Why Your Writer Website Doesn’t Get You Clients

Carol Tice

Why Your Writer Website Doesn’t Get You Clients. Makealivingwriting.comI realized recently that I have reviewed more than 100 writer websites and blogs. Along the way, I’ve noticed some basic mistakes many writers make.

In fact, in the Blast-Off class, Linda Formichelli and I usually review a few sites, and then we ask the participants to start telling us what’s wrong. Because it’s so often the same problems, once they’ve seen us review a few, they know what to fix on their own site.

What are these common gaffes? Here’s a look at five issues I see a lot:

  1. You don’t have a writer website. In one live event I did earlier this year, more than half the participants had no site yet — nowhere to send clients to look at their portfolio online. Writers whine to me, “Awww, do I really need a website?” Only if you want to get good-paying clients. Without one, you essentially don’t exist in today’s media marketplace. C’mon — take over your Zoominfo profile or join NAIWE for the free WordPress site. Something. Anything. Have a site by tomorrow. No excuses.
  2. Mystery header. Does your header say what you do and where you are? That’s what you want, because then Google will send you clients. If the headline doesn’t say what’s up on your site, the tagline needs to say it. It is impossible to overestimate how bone lazy people are when they hit new websites on the Internet. They are not going to delve into the question of what the point of your site is if you don’t make it crystal clear…they’re just going to leave, within a few seconds.
  3. Too many hats. If your site is selling natural vitamins, your crystal healing sessions, and your freelance writing, it’s not a strong tool for selling the writing. Ideally, your site is just about your writing (and maybe editing or proofreading) services. Keep it all in one wheelhouse, or people will be boggled. Also, your writing comes off as some kind of sidelight instead of something you’re focused on.
  4. Too much clutter. If you’ve got three sidebars stuffed full of widgets with pictures of who likes you on Facebook, Google AdSense ads, contests, a mile-long blogroll, archive links, and a host of other miscellany, realize you’re creating confusion. What is it you want the reader to do on each page? Usually, on a writer site, the answer is to contact you. On your blog, it’s probably to subscribe by email. So clear out the other stuff and make that the most prominent, easy-to-find action. Derek Halpern of Social Triggers says it best: One page, one goal.
  5. No contacts. Seriously, on Blogger blogs, I could expire before I figure out where they’ve hidden your email address. Others tuck it away at the bottom of their sidebar. Do you want people to hire you to write or not? Then get that contact info at the top of your sidebar and visible on every page,  not hidden under a ‘contact me’ tab.

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  1. Renee

    Hi Carol! What can I do to optimize my site so that it is found more easily in searches? Is it just a question of keywords (which I think I have) or is the homepage causing the problem?


    • Carol Tice

      Is that graphic in Flash? It’s quite distracting.

      Also, I’d love to see a picture of you on there. People hire people, I like to say.

  2. NextGen Writer

    Yes, the most common and basic mistakes. But I believe you have to spend money to earn money i.e. spend a few bucks on marketing to get the clients.
    You should try a blend of strategies to drive more traffic back to your homepage, and relying solely on google is a sheer mistake.

  3. Janise

    Hello Carol,

    Is my website that bad? I get visitors who tell me they think it’s fine and they like the ‘click on the pens’ feature to view my writing samples. Then I get visitors, mainly folks I know personally, that tell me it’s too amateurish. Should I make some major changes to my site before I start a corporate campaign? I don’t want to knock myself out of the running because of my website. Thanks!

  4. Nancy Dorman-Hickson

    Thank you for this informative article.

    My goals for my site: to push my services
    as a co-author; as a writer for print, web and pr clients; and as a speaker on writing topics.

    I also hope to get people to buy the book I co-authored that comes out in October and have them sign up for my email newsletter to “build the platform” for future projects.

    Is that too many goals for a single web site? too confusing? stretched too much for different clientele?

    Also are sites without blogs destined for dusty archives, never to be clicked again? Thanks.


  5. Luana Spinetti

    I have mixed feelings about this matter. I think it’s up to the freelancer knowing what to do with the website:

    – is it going to be a general portfolio that showcases all I can do? (writing, art, web design, etc.)
    – is it going to be an all-writing portfolio? An all-art portfolio? An all-webdesign portfolio?

    I asked myself those questions to decide what to do with http://www.luanaspinetti.com. In the end, I opted for a general portfolio showcasing my work in each field of interest, but then I have niche sites for SEO, art, writing, etc. And they are all linked to my portfolio.

    In the end, I think it’s useful to let clients know of any other skill we have, as there is someone out there willing to purchase an article that features a bit of our other talents.

    Just my two cents. 🙂

    ~ Luana S.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, it is up to us what to put on our websites.

      The problem is, we can’t change human behavior. People’s brains work the way they work. (And if you want to know HOW they work, follow Sean D’Souza at Psychotactics).

      So if you make your site have a tagline that says “Luana’s art portfolio,” this site isn’t going to be a powerful tool for attracting writing jobs.

      Certainly writing and web design are good related skills that can go together…but the site needs to be carefully set up to present them both as strengths, rather than one as your main thing and the others as sort of sidelines. Clients don’t want to hire writers who write a little on the side when they’re not doing art, in my experience — they want writers who present themselves as focused on writing.

      • Luana Spinetti

        I definitely need to change that tagline. ^^ It’s old and I need to update it.

