All Indie Writers is a resource and community for freelance writers, indie publishers, and independent bloggers looking to build a successful writing career. The site is owned by professional blogger, freelance business writer and author, Jennifer Mattern.
If you blog on your professional site, chances are you're hoping to land more writing gigs from your blog. And you're not alone. The marketing benefits of blogging aren't exactly a secret.
That said, I often see freelancers start a professional blog only to give it up after a few months.
Part of the problem seems to be a matter of instant gratification -- we're so used to it (especially online) that if something doesn't provide near-immediate results, we can find it easy to walk away and try something else. It's human nature I suppose -- walking away from something as soon as it's no longer all fun and new and living up to our unrealistic expectations.
That's rarely smart. It holds us back from better things (which we only find when we put the work in).
Plus, it's a downright foolish way to run a business.
Rather than hanging up your blogging boots because you aren't seeing those immediate results you were hoping for, why not work to improve your blog instead? You'll build something stronger and more valuable from a marketing perspective. And you can bring in enough prospects to keep you busy, even without traditional pitching if that doesn't suit you (it certainly isn't how I prefer to land gigs).
The first step? Be realistic about what a blog can do.
For example, you can't expect to write a handful of posts and have dozens of prospects beating down a path to your door immediately as a result.
Blogging is a cumulative marketing tool. And while every post is a promotional opportunity in its own right, the longer you stick with it the harder your collective blog will work for you. But if you want to get there, you need to take it on a post-by-post basis and make the most of everything you write.
You can improve your freelance writer blog and its ability to attract and convert prospects with five simple steps.
1. Have a goal for every post.
Remember that your professional blog is about clients and prospects -- not you. So while it's okay to occasionally post promotions or news, a blog that brings in freelance writing clients should be focused more on helpful content, giving your target clients something they want to read.
One of the best, and easiest, ways to do this is to make sure every post addresses either:
These are two sides of the same coin.
A problem is simply a negative situation your target clients are facing -- something getting between them and their goals. Your blog posts should help them overcome those problems.
An opportunity is a chance for your readers to see a benefit they currently aren't realizing. And your blog posts will help them take advantage of those circumstances.
When you give each post on your professional blog a goal that addresses one of these two things, you turn them into resources. You also get to showcase your expertise in a way that makes you not only look more authoritative, but also more trustworthy -- exactly the kind of writer clients are happy to pay good money to work with.
This often involves teaching your readers something in each post. It might also mean offering tips or advice. Or it can even mean writing informative "explainer" posts to help prospects understand blogging / copywriting / research / etc. fundamentals or certain project types.
2. Speak to your prospects.
It's not enough to teach or explain or solve a problem though. If you want your blog posts to help you land freelance writing gigs, it helps to put a bit of yourself into them.
What I mean by that is write like you speak (at least to some degree). Write as if you're speaking directly to your prospects -- to that one individual reader in the moment.
It's about building trust by giving potential clients a glimpse of what you might be like to interact with one-on-one if they decide to work with you.
Not used to writing in this style? Here's an easy way to give it a try:
Pretend the problem or opportunity your post tackles came to you in the form of a prospect's question via email. Write as if you were responding to that email. It can help you get the POV and tone down quickly in the way you would actually speak to clients. Then you can expand upon that and format the post in revisions.
3. Include a call-to-action (CTA).
Now let's say you've written an amazing blog post. It solves a very real problem your freelance writing prospects face. It's written in a style that speaks to them and that they find appealing.
Does that mean your reader is going to be left thinking about hiring you?
Leave readers hanging after giving them the content they came for in the moment, and they might just close the page and move on to the next thing they wanted to do, or read, or look up.
If you want prospects to hire you after reading a blog post, tell them what you want them to do.
Ask them to contact you. Offer to give them a quote on a service related to that post (ideally every post will be related to a specific service you offer). Tell them you're the writer to carry out the solution you proposed in your article.
Close your posts by prompting your reader to take action. That's how you go from having a casual reader or passerby and end up with a warm lead ready to reach out and hire you.
4. Optimize your post.
Maybe you have the perfect post. It solves a problem or helps the reader explore a rewarding opportunity. Your style is right-on for your target market. You have a CTA that you're confident will drive conversions.
How valuable is that post if you don't get eyes on it?
No. Scratch that.
How valuable is that post if you don't the the right eyes on it?
That's where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in. And it's one of the places where I often see freelancers stall. But if you write posts, and you don't get that post in front of people looking to hire writers like you, then why are you wasting your time?
A professional blog isn't an exercise in ego. It's a tool. And one of the best ways to use that tool is to target every post to a different keyword phrase potential clients might use when searching for a writer. This way, when they search Google looking for a copywriter / blogger / whatever-kind-of-writer-you-are in their industry, there you'll be.
When you optimize your posts and get them ranking well in Google, they won't provide immediate traffic. Those rankings can take time. But once you do earn them, they'll continually bring in new leads.
Now multiply that by a post per week for a year.
Sometimes ranking for a single keyword phrase will bring in more leads than you could even take on (what happened with my site for years). And sometimes you'll target more keywords that only bring in a lead or two per month (and yes, some will flop).
But when you have a dozen or so posts all bringing in a lead or two each month for pro-level projects (not piddly one-off gigs), that can also work out to more leads than you can take on. And that not only leaves you in a comfortable place, but it gives you the ability to be even more choosy about the projects you want to take on and the people you want to work with.
Optimize your posts for search engines. Every one of them.
5. Promote your post.
If you can get your professional blog posts ranking well in search results, that's great. But like I said earlier, it can also take time. And this is the other place where I see writers give up too soon on their business blogs.
Sometimes optimizing posts is all a freelancer does, expecting leads to start flowing in. And in time they might. But that isn't the only kind of promotion you can (or should) do.
Again, you have to get your blog posts in front of the eyes of potential clients if you want that blog to be an effective marketing tool. So after you've written and published a helpful, informative, appealing, high-converting blog post, get out there and actively promote it.
If your social media profiles are focused on your professional network (with potential clients, not colleagues), promote your post there.
You can have an email subscription option available to put your posts in your prospects' inboxes (just convince them to subscribe on your site).
If you can do so tastefully, you could even use a particular blog post as a reason to reconnect with a former client (share something you think they'd love), or you could do similar by including custom content recommendations in email pitches to new potential clients.
Your blog goes hand-in-hand with your overall network and visibility. The more you put into building a network and connecting with potential clients, the more prospects you can get each post in front of. And the better your blog, the more it can do to help you expand that network and, ultimately, convert those prospects into paying clients. But don't think of it as a Catch-22 where you need one to build the other. Think of them as two tools at their best when you build them concurrently.
It can sound like a lot to think about -- what each post should revolve around, having a direct call-to-action for every one, optimizing your content, and actively promoting it for the quickest returns. But once you put together a system that works for you, and you get in the habit of sticking to it on a regular basis, it'll start to feel like second nature.
That's the gist of what each blog post on your professional blog needs to do. Are yours?
Do you have any additional steps you include to land more writing gigs from your blog? Tell me about them in the comments.
(Note: Parts of this post were originally published in 2013 -- hence why you'll find some older comments below. The outdated content has been updated, and I've greatly expanded upon this topic as an intro to my series on freelance writer blogs for 2018.)
We've been talking recently about freelance writer websites and how they can help you attract prospects and convert them into clients. Today let's focus on a particular element of professional sites -- freelance writer blogs.
Now, I'm not talking about freelance writing blogs, where you write about freelance writing itself, and where your content is for other writers. The vast majority of freelancers don't need those, and they aren't an efficient tool for landing gigs.
I'm talking about professional blogs written for clients.
Freelance Writer Blogs: The Basics
Your freelance writer blog is a blog on your professional site where you help, teach, or inform your target prospects.
It's a tool that can turn prospects from one-time visitors to your business site into subscribers or at least regular visitors because you're giving them specialized content that's relevant to their business.
That, in turn, keeps your name in front of prospects on a regular basis. And when they're looking to hire someone in your specialty area, you'll be the freelancer who comes to mind.
You have a couple of options when launching a freelance writer blog:
You can launch a standalone blog, separate from your professional site (either on its own domain or a subdomain).
You can integrate your freelance writer blog into your larger website.
My preference leans strongly toward the latter -- making your client-facing blog a part of your professional site itself.
The only good reason I can think of for keeping it separate would be if your professional site wasn't in a content management system (like WordPress) that could accommodate a blog. But at that point, I'd sooner have the whole site redesigned on a blog-friendly CMS than host them separately and potentially create a marketing and SEO mess to clean up later.
What exactly is a blog?
If you're familiar with blogging, pardon me while I go very basic here for a moment. But occasionally I hear from freelancers who don't have blogs (or even professional sites) because they launched their careers when they were neither common nor necessary.
Now, however, if they want to compete effectively for newer types of gigs (think blogging, web copy, or even writing for digital magazines), a website and blog can be essential.
If you happen to be one of these folks, and the idea of blogging is totally new to you, don't fret. Blogs are simple, and you're well-equipped to manage one.
A blog is nothing but online content where both of the following are true:
Content is published in reverse chronological order (so your newest posts would be the first thing people see when they visit the blog itself).
There is a social element to the content. Your readers have the ability to interact with it, and you, as opposed to something like an article appearing in print.
That's it. Really.
"Blogs" do not indicate a certain type of content.
Any content meeting those two requirements can technically be on a blog. That could mean:
casual or personal posts;
more formal feature articles like you might find in print publications;
and pretty much any kind of content you can come up with.
If you can write, you can manage a professional blog -- even if you need some technical guidance to set it up initially.
What Should a Freelance Writer Blog Include?
We'll get into the reasons you should consider having a freelance writer blog shortly. But for now let's assume you've decided to include one on your professional site.
What would that blog even include?
I already gave you some basic content types you could focus on. But let's look at a few specifics based on posts from three of the five freelance writer websites I highlighted as good examples for your own.
1. Share news about your business or services that might affect clients.
This is my least favorite way to use a professional blog simply because it revolves heavily around you rather than your prospects or clients. But this is one type of post you can include in your broader mix.
Yolander Prinzel had good reason to publish a post like this last fall when a hurricane passed through her area. This isn't a traditional blog post by any means. It's only a few sentences. It's going to do nothing for SEO. It's not trying to sell visitors on anything.
