7 Reasons Your Website Doesn’t Bring In New Clients

Why Your Freelancing Website Doesn't Bring In ClientsAs a freelancer, you count on your website as an important part of your marketing system. It is like a sales representative, gathering leads and warming them up to become paying clients, 24/7.

That is, IF your website provides the appropriate content, attracts the right readers, is properly optimized for conversion, and is a pleasure to use.

Unfortunately, after years of observation and working with other freelancers, I’ve noticed that freelancers tend to make plenty of mistakes with their websites. In this post, I’ll list seven common website sins freelancers commit.


1. Lack of Clarity

They say people make a decision about your website in the first few seconds after first landing there. In fact, websites are subject to the 5-second rule: If your website reader can’t figure out in five seconds what you’re offering them, they’ll leave and be gone forever.

Within a few seconds, a visitor should be able to tell what you or your site is all about, why the visitor should care, and if your reader should trust you.

One of the ways to accomplish this is with a clear title and tag line on your website header, and a clear headline on your main page.

2. Not Capturing Leads

Another common mistake freelancers make is not capturing the contact information of their website visitors. The fact is, your visitors are unlikely to visit your site ever again. So it’s wise to get their email address, at the very least, so you can keep communicating with them. After all, it sometimes takes seven exposures to a marketing message before a prospect is ready to take up your offer.

The best way to build an email list is by creating an “ethical bribe” or lead offer in exchange for contact information. The most common types of lead offers are eBooks. However, an ethical bribe can also take the form of audio or video recordings and an e-course.

Make sure your ethical bribe is consistent with the type of service you offer. For example, if you’re a designer, your ethical bribe could be a customizable Twitter background. If you’re a programmer, it could be a piece of software or a plugin.

The point is not only to get your website readers’ contact information, but also to give them a taste of what you can do, and to whet their appetite for more.

Once you have an ethical bribe, create an opt-in form, or a form where your readers can fill in their contact information (don’t ask for too much!) and automatically submit them to you. The best way to do this is with an autoresponder service, such as Aweber or Mailchimp. These services may require a monthly investment, but it’s well worth it because of the automation and other features you’ll have access to.

3. Publishing Ads

Nothing is more annoying–and unprofessional–than a freelancer’s website with Google ads! Banner ads for products and programs, even those you wholeheartedly recommend, are just as bad.

They make you lose visitors and for what? A few pennies of Google earnings or affiliate income.

A better way to promote products and services as an affiliate is to put links in blog posts, where they are appropriate. For instance, you could post a review of your favorite WordPress theme and put your affiliate links for that theme on the post.

Another way is to create a dedicated page for all the resources you recommend to your clients.

However you do it, remember to disclose that you have a material connection with the vendors you’ve mentioned (if you are, in fact, an affiliate for them).

If you sell your own products, then create a products page rather than cluttering each of your web pages with banner ads and links to them.

4. Self-Centered Copy

Freelancers (and other business web owners) tend to write copy (the words on your site) that is too self-centered rather than client centered.

Here’s an example of self-centered copy:

“Oak Tree Designs is a family-run business with over 12 years experience serving businesses in the Acme City area. Our web designers are trained in the latest designing software. You may be surprised to find we charge less than our competitors who have much less experience.”

Contrast that with this:

“If you need an attractive website to help bring more customers to your business, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ll create a website for you, which attracts your prospective customers, warms them up to you with valuable information, and is easy for you to update yourself. The best part is, you’ll get all this within your budget.”

Which copy appeals to you more?

The difference is, the latter copy is customer-centered. It assumes the reader has certain needs and goals, and ties those up to what the freelancer is offering. It’s also explicit about the benefits the prospect will enjoy, such as more customers, happy website readers, independence from a web master, and staying within budget.

Also, notice how much more often “you” and “your” is used in the second example compared to the first, which is more focused on “us,” “we,” and “our.”

One way to write copy like this for your site is to imagine your prospective client is standing in front of you — what would you say? Think of what problem brings them to you and how you can help them.

