7 Warning Signs Your Freelance Writer Website Sucks

Carol Tice

Warning SignBy Henneke Duistermaat

Let’s be frank. Creating your freelance writer website is tough.

It’s far more difficult to write your own copy than to create content for a client.

Today I’m sharing the most common mistakes on freelance websites. Avoid these mistakes and you’ll have a much better chance that your website helps you win customers and make money.

Sound good?

Mistake 1: Too-clever home page headline

Web visitors are always in a hurry. They quickly scan your home page. They decide in a few seconds whether to click back or to stay.

A web visitor doesn’t take the time to understand your clever headline. Keep your headline simple and concise, such as “Freelance Writer in Boston” or “Content Strategist Who Helps Small Businesses Win Customers”.

Mistake 2: About page isn’t engaging

Customers aren’t interested in you; they want to know why they should work with you. Don’t prattle on about yourself. Give web visitors a reason to get in touch with you — and hire you.

Mistake 3: Wishy-washy copy

Finding good-paying clients can be hard. It’s easy to be tempted to cast your net as widely as possible. But the problem with a wide target is that your marketing messages become wishy-washy, watery, and ineffective.

Instead of thinking about your audience, try to describe just one ideal client. Describe her in so much detail that you can visualize her when writing your web copy.

Writing for one person makes your web copy stronger, more engaging, and more persuasive.

Mistake 4: Stale blog

A blog is a great opportunity to show off your content creation skills. But don’t let your blog go moldy. Don’t give potential clients the impression you can’t even keep up with your own blog! Find a schedule that works for you and stick with it.

Mistake 5: Crimes against readability

Sometimes we’re so engrossed with picking exactly the right words and tightening our copy, we don’t notice how bad our copy looks.

Make your copy readable:

  • De-clutter your web pages and increase white space.
  • Reduce the length of your paragraphs.
  • Convert sentences into bullet points.
  • Increase the size of your font (the font size here is 16px).

Don’t make your readers strain their eyes. Encourage them to read your copy by promoting good, readable design.

Mistake 6: Sucky design

You don’t need a large budget to create a great-looking design: Pick a WordPress theme you like. Choose your own fonts and colors.

Sign up for Pamela Wilson’s design 101 series to learn more about designing your own site (it’s free!).

Mistake 7: You look unapproachable

Encourage web visitors to contact you. Be approachable:

  • Include a good, professional photo of you — smiling.
  • Publish an email address, because most people don’t enjoy completing forms.
  • Include active social media profiles only.

The truth about your freelance website

People hire you because you are an excellent writer, yes, but also because they know you, like you, and trust you.

Be yourself, and let your passion shine through — your enthusiasm is contagious.

Henneke Duistermaat is a marketer, copywriter, and author of the book How to Write Seductive Web Copy. Sign up for free copywriting and marketing tips at Enchanting Marketing.

Did this give you ideas on how to improve your writer website? If so let us know in the comments!

 

48 Comments

  1. Taynia

    A custom header is an inexpensive alternative to set your site apart from a sea of websites. It can typically be uploaded with any free or purchased theme.

    • Henneke

      Yes, I totally agree – if you have a small budget, then spend it on the design of a logo or header image. That’s exactly what I did, too!

      • Louise Kling

        Thank you for this interesting post about websites. I have so many questions about the ways to establish an online writers presence effectively, and this article is one of the best!

        • Gowardhan Doddi

          I beleive strongly that every freelance writer should have his /her own blog and a CV to list out their skills capabilities, I recommend having a online cv and a offline cv. Offline cv is short and simple while the online cv can be exhaustive to enable clients know in detail about you before they hire you

          • Carol Tice

            You know, in the U.S., we don’t really use CVs or resumes on our writer sites. They’re pretty dry and boring, and don’t do a great job of selling your expertise. There are better ways to do it, in my view. But I gather CVs are still in use in the U.K. and a few other places.

            I also don’t think every writer needs a blog — depends on whether you have a passion for blogging, and what sorts of gigs you’re trying to get. They do need a writer website, though.

  2. Josh Brancek

    Hey folks, awesome post!!! I would add also stuff like custom made header, premium template, lots of user comments, lots of activity on social networks and maybe somo logos of sites where my website was mentioned etc…

  3. Jennifer Gregory

    Great post! I would also add that it is important to keep your clips up to date. I try to update my writing clips every few weeks or whenever I have a high profile article published. I have been to many other writer sites and noticed that their clips are all over a year old, which makes me wonder what they have been doing the past year. I also recommend putting your highest profile clips at the top instead of the most recent since they have the biggest impact. Also, be sure to only put your best clips on your website.