So why include it?
We sometimes get so caught up in getting blogging advice from marketers that we forget blogs have value well beyond increasing subscribers and sales. There are plenty of PR benefits. And there are also customer service oriented posts like Yolander's "Delays Due to Hurricane Irma."
In this case the post reassures existing clients (some of whom might have known she was in the storm's path, but mostly letting them know it won't affect their deadlines). More important, it's a notice to prospects who might have reached out so they didn't expect an immediate response while she was addressing bigger issues.
Other types of business-related news you might feature include:
Announcements of breaks if you won't be checking emails for a while (such as an extended vacation or long medical leave);
Sales and promotions that you'll offer for only a limited time;
Announcements of new services you'll start offering.
I wouldn't make these frequent. But if it's something you want subscribed prospects to know about it, go ahead and include it in your professional blog.
2. Publish tutorials to teach clients how to do what you do.
I know how counter-intuitive it sounds to teach your clients and prospects how to do what you want them to hire you to do instead. But it works.
Look. I come from a PR background. Persuasion is a big part of the job. It was essential in my non-profit PR days. It was essential in music PR. And it is just as essential in freelance writing.
I learned early on in the freelance game that the best clients were those willing to learn.
If you've ever seen a prospect tell a writer their gig should be "easy," or you've ever seen them describe their open job as "only X words" as if it's a justification for their low pay, you know what I mean.
When clients are ignorant about the value you bring to the table, they're a nightmare to work with.
Now that's not always the case of course. But if you're targeting relatively new and untouched markets like I was early on, you have two options: put up with their assumptions and demeaning BS, or educate them.
I chose the latter. I spent a lot of time early on making a name for myself within my narrow market by being the one who could explain PR writing beyond "you'll get some backlinks" (what most generic writers focused on at the time). I could teach them about true media relations, the reputational value of press releases, thought leadership and industry presence, and how that PR writing involved much more than one project type.
When you teach prospects, you build trust.
You also build an appreciation for the work you do, and that's reflected in how much you can earn.
Press releases were the primary service those folks were interested in at the time. So I didn't just answer questions about them. I went so far as offering a guide prospects could use to write their own DIY releases without hiring me.
I sold the guide, so it was a way to monetize the time I was spending answering questions, and a way to monetize people who couldn't afford to hire me anyway.
The guide cemented my reputation with those prospects even more as someone who stood out as an actual PR expert and not just another generic content writer.
I knew that when prospects did write their own releases many would would either A) realize how hard it can be to do well and hire me before they even finished their first, or B) they'd not see the coverage they were hoping for and they'd come to a pro for help the next time.
Know what happened?
That guide (which brought in thousands of dollars in direct sales and only took me a weekend to create) ended up bringing in well into five figures worth of press release writing gigs in just the year-and-a-half I sold it. Many of those clients continued working with me for years. Some still do (one has been with me for all of their press releases since 2007).
Eventually I got tired of updating the e-book (which also touched on the distribution side a bit, which frequently changes). So I left it up but made it a free download. It still occasionally brings in clients, and I'm actually planning to condense that freebie to focus only on writing and re-release a paid, more in-depth, option later this year as part of a resource series.
When you take the time to teach your prospects, you not only demonstrate your knowledge of your subject matter (whether that's a project type or industry). You build greater respect for the value you offer when prospects have at least a basic understanding of what your work entails. And that can not only lead to more gigs... it can lead to better-paying gigs.
You don't have to go all-out with an e-book (though mine was originally about 20 pages, so they don't have to be long). You can do similar with your freelance writer blog.
Cathy Miller does a great job with this kind of content on her professional blog, Simply Stated Business. She focuses more on tips than full-fledged tutorials, but whether she's covering style or the importance of word choice in business writing, she's essentially giving prospects a glimpse into the complexities of what she does. But if you want to check out one of her project-specific guides, read "How to Bullet-Proof Your Technical Presentation."
3. Use your blog to show the value of your services.
Another kind of post you might include on your freelance writer blog is one directly designed to promote one of your services.
This doesn't mean it should be a salesy in-your-face kind of post. Take a soft sell approach (something else my PR background makes me a big fan of). Like tutorials, it comes down to educating clients. But think of these posts as more of a gentle nudge, pushing someone towards an interest in your services by exposing them to the benefits of a certain project type.
In essence, these blogs posts are almost like mini white papers.
What does a white paper do?
You identify a problem or opportunity.
You make a case for the importance of solving that problem or taking advantage of that opportunity -- think statistics.
You offer a general solution for that problem.
Then you promote your own service as a specific solution.
You can do that with blog posts too.
Choose a project type you want to promote.
Choose a market segment who could benefit from that project most.
Identify their problem or opportunity (what benefit will they get out of your project?).
Convince the reader that project type is the solution to their problem.
End with a call-to-action (CTA) that basically says "Oh, you like that idea? Well, it just so happens I can help with that when you're ready. Let's talk."
Simple, right? You're selling the type of writing you do -- not selling yourself. So if you're the type of writer who's uncomfortable with pushy direct sales, this might be the perfect kind of soft sell promotion for you.
These kinds of blog posts don't have to follow the exact structure I mentioned. They just need to convince prospects they need a certain type of writing you happen to specialize in.
Look. I'm not going to say every freelance writer should have a professional blog. You do you.
But I will say the vast majority of freelancers would likely benefit from a professional blog if they put some serious thought into content strategy, quality posts, and getting the right eyes on that content.
Let me try to make the case with some of the biggest benefits of having your own freelance writer blog that focuses on prospects.
1. A blog can make it easier to attract prospects via SEO.
A decade or two ago, you could probably get away without having a blog on your professional website. It wouldn't have affected your search engine rankings as much as now as long as the rest of your professional site featured high quality, well-targeted copy (and you built plenty of backlinks).
That isn't enough anymore.
Google factors in "freshness" these days. I'm not going to pretend to understand every little element of every ranking factor Google uses. They change all the time. But what I've seen from my own professional blog as well as those I manage for clients is that sites that are kept fresh (with more frequent updates) tend to rank better than static sites (with no, or rare, new content).
Blogs are an easy way to add fresh content to an otherwise-static business website.
In particular, I've seen my homepage perform much better for my main target keyword phrases when I include a dynamic (changing) list of the most recent blog posts right on the homepage (rather than only having them available on a separate "Blog" page). I've mentioned this here before, but with my own site I've noticed every time I stop updating the blog for a while, I drop in the rankings. And if I start posting again, my site ranks better again within a couple of weeks. It really does matter.
This is a good time for a reminder: most of the high-paying freelance writing jobs out there aren't publicly advertised. Those prospects often find their writers through referrals, through pitches they receive, and by searching for writers who would be a good fit.
When prospects search for a writer like you, are you showing up in results?
If not, you need to work on your search engine optimization. And featuring fresh content not only helps you do that for your main page, but every blog post is an opportunity to target another longtail keyword phrase (longer search queries than just a few words).
2. A blog helps you demonstrate authority in your specialty area.
Blogs aren't just about traffic. They also offer you a great deal of freedom in what you write. That means you can write about any industry issue that might affect clients, share opinions, interview industry insiders, educate your client base about something they care about -- all things that can turn you and your blog into a go-to source for authoritative information.
Why does that matter?
Authority (or expertise) matters for a few reasons:
When you're considered an authority in your specialty area, you can command higher rates.
When your blog shows readers that you know what you're talking about, you have a better chance of getting them to click on the sales-centric links on your site, giving you a much warmer lead.
When you're seen as an authority in your specialty area, it opens doors to additional revenue streams such as e-courses, e-books, books, coaching, and consulting services. These can be nice add-ons to your writing services and can help tide you over if you ever have a slow period.
To be clear, yapping about a niche or industry on a blog won't make you an expert or authority. You need to build experience and expertise first. Then you blog about it because you'll have something of value to say -- something not every Joe Schmo can weigh in on in the same way.
Can you demonstrate authority in other ways?
Absolutely. But it all comes down to control and analytics (just like with your professional website).
You want to retain control over how your content promotes your business, and you need to be able to track data that can tell you what works and what needs to improve.
By all means, publish elsewhere if it will help you reach your target market. Just don't do that in lieu of having your own blog.
Own your content first. And let everything else be a supplement. You'll find you can get a lot of mileage out of your blog content (through social media posts, combining them into longer guides, or creating related multimedia content for example).
3. Blogging helps you build your professional network.
No, I'm not talking about networking with other writers. That's not what your business blog is for. Your blog tied to your professional website will instead help you build a network of prospects, clients, sources, and other industry insiders.
Blogging helps you build a community.
Your blog posts will invite discussion, and even debate. You'll meet people you otherwise might never have come across. And those connections matter.
You never know when one of your regular blog readers will need a writer like you in their corner.
It's also possible your readers will hear from someone else who needs a referral. Guess who they're going to think of -- the freelance writers in their own network who they've come to trust and respect. You want to be one of those writers.
That's not to say blogging should be your only networking tool. But it can be a valuable one.
Other Reasons Freelancers Should Consider Blogging
Freelance writer blogs can be incredible promotional tools if you let them.
There are precious few things that will give you as much bang for your buck, and over time your blog can bring in a steady stream of client offers when you make it a part of your writer platform.
The thing is, blogs aren't only about the networking and marketing benefits mentioned above. There are other reasons you should consider adding a blog to your professional site. (Whether or not these apply to you might depend on where you currently are in your career.)
Blog posts act like extra portfolio pieces, whether you include them in your portfolio or not -- especially helpful to newer freelancers and freelance bloggers.
If you write for the web, your blog will teach you a lot about what your clients do (and what they expect of you). For example, you'll learn about search engine optimization, content strategy, social media marketing, and content management systems (like WordPress) -- all things you might be expected to know on your next gig.
Fresh blog posts give you something to promote via social media to keep your network interested in your site. You can't keep tweeting about your writing services. You won't land many clients that way. But link to helpful content on your blog instead, and you might have an easier time building your readership -- which is full of prospects.
Blogs offer a great amount of freedom, which makes them ideal tools in personal branding which is important if you as an individual are the name and face of your business.
Blogging keeps you writing. If you're new or going through a slow time, it's easy to get discouraged. Managing your own blog gives you something to always push forward on.
