For freelancers, especially those just starting out, it can be difficult to find the time and money needed to launch your website.
Many, in fact, simply opt to use social media sites in place of a website in the beginning of their career. This can be quite detrimental to a small startup, however, and end up causing your career to grow more slowly than necessary.
A dedicated website shows prospects that you are serious about your business - that you believe in yourself as a viable resource. A website adds legitimacy to your freelance work; without it prospects may turn away, scared you may be just another scam artist. Also, a website makes it easier for would-be clients to find you on the web.
You may already know just how important a website is, and your only drawback is that your budget cannot afford to hire a professional web developer. Or maybe you know a little about web design and development but simply do not have the time to put together your own site.
This article helps to solve all of these problems for you with step-by-step instructions on launching your own freelance website in a single day - or less - by gathering the right supplies and using a site builder.
So set aside a day, and be prepared to complete your website launch by the end of this article. Keep in mind that even those of you who have no technical experience at all can still easily walk through these freelance tips in a matter of hours.
1. Choose a Domain Name
Choosing a domain name is the first and most important step in a website launch, simply because the right domain name lays a strong foundation for a marketable website. Since your domain name is your website URL, you will want it to be your brand name.
Step 1: Matching Your Domain and Brand
If your brand name is your personal name as many freelancers do, then the domain is probably available, especially if you throw in an extra word or your middle name. If you named your brand a more common name, then you may struggle to find a domain that relates to your freelance business name.
In this case, hopefully you haven't yet drawn up your business papers so that you can change your brand name to one that has a matching or near matching domain available. Or you may have to simply create a DBA under which you can operate with this brand/domain name. Yes, it is this important for both to be nearly identical. And hopefully any social media pages you have created also match this brand name.
Step 2: Finding Available Domain Names
So how do you find out what domain names are available? Rather than just doing a Google search for every domain name that comes to mind, you can cut out some time and go directly to GoDaddy.com.
Once on GoDaddy, click on the Find Your Domain button and enter your desired domain name in the text box. Click Go and review your results. If your domain is available, a green box will appear saying Congratulations! GoDaddy also provides a list of other similar domains that are available. Some businesses buy up all instances of their domain to control their brand, but as a freelancer this really isn't necessary.
If your domain is not available, a box will pop up saying that the domain is already registered, but then GoDaddy provides similar suggestions, either with different tails or with a different version of your desired domain. GoDaddy will even help you get your domain. They offers a service to contact the current owner to see if they are willing to sell.
2. Search for Keywords
Even if you don't know anything about SEO, you can still arm yourself with a fairly strong list of keywords to start with. Having keywords built into key parts of your website means that clients will be much more likely to find you when searching for your services on search engines. Keywords are also an important part of any future PPC campaigns you may start, but for now we'll just stick with optimizing your website.
Step 1: Using Google Keywords Tool
To find the best keywords for your website, use the Google Keywords Tool, which is part of the Google Adwords feature.
You don't need a Google account to use this tool, but if you do use one you will access to a few more search tools. One handy feature available with a Google account, for instance, is the Ad Group Ideas. This groups your keywords along with related keywords that Google suggests.
First, make sure to select the [Exact] option in the left tool bar, located underneath Match Types. It will give you more accurate results. Next, enter your keywords into the Word or phrase text box. You can enter multiple keywords, but make sure to hit the Enter or Return key to place each keyword or keyword phrase on separate lines. If you are not signed in to your Google account, you will have to enter the Captcha phrases before hitting the Search button.
Step 2: Knowing Where to Start
Knowing what keywords to enter into the text box can be a bit intimidating at first, but as you see and analyze the results, you will be able to fine-tune your search. Just remember some keyword rules:
- Use phrases (2 or 3 words) rather than just a single keyword.
- For freelancers with a local target market, don't forget keywords that include your location (city, state, county, and greater area),
- Start with keywords that clients are most likely to use when searching for you or your services.
- If you already have your brand name on social media, enter this as a keyword to see keyword phrases that others use related to your brand.
- Or enter a competitor's brand name to see what users enter when searching for their services.
