Don’t Make These 4 Freelance Website Mistakes And What To Do Instead

Everything happens on the internet. People don’t use phone books anymore. Your online presence (starting with your website) is your #1 marketing tool. Even if you get business from friends or family or just straight up referrals- the potential client will always want check your website first.

So if you don’t have a website yet, you need to get on it, yesterday!

And for those of you that already have the website thing down, it’s now time to assess whether your website is doing it’s job.

A website is not just a portfolio piece. It’s not just to show samples of your work. And it certainly shouldn’t be just an online business card to find contact information.

Your website is your #1 sales tool. It’s the first impression you give to potential clients and it’s the space where you have the most opportunity to show people what you can do for them and convert them into paying clients.

So read on for the 4 things to consider when evaluating whether your website is doing it’s job as a sales tool:

1. Is your website self-hosted with a pro domain name and are you using a content management system like WordPress?

We’re starting with the basics here. If you know what self-hosted means and already have that taken care of, you can skip down to #2. If not, read on.

A self-hosted website means you own your site and everything on it along with the domain name.

A 3rd Party hosted website means that someone like Google or Weebly or About.me or WordPress.com own your site and all the information on it. This kind of website is incredibly limiting in features and potential for growth. Plus 3rd party companies can take your website down whenever they like without warning- scary! Even for just using a non-facebook standard icon!

Besides that unfortunate fact, having a website that is hosted on a free service with a domain like www.yourname.wordpress.com or www.yourname.blogpost.com only tells your potential customers 3 possible things:

  1. You don’t take your business serious enough or are not making enough money to invest in your own business by having your own domain name.
  2. This isn’t actually a professional but someone that does this as a hobby.
  3. This person is a little behind the times as they are still using free blogging software to run their business website.

Maybe none of that is true- but it is likely that your potential customer will think one of those things.

And even if they don’t, you certainly are thinking those things or you’d already have your own domain name! And thoughts like that put you back in passion/hobby zone we talked about in last weeks post.

So the first step in going pro is making sure you have your online presence top notch. I’m not talking professionally designed and fancy here. I’m just talking about the basics of hosting and domain name. It’s not expensive (and even if it was, it would be the first necessary and important investment in your business) and it’s easy to setup, even for the non-techy types.

Domain names cost between $5-15 per year. I’m sure you’ve spent more than that on wine today. (most people say coffee in that phrase, but hey, I’m in France!)

And hosting is between $3-6 per month.  I love, use and am an affiliate for Bluehost if you’re looking for a great company.

That investment isn’t gonna break the bank. But will definitely help you go pro.  So make sure that you move or get your site onto a self-hosted server and purchase your domain name.

Why do you need a content management system like WordPress?

WordPress is a blogging and website platform that you install on your site in order to control the pages, blog, design and everything else of your website. It is free to use and simple to install.

It is quick and easy to learn, and adding pages and blog posts are as easy as writing a Word document.

There are thousands of free and premium themes you can use in WordPress, which allow you to have a pre-made design without having to hire a web designer.

There are plugins for everything imaginable that are easy to set up and activate. These are used for things like social sharing buttons, portfolio galleries, image sliders, video libraries, etc. Having awesome pro features is easy and possible in WordPress, without any coding knowledge.

**Just make sure you are using WordPress.org and not WordPress.com as .org is what you will install on your self-hosted website and .com is hosted at WordPress.

BONUS: Video tutorials on setting up your domain name, hosting and installing WordPress and a theme – all part of my free Websites 101 course. Sign up for free here!

2. Don’t treat your website as simply a portfolio and a business card.

Yes, a portfolio is a major part of your freelance website. Yes, people want to see what kind of work you have done in the past as proof that you are capable of creating what they want.

And yes, maybe in the future you will have had enough experience, enough on-going referrals and a big enough network, that your website will simply be a showcase of your work. Many of the creative freelancers you look up to may have this kind of website. But they are no longer in the search for freedom through freelancing. They have already found it.

You on the other hand- need to use your website as much more than a portfolio. As I’ve already said, it needs to be your number #1 sales tool.

