Your Website: Establishing Your Online Presence

website-basicsIt doesn’t take much to launch a freelance B2B writing business.

Your website, however, is a marketing essential.

The higher the quality of your prospects, the more likely they are to carefully review your website before hiring you.

Perhaps your website’s been a source of anxiety and procrastination (even if unintentional) that’s kept you from diving into the freelancing waters, or pursuing prospects.

Yes, your website’s a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be daunting.

The goal of today’s post is to banish any doubts and excuses, so you can take your website from hurdle to asset in the next few days.

Below is all you need to get started.

A DIY Approach

I’m presuming you’re on a tight budget and don’t have the luxury of working with a professional web designer. (Bummer.)

You need a DIY solution that’s (a) affordable, and (b) manageable for someone who isn’t a techie.

Is that you? Alrighty, then.

(Feel free to skip to the Content section below if your website’s already set up.)

Picking Your Domain & Platform

Not sure what to call your business or domain? Grab your name’s URL (e.g., andreaemerson.com).

People like doing business with people (as opposed to faceless organizations), and it’s hard to go wrong with your own name. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a clever business name.)

Whatever domain you pick, be sure to also set up your email from that domain. A branded email address (e.g., hello@marysmith.com) oozes professionalism, whereas a generic, free email address (think smithfamily95@gmail.com) shouts “amateur” or, at best, “side gig.”

Find a hosting company like GoDaddy, 1and1, or Bluehost, and register that domain.

Next, you’ll set up your website’s layout, usually from a template.

WordPress (the platform I use) is by far the most popular. It allows for a ton of customization and is fairly easy to manipulate. (Your hosting company should have a tutorial or point-and-click functionality to integrate your website with WordPress.)

That said, if you’re technophobic and want nothing to do with the technical aspects of setting up a website, perhaps a service like Squarespace, Wix or Weebly is for you. (I haven’t tried them, but a lot of solopreneurs use them.)

These are hosting companies that also provide easy-to-use templates for a subscription fee.

My hesitation with a service that requires a monthly subscription (aside from your annual domain and hosting fee) is that it’s like building a house on rented land. If you decide to move to a different provider, you’ll probably lose your website.

Still, many people feel it’s worth the risk and investment. (To be safe, save your content so you can easily plug it into a new website if needed.)

Once you’ve registered your domain and decided where your website will live, it’s time to whip it into shape.

Basic Content

You only need these five pages to get started:

  1. Home: Open with a benefit statement. What problems do you solve, and for whom?
  2. About: Your About page shouldn’t be about you. Sure, you’ll want to mention your background and qualifications, but do it in the context of how it benefits clients. (Just imagine you’re talking to a sociopath who keeps asking, “Why should I care? What’s in this for me?”)
  3. Services: What services do you offer? This is a great place to remind prospects of your specialty, forté, or niche. You may or may not want to post your rates here. I don’t. (I’ve briefly weighed the pros and cons of posting rates at the bottom of this post.)
  4. Work Samples: You’ll find my take on portfolios here. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Just a handful of samples is fine.
  5. Contact: Self-explanatory. Give people a way to reach you, and test any forms to make sure they work.

All things considered, here’s my most urgent advice on your website’s content:

Do focus on the problems you solve, the transformation or benefits you deliver, and who you serve.

Often, prospects decide whether or not to hire you before even seeing your portfolio, just based on the way you write your Home and About pages — so make them compelling.

Remember your website is a sales pitch, not a place to talk about your interests and hobbies, unless they are key elements of your pitch.

To that end, if you have testimonials, make them visible throughout your site. I’ve written about how to get’em, even if you have no clients, here.

Basic Design Considerations

Some basic thoughts on ensuring your website looks professional:

Keep it clean. Keep fonts and colors consistent.

Pick a design theme that’s responsive, meaning it can adapt to mobile device screens.

Make good use of white space, breaking long paragraphs into short ones. (Long paragraphs are a pain to read on-screen, especially on smartphones.)

Keep images relevant to what you do, or the market(s) you serve.

And please show your face. Use your photo in your About page, and possibly your Home page too.

You may not like your photo, but for prospects, being able to see your face is a great trust-builder. A professional-looking headshot will increase prospects’ comfort level with you considerably.

And Done.

That’s it. No need to complicate it further, although you’ll want to revisit and upgrade your website from time to time.

Your Turn:

Take a moment now, jot down a deadline to complete your website in the next few days, and stick it where you’ll see it everyday.

Then get crackin’. By this time next week, your website worries should be a thing of the past.

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