Top 5 Website Secrets for Turning More Prospects into Clients

I don’t know how you feel about making money, but personally, I’m for it. And if you’re like me, you rely on your website for your income. You might even have several sites. So what would you say if I told you that every site you own could be turning many more prospects into clients, with just a few changes?

If you’re anything like me, you’d probably say: Wait, what? What changes?

So let me tell you. In this post I’ll share my five website secrets for turning more freelancing prospects into freelancing clients.

Secret 1: Your Website Isn’t About You

You may have paid for it, it may represent you, and you may rely on it for your income…but it ain’t about you. It is exclusively about your prospects—the people who pay you—and their problems.

If your website reflects this focus—if you show your prospects from the moment they arrive that you understand them and their needs, their goals, their ambitions and their frustrations—then they will stick around, because there’s nothing more interesting to them than those things.

But if your home page starts off talking about you—who they don’t know and frankly don’t care about—then what reason do they have to stay?

Maybe you think I’m exaggerating. So imagine this: you’re at a conference, and some guy comes up to you and starts talking your ear off, telling you all about his latest exploits in some industry that you have no interest in. You need that industry, but you don’t know much about it, nor care to. Is that someone you want to keep talking to? Or are you inclined to take one last salmon cracker, mumble something about a phone call, and slip out as fast as you can?

On the other hand, if that same guy had started off by inquiring about your own business, and started up a conversation about what you do, you’d have felt pretty comfortable talking to him. You might even have enjoyed it, and thought, Wow, what a swell guy to be so interested in me and my company. And then, if he showed you how he could make your life easier by solving a problem that he clearly understands and sympathizes with, you’d be all ears!

So if you’re one of those freelancers whose website starts with, “Hello, I’m a dime-a-dozen service provider with no originality to speak of but a strong desire to talk about myself,” maybe it’s time for a change!

Secret 2: The Purpose of Your Website Is Not to Sell

Are you interested in a way to make more sales? For every two sales you’re currently making, you could be making another 98 more.

Anyway, whatever, it’s a lot more. And it’s money that you’re probably flinging into the air for your competitors to grab right now…by doing everything you can to turn first-time visitors into clients. Because, the first time is the only time you get. Right?

Actually, some businesses follow up prospects as many as eleven times. That’s a dozen contacts in all when you include the prospect’s initial visit. Check this out:

  1. They make just 2% of their total sales from first-time visitors to their site
  2. With the second contact (first follow up), they make 3% of their total sales
  3. Third contact: 5%
  4. Fourth contact: 10%
  5. Fifth to Twelfth contact: 80%

So, here’s how it breaks down:

  1. If you aren’t following up your prospects at least once, you’re chucking out 98% of your possible sales revenue.
  2. If you aren’t following them up twice, you’re throwing away 95% of that revenue.
  3. Not following up three times? That’s 90% of your sales down the drain.
  4. Four times? No? Say goodbye to 80% of your potential profits.

Couple that with the fact that people hate to be pressured into a commitment, and you’ll start to understand why the first objective of your website is not actually to get anyone to buy anything. That’s the second objective. The first is to get them to come back. You can do that in many ways, but believe it or not, email is still the best. A free report or similar goodie in exchange for an email address, coupled with a decent 11-part email autoresponder is a tried-and-true staple of long-term lead nurturing.

Secret 3: Ask for Something Mutually Beneficial

I’m still surprised when I see the number of websites that don’t ask prospects to do anything. It’s as if people think that simply having a navigation bar is enough to get prospects to peruse every page, and a contact link in the top right corner (you do have a contact link in the top right corner, don’t you?) is all it takes to propel them into a deal.

But that’s rather like creating a subscription form with a blank signup button. Or, to use a real-world example, it’s rather like a salesman who shows you a gadget, but then doesn’t ask if you’d like to buy it. How many sales do you think he makes compared to his arch-rival Sandra, who never lets a prospect walk away without having to commit to saying no?

The simple fact is that if you don’t ask your visitors to do something on every page, they probably won’t. Because not doing anything is easier than trying to figure out where to go next. When there’s no clear action to take, the only obvious thing to do is leave—and many prospects will.