Blogging can force you to stay on top of news and issues that are important in your industry or specialty area, so you're never out of touch with what's important to your clients.
Your blog serves as your social hub of sorts -- it's what all of your other social media profiles link back to, giving you consistency in audience and branding.
Blogs can help you land media coverage or coverage on other industry blogs -- this goes back demonstrating authority or expertise, which makes you a prime interview source.
Every single blog post you write gives you another opportunity to put a call to action in front of your prospects.
A blog helps you put feelers out and better understand how your target market feels about certain issues, events, and even working with freelancers. That's a benefit of the two-way conversations blogs encourage.
Blogs can help you push past writer's block by letting you explore something different for a short time, or by letting you explore things in a different way.
Blogs are fairly easy to manage in the grand scheme of running a business, and they don't have to take too much of your time.
That's right. Blogs don't have to take a huge amount of time. They don't have to take any time away from client work. I've heard that argument against launching a blog so many times. But it's a myth.
Yes, You Have Time to Blog
Can blogs take a lot of time to manage? They sure can.
This blog can take a lot of time to manage for example. And it took even more time when I ran it as a group blog. But this was never a client-facing blog tied to a professional website. This was a blog run as a publication combined with a broader collection of resources -- a business model in its own right. That's a completely different animal. And I think that's where the confusion comes in -- false assumptions about business blogging because we're so used to seeing blogs run as independent publications these days.
When it comes to a professional blog, you only have to sink in as much time as you're able to. That might mean a few posts per week. It might mean just one or two posts per month. Either is okay. And you don't have to force yourself to follow any other blogger's schedule. You just need to find one that suits you.
Blogging: Putting Time in up Front
Most of that time will be put in up front to set up your blog. If you already have a website, that can be a pretty fast process (especially if you built your site on an easily adaptable content management system with a built-in blogging feature -- I always recommend self-hosted WordPress for this).
Even if you're starting a new professional site and blog from scratch, installation is a breeze. Many hosting companies have one-click installations for WordPress. It doesn't get any easier than that. Even if you install the platform manually, WordPress offers instructions for a 5-minute install. If you're already familiar with WordPress, it probably won't even take you that long.
After that, you'll get your basic settings in order (like choosing your permalink settings or setting a static page as your homepage so your blog looks like an internal feature of your professional site). I covered some of these basic settings in the first post in my WordPress for Writers series.
Choose a theme (your design template) from the WordPress repository or a premium theme provider...
I've long advocated making your rates public. I've never had a newer writer I worked with tell me they regret adding rates to their site after I've prompted them to do so (quite the opposite). And I've never heard a good reason not to that doesn't have a simple solution.
Yet this is a perennial issue and question in the freelance writing community. So I want to go into more detail about why I think it's important for most freelance writers to make their rates public in some form.
This is a topic I covered here back in 2010. So rather than tackle it yet again in a separate post, I'm drastically updating and expanding upon my original arguments below (why you'll see some old feedback in the comments). While I'll touch on the points made in the original post, what you'll find below is mostly new.
The Client Perspective
A while back I asked another freelance writer who designed her logo because every time I saw it, it stood out. I loved it. Every now and then I need new logo work done, so I figured I'd take a look at the designer's site to see if they'd be a good match. One problem though -- they didn't list their rates.
As a buyer, I hate that. And I've been a frequent buyer of freelance services.
I've hired freelance designers.
I've hired freelance developers.
I've hired freelance sub-contractors.
I've hired freelance consultants.
I've hired at least a couple dozen freelance writers for my own sites over the years.
I've hired even more writers on behalf of clients who ran large sites when I worked in an editorial capacity.
And what I can tell you as someone who's hired quite a few freelance professionals is this: If you don't have some kind of rate information on your website, you aren't getting hired.
Why? Well, simply:
No, I don't want to take time out of my day to request a custom quote with absolutely no expectations going in.
No, I don't want you emailing me to pitch your services later just because you've heard from me once to ask for said quote.
And no, I definitely do not want to give you my phone number so you can call me to do the same thing.
And when I would contact people who didn't go out of their way to make my life easier as a buyer, these things are exactly what happened.
My time was wasted (and not only because rates were sometimes out of my, or a client's, budget -- you're just as unlikely to get hired if I'm looking for a pro and your rates scream "amateur"). I'd turn someone down only to get repeated emails from them later, pitching me on services or offering to renegotiate because it turns out they really needed a gig after all. And I'd get phone calls (less often, but enough to be obnoxious) wanting to reconnect and talk about other projects (when I'd never hired them in the first place).
I'm sorry, but I don't have patience for that crap when you don't respect my time enough to give me the info I need up front or when your aim is to prompt me to contact you so you can add me to your marketing list when the reality is you aren't a good fit.
When I visit a freelancer's site because I'm interested in hiring them, I expect to find some very specific things:
A list of the services they provide
At least a general range of what they charge
Some examples of past work in a portfolio
I prefer a well-thought-out About page giving me some background that helps me trust you and see if you're a good match for the project. But I'll settle for those three things when necessary.
If you don't give me those things as a prospect, I generally won't waste my time. I'll leave your site. And I won't be left hurting for it.
Whatever information you're not giving me to make my life easier as a buyer... you can be damn sure plenty of your competitors are. And unless you are the only person in your specialty area, or unless you are so good that your reputation precedes you (hint: for the vast majority of freelancers, it doesn't -- even if you're known among colleagues), you're not the only potential good fit for that (or any) gig.
Does that mean no clients will hire you if your site stays rate-less? Of course not. But think about purchases you make yourself. How many things would you walk away from if faced with the hassle of having no price information? Don't include it, and you miss out on opportunities you otherwise might jump at. If you need gigs right now, you can't afford to do that. And even if you don't... why not maximize prospects coming to you so you have even more choice in the projects you take on?
The Freelance Perspective
Obviously I've also worked as a freelancer -- both in freelance writing and consulting (mostly PR). And the benefits of publishing my freelance rates publicly have far outweighed keeping them off my site from this perspective as well.
Earlier in my career, I was pretty much the only PR professional offering certain writing services to a specific client base. There were some generic writers trying to compete, but there's a huge difference between working with a pro when you need help with media relations as opposed to hiring a writer with no experience or credentials in that area. So convincing clients I was their best option was easy. But those prospects were also seeing absurdly low rates from unskilled folks. So I'd get quite a lot of inquiries from prospects who were shocked to find out I could easily charge 10 times more than what they were seeing elsewhere.
Hearing from those prospects quickly became a pain in the ass. I was having the same conversations over and over again. Sometimes they'd hire me anyway. But I had a simple policy -- if they were vocally put off by my rates, I'd tell them to hire one of those ridiculously low-priced writers, good luck with it, and if they needed someone to clean up the mess they received, they were welcome to come back later. More did come back than you'd probably think (and a few of my longest client relationships started that way).
I got tired of having these similar conversations. So I put my rates up on my site.
Know what happened?
The tire-kickers who couldn't afford me quit wasting my time.
Know what else happened?
I saw an increase in total inquiries.
I learned from some of those clients that my higher rates were specifically why they chose me. If someone's advertising rates that amount to $10 per hour, that says something very different to buyers than seeing someone who charges $100+ per hour for the same services. And if you aren't publishing your rate information, prospects have no idea which of those camps you're in.
As a buyer, I wanted someone bright enough to know their own value. If you don't understand the actual value of the work you do (in terms of realistic ROI), how can you be expected to provide it? And what I learned from my own clients is I was far from the only buyer to feel that way.
So putting my rates on my website did nothing but improve my situation.
I wasted less time with people who were never going to hire me.
I saw more inquiries from clients who could afford me.
It had a positive impact on my overall professional reputation.
Publishing my rates was one of the better decisions I made early in my career. But even that isn't the main reason I feel so strongly about the benefits of this decision.
I also work with newer writers. Sometimes they come to me for one-off advice. Sometimes I help them out here on the site. And while I don't do it often anymore, I used to spend a lot of time working one-on-one with newer writers, helping them either launch or improve their writing careers.
One of the first things I encourage them to do is get public rates on their site. And as I mentioned earlier in this post, I've not once had one of those writers tell me they regretted that choice after trying it.
Instead they saw similar benefits to what I did -- fewer lousy inquiries, suddenly getting better conversions from prospects visiting their site, and in a couple of cases that I'm aware of they were also outright told their rates were what made them stand out among the amateurs advertising to those similar markets (giving themselves away by undercharging).
Freelance writers aren't the only people I suggest this to.
Remember, my own specialty is working with independent and creative professionals. I've worked with a wide variety of small business owners and solopreneurs as a result. And clearly promoting fees has never led people I've helped, coached, or worked for to see less, or less relevant, work in a way that convinced them to remove those rates again later. I've not seen that happen even once.
So this isn't something that comes just from one person's experience. It comes from seeing this simple change pay off over, and over, and over again.
That doesn't mean I haven't heard every argument under the sun though...
Arguments Against Publishing Freelance Writing Rates
I mentioned earlier that I've never heard a good reason for hiding freelance writing fees because there's always a workaround to address concerns. So let's look at a few of the most common arguments I've heard (some of which were shared in the comments of the original version of this post, so you can see some direct back-and-forth there below).
Argument: If I make my rates public, not enough prospects will contact me.
This is one of the sillier arguments.
First, it's not necessarily true. As I mentioned, I'm not the only writer I know who's seen an increase in inquiries after publishing rates.
More important though, what's "enough?"
A great thing about freelancing is that we don't need a heck of a lot of clients to fill our billable hours each week. You don't need some massive number of prospects contacting you to land the gigs you need in order to reach your income targets.
The number of prospects contacting you to discuss their projects isn't what's important. What's important is reaching the right prospects -- not the time-wasters and tire-kickers who take your time away from the work you really want to be doing without any benefit.
Does that mean it's impossible to take an occasional low-budget prospect and convince them to hire you even after they find your rates shocking? No. Of course this is possible. But why spend time doing this if you can attract better-qualified leads up front, save time on having to sell yourself, and get busy booking those billable hours with less hassle?
Argument: Every project is a special little snowflake that's totally unique, so there's no way I can publish standard rates without getting project specs first.
If you have even a moderate amount of experience, you have some sense of how long different project types take you. You also have some idea about what clients most often ask you for.
