As a freelancer, you may already have a steady stream of clients and jobs that keep you busy. Maybe you rely on word-of-mouth and real, live social connections to find your next gig. Thus, you probably see no reason to waste your time and money setting up your own professional website.
However, a professional website is not just something that is “nice to have”. In this day and age, people are going online and checking out businesses, products and other people. And more importantly for you, such online behavior can be quite lucrative if you take advantage of it. Here are 8 money-making reasons why, if you don’t already have a website, you should:
1. Increased visibility/credibility
As a freelancer, you probably already advertise your products and/or services in one form or another, even if all you do is hand out business cards. Adding a website to your advertising repertoire expands your sphere of influence and creates a virtual business card for you. With a website in place, you also don’t have to be constantly “on the move” and “hunting” for business; for once, you can let your customers come to you.
Credibility is another side benefit of having a website. You no longer have to be always discussing or “proving” your knowledge and expertise; you can simply refer potential customers to your website and let your posted work do the talking. This is especially useful when you’re overwhelmed by inquiries or unable, due to time constraints, to spend an hour with every potential client.
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2. Email subscribers
The email newsletter is by far the single biggest money-maker for a website owner. Most savvy website owners sell absolutely nothing on their actual websites yet somehow still make money online. This happens because the real sales occur through the email list.
There is a prescribed finesse to emailing your subscribers with offers and this finesse will also depend on your trade. No one wants to be bombarded with non-stop ads from your business. However, you can get the ball rolling with so-called “soft sell” approaches like inviting your subscribers to a local happy hour or luncheon. Alternately, for a more national or even international crowd, you may wish to send three to four educational no-sell emails leading up to a final email that offers more of the same high quality information through a paid-for product like your own ebook or e-course.
3. Sales lead information
Through the wonders of Google Analytics, it is easy to find out who your potential customers are, where they are located geographically, and what keywords they are typing in to find your website. Using this information, you can better focus on those potential sales leads and referrals rather than shouting your message where it’s not being heard.
You can also learn a lot about your potential customers by encouraging comments on your website’s pages or blog. Comments reveal what your audience is struggling and could use more help with. Also, you can set up your comments to collect the names and emails of your commentators, giving you an easy way to contact these visitors.
You can offer your website audience a chance to join and participate in a free or paid forum where you might (or might not) offer even more back-end products like ebooks, online courses, etc. This is something that I’ve seen Carol Tice do very effectively through her Make A Living Writing website, wherein she periodically references her $25/month Freelance Writers Den forum. Using her website’s email newsletter, Carol is also able to offer an occasional forum freebie and thus entice potential customers to sign up.
5. Job boards
Along the same line as the forum, a website allows you to offer a free or paid job board for your audience. If you choose to go the paid route, you can make quite a bit of cash just from the job board itself. Also, most employers/clients pay to have jobs listed. Even if your job board is free to peruse, you can still make money from it by offering related back-end products such as career coaching, résumé writing services, etc. You might even wish to collaborate with some of your audience members and offer them a cut of your profits if they help out with various client services and back-end products. In this way, you and your colleagues can now offer quite a number of useful features to those clients who sign up.
6. Virtual storefront
Your website and its blog can serve as an instant virtual storefront for your products, which you can sell 24/7 to potential customers. Even if your business is more “hands-on”, you can still use your virtual store to entice customers; for example, a roof repair company could encourage potential customers to sign up online for a free roof inspection. Other businesses may wish to offer a discounted online coupon for their services once the customer fills out a form requesting a given service.
7. Partner products
Maybe you don’t have many products to sell at the moment- but a colleague of yours, who has no website, does. By using your website as a platform to promote this colleague’s products, the both of you can make additional sales and gain new customers. Alternately, you can review your colleague and take a commission every time someone links to him/her via your website. Partners and colleagues can also advertise on your website for a certain fee.
8. Instant PR
I often post my upcoming public appearances and talks on my website’s blog. Why? Because my website and blog both serve as my own personal PR agent, bringing potential clients directly to me when I’m looking my best.
As a freelancer, you can’t afford to be shy, and your website gives you a ready outlet for you to announce your greatness. For example, as a freelance graphic artist, you could announce your presence at an upcoming conference and mention that you will be featuring many examples of your work to interested parties. As a musician, you can easily use your website as an announcement page for your concerts and appearances. If even major corporations create and publish press releases, why can’t you generate your own press releases and publish them on your website?
What’s stopping you?
If you already have a social media presence, you might wonder what more a professional freelance website can add to your business. However, social media sites don’t really allow you to showcase your talents like a website does. Even big-name professional social networking platforms like LinkedIn don’t give you the option of listing your graphics, podcasts, videos, articles, etc. like a professional website can. And of course, you can’t exactly start a paid forum or job board through such sites either.
If cost is a factor, consider that most hosting sites like GoDaddy or HostGator charge just $10-$15 each month for website hosting. Domain names run about $10 per year. That’s it. Everything else that you need for your website is free, from publishing platforms like WordPress to keyword tools from Google. If you want additional design or programming help, you can get pretty much anything you want for just a few dollars from microjob sites like Fiverr. So, what is stopping you from making more money?