    Since I do a lot of content marketing writing, I also include a list of my content marketing writing clients to illustrate my experience .I also list my biggest name clients first (IBM, American Express) for the same strategy as the clips.

    • Henneke

      Yes, good points. And if clips are slightly out of date, then just remove the dates!

  4. Kevin Carlton

    Henneke

    Another common mistake, which is similar to #1, is being too clever with the anchor text in links to the other pages on your website.

    Website visitors haven’t the time or patience to work out that ‘More than a great writer’ is actually the link to your ‘About us’ page or that ‘At your service’ really means ‘Contact us’.

    This isn’t clever, it’s just plain stupid.

    Sure, you can vary things up a bit – as long as it’s patently clear what those links mean.

    • Sherri

      Yea, I get this. I had a “clever” name for my rates page and then I decided that nobody would know what that was. I changed it back to plain ole “Rates”.

      • Kevin Carlton

        Too right, Sherri, stick to plain ole simple link descriptions. That way, no-one gets phased when they navigate their way around.

        But just one other thing – as it happens, I don’t call the link to my online portfolio page ‘Portfolio’. Instead I call it ‘Success Stories’.

        I did that because it kinda sounds more positive. But, at the same time, it’s still sufficiently clear what page the link is taking you to.

      • Carol Tice

        I’d love to hear how prospects react to the Rates page. I’m pretty strongly opposed to posting one myself…just limits your ability to negotiate.

        The only scenario I’ve heard where it works is with writers who are getting a TON of bottom-feeder reach-outs that are wasting their time, so they post a floor rate to eliminate those. At the very least, state a wide range to give yourself wiggle room.

        But I’m sticking with my contention that this is a conversation you want to have live with the prospect, not slap on a website for them to read before you ever get to know them.

        • Sherri

          Yea, mine is going to be more “sample” rates than set rates. I’ll say something like- “Just to see if my rates are in your ballpark…here’s a few sample rates.” Something like that. This will help run off those looking for a business blog post for $4.

    • Henneke

      Yes, I agree. Thank you for bringing that up. Cleverness for the navigation menu is a big no-no, too 🙂

  5. Daryl

    When I find it hard to navigate around the site, find old posts, etc…that’s a turnoff for me!

  6. Mary Brotherton

    This is a prime example of teaching by doing, show, don’t tell.

  7. Suzanne

    A good article. Especially liked the tip about writing with one audience in mind. I disagree with making your about us page about the client. People like to know who they’re working with. It makes you stand out and establishes your credibility and experience in lieu of a resume. When I’m looking at company websites, I actually get really frustrated when the about us page is too corporate or service-oriented. The about us page is your single chance to connect on a personal level and show your personality. Great article, though.

    • Gayle Glass

      Suzanne, I clicked your site to see what your about page says, and I do like it. It’s a nice mixture.

      Which brings me to another question. I’ll post it in general comments,too. Should I have a static home page, of should the link open to the blog? Mine opens to the blog, but yours is a static page. There doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut consensus on this.

      • Carol Tice

        It depends on your goals for your blog and for your writing, Gayle. If you’re looking mainly to get blogging gigs or your blog is a successful entity you’re earning from on its own, maybe you want a “Hire Me” tab on a blog-based site.

        Otherwise, blogs belong under a tab in my view. The problem is if you don’t have a static landing page, you’re not in control of what clients see on that first 3 seconds. It’s going to be whatever random blog post you have up! And that’s not ideal.

      • Rachel

        Anything you put up on your site has to have a specific purpose. You need to ask yourself, “What do I hope to accomplish with this page? What do I want visitors to do?”

        And then you need to write your content with that one specific goal in mind. Landing pages (a static page) make a lot of sense, since they allow you to focus on turning a potential client into an actual client.

        On my new writer’s site (rachelspeal.com) I’ve put a post that is aimed for business owners considering whether or not to hire a content strategist. So I wrote a post, complete with stats, called “The 3 Deadly Marketing Sins of Business Owners,: aimed at convincing them of the importance of using content marketing.

        Any posts I add can be in the same vein.

