Create or Optimize Your Website
Your website is the heart of your online business, so if you don’t already have one, it’s time to get started. If you’ve already got a site, skip forward and start working on improving your website pages.
Activity 1: Get started with your website
Today’s task is to buy a domain name and get WordPress installed. I know this is a little bit technical, but trust me, it’s not as complicated as it looks.
First of all, for those who need it, here’s a guide from Hubspot to what a domain name is.
If you need a website, the first step is to go to Namecheap.com or a similar site and buy a domain name. It’s not expensive, and will look much more professional than something with a wordpress.com or blogger.com suffix.
Think about branding – you can either use a business name or your own name, as many writers do. Even though I’m not using it right now (long story which I talk about briefly here) I own sharonhurleyhall.com.
Here’s some advice on choosing domain names:
When you’re done, it’s time to think about hosting. If you can afford it, pay for hosting: it’s usually pretty affordable, and you often get first year deals. I’ve used a lot of web hosts, and am currently using SiteGround. My criteria for deciding on a web host include:
- Not the same place I bought my domain name from
- Easy installation of WordPress, the market leading software for managing your website
- Built in features that I need – for example, security, website backups and so on.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, and you have no plans to advertise or sell products on your site, you can use your own domain with WordPress.com, which means you won’t have any site maintenance to do. But on the minus side, you’ll have less control over your site.
Here’s an excellent guide from WPBeginner to help with this. You can also watch this video on choosing website builders.
Note that if you are not tech minded, and don’t want to be bothered with setting up your site, you can pay someone to do it for you. If that’s the route you go, make sure you have all necessary passwords, licences and access codes before you sign off the project as done.
Activity 2: Your home page
Now it’s time to start working on the pages for your website.
Let’s start with your home page. If you’re starting a writing business, this is like your shop window. It’s the page clients will see when they come to hire you. Here’s mine, as an example:
And here’s how it has evolved over the years:
Step 1 is to answer these questions.
- What is your value proposition? – in other words, why would a customer choose you?
- What do you offer your prospective client or visitor?
Write a brief headline and then a couple of sentences to expand on that.
In the example above, some of the reasons a client would choose me and the value I offer are highlighted in bold. I recognize that they want more traffic and I offer content that gets results.
- Who is your site/are your services for?
Write a sentence that describes that. My copy above targets small business owners and online entrepreneurs.
- What other information do prospects need to decide to hire you?
This might include information about your experience, the precise services you offer and examples of your work. This is a good place to introduce your about or services page (or both)
- What will help visitors to trust you?
Your home page needs to inspire trust so people will hire you. Trust builders include a photo, contact information, logos or names of people you’ve worked with. I include the names of past clients on my website, and I’ve used logos in the past.
- What do you want them to do when they land on your site?
Use a call to action to give your visitors something to do next.
At this stage, the goal is to write something down – don’t overthink it.
To recap, my own homepage copy is short and sweet. It includes:
- a headline that shows what prospective clients have to gain
- copy that includes some of their key issues that I can solve
- a short plug for what I offer
- links to where they can learn more
- a photo to build trust
Just to switch it up a little, read what Gill Andrews says about your homepage.
Here are some other examples of writer sites that I’ve used for inspiration.
- Jenn Mattern’s ProBusinessWriter is a site I’ve used for inspiration when creating my own site
- Simply Stated Business by Cathy Miller
Activity 3: SEO
SEO (search engine optimization) is about helping people find your content. It can get technical, but it’s something you need to know about if you’re creating and running your own freelance writing site.
I wrote an in-depth guide to SEO. It covers:
- What is SEO and how does it work
- SEO ranking factors
- Keywords, and where to use them
- Auditing SEO
- Social media
- Mobile SEO
- SEO and lead generation
- and much more
Read it, and apply the principles to all your content. It’s pretty long, so if you need a shortcut, read sections 3, 4, and 10 (understanding keywords, where to use keywords, and SEO for lead generation)
Need a shorter guide? Check out Jenn Mattern’s guide to SEO 101 for Freelance Writers, on the Words on the Page blog.
Activity 4: Your about page
Today, we’re looking at your about page.
While this may repeat a little bit of the information on the home page, the point is to give more detail on you and your values. Some things to do include:
- give a little detail about your history – don’t be afraid to be human
- use a call to action to give your visitors something to do next
Here’s some more good advice on writing about pages:
- How to Write About Yourself
- Why It’s Easy to Market Your Clients But Not Yourself
- How to Write an About Us Page
Here’s my about page as an example. Now, over to you to write your own.
Activity 5: Services: Work out your offer
Earlier, we talked about your niche, ideal clients, and what you want to write about.
Now it’s time to distill that down into what you’re actually going to offer that will appeal to potential clients.
Go back to your original list, then pick around three things you want to offer, then get started with the first service:
- Describe that service in a couple of sentences.
- Next, show how using that service will benefit the client.
- Then finish up with a link to your contact page so they can get in touch right away.
Repeat that process for all the services. Feel free to come and talk these through with me in one of the drop in sessions.
If you need inspiration, check out the service pages of the sites shared in the earlier units.
Wondering about pricing? We’ll look at that in much more detail next time. Then you can come back and add prices to your services if you want to display them.
Activity 6: Your contact page
Most WordPress sites include a default contact page. You can leave that in place, but you make your contact form more useful for you.
For example, consider asking potential clients to identify a budget range, or the service they want from you. There are plenty of form plugins you can use to customize your contact form, but two that many freelancers recommend are WPForms and Formidable. Feel free to do your own research, though.
You can also include real contact details like a phone number, business address etc, and you can use the contact page to give more information about what types of enquiries you’re looking for.
Activity 7: Got a website already? Try these tasks
If you already have a site and are happy with it, there are a couple of advanced tasks to work through.
1 Install Google Analytics on your website.
- Find your top landing pages and optimize those to help even more people find them
- Check search terms to see if there are gaps you could fill with new pages/content. You’ll need to link GA with Google Search Console for this
Learn more about Google Analytics in my analytics roundup.