To do that, here is what your website needs to have:

  • Services- what you provide and how it will help your customers.
  • Testimonials- written proof from past clients that they are happy they worked with you.
  • Blog- where you will talk about subjects that interest your potential clients (not fellow freelancers or your mom) and answer the common questions that they inevitably have about working with you.
  • A newsletter optin- invite them to give you their email address (even better when you give them something free in return) so that you have a way to contact them in the future.
  • Who you work with and who you don’t work with– in order to set your business up for freedom by only working with clients you love.

I will go into detail of each of these items coming soon, so stay tuned to get my top tips and tricks for each of the website necessities listed above.

So take a look at your website now. Is it a portfolio all about you? Or is it a sales tool all about your potential clients? 

3. Don’t use your website to tell people what YOU do, use it to tell people what you can do for THEM. 

This is a super common mistake that I have made in the past and that many freelancers make.

Your potential customers don’t care about you. They don’t come to your website to marvel at all your skills. They come because they have a problem and they think you might be able to solve it.

So instead of listing the skills you have and the services you sell, list the results you give them.

Instead of listing “WordPress Web design”–> use “Get more traffic and customers with a brand new website”.

Instead of listing “Copywriter/Writer”–>  use “Engage your potential customers with copy that sells”

An easy way to do this is using the old but still incredibly effective concept of features vs. benefits.

Every piece of copy on your website should be phrased in a way that shows the benefits (get more clients, save time, make you feel x) rather than features (private coaching, well-designed website, 2 week turnaround).

So take a look at your website: Are you speaking about what you do or how your customer will benefit?

4. Is your visitor lost or do they know exactly what to do and where to go?

Did you know the average person spends 6-8 seconds on a website before leaving?  That’s not a lot of seconds.

Having a cluttered, confusing, and too-many-options website will send your visitors to the X button faster than you can say “don’t leave!”.

So look at each page of your website and consider whether each item is serving its purpose. Ex: does this button or menu item make me more money?

  • How many items do you have in your sidebar? Social Media…Recent Posts…Popular Posts… Blog Archive… tag cloud…calendar…facebook like box… too much!
  • Don’t put every social media icon known on the internet. Do you really care that your potential customers see your instagram feed? Do you think that will help sell your service? Probably not. But again, it depends on what you’re selling. If you’re not using a social media service to sell yourself, don’t put a link to it on your website.
  • Don’t put all your pages in your menu bar just because you can. Put the items you want them to click on most, and then on those pages- link to where you want them to go next.
  • Don’t fill space. Choose wisely what you put where and make sure it serves the purpose of selling your products/services.

Your Turn!

Alright, so now it’s time for action. Are you making any of the mistakes above? Let me know what you’re workin’ on in the comments below.

Or better yet, sign up for my free Websites 101 course that will teach you everything you need to know about building an effective freelance websites. Plus video tutorials on the tech stuff and video reviews of freelancers websites to show you what they’re doing great and what they can improve. Check out all the details here.

-Leah

iMac-WS101

FREE FREELANCE WEBSITE COURSE
Everything you need to know about building an effective freelance website. Plus video tutorials on the tech stuff!

 
Sign up for free!

Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis is the founder of The Freelance To Freedom Project and a web designer/developer for brilliant entrepreneurs. When she’s not hanging out in the FTF Community, you can find her people watching on the streets of NYC. Come say hi on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

{ 47 comments… add one }
  • Hi Leah, thanks so much for this post, very helpful. I’m definitely guilty of #3 and I’m going to fix it right now 🙂 Thanks

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Great Zita! I’m glad you can take something actionable out of it. I know the copywriting part is hard, and something I struggle with myself. Speaking to your audience and not just about yourself really makes a difference. And it’s something you can always hire out to a great freelance copywriter to help you with as well!

  • I know I need to work on my opt-in…Can I get a mini critique?!

    Congrats on the FTFP launch 🙂
    Becky

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes- I will be covering optins in great detail soon as that is something that has REALLY influenced my business. I took a look at your lovely site and sent you an email! Thanks for your comment!

