Professional-looking website a key calling card when building your freelance business

About Barbara Mantel

Barbara Mantel (@BJMantel), an independent journalist, is AHCJ’s freelance community correspondent. Her work has appeared in CQ Researcher, Rural Health Quarterly, Undark, Healthline, NBCNews.com and NPR, among others. She helps members find the resources they need to succeed as freelancers and welcomes your suggestions.

Vanessa Ahern

Vanessa Ahern

Freelancers need to make a solid first impression with editors and with sources. Your website can be an important part of the process. I find that after I’ve made a story pitch or requested an interview, traffic to my website increases — editors and potential sources seem to like to scope it out.

But designing a website often can be overwhelming. This is because there are so many decisions to make. For example, should you use a DYI platform and design it yourself with a template or spend the extra money and hire a professional? What information should be on the home page and in your bio? What font and colors should you use? What is the best way to organize your clips?

“My first website was a two-page portfolio, with just a list of articles and a homemade logo,” Vanessa Ahern, a freelance writer based in Saratoga County, New York, said during a recent How I Did It interview with AHCJ. “I needed to change things. I wanted a more professional-looking website, and I wanted to have a website where I could integrate a blog into it too.”

About two years ago, Ahern hired a local design team to overhaul her website. The husband-and-wife team created a cohesive look with uniform font, colors and graphics. In addition, they made sure the site was secure and that Ahern’s contact information was prominent on each page.

Ahern says the new design has helped her business: “Editors have found me through the website,” she said. “Maybe if you have a ton of accomplishments, have published books and have repeat clients, it may not make a big difference if you haven’t gotten around to updating your website. I wanted to attract new clients and make a good first virtual impression.”

There are plenty of resources for freelancers thinking about upgrading or creating a professional website. Here are a few:

  • The Freelancers Union is holding a free online meetup on Wednesday, June 2, during which freelancers can share information about landing clients and creating effective websites.
  • The DIY platforms such as Squarespace offer guides, videos, and webinars for people who want to try their hand at design. The platforms also can link you to a designer.
  • The Poynter Institute offers suggestions for creating an online portfolio of your work.
  • The Society of Professional Journalists has an informative article with advice for creating a website.

Read more of the interview with Ahern and her advice on creating a polished website.

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