Are you making these 7 freelance website mistakes?

November 27, 2009 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Freelancing 

Freelance Websites — Part 2

freelance website secretsWe are in the middle of a publishing and communications revolution. There has never been a time when it was easier or cheaper to put your message in front of a large audience.

Add to this the connectivity and search capabilities provided by the Internet, and the possibilities for generating business for your freelance practice are staggering.

In a desk drawer, I have what remains of a box of floppy disks I purchased about 15 years ago. I have no use for them now, but they were vital back then. As a freelance copywriter, it was the only way for me to send digital files to clients. I would save a file to the disk, put the disk in an envelope, and mail it. Two or three days later, the client would receive the disk.

My fax machine and phone were a lot more important then too. I would fax documents daily during a project. And communicating with a client meant calling their office (this was before cell phones were nearly universal) and usually leaving a message on a “machine” if the line wasn’t busy (this was also before voice mail was popular).

Today everything is different. And the most different thing is how freelancers promote their business. Back then you’d have to print brochures and mail out samples. Today everything can be done on a website with a few lines of code.

But here’s the hitch: While it is now easier to promote services to a larger audience, and while websites have huge potential to bring in business, most freelancers don’t take full advantage of the power of their website. In fact, most freelancers make one or more of seven mistakes that reduce the profit producing possibilities of their site.

Part 2: The 7 key website mistakes freelancers make

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed 9 benefits of a freelance website. Now I want to share with you some observations I’ve made over the years about where freelancers go wrong with their site.

I’d love to show you examples, but I don’t want to embarrass anyone. I’m sure you’ve probably seen plenty of examples already. Or perhaps you are committing one of these errors. I’m guilty of at least one myself.

  • Including too little business information. A website provides virtually unlimited space for information, but to look at some freelance sites you’d think they were paying by the pixel. If you’re not comfortable with creating your own site, you’ll have to hire someone, which can get expensive. So it’s understandable that you may be hesitant to include much since every page is costing you. But remember that a website is a sales tool. In general, the more detail you provide, the more your site will sell prospects on the idea of hiring you.
  • Including too much personal information. I’m not sure what some freelancers are thinking when they put up a page for their freelance services that includes pictures of their tabby cat, a list of favorite romance novels, or a recipe for mint tea punch. There’s nothing wrong with being friendly and personal on your site, even sharing a few choice personal details. But there’s a line you have to draw between your personal life and your business life. Think about it. If you were researching brain surgeons, would you make an appointment with someone whose site was filled with photos of a comic book collection?
  • Never making content updates. Guilty as charged. I nearly abandoned my site for a few years and it cost me. My ranking in the search engines slipped dramatically, which means when people would do a Google search, my site appeared many pages down the list instead of on the first couple or three pages where it used to be. Updating your site isn’t just about search ranking, though. Your site IS your business in the virtual world. You should add details about your work, new services, extra samples, articles you’ve written, awards you’ve won, or anything else to keep it current.
  • Adding distracting bells and whistles. You know what I’m talking about — pop up windows, flashing text, rotating graphics, music that you can’t shut off, flash videos that prevent you from getting to the site, and all the other eye and ear candy. This is less of a problem now than it used to be, but you still see it now and then. Put your effort into the information you provide, not into frills that distract people from reading. Remember, the more people read, the more likely you are to get a client.
  • Forgetting the principles of “lead generation.” Like it or not, as a professional freelancer, you are in business. That means you have to be your own sales staff, identify good leads, and convert them into clients. To get leads, you need a way to get people to identify themselves as such. One technique is to offer a “special report” on a subject that is interesting to the sort of people who are likely to hire you. You send it to people in exchange for their contact information.
  • Not promoting the site. If you owned a store, you would advertise it. If you ran a restaurant, you would mail out dinner coupons. And when you maintain a website, you need to promote it. Doing simple things like adding your Web address to your e-mail footer or printing your address on your business cards are simple and smart. You can promote your site with Twitter and Facebook, write articles for other sites, advertise with pay-per-click ads, or get your site listed in a variety of online directories.
  • Being ignorant about the Web. There’s no getting around it. The more you know about Web stuff, the more control you’ll have over the success of your site. At the very least, you need to know how to set up and maintain a blog. If you’re really gung-ho, you can learn HTML, XHTML, and CSS to take total control of your site design. You’ll also benefit from learning how to use an FTP program to transport files to your Web host, how to use Photoshop to create photos and graphics, and how to properly write and design for online readers.

In Part 3, we’ll take a look at what you should include in your site to give yourself a business edge. This is where it gets really interesting.

Related posts:

  1. 9 business-boosting benefits of a freelance website
  2. Are you making this career-killing freelance mistake?
  3. What a successful freelance website looks like
  4. How I gave my freelance website a profitable makeover
  5. 8 website elements that generate freelance business

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Smart Comments

2 Comments on Are you making these 7 freelance website mistakes?

  1. Lauren on Apr 3rd, 2010 9:41 am
  2. I abandoned my freelance website ages ago – completely deleted it – because it seemed like a waste of money to pay for the hosting when it wasn’t earning me any money. Now I sell articles through various websites, all of which take commission.

    If I had found your blog sooner, I might have kept working on my website. Maybe I’ll start it up again once I’ve read more.
    .-= Lauren’s last blog … Forward Facing Car Seat! =-.

  3. Lauren on Apr 3rd, 2010 9:42 am
  4. sorry, forgot to click “notify me of followup comments via e-mail”, so I had to post again.
    .-= Lauren’s last blog … Forward Facing Car Seat! =-.