www.you.com… Working your Freelance Website

by Rebecca Hass
photoOf all the things you put time and money into as a freelancer, a website is one of the most important self-marketing tools at your disposal.

Why it matters 

Your website will be the face of your business. It’s the first impression someone will have of you and your work. Vancouver social media guru Rebecca Coleman says a website is your number one resource when it comes to increasing the visibility of your freelance business. Use Twitter and Facebook to drive traffic to your website. If all goes as planned, the traffic you get will result in contracts that pay.

But if you’re like me, you’re constantly concerned about money. What will get your freelance business the biggest bang for your buck? Yes, you need a website, but how much must it cost?

You could ‘do it yourself’ on the cheap, but after a conversation with Sarah Iles and Matt Magi of the Victoria, BC design studio Voltage New Media Inc. I’ve begun to wonder about the wisdom of going the cheap route.  Matt and Sarah have been in business for five years now and they’ve seen it all — the good, the bad and, mostly, the ugly. They shared some of their wisdom for the website neophytes among us.

What if I want to do-it-myself? 

Your website should be the face of your business. It’s a reflection of you and your creative vision. Don’t take it for granted – it’s a powerful tool. The best advice: ask yourself, what is your time worth? You could build a deck on the back of your house, but it would take you longer than a professional deck contractor. You could build yourself a website, but it how long would it take you? Will it look the way you want it to? What is your time worth?

Okay, I’m ready to hire someone, but how do I choose the right person?

1. Look at the portfolio of a prospective designer’s work. Once you know that you like their style, then you can look into their reputation.

2. Check online reviews on Yelp or Facebook or contact previous clients.

3. Don’t just take a phone meeting, arrange to meet face to face. Chemistry matters in this type of work, so get a feeling for whether you’re going to click.

4. Ask questions: Are they just passing time before they graduate or is this their job? Will they be available to give ongoing help after the website launches?

What’s this going to cost me?

Expect to pay a professional $1000 to $2000 for a site built on a template (such as WordPress). If you want a custom build, expect to pay somewhere between $3000 and $5000.

Where is my money going?

The web designer is usually working on an hourly rate, and the average website takes 20 hours of work. If you opt for a custom build, then more resources will go into “fully branding you” says Sarah. This includes a logo, colours and consistency in the design elements.  Today’s web build also needs to be formatted to work on different platforms — smart phone, tablet, desktop — so the content, images and design respond appropriately on different devices.

Three Things that will make your website AMAZING

1. Images! Matt says “it’s simple — people don’t like to read. Images fill the screen these days, and content is minimal. Seven years ago it was 70% content, now it’s 70% photography.”

Matt believes it’s worth the time and money to have custom photography.  A professional headshot is a given, but don’t neglect the rest of your images. If you have skills, you can take shots for your website yourself. Otherwise, he recommends Stocksy. This website features professional images that look custom and are affordable.

2. Time. Be prepared to spend time on your website. Even a great designer can’t do their work blind.  Have content prepared and spell checked and custom photography in hand.

3. Communication. Be honest with your web designer. Sarah encourages her clients to come with ideas, ready to brainstorm, but to be open to the designer’s advice. Trust their expertise.

Care and Feeding of your Web Guru

Timeline: Matt and Sarah say that when clients come to them, they always want their website ASAP, but a real timeline is more like thirty days.  Part of that deadline depends on you. The more organized you are when delivering the content, the better. If you can, try to come with 70% of your content, including photos, in hand.

Payment scheme: Be prepared to pay a percentage up front to get the work started. Depending on your financial situation, ask if you can pay in installments.

Protect yourself and always sign a contract. Without it you won’t have proof of your agreement should the relationship go south.

Best Splurges

Brand — Sarah says the best money spent in today’s online environment is on designing a brand. “Branding is huge these days. Know your audience. A great brand and a logo, it just flows into the website. It makes it that much easier.”

SEO-Search Engine Optimization — This service means the coding increases the chances an Internet search engine will tag your website from a client search, bringing your webpage up earlier in a search.

The bottom line is that whether you end up as a do-it-yourselfer or you hire a professional, your website is a marketing tool that is well worth your time, energy and money. The work you do will always be what keeps the contracts coming, but you are a business, and your work deserves a great calling card online.


Rebecca Hass is a writer, broadcaster, performer and life coach for creatives. She lives in Victoria BC. You can check out her website at www.rebeccahass.ca or find her on Twitter at @rebeccahass.


Posted on August 27, 2014 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

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