Take a press release for example.
The vast majority of them are a single page. They involve asking the clients a similar set of questions for background regardless of what their unique news angle is. If I need to conduct interviews for quotes, I know how much info I need, and I'm skilled enough to know how to pull the kinds of quotes I want quickly. I know how long that will typically take. I know how long the entire project will typically take. So I have a standard rate for that.
Here's the thing though. A standard, or advertised, rate can have parameters. For example, my base rate for press releases covers up to 400 words. If a client wants a longer release (which might include an extra interview to pull a second quote, which might include helping with addenda, etc.), it's understood up front that they'll pay more.
Publicly sharing your rates on your website does not stop you from customizing quotes based on exact project specs later.
If you're a freelance blogger, yes, blog posts can vary a lot. But you should have an idea of how long it takes you to write a 500 word post versus a 2000 word post. You have some idea of how long it takes you to source images, handle social media promotion, or take on any related tasks a client might request. You also know what your particular clients tend to ask for most often.
There's no good reason you can't publish a base rate, lay out the parameters of what that covers, and note that longer content or add-on services will cost extra. You can list a "starting at" rate for example for lower word count posts. Or you can offer a rate chart covering posts at different lengths (that's what I personally opt to do).
This applies to any freelance writing project you can think of. You know how long an 8-10 page white paper takes you to write on average. You know the extent of interviews you do before writing a case study. At the very least you have some idea of how long it typically takes you to write X words, or Y pages.
That's the kind of information that gives you a base rate. It's kind of like hourly rates and how I have a "get out of bed rate" -- the bare minimum a project has to pay for me to drag my ass out of bed and work on a client's project rather than my own. That's $150 per hour. If a client project won't pay that much, then I have better things to do with my time.
That doesn't, however, mean all of my projects pay $150 per hour. A regular client of mine has projects that pay $200+ per hour routinely. I've done blogging at my "get out of bed rate." But I've also taken on blogging gigs paying $400 per hour.
Publishing a rate, or building policies on a base rate, in no way limits you to it.
And that's where the unique aspect of every project comes in. Why would one of my blogging gigs pay $150 per hour and another pay $400 per hour?
I was more of a subject matter expert in the higher-paying gig's area.
I was literally being paid to offer my opinions because of that industry expertise, based on my own experience (as opposed to requiring much third party research).
In the higher-paid gig, I'd been working with the client for years, knew them and their audience inside-out, and had been a major part of creating the editorial strategy from the start. (In other words, I was a decision-maker; I had immense freedom to choose what to write about and how to handle any given post or project.)
That's one of the perks of having base rates.
Sure, you might screw up and underestimate the time required for a project once in a while (though you'll learn from those mistakes). But it also means as you get more familiar with a client and their readers' expectations, and that work comes much faster, you aren't penalized for that because your time estimates become lower than they might be for a similar project elsewhere.
The work is faster. But you deserve to be paid more in an hourly sense because that relationship and personalized experience adds to your value.
So yes, projects might all be different. But that doesn't mean they're so different that you can't give prospects an idea of what to expect before making them contact you. Just make sure advertised rates are clearly starting rates, or lay out details of what those rates cover and what will trigger additional fees.
At a bare minimum, you can give a specific example or two. That might mean including rate info alongside a case study for something you did for a client. Or use a hypothetical example where you map out a project's specs and note how much it would cost. You're not over-committing in any way. But you are giving prospects some idea of where their budget needs to be in order to work with someone like you.
Public freelance writing rates are only as restrictive as you choose to make them.
Argument: If I publish my low(ish) rates, it might keep better clients from hiring me.
Yeah. It might.
But the solution isn't hiding your rates in this case. It's raising them.
Look. If you're essentially embarrassed by how low your freelance fees are, there's a reason for that. You know you should be charging more. So why aren't you?
If you're anything like writers I've worked with in the past, I can probably tell you why...
"I'm not good enough to be charging as much as so-and-so."
"Clients will feel like I screwed them over with my rates once they see my work."
So you stick with low rates for far too long because you'd rather condemn yourself to a life of playing the quantity game with cheap clients than have a little faith in yourself and see if better clients see more value in you than you currently see in yourself.
You figure if you keep your rates quiet publicly, you can just quote higher if a better client with a potentially-bigger budget comes along. They'll never know what you charged those cheaper clients, right?
That depends. I fell into an accidental niche of writing for directory owners early on. They just happened to be a group of solopreneurs that found me at the time, and they were often adding blogs to those sites then. I could have quietly charged any rate I wanted. They had bigger budgets than you might expect.
One problem though...
These clients tended to run in a fairly small circle. It's how my name got spread around. They hung out in the same communities. They didn't hesitate to ask each other about contractors when they saw us working for a similar site. And it wasn't uncommon for these owners to buy each other out. (One of my oldest clients ended up owning directories from two of my past clients at one point, and for one of those sites I'd been there longer than any of its three owners I'd worked for.)
The point is that you have no idea if your prospects know each other and might talk. And if they go to others in their industry for referrals, they very well might discuss rates.
Obviously this depends on the size of your specialized niche or industry, where and how you're marketing your services, and what kind of price variation we're talking about. But there's no guarantee word won't get around and you won't cause bitterness when someone finds out you're charging their colleague or competitor much less than you quoted them.
Why even risk that when you can always increase your public rates for new prospects and just tell existing clients you're keeping them at their old rate for X months?
Will you get fewer lower-paying prospects contacting you?
Probably. But if you already know you should be charging more, that isn't a bad thing. You have to weed out the low-payers to make room for better clients.
Will all of your existing clients agree to pay more after their rate grace period expires?
No. But in some cases you'll get a raise you might never have otherwise asked for. As for the rest, see my response to the previous question.
Look. Raising rates isn't a passive thing.
If you're raising those rates significantly, that can involve actively targeting an entirely different market. And you can get there faster by hanging out your shingle and being up front about the kinds of clients you're looking to work with (including in a budgetary sense).
If nothing else, publicly advertising your freelance rates can be a great way to test markets. See what kind of response you get, or if it even makes a difference in the industry or niche you focus on. But don't let the fear or losing lousy pay hold you back from more actively pursuing better markets. Say what you're worth. Ask for it. And don't be afraid or embarrassed to do that.
And as for the inevitable "but what if some low-paying client would be a super-cool project I'd love to take on, and they don't reach out because they can't afford me, and they don't know I'd have worked for them for less..." (Yeah, I've heard this a few times.)
Give me a break.
If you have available billable hours to work for less than usual just for some vanity gig or hobby project, you have bigger marketing problems than whether or not you should list your rates on your website.
How much benefit are you really getting out of some big name client or some fun little gig that it's worth them devaluing you and what you bring to the table?
If you really want to work with a specific client just to slap their name in your portfolio or because you think they'd be a hoot to work with, pitch them directly. There is absolutely nothing to stop you from doing this. (Or better yet, find an equally prestigious or interesting client actually willing and able to pay your rates.)
This idea that you shouldn't do everything you can to attract and appeal to your ideal clients because it might turn off some under-paying folks who you might enjoy playing with on some project is absurd. In business, you need to get your priorities straight. And your priority should be those ideal clients -- not the flukes you'd find so fun you're willing to slash your rates for them.
My [insert profession] doesn't post rates, so I shouldn't either.
This is one of those arguments I addressed in the comments on the original version of this post, so you can see that below.
Normally I hear the mechanic comparison. But a previous reader brought up doctors too. Let me address both.
First, we're talking apples and oranges here.
Industry norms are very different. And you can't compare freelance writing to something like an auto mechanic.
You aren't competing with a doctor or a mechanic who might not have rates listed publicly. You are competing with other freelance writers. And many of them will make this information available to prospects up front.
That's why hiding this information can do you a disservice. I already addressed why that is earlier in this post, so I'll spare you any further on that. But I do want to knock down these two particular examples.
Let's start with doctors.
Here's the thing. If you (in the U.S.) walk into a doctor's office expecting to pay in-full in-cash for services, you're an exception, not the rule. Typically when it comes to medical services here, we have the insurance company operating as middleman.
Those insurance companies have indeed negotiated rates for specific services up front with medical providers. These rates aren't some big mystery.
Even when it comes to the patient's side of things, a typical patient doesn't need a price list from their doctor. They work through that insurance company. And they do know up front what they should be paying, because their deductibles and co-pays are laid out for them before they ever need to see a doctor.
For example, I had minor surgery several years ago. The total cost? $14k. I had exceptional insurance at that time, so I paid nothing. Not a dime. While I had small co-pays for normal doctor visits, I had none on surgeries. No deductibles. I knew exactly what I'd be responsible for (or not) going..
Do you ever feel overwhelmed, and you just need to step away and take some time to yourself? Maybe you still intend to work, but you just want some quiet time away from other people while you do so you can recharge and clear your head a bit. When that happens, what should you do with your professional website?
You might be inclined to leave your site alone for a few days to a week. But there are other options that can give you peace of mind and the temporary isolation you crave without costing you work.
Taking a Social Break Without Interfering with Business
As of yesterday, I'm on one of these isolation periods to sort some things out. I've been having an especially rough time since mid-January (not that the previous year was much better). Then last week something came to my attention, and doing what needed to be done was hard and left me feeling a million times worse. It got to be a bit too much.
Normally when life gets overwhelming, I just take some time off work as soon as I can. But even if the downtime feels good in the moment, it never seems to help with the larger issue. That's because what I need time away from isn't writing. It's people -- especially when they're constant unintentional reminders of what I need to forget.
So, until someone develops a pill that can give me selective amnesia, I'm trying something different.
I'm taking a "quiet week" -- no interacting on social media, almost no emails, ignoring my phone, not checking blog comments, staying away from Skype, etc.
That doesn't mean I'm totally unplugging. It doesn't mean I won't be working. I just need time away from the social side of things -- friends, family, colleagues, everyone. About half of my work will be finished early so I can spend more time sleeping, in nature, and trying to get myself back into some creative projects.
This isn't the first time I've done this exactly. But in the past it was always about me wanting to sink that time into a passion project with no distractions. And it's worked very well for that.
But taking this kind of social break can involve some preparation, including with your professional site. After all, the entire point of it is to connect you with other people. So when taking a break like this, you might want to take some precautions so you don't put off prospects, clients, followers, or subscribers. And that's what I spent this weekend doing.