  • The focus of my business has changed focus a bit and now, I feel like my site is unclear. I’d love to hear some pointers on what changes I should make. Thanks Leah! I’m loving this post 🙂

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Hey Kristy- LOVE your site, so clean and easy to navigate. I’m not sure what you had up before but I emailed you some comments based on looking at it as a brand new visitor (although it’s not my first time to your site!) Thanks for your comment!

  • Thanks for this post! I use GoDaddy and website builder right now. I have my blog as a blogger blog and link off there from my home site. I had it embedded at one point but it didn’t look right/ would disappear. Right now I struggle with feeling like my blog is bad because it doesn’t have my business domain but I don’t know what to do 🙁

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Hey Catherine! Yes- a lot of people get into this trap because GoDaddy does a good job of marketing their website builder. I highly recommend getting your blog and website together in one place with one clear design on wordpress. People don’t like to be taken to another site and even if you have the same header/title, it’s clear that is not one place regardless of the domain name. If you want to stick to GoDaddy hosting (although I don’t recommend that) you can still install WordPress instead of Builder, and then import all your blogger blogposts in your WP site (and then close down blogger). That way all pages have the same design and are all under one site. If you decide to do that and need help I can point you to some resources to help walk you through it. Don’t be discouraged, it’s all figureoutable! Having one website/blog with one clear design will really help attract clients and position you as an expert and I think it’s worth the learning curve and/or investment if you hire someone. Thanks for sharing as I know you aren’t the only person in this same predicament.

  • Helpful as always Leah. I think I’ll forward this to a friend who is just thinking through the content she wants on her site.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Awesome Silvia- I hope she finds them useful!

  • Love how your tools are easy to implement and not tech-wordy, so thank you! I use Weebly for mine and it took a long time to not say what I do and turn it around and say “what I can offer you”. It’s too easy to set up a site and think, there I’ve done it. Yet if you were a store on the high street, you’d be updating it every day/week/season – your site is your window! 🙂

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Hey Abigail- Yes, it’s super hard to do. And at the same time we have to also learn to step away from our sites and get to work! It’s so hard to want to keep changing things. But once it is all in place, and with a simply clear design like yours, it’s time to let the site do the work it is meant to! Glad you had success with Weebly, I know a lot of people struggle with it, seems to always be that way with builders that market themselves as “easy”- but your site looks great!

  • leah! So helpful as always. I am in the process of building my website right now – moving it from my legacy wp blog to my own hosted site. As I am just launching my business, my portfolio is on the light side and I was getting anxiety over it. Thank you for relieving that stress by helping me realize that those with hefty portfolios have already found their freedom! xo

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Hi Terra! Yes, although portfolios are super important and of course people want to see if your work aligns with their desires, it isn’t the most important part in my opinion. You can certainly speak to their problems and convince them you are the perfect fit for them before they even get to your portfolio page. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Hey Leah. It is great to be reminded of these tips. My website is in the process of getting a complete facelift. When I think about copy to go along with my new message, I really need to remember #3. That is what really draws people in. Thanks!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes, I struggle with #3 the most as well. Takes time but if you keep coming back to it you’ll eventually get it right 🙂

  • Fantastic post, Leah! Very clear and easy to follow tips.

  • My favorite line: “Don’t use your website to tell people what YOU do, use it to tell people what you can do for THEM.”

    This is a goodie. It’s scheduled to be shared with my page! xo.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes, that’s the one that’s the hardest to remember. Thanks so much Melissa!

  • Oh gosh, this is so helpful. Especially #3 & #4 !!! I’ve taken awhile to step back from working on my copy and my website, but I think I’m ready to dive back in and really put these steps into practice. Thanks Leah!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      I know what you mean. We’re looking at our websites on a daily basis (sometimes hourly!) and taking a step back from time to time is helpful. I’m doing the same thing with my site and will be getting back in for a refresh too!

  • Great tips and really excellent article Leah. I love how you are actually delving into the topics more instead of just listing ‘Get a self hosted site’ 🙂

    Would love a mini critique if you have time!! – Ollie

  • Hi Leah,

    I discovered your site a few days ago and I’m hooked on your excellent help! Thanks for having a simple and minimal presentation for your information. I remember you saying somewhere that you completely overhauled your site and approach. It works beautifully!

