As a new freelancer you’ll probably need a website to promote yourself and your freelance services. You might be wondering how to set up a freelancer website. You can easily spend days of your life Googling things and getting confused. As a freelance web designer, I’ve got you covered with these tips.
Self Hosted or Website Platform?
You can either get your own website, or you can use a website builder like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace etc. If you want to get up and running quickly, a website builder can be a great choice. Once you’re established, making money and need something more customisable you can look at setting up your own site or having one designed for you.
Whatever option you choose, you will need a domain name. You can choose your name, company name or a keyword domain like freelancedesigner.com to try and get some search engine traffic. There are hundreds of domain registrars – I’d recommend sticking with a reputable one as losing access to your domain could be fatal to your business.
I’ve used Namecheap as they are, well, cheap for the first year. After ten years of using various domain registrars for myself and clients, I mostly use LCN.com as you can ring them up and speak to someone if you have an issue. I can’t stand 123reg, 1and1 and Heart.
Your emails will be firstname.lastname@example.org so choose wisely and avoid domains that are difficult to spell or appear unprofessional.
Domain Name System (DNS) Settings
If you want your emails in one place (like Google Apps) and your website somewhere else, you’ll have to make changes to the DNS settings on your domain. It’s fairly straightforward to do the above but you may need to read their help files, call support or get a technical mate to help.
Once you’ve got a domain name you’ll need some website hosting which is where your website and emails (probably) live. You can redirect your domain name to this hosting from the control panel of your domain registrar.
Alternatively, you can buy your domain and hosting from the same company and you won’t have to do this step.
There are lots of options and I recommend using WordPress. It’s free, easy to use and has millions of themes and plugins available (also mostly free, or cheap). Old installs of WordPress can be easy to hack, but it’s also easy to keep WordPress up to date. Crap passwords are also a security risk, so use a solid password and get a password manager app like Lastpass or 1password.
If you’re just starting off, get a simple free WordPress theme from the approved directory and you can upgrade to a custom theme further down the line. Getting distracted and wasting time messing around with the visuals of your site will prevent you from getting online quickly, so focus on getting a simple site with good content out there first.
Without wanting to sound harsh, hardly anyone is going to see your site to start with so don’t get hung up on details at this point.
Recommended WordPress Plugins
Here are some plugins we always install – they are regularly updated and don’t upsell too aggressively (apart from Yoast, but it’s an awesome free plugin so I’ll let them off)
- Analytify – Adds Google Analytics tracking code to your site along with nice dashboard widget showing an overview of your traffic
- Contact Form 7 – Allows you to add easily contact forms to your site
- Yoast SEO – Allows you to optimise each page on your site with an easy to follow traffic light system
- Wordfence – Security plugin that protects your login page and alerts you to any changed files or other weird stuff happening on your site.
Website Builders – Wix, Weebly, Squarespace etc
If you’re using Wix, Weebly, Squarespace or one that comes with your website hosting, these website builders allow you to login, choose a theme and create pages. You are limited in what you can achieve, but these systems are a great way to get started quickly, especially if you’re not very technically inclined.
Content Is King
Your content is absolutely vital. Having the right tone that matches how you do business, focusing on the benefits to the client rather than waffling about yourself and making sure it’s free from errors are key points. Employing a copywriter and/or proofreader can be a fantastic investment and mean the difference between people leaving your site or getting in touch.
Regular updates are vital too, if you want to get the attention of search engines. Projects you’re working on, opinion pieces about your industry and client feedback can all be great content for your site.
Search Engine Setup
A new site is unlikely to immediately appear in search results for any competitive keyword.
You’re up against established sites that have been marketing themselves for years and might have a team of experts working on improving their rankings.
If you want instant traffic, you may need to pay for advertising and get busy on social media. We’ll cover marketing in a future article – for now make sure your site is running Google Analytics and you’ve set it up in Google Search Console so you get a heads up of any technical issues that might be preventing search engines from picking up your content.