Step 3: Choosing Your Keywords
Once you enter your keyword phrases and the results pop up, obviously you can't incorporate every single suggestion into your website. Keep in mind that the best and easiest ones for you to gain ranking with are those listed as Low under the Competition column, but if a keyword is highly relevant to your audience and brand and listed as Medium, you may decide to add it to your list. To further narrow it down, the best Low Competition keywords are those that bring a good amount of traffic. So choose ones that have high global or local monthly searches.
Keep in mind that as you write down your keywords, you will want to have 3 keywords to focus on per page of your website. For instance, on the home page of a graphic design artist the focus keyword phrases may be "what is graphic design", "graphic design blog", and "graphic design resume". These long-tail keywords all have low competition and high traffic (between about 4,000 and 8,000 global monthly searches).
Save your list of keywords. You may need to go back and refine it a bit once you create your website, but at least you now have a starting place. And if you are still clueless as to how to choose keywords, don't panic. Many web builder sites include SEO help and a few even place keywords in your content for you. At the least, though, you now have an idea of what keywords are and how they work.
3. Gather Designs Assets
Next you will want to gather all your assets for your website launch. Having all of your materials ready beforehand will ensure that once you are on a website builder, you can have your design completed in only a matter of minutes.
Step 1: Grabbing Your Logo
Make sure to keep your logo handy, as this is one of the most important brand images that will go on your pages. What should you do if you don't yet have a logo? Stop this process of creating your website until you have one. Or use a placeholder but don't advertise your website until you add your branded logo to your site.
Ideally, you would use a professional freelance logo designer. If you're looking for quality logo designers you can find logo service providers on our new site Microlancer, which helps connect freelance service providers with buyers. Or place a free ad looking for a freelance logo design through our FreelanceSwitch job board.
Step 2: Locating Your Images
Other assets you may want to drum up for your website would be specific images you'd like to include, such as freelance work portfolio photos or product pictures. Don't worry about changing the size or resolution of images for now, since most web builder programs allow you to do this in their system.
Just gather the photos you know you'd like to start out with and place them in an easy to find location, such as a folder on your desktop. You can always add more images to your website later. Right now just worry about getting the basics together.
Step 3: Determining a Loose Color Scheme
Until you are actually in a web builder program, you may not be able to nail down a specific color scheme. Many of the easiest website builders come with a limited amount of color scheme choices. However, you can better prepare for this decision ahead of time by deciding on two to four colors you want your brand to be built around.
You should already have at least one color nailed down in your logo design. But you may want to decide on a few more since your website will more than likely include multiple colors.
This is where you may want to do some research online. Search for logos within your industry to see common color schemes used, for instance, "restaurant logos". You can also play around with some free color scheme tools, such as Kuler on which you can look at color palettes created by designers or create your own based on different color theories.
Another great one to use is Pictaculous, which allows you to upload an image from which it creates a color scheme for you. And if you find a website with the perfect color scheme, you can use Colourgrab to analyze the colors and provide not only the colors used but also how often each color was used on the site.
4. Choose a Web Builder Site
The following are some of the easiest and best web builders online, and all boast the ability to launch a website quickly - some even claim in 15 minutes. So take a look at the features of each, then visit their websites, and choose the one that meets all of your needs and appeals to you the most.
If you choose WebStartToday for your website builder, be sure to look for my upcoming tutorial on using this web builder to create your freelance website.
One of the great bonuses of WebStartToday is that you can try it free for an entire year before paying a dime. And if you choose at any time to close your account before the end of a year, you don't get hit with any hidden fees.
While they do allow you to choose a domain name, the free version will follow the format of yourbusinessname.webstarttoday.com. If you upgrade to the $9.99/mo or $99/year versions, then your domain automatically becomes yourbusinessname.com.
Another great feature of WebStartToday is that all of the website templates have built-in SEO specific to your industry and come with clear instructions on how to add your website to search engines and local business directories - extremely important parts of increasing your page rank.
WebStartToday also provides instructions on how to use Google Analytics to gather data on your site performance. Other incredible features include:
- 1000s of professional, stunning designs
- Content specific for 72 industry verticals
- Domain hosting for free for an entire year
- Image editing tool - very robust
- Ability to use stock images or your own
- Incredibly easy web builder tool
- Lots of color schemes
- Interactive design options and Google Apps
- Unlimited storage for your web content!
- Easy to manage CMS for easy edits after launching
- Amazing support 24/7
Freelancers can be found in a variety of industries and so have a wide variety of website needs. SquareSpace does a great job of including the four main types of pages you may need and allows you to customize from there with their easy website builder tool.
