I’ll let you in on one of the tough secrets of working as a freelance writer: there is a LOT of competition out there. There are days when it feels like every company looking for a blogger or copywriter has 50 to 60 applicants to consider for a single writing gig. It’s easy to disappear into the grind, losing track of the countless pitches you’ve sent to job prospects and wondering if you’ll ever get another bite. Many freelancers fall down the rabbit hole at this point, accepting paid assignments at a mere $5 or $10, believing it’s better than nothing. Yikes!
What if I told you there was one simple tool you could use to elevate your professional profile and beat out your competitors? This tool isn’t some paid writing course or a “must-have eBook” you can purchase for five easy payment of $99.99. Nope, it’s your professional website.
Before you moan and groan about how simple this key is, ask yourself: “When was the last time I optimized my website to convert visitors into clients?”
If your answer is anything other than 30 days or less, you’re selling yourself short. Reworking my freelancing website has become somewhat of a compulsion for me, and with good reason. Put yourself in a potential client’s shoes, someone who has 25 unread applications sitting in their inbox. Do you really think that client is going to spend a few hours pouring over each pitch and reading every single word you’ve written? Nope. Instead, he’ll probably click through to your site, give your overall portfolio and presentation a once over, and make a swift judgment call to narrow down the pack. If you’re using a website that looks like it was launched in 1999, you might as well save the energy and go make a few dollars an hour in a content mill. You’re not communicating VALUE to your client.
In an ideal world, you’d outsource your freelance site to a web design firm, but most freelancers operate on shoestring budgets. Not to worry, you don’t need to be a superstar web designer to create a powerful freelance profile. You do, however, need to ensure you address the following 3 keys to boost your conversion rates and land more contracts.
1. Focus on Great Design
Many freelancers can’t justify the cost of custom website design, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for any old theme. In all honesty, it doesn’t matter how well you’ve written your headlines and optimized your text if your site looks like you slapped it together with an outdated page builder. Ask yourself, would you work with you?
Assuming you’re using WordPress to power your site, pick a premium theme that costs a few dollars but looks professional and attractive. You don’t need a degree in coding to get the job done right, and your total investment costs less than a pair of jeans at the mall. I personally use Themeforest when I’m on the hunt for a great theme at the right price. There are also plenty of free WordPress themes available for freelancers looking to keep expenses under control.
2. Make Yourself the Center of Attention
Using your freelancing website to highlight your strongest attributes isn’t rocket science, but I’m shocked by how many people hide behind stock images and pretty templates. Potential clients want to get a feel for who you are, and a beautiful city skyline or clipart of a writing pad simply won’t get the job done. Instead, put yourself out there with a picture of you!
You can opt for a large profile shot, like the one I’ve demonstrated on the left, or instead choose a larger header image for your site. Often called a hero image, this picture ensures you appear on every page and makes your message that much louder. You can see a demonstration of this approach on the homepage of Writing From A to Z.
In an ideal world, you’d work with a photographer to get some awesome shots, but if you can’t afford a professional, ask a friend or family member to take a few pictures of you. If you’re totally stuck, you could even get away with using your smartphone to snap a few casual photos. While these might not be as nice as professional headshots, you’re still getting your image out there.
3. Provide Social Proof
Anybody can call themselves a great writer, but proving yourself as a successful businessperson is a whole ‘nother ballgame. Show would-be clients why they should partner with you, instead of finding a cheapo blog writer for $5 on oDesk. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is by providing social proof in the form of testimonials and feedback from your real clients.
Don’t bury all of your testimonials on a separate page, but place a few of the best ones on your homepage. Ideally, you want those testimonials “before the fold,” meaning your visitor doesn’t have to scroll down the page before seeing them. If you want to get really effective at conversions, consider building a site with testimonials on every page.
Pretty simple, right? Clean up your old design, smile for the camera, and get those testimonials together!
Have any great tips for building a better freelance website? What do you include on your homepage?