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