        • Carol Tice

          I wish more writers would ask that question…In general, too many writer sites are crammed with miscellany that just creates clutter and makes it hard for prospects to tell what you want them to do.

          But here’s the thing…the post you put up also creates confusion. It feels like a blog post, but it’s on the home page, where you should be describing how you solve client’s problems and why you’re the writer for them. I’m confused when I visit why that is there instead of Home page copy.

          Also, if you add more posts, then this post will disappear, so if it has your prime directive, that’s a problem as well.

          I’m not sure you’ve chosen the right goal with that page…you’re driving them to subscribe to a blog from what it looks like. Wouldn’t you rather they called you up and hired you?

          This is the sort of stuff we’ll be going into in a lot of detail in the bootcamp – Build a Writer Website That Works.

    • Henneke

      Hmmm, yes, I agree with you – I didn’t bring the point across well to keep the post short.

      I don’t like corporate About pages full of gobbledygook at all. As a freelance writer, people hire you not just because of your skills, but also because of who you are; so I definitely think you need to bring your personality across, but it’s good to try and do this in such a way that it shows why people should work with you.

      On your about page you tell the story of your career, but you highlight the points that are interesting for potential clients. That’s what I meant to say. It’s not just a story to show personality – you’ve thought about what is useful for your clients to know 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      I think your About page should be about you…but through the lens of what the client would want to know about you. There’s a lot of oversharing and off-topic copy on About pages that I think are a turnoff for clients.

      What makes you the writer you are? What sorts of writing do you enjoy doing, and why? Those are the types of things to chat about on About, in my view.

  8. Lori Ferguson

    Excellent article with all sorts of ‘executable ideas’ — love it! After taking Carol & Linda’s Bootcamp last Spring, I did a complete overhaul of my website and I’m much happier with my ‘new look.’ But what’s more important, clients are responding positively. I landed a job just the other day from a guy who emailed and said, “I want to work with you, and I want you to know, I love your website.” It was incredibly gratifying to hear. That said, as Carol likes to point out, it’s a ‘living, breathing organism,’ so I’m always tweaking. Your post has prompted me to go back for another look–thank you!

    • Henneke

      Sounds great, Lori. And yep, my site is due an overhaul as well. It’s just difficult to find time, isn’t it?

      • Carol Tice

        Mine too! Prepping my upcoming website bootcamp has actually prompted me to make a couple of new changes to my own site as well.

  9. Debbie Kane

    All good things to remember as I’m overhauling my website (working on it right now, incidentally). And I was inspired to do it after reading Carol’s tips and seeing friend Lori Ferguson’s website (see post above) and thinking I need to look professional and get “found.”

  10. Sherri

    “Customers aren’t interested in you; they want to know why they should work with you.”

    I agree with this. Your About page is a prime opportunity to persuade the client with some savvy marketing copy.

    Does the client care that you went to a certain university? Maybe. Do they care if you have two dogs and live by a lake? Probably not.

    • Carol Tice

      I think a quick sentence or two of personal stuff is good and humanizing…but most writers overdo in that department.

  11. Gayle Glass

    These are wonderful tips, and I’m bookmarking this article. However, #2 – the ‘About’ page – struck a note with me. I have always agreed with what you say about making that page as professional as possible. However, the blog-followers WANT personal information such as likes/dislikes, background, etc. How do you balance that?

    • Henneke

      I use a lot of personal stories on my blog, but I always use them to illustrate the advice I’m giving. It’s the same for an about page – tell the stories about your career and who you are, that are interesting for potential clients.

      Sean d’Souza does it well: http://www.psychotactics.com/about/marketing-strategy-small-business

      • Carol Tice

        I’ve gone with the same approach — see my “Where I’ve Been” page: http://www.caroltice.com/resume And you can see just from that that I need to improve my URL for that page. It never ends…

  12. Gayle Glass

    Something not addressed here. I compleely re-vamped my web-presence a couple months ago, and am excited to be using WordPress. But, should the site open to a static home page, or the blog? I haven’t seen a definitive answer on this. Right now, it opens to the blog because that’s where all my traffic is . but for future development, how/when do I make the decision to switch? I am mainly a fiction writer, but dabble in local news stories and op-ed pieces.

    • Henneke

      It depends on what your objective is. If new visitors arrive at your site and you want to promote that you write local news stories (or something else), then it’s probably better to move to static home page rather than a blog page.