    I am fairly new to freelancing; just jumped in full time about a month ago as a web designer and developer. I’ve recently discovered my target market (unconventional entrepreneurs, basically), and revamped my portfolio to speak to them. But yes, like everyone I’ve been staring at it SOOOO long that I can’t even see it anymore. I’d appreciate your professional opinion and thanks in advance!

  • Leah – would totally love to hear your suggestion on my photography services site here: http://www.michellewildman.co.uk
    thanks so much! 🙂

  • What a wonderful list of tips! I find #3 particularly difficult, for such changes look good under your name in a CV, yet they are too long for a website. Perhaps, using them as a title for a paragraph or in a banner is an idea, but more often than not it does not suit our design and/or layout.

    What do you think of my website? http://www.vacari.org

  • Hey Leah,

    I feel like I’ve been working on this site so long now that I can’t even see it anymore. I’ve been tweaking it a little lately and I do like some of it but it needs something for sure.
    I’d love you to take a little look and hear your views.

    I just found this site last week and I’m loving so much about it. Thank you, thank you.

  • Thanks Leah!!! Great article!

  • Can you give me some tips on my website?

  • Hey Leah,

    Wonderful post for the people like me who wants to dive into online business.
    You know what…..
    I think, I’ll have to do a lot of changes in my website as you have mentioned quite interesting and valid points.

    Thanks a lot.. I will really appriciate If you can go through my website and reply.

  • Quality Article!

    You are right, I see so many websites making the mistake of not saying what they do.

    Keep them coming!

  • Hi, please can I get your opinion on my site http://luwadurotimi.com

    Thanks in advance.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis

      Nice and clean! I would recommend getting your face on the homepage. People connect with people. And instead of your big headings talking about your skills, speaking directly about the clients problems instead can make a big difference. What can you help them do, what problem do they have that you can solve. Let them know instantly- not what you can do skill-wise but what problem you can solve. If I came to your site because I need a website, how do I know you are the right web designer for ME and MY business?

  • Mo

    Hello and thanks for the great advice! I would LOVE another set of eyes as I left my job in retail management of 7yrs this January and am struggling with all the “to-do’s”
    I took a loan for one year to grow and start my photography biz but with only a few months left of security and not much results I am NOT wanting to be a “first year failed” statistic.
    I am great at my photography but am struggling with some of the business of the business tasks. I have a website that was highly recommended and looks great but very hard to navigate (but affordable) I hired someone from zenfolio to help set up but still feel my site is lacking.(not sure if it is Wordpress?) any help is much appreciated
    Thank you in advance Mo

  • Any tips on my new site would be helpful. Thanks!

  • Leah,

    It would be great if you could give me some feedback on my site. I am actually really excited about it and I have at least taken the step and put out an email to my contacts letting them know of my services.

    Thank you!

    DeLynn
    http://www.forsanity.com

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis

      Just wrapped it up and will send it to you soon!

  • Osama

    Hi Leah,

    Wow great Article this is the first time I Read the whole article thank you so much it is helpful and clear.

    I will visit your website again 🙂

    Thank you.
    Osama

  • Tom

    Great article Leah. I think point no.3 is the key secret.

  • I’m not sure how old your post is, but I wanted to leave a comment that I found it both well-written and engaging on the topic I’m researching, which is building my freelancing website. 🙂

    My site literally went live yesterday, although I’ve been freelancing locally (and unfortunately, through content farms) for years now.

    Even though I’ve done plenty of web design in my time, having a professional domain, and your own web hosting with a content-management system such as WordPress is absolutely crucial and was the first thing I knew I had to do in order to be successful in the social media world.

    I must now work on making my website something that will showcase what I can do for clients, so I’ll be signing up for the course offered here. Thank you!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis

      Yay! Happy to have you!

  • Hi Leah! Great article! Any suggestions for a self-hosted site builder other than WordPress?

    Thanks!
    Paul

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis

      Thanks Paul! I love WordPress so I haven’t found the need to research others 🙂

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