Does every freelancer need a website?
(Art credit: Sisi Recht, "Reading Rainbow")
Your website can become a great tool to attract new clients and build your brand. Instead of relying on freelance marketplaces and competing with a pool of other freelancers, create your website to stand out from the competition and even set higher rates.
While launching a personal website can be beneficial for your small freelance business, there are certain situations when building one can be a bad idea. In this article, we will help you understand when it is the right moment to invest both your time and money in creating one and the benefits standing behind this process.
Reasons for creating a freelance website
Before we describe the situations when creating a website can be detrimental for your freelance business, let’s first understand why so many freelancers want to build a website in the first place.
1. Build more trust
A personal website can become a tool to build trust with future clients. You can integrate social proof elements such as testimonials, awards badges, or case studies. For example, you can place customer testimonials in the form of text or video on your main page.
You can also go the extra mile and prepare interviews with your customers, record videos, and then transcribe them. Well-written case studies can establish even more trust with the leads who consider working with you.
Check out how a freelance SEO consultant, George Papatheodorou, uses testimonials on his website.
Source: George Papatheodorou
2. Show your portfolio
Your website can help convince clients to work with you by showing your previous work, achieved results, and helping them learn more about what type of clients you work with and your way of work.
For example, to become a digital marketer with a pretty full diary and an influx of new clients, you have to show the results behind your work (an achieved ROI on ad spend). If you are a copywriter, linking to your previous articles on the portfolio page can be a good idea as well.
Behance is an example of a website that gives graphic designers all the necessary tools to create and publish their portfolios online.
While it’s easy to publish a portfolio on Behance, this website remains a big marketplace with the rampant competition. That’s why you should publish your portfolio on your website and optimize it for SEO. This way, you can stand out from other freelancers in your field.
Check out how Lesley Vos shows her copywriting work using the Contently tool. Such tools make it easy for clients to find influential bloggers and copywriters as they are SEO-optimized.
3. Stand out from the competitors
Freelance marketplaces are a great starting point for freelancers who are just starting and want to grow their portfolio from zero. Some think of freelance marketplaces as a place where they can get a logo or website designed for a reasonable price.
When starting using freelance marketplaces, freelancers usually offer the lowest prices just to get their first gigs. Over time, they can increase their rates as they get more positive reviews and more requests for work. However, even with dozens of positive testimonials, you will appear in search results with hundreds of other talented freelancers who have also worked out good reviews. For example, by searching for a graphic designer on Upwork, I have ended up with thousands of freelance profiles just for one location.
Also, when getting clients through a marketplace, you will always have to work through a middleman. Freelance marketplaces often place strict rules as to how one can cooperate with freelancers. Your client would have to pay huge fines when working with you directly, trying to avoid the commissions of a freelance marketplace.
By developing your website and helping your potential clients to find you online directly, you can avoid competition. As a result, it gives you more space to set higher rates and charge more for your skills and expertise.
4. Diversify your client acquisition channels
If you have one major channel for client acquisition you can start to drive more projects, by creating a website and positioning it in Google search results.
For example, if you get new projects only through client referrals, you can get a few extra projects every month through your website contact form. Having a few channels that bring new projects is a great way to keep your freelance revenue stable. If one channel underperforms this month, the other one can cover the difference in workload.
When building a website is a bad idea
However, in some situations, building a website might not be the right thing for you. So when is building a website a bad idea? Let’s look at the most popular reasons against creating a personal website.
1. You should focus on sales first
If you don’t have clients now or are just starting as a freelancer, it’s worth focusing on getting your first gigs instead of focusing on creating your website. For example, you could start by posting on a freelance marketplace or work out your first portfolio project for friends or family at a reduced price.
Building a website involves some costs such as hosting, graphic design, personal website templates, or development work. It also takes time to position in Google search results. Your website is a long-term project that won’t likely bring results right away. Without a steady income, it might be difficult to build a decent one.
2. You don’t have a strategy to promote it
Website development doesn’t stop at setting your website live. To get some traffic, you have to focus on at least three activities – SEO optimization, paid ads, and social media.
If you are strong in SEO, you can work on optimizing on-site and off-site SEO, so your website shows higher in search results. To use paid ads (Facebook or Google Ads), you have to dedicate a certain budget to this activity and know how to set ads up and optimize them over time. To get some reach on social media, you have to know how to distribute content effectively so it turns up in the social media feeds of your potential clients more often.
Here is how Brian Dean from Backlinko is using social media to get clients to visit his page. With an effective distribution strategy, he has managed to drive loads of comments, reactions, and shares.
3. You haven’t nailed your clientele just yet
Before you even get down to creating a website copy and choosing a website template, you have to know who you are creating the website for. It’s a good idea to position yourself as an expert in the field working for companies of a certain profile.
For example, you can direct your message to corporate clients or startups from the tech field. Both will expect a different story from your website and skills and experience from you as a freelancer.
When you assemble your portfolio page, you have to select the projects that would resonate with your ideal customer persona. For example, if you know your most profitable clients are those from the pharmaceutical field, you should showcase more projects you have done for this industry.
4. You are planning to do it halfway
Some freelancers create some websites just to have one. Often, they are slow one-pagers that contain general information with fake testimonials and a contact form that doesn’t work properly.
A weak website can turn clients away and even hurt your reputation. Imagine a developer’s website showing a 404 error or loading indefinitely. Would you trust them to build your website?
Running your website is a part of online reputation management. It can help build trust with clients or kill it. That’s why if you are planning to do it halfway, it’s better to focus on current projects more and save more money to build a professional website in the future.
Building a professional website is also about dedicating time to research and choosing the right technology solution. While some freelancers choose to go with WordPress CMS, it might turn out that it’s not be perfect for you.
If you are a developer specializing in the Vue framework, it can be a good idea to showcase your Vue development skills by creating your website in this technology. In this case, it’s worth spending some time on finding a good VueJS admin template before proceeding with development. If you are developing Shopify or Shopify Plus websites, you should also spend some time showcasing them on your portfolio page.
Summing it all up
To sum up, building a good website is all about having the right resources – time and money. You have to invest both if you want to make the right impression on your clients. Sometimes, it simply doesn’t make any sense to create a website if you don’t have resources or have to focus on other things to grow your freelance career. It’s important to know when it’s the right time to start building a website and when you don’t need one just yet.