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:
- 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.
- This isn’t actually a professional but someone that does this as a hobby.
- 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.
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.
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.