For example, because we’re freelancers and not regular employees, most people expect us to be unconventional, bold, independent, and creative. The words “cool” and “hip” may even be appropriate to describe most freelancers.
In the same vein, freelancers’ websites–being representations of ourselves online–are also expected to be du jour (current) and on the cutting edge.
To be on the cutting edge means to be on the forefront, to be a leader.
It’s a good idea for freelancers’ websites to be on the cutting edge, because it creates trust. A website that looks like it’s on the forefront of writing, web design, programming–whatever your freelancing field is–shows that you’re someone who knows what you’re doing. In other words, you’re to be trusted and hired.
So if you’re a writer, then your website better be a sharp communication tool. Of course, the writing needs to be impeccable, clear, engaging, and bursting with personality. But it also needs to look good as well, uncluttered, navigable, and seductive for the reader to stay.
If you’re a designer, then your website better be a feast on the eyes, visually standing out above common websites. And yet without sacrificing content and substance.
If you’re a programmer, then every link and feature on your site better be working perfectly… and so on. These are the top expectations from websites of freelancers in specific fields. However, there are certain features that every freelancer’s site needs to have, in order to be considered “cutting edge.”
Elements of a Cutting-Edge Website
The following features cut across whatever field, expertise or niche you may have. They are:
- Laser-targeted focus. The best websites are those that were created with a clear target audience in mind. Knowing who your target clients are, what visual and verbal style they prefer, and what problems they’re trying to solve will help you create a website that truly appeals to them. This understanding will show in your website’s overall look, tone, and content. On the other hand, when your site attracts people who don’t fit the profile of your ideal client, then you may have a problem with your site’s focus. If you keep getting calls from prospects who are clearly NOT the ones you want to work with, then that’s a sign your marketing isn’t appealing to your target market.
- A modern look. Some websites look 80s, while others look more current. Building your site on the WordPress platform is an easy way to create a modern-looking site. There are thousands of WordPress themes to choose from. Freelance Folder’s Client Machine is a WordPress theme developed specifically for freelancers. Whether you use a free theme or a premium one, you’ll find many that look fresh and up-to-date. Your choice of fonts and colors will affect how dated your site looks as well. The more traditional fonts, such as Helvetica and Times New Roman will make your site look older. On the other hand, don’t go overboard with hip fonts and colors. Ultimately, your design choices should appeal to your target audience (see “Laser-targeted focus” above).
- Use multi-media. Flash is so 90s. Putting different media on your site will make it look more “now.” Photos should be crisp and relevant. Use audio and video, where appropriate. I dare say if you don’t have video on your home page, then your site already looks dated. It’s easy to create videos to upload on your site. If teenagers are doing it on YouTube, then so can you! Watching you in a video helps prospective clients to know, like and trust you faster than by simply reading words on your site. Or it would help them decide sooner that they don’t want to work with you after all. Either way, everybody saves time and energy.
- Blog. Nowadays your blog is your resume. So even if you’re not a writer, I highly recommend that you blog. A blog takes discipline and commitment. Plus mastery of a certain subject. After all, you can’t keep writing regularly about something unless you have some expertise in it. Those are all good things to demonstrate on your site. (Although I have to admit, when client projects get heavy, my blog is the first to be sacrificed). Aim to publish a new post at least once a week. If you miss more than a couple of weeks, then your blog looks stale and neglected.
- Link to social networks. Social networks are the current channels of marketing, so use them yourself. In all likelihood, your target clients are already on several networks, or at least thinking of starting to use social media to market their own businesses. The easiest way to do this is by adding links so that your site visitors can connect with you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social networks you’re active in. There are also plugins that can feed your social network updates onto your site automatically, as well as allow your website visitors to share your content via social networks.
- Ease of use. It doesn’t matter how high-tech your site is, or how hip your color choices are. If your site is confusing and hard to navigate, with links that don’t work, then it’s not on the cutting edge. Your site’s design and content should serve your readers and give them an enjoyable experience. You know you’re doing something right when a prospect tells you, “I loved your site.” On the other hand, your site may not be as user-friendly as it can be when prospects ask for information, which they should have found on the site (perhaps it’s buried under several layers of pages). Another sign is when prospects who fit the profile of your ideal client say, “I’m not sure you’re right for me…”
- List building. Finally, a key element in a site that’s on the cutting edge is its ability to turn visitors into leads. Your site should have a sign-up form so that visitors will get onto one of your mailing lists. This shows you’re a savvy marketer as well, one who knows the importance of constantly communicating with leads. Most people aren’t going to be ready to hire you when they first land on your site. However, with consistent communication through your email updates or newsletter, then when they do need your services, you’ll be on top of their minds.
Is Your Website on the Cutting Edge?
How does your website measure up to the elements described above? Did you see areas where you could improve your site, so that you can position yourself as someone who’s on the forefront of your field?
It doesn’t have to take a lot of money to develop an effective freelancing website. However, it does require a lot of thought and time. Even if you can’t afford a good designer or programmer, you can still have a website that’s attractive, useful, and effective. Consider bartering services with other freelancers. You can also make changes slowly; our websites are works in progress and will always have room for improvement.
Share your a-ha moments, insights and questions in the comments below.