You may or may not be aware that in my day job, I’m a web developer whose company, Istomedia, has developed over 450 websites and blogs since 1995. This, however, is an expense that many authors would rather not make. And yet, they still need to have an online presence. So, what are they to do?
Duke has come up with a great resource, the First Site Guide. Freelancers – and writers in general – will find there all they need to build their first website on their own, along with helpful tips, how-tos, and loads of free advice.
Take it, Duke!
Tips for Creating Your First Freelancer (Writing) Site
If you’re a freelancer, you need your own website. It doesn’t have to be great or fancy, really, but it needs to be there. In this day and age, any potential client shopping for a freelancer is going to Google you. It should go without saying that you’ll want them to like what they see. The best way to make sure they like what they see when they search for your name is to make sure they see your site as the first result.
Creating your first site can be a bit of an intimidating experience—after all, you’re a writer, not a coder, right? Unless you’re both, in which case you’re going to find this post very boring.
Well, it’s really not all that bad, provided you start with access to the right resources. Freelancers (and writers in general) do need to have a site with it’s own dedicated URL, which means self-hosting, and is another layer of challenge and confusion.
Don’t panic! Building a website is a lot like following handwritten directions; as long as you have good directions, and follow them assiduously, you’ll arrive at your destination with minimal fuss. Once you’re off the path, though, things can get tricky. So make sure you start out in the right spot, and follow a good set of directions.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest part of creating a great site on your first try is proper planning.
Remember What It’s All About
The cornerstone of this whole affair will be remembering at every step why you’re creating this site: To increase your revenue stream. Websites are great for that, in that they fulfill (if done properly) three simultaneous processes towards this end by:
- Giving you direct control over your personal search profile.
- Creating a broad passive “lead” base for your sales funnel.
- Giving potential customers a fixed “home” where they can find you and your work.
These aren’t the only benefits, of course, but they’re the ones intrinsic in creating a working site. You can, and should, build on these three advantages by creating great content and using social media to actively increase your base. Beyond this, you can stake your claim as an expert in a particular niche by focusing the dynamic site content on a particular aspect.
Beware: This is one of the places where almost everyone messes up, at first!
Our instinct, as writers, is to write what we know. There’s certainly a place for that, yes, but this is where it becomes so critical to remember your goal is to increase your revenue stream. Your site is supposed to do that by bringing in new clients and making you look awesome.
Do you see the trap here?
Plan Your Posts for Clients, not Writers
Our first writing instinct, to write what we know, means we will be writing about writing or editing. If you write a fantastic article about, say, “My Favorite Ten Ways to Avoid Comma Errors” and it ranks way up there in search engines, it will bring in readers, for sure. But who are those readers? Most likely other writers. Now, if you’re an editor, writers confused about commas are exactly who you want to bring in, but if you’re a freelance writer, people who are doing their own writing are people who probably aren’t going to pay you to write things for them.
You want to write articles targeted at people who are looking for writers!
For example, you might want to write an article like, “Five Ways to Find a the Right Freelance Writer”. It’s important to note that often small shifts in tone can move essentially the same article from one market to another. Despite being essentially the same question, people looking for writers will probably search for something like “What Does a Freelance Writer Cost?” rather than, “How Much Does a Freelance Writer Charge?” which would likely attract freelancers.
This underlying philosophy should also inform name selection for your site. It needs to be something that will seem authoritative and topical at a glance. For example, First Site Guide (the site I’m guest posting from) and About Freelance Writing don’t exactly leave you in suspense about what sort of information you’ll find there, do they?
This is Part of Your Business
It’s easy to get caught up in the fun of a website. Building it, tweaking it, promoting it . . . Not that we’ve ever done that. Remember this is just part of your business, and not the part that puts food on the table—at least, not at first.
So, yes, you need to put a lot of TLC into your site if you want it to shine, but not at the expense of passing up on paying work, or letting it distract you from that purpose.
This is also something to keep in mind as a philosophy during the design. Your rates, bio, and examples of your work should be easily accessible, and potential clients should be able to contact you at any point in the process with one click.
If you keep this in mind, your first site will practically design itself. Make it clean, make it clear, and don’t get hung up on the small stuff.