potential clients or employers.

"It's about the sell. You want to make sure it markets you professionally and effectively.

"When a person clicks your page away, they should have a strong idea about you, your experience are and what you can offer. It's a waste of time if it's, in effect, a document saying, 'Here I am'."