18 min read
Raise your hand if you believe your website should be bringing in more clients.
I mean, it’s only natural, isn’t it?
You’ve put together a professional looking website, you’ve added your services and all you want is to start landing clients.
Imagine the disappointment when you don’t get any. When radio silence is all there is, even though you can see you get some visitors every now and then.
And you can’t help but wonder ... is it you? Is it something on your website that’s driving people away?
Even those few ones that actually make it to your portfolio page or click on your contact page, they just vanish into the dark night of the interwebs, never to be seen again.
When your website is brand new, landing clients can be a real challenge. And with the abundance of information you have online, you get the feeling that you need to be doing everything if you want to get somewhere. Anywhere.
While it’s true that it takes some time to start seeing traffic and that certain strategies, when used right, can bring you fantastic results and help you connect with your next big client, it’s important to take it one step at a time.
Your website is your most important asset to becoming visible online, creating interest in your services, and attracting more clients. And when growing your traffic is absolutely essential to do that, the best place to start make improvements is your website.
In the first part of The Awesome Freelancer’s Guide to landing more clients series, we’ll cover seven simple tweaks you can make to your website. These small adjustments are often underestimated or neglected in favor of other, perhaps shinier, things.
However, they can help you land more clients simply by offering your visitors a smoother and more pleasant experience with your website. And once a prospect enjoys going through your pages, it makes it easier for them to actually want to get in touch with you.
If this makes sense, grab something delicious to sip on and keep on reading.
We’ve got lots to cover.
1. Optimize Your Website for SEO to Get Found by Search Engines
1. Optimize Your Website for SEO to Get Found by Search Engines
Having a website that’s optimized for search engines these days is a non-negotiable practice you can’t afford to ignore.
With millions of websites out there and tons of creatives showcasing their work on social media hubs, forums, and on their own websites, making connections with clients can be difficult. Especially when word of mouth remains the preferred way to hire someone for a specific job.
But if your website is nowhere to be found in your prospective client’s search results, how are you EVER going to get any clients?
SEO or Search Engine Optimization gets thrown a lot online to the point where you no longer know what it’s all about. So if you’re not sure what gets optimized and why this is basically what it means:
SEO is a set of tactics you can use to help search engines find and rank your website based on how relevant it is for a given search and a certain set of keywords. Now, Google is King (I’m sure we can all agree on that), so here’s an example of what SEO really means in practice:
Let’s say we have website Awesome and website Less Awesome (bear with me for a sec here).
Website Awesome is likely to rank higher than website Less Awesome by simply making it easier for Google Crawlies (spiders or indexing bots) to find and scan its content for the words User Gina (searcher) is looking for. And, as a result, by showing higher up in the search results, website Awesome will get more traffic than website Less Awesome (which is probably going to get buried under layers of search results and suffer from chronic ignoritis).
The worst part is that if website Less Awesome is actually a treasure of valuable information, User Gina is probably missing out, all because the crawlies didn’t find the keywords she was looking for on that website.
Can you see why SEO is so important now?
(And why so many lengthy guides have been written about it already?)
Now, SEO optimization will work best when combined with all your other efforts and strategies you use to get seen online. However, to make sure your website comes up in front of the people looking for the services you offer, you’ll need to optimize your website.
Once you have Yoast installed, you can go to every page on your website and adjust the fields you see below:
Decide what keyword or keyphrase you want to rank for and make sure you include it both in your page title, your slug (page URL), and meta description. This should also be included in the Focus Keyword field.
In your meta description, you should describe what the page or post is about within the word limit. If you don’t make any changes, the snippet will be automatically generated depending on what the crawlers find in your content. It’s not really something you want to leave like that, especially when Yoast makes it so easy for you to modify. Ideally, your meta description should be something that makes you want to check out that page, as well as include the keyphrase one is searching for.
Lastly, don’t forget your images. (You do have those, right?) Besides keeping the size of your images small and optimized for web, remember to use alt tag as well (In WP > Media > Click on image > Alt Tag).
