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Balance Personal Privacy with Transparency on Your Website

With every year that passes, personal information becomes more and more difficult to protect, and it is understandable why some people prefer to keep personal information about themselves off their website.

Perhaps you have more than one business or web presence, and a public profile on one makes you want to keep your identity low-key on another. There's nothing wrong with this practice.

Look around this website, or read my email signature, and you'll notice that I don't have a picture of myself, or even share my full last name. Does that mean I'm not real, or lack credibility? No, because I've been at this a long time, have spoken with dozens of clients via phone or on Zoom, and I have verifiable testimonials.

Did it take longer for me to build trust and get those first few clients "in the door?" Maybe, but it wasn't as difficult as one might think.

Transparency is important, but transparency in business does always not require you to share your name, where you went to school and when, your dog's name, or talk about your family. A few of these might come up in conversation with a potential client, but it doesn't mean you have to share it on a website for the whole world to be able to search.

There are a few exceptions, such as websites for lawyers, doctors, educators, and other professionals whose entire business requires up-front credibility and complete transparency in terms of education, licensing, experience, etc. This can also be true for motivational speakers or business coaches who build their following based largely on sharing personal stories or life experiences.

However, for most small business owners, this in-depth information isn't as important.

How to protect your privacy while offering transparency on your website:

  • Testimonials. Of course, we're talking about legit testimonials that can in some way be verified. These not only help build credibility, but they act as indirect referrals to potential clients and customers.

  • If you are a service-based business, offer a form of communication other than email. If there is a voice on the other end of the line, or a face on the other end of a Zoom call, the client knows they are talking to someone real. While some clients prefer to do everything over email, there are always those who like at least an initial call, or calls throughout the process. They want to know they are connecting with someone, and that you understand them.

  • E-commerce is about selling a product, and customers are far less likely to care who is behind the site so long as the site offers what they want to buy and a secure payment portal. If you choose to share a few stories or details about yourself, it's best practice not to share too much.

  • Don't overshare. This is not new advice, and applies to social media as well. It's possible to remain professional and transparent while still protecting your privacy.

  • Don't be afraid not to use your full name on your website. This one is hit and miss with people, but it really is okay if privacy is that much of a concern. You can't keep your name entirely private since you would have registered your business and perhaps obtained insurance and business licenses, but all those details don't necessarily have to be on your website and searchable across the internet. Keep in mind that if you do go this route, it might take a little longer to build a client base if you're a service-based business.

It's up to you how much you do and don't share on your website, and the trick is to find balance. You need to share enough so that people can recognize you as a legitimate business or influencer, but not so much that they could Google you, find your house, and see what you like to do on the weekends with your family.

A great example are authors and actors who keep their private lives private (not easy). They might not share details of their life online, and you probably don't know anything about their dogs, family, or how much chocolate they eat after dinner, but you know they're legit because their body of work speaks for itself.

Remember: Be safe online to stay safe offline.

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