Here are some of the things I did, and decisions I made, to make sure my professional website and related resources keep working for me even while I'm not actively monitoring them:
Blog posts are pre-scheduled.
With me just recently getting my client-focused blog back on track, I didn't want to take the week off from blogging. So I wrote and pre-scheduled this week's two posts. I also pre-scheduled posts for all other blogs due to be updated this week.
If you bulk-write evergreen content for your professional blog and schedule it in a platform like WordPress, you can step away from the site while your prospects or subscribers still get the content they expect.
I'm ignoring comments for one week.
If you get a lot of comments on your blog, you'll have to decide how to deal with those. In my case, there are rarely comments on that particular blog, so I'm not worried about it. It's unlikely anyone would be affected there anyway. And on my other blogs, most commenters are auto-approved (unless it's their first one), so again it won't affect many, if any, readers.
If your situation is different, you might opt to approve them less often, or change your auto-approval settings while you're away so you don't keep people waiting in moderation.
Email auto-checks are being adjusted.
I have my email software check all of my accounts on-and-off throughout the day. But I don't intend to check any personal emails or site-related emails for my blogs this week. And I know if I see those emails come in, I'm going feel tempted to dig into the inevitable pile of messages.
So for this week I'm changing my settings. My site and personal accounts won't be auto-checked at all (I'd have to be weak enough to manually do it to get sucked down that hole). The only exception will be emails coming through my client address -- how current clients reach me, and what my contact form sends project briefs and quote requests through.
In other words, the only emails I'll likely deal with are responding with quotes, discussing delivered work with clients if they have questions or edit requests, and hashing out details on a couple of projects scheduled for the following week. That's it.
I'm also disabling email notifications and auto-checks on my mobile. If you want to cut email ties for a few days, make sure you check your settings anywhere you have access to email.
Email newsletters & social media updates are being scheduled.
While this blog isn't my professional site, here's a tip you can use on yours if you have an email newsletter -- schedule your emails ahead of time.
For example, there are daily and weekly subscriber emails to send when new posts go up here. I now send short manual updates to share posts. So I wrote them ahead of time, as I was writing and scheduling the articles themselves.
The only risk is if you mess up scheduling somehow or if you run into technical issues that prevent a post from going live before the email goes out. I haven't seen that happen in years though, so I'm comfortable taking that chance. Knock on wood.
If you stick with RSS-based blog emails (what I recently switched from), you won't even have to do that much. Your emails should still go out without any additional input from you.
You can do the same with some social media updates. In my case, I mostly share new posts on Twitter. So I'm simply scheduling post announcements using TweetDeck.
I thought about still posting job leads to Twitter, but I'm opting against it because using the social network at all during this week is very likely to suck me in reading updates that I'm trying to take a break from. But they'll still go up on the job board itself.
In your case, you might have updates that need to be dealt with in real-time. And that's okay. If you're trying to limit that time though, consider a once-a-day policy for a while, so you can post, schedule and respond without getting pulled into constant social media discussions.
Here are some other things you can do.
Those changes are going to go a long way to simplifying my life this week and giving me a relatively quiet existence. But there's more you can do to make sure a break doesn't negatively impact your own business too much, whether that's taking some time to recharge, going on vacation, or needing some sick time.
If your break will impact clients at all, let them know as early as you can.
If you can't take on all paid work, refer a trusted colleague or hire a sub-contractor to help out for a short period.
If you plan to ease off email and it will take you a little longer than usual to respond, set up an auto-responder so prospects know what to expect.
You can also update your contact page with a longer response estimate than usual (such as 48 business hours instead of 24, just temporarily).
If there's no time to write posts ahead of time for your blog, ask a colleague if they're interested in guest posting. You can return the favor later if they need it.
Another option is to check your older posts. If something is timely again, consider minor updates and a fresh publication date instead of writing a new post from scratch.
While I don't particularly care for this option, if you need to automate social media updates when scheduled posts go live, you can use a third party service to set this up (rather than manually writing and scheduling updates as I'm doing).
If you normally have your phone number on your site, but you don't want to deal with unscheduled calls during your break, remove it while you're gone. Instead direct people to email you to set up a call. (This has been my standard practice for years, and it's never been a problem.)
If you maintain an availability calendar on your site, go ahead and update it to show your time that week is accounted for. All that matters on their end is whether you're available or not. It's no one's business who you've scheduled appointments and projects with, even if it's with yourself.
You probably won't need to do all of these things. Just decide on the type and extent of break you need, then tailor some of these suggestions to your own schedule and client expectations. There's no reason taking some "me time" has to mean giving up prospects or projects you'd otherwise love to take on. In a sense, you can be available... even when you're not.
Have you ever done something like this? Did you make any changes to your professional site, how it's promoted, or the contacts that come through it? If you have other tips, tools, or ideas, I'd love to hear about them in the comments. In the meantime, I'll be back with a new post in a couple of days. And, as of now, I expect to be back fully next Monday.
David Rodeck is a business and financial writer similar to Yolander, so this is a good opportunity to look at two professional sites in the same specialty area to compare and contrast. But for this post, we'll look at David's site individually. Let's start with an overview.
Summary of DavidRodeck.com
David's site is about as simple as they come. I'd call this almost a "brochure" website. There's some background info about David and his experience. There are samples. And there's a contact page. That's the gist of it. Here's the homepage of the site:
I'm not really sure what to say about this site in terms of highlights. The biggest thing it has going for it is its simplicity. But that also comes at a cost. That might work in David's case if he doesn't need his site to bring in frequent leads (such as if he's getting more from referrals). But if you need your site to work harder as an inbound marketing tool, I'd add to this one. So let's jump right into the suggestions.
Suggestions for DavidRodeck.com
Here are some potential issues that stood out when reviewing the site from the eyes of a prospect, and some suggestions for improvement:
On quick glance (which is all you'll get from prospects if your site doesn't immediately help them find what they want), I have no idea what kinds of projects David takes on. There's no obvious service list. There's not even a Services pages in the navigation (which, like the About page I've suggested other freelancers add to their sites, is the kind of page prospects are going to look for by default). I'd suggest adding this info as a priority, even if it's just a list on the homepage that pops from the body copy.
Check over all pages and make sure they have a call-to-action (CTA). For example, at the end of David's About page, I'd suggest prompting people to contact him instead of just leaving them hanging after giving them background.
I feel like there's too much going on in the main navigation for social proof. A client list, a portfolio, and a separate testimonials page aren't necessary. Most prospects aren't going to sit there clicking all over your site. So direct them where you want them to go wisely. David's site is a great example where all of this can be combined. For example, if he started with his Past Clients page where he describes his work history with key clients, he could link to samples of work he's done for them right there. Then if they've provided a testimonial, that could be included too. The information is there to make a good case for hiring him. But right now it feels a bit scattered.
This is a minor thing, but if your main contact info is an email address, link it. It's not a big deal if you also have a contact form, but don't force prospects to copy/paste something to reach you. Make it easier on them by giving them a simple email link or a contact form where they can write to you directly from your site.
If you don't actually list rates, don't bother with a Rates page. What's there on David's page are payment terms, and that's different. There's nothing on the Rates page that actually tells prospects how much they can expect to pay for a typical project. Now I know David had talked to Peter Bowerman about this. And while I adore Peter, publishing rates is an area where we have long disagreed. (You can see us both weigh in on this issue in the comments on Chris Bibey's 2011 post on freelance fee schedules for example.) I feel very strongly about publishing your rates. That's especially true if you're a newer writer or you need your site to attract and convert clients. (Some writers don't -- those who have been at it long enough that more work comes from repeat clients and referrals... those who mostly market through pitching... those working with larger corporate clients exclusively... and those writing primarily for magazines where they don't directly set all of their rates for example.) I've worked with quite a lot of newer writers over the last decade, and one thing they've never told me they regret is adding rates to their site. It more often helps them weed out tire-kickers and those who don't come close to being able to afford them. I've also hired dozens of writers for my own properties and on behalf of clients, and I can tell you from the perspective of an actual client, I don't hire any freelancer who doesn't publish rate information. If you don't give me the info I'm looking for, and your competition does, you're off the list before I even contact you. Making your prospects' lives more difficult isn't a safe bet for convincing them to hire you. We'll go into this more later this month, giving the issue a post all its own. But my recommendation is to add the rates (even if they're just starting rates or example rates). And if David opts not to do that, I'd suggest scrapping the Rates page and including the payment terms elsewhere. Having a Rates page with no actual rate information is misleading.
Perhaps the biggest issue I have when looking at this site from the perspective of a prospect is that there's no feel for a brand here at all -- not even a personal one. It's minimalist, but it doesn't look intentionally so. It looks more like a default theme was slapped on a new site, some basic copy was tossed on, and it's still in development. It just looks unfinished. I'd choose a new theme -- one that's appropriate for the kinds of businesses David works with. I'd add a logo or at least more stylized text for the site name. And I'd be clearer about the branding behind his services. Right now his header lists him as a "business and financial writer." The image on his homepage lists him as a "financial marketing writer." Which is it? The first is very general. The second is more specialized. If it's still accurate, I'd focus more on the latter. But either way I'd suggest settling on a consistent way of presenting his services.
There's certainly room to add things here -- a blog, individual service pages, and maybe a resource or two (like a white paper or other short report). But I don't think they're necessary unless David wants to use them to improve search engine rankings or he plans to use a download as incentive to launch an email list.
I hope those suggestions help David and give you some things to evaluate about your own freelance writer website. Next week we'll dive more into the issue of publishing your rates.
When we looked at 5 freelance writer websites done well, I critiqued some professional writer websites to give you ideas about how to improve your own. I also opened it up for review requests for others who wanted public site reviews here on the blog. Yolander Prinzel was the first writer to take me up on that.
Yolander is a freelance financial writer, and back when this was a group blog, Yolander was a regular contributor. (Read her post archive.)
Let's take a look at her site. Then, like in the previous round-up, I'll go over some highlights that strike me as strengths as well as some suggestions where the site might be able to be improved.
Yolander's Site Summary and Highlights
Yo's site is a fairly standard site promoting business writing services. She keeps the look simple and serious which is appropriate for the industry she specializes in. And she emphasizes her credentials throughout the site -- more important in the financial niche where being a subject matter expert can have a significant impact on her value to clients.
