Top 10 Freelance Portfolio Website Mistakes

by Nov 22, 2017

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Today, there is no question whether or not you should have a website for your freelance business.

Having a good one is absolutely essential, but can be tricky for budding freelancers or creatives as creating a “portfolio” for getting a job can be totally ineffective for selling yourself as a freelance service provider.

You don’t need a freelance portfolio – you need a website that sells.

When you’re creating a website for your freelance business, remember that the “portfolio” you created in college is not going to cut it.

A portfolio website showcases your skills and talents, and is usually used to get a job…
If you want to run a successful, profitable, freelance business, you need to act like you are a business – not embark on an extended job hunt!

Over the past ten years, as a hiring manager, a UX designer and a business coach for creatives, I’ve seen these mistakes over and over and over again, even though they’re pretty easy to avoid! 

1 – Creating an art piece that is all about you and your “style”

A website should look nice, but it’s for your business – your website should clearly convey your message, communicate your brand message and sell your services.

Your website should not be an art piece. Let me repeat…YOUR WEBSITE IS NOT ART. Your website should be a sales piece.

Creative people often fall into a trap where they build a site that doesn’t sell them or make it clear what the visitor should do.

I mean, what services do you actually offer? Or packages? What type of clients do you work with?

It’s not enough anymore to call yourself a “freelance designer” or a “freelance copywriter” and expect people to hire you.

As a freelancer you’re competing with digital agencies and collectives on-top of other freelancers – and if you’re not selling yourself, you’re not going to make the sale!

2 – Not creating an easy way for somebody to contact you

It’s officially time to leave witness protection when you begin freelancing. You’ve got to make it really easy for clients to find you and contact you.

I don’t know how many artists’ websites I’ve looked at with no way to contact them. It’s wild! No matter what you do, don’t forget to add a contact form or link on your site.

I suggest using Calendly so that people can immediately schedule a consultation with you in just a few clicks.

3 – Not including a call to action, or just having a really vague one

At least half of the portfolios I see don’t have any call to action at all, and another 40% are vague CTA’s like “hire me.” Hire you for what!?

If you don’t clarify what you offer and make it appealing to your ideal client, you’re losing business.

You can’t expect someone to want to “Click Here” when they don’t know where the click takes them. You want to be as clear as possible with your call to action, so that people want to follow through.

Try “Click Here to Book a Free Consultation” or “Click Here to Request a Free Website Review” instead of “click here”

4 – Failing to talk about results

Your website is one place where you can brag about the things you’ve done well in your career, the work you’ve done, and the results you’ve gotten.

If you’re not talking about your results, visitors won’t care how beautiful your website is.

Make sure to take some time to show off a bit, talking about SPECIFIC results you’ve gotten (and use $$$ + ### whenever you can) and you’ll turn visitors into customers.

5 – Talking about the tasks that you’ve done instead of selling your services

I see a lot of laundry lists on websites: “I do logos, copy writing, editing, marketing, and more.”

I don’t know what that means! It’s so vague.

Don’t be this vague! As a visitor to your site – and potential client – I want to to know what kind of package you can sell me!

Maybe you can offer a logo and a website, a full website of copy or end-to-end event management.

Offer a package, and make it easy to understand using your clients language – don’t make your audience do the work connecting the dots on what they can get from working with you.

6 – Not having any personality.

People connect with people, not with websites!! Stop hiding your personality or creating copy that’d be at home in a 50’s “how-to use a typewriter” manual.

If I’m going to hire an event planner who will be running my event and working with me, I want to know who they are (in addition to the results they will bring me).

A few years ago, I was offered a job interview because my resume showed some personality and said that I liked fish tacos! I wasn’t just another generic cover letter; I talked to them like I was human.

Be someone your customer wants to work with.

7 – Not having an opt-in opportunity

No matter what business you are in, you want to be planning for future expansion and growth, and should be planning to add passive income to your business.

Whether that’s through coaching, affiliate revenue, blogging, creating a course or selling a product, you need a way to communicate with people.

Email is one of the most reliable methods, as you own your list (vs. etc), & it’s read more thoroughly than social posts.

A lot of people try to create mailing lists by using something generic like “Sign up for my newsletter.” This rarely works. (No one wants another newsletter!)

Instead, offer something of value (an ebook, premium content, a discount, a consultation, a free audit). Treat this as another opportunity to show your customers that you care about them and understand their needs.

But make sure you’re saving those email addresses in a CRM or email marketing program (I’ve got some of my faves listed here).

8 – Not being mobile optimized

Nearly 80% of the world will probably view your site on mobile.

I know that it can sometimes be a pain in the ass to optimize for mobile, but it’s incredibly important. Make sure that any pop-ups don’t obscure the whole screen, that you can see text nicely, that images re-size.

And remember, once is not enough. This is something you should check in on as often as you can! Even I, with years of experience designing web products, have fallen prey to this one.

Build in time to regularly preform an audit on your site for mobile updates, as well as general maintenance.

9 – Failing to optimize for speed

You get three seconds to capture the attention of the average web user. If your site takes two seconds to load, you’ve already lost most visitors.

Make sure to do everything you can to minimize this load time. Check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights, and look around for ways to improve your performance.

If you’re not technical, hire someone to help you out. Showing that you have – or care about – technical proficiency is proof to your client that you know what you’re doing – particularly if you’re a designer or online marketer.

10 – The worst of them all: never launching your website at all

Yes, it’s scary. It’s time-consuming. It can be confusing and overwhelming. But there’s no reason not to do it.

And yes, you’d be amazed the number of people that I talk to that start a conversation with me about not getting any clients and when I ask them about their website they say haven’t gotten around to it. Ummm….

By never launching your site, you’re missing out on so many opportunities for yourself and your business. If you don’t know where to start, just keep it simple and move on from there.

You NEED a website. Even if it’s just a well written About.Me page.

No matter what you do, I suggest you adopt a “testing” mindset. Launch quickly, iterate always. Your goal should not be perfection, just constant and never-ending improvement.

Do you have a portfolio or website that’s not performing for you? Do you feel like your marketing programs are disappearing into the void?

Are you relying on Upwork or other low-paying Freelancer sites to bring in business? Or are you still stuck in a cubicle trying to build a “sidehustle” and wondering why no one is contacting you?

You’re most likely still thinking like an employee and not a business.

Want more? Check out my top tips here

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Hi, I’m Kate

Hey, I’m Kate! I’m a designer, digital nomad and founder of Six Figure Freelancers – I love to help talented tech pros start businesses.

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