5. Keeping Fees a Secret

Whether or not to publish your fees is open to debate. I go for publishing them. Even if you don’t have set fees for every service, it’s still a good idea to provide ballpark figures. This reduces the number of inquiries from prospects who can’t afford you, thus saving you and your prospect time, energy and, even, embarrassment.

I’ve heard of people saying they leave a freelancer’s website when they can’t see the fees. Why? Because they don’t want to ask about the fees, find they’re too high, and end up feeling poor because of it.

A good way to publish your fees is to create a rate sheet page, which a list of your services and the fee (or ballpark figure) for each one. According to Ed Gandia, one of the authors of The Wealthy Freelancer, this encourages “shopping” for your services.

If you don’t have set fees, you can provide a range for each service. Or, the way I like to do it, is to give the minimum amount I would charge for the service (for example, “Sales pages start at $…”).

6. Lack of Personality

Understandably, some freelancers are afraid to get too personal on their website and reveal too much of their personal lives.

However, the fact is people hire other people, and we tend to hire people we know, like and trust. You can help this process along by publishing an engaging “About” page, which reflects your personality and shares your story.

Don’t just write about why you’re qualified to do what you’re doing, but also tell how you became the freelancer you are today. You can also mention your hobbies and other personal interests. By doing so, you allow your prospects to discover you as a person and possibly find common interests or experiences–things that can give you an advantage over your competitors.

Another thing: do include a nice photograph of you on your website. It doesn’t have to be a studio shot taken by a professional photographer (although that’s always nice). However, it would be best if you’re looking straight into the camera (gives the impression of looking into your reader’s eyes) and smiling.

If you’re comfortable, you could also add an audio or video recording of you. Video, in particular, helps people feel they already know you.

7. Unclear Call to Action

Finally, another oft-committed website sin is the lack of a clear call to action. A call to action is simply a statement of what you want the readers to do next.

For example, your opt-in form should clearly say, “Sign up here to get your free graphic pack.” Or the copy on your home page could say “Call us at 555-123-4567 for a free estimate,” or “Click here to contact us.”

Sometimes we assume our readers know what we want them to do next. This is a dangerous assumption! Always tell your readers what to do next. It makes a big difference.

Confession Time

Are you guilty of any of these sins? If so, what changes can you make today to make your website a more effective lead generator and client attraction tool for your freelancing services?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do share them by posting a comment below.

Image by ~xu

Comments

  1. says

    Great article this one. I have to totally agree with you about displaying google ads. Not only does it look awful, it also leaves a bad impression of your overall “business image”.

    Displaying fees on the site has always been a debate with my partner. Perhaps showing him your points should give him some ideas I didn’t properly conveyed. :)

  2. says

    Hi Lexi,

    Thank you for this. I’m guilty of every one of these 7 sins… and should have known this going in. I started a new local printing business last Fall, and threw a quickie “place holder” site on the web to hold it until I did some pavement pounding and cold calling in the area.

    Months later, your article has inspired me to start revamping the site. I can’t help but think that my passionless facade on the web has cost me a few leads.

  3. says

    I was almost worried reading just the headline, but upon reading the article, I saw that I don’t need worry. I am an amateur freelance writer, and my website is made just for my clients. So much so that a) my byline on top of the page tells my potential clients that they can have content from me, and b) I have mentioned my rates on a page that is the permanent fixture on homepage. Of the seven suggestions, the only thing I don’t do is get the email – and I believe that is not easy.

    I have statcounter, and I have seen that 50% of potential clients who land on my site order an article from me. Maybe it has to do with how cheaply I write, but still, that’s not bad.

    If you are a writer or any other service professional, I advise you to print out your rates upfront. Also, if you are someone who wants to employ a writer, and you make a post in a forum of job board without mentioning how much you offer per article etc, you will never hear from guys like me who do not want to make frivolous email-exchanges.

    The thing about stating your rates upfront is that in the end you get to choose your client – if you think that your client is in a position to pay you more than what you have stated, and you want to get a higher rate, you can always refuse in case the client wants to pay only at the quoted rates. This may seem counter-intuitive, and unethical if you have never read Plato’s ethics(/jk), to refuse a otherwise good client, but I believe that’s part of being a businessperson that each freelancer should want to be.

