Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #3: Without This Tool, You’re Invisible

Carol Tice

Marketing for freelance writers: Why a freelance writer website is crucial. Makealivingwriting.com

Freelance writers do different kinds of marketing.

Some writers like to make phone calls, some go to in person networking events and hand out business cards, some reach out on LinkedIn. Some send query letters.

But no matter how you do your marketing, sooner or later it all boils down to one thing: Prospective clients would like to look at your website and read your clips, so they can decide whether they want to hire you.

Without at least a basic writer website, you just don’t look professional. Especially in the fast-growing world of online writing markets. You just can’t compete for the good gigs.

So you need a writer website.

But you’re broke.

And technology makes you cry.

How can you get at least a rudimentary website together on the cheap, without having to become a technological genius? Here are a few options I like:

  • Take over your Zoominfo profile. Zoominfo automatically compiles references to people online — but you can take control of your profile and style it up. I actually used this for the first 18 months when I started freelancing in late 2005.
  • Use the Behance plugin on your LinkedIn profile to show your portfolio. This allows you to add many more than the requisite three or so links usually allowed.
  • Join the National Association of Writers & Editors, NAIWE, for $99 and get a hosted WordPress blog. This is my personal favorite deal. You get all the resources of a professional support organization — plus they throw in a hosted WordPress site for you. It’s pre-set up with a portfolio page for your clips and a basic design you can leave or improve. Bonuses: Your blog posts appear in NAIWE’s blogroll on its busy website, and you can get the organization to retweet your posts, too. An instant site that comes with some instant exposure, too.
  • Use a free, quickie platform such as Yola, Cuttings.me or Flavors.me to throw up a basic site. There are some real limitations you’ll bump up against here — but on the plus side, you could have somewhere to send clients right away.

What needs to be on your writer website?

Once you’ve got a site, you want to turn it into a useful tool that convinces clients to hire you. There are eight basic items you need on a professional writer website:

  1. A professional photo of you. Find a photography student and get a decent-looking shot that says “I’m a writer, and I love what I do.” Not a photo of you with your poodle, or in a bikini, or in a bar. Remember, people hire people. Look accessible and relatable, and real.
  2. Lots of clips. Don’t only put a few. Don’t just list the titles like a bibliography. The main point of visiting your site is to read your work. Don’t force your prospects to download your clips, either — they won’t. Either link to where the clips live online, or link to where they are on your site (you can get them made into PDFs, then upload them in WordPress on the “media” tab). Group them by topic and show the publication name in the title, too. Don’t make prospects click on each clip to find out where it appeared. Make sure your clips are readable — they shouldn’t be photos of the article where the text is all blurry.
  3. Contact information. Don’t hide it under a tab, and don’t make it one of those contact email forms none of us want to fill out. Put it in your header or sidebar so it’s visible all the time. This is the number-one thing you want prospects to do, so make it easy.
  4. Key words. Figure out what you’d like to rank for in search — maybe “Charlotte freelance writer” or “freelance medical writer.” Do some keyword research and think about the types of phrases prospects might put in a search engine when they need your kind of writer. Then get those phrases into your URL, your headline, and/or your tagline. Mention them in your body copy. Keep updating your site to help your rankings.
  5. A strong About page. This is the second-most-visited page on most sites. Tell a compelling story about who you are as a writer — one that a prospect would want to read. Describe the types of writing you enjoy doing. Don’t talk about how you’ve wanted to be a writer since you were five. Prospects don’t care. This isn’t the place for a boring resume with dates and publication names, either.
  6. Testimonials and awards. If you have these or can solicit testimonials, get them on your site. Cut and paste recommendations from LinkedIn and use them here, too. My experience is that prospects are inordinately impressed by testimonials and awards. If you can, get small photos to put with your client testimonials — it makes them more relatable and impactful.
  7. Clean design. Once writers get a site, some tend to go nuts, slapping on three sidebars, flashing ads, backgrounds that make text unreadable, and widgets with little pictures of all their Facebook friends. Don’t confuse prospects with too much information. Keep it simple.
  8. Personality. This is your chance to show prospects that you are unique. Style up the writing so it’s like having a conversation with you. Speaking of which, don’t write about yourself in the third person on the Internet. It’s pretentious — we all know you’re writing it.

Got a writer website? Leave a comment and let us know how you got it done — or stay tuned next week for a free website video-review contest. If you don’t have a site yet, use the tips above and get one up in the next 48 hours — then, share a link with us below.

Need more marketing help? There’s a community for that…

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38 Comments

  1. Karen Cioffi

    Hi, Carol, I commented back in 2011 on this post, but it’s definitely worth revisiting. I do have a question, would the same information go into a physical writer’s portfolio? Do you have an article that I can visit with details on what should be included in a physical portfolio?

    Thanks so much for sharing all your experience.

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t know anyone who uses a physical portfolio anymore! But if you like putting one together, just hang onto your clips and put them into a presentation binder. I’ve got one around here somewhere, but I think it’s probably been a good decade since I used it for anything, and at this point most of my clips are digital, and sent digitally to prospects.

      Seems like at this point going to a meeting hauling a physical portfolio would just be a way of saying you don’t get the Internet…probably not putting you in the best light!

  2. Maureen

    Hi Carol. Signed up for your “Marketing 101 for Freelance Writer’s” free course and am loving all the expert advice! I was just reading some of the above older posts and focused in on those from Megan and Sion about writing between the fiction and non-fiction arenas. That’s exactly where I am! Talk about finding what you need when it’s time….
    I write both fiction and non-fiction for children (mostly middle-grade) and would like to branch out into adult non-fiction (articles). I’ve yet to set up a website because my clips are at the kid level. I read your comment to Megan that it shouldn’t matter which area the writing is in, as long as it’s solid and you’re in a niche. But then Sion wondered about separating his sites and you thought it a good idea. His questions is exactly mine. But I’m a bit confused about the answer.
    Also, I’m a bit put off by the word niche because I tend to think “very specialized,” and don’t feel like I’d have a niche. I’d like to use my blog to talk about the writing courses I’ve taken and of course my own writing (and include other things like interviews, places to comment, etc.) Would that be my niche? I also teach and perhaps that arena could showcase my freelancing side.
    Lots of thoughts! but mainly looking for advice about separate sites for those two areas.
    I appreciate it!
    –Maureen C.

    • Carol Tice

      My advice is always to start with one site. Each one is work to update and maintain and costs money!

      See if you can’t do a tab for each of your interest areas and keep it one place. If it’s not working for you, then it’s time to think about maybe splitting children’s lit into its own site.

      Don’t worry about the topic of your blog being writing — that’s fine. The topic of my blog is, and I’ve used it to get a lot of paid blogging gigs about other business topics.

      Hope that answers!

  3. Własny Dom

    Hi there, I found your web site by way of Google while searching for a comparable matter, your web site came up, it appears to be like good. I’ve added to favourites|added to bookmarks.

  4. Dani

    This was super helpful! Thanks. I’ll have to create a writer website asap!

    • Carol Tice

      I just don’t think I know any high-earning freelancers who do not have a website. It’s really a required tool at this point to present yourself professionally.

      But it looks like you have a blog, and you could start by just giving it a ‘hire me’ tab in the meanwhile.

  5. Margoax

    I think of marketing as the technique used to gain attention above and beyond the rest, whether it is posters (for example political candidates), commercials (selling products), or jingles. There are numerous means of marketing with the intended result being exposure.

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