When I first started out as a freelancer, I jumped from one freelance project to another by primarily depending on word-of-mouth advertising to help me find my next gig. It’s a method that does work, to some degree, so long as the work you provide your clients with is strong enough to merit attention.
If you want to become a legitimate freelance web designer however, and make a real living at it, you need a decent website!
As a web and internet expert, I’m constantly preaching to family, friends, small business owners and to anyone that’ll listen about the importance of having a website. I mean really, who uses phone books anymore? It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, we can all benefit by having a personal or business website.
Strangely enough many of the Internet’s best ambassadors, namely web designers, don’t even have their own websites or at the very least, not a very good one. This paradox is akin to a high level sports athlete without their own sports gear. It just doesn’t make sense.
Freelance Website Rule #1: Have Your Own Website!
If you’re looking to make a living developing and designing websites, you need to have your own. It’s as simple as that. Many potential clients will want to see how well your website serves you before deciding to initiate a conversation with you.
A freelancer website shouldn’t just be about an online portfolio or providing contact information, it should be about selling your self and your services.
Freelance Website Rule #2: Get a Domain & Hosting
Assuming I’ve convinced you of the importance of Rule #1, you should also pay close attention to Rule #2.
There are several portfolio-style web services available throughout the internet that allow designers to host online portfolios of their work. Two such sites are Behance and Dribbble. Although I’m not opposed to using these services, it doesn’t negate the fact that you should have your own website. Similarly, using a 3rd party web app to create a make-shift freelance website is a definite no-no.
Relying on 3rd party services takes control out of your hands and ultimately sends the wrong message to potential clients, such as:
- You’re inexperienced or don’t have proper technical ability
- You don’t make enough money to invest in your business
- You don’t care about growing your business
- Your business is little more than a hobby
Perhaps none of these are true but you’re client isn’t given any evidence to the contrary. Think of door-to-door salesmen. The one with the right attitude, professionalism and all the tools needed to make a sale will achieve greater success than the one without.
Obtaining your own domain and hosting goes along way to signalling your legitimacy and professionalism. Furthermore, doing so doesn’t have to break the bank. Domain names can be purchased for as low as $8 – 12 a year, while reliable hosting can be obtained for as little as $5 – $10 per month. These expenses can easily be covered with payment from one project.
Once you have your own website setup, you can then start pointing the other services you use back to your website. This will help connect your digital properties together and enhance traffic back to your site.
Freelance Website Rule #3: Sell Your Self & Your Services
As we alluded to earlier, a freelance website should be more than displaying portfolios and contact info. It’s primary goal should be to solicit contacts from potential clients. Your website is your #1 sales force.
In order to achieve this, here is what your website needs to have:
- Services – a clear and concise break down of each service you offer
- Pricing – some idea of costs associated with your services where possible
- Portfolio – a well organized and balanced portfolio that illustrates each of your strengths
- Testimonials – concrete proof as written by past clients regarding successful completion of projects
- Client List – adds credibility when potential clients can see who you’ve worked for
- Blog – becoming an authority figure in your industry begins with your own blog
- Contact – make it easy for visitors to reach you with well placed info, contact forms & call-to-actions
- Social Networking – give visitors the opportunity to follow you through social networks
- Well-Organized Design – avoid road blocks by making it easy for visitors to find the right information
That’s a big difference from simply having a self-hosted portfolio with contact information scattered through out, don’t you think?
Let’s expand a little more on the last point from the list above, well-organized design. When creating a website it’s important to think like your many potential visitors. You’ll notice I didn’t say think like one of your typical visitors. People visit websites for many different reasons and the same will be true for your website.
For example, the visitors of a real estate website can be broken up into several segments such as buyers, sellers, information seekers, commercial buyers, commercial sellers, those seeking a real estate career and so on.
Think about each segment and organize your website to convert your most important segments. Be sure however not to leave the other lesser segments in the dark. It can be a little bit tricky to accomplish this but it’s definitely worth the effort to do this properly. A website can fail on conversions alone no matter how much traffic it obtains.
Freelance Website Rule #4: Think Like a Sales Person
What you say and how you say it, is just as important as the other elements described above. It’s easy to tell people what you do but it’s far more compelling to tell people what you can do for them.
One of the tactics I often use when meeting with clients face-to-face is to first learn as much as I can about what they want to accomplish, not just from a project stand point but from a big picture stand point. After all, the project might just be a smaller part of something bigger. With that comes a whole set of concerns, wants, needs and desires. Learning what these are and addressing them helps to convince clients that I’m able to walk with them down the path to success.
In much the same way the elements and content on your website should tell visitors what you can do for them and how you will go about doing it. Any web designer can tell you about their proficiencies but being specific about your approach, your successes and the benefits you can provide your clients with will solidify in them your ability to solve their problems.
Time To Get To Work!
Becoming a legitimate freelancer has it’s many ups and downs. Looking for the next big job can be stressful but being your own boss can be fulfilling. Following the rules outlined above can get you on the right path to ensuring that you maximize your opportunities for success.
Are you a freelance web designer, graphic designer or photographer? Do you need help getting your career off the ground? Please feel free to contact us to discuss how we can help to put you on the right path.