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.
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