Here's a quick peek at the homepage of Yolander's freelance website.
Here are some highlights from Yolander's professional site:
It's fairly easy to navigate.
There are plenty of samples included, and a diverse collection at that.
She offers decent service details (not simply a list).
Her contact form is designed specifically for quotes rather than a generic option.
Suggestions for Yolander's Site
Now Yo and I have known each other a long time and I know she wants the feedback. So I'm going to be nit-picky here in my suggestions. Let's jump right in:
While the individual navigation options are straightforward, the navigation's organization feels awkward to me. I'd suggest having service info before samples for example. Samples exist as supplementary material if prospects need more convincing. But here they're pushed as the most important thing.
Speaking of Yo's samples, the portfolio needs a once-over. There are some samples without links like "Reporting Software Brochure" (maybe removed by a broken link checker plugin?). There's also a simple stylistic problem here where links have different colors. So some seem to be assigned inline styles in the html instead of inheriting the style from the stylesheet. The lower links (showing in dark text) are the ones that need manual styles stripped out.
Also on the samples page, there are some email links. But Yo already has a quote request form on her contact page which gives prospects some direction about the kind of info she needs from them. So I'd link them to that page rather than having links that pop open a blank email. This happens with the CTAs at the end of other pages too, so again I'd link to the contact form.
Speaking of which, the contact form only has a quote request form. That could be confusing for people who might have questions when they aren't ready to buy yet. I'd suggest adding the email address here as well, or at least an email link for more basic questions (like the links currently on her portfolio page).
Back to the contact form, there's a note in the sidebar that when people visit it they might need to have pop-ups enabled. I'd remove that. A) It makes the site sound dated. And B) the form seems to be embedded anyway, so it shouldn't have anything to do with pop-ups.
I'd change "Articles" in the navigation to "Blog." It's linking to a blog that has not only articles but also news updates about Yo's services. If it were only an article archive, I'd say to leave it alone. But it doesn't feel accurate if you click looking for financial writing content and see delay info due to storms first in that list.
Check the style being used for blockquotes. The text is a fairly light gray. Blockquotes should pop against your main copy. This color choice makes them fade into the background more instead.
I mentioned this in feedback on some of the previous sites as well, but I'd suggest adding an About page. Again, it's simply a standard page people look for when visiting business sites. And when you're a solopreneur it's even more important to give people a glimpse of who they're working with. Yes, Yolander gives her credentials elsewhere. But a sidebar isn't where most visitors are likely to think to look. Make the info they'll want easily accessible and as intuitive as possible.
Get back to updating the blog, even if it's only a post or two each month. Or at least remove the "recent posts" section from the sidebar. Right now the latest 5 posts are being shown all over the site in that list. And the fifth mentioned 2014 right in the title, making the site look dated and neglected.
Finally, the one area that felt a little confusing was the set of three service pages. Technically they're all related to finance writing, so I couldn't figure out why services were split through several pages instead of all summarized on the main one. Now, Yolander knows best what specific services her prospects approach her about, so splitting them how they are might be for very good reason. But if not, I'd say maybe combine these. At the very least, interlink them and try to make the "Non-Fiction Editing and Other Services" page more directly finance-related. If you don't catch that niche reference early, the services could be related to anything.
And I think that sums it up. Overall, Yo's been around awhile so I'm sure she's landing gigs in ways beyond her website. But making things a little clearer in the ways mentioned above might help improve conversions a bit by getting prospects the info they want and need most. And updating things (like blog posts and the pop-up reference) can give the whole site a more current feel.
Check back tomorrow for another freelance writer website review. And if you're ready to improve yours, consider doing your own simple content audit or use my own website review as an example to guide you.
No freelance writer website is perfect. I pointed that out when we looked at five freelance writer websites done well. That includes my own site, ProBusinessWriter.com. And today I'd like to use it as an example to show you the kinds of things you might want to change by picking it apart a bit here on the blog.
About a year ago I updated the design on my site. It was looking a little stale, and my previous test with branding changes didn't have much of an impact and it felt much less like me. Here's what the site looks like now:
When I took care of the redesign, I made minor copy updates (to account for changes in the site's layout and some small adjustments elsewhere), but I didn't do a comprehensive overhaul of the copy and content. And that is one (of far too many) things on my plate this month. What I've chosen to update is based on a content audit I did several months ago before reviving the professional blog.
Not sure what a content audit of your professional website should include?
When conducting an audit of your site, you'll need to determine whether or not existing copy should stay or go, what should be updated, and what should be added. Basically, is it doing its job? And, if not, how can you improve it so your site and copy help you attract and convert more, or better, prospects?
My top three issues with my own site are:
Missing pages for specific advertised services (I have pages for some but not others, keep meaning to add them but forgetting, and this needs to be more consistent.)
Some outdated copy that doesn't represent me as well as it used to (info in my FAQs, stylistic issues in some of the copy itself, and some things I'd like to simplify)
A neglected blog (which I revived this year, though unexpected sick time over the past month has me a bit behind -- I'd like to get a stockpile of posts written and scheduled for this site so that doesn't happen.)
It was a solid mix for me -- old material that needs to go or be updated and new material that needs to be written. You might find your site is too simple and you have a lot to add. You might just need minor tweaks to reflect improvements in your writing over time. Or you might focus on scaling back by defining a tighter specialty or cutting services clients rarely order so you can focus copy and conversions on your biggest sellers.
So that's my plan in a very general sense. But let's dig a little deeper.
My Service Pages
One of the areas I've wanted to improve for quite some time is my collection of service pages. I'm okay with my main Services page, which you can see below:
I decided in the redesign to pull out my top services: blog posts, press releases, online copywriting, white papers, case studies, and consulting. Then I mentioned some additional services I'm experienced with below to let prospects know that while I might focus on the highlighted projects, I can handle other types of business writing for them as well.
Pretty basic. And it gets the job done.
Where I've wanted to make improvements are the individual services pages. I have pages currently for my freelance blogging, press release writing, and web copywriting services. They all need a refresher to get them a little more in my current voice. The copywriting page will get a near-total overhaul. But I don't have pages at all yet for white paper writing, case study writing, or consulting. That's my primary focus in this area -- making this more consistent across all six key services.
I also currently have a page related to e-book writing. But this is a project I don't take on for clients often, and when I do it's almost exclusively for clients I've worked with previously (they'll usually have me go from blogging for them to writing an e-book when they're ready for longer-form content). For the sake of consistency, I plan to remove this page and turn the general content into a blog post to promote the service.
My Business Writing Blog
The main issue with my professional blog is simply that it hadn't been updated in a long time.
If you're actively looking for leads, don't slack off on that like I did. In my case, you have to remember that I've been at this a long time. So how I use my professional blog might not be the same way you do, and that means you shouldn't model yours after what I do (or don't do).
Most of my work comes from repeat or regular clients and referrals from them. That alone brings in plenty of prospects. But you can't always rely on it. So I also try to focus on SEO.
Over the years the top factor in my professional site's rankings has been the blog. When I update the blog, its rankings go up. When I ignore it more than a few months, rankings drop a bit. For years, I ranked #1-2 for my top keyword phrase. That alone brought in enough prospects to keep me busy when I needed it to, and it helped me fill a waiting list (I stopped offering a waiting list a couple of years back however and just got more selective about what I agree to take on). When I'd let the blog slip, rankings for that primary phrase would drop to #5-8. Still not bad, but it led to a very noticeable decrease in inquiries.
Before reviving the blog earlier this year, I'd slipped to the top of the second page's rankings for that same phrase. That wasn't only because of the lack of timely content, but because algorithm changes started giving extra weight to sites like big job boards and race-to-the-bottom bidding sites like Upwork. I've seen those kinds of Google preferences come and go so many times I'm not too worried about them. But still, within just a few weeks of updating the blog again, I was bouncing from #7-8, back on the first page. And since letting it sit for just a couple of weeks while I was sick, it's back to the top of the second page.
That's how much it matters for this particular site and this particular keyword phrase. And that's why I want to get consistent updates going again.
As of now, my plan is to get the site on a regular Monday and Wednesday posting schedule.
The blog itself isn't terribly fussy. I don't advertise anything in the sidebar. I don't push a newsletter (why I don't use one for this site is a topic worthy of its own post). I just direct readers to the content. Here's what it looks like:
As you can see, I recently published a series of posts pushing my press release writing services. Every post will be tied to a specific service in some way, with a call-to-action (CTA) at the end.
Regular updates aren't the only thing I need to improve with the blog though. For example:
I need to add or improve CTAs for older posts.
Before I build up too large of an archive, I want to change the permalink setup to remove categories and get them properly redirected. (I learned the hard way during a merger years ago that this link structure can cause enormous headaches.)
I want to create new branded header images for each of these posts (new ones have none; old ones have some outdated ones meant for the old site design).
I'd like to improve internal linking between these posts, especially those targeted the same services.
Some of the older posts will be updated or expanded (though I don't often use long posts here), and I'll remove external link lists at the end of some older posts (I used to link to related content, but some of those are dead, and others are outdated, and I've long since stopped this kind of "further reading" style of link).
I need to update my mini-bio at the end of posts (or remove it given that the info is on the About page, though I prefer the personal touch of a headshot and bio there).
That's the gist of how I'd like to improve the business writing blog.
Not all pages need major copy updates. Some exceptions are the:
Copywriting services page
The Testimonials page will be removed entirely (the new theme incorporates them in another way, so this is unnecessary). And other pages will get more minor updates.
Perhaps the most important thing is to periodically give your entire a site a good once-over. When I updated the design, I not only found a couple of typos in the new copy, but also in older copy. And I'd read this copy more times than I can count. When we know what we mean to say, sometimes the little things slip by because we get ahead of ourselves. So read slowly. Read aloud. And, ideally, get a second set of eyes on your copy to catch what you might miss.
When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), I'm mostly focused on on-page improvements. That includes:
I'll also get as many external links updated to account for the https change as well as the permalink changes as possible.
Other Types of Content
What I've mentioned above will make up the bulk of changes to my professional site. But there will be other smaller updates as well. For example:
I'm going to take a fresh look at my rates, and will most likely start offering package options for blogging in particular.
