In 2017, I spent a lot of my time as a freelancer on Upwork. While all my clients are still coming from Upwork, I wanted to spend 2018 building up my freelance website. Eventually, I know that this will begin to bring freelance clients my way. Building my freelance website came together pretty quickly after I had a few elements in place. Today I wanted to share some resources with you on how I created my writing website.
*This post contains affiliate links.
1. Pick A Domain Name
Your domain name is so important when you create a freelance website. You want your domain name to be easy to remember, so don't forget that.
When it comes to domain names, use a .com if possible. This site is a .co because amandacross.com is expensive to purchase and I don't have hundreds of dollars to buy it at the moment.
You also want to stay away from dashes in your domain name if possible.
If you want a .com, but it's taken, try adding a word or two on the end, as long as the word isn't too long. For example, last year I bought amandacrossblog.com when I had a business blog.
This has never been strictly proven, but I have heard too many horror stories. Some people wanted a domain name, searched for it, came back to purchase it, and a domain squatter took it. Never search for a domain name unless you are ready to hit buy. My suggestion? Do all your domain name thinking on paper, list them out from most wanted name to least wanted name, and then search until you find the name highest on the list that's not taken. That way, if you ever wish to use those other names that were lower on the list, there will be no trace of you searching for them.
Where do you purchase your domain at, though? I am a big fan of Namecheap. I have bought probably a dozen domain names from Namecheap over the years, and they continue to be my favorite place. Here's why:
They are pretty cheap: I can get most domains from them for about $10 a year.
They come with a year of WhoIsGuard: Have you ever got a domain name and then your email inbox and phone looks like spam city? It's because you didn't protect your info and people scrape that data to sell to new website owners. All Namecheap domain names come with a free year of WhoIsGuard, and it's a lifesaver. After the year, it's only $2.88/year which is cheaper than most companies.
Overall, Namecheap is an excellent service to go with because it's reliable. I have never had bad service with them, and they price things reasonably.
2.Pick A Platform
Before you create your site, you need to pick a platform to build your site on. There are many options to do this, but I think the most viable are Wordpress.org or Squarespace.
I have a blog on Squarespace, and to be honest, it can get somewhat pricey to host a site there. Currently, the lowest Squarespace plan is $12 per month billed annually or $16 month-to-month. Plus, on that plan, you don't get that many features as it's for personal use. The best plan would be the business plan, but that starts at $18 a month billed annually or $26 month-to-month. While I am on Squarespace, I don't recommend it much because it's not as cost-effective as it used to be.
On the other hand, Squarespace is very intuitive and has a drag and drop quality about it. If you want to manipulate your website and make it do what you want without technical skill, Squarespace may be the way to go.
Wordpress.org itself is free if you have something to host it on (which we will talk about next.) I used to be afraid of Wordpress.org, but it does depend on your host and your theme. Don't be scared to branch out into the world of hosting your site.
3. If You Go With Wordpress.org, Pick Hosting
Picking a host can make or break your Wordpress.org experience. When I was on Wordpress.org in the past, I had a bad experience because my host was constantly going in and out. I used Bluehost, which I am sure has been updated a million times over since I hosted my site in 2015.
This time though, I picked SiteGround as my host, and I have never loved a platform more.
Here are some reasons that I love SiteGround:
Uptime Is Great: Seriously, my site has never gone down in the few months that I have been hosting this site with SiteGround. It's phenomenal.
Customer Service Is Awesome: I have talked with customer service quite a few times since I started, and they never disappoint. I always get my questions answered quickly.
Free Basic SSL Certificate: SiteGround provides a free SSL certificate with each account. It's their basic Let's Encrypt SSL certificate which will be great for most freelancers. If you need something more robust, you can pay to upgrade your certificate.
Different Plans To Fit Your Needs: I love that SiteGround has various shared hosting and even cloud hosting and dedicated servers for sites that need a little something extra.
I do want to say that Namecheap does offer hosting plans, but I cannot vouch for their hosting plans because I have only ever used them for domain names.
4. Pick A Theme
When you first install your Wordpress.org blog, it will probably be ugly, and you will wonder why people like self-hosting at all. You have to be willing to invest a little bit of money into a beautiful theme so that you can easily create a website that looks beautiful out of the box. If you know how to code, though, you may be able to create your website from scratch. I wasn't one of those people who knew how to code, though, so I picked up a theme for my site.
Here are a couple of Wordpress.org themes I recommend because I have tried them before or they are my current theme:
Writers Premium from Made For Writers
Lucie Grasso from City House Design
Themes are great because once you install them on your Wordpress site (or on any site that you choose a theme for), you can customize them to fit the needs of your color scheme and your branding. Themes make you look professional and they are so much easier than hand coding your entire site!