On the other hand, if you give them a clear action and ask them in no uncertain terms to take it, leaving is relegated to a secondary option. And if you give them two actions, one requiring less commitment than the other, then you get them to commit to an either/or decision, rather than a yes/no decision—and so make leaving even more unlikely.

Of course, it’s important to ask for the right thing. Many freelancers who understand the value of calls to action nonetheless make the mistake of asking prospects to hire them straight up on their home pages. But that’s not what prospects are ready to do on a home page. They want to find out more about the person they might be hiring, and the services offered. You have to make your goals match your prospect’s goals—it just won’t work the other way around.

Secret 4: Less Is Actually Less

Freelancers, like just about everyone, are afraid of long copy. They worry about boring their prospects, about turning them off by saying too much. But in fact, it’s hard to say enough.

Don’t get me wrong—you really can bore your prospects if you’re going on and on about you, rather than about how you can help them. And you probably don’t need to get into the technical minutiae of your work on your services page. Leave that stuff for your blog, where it shows that you’re an expert, rather than that you’re just dull. (You do have a blog to show that you’re an expert, of course.)

But if you’re talking about the stuff your prospects want to know, the stuff that will help them to understand how you will solve their problems, and what to expect the process to be like and what the outcomes are likely to be, then you really can’t say enough. One of the five or so reasons people don’t buy things is lack of information. I’ve never heard of anyone buying because they had too much information. Have you?

This isn’t a license to be long-winded. And whatever you do, don’t try to write your website like a travel brochure. You have to be concise, and you have to be conversational. So here’s a thought: if you can’t afford to hire a good copywriter, sit down with someone who’s interested in your services and record the conversation. Then transcribe it and use that as a basis for your copy. It will be easy to read because it’s conversational, it will be enjoyable to read because it conveys your own personality, and it will be interesting to read because it talks about the things your prospect wants to know.

Secret 5: No One Gets Fewer Conversions by Testing

What I’ve said so far will get you a good ways towards converting more clients. But these are only guidelines. How you implement them can make a big difference as to their effectiveness. And you can’t possibly know which way of doing things will be more effective unless you test. In fact, even conversion-rate experts like me will guess wrong over a third of the time. Often more than half.

Fortunately for you, Google’s analytics software is free. So you really have no excuse to not be doing some basic testing. Set up an alternate version of your home page that puts the principles I’ve described into practice, get thee to Google Website Optimizer, and start cashing in!

What About You?

How do you turn prospects into clients?

Share your tips in the comments.

Image by mikeinlondon


  1. says

    Hit the nail on the head with ‘some businesses follow up prospects as many as eleven times’. This is such an important lesson I had to learn the hard way but it makes so much sense to get users into your funnel rather then sell to them straight away.

  2. says

    I agree with all but also think you should be careful with Secret 4 – Less is Actually More. Having done a lot of work with search engine optimisation (SEO) it is actually in conflict with the content is king philosophy of attracting higher search engine rankings.

    Perhaps the solution is to keep content brief on the pages describing the business but have an authoritative blog with relevant postings.

    Great points!

  3. says

    Great article – one thing I’m a little confused about though, in the follow up emails with prospects, is it best to write about happenings in the industry that you’re serving or best to write about the actual services that you offer?

    I’m just not quite sure I understand how to properly address clients in an newsletter.

  4. says

    Thanks so much for the stats about following up. I am very frustrated right now because I have five major proposals out there, and no one making any decisions to move ahead. GRRRRRR!!!!! But now that I know I may have to follow up five times or more, I’ll keep persisting. And maybe they’ll decide. Thanks!

  5. says

    @Shannon: there isn’t any one right answer there. The most important thing is to continually give prospects information they find valuable. As long as it’s relevant to your industry, it doesn’t matter what it is exactly. What you’re aiming to do is fourfold:

    Firstly, you want to keep yourself constantly in front of your prospects, because you never know when they’re going to say, “Now is the time to spend money on this”. When they do, you want them to think of you first.

    Secondly, you want to establish yourself as an expert and a leader. When they think of you first, they naturally have to trust that you’re the right person for the job as well!