I'm going to simplify my Contact page and put more emphasis on the quote request / project brief contact form.
I'm going to remove FAQs that aren't really an issue for me anymore, and I might add a couple of new ones.
I'm going to feature some additional resources (which I'd already created for my other sites) and update at least the e-book there (which has brought in quite a few long-term clients over the years, even when I used to charge for it).
I'm going to release a white paper tied to my business blogging services (this will probably come out in the spring).
I plan to release at least one paid product here later on (aiming for two by the end of the year).
I need to add a favicon to show up in browser tabs for branding's sake.
I'm due to update some headings and other copy on the homepage for more SEO testing.
I want to add an "as seen in" list (similar to the one you see in image form in the sidebar of this blog).
I'd like to standardize the look of my CTAs a little bit more (specifically for my main pages; blog posts have their CTAs directly in the closing of the posts themselves).
I set up a new Twitter account for this site and plan to start updating that soon. (While I don't shy away from speaking my mind in business so ranting about controversial topics doesn't concern me in my market, my personal account isn't really used to talk about business writing. And the All Freelance Writing Twitter account is for other writers, not my potential clients.)
What I'm Not Changing
One page you might have noticed I didn't include here was my Portfolio page. And if you look at it, you'll see those samples are on the older side. For years I've debated updating these regularly. And I always opt against it. But I don't necessarily recommend the same in most cases.
I have a few reasons for my choice:
I had a huge problem several years ago where a freelance writer I had previously mentored started trying to poach my clients. While I don't worry about competitors doing that in general, this person went out of their way to contact every one of my clients. And they didn't just pitch them after I'd helped them out. They told my clients I'd referred them, as if I'd told them my clients needed additional writers. (I did not.) That left me rather put-off by announcing the people I was currently working with. So while I still take on gigs for some repeat folks in my portfolio and testimonials, most current or very recent clients aren't there.
It's also not uncommon for me to have NDAs tied to my blogging these days because I primarily ghostwrite. With blogging, I essentially write as the voice of a small business or its owner, and the owner doesn't want readers knowing they needed help with that content. On top of blogging, most of what I do is copywriting (such as press releases) where there is no byline anyway.
My policy's simple. If prospects ever drop off much, or if enough outright complain about the samples, I'll update them. But that has never happened. I even make additional samples available privately if I'm interested in a gig and if the prospect asks, and it's been years since a prospect has ever bothered asking for them. As long as they see enough to see you can do the job, you're fine.
That said, if you want to update your portfolio more frequently, you should do that. If you aren't working heavily with other, newer freelancers, it's less likely you'll run into issues like I did with the one I used to mentor. And if you rely on bylines, or you write about topics where timely content matters (like technology where things constantly change), more recent samples might serve you better.
With your site, you'll have to make that call depending on the kinds of inquiries you get, the kinds of projects you take on, how many clients you have (and need), and your specialty.
And that's the gist of what I'll be working on this month on my professional site.
Is your freelance writer website due for an update? Start with a simple content audit, and map out a plan from there. If you've recently made big changes, or are thinking about it, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
Earlier this month I shared five freelance writer websites to give you a bit of inspiration if you're building your own or updating your existing professional site. But while having inspiration helps with basics of design & site structure, how do you actually evaluate your existing site's copy or content to decide what needs to change?
One way to do this is to conduct a content audit of your website. Today, let's talk about what these are and how you can use one. Then, in my next post, I'll use my site (which is undergoing changes this month) as an example to show you the kinds of things that you'll want to look at and update from time-to-time.
Freelance Writer Website Audits: What They Include
A content audit for your freelance writer website is basically just an inventory of your existing content, notes on actions to take to improve it, and gaps in coverage that you'll want to fill.
Unless you have a large archive of blog posts on your professional site, this can be a fairly quick process. What you'll want to do for every page and post is ask yourself things like:
Does this content still have any purpose, or should it be removed?
Is this content too similar to other content on your site (where it should be removed or merged)?
Does the on-page SEO (keywords, meta title, meta description, etc.) need improvement?
Is the content outdated and in need of updates?
Are there on-page style problems that need to be addressed (this can happen if you've ever updated a theme)?
Should the content be moved elsewhere (such as if you previously published blog content irrelevant to your prospects and you're now trying to clean that blog up)?
Is the content still good as-is?
That's the gist of auditing your existing content. But you don't want to stop there. You'll also want to pay specific attention to:
Downloadable resources your site might include -- Are they still relevant?
Your prices -- Is it time to update them?
Your portfolio -- If you link to live samples, are they still available (sometimes clients shut down projects)?
Your links in general -- Are they still working? (If you use WordPress, use a plugin like Broken Link Checker to find out.)
Your bio (under blog posts, on your About page, or anywhere you have background info on you)
Any forms on your site -- Test them & decide if they could be optimized (like turning a generic contact form into a project brief form like the one I use on my Contact page).
Images -- Do you want to update your professional photo? Are you using generic stock photos that make your site look less professional? (Stock photos aren't inherently bad, but you'll want to avoid tacky varieties like those featuring groups of random people in business settings for example.)
That should get you through the existing content and copy on your freelance writer website. But you still have more work to do. Now it's time to fill in the gaps. This is where you think about what you might want to add to your site. For example:
Think about services prospects often request. Are you getting requests not featured in your service list yet? Add it. Create a sales page for it. Add it to your rate chart.
Have you received a lot of the same questions from prospects? Consider adding an FAQs page, or add those questions to your existing page.
If you were hiring a freelancer, what kind of information would you want to know? Make sure your site includes it -- service info, rates, samples, etc. Add whatever you're missing.
Does each page have an appropriate call-to-action (CTA)? If not, add one.
Conduct basic keyword research to see what prospects might be searching for when looking for a writer like you. Do you have pages or blog posts to help you rank for those phrases, answer those questions, or solve those problems? If not, schedule something new.
Is your site lacking features or resources that might help you land more gigs? Add them. For example, if you're targeting high-level professionals (like CEOs or Marketing Directors for corporate clients), you might benefit from more detailed resources and thought leadership pieces like white papers and in-depth case studies. Or maybe a short e-book or other downloadable resources would help you showcase your expertise and stand out among your competition.
At this point you should know what needs to be updated, added, removed, merged, or left alone content-wise on your site. That's what a website audit is all about -- making it a better resource tomorrow than it is today.
A Tool to Help With WordPress Content Audits
If you run your freelance writer website on WordPress (which I highly recommend), you might find it easiest to use a plugin to help you with a content audit.
I had one privately created for my sites a while back that allows me to export post info for a content audit spreadsheet. That was specifically for SEO audits. But more recently I've been using a plugin simply called Content Audit that lets you work on your audits directly in WordPress.
With its default settings, you can decide to mark content with any of the following attributes:
Audited (You've looked it over, and it's okay as-is.)
Outdated (It needs updates or removal.)
Redundant (It needs removal or to be merged with other content.)
Review SEO (It needs improvements to on-page SEO.)
Review Style (There are problems with formatting, or it otherwise doesn't adhere to your current style guidelines.)
Trivial (It doesn't have much value and should either be improved or deleted.)
You can choose what kind of content is available for audit in the plugin's settings -- posts, pages, media, custom post types, etc. You can have posts automatically marked as "outdated" when they hit a certain age. And you can include notes to give more specific details for each audited item (such as what post you want to merge another with).
You also have the ability to edit or add to the attributes I mentioned above. For example, during a recent brand split, I added an option to mark posts meant to be moved to the new brand's blog.
You can add anything you want to that list, making it as specific or as general as you want. And you can choose multiple attributes for each post.
So, for example, you might get rid of the "Review SEO" attribute and instead add more specific attributes like "update meta description" and "update meta title." Then you can choose the specific one you want (or several). And when looking at your post list in the WordPress admin area you can filter the post list by any of those things depending on what you feel like working on any given day.
A website audit might sound intimidating at first. But it doesn't have to be. Just use a spreadsheet or a plugin if possible to help you keep things organized. And start with your pages rather than blog posts -- you probably have fewer to worry about, and they're likely doing more than individual posts to sell your services anyway. Start small by focusing on those, then expand to the rest of your site once you get the hang of it.
How often should you audit your site? That's really up to you. In my case, I try to review basics every year (rates, services being featured, potential design issues, and top-viewed pages). Then I do a more thorough audit either every few years or after big changes (algorithm changes or my own broader business changes). If your site isn't delivering prospects to your virtual door or converting them into clients, that's the ultimate sign it's time for an update.
Later this week I'll go through my own site with you to explain its structure, why I made certain decisions, and what changes I'm working on this month as a result of my own content audit so you can get a better idea of the kinds of improvements you might want to make to your own.
Do you have a favorite content audit tip or tool to recommend? Tell me about it in the comments.
While you can create a static HTML website or use any number of content management systems, I highly recommend setting up your website using self-hosted WordPress (as opposed to WordPress.com's free hosting). The process is fairly simple. WordPress, between its themes and plugins, can handle just about anything you'd want to do with your professional site, and by going with a self-hosted site you won't have limitations on how it can be used, what plugins and tools you can use, and how it can later be redirected if you want to move it.
So for this week's round-up, let's focus on WordPress -- how to set up your site, plugins you might want to consider, and a theme I highly recommend.
4 WordPress Posts from All Freelance Writing's Archives
To kick things off, here are some posts from my archives that might help you in building your professional website on WordPress:
In this first post in my series on WordPress for writers, I introduce you to WP's theme repository (where you can find free site designs). Then I walk you through some of the early things you'll want to do after installing WordPress in your hosting account, from setting up your content structure to going through your standard settings options.
In this follow-up post, I share some of my favorite WordPress plugins with you. I've run dozens of WordPress sites, and some of these have become standards for me. While this list is a few years old, some I'd still highly-recommend from this list are anti-spam, WordPress SEO by Yoast, Contact Form 7, and WP Fastest Cache. I'll do an update of this post a little further down the road with a fresh plugin list, but those are a good starting place.
In the final post in my "WordPress for Writers" series, I walk you through some tips and tricks for your new WordPress site, from customizing and protecting your login page to limiting the number of post revisions WordPress stores to your database to cut down on your database size and improve site speeds. Like the last post, this one is also due for an update in the near future, to fix some formatting issues and give you some updated plugin suggestions. But there are also some direct code snippets you can use in the meantime.
