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Do you need to have your own website to be successful?
Technically, no. You don't need to build a freelance writer website.
I know plenty of freelance ghostwriters (and writers in general) who are able to find work and be successful without setting up their own website. They rely heavily on other sites
However, before you go skipping off to the next blog post thinking that this one is irrelevant, having a website does make it easier to achieve your goals faster. Why? Because any client looking for the best is going to hit Google (or some other search engine) first. And because most clients, when they receive a recommendation from one of their friends, is going to want to look you up to see if you can really help them before trying to contact you.
And most of all, because when these prospective clients do their research and look you up, you don’t want them having to sift through profiles and ads of other freelance writers. You want them to find you and only you.
Taking the time to build a freelance writer website can be helpful if you want to stand out from the content mills, freelancer websites, and low-paying bidding sites. But a lot of new freelance writers shy away from building their own site:
- Building a website is too technical and expensive. (It's not, and your website doesn't have to be fancy. You can even use a free service like wordpress.com to get started super easy).
- Building a website takes up too much time. (It doesn't have to! A simple website can be up and running in just a couple days).
- Building a website will distract me from doing the work that will actually get me paid. (Okay, sure, it can if you let it. But with some pre-planning and forethought, you can head off the distraction before it detracts from your work).
So, choosing to build a freelance writer website, while not required, is still one of the best choices you can make for your new freelance ghostwriting business.
And the best news is that your website doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. In fact, here’s everything you need to know about setting up your first website quickly.
First, choose a domain name and decide where you want to host your site.
Your domain name can be anything you want, but it should definitely tie back to you in some way. A lot of people prefer the firstnamelastname.com scenario. But if your name isn’t available (as mine wasn’t), you can always come up with something close.
When I found out my name wasn’t available as a domain (because there is a famous anime character with the same name), I had to think a little more and get a bit creative. Right around the same time, I had a client who was always joking around with me that I was a Jedi — he would call me up and say “help me Naomi, you are my only hope.”
And, hence, the name of my website was born.
When in doubt, try to aim for clarity over cleverness first. If naominakashima.com had been available, I would have likely gone for that one instead of helpmenaomi.com. In the end, you want your domain name to make it easier for a prospective client to know it’s you when they start researching:
- thebombghostwriter.com is catchy, but doesn’t tie the domain to you in any way.
- janetheghostwritingdame.com is also catchy and gets a little closer to tying the domain and the service to the name.
- janedoeghostwriting.com is easy to remember and ties the domain to the service and the name.
Next, decide where you want to host your new website.
This is one of those decisions you will just need to do your research and choose the option you like best.
For free options, you can go with Blogger, Wordpress, or Wix. Blogger is owned by Google and is pretty easy and straightforward to set up. Wordpress is also easy to set up. I don’t know a lot about Wix, as I’ve had no direct experience with them at all, but I have friends who swear by how easy it is to set up and run.
Keep in mind that with any of these options, your choices are limited. All three will give you a full and complete, working, beautiful website, but if you want to be able to do extensive customizations, you’ll be restricted by their capabilities and servers. In all three cases, your site will be hosted right there on their platform and the software is already installed. Just follow the onscreen instructions and you can be set up and running in no time.
For more control but still not very expensive, you can opt for a self-hosted plan on another hosting site and install the Wordpress software yourself. My site is hosted on Green Geeks, which I love and they are not too expensive. You can also go with Arvixe, GoDaddy, and Siteground. For the most part, if you dig through their options and features, you’ll find they offer pretty close to the same service. I just prefer Green Geeks because of their commitment to fighting global climate change.
Depending on the host and plan you go with, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50-$150 for one year of hosting. Sometimes you can get a discount if you pay for more than one year at a time, and sometimes they will include your domain name and security certificate with your hosting.
If you’re paying less than the $50 or if you signed up under a special deal, be sure to read the deal fully so you can see what your hosting plan will renew at — I’ve known a lot of writers who got in on a deal and then couldn’t afford the renewal rates two years later.
What do you look for in a host? Most hosts nowadays advertise 99.99% uptime and security monitoring, channel, unmetered bandwidth and unlimited disk space on their shared servers. These are all good things to have, but since there is very little difference from one host to the other, you can’t really base your decision on them (although if you come across any host that has a substantially different claim than these, you may want to dig further to see if they are really going to serve your needs).
For the most part, the differences are going to be in their addons:
- Does their plan come with priority support, or would priority support cost you more?
- Does their plan come with a security certificate (SSL), or would that cost you more?
- Since this is your first website, you probably don’t need to worry about migration services, but if your site grows, how hard will it be to move from a starting server up to a larger server?
When all else fails, you can also always post questions into any writing group. The more experienced writers will have already built several websites and dealt with several hosts in the process, and they can tell you which hosts they’ve liked the most.
There are more expensive options as well, which will take care of most of the website for you. These usually include a fully managed option, such as Kinsta or WPEngine. These options are good if you really aren’t tech-savvy at all or if you just want to be able to have someone else take care of your website hosting and server for you without you having to really touch it. The hosting is self-hosted but they have dedicated technicians that handle the server and the software, so you can just set it and forget it.
Second, decide on a theme and layout.
Next, you want to set up the design or theme of your site. Every software has a set of themes you can choose from, and a lot of the free ones are actually quite nice.
This is where you’re going to decide on the basic layout, color choices, and typography of your site. Most of the free themes are pretty simple and don’t have a lot of settings for you to get lost with, so if you don’t know a lot about web design, don’t worry: stick with clear.
Remember, I started out as a freelance web developer, and I can tell you the most successful websites are clear, simple, and load fast. They don’t have a whole lot of fancy codes or bells and whistles. You want something that is easy to navigate so any prospective clients coming to your site to find out more about you will be able to find the answers they’re looking for without jumping through a lot of hoops to do it.
The only thing you really need to look for in a theme is one that looks the way you want it to look and has the ability to support any features you might be thinking of adding to your site. For example, if you want to have a blog, then you want a theme that will support a blog post feed.
Finally, start loading up your content.
There is some content that absolutely must be on every website:
- About Me page - this must be first and it needs to be strategic. This isn’t a page to write poetry about your dreams of being a writer, but rather it’s a page that will train Google (and other search engines) about what it is you do. You’ll want to reinforce your mission statement and area of expertise here.
- Contact Me page - this one is a little self-explanatory, but can also be strategic. You want prospective clients to be able to contact you and you want the process to be as easy and straightforward as possible.
- A blog, portfolio, or sample writing - having a blog is one of the best ways to demonstrate 1) your knowledge in a certain niche or subject, and 2) your writing ability. This is especially important if you’re new and don’t have a lot of client testimonials or return clients just yet. If you don’t have the time to update a blog, or just don’t want the added responsibility of having to write and update a blog regularly, then you can create a portfolio or sample writing page. As long as these pages still demonstrate the same knowledge and skill that a blog would demonstrate, you’re good to go.
And that’s it! Just like that, you have a website set up.
This website will be kind of like your home base. Every time you meet a prospective client on another platform or out in real life, you’ll send them to this website to learn more about how you can help them. And as you move further through this book and begin setting up marketing strategies, this website will serve as the center of all your marketing efforts.
Did you enjoy this article? Here are some other posts on freelance writing you may like:
- Love Writing? Start Getting Paid to Write Articles
- How to Handle a Negative Nelly Client: 3 Steps to Diffusing a Negative Client
- End Writer's Block for Good: 10 Triggers and Their Solutions
- No, you May Not Ask for a Writing Sample
- How to Become a Freelance Writer (6-step startup guide)