Alt tag stands for alternative information and is used when visitors using screen readers access your website or when your images cannot be displayed. The alt tag should include your keyword and describe the image in an effective way. As for including a title for your image or a caption, these are entirely optional. However, if you do use a title for your image, it will probably come up in image search results, so make sure you want that to happen.
You can get help by clicking on the question mark on the top right corner of each section you’re modifying. Alternatively, if this seems daunting and you’re not sure how to do it exactly, you can check out this guide the Yoast team has put together.
2. Make Sure Your Website Loads Fast
How fast your website loads very much depends on how many different elements there are on each page. For example, if your website has a slider or slideshow, it’s probably making the experience of your visitor positively high on the “meh” factor.
I don’t know about you, but when I land on a website that’s taking ages to load, I bounce. I simply don’t have time to wait for the site to load so I can find what I’m after.
But you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen this problem on artists’ websites. You click their portfolio page only to wait 10 seconds or more until the images start loading. Or if there’s a slider, it gets stuck or becomes unresponsive. (Thank you, Adobe Flash.)
That’s a major turnoff for your visitors AND those prospective clients you’re trying to attract.
Similarly, even if you’re not using a slideshow to showcase your work, if your images in your portfolio have not been optimized for the web, your visitors will disappear just as fast as they came in the first place.
To avoid that, reduce the size of your images so the page loads faster and there’s no delay in loading time because of unoptimized images that will annoy your visitors. The faster they can look through your work and see if you have what they’re looking for, the faster you’ll be hearing from them.
If your website is literally crawling, you may want to check for any plugins that are slowing it down. There’s a nifty free tool you can use to check what’s actually slowing your website down.
Also, if you have installed plugins that aren’t activated or you’re not using, it’s better to remove them completely. Every plugin adds a certain amount of code to your website, so the bulkier the code gets, the slower it will load.
Imagine trying to run while carrying two kettlebells 22 lbs each. Unless you’re super trained and can do this in your sleep without stumbling and falling on your butt, let’s just agree you’re not going to run as fast as someone who’s not carrying anything.
In our case, the two kettlebells are the equivalent of a bulky code. So, the less you load your site with extras, the faster it will run (and the more enjoyable it will be for people to check out your site).
3. Keep Your Portfolio Updated and Easily Accessible
If you want to get hired for your creative services, having a portfolio in a visible and easily accessible place on your website is a must. Your navigation menu needs to be uncluttered and visible, so your visitors can quickly locate what they’re looking for.
Also, if you offer different packages or specific services your potential clients may be looking for, a services page with extra information about what exactly you offer is essential and often times very helpful.
When a client is looking at your work, it’s not enough for them to just like what you’re showcasing. In fact, if you’ve worked on a project for a client it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be the best fit for another client with a similar project. Not always anyway.
In fact, if you specialize in children’s illustration, the likelihood of you getting hired to illustrate a horror novel is very little. Unless you mention that somewhere on your about page or you indicate that you have experience in that niche. But still, not quite what you’d expect from a children’s book illustrator, right?
Having an updated and carefully selected portfolio is crucial to get your prospects interested in your work and to entice them to contact you.
If there’s anything you’re not particularly proud of or something you wouldn’t like to work with again, don’t show it.
Don’t feel like writing about fitness and health anymore? Remove that piece and keep only the articles in those niches you’re interested in working with.
Have a couple of shots of pet portraits but prefer working with people? Then show only portraits of people and remove what doesn’t fit.
Want to design characters because your environments are not as strong yet? Feature only finished characters and character sheets and remove any environments from your portfolio.
See where I’m going with this?
Whatever you end up keeping in your portfolio, make sure it’s the type of work you want to get paid for to do. And, of course, the same applies to your services page.
If you don’t want to get any more inquiries about ghostwriting, customizing WP themes, or designing a visual identity, make sure that whatever you’re not interested in working with is not listed on your services.
4. Craft Your Website Copy Using Your Clients' Language
Your website’s text or, to use the proper wording, your website’s copy is what your prospective clients are going to read and, hopefully, engage with when they land on your website.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make, and a surefire way to turn off your visitors, is to make your website all about you.