    Thirdly, you want to set up reciprocity. By offering something your prospects find genuinely useful (information of some kind), you make them grateful. When people are grateful, they feel not only feel inclined to consider you above others, but even to give back to you.

    Fourthly, and this might be the most important thing of all, and unfortunately the thing which most companies either forget or think is “unprofessional”: you want your prospects to like you. Not that you should be touchy-feely or anything like that, but your follow-ups should be personal. They should be from someone who it makes sense for them to be from, If you’re a freelancer, as you probably are, then they should be from you. And they should reflect your personality genuinely. The main hurdle to hiring a freelancer is often not money, but simply a lack of relationship. We like to hire people we already know, like, and trust. So help your prospects to get to know, like, and trust you.

    Hope this helps!
    Kind regards,

  6. says

    This article could not have come at a better time! For the past couple of weeks, I have been diligently working on completely rebranding myself, redesigning my website, and completely rewriting all content. I have really been struggling with the content. This article confirms the direction that I am taking to talk less about myself and more about what my perfect clients want to hear about what I can do for them. I like the thought of “Less is Always Less”. I want to provide as much pertinent information about my business, but do it as clearly and concisely as possible. Thank you for this article!

  7. says

    Thanks Bnonn, that definitely helps. :) Those are all really good points and helps clear things up much better for me. I’ve always known a newsletter was a great way to improve my business but not quite sure how to start. Thanks again!

  8. says

    While they are all great tips, for me number 2 is a real standout. I knew from experience that follow-up was required to convert someone into a sale. However I had not seen those statistics before!

    However I would add one cautionary note on follow-ups. Always sound happy and positive. The best advice I was ever given on sales calls, “Pretend it’s the first time you’ve ever called them. Don’t be negative or demand to know why they have not responded. Smile even on the phone. People can hear the difference.”

  9. says

    This is a great post, Bnonn, thanks. Excellent points and well-written; you have a very readable style. Reinforces what I’ve been saying to my clients for years (which is reassuring), but it always helps to see it again – and to have some stats to back it up.

  10. says

    number 3, I hate this as a consumer. I understand the point and I get what you mean and are trying to do but there is nothing more aggravating than reading an article and having some popup ask for your email or “subscribe to my RSS Feed.” I still find that the best way to method of getting clients is word of mouth. Good article though and thanks for the advice!

  11. says

    Kip, if I may say, I think the situations you describe are good examples of NOT following #3. If you find it aggravating to be asked for something, then that thing is clearly not of benefit to you. In fact, I’d wager you find it aggravating precisely because it is clearly only of benefit to the person whose blog you’re visiting.

    When I say you should ask for something mutually beneficial, I’m not actually referring specifically to lead gen. That’s just one example. I’m referring to calls to action in general. Look at this very page, for instance. I’m being asked to do something mutually beneficial by Freelance Folder: it’s clearly marked with a big orange button right in my eyepath: “Submit Comment”. I benefit by showing my expertise and possibly getting traffic to my site, and Freelance Folder benefits by having an expert give free advice on their blog.

    Similarly, on your own website, you might have a button on your homepage marked “Learn More”, following some talk of how you can help your prospects. That’s mutually beneficial. They learn more about your services, which they’re interested in, and you get to keep them on your site and potentially close a sale, or at least gain a lead. (I notice you don’t have a button like this, though; often “Contact Us” is not something a prospect will see as mutually beneficial until he has considered his options, so you might be asking for that too early.)

    Hope this helps,

  12. says

    This blog post is very useful. I have used newsletter to contact clients. At first I didn’t have many subscribers but of late people are subscribing to it.

  13. says

    Great read. The follow up method Is what I really need to work on.
    On the point 3 I guest you really need to be careful no to overdo it I hate the popup windows with special offers and such (but maybe I’m in the minority on this one)

  14. says

    Asking for something mutually beneficial is equivalent to the call to action. Any call to action, no matter how subtle, can be the difference between a prospect and no prospect.

  15. says

    Great Post. The follow up method Is what I really need to work on.
    On the point 3 I guest you really need to be careful no to overdo it I hate the popup windows with special offers and such.


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