    Anyway, my first comment here. Now let me go look around if you have a solution for time management for freelancers that has toggl-like time-keeping and rememberthemilk-like list-management!

  4. says

    WOW! This is really good. I’ve been going back and forth on what I wanted to do with my fees. Publish or not to publish? I’ve read good points on both, but your point makes so much sense. Not only would someone not want to talk about fees because it makes them feel weird or poor, but often times they don’t want to make that extra step just to see IF they can afford you. I will definitely be evaluating my website over the next week or so!

    Thanks, this was a great post!

  5. says

    Great article! How would you go about balancing an ethical bribe with requesting lead information?

    Are you suggesting to ask for the lead information before the bribe is given, or offering the bribe and hope they also submit lead information?

  6. says

    All very good points, but I especially like #1 and #5. It never ceases to amaze me how often I come across freelancers who don’t make it clear what services they’re offering. I also totally agree with the benefits of publishing your rates: not just hourly rates, but rough budgets for common projects. When I added pricing to my website, I started receiving positive feedback from clients about it, found that most of the new clients I met with had already decided to work with me, and started wasting less time writing quotes for people who didn’t have the budget. Thanks for the great article, Lexi!

  7. says

    I’ll be working on my rate sheet page this week.

    I agree with #1. I am more intrigued to look further into a site that clearly states it’s purpose and intention from the beginning.

  8. says

    I’ve been going back and forth on the idea of publishing my rates. So far I’m still leaning against it because I try to do a lot of face to face networking in my market and my quotes tend to vary. I sometimes give a home-town discount based on factors like whether I know the prospect, if they’re a friend, I’m eager to work with them or if they’ll be bringing me recurring work.

    I do have a rate sheet I can send out at a moments notice, and I think my prices are fair (but not cheap). I have heard the argument that posting rates gives your potential clients the feeling that you’re more professional and value your time and work. That means hopefully they will too.

    Maybe once I get a slightly bigger client base I’ll post rates. For now things have been working for me.

  9. says

    I’m curious how you’d approach #5 in my case. I’m an animator and the problem with posting fees is that there are a LOT of styles and techniques that can drastically change the pricing; not to mention the content and length of the animation. The differences are huge.

    I could say how much I would charge per hour and try to estimate how many hours it would take but how many categories should I have in that case. I usually weigh about 7-10 different factors before nailing down a quote… which sounds like a lot for someone to flip through

  10. says

    Phew I was expecting to feel awful from reading that but good to see I’m pretty much on the right lines except maybe a few small improvements – but there’s always scope to improve anyway right?

    I did ask a few trusted contacts to look at my site when it was new and make suggestions about what worked or didn’t, and I took most of their advice and tweaked it. I felt they were the experts as they were exactly the sort of people I wanted to attract.

    Might be time for a quick revisit and another few tweaks.
    Thanks for the suggestions.

  11. says

    outstanding post. I need to brush up on all 7 points. I am in the throes of re-writing my site so I need to go back and read what I have with an eye on this article. I have a lot of work to do but this will be a good guide

    thanks

  12. says

    The moment I saw the title I just had to check it out to see if I’ve done any of the 7 website boo-boos. Thankfully I didn’t commit the same mistakes (like self-centered copy and lack of clarity) and you provided some really interesting advice, like creating an ethical bribe (new word!) and not keeping fees a secret.

    I’m inspired now to update my site and freelancing blog again! Thanks again Lexi. :)

  13. Connor Crosby says

    Thanks for the awesome article! I have made a couple of these sins including placing Google ads (although, not any more). Hopefully this will help me in the future with my business.

  14. says

    It took me aaaages to get the guts to put a photo on my website. It helped that I have a friend who’s a pro-photographer, though, so I knew he’d be able to get a good shot of me ;-) I do think it makes a difference – people want to do business with a person whose face they can picture (excuse the pun), rather than just read some copy on a website. It’s also great if you arrange to meet someone so they’re not aimlessly walking around looking for someone who might be you!

  15. says

    Making your rates public can give your competitor the price edge. Also setting yourself up for a set base price will most likely drive every prospect to go for your base price and nothing higher.

