When you decided to become a freelance blogger and work via the internet, you probably never thought your looks would matter.
But they do. Potential clients judge you on appearance, and some of them are backing off because they don’t like what they see. Gods, it’s like being back in high school.
So why is freelance blogging such a beauty pageant? Because, duh, you’re selling something. People buy with their senses and emotions, so when you’re selling, visuals are just as important as words.
Before you get all uppity: I’m not saying you’re ugly.
Your “freelancing face” might benefit from a makeover, though. I’m talking about your portfolio site, and at the end of this post I’m giving away a premium website facelift to help yours look gorgeous.
Yes, You Need a Professional Website
You can get started without an online portfolio, but you’ll need one sooner or later. The sooner the better, really, because it’ll help you get off the starting line.
To clarify why it’s worth investing time and money into your freelancer website even when you haven’t earned a ton of blogging cash yet, imagine two new freelance bloggers: Angelina and Brad. They’re both gorgeous, but it’s their websites we’re worried about.
Angelina and Brad both responded to the same job ad on Problogger last week. Neither of them has any paid blogging experience, but they’ve both got years of experience in the industry this blog covers.
He needs a blogger who knows the industry inside out, so Angelina and Brad both have the background to do a good job despite their lack of freelance experience.
So he visits Angelina’s website. It looks polished and professionally designed, with a homepage layout that draws attention to her best work and testimonials. The portfolio page shows small images of Angelina’s few clips from unpaid writing work, laid out neatly along with a headline and a paragraph of description for each item.
Then Hiring Guy goes to Brad’s site. The first thing he notices is a large, not particularly relevant header image that he recognises: it’s the one that comes included with the blog theme Brad’s using.
Brad’s homepage is a blog-style page of posts. Each post describes and links to one of Brad’s unpaid writing clips. Hiring Guy can’t see a “Portfolio” link anywhere, but he sure as hell wishes he could look through Brad’s samples without clicking in and out of each post. His eyes keep getting drawn to an ad in the sidebar that blinks different colours with epilepsy-inducing frequency.
Hiring Guy can’t take any more. He hits backspace and hires Angelina. And you would’ve done the same.
Look Good to Get Hired
The slicker the appearance and user experience of your website, the better your chance of being chosen over other bloggers with similar skills and knowledge.
Your website’s design, layout, and other visual cues help potential clients decide that yes, this looks like a professional blogger who can handle an important project:
- Don’t clutter your site with endless advertising, low-quality clips, or random stock images of “business-y stuff”.
- Laser-focus your homepage to show off your best testimonials and most lucrative services.
- Create a one-stop portfolio where potential clients can get a swift overview of your clips, with links to the full-length posts.
- Use colour selectively to draw attention to the things you want people to notice.
- Be readable. Choose a font that’s clear and large enough to read from a distance without squinting.
Even if your website looks slick, a potential client still wants to see your human face as well. They need to feel like they know you at least a little bit, and your mugshot helps to give them a sense of your personality. So…
Obvious: add at least one clear, well-lit photo of yourself to your professional website.
Put it in the header, in the sidebar, or somewhere else that’s visible on every page. If that seems like overkill to you, then at least make sure there’s a photo of you on your About page.
Less obvious: consider the background and props in your photo.
When clients see you with added context—holding a dainty teacup, say, or standing in front of a giant world map—they subconsciously trust you more. They feel those little clues to your personality and interests make you no longer a total stranger.
As the saying goes, people buy from people. Give your website visitors a sense of who you are and a user experience that shows you mean business.
Yes, you have to spend a small amount of money to set up web hosting and your own domain name registration (affiliate links). You might even decide to pay someone to get everything looking good. But it doesn’t have to cost a huge amount to maximise your chances of getting hired via your website.
To make it cost even less, the good people at Elegant Themes have donated 2 one-year Developer subscriptions, which normally cost $89, for me to give away to Be a Freelance Blogger readers. 🙂 You’ll have access to 85 premium WordPress.org themes as well as updates and support throughout your subscription.
For your chance to win, leave a comment explaining which of Elegant Themes’ 13 portfolio WordPress themes is your favourite and why. The 2 most thoughtful explanations win the prize on June 27th, 2013.