Many freelance writers tell me they’ve never gotten a nibble off their writer websites.
If this is you — or you have yet to put up a writer site — let me spotlight some of the biggest problems right now.
See, there are some basic approaches, and some key phrases, that you really want to avoid on writer websites.
These blunders make you seem, variously:
- Uninterested in doing client work
Want to skip all that and put together a writer website that presents you as a strong candidate for freelance jobs?
Here are the moves to avoid:
7 Phrases to delete from writer websites
Here’s a collection of popular phrases I see on writer websites — and they honestly make me cringe every time.
- I would love to write for you — File this under ‘stating the obvious.’ It sounds like you’re frantically pushing to get a client, any client. You wouldn’t have a writer site if you weren’t looking for clients, right? We know you’d looove to write for prospects. The question is, how are you making them feel they’d love to hire you? This phrase doesn’t do it.
- Let me help you — I know, you’re trying to seem accessible. But it just sounds desperate. There’s sort of an unspoken ‘please, I beg of you’ in here.
- I can write anything — This probably seems like an appealing approach. But the fact is, few writers can really write every type of assignment. Most good writers specialize in some particular types of writing — they do content marketing, or write brochures, or magazine articles. Trying to be all things to all clients doesn’t win on writer websites, as most prospects are looking for someone with experience with their particular industry, or the type of writing they want done.
- I also write poetry/novels — You might think showing your creativity will impress. But if you’re shooting for business clients, all it means to them is, “Woo-woo artsy person who wants to follow their muse — and who won’t really care about my deadlines.”
- I’m a new freelance writer/just starting out/just graduated from college — This is not prospects’ business, and not a plus. Follow the tried-and-true rule of emphasizing your strengths in your site copy, not your weak points. You can write a strong site that helps get you hired, even as a newbie.
- Do you need a freelance writer? — No, no, no. You don’t want prospects to hire A freelance writer. You’re not putting up a writer site because you’d like to educate the public that hiring freelancers is good. Yes? Instead, you want them to hire you. Keep the focus on your specific advantages, your unique selling proposition (USP).
- I have X and Y advanced degrees — You’re mentioning these likely in hopes of impressing prospects. But in a decade helping writers, I’ve yet to hear from any who list their M.A., MBA, J.D., Ph.D. or what-all next to their name on their writer websites — and get good clients. It seems to telegraph: “Hi, I’m expensive and pretentious, too.” Let’s face it, academic writing style is stiff and formal compared to most business writing today. So it may worry marketers that your writing will read like a business letter from 1960.
These may seem like little things: a title stated here, a little phrase dropped in there. But add them up, and you’ve got writer websites that don’t come off professional. And that send clients away.
3 Big copy problems to avoid
The copy on your writer website needs to be sharp. Try to remember that your writer site is a writing audition. You can write sharp writer websites with no portfolio and still get website copy gigs off it! Your site is a writing sample in itself.
But most writers fall down in this task. I know, it’s hard to write about yourself.
Try to avoid these basic gaffes. Seen these way too many times:
- Useless headlines — Most writer websites have a Home-page headline that says either, “Welcome to my website!” or just: “Hello!’ That’s not a headline that magnetizes a buyer. Headlines should quickly flash to prospects that you understand them. So you’re looking for something more like “Copy That Converts for Today’s Time-Pressed Technology Buyer.” Make sense?
- Home page copy that’s all about you — You’ve got an ‘About’ page for telling your story. The home page is all about the client — their problems, the types of help they need. And then, you relate how you solve them. Your Home page isn’t a place to recite your resume, list all the types of writing you could do, or any of that boring blather. What converts is tapping into the fears and top pains of your customer, showing you understand them…and then, briefly saying why you should be their choice.
- Quotes from famous authors — These simply don’t belong on writer websites. Remember, we’re trying to get you hired here, not Jane Austen or Mark Twain. Impressing clients that you’re well-read doesn’t lead to a hire.
Just correcting these three basic issues can create a big upgrade in how professional writer websites appear — so if you’ve got any of the above going on, time to make a few tweaks.
How to pass the 3-second rule
Researchers say that new visitors to a website give it 3 seconds. This time has shrunk steady over the past decade. Visitors quickly glance around, and if what they see doesn’t orient them, they move on.
What things do prospects need to be able to see, immediately, without scrolling down, when they land on the Home page of writer websites? Here are the fundamentals you need to show right away:
- A picture of you. Remember, there are a lot of scams on the internet, and a lot of weird, anonymous ‘writer agencies’ out there, that turn out to be based in far-off lands. Show a picture and let them know you’re a real person.
- How to contact you. Don’t hide it under a tab! Or heaven forbid, force visitors to fill out a form. Stick your email (and ideally, phone) in the header, right where people can see. Actually write out your email address — if you just have a graphic of email and code it with your address, many people won’t be able to see it. They’ve set their browser to block pop-ups, so it won’t load. Don’t make it hard for prospects to get in touch!
- What industries you know. In my experience, the top thing prospects search for is along the lines of, “I need a writer who knows about ____ (manufacturing, marina management, healthcare IT, etc.).” But most writers either hide this information deep in their sites, or never mention it at all, in hopes of ‘not turning anyone away.’ News flash: that’s a strategy that sends most everyone away.
- Orienting tagline. Loads of writers like to get creative with their tagline — trying to show that writing skill! But this isn’t the place for that, because taglines are a key place to put keywords for Google to help send you prospects. So choose “Atlanta healthcare writer” here, vs. “Wordsmith Extraordinaire.”
Bonus points: To keep more visitors, you could also tell people where you’re located. Some folks still like to take an in-person meeting before they hire a freelancer, so if you’re in or near an even mid-sized city, say so.
Extra bonus points: Get the meta-data of your Home page to use keywords for the type of writer you are. Instead of saying “Joe Smith” when someone mouses over the browser tab, it could say, “Finance writer Joe Smith.” Google will notice, and you’ll drive many more prospects in the door to see your site. If you’re not a tech-y type, make friends with someone who can show you how to make that happen on your particular website platform (hint: WordPress is the dominant platform, and the one I recommend).
How to make writer websites rock
What do you do after you’ve written a draft of your site, eliminating these basic problems and adding the important 3-second orientation items?
Add personality. Make it something only you could have written.
Then, get a review from an experienced pro to make sure it’s optimized and ready to win clients over.
Finally — don’t forget to keep updating your site, as you get new clips! Writer websites aren’t static documents, so don’t let yours get out of date. Google likes sites that keep changing.