Updated: Jan 25, 2022
Reprinted from the VASTA Voice, June 2019
Most freelancers don’t want to think about marketing. We want to set up shop and offer our services. Then we’d like to have great clients show up at our door and be happy to pay us.
Unfortunately, and with very few exceptions, that doesn’t happen. Like it or not, we have to market ourselves.
In both working and talking with freelance professionals, I’ve noticed that there are three points of disdain that draw a common thread through the fabric of our loathing for marketing.
1. We’re typically short on time, and marketing takes time.
2. We don’t want to have to conquer our fear of new technologies.
3. We feel uncomfortable tooting our own respective horns.
About No. 1:
There are books, videos, and seminars to help with time management so this article will pass that by.
About No. 2:
I’ll merely pass on some sage advice given to me by a high school student. If you have to learn something new, spend half an hour watching YouTube videos about how to do it. At the end of the 30 minutes, you’ll either think, “I can do this,” or not. Typically, the tough part is facing your fear, so watching a few videos is a good low-resistance, non-committal first step. I find most consumer-centered technologies these days are pretty easy if you let yourself get the hang of it.
That said, if you haven’t explored the drag-and-drop website platforms yet, what are you waiting for? They are the bomb. Beautiful, easy, no webmaster necessary! Wix and Squarespace are the biggies right now, but there are competitors out there, and reviews that compare them. Google away!
About No. 3
This is the demon we’ll expose to bright lights today.
Seriously. What’s worse than writing copy about yourself? Very few of us are capable of honestly assessing our own strengths accurately such that we could expound on them. If you’ve been working in your field long enough that you’ve seen first-hand what your strengths are, how do you talk about that? Or, how do you talk about that without sounding self-important?
What we usually end up doing is citing our achievements, awards, degrees, and performances. Not only does that make for a really milquetoast website, it’s probably not attracting clients. Why? Because you’re talking about yourself, rather than about your potential client.
Now you may be thinking, “But of course it’s about me! It’s my website about my services. Anyone looking for what I do wants to know about me, the person who’s doing that thing."
If you’re teaching in a college, you are in the luxurious position of being a developer of talent and skills. If you’re an independent teacher or coach, your job is to solve problems. Clients don’t call you because everything is jim-dandy and they’re just looking for ways to spend money and time. They call you because they have a problem they can’t solve alone, and they’re willing to invest their money and time to solve that problem.
Your potential client wants to know that you understand her problem, that you understand her, and that you, the professional, are both qualified and prepared to help her solve her problem or clear her hurdle. Your copy has to talk to her about her issues. Along the way you can let her know that you’re the perfect person to help her.
Here’s where the self-horn-tooting comes in. You can put your impressive résumé on your “About” page, but that home page has to zero in on your visitor’s concerns. That person is asking the question, “Can you help me?” and perhaps “How?”
Your home page has to answer the first question and guide them to the answer to the second question.
Let’s say I’m looking for a speech coach. Your home page has to tell me in one second and in no uncertain terms that I’ve come to the site of a speech coach. In that same second (or less) I have to feel good about what I’m seeing. The colors, typefaces, and layouts have to appeal to me. I have to feel comfortable enough to click the links that will answer the question of how you’ll help me.
Here are some ways you can invite that person in:
The power of having good-quality photos of yourself on the home page cannot be overstressed. Show your cute, warm, trustworthy self to the camera!
Images are more powerful than words, but poor-quality images look unprofessional. If you’re concerned about the high price of stock photos, get your images from Pixabay.com or Pexels.com. Be nice and leave a few shekels in the tip jar.
Don’t overwhelm them with either words or with choices.
The first thing they see should answer the question, “What services does this person provide?” Your banner, logo, or title should say what you do (e.g., Kathy Bird is the Word! Kathy Bird Voice & Speech)
Have between one and four clear choices in your menu (e.g. Onsite and Group Classes, Personal Speech Coaching, Executive Coaching). Blog or online shop are "extra."
Don’t crowd your copy. Big font sizes, space between lines, and columns that aren’t too wide make for easy reading and scanning.
Two fonts. One for titles, one for copy. If you're adding something personal (e.g., creating a graphic to look like your own persona photo book with your handwritten notes) you can throw in a third font for that.
Colors matter. Pick your “signature” color, and two complimentary colors to go with it. (Here is a terrific article on color from Canva.com, a site which is awesome-sauce and you should know about it!)
Once you have this concept in your head, fly into cyberspace and look at some websites. See how you feel about them, and try to figure out why you feel that way. Having the client-centered-site idea in your head will inform your opinions.
If a picture’s worth a thousand words,
a website must be worth more.
Take a look at a few sites I’ve picked out. This list includes my site and the sites of some successful colleagues. Enjoy, learn, go forth and create! And have fun!
Meredith Colby, me
Clean look, accessible copy, unavoidable navigation
Sarah Campbell, music marketing coach
Beautiful, easy, clean.
Sanddollar Music, music studio
Great photos, easy navigation, their copy is the one to beat. Note the pop-ups.
The Speakeasy Cooperative, multi-use site
The grooviest. Clear message, beautiful colors and graphics. Note the pop-ups.
Eden Casteel, teacher-coach-producer
Warm, fun, clear.
The Full Voice, service-podcast-retail
Clarity is king.