Yes, it’s your portfolio, your work, your mad skills and talent that you want to showcase ... but in all honesty, that’s actually not what they’re here for.
Every client that lands on your website needs to know what you can do to help THEM. It’s about what you can do for them. Your services, your expertise, your experience, it all needs to tie into this one big question: What’s in it for them?
To make sure you keep your visitors glued to your website longer, keep them always at the center. Use a voice that’s approachable, friendly yet professional, and ascertain them that they have arrived at the right place. Without being overly complex or jargon-y, explain what you offer in simple terms, without overcomplicating things for no reason (or just to sound fancy).
When your web copy speaks their language and focuses on what they need versus what you’re good at, you immediately stand out from the rest of the freelancers who are yelling at them “Me, me, me!”.
And if you’re wondering how to craft web copy that does all of those things, you first need to have a clear idea about three things:
● who you’re trying to attract
● what their biggest problem is
● what you can do to solve it for them
See how you come into the picture without becoming the center of it all?
You and I both know that without you, your clients probably won’t survive (cue semi-dramatic music). But that doesn’t mean they want to hear that. What they want to hear is how you can solve their problem, so they have one less thing to worry about. And why not help them do exactly that from the start?
5. Give Them a Glimpse Into What It’s Like to Be Working With You
Everything about your website should be geared towards communicating to your prospective clients that you’re professional and an expert in what you do. They should get the impression that you’re the right person to help them with their project.
So what’s another element you can rely on to help you emphasize this even more?
Explain the process your client will go through when they get in touch with you, step-by-step. Tell them what happens when they decide to work with you, how long it takes you to get back to them, what kind of information you may need before you can provide them with a quote or write your proposal.
How you approach this, however, will depend on what services you offer, how you’ve decided to price your services and whether you disclose these on your services page or not.
For example, some freelancers list their prices based on the nature of the projects they accept. Others have available packages the client can choose from and some may prefer to negotiate the price with each client, depending on what the project at hand entails.
However, some clients may prefer to see at least some kind of estimate when it comes to freelance fees, so they don’t ask for a quote only to get something completely out of their budget. At the same time, if your services are pricey, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time you’d otherwise have to spend replying to prospects sending in inquiries, only to tell you later that they can’t afford to hire you.
Now, if you still prefer not to disclose your fees, another way you can avoid this is by including a contact form on your website. You can ask then ask your prospects to fill out some additional information about their project, include their budget and anything else you know from experience that will be relevant or essential to know before you can accept a project. Mark those fields as required and add the form to your contact page.
Keep in mind, however, that this tactic may turn off some clients (especially if their project falls under an NDA), while others will happily provide additional information if it can help them estimate how much it will cost them to hire you.
An alternative way to do this, and perhaps a more pleasant and less-imposing way to ask for information, is to create and send them a simple questionnaire. It will give you a better overview of the entire project and help you write an appealing proposal you can then send to your client.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to go about your process. Maybe all you’ll need is a few sentences telling your client how to get in touch and when they can expect to hear from you. In other cases, you may want to include some more details.
Either way, as long as you give them a clear path they can follow to avoid unpleasant surprises, they’ll be happy to have contacted you. When you take the time to be upfront about how you deal with client communication, it signals that you’re dedicated and professional from the start, before even the client has handed you their brief.
It’s a miniature way of showing them what it’s like to be working with you. And we both know you want to make that exceptional, just like the work you produce. Am I right?
6. Include Testimonials to Highlight Your Expertise
When you’re a freelancer, having testimonials from past clients is extremely helpful, especially when you want to start charging more for your services or if you simply want to land high-paying clients or more challenging (and expensive) projects.
Having a few testimonials from happy clients can ease your prospect’s mind and reassure them not only that you’re as good as you claim, but also that you have past clients who can vouch for it.
The thing about testimonials is that probably no one’s going to give you one, unless:
a) you’ve done an exceptionally good job and they tell you explicitly that they’d be happy to provide you with a testimonial and maybe even referrals, or b) you ask for them.