  16. says

    At one time or another, I’ve been guilty of about half these sins. My goal right now is to collect more email addresses from people who visit my sites. I need to think of a freebie I can offer…maybe an ebook…

  17. says

    I’m very guilty of #4 but I don’t feel that it’s a bad thing. I work with many celebrities and when they’re referred to my website, they want to see why I’m so special and know about other celebrites I’ve worked with. This is how they make their decision in their circles. 

    If they don’t know I’ve done work for high-end and well-known clients, I’ve just lost them as a client. 

    On the other hand, I don’t toot my own horn or talk about my celebrity clients locally unless someone forces my hand. And a good example is when I overheard an individual talking to someone else about how I couldn’t possibly be even a mediocre designer because of where I live. So I tactfully ended up in a conversation about who I’ve done work for and how I often get mislabelled because of not living in San Francisco.

    Otherwise I totally agree with all your other points. A really great article overall. 

  18. says

    Thank you for this post, it is phenomenal. My company is currently revamping its web site for the 2nd time, and this information is very helpful and timely. The examples you offer are excellent in describing the issues. Thanks!

  19. says

    Great article, yeah. I was interested in seeing your #5. As a web designer, I was really pushing this on my site before, thinking I was ahead of the curve, but now I think it’s a mixed bag. When you have a few basic “package” kind of prices as examples of how pricing works, customers can get confused about what exactly is the cost for which things they’re thinking about. I’m planning on working on a more detailed “rate sheet” that lists starting prices for some standard things, but it’s tricky.

    Definitely #6 is fantastic. Freelancers should be the last people in the world with no personality. Big corporations can have no personality and (maybe) get away with it. In our case, we need to stand out and be original, unique, and different. Without being gimmicky of course. =)

  20. says

    thanks for the article. i have often seen web developers or e marketing professionals even without a website. i agree to the fact that we should have professional websites and make them effective. personally i like web2.0 websites which are designed for wide screens and use bigger fonts and call to action buttons

  21. says

    I believe posting your rates works well for those who live in very large cities. You’re basically a needle in a hay stack, and giving your prospective clients more ammunition to choose you over the next guy, can only be beneficial to you.

    I however live in a very small community… and I depend on word of mouth and networking to bring in my clients.. My clients, if shopping locally, have only 3 other designers to call upon, so I let my portfolio speak for itself rather than my rates.

    The other 3 designers don’t post their’s … so why be a trailblazer : )

    Great article!

  22. says

    2. Not Capturing Leads
    This one, I seem to not be able to understand the point of this.
    When capturing leads, I find you only find people that came to your site for certain information. When you captured my email with your eBook, what will you someday get from me? Perhaps a few affiliate buys (if you do those, I’m unsure since I’m new to subscribing to freelance sites), but will I ever hire any writers from this site? Probably not, since I’m the one looking to freelance.
    I don’t understand.
    You don’t get a future client’s email from the offers like this.

    Clarification please. :]

  23. says

    I think the key for most of these is finding a balance – copy that outlines qualifications and experience, yet is focused on the potential client. Or pricing that doesn’t box you in, but is not too vague. Capture leads, but don’t include the contact form after every 50 or so words…

  24. says

    I confess: I’m guilty of keeping my fees a secret.

    But I fully intend to repent as soon as possible!

    Thank you for the great advice!

    –Lauren*

  25. says

    Providing ballpark figures for fees can work in your favor. The way I look at it is this: if a client has seen your website and your fees and they are calling you, then it’s a good chance they are a serious prospect and it may be an easier sell because they will know what to expect.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 7 Reasons Your Website Doesn’t Bring in New Clients: Freelance Folder has a good article on how to improve your website’s effectiveness in converting clients. One of the things we’re up in the air about is publishing rates vs. saving that for personal discussion. What are your thoughts on being open with your rates? What’s your argument for/against putting them on your company’s website? [...]

  2. [...] 7 Reasons Your Website Doesn’t Bring in New Clients: Freelance Folder has a good article on how to improve your website’s effectiveness in converting clients. One of the things we’re up in the air about is publishing rates vs. saving that for personal discussion. What are your thoughts on being open with your rates? What’s your argument for/against putting them on your company’s website? [...]

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