sing today's technology, anyone can start a blog and call herself a writer. Serious writers must find ways to stand above the pack. It is not enough to produce pages of beautifully written copy. Successful freelancers must operate their career just like any brick and mortar business. To accomplish this, a writer needs a professional website. Having a website has become an integral part of successful freelance writing. This is your guide to what a website can do for you and how to put one together yourself.
The vision most new writers have of a writing career includes a comfy chair overlooking the ocean with a glass of lemonade, notebook and pen. In reality, writers must fill the role of promotions, marketing, human resources, accounting, receptionist, secretary, writer, and editor.
A website serves several purposes. It allows prospective clients to find you; it sends the message you are a serious writer; and it saves time and money, allowing you to focus on writing. Having a website can ease some of the promotional, marketing, and secretarial aspects of a writer's business.
You are in charge of promotion for your business. No one else is going to do it for you. Without self-promotion you will not have any work. A website is an inexpensive way to showcase your talent to the world. A website is a 24-hour advertisement, working even when you are sleeping!
"A website is a 24-hour advertisement, working even when you are sleeping!"
Building a website does not have to be expensive. Companies such as Microsoft and Bravenet have basic website hosting available for free. The only cost you incur is registering your domain name, if you want a specific name, which at first is not necessary.
Microsoft and Bravenet are both easy to use and contain templates for users to set up professional looking websites within hours. Both services offer web tools such as calendars, contact forms, visitor counters, blogs, and site search bars!
There is no special software to download or web writing code (such as HTML) to know to build a site. Easy to use step-by-step instructions make building a site easy for anyone.
You want to promote a professional web appearance. This appearance starts with the domain name used to find a webpage. When selecting your web address or domain name if you so decide to do, choose something easy to remember and professional. Most writers use their name. For example my website is: www.tinamariefrawley.com. Now, when a client wants to look at my work they just need to remember my name. Additionally, someone wanting to find more about me can enter my name in a search engine, my website will appear on top of the page, making it more beneficial and more likely people will find me, and my site.
Most companies charge $10.00 a year or less for your chosen domain name. If you want a free domain name, you will have to include the hosting company's name in the web address. An example of this would be: janedoe.bravenet.com. Having an address with the host name makes it obvious you are using a free service. It is better to pay for your domain name (especially before someone gets your name). The $10.00 is a small investment to have the domain name you want.
"It also speeds up the query process."
Elements of a Writer's Website:
Before having a website, I spent hours copying clips, stuffing envelopes, calculating postage, and worrying if I sent enough of the right clips, etc. With a website, I simply send a query letter directing potential clients to many clips from ads to feature articles. This saves time, money, and trees. It also speeds up the query process.
Since more editors are accepting email queries, they do not have to worry about attachments with viruses or long download time, when a website link is included. They simply click the link in the email and decide what samples to view.
There are no right or wrong criteria to include or way to design a website. Most basic websites include a homepage, portfolio/resume, biography, photo, and contact information.
"The homepage needs to be error free, brief, and encourage visitors to stay."
Homepage: The homepage is where visitors will go when they enter the web address. This is a "welcome" page. Here you want to introduce yourself and give a website and services synopsis. A homepage is important since this is what a client sees first. If they do not like what they see, they move on without looking at your writing. Marketing experts estimate visitors make a decision about a website within ten seconds. The homepage needs to be error free, brief, and encourage visitors to stay.
Contact Page: A contact page is where potential clients can contact you. Be sure to provide a current email address and phone number. If you do not have a dedicated business line in your home office, use your cell phone as your main contact. The outgoing greeting should reflect your business.
Some website templates have online contact forms where clients can fill in their information and send to your email box. From there you can reply to inquiries in private. If this is not an option, include a dedicated email address for your writing business.
Remember, without the contact page, no one can send you work!
Resume (also called a portfolio): One webpage should be dedicated to your resume where you list your experience and work examples.
Select your best samples. Continue to update these as you gain more. If at first you have only a few clips from your local newspaper, show them. As you gain experience and clips, add them. Once you have been working steadily, you will have more clips than you know what to do with. When that is the case, show off only your best work.
Biography: Clients will want to know about the persons they hire. Providing a small "blurb" about yourself will help your clients familiarize themselves with you. Use the bio section of your website to accent your professional achievements. This is not the place to talk about "Mommy and Me" meetings or your love of independent films. Unless you are promoting yourself as an expert on child and family activities or write independent film reviews, no one wants to know about these activities.
There is no need to mention marital status, height, weight, or anything else personal. Of course if you are a diet expert, mentioning you lost over 100 pounds in two years on "abc diet," might be something to consider. If you are an expert in human resources, your weight and height are irrelevant.
Your biography is a way to give clients your background qualifications. Remember your goal is to provide the necessary information for clients to contact and hire you. Talk about where you are from, even where you grew up and went to school. Include highlights such as your first national publication, awards or upcoming books. Think of your writing as a business when promoting yourself because in fact, it is.
Photographs: Sometimes writers will include a photograph of themselves with their biography. If you include this, consider having a professional headshot taken. If having a professional headshot is too expensive, have a friend or spouse take the picture with a high quality, digital camera.
Dress for the picture the way you would if you were going on a job interview. Use a plain, uncluttered background. If you would like to pose at your desk or in front of a bookshelf, make sure it is neat and appropriate for your website. Ask yourself if you would invite a client to see this area of your home or office. If the answer is no, then find another location.
Do not think you can set up your website and leave it out in the internet universe for people to stumble on. Each time you publish something new or take on a new client, go back to your website and add your new accomplishment.
If you are using a basic, free web hosting service, you may have limited space to display your work. As you gain more experience and take on more prominent projects, you may have to remove some of your older work to make room for your new stuff. If you are absolutely opposed to removing any work, you may want to consider upgrading your service, allowing you more room to display your content.
As soon as you receive an assignment and sign your contracts, it is acceptable to go to your website and add the project. You will want to add a "coming soon" or "anticipated release" so your clients can see projects you are working on. Be sure to remove the project promptly if the assignment falls through. Likewise, if a publishing date changes, be sure to update your content as soon as possible.
In today's competitive world where everyone dreams of being a published writer, it is important to have a professional website to allow potential clients to see your work and contact you. A website is easy and inexpensive to build and it works for you, even when you are doing other things..like writing!
Tina Marie Frawley is a freelance writer living in New Milford, Connecticut with her husband Jerry, and their yellow Lab, Buck. For more information about her writing or copywriting services, you may contact Tina Marie through her website at www.tinamariefrawley.com. You can also visit her blog, The Freelance Writers Lounge, at www.thefreelancewriterslounge.blogspot.com.