You may want to get a designer in the future to create a custom site, but when you are beginning, I encourage you to pick a theme instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a custom design.
5. Create Your Freelance Writing Pages
Now that you have selected a theme and customized it to your liking, it's time to create some pages for your blog. Here are some of the most important pages on your site. I am linking my examples of these pages below.
About (My About Page)
When you are building your freelance website, start with your About Me page. What do you want people to know about you? This page should be used to tell them what you can do for them as a freelancer. You don't want to spend the entire page talking about random things about yourself.
While my about me is technically about me, it's not a traditional "about me." I focus on my background as a freelance writer and why I would be an excellent choice. I also share some random facts at the bottom of the page, but they aren't the primary source of content on my about me page.
Hire Me (My Hire Me Page)
This is the page where you get deeper into the services that you offer and the clients that you serve. You may also want to share your prices on this page as well if you already have them in order. Sharing prices is not always ideal for all freelancers, though, so it's up to you if you want to publish your rates.
Portfolio (My Portfolio Page)
Some plugins make portfolios easier, but they aren't necessary. I load everything on to my portfolio page by hand. This page is essential to keep up with your current work examples. Compile a list, and be sure to introduce the post if you have the space to explain your portfolio items.
Testimonials (My Testimonials Page)
People want to know how others felt about working with your brand, so let them know! Compile a list of testimonials and share what you did for each client. If you have pictures of the client or even a video from the client--that's even better!
Contact (My Contact Page)
Last, but not least, you want to include a Contact page. I use the plugin Contact Form 7 to create an easy to use contact form for my brand. People are easily able to contact me, and it gets sent straight to my inbox. I also have my social media accounts and email address listed on the page.
6. If You Need Samples, Start A Blog
As a starting freelancer, you may not have an abundance of samples to put in your portfolio. Start a blog for any sample, especially writing samples.
If you aren't a freelance writer, you can still publish examples of graphic design work, branding, etc. on a blog post so you have them published somewhere that people can easily see.
I had a few different writing samples, but I wanted to start a blog, so potential companies that I would be working with knew my exact writing style.
7. Start Your Mailing List ASAP
I know what you are thinking:
If I am a freelancer, why do I need a mailing list?
Well, the answer is simple: you never know what your next step will be.
Having an email list allows you to grow your brand and reach out to the awesome people who are interested in hiring you.
They may not want to bite right away. They may be interested in seeing the other things you have to offer them first like your social media insights, emails, and other communications.
Creating an email list also allows you to sell them on other things later.
For example, if you are a freelance graphic designer who creates social media graphics. A user may love your stuff, but they can't afford your prices. Down the line, you may decide to create some general social media graphics templates to generate some passive income.
You can email your engaged list about these general social media graphics, and that person who wanted to buy from you now has a more accessible point of entry to your services. If they love the general social media graphics, they may even hire you to create custom ones for their brand in the future.
This same strategy can be used for various freelance industries. For instance: maybe you are a freelance writer who eventually decides to sell PLR content, or you are a freelance publicist, and you eventually decide to sell an ebook with some basic tips for getting publicity for your company.
You can use your email list to let people know of other things you have up your sleeve. If you didn't have an email list with an enticing content upgrade, you might lose these clients forever if they forget you exist. With an active email list, you can capture these people and follow-up with them as you offer more services and more information on your site.
8. Get On The Right Social Media Networks
Freelancing requires you to be social. You can often find a lot of clients on social media. I would suggest the following social media networks:
Facebook (especially Facebook Groups)
You can obviously pick whichever networks speak to you, but I encourage those social media networks more than anything else.
Take it one step at a time, but make sure that you aren't staying in your bubble. You want to get out there, post about your services as much as possible. People will eventually bite as long as you are doing the hard work.
9. Add Your Site To Google Search Console
Last, but not least, add your site to Google Search Console. I explain how to do this at length in my SEO e-book that you can download using the opt-in form at the end of this post.
A lot of people think you have to wait to submit your site, but you can submit your site as early as you want to and Google will continue to update your catalog of content as you put out more pages and posts.
Google can only recommend you if they know you exist. Google provides so many page views to sites across the world, wouldn't it be great if they could offer page views on your site too? Submitting your site only takes a couple of minutes, and you will be setting yourself up for a great future of page views from Google as they begin to process your posts and how valuable they are to potential readers.
Setting your site up with Google Search Console is a necessary step for setting up your freelance website in my opinion.
Setting up your freelance website takes time, but once it's complete, you will have an excellent website that can attract clients no matter your freelance niche. Take the time to start setting up your freelance website today; you won't regret it, I promise!
Freelance Website Inspiration
Here are a couple of examples of freelance websites so you can get some inspiration for how you want your website to look.