Is your website doing its job?

On this blog, we often talk about how to find clients and the best way to market yourself online. And the centerpiece of most freelancers’ marketing efforts? A website.

What does a website do?

A freelancer’s website performs 5 main functions. They should be the skeleton of every website, no matter your field:

  1. It conveys exactly what you do, clearly and compellingly.
  2. It provides your contact information.
  3. It displays your portfolio or resume. It communicates your expertise and builds a foundation of trust before the client is even a client.
  4. It portrays your personality and work ethic. This builds trust, relatability, and attracts the right kinds of clients.
  5. It’s the hub of your all your online activity. It should contain links to your social networks, your blog, etc. (Social networks = social proof that you are well-respected in your field.)

Rather than explain these, I thougth I’d show you screenshots of some of my favorite freelance websites, and explain why I think they work. I’ve chosen to look specifically at homepages, though I may follow up this post with a discussion of the inner pages.

Remember, there’s no “one way” to make a freelance website. These are examples of principles, not necessarily the prettiest websites. The point is that they do their jobs.

Example 1: Katie Lane, Independent Lawyer (to other freelancers)

Katie’s website accomplishes all five main functions while conveying her easy-going personality in a format that directly appeals to her clients (other freelancers):

*Green numbers stand for the five key functions above.*

Key take-aways:

  • Who is your ideal client? From copy to design, see your website through their eyes. Katie does this by connecting immediately with creative freelancers through compelling copy and illustrated versions of herself.
  • Making your site easy to navigate -- both through navigation menus and larger options on the home page -- draws visitors deeper into the website.
  • Don’t ignore your footer!

Example 2: Erin Cox, Freelance career coach and mentor, speaker, author

Erin is a dynamic motivational speaker and coach who uses her website as the hub of her many activities and conveys a sense of confidence and go-get-’em-ness that appeals directly to her target clients (mothers who want to start businesses).

Key take-aways:

  • If you’re in a field that is more personality-driven, large photographs and cheeky copy go a long way.
  • Getting visitors to subscribe to an email newsletter is a great way to gain permission to continue the conversation and convert visitors into paid clients.
  • If you do many different things, don’t be afraid to show it. Have a separate page for each of those fields, so that they receive the information they’re looking for quickly and don’t get lost/frustrated.

Example 3: Sarah Kolb-Williams, Freelance writer and editor

While Sarah’s website is very simple, it does its job carefully and without fuss -- which, not-so-coincidentally, are exactly the traits of a good writer and editor.

Key take-aways:

  • A website does not need to have a lot of content to work well. White space is elegant.
  • Small flashes of creativity and humor go a long way.
  • Testimonials on your homepage both convey professionalism and your personality, and are sure to be read by future clients.

Example 4: Evi Abeler, Freelance interiors photographer

As a photographer, Evi makes sure visual components take front stage on her website, but she still includes all the fundamentals. I find that often photographers and illustrators rely too heavily on their portfolio to make up the core of their website, and tend to shirk on things like copy and clear navigation. You may think your photography speaks for itself, but remember that your client may not be as visually inclined.

Footer (sorry, couldn't fit it in the screenshot!):

Key take-away:

  • If you’re a visual artist, designer, or photographer, make sure that showcasing your work is only part of your portfolio. As master letterer Sean McCabe says, you need to include not only what you did, but why you did it -- provide case studies of why your design/photograph solved a customer’s problem. You don’t want to just show how you applied your same aesthetic to a bunch of different things.

By now, I hope you’ve noticed how although these websites appear quite different, they bones of each of them are really quite similar. When you’re creating or updating your freelance website, keep this structure in mind and make sure your website is accomplishing your key objectives clearly and you’re not muddling those objectives with a lot of extras.

Share your website! Tell us why it works for you.


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