WordPress isn’t the only free alternative to blogging platforms that can act as CMS solutions. Since Posterous, Blogger and Tumblr added the option to create static pages alongside your blog, they are serious contenders for freelancers (especially on a shoestring budget) that need a simple solution for creating their own websites (although all of them can be completely customised if you code, and you can use your own domain). And they’re free so you don’t have to shell out a monthly service charge.
Tips on Using a Website Builder to Create Your Professional Website
Finding new clients is an inevitable part of being a freelancer, but it can be even more time-consuming when you are not yet established. The phone, email, word-of-mouth, and networking are all tools for client acquisition. But, a website is the only channel that continues to attract clients while you sleep and underpins all your other marketing efforts.
Many freelancers I speak to say maintaining a blog is the key to a successful website. Blogs work particularly well if you want to position yourself as an expert in a niche area, because they allow you to focus attention on specialized aspects of your field. This means your website will gain higher rankings for keywords in your area over time, and an increasing number of potential clients will find you through search engines like Google. You won’t get new clients overnight, but you will find you can build your freelance business in a sustainable way over the longer term.
Key Factors for Your Professional Website
To make your website the ultimate client acquisition tool, make sure it:
- Contains plenty of fresh content related to your field, preferably in the form of a blog. This acts as search-engine fodder.
- Has a good network of links to other freelancers.
- Clearly demonstrates your unique professional brand.
- Includes interesting reference material.
- Has a clean, professional design.
Freelancers and Technology
Some freelancers love technology so much, they are happy to spend their evenings installing updates and plug-ins on their website’s content-management system. For others, it is enough to know how to use Microsoft Word and PowerPoint.
The most popular open-source website software among freelancers is probably WordPress.org. It is relatively easy to use once installed and customized with a design template. But, WordPress is primarily a blogging platform, and can require a few adjustments if you want to use it to build a website. WordPress also needs regular updates for security reasons, and this can be complicated and time-consuming.
You can certainly learn how to do all this yourself if you are keen. Let’s face it–learning to use technology is not everyone’s idea of a good time. Thankfully, there are now enough systems out there to satisfy even the most technophobic of freelancers.
The Advantages of Using a Website Builder
Why tweak code when you can drag and drop?
A new generation of website builders has made it easier than ever to avoid getting bogged down in the technological details. Instead of grappling with FTP clients, PHP scripts or endless security updates, just sign up with a provider of your choice and let them do all the hard work for you. All you have to do is customize your new website at the click of a mouse.
Most website builders have a library of design templates that you can adapt in an editor very similar to Microsoft Word. Personalize your new website by simply dragging and dropping the various elements, such as the layout, navigation, images, or even contact or newsletter subscription forms.
Most providers allow you to create (or have someone else create) your own design from scratch using HTML and CSS. So, there is no need to worry about not finding the right design.
And what if you run into technical problems? Providers also offer fast and competent technical support, which is great for beginners.
The Best Website Builders
What are the best website builders?
There are plenty of website builders on the market that are still stuck in the era of Geocities and have yet to wake up to the best features of Web 2.0.
However, I have seen freelancers get very good results with the following providers:
- Weebly or Jimdo. These systems are known for being extremely easy to use and offer an array of features to choose from, including plenty of designs, a blog, photo gallery, video widget, online store, password-protected areas and lots of hosting space. You can go for either a paid account or a free account if you don’t mind ads, although it is probably not a good idea to go for a free version if you are trying to attract clients. Paid plans start from as little as USD $5 a month.
- Webnode. This has a slightly steeper learning curve, but is packed full of professional features such as multilingual website management and powerful search-engine optimization.
- Wix. Another system that allows you to create stunning websites using Flash technology. Artists, models and designers all love these design-rich sites, but they tend to be slower to load and not as easy to optimize for search engines.
Don’t Forget to Check Out Your Provider
It sounds too good to be true… where’s the catch?
It is important to realize that if you chose a website builder, you will be relying on your provider for some time to come. So you need to be sure that the provider will continue to add new features, that the site will load quickly and that they will remain in business.
Take a close look at the company behind the system–no provider can survive on free accounts alone, so how it is financed? Does it release new features regularly? (Tip: check their blog for announcements). What other feedback can you find online?
Nor can you expect the same degree of flexibility or choice in terms of designs or add-ons, compared to open-source systems. Saying that, there are plenty of other external widgets such as surveys, forms or music players that are incredibly straightforward to install.
If you have been putting off creating your own website, you have no more excuses now: website builders require little technical knowledge and most freelancers find them very easy to use.
There is so much business potential on the internet that every freelancer should ensure that they have a well-maintained website. The sooner you get online, the sooner you can start building your search-engine ranking, gaining a following for your blog and developing your brand online. Just follow a few simple guidelines and I am confident you will quickly and easily attract potential clients from all over the world. Even if you prefer to source your prospects through more traditional channels, having an attractive online presence is always worth it.
Have you used a website builder to create your own website? Or, are you a die-hard WordPress fan?
Leave a comment and let us know what you think.
Image by jeffedoe
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December 19th, 2010 at 9:18 am
December 19th, 2010 at 9:24 am
A website alone will not be enough in the near future. Social Media integration will become more and more important. Use plug- ins and badges to make your web site a hub for all your social media activities.