In this post I share some WordPress plugins that can help you go beyond building a basic site. You'll find a plugin that can help you build a project brief form for prospects, one that can help you create a public availability calendar, one that can help you create a private client area on your site, and more.
4 Additional WordPress Resources
Here are some posts and resources you can find elsewhere that will help you use WordPress to build your freelance writer website:
This short guide will walk you through the simple manual installation process for self-hosted WordPress. (You'll need a hosting account and domain name to do this.) Note that some hosts have their own one-click-style installations to make this even easier.
If I had to recommend only one WordPress theme, it would be Divi from Elegant Themes. I've been a customer of theirs for about 7 years, and I've used quite a few premium WordPress themes in the 14 years or so I've been building sites. Divi is hands-down the best. I've slowly been moving almost all of my sites to it, and it's the theme All Freelance Writing itself is built on. If you're looking for a premium theme with decent support and plenty of flexibility, play around with the demo and see if this one might suit you.
Because WordPress is a popular CMS, that makes it a frequent target of hackers. So it's important to secure your site as soon as you set it up. This guide will run you through some of the most important basics (beyond keeping your installations, themes, and plugins up-to-date).
In addition to security, you'll want to make sure your freelance writer website loads quickly. And when adding themes and plugins to a WordPress site, it's easy to slow things down enough to turn off visitors. This guide will help you test your site speed after you set it up. Then it goes over common tricks and tweaks that can help you improve your site's performance.
Do you have WordPress tips, tricks, or questions? Share them in the comments.
In looking at freelance writer websites done well, you might have noticed some common themes and site elements to give you ideas about what to include in (or add to) your own. But what if you're building a fresh freelance writer website from scratch?
Where should you start?
What pages should you include in your site?
What features should a new freelance writing website have?
How can you make your professional website do a better job of both attracting prospects and converting them into clients?
That's what we're going to cover today -- all of the must-have elements for a basic freelance writer website, and some additional features or types of content that can give you an edge.
To put things in perspective before getting into what your site should include, let's start by thinking about what your freelance writer website is designed to actually do. I mentioned two goals above:
Converting prospects into clients (making the sale)
But a great freelance website is going to do that in a number of different ways. For example, it might:
Showcase examples of your work;
Demonstrate your expertise;
Help you build trust before you're even in contact with a prospect;
Set you apart from your competition;
Save you time by answering common questions from prospects.
And if you really go above and beyond, it might even serve as:
a "living" portfolio piece (or collection of them through your own marketing materials -- more on this in a bit);
a "thought leadership" publication (through your blog);
a resource for prospects in its own right.
Start by deciding which of these things you want your site to do (or come up with other goals based on your market and current position within it). Then you'll be in a better position to decide which of the following pages and features best suit your freelance writer website.
5 Pages to Include In Your Freelance Writer Website
There aren't a lot of things in business that I consider "musts." But when it comes to your professional website, there's no good excuse to leave any of the following five pages out. I'd consider these must-haves -- a bare bones foundation you can build on.
Your homepage will often be the first impression you give to a prospect who finds you online.
Don't make this something generic like a simple bio or services list. Make your homepage a strong representation of your brand. Let it be a portal of sorts, directing prospects to the things they most want to know. And use it to highlight anything from special promotions to news -- whatever you want to bring a bit of extra attention to.
Equally, make sure your homepage features significant enough copy that it will rank well in search engine results. When people search for your name, you want your site showing up. More important than that, when people search for writers in your specialty, you want your website showing up high in those results.
A near-empty homepage with an emphasis on a few images and links isn't likely to help you do this. But because of certain trends in theme designs, I'm seeing a lot of this on freelancers' websites these days. Don't rely too heavily on designers and their cookie-cutter themes to sell your freelance writing services. You're a writer. In this industry, possibly more than any, your words are far more important.
Clients need to know what services you actually offer. Simply saying you're a freelance writer is not enough. Ideally, have sales pages set up for your key services. But at a bare minimum, have a single services page where you list the kinds of freelance writing projects you take on.
Does this have to be an exhaustive list? No. I suggest listing your most common services, but inviting prospects to contact you for quotes on related projects that might come up. And don't forget to include benefits. A list alone isn't a strong sales tool. Tell prospects why they need those services, and why you're the right person for the job.
Make sure you include something on your professional website that demonstrates your abilities and experience to potential clients. The most common way to do this is by adding a portfolio to your site.
With online portfolios, you can include samples in several ways. For example:
If you write for the web, you can usually link to samples directly.
If you write for newspapers or magazines, you might just list your publication credits and mention that you can send .pdf copies as samples on request.
If a client gives you permission, you might be able to publish a .pdf or image version of your work on your website (such as for a brochure).
If you're a ghostwriter, you might just publish descriptions of the projects and offer to send samples privately (check your contract terms and make sure you didn't sign a non-disclosure agreement that would prevent you from discussing that relationship).
If you're brand new and you don't have paying work behind you yet, here are a few ways you can build early samples:
Write and share your own marketing materials (blog posts, a promotional brochure, a white paper targeting your prospects, etc.).
Write a few mock pieces. (I don't love this idea -- you're better off creating pieces to support your own business and have them do double duty early on -- but if you're desperate for ideas, these can work. Just make it very clear they weren't actual client projects.)
Donate some time to a nonprofit. Let this be an organization you would support anyway and see if they need a volunteer to help with projects, from web copy to blog posts or newsletters. Don't let these come out of your billable hours. Do them in your spare time like you would with any other volunteer work, or work them into your marketing hours. This can help you build far more valuable and respected samples than taking on quick gigs with super-low-budget clients who prey on new freelancers.
If you absolutely can't get samples together before launching your site, launch without this page, but add it as soon as you can.
I've often seen writers reference About pages as content rather than copy. They lump them in with things closer to blog posts than marketing copy found throughout the rest of their sites. But your About page is one of the most important pieces of copy you'll write.
Copy, in essence, is designed to influence or persuade the reader in some way. And that's true of your About page too, even though they generally don't focus on direct sales. Instead, it's more PR copy. It's about influence, because it's about trust. Your About page shows prospects why they should trust you. It does that by highlighting your experience, credentials, personality, vision, and values.
People will routinely look for an "About" link on websites when they want to learn more about a person or company. That alone is reason enough to make sure you include this page on your freelance writer website. But it's that trust that truly makes it essential. Remember, when you're a solopreneur like a freelancer, your brand is largely a personal brand. And with personal brands, building trust is not optional.
This probably shouldn't even need to be said, but it does -- your freelance writer website needs a Contact page. Not just a little contact form tucked in the footer of every page. Not just an email address or phone number in your header or sidebar. A Contact page.
Similar to an About page, people often look for a link to a Contact page. Give people what they look for. Don't make it tougher on them than necessary. Don't confuse them. Yes, it's okay to have those other types of contact information on your site. But give them what they expect too.
My preference is to use a contact form, sometimes with my email address as well (depends on the site). A benefit of a form is you can customize it. For example, my Contact page uses a form that's designed to let prospects send me a project brief on first contact. I've found this to save a lot of time on early back-and-forth.
Your Contact page is also a good place to note your location (if that's relevant) and your available working hours or call scheduling policies.
Optional Pages for Your Freelance Writer Website
Once you have the bare essentials on your professional site, you're off to a good start. But why stop there?
There are plenty of other things not included in the list above that can make your website work even harder for you. Here some optional pages you might want to consider:
Personally, I also consider this a necessity, but it's often debated. Later this month we'll get into that debate, and I'll make the case for including these. For now, think about whether or not you're ready to publish them, or consider adding them as a test.
I like to cover some basic questions and answers for prospects right on my site, including what my payment terms are and how many rounds of edit requests are included. This can save quite a bit of time because you won't be answering the same questions constantly.
The only reason I didn't include a Testimonials page as an essential is because you can work individual testimonials into just about any other area of your site.
A separate page really isn't necessary, especially if you tie quotes to portfolio pieces. But if you prefer a separate page, it's a great thing to add -- social proof, which again helps to build trust.
Individual Service Pages
Rather than simply listing services on a single Services page, consider adding separate sales pages or landing pages for at least your most popular (or most lucrative) services.
This not only gives you more space to make a case for hiring you for those projects, but it can make it easier to rank a page from your website in search engines for search strings prospects use when looking for freelance writers to hire for those specific project types.
Something else I like to do is offer free resources that would be of interest to my prospects. It can draw people to your site who otherwise might never see it. And if they like what you have to offer, they're more likely to come back to you when they have a budget to hire someone.
One of the best ways to bring in new clients is to educate them about what you do. Reports and white papers are great tools for this. We'll talk more about turning your freelance writer website into an all-out resource later this month.
A Client-focused Blog
These days I'd consider a client-focused blog an essential element of any freelance writer website for a new writer setting up a new site who actually cares about search engine rankings and standing out while demonstrating their expertise.
I'm not listing it in the essential group for this post simply because some more established writers can get by rather easily without one. It would still help them, but many of those folks get enough work through existing relationships and referrals that they could see better ROI with other things than building and promoting a new blog.
We'll cover freelance writer blogs in much more detail later this month. For now, just know they can help you rank higher in search engines, serve as an ongoing portfolio piece for freelance bloggers, and be helpful thought leadership publications when you target the right readers with a solid content strategy.
A Private Client Area
If you want to go all-out, you could incorporate a private client portal on your website (easy if you're using a platform like WordPress -- there are plenty of membership plugins that can handle this).
This would allow your clients to log onto your website where they could find and download copies of contracts, project briefs, past assignments, or anything else relevant to your working relationship.
This is a nice add-on, but definitely not necessary. It might come in most handy for those working with regular clients who might accumulate a significant archive of projects with you.
But please, only do this if you're confident you can do so securely. If those projects show up publicly because you didn't protect them, you could violate contract terms. And if you expose contract information accidentally to third parties, you could violate a client's privacy. Again, membership plugins can simplify this. But until you're confident using them, it's best to avoid this one.
Can you think of other website elements that might benefit freelance writers? Share your ideas, or tell us about something special you do on your website, in the comments below.
This post was originally published on December 5, 2013 and has since been updated, expanded, and largely re-written.
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