      A blog home page is more suitable if your blog is the beginning of your sales funnel (i.e. you want people to subscribe to your email list to get blog updates which also allows you to sell something to them) and for repeat visitors who know what you do and who just want to know your latest blog post.

    • Carol Tice

      You have another challenge there — I think if you’re going after business clients, the minute they see “fiction” on your site, they run. They don’t think you’d want to focus on their projects, you’re busy writing their novel! I often recommend writers put that on a separate site.

  13. Katherine Swarts

    Two thumbs up for including “publish an email address, because most people don’t enjoy completing forms” under Point 7. I run up against an even worse headache than the form on a regular basis (big technical companies are the top offenders here): Contact Us pages that seem to have the invisible subtitle “If You Can.” They offer you a phone number that leads to a long technical menu (or, worse, a computer that insists you ask your question verbally in language it can understand); a Forums tab that requires you to ask other users instead of the people who supposedly know the system best; and (if you’re lucky) a Chat page and/or form that is almost impossible to figure out without a tech degree.

    Speaking of the impossible maze of communication (and looking back to the “post rates?” question), there’s an article on the latest Marketing Minute newsletter (http://www.yudkin.com/markmin.htm) that complains about businesses that do the same thing with fixed prices (not for writing services, of course, but for e-books and other products): give customers a third degree of forms before revealing the price. The old principle “seek first to understand, THEN to be understood” is something a lot of businesses need to learn to apply to the phases after the initial inquiry.

    • Carol Tice

      Katherine, I’ve reviewed writer sites where there is NO WAY to contact them. Not confusing, not hidden…it is not there at all. Nuts!

  14. Terri

    I have to admit I have trouble keeping up with my blog on my writer website. I really don’t post on it as regularly as I should. Lately, I’ve been trying to fix that problem by dedicating on day to churning out a bunch of posts. That way on the blog day all I have to do is hit publish.

    A major selling point for my website is the about page. I definitely think it pays to be a bit personal on it. Whenever people hire me I always ask what made them choose me. You’d be surprised at how many people say they liked that I carry play-doh in my purse for impromptu play-time and for an instant pick me up on bad days. I have a short blurb about my play-doh carrying on my “about” page. So I definitely think showing your quirky side (if you have one) is a major plus to add to your website.

    • Carol Tice

      I love that. In my Entrepreneur author bio page, I had noted that my kids were trying to pressure me into getting a dog, and over the years I’ve gotten dozens of reachouts from people that ended with “So did you get the dog?”

      You’ll be surprised how many people really read these things, and what you write on them does make an impression.

  15. Laura Davis

    Thanks so much for this timely help! I am in the middle of re-working some of the copy on my writer website, and #3 really hit where I am floundering! Aiming for one ideal client is going to help me focus better and decide what to write more easily!

  16. Tammy

    Carol,

    This post was right on the money for me! Thank you so much for your insight and tips! 🙂

  17. Tammy

    Just to add here…I do try to include my personal experiences as a writer, and at the same time, offer any tips and advice I can with the knowledge I have obtained thus far in my freelance/ghostwriting journey. I will be reworking my home page with the excellent points and advice you’ve shared in your post. Thanks again for the inspiration Carol! 🙂 I love reading your posts. Keep the content coming!

  18. Traci

    One thing that drives me crazy on writing websites are the obnoxious plays on the word “write”. For example “get the write writer” or ” make the write choice”. If you spend any time at all looking at writing sites, you’ll quickly see that it is a tired and over-used practice.

    • Carol Tice

      Have to agree…I do see that a lot.

  19. Clara Mae Watrous

    I really enjoyed the article and all the comments on it. Inspiring and informative.

  20. Grace

    Thankyou so much for this post.

    It has been incredibly useful to me as a new blogger trying to make a success of my page. I look forward to reading more from you.

    I have also found that guest blogging is also incredibly useful in getting your writer website noticed and successful. By getting your work published on reputable sites, you can link back to your own work driving in traffic and building yourself a following. 🙂

    Plus, the help of a friend who’s good with graphics never goes amiss for shaping up you blog image.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    Grace

  21. Hugh

    Great post Henneke, thank you. I have a website, but never considered it a freelance site. Lately I have been thinking about freelancing so I’ll make sure to implement your suggestions to make it more freelance friendly.
    Thanks,
    Hugh

  22. Emmanuel

    Think I am guilty of the first mistake. Will have to simplify my headline.

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