        I’m working on niche sites to complement the portfolio and show prospects a certain focus (one on writing, one on art, etc.).

        It’s just a truth that I do everything, as I love all of my talents the same way. The difference with my niche sites is that my portfolio aims at showing everything about myself, not just one talent.

        Guess it’s a matter of choices. But that’s also a reason for creating Writersmind.eu and soon launching it. 🙂

        ~ Luana S.

        • Luana Spinetti

          By the way, I just wanted to give all my talents fair room in my portfolio. 🙂 I’m developing each talent further in niche sites.

          Thanks for the convo, Carol. And for the tips. We may have different views on some things, but I appreciated the time you spent to go to my portfolio and see what can be potentially improved. Thank you!


          • Carol Tice

            The thing of it is, it’s not about what you want (unless it’s a hobby site and you don’t care about getting clients). It’s about what the customer wants.

            They want it made easy for them to understand, they want to find exactly the type of contractor they need, quickly be able to understand. You put 3 different types of expertise on a page, and you really risk losing them unless it’s very carefully done.

          • Luana Spinetti

            Thanks 😉 I’ll see what I can do.

          • Luana Spinetti

            I think I found a compromise, Carol. 🙂 Regarding my portfolio. I discussed it with another freelancer too, who gave me a tip.

            Thank you for everything, Carol. 😉

  6. Karen S. Elliott

    Hey – thanks for the tips. I am pleased to note that my website follows all these tips. It’s still being tweaked, but I think I’m good to go! 🙂

  7. Shana D.

    Great information.

    I have a bare bones website now that I want to expand and improve but am having a hard time trying to come up with a way to show my knowledge without sounding like every other writer website out there.

    What are the best techniques for making a writer’s website stand out in a crowd? Can this be accomplished through a combination of voice and a SEO strategy?

    Also, what is the most common deciding factor a client looks for when deciding to hire a writer after viewing the writer’s website? Is it portfolio samples? Past client list? Hopefully not just price if rates are listed…


  8. Ruth - Freelance Writing Blog

    Great tips Carol. I don’t have my email address on my freelance writing blog, however, I do have a contact tab. Do you think that’s sufficient? Also, I’m torn between integrating my writing website (which I use more as a point of credibility and less to generate business) with my freelance writing blog and having them separate. I’ve read through the materials in the FWD along these lines, but I’ve received mixed feedback. I know you’ve divorced the two and treat them differently…I’m curious about your rationale.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, my rationale is I wanted to be able to talk frankly about clients that suck…felt like that probably wasn’t the first thing I wanted prospects to see!

      I hate contact tabs…but more on that in the Webinar.

      • Ruth - Freelance Writing Blog

        Haha, fair enough. I’ll look forward to hearing more about the Contact tab in the webinar.

  9. Debra Stang

    Hi Carol,

    I remember we talked about many of those issues while you were mentoring me, and my web designer fixed both of them. I still don’t have a clear writing specialty (but then again, I’ve always been the kind willing to jump in with both feet and write almost anything), but other than that I think I’m on the right track.


  10. Josh Monen

    Carol, do you think it’s a good idea to have the home page feature your latest blog posts or have an actual home page landing page instead?

    And what are your thoughts regarding a video on the home page that tells who you are and what you do? Of course I wouldn’t have the video start playing automatically (that’s one of my pet peeves!).

    PS: my website is currently under construction so that’s my excuse for a crappy looking site!

    • Carol Tice

      Great questions. Depends on the goal of your site. Are you looking mostly for blogging gigs? Then maybe having your blog as the home page works.

      If you’re looking for article/white paper/copywriting or other types of work, I’m in favor of having a static landing page that sells the variety of all you can do.

      I like the welcome video on the About page myself, with maybe a link to it from a mini-bio in the sidebar.

  11. Genita Kovacevich-Costello

    I know it’s important to keep updating your website, adding new material to get on Google’s radar (in addition to all the other things you’ve taught us like a good website address, tagline, etc). If I don’t have a blog as part of my website, where do I get the new material to add? Also, I realize my contact info on landing page is at the bottom, and assume that’s not a good thing but haven’t quite figured out how to move it up higher. I have a sidebar on my articles and copywriting pages where it appears higher up on the page but have tried to do the landing page without the sidebar. So working on that…advice appreciated.

    • Carol Tice

      Hopefully you’re getting published somewhere on a fairly regular basis. I don’t have my blog on my writer site anymore either, and I just update it with links to my new clips.

      I have a “Favorites” widget in the sidebar where I flash 4 recent clips that I keep updating. That seemed like a good approach for SEO. Even if it’s just a blog post you’re doing for someone.

      If you don’t have new clips, rewrite some section of your site now and then. You want to keep it changing to help with SEO.

  12. Joseph

    Hi Carol,

    If you know any writers you want to get set up with a beautiful WordPress writer site, you can always send them our way. We have a Studiopress developer’s license and can get them set up with any of the premium theme Studiopress themes built on the Genesis framework. We did this recently for Susan Johnston, and she’s been very happy with the results. 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      Susan’s site is looking a w e s o m e ! I’m so glad I was able to connect you two. Every time I went on her site before, I thought man, this site would REALLY rock off of Blogger. And now it does!

  13. Abby

    This post is so true, I guess I’m one of those that needs to be trained. Hope I get this.

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