December 19th, 2010 at 11:13 am
Just added Facebook social media plugin :)
Thanks for the article.
December 19th, 2010 at 2:58 pm
I really like webs and yola for free sites, worpdress and blogger for free blogs. Blogger is easier to use, but my wordpress blog consistently comes up higher in Google search rankings for a huge variety of terms, which is weird considering blogger is owned by Google, yet wordpress outperforms it for SEO.
JocelynDecember 19th, 2010 at 9:59 pm
Website Builders can be a great place for freelancers without technical skills to start out. However, from my experience (as a programmer), it seems that in the long run the lack of control, customization and features can leave people feeling frustrated.
That’s just my personal experience however. I do see the benefits for those who have no programming skills and little cash to spend on hiring a developer to create a site. At the very least, it is a great place to start until your business takes off and you can afford to “upgrade”.
Also, again from my experience, WordPress just kicks booty in terms of SEO. I was not always a fan, but I’ve had great results with it and just cannot help to love it now.
December 20th, 2010 at 1:01 am
@Rochelle Dancel I wouldn’t rely on Tumblr for a professional site. Their service constantly goes down and users have gone without a site for a week or more.
December 20th, 2010 at 1:53 am
I believe the next best thing to have a WordPress based website is to have a simple HTML website! My experience with all the website builder tools has frankly been much less than satisfying. Better to get someone else to set your website up than to work with a less satisfactory website in the first place
December 20th, 2010 at 3:36 am
If you click me (pic) , you can obviously see that we are into Tumblr… using Tumblr makes you blogging and connecting with other tumblr users at the same time, some people are also using it for their official site like the Gary Vaycherchuk’s. Though lately it’s been down cos of the upgrades and all, but its really one good place to have fun and share creativity…
December 20th, 2010 at 2:35 pm
I’m building mine with Wix – easy to use and the site looks very professional.
December 20th, 2010 at 6:36 pm
@Robert Thanks for the heads up on Posterous re the affiliate links – how bizarre :/ The blog on my website is powered by Blogger (the navbar is easy easy enough to get rid of) and it’s skinned to look like the rest of my website.
@Amber Yup, my Tumblog has been more down than up in the last three weeks. However, as they’ve just secured $30m in funding, hopefully that situation will rectify itself in future!
I don’t have anything against WordPress; my point was simply that it isn’t the only one, especially if you don’t need anything big or complicated, and you don’t have any coding skills (or any inclination to learn), anyone to help you or any budget. WordPress is still my CMS of choice for most new websites that I work on, and will continue to be :)
December 21st, 2010 at 3:20 am
having a hosting account with hostgator, they also offer website builder, look forward to use it now after seeing too many advantages from here. thansk for adding new and useful information to me
December 21st, 2010 at 8:08 pm
Website Builders can be a great place for freelancers without technical skills to start out. However, from my experience (as a programmer), it seems that in the long run the lack of control, customization and features can leave people feeling frustrated. That’s just my personal experience however. I do see the benefits for those who have no programming skills and little cash to spend on hiring a developer to create a site. At the very least, it is a great place to start until your business takes off and you can afford to “upgrade”. Also, again from my experience, WordPress just kicks booty in terms of SEO. I was not always a fan, but I’ve had great results with it and just cannot help to love it now.
December 29th, 2010 at 12:26 pm
As a freelance web designer, I sometimes had potential clients asking me whether they should go for Website Builder rather than a customized site with their own domain name and web hosting account. **((Then why did he contacted me in the first place, I thought to myself))**
July 29th, 2011 at 11:21 am
Lots of advantage are there when you are using a website builder for creating a website. There is no requirement of coding knowledge. Anyone can create website easily using website builder software.
November 2nd, 2011 at 11:21 pm
Every person I’ve talked to has said the same thing about website builders. “I can’t do anything with them”. Which is true, you cannot do anything realistic with them except get online. Inflexible, SEO unfriendly and non-customizable.
Stay away from website builders and get a real website.
November 3rd, 2011 at 11:20 am
I agree with Robert. I’ve built about 8 sites and blogs using 100% free venues: no hosting or monthly fees. Some of my sites make money by selling my books, and most of them do great at coming up on Google’s front page of results for certain keywords. There will always be people who frown on this, but I’m not frowning when it comes to all the money I’m saving.
February 9th, 2012 at 4:41 am
When I stumble upon a great blog post I do one of three thing:1.Share it with the close friends.2.save it in all my popular social sharing sites.3.Be sure to come back to the website where I read the article.After reading this article I’m really concidering doing all of them.
October 31st, 2012 at 9:05 am
My clients use wix but the only sideback is that you can not code this website builder so it makes it harder to make it look much better. However Wix is actually great. I use it for my website at http://www.maxusdesigns.com . Is it bad to use these builders to make your clients website?
January 23rd, 2013 at 1:22 am
I have bookmarked this link as it is very educational, my kids will be following this post too.
February 27th, 2013 at 9:46 pm
This makes our work more time consuming but the ongoing results speak for themselves. All of our results are measured on a return on investment basis. Unless you are getting more sales, we are not happy! Natural SEO is the start of that process.
March 16th, 2013 at 6:20 am
This article is very good & informative.I have gain so much information from this blog.I like your blog.Thanks for the post.Keep posting on this topic.
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