On SquareSpace, you can have a freelance blog, gallery, store, along with other pages, which make this a great option for freelancers in need of an ecommerce site for selling products.
With all pricing options, you get a free custom domain with a year subscription. The lowest price option ($8/mo with annual billing or $10 for month-to-month billing) includes only 20 pages, 500GB bandwidth, and 2 GB storage. These options are unlimited for the $16/mo option, and the $24/mo option comes with these unlimited features plus much more. Other features common to the web builder include:
- While SquareSpace only comes with a 14-day free trial, they have 3 different very reasonable pricing options.
- Easy management of your store, including inventory and the option to print packing slips
- Beautiful designs from which to choose
- LayoutEngine uses easy drag and drop function for customization
- Aviary image editing tool
- Auto-publish options for blog posts
- Use preset design options or customize fonts, colors, and layout
- Sites are mobile optimized
- Search engine optimized
- Easily add contributors to your site
- Built-in Analytics
- Excellent 24/7 support
For a site that remains free indefinitely, BraveSites is a great one to use, especially since you can upgrade to a paid, more robust version at any time ($2.45/mo or $7.00/mo). However, keep in mind that the free version comes with only 5MB of space, 500MB bandwidth, 7 pages, and no domain name. In fact, only the $7.00/mo version comes with unlimited pages, 1GB of space, unlimited bandwidth. Both paid versions come with a custom domain name. They also provide FTP hosting packages for web developers.
BraveSites comes with a web builder that is very simple and easy to use, but with less customization than other web builder sites. But for a basic website design, the features you get for the cost is great for freelancers just needing something simple for the time being.
- Free domain search tool
- Drag and drop site builder
- Hundreds of templates from which to choose
- Free stock photos
- Free icons and buttons
- 24/7 support system
If you have not yet built your logo, iBuilt.net may be a great option for you since it comes with a logo builder. As you can imagine, though, this feature is an indicator of other robust features, which signal higher prices. Their packages start at $19.99/mo for the essential options, $29.95/mo for the business options, and $39.95/mo for the ecommerce options. If the previous web builders discussed just don't seem to include enough features that you need, this one may be web builder for you.
With all pricing options, you get free web hosting, unlimited pages, 1 to 1.5 GB storage, free search engine submission, and much more. The ecommerce option includes a large list of features for store management, including different shipping options, downloadable products, a customizable shopping cart, and more. Other great features include:
- Excellent support
- Built-in blogging features
- Form builder
- Newsletter manager and site autoresponders
- Image slider and rotators
- Easy site customization options
- Website content collection
- Easy uploading of flash animation, videos, and music
If your freelancing business will be dealing with clients in a variety of countries and speaking a variety of languages, you may want to check out Edicy.
This site builder allows you to create a website in several languages. The free version comes with 5 pages in 2 different languages, but of course only allows a domain of yourname.edicy.co. The $8/mo version comes with 30 pages, 3 languages, and a custom domain. The $13/mo version comes with unlimited pages and languages - and a custom domain is included.
The web builder is incredibly easy to use with lots of customization options, and Edicy provides a tool that gives web designers additional control, even supporting those without coding knowledge. For non-designers, just as with most website builders, you can drag and drop aspects of your page into place in minutes. Other awesome features include:
- Elegant image editing interface
- Feedback form builder
- Advanced statistics available with upgrade
- Translate yourself or use Google Translator
- Lots of themes from which to choose
- Customize tags and keywords for SEO
Tip: Of course, you don't have to just stick with the web builders mentioned above. There are hundreds of options available on the web, and all come with various pricing and features. The ones above give you a good variety to consider though, and are used by freelancers and small business owners daily.
Quick Website Launch
Once you have chosen the site builder that is best for your quick business website launch, simply go to the site and follow their instructions for starting a free trial or creating a free account. Then you are ready to use the information you gathered in the previous steps and freelance tips to build your site in only a few minutes or hours.
Keep in mind that the more work you do to your site today, the more time it will take now, but the less time you will need to spend on it later. If, however, your goal is to simply launch a basic website in less than a day, just stick to the basics and leave picky customization for another day. Today is all about taking the step of launching your freelance business site.