No matter how you end up getting a testimonial, having one or two on your homepage can provide enough reassurance to your prospects that you have the experience and skills they’re after.
But even if you’re only starting out and haven’t had a single client you can ask for a testimonial, consider taking up a project for free. Yes, it may not be the ideal scenario you envisioned when you started freelancing but, hey, it can help to invest your time in exchange for one happy client.
You get your testimonial, they get their website or whatever else you can help them with, and it’s a win-win scenario.
That doesn’t mean you can’t land any clients if you have no testimonials on your website. When I started out freelancing as a writer, I had nothing. Partly because my work was under NDA, partly because a project I was working on got cancelled. Things may not be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world.
The important takeaway here is that you have options to choose from, and according to what you’re happy with, you can adjust and improve your chances of landing clients and gaining that exposure you need (and will surely bring in more testimonials than you can handle).
Bonus Tip: If you’re looking for a great way to collect testimonials, check out this new plugin from Thrive Themes (not an affiliate, but 100% supporting them because they’re amazing and their products are always superb). You’ll notice they mention testimonials for sales pages, but don’t get confused, the plugin can be used for any kind of testimonials. And if you’d like some more options, here you go.
7. Create a Blog and Update It Regularly
Perhaps one of THE most important aspects of your website (and very much loved by all search engines) is your content. And that’s where having a regularly updated blog comes into play.
If you are a:
● Concept Artist
● Web designer
You need to have a blog.
And by having a blog, I don’t mean having a place to dump all your works and projects with a title and a single line of description.
By blog, I mean producing valuable content your clients would be interested in seeing before they make the call to get in touch with you.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
If you’re not a writer, you may think that this is just asking too much. Words don’t “flow” easily and you don’t have that way with words to enchant your readers. So why bother, right?
That’s the biggest mistake you can make.
Surprising as it may be, you don’t HAVE to be a writer to write good blog posts. You just need to write content that offers value, shows your reader how you think and approach your projects, and gives them a glimpse into what it’s like to work with you. And these are all things you can do through your blog.
Sure, this sounds great and all, but what should I be writing about?
If you fall into any of the categories above you could write about:
How to set up your lighting for a shoot at home
Easy ways to edit your photos
How to take photos for Instagram
How to break down a design brief and generate character silhouettes
What not to do when you’re presenting your designs to a client
Your process of generating ideas and sketches when you’re under a tight deadline
The main differences between a logo and a brand
How to combine colors the right way
Hiring a designer: 10 major dos and don’ts
Tips for hiring the right illustrator for your project
How to set up a contract when you’re working as a freelance illustrator
Inspiration behind a recent illustration project
Do you get where I’m going with this?
All of these subjects can be of interest not only to aspiring and fellow professionals in your field but also to your clients. Besides looking at your portfolio, seeing that you’re actively engaged in your craft and take the time to explain or shed light on a particular aspect of your workflow, helps them see you in a much better light. You become the professional they need.
And isn’t that exactly what you want?
Landing more clients through your website requires a little extra work on your side and some adjustments you may have thought were not so important.
But once you apply these simple tweaks and make some of the adjustments mentioned above, you’ll notice that more people are coming to your website looking at what you offer.
From there on, it’s just a matter of wowing them with your amazing work and professionalism, and ensuring that they enjoy a pleasant experience browsing through your website and your work.
Have you done any other adjustments that have helped you land more clients?Let me know in the comments below!
Psst! We covered a lot in this post. To help you make the most out of everything you read, grab this handy checklist to refer to. Use it to tick off each item as you go along, add your notes, or use as a to-do list for your next website revamp. Just click on the image to download or right click to “save as” — no opt-in required!
Blog post photo: kaboompics
Check out the rest of the Awesome Freelancer's Guide to Landing More Clients Series:
Part 2: How to Be Strategic on Social Media as a Freelancer
Part 3: How to Build Your Authority as a Freelancer (and Never Be Underbooked Again)
Part 4: Make Your Clients Fall in Love with You: How to Impress by Being Profesh
Part 5: How to Be Intentional About Your Blog and Land Your Next Client