7 Elements of a Successful Freelancer’s Website
“The shoemaker’s children go barefoot.”
You’re not a shoemaker but the saying still fits. Between client projects, conferences, and social obligations (okay, okay, WOW clan meetings may count as social obligations), your site has been sorely neglected. A neglected website might not seem like a big deal if you’re flush with work. But what happens when, Zeus forbid, work slows? You’ll start pushing for new work, realize that your site is a mess, and spend time working on your site you should have spent landing new contracts.
As a reminder for the veterans and a guide for those just starting out, here are seven elements of a successful freelancer’s website:
Does your website have personality? You don’t need to have wild colors, say inflammatory things, or hurl curses to have personality. Dropping a few hints that will let people know you’re fun to work with and a good person will do the trick. Think of your website just as you would a big corner office. It’s your space to personalize, to enjoy, and to share with important visitors. Make sure you include some details so that visitors who stop by while you’re out get a chance to learn about you. It’s you they’ll be hiring after all. Show a bit of tasteful personality and you’ll stand apart from the rest. Without personality your site will be just another raft of half-hearted dreams in a giant sea of mediocrity.
Can visitors to your site find out a little of what it’s like to work with you without signing a contract? Outlining your process for prospective clients gives them an idea as to what they can expect of you. Telling a prospective client how you work will increase the level of familiarity that client has with you. Increased familiarity leads to trust and trust has a way of leading to lucrative projects. You can use your process description as a way to share some of your personality. Are you a copywriter with a flair for drawing? Cartoon it up! Perhaps you’re a web designer who gets a kick out of beautiful flowcharts? Use your process description to show prospective and repeat clients just how awesome you are.
Do you share examples of your most recent work? A common sin among freelancers is that they get so caught up in new projects that they fail to properly display previous accomplishments. If you’re just starting out and only have one or two examples of your work, make up for the lack of volume by going into detail on your project explanations. Reference positive feedback from clients (LinkedIn is a great place to ask for short reviews) and, once again, make sure to sneak your personality into the final product!
Do you give prospective clients an idea of what it costs to hire your brilliant self? When and if to publish rates is for another article entirely. For now, it’s fairly safe to say that you’ll benefit from alluding to a price range. There’s no need to lock yourself into a price and clients will be happier if you let them know what they can expect to pay. An easy way to give a ballpark price is to ask prospective clients to fill out a project starter sheet that asks for a budget range. Giving a benchmark price can also work well. There are multiple benefits to giving ballpark prices. Among them, weeding out cheapskates and minimizing sticker shock. Make sure to furiously research your specific niche to find out average rates for the services you provide before plastering prices on your site. Using the hourly rate calculator is a good place to begin if you’re just getting started as a freelancer.
Do you have a blog? If not, subscribe to this site so you’ll remember to come back and go set up your blog! If you already have a blog running on your site, have you been neglecting it lately? Just having a blog isn’t enough if you want to build a community around your site. Regular posting of useful content will establish you as a trusted expert and extend your network of trusting fans and friends. If you’re like many freelancers, you’re not the most organized person in the world. I struggle with organization at times, too. No hate here. Updating a blog can be difficult. It takes time, effort, and a lot of care to regularly post useful content and conversation-starters. The result of that blood-letting has been new friends, fantastic clients, and connections with other freelancers that I just wouldn’t have made had my site been entirely static. Get your blogging loins in gear for some extended community action and a bit of sharing with your clients. They’ll love it and you’ll get a kick out of what it does for your bank balance.
Is your site readable? Have you made sure that the text portion of your site is easily read by people and search spiders alike? Going solely on past experience, I can make three guesses about your site:
- 1. Your body text is too small.
- 2. You put more effort into pushing visitors to make your content go viral than you do hanging out with them.
- 3. You require too many clicks to get things done.
If none of those apply to your site, you’re one of the few. The rest will do well to make an effort to see their site as a visitor does. Do a bit of user testing and ask people at your local coffee shop to complete simple tasks on your site (like subscribing) or reading an article. You might think it embarrassing to ask strangers to help you improve your site. But that’s much easier than continuing as you are and watching contracts slip away.
Is it easy to get in touch with you? Is your phone number published on your site? Can a prospective client reach your inbox in two clicks from any page on your site? The easier it is to get in touch with you, the friendlier you’ll seem. Remember what I said about familiarity and trust? Making a visitor dig around for your contact information isn’t a good way to inspire trust or make friends. Make it easy to reach you. Make it easy to work with you. You’ll find that clients have an easier time finding and paying you as a result! A note on contact forms: using captcha on your contact forms may save you from a few spam emails but can add a lot of frustration for those not accustomed to the process. I recommend skipping it until you’re big enough to hire somebody else to delete the spam for you.
There are many ways to optimize your site for best performance. If you take care of the details while you’re not in a hurry, you’ll do better work and have more fun in the process. Is there anything you’d like to add? I’m glad for your thoughts.