Is your website delivering new clients on a regular basis? Is your site's sales funnel optimized? Have you been meaning to make changes to your site that improve your bottom line? Realistically, how effective is your freelance business website today?
If you rely on the web for your business, then you worry about getting more people to your site, and converting more of them into clients. Most people worry a lot about the former, and a little about the latter. This is backwards, because a small amount of quality traffic combined with a high-converting website can yield much greater returns for a freelancer than lots of traffic and a poor website.
The good news is that there are many simple changes you can make to your own site to increase the bites you get from prospects. Let's look at setting objectives, targeting headings and graphics, utilizing each page area of your site, calls to action, and more. Here are ten quick website changes that will take you no more than 30 minutes each to implement.
1. Figure out your site’s objective
What is the business goal of your website? Surprisingly few freelancers have a clear answer. If you don’t know the ultimate objective of your site, then the site is a liability rather than an asset. Any clients you get from it are purely accidental.
So the first thing you need to work out is the purpose of your site in terms of your business goals. Let me offer a word of hard-won advice here: the primary objective of your site is probably not to make sales. That’s because the vast majority of prospects will not decide to hire you on their first visit. Repeat visitors are more likely to hire you. So your site’s primary objective should probably be to get prospects to come back.
2. Figure out each page’s objective
Needless to say, each page on your site must have an objective that relates back to your central business goal.
Needless to say, each page on your site must have an objective that relates back to your central business goal. You need to map out how your pages contribute to this goal, placing their objectives into a logical thought sequence for prospects. For example, it doesn’t make sense to ask someone to hire you straight from your homepage—he won’t yet know enough about you to make that kind of commitment. It makes sense to ask him to learn about your services, maybe; or to learn about the problem that he faces which you can solve.
I suggest two objectives per page, because very often a prospect will be interested in achieving one or the other of them, depending on how informed he is. On your services page it’s smart to have an objective for someone who has seen enough to know he wants to talk; and another for someone who is still thinking and wants to learn more about you. By presenting an either/or decision, rather than a yes/no one, you are more likely to get a positive response and so capture both prospects.
3. Fix your masthead
If you don’t have a masthead that clearly articulates where your prospect is as soon as he arrives on your site, you’re going to lose an awful lot of potential clients. Someone who can’t figure out where he is won’t stick around.
Nearly all websites do this wrong, and freelancers’ sites are no exception. Take a look at your masthead now. Does it articulate where someone has come from when landing on your website? Does it use the language your prospect would use? It’s generally best to have both a logotype and a tagline, even if your company name is self-explanatory (like “Mac’s Web Design”), just to set your prospect at ease.
4. Develop prospect-centered headlines for every page
As an average rule, only about 20% of the people who read a headline will read the copy. The purpose of the headline is to increase that number as much as possible. If you don’t have a good headline on each page, then prospects won’t read your copy.
Just as in real life, talking about yourself turns people off.
To ensure they do, you need to convey value. To do that, you must engage with what your prospect is thinking. When he arrives on your homepage, for example, he’s thinking about his problem, and certainly not about you. He doesn’t know you.
Yet, a huge number of freelance sites have giant headlines saying something like, “Hi, I’m James, and I love web design”. Nothing could interest your prospects less. Just as in real life, talking about yourself turns people off. Unlike real life, though, this faux pas will cost you a lot of money.
5. Speak normally
Assuming your headlines get your prospect into the page content, you now face another hurdle. If your copy doesn’t speak in the way your prospect would speak—and if it doesn’t talk about the things that are most interesting to him—then he won’t read it. In real life, if you walk up to someone and start talking in a very strange way like a brochure, or if you start talking about yourself, it turns people off; they think you’re a little bit special and they try to leave.
Don’t make people leave your website. Check that your copy is talking about your prospect and his problems. The number of times the words “you” and “your” appear should vastly outweigh the number of times the words “I” and “me” do.
6. Ask for an action
Calls to action are critical. If you don’t ask people to act, they won’t.
Calls to action are critical. If you don’t ask people to act, they won’t. People actually want to be told what to do on a website; they want to be given specific actions to take, so they don’t have to figure out what comes next and how to do it.
If you rely on your navigation to get people around, then you’re going to find that a lot of them don’t get around; they just leave. Calls to action that reflect the two objectives on each page, and move prospects through a logical sequence on your site, will dramatically increase conversions.
Make sure your calls to action are weighted, so one of them is visually dominant over the other. This helps prospects decide which to click. One orange CTA and one gray one will do better than two orange ones.
7. Make your navigation boring
One of the worst blights for prospects is branded navigation. For example, your about page has some cute name reflecting your obscure origins, or your contact page is called “Carrier Pigeon”. If prospects don’t know what a navigation entry means, they won’t experiment to find out.
People almost never click links if they aren’t confident about where they go. When prospects don’t find the word “Contact” in your nav bar, they don’t click the carrier pigeon. They find a freelancer who does have a contact link. So make your navigation as boring and predictable as possible.
8. Make it readable
Sensible typography is crucial to engaging prospects. If they can’t read your copy, they’ll leave. There are five things you need to check here, and although you might need the help of your web designer, most themes will let you do this stuff yourself:
- All your body copy should be aligned to a single left margin. If it’s not, it’s harder to read, harder to follow, harder to pick out as body copy in the first place—and people will read it less.
- Make sure it’s at least 16 pixels in size. You might think 16px looks big, but that’s just because you’re accustomed to smaller fonts, because a lot of web designers think 14 and 13px fonts look swish. If your audience is over twenty, you’re going to lose readers below 16px; it’s that simple. 16px is the minimum.
- Have a reasonable line-height: the distance between each line of text should be 130% to 150% of the text size.
- Check your measure: the width of a line should be no more than 75 characters. After this the eye has trouble following one line to the next, and your readership drops off again.
- Make sure your copy is set black or dark gray on white, and not the other way round—where fifty per cent of the people who would read it, won’t.
9. Check your images
Images have only two purposes: to tease a prospect, or convey value.
Images have only two purposes: to tease a prospect, or convey value. An image must present some kind of situation where your prospect thinks, “Ooh, what’s going on here? I want to read the copy and find out”; or it must convey value more clearly than the copy itself could—for example using a chart or a product image, where even if you used several paragraphs of copy you couldn’t get across the point as clearly and forcibly.
Any other kind of image is a waste of upload bandwidth, and a waste of your prospects’ time, because its visual dominance means prospects are looking at it, rather than reading your copy. And if they’re not reading your copy, they’re not buying your freelance services.
10. Create a footer
This final suggestion sounds incredibly simple, but you’d be surprised at its effectiveness. A footer with your full contact information—that’s your physical address and your phone number (and even your fax number if you’re a time traveler from 1980)—will incline many people to trust you. They scroll down to the bottom of the page to make sure you’re a legitimate company that really exists in the real world, and not some kind of scam in cyberspace.
If you have this information in your footer, people feel much more comfortable with you—especially older people who, like my own father, are still a little bit concerned about using their credit card online because as soon as they enter it someone, somewhere is magically going to steal it.
Get to it!
So that’s ten things you can start doing today to increase your online sales. Go to your website now, and check it against this list. Make a note of the things that could be improved, and then commit to doing one thing each day. I guarantee you’ll see results within a week.