I remember watching the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and seeing a commercial for a small local business that included the URL to their website. I also remember hearing the adults around me being incredulous about “this internet thing” and how pretty soon everyone was going to have their own website, whatever that really was.
They probably had no idea at the time just how true their projection was. These days, everyone has a website.
And that’s a very good thing for you since designing websites is what you do.
It also probably goes without saying that the most important site you design is your own. It will, in large part, be the tool you use to convince your prospective clients to push through their barriers and ultimately hire you. “As a web designer, an effective site is better than any business card you could hand out. ”
There’s a lot that goes into designing a site that will get you hired. It needs to do everything from getting you found online to drawing your prospective clients to you over all their other options. That’s a lot to ask of one website.
So how does your site measure up? Here are a few rubrics you can use.
1. The design speaks for itself
Your website is, in effect, your first impression. This is even more true for web designers than it is for many other freelancers.
It probably goes without saying that your own site needs to be a positive reflection of your design skills. Prospective clients will be looking at your website when they’re considering you for their project, so your site needs to communicate your abilities effectively.
There’s more to it than that, though. This is the beginning of your relationship with this potential client, so your site not only needs to look good, but it needs to speak to your overall brand.
In other words, it should give a taste of what your clients can expect from you, both in process and in product. If your site is slick, cool, and efficient, your clients will expect a similar tone to their interactions with you and they may be jarred if your emails and phone calls are chatty and casual. This is especially true if they’re seeing your site after meeting you because they’ll already have some expectation of you-the-designer and a site design that doesn’t line up with your in-person presentation won’t necessarily be convincing.
2. The copy tells more of the story
First of all, the entire site should be SEO-optimized to bring in search traffic, especially if you keep an active blog. Adjust your metadata to attract your ideal clients.
Beyond SEO, your words matter. They fill in the gaps in your prospect’s mind, and they advance the brand you’ve developed. They’ll also play a key role in getting you found in the first place. “Let your copy pull back the curtain on the awesome professional experience you offer. ”
Use the copy on your site to address the needs and desires of your target market, using their words. Show the unique thing you offer and how it will meet their specific needs. (This is especially important on your about page.) If all you do is talk about yourself and/or your past clients, your site will fail the “what can you do for me?” test and your prospective client will move on.
Any copy you have should also give a glimpse of you-the-designer. Let yourself be known with your copy, especially if you’re a freelancer. You can be professional without being devoid of personality, so let key traits of the professional-you shine in your copy. This will go a long way toward building a connection between you and your target audience (and turning off some of the really bad fits).
Great copy will work extra hard for you by attracting the clients you want to attract and repelling the ones you want to repel. (Paul Jarvis calls this the line in the sand.) If you keep getting bogus leads or even no leads, take another look at your copy. Is it selling what you want to be selling, to the people you want to hire you?
3. It makes you accessible
In addition to letting you be known as both a designer and a person, your website should make it easy for prospective clients to contact you. Whether it’s with an email address and phone number on the front page, a contact form, a link to a social media, or anything else, you need to offer a way for clients to contact you. A designer who’s hard to contact is hard to hire, and you want to remove as many barriers as possible between you and your potential clients.
4. It encourages prospective clients to get in touch
Not only do you want your contact method to be easy to find, you want to encourage prospective clients to use it with effective calls to action. There needs to be something readily visible drawing that visitor further into the process, even if it’s just a button that says “Send me an inquiry today.” Put some thought into making the contact call to action a focal point in your design.
Putting it all together
As a web designer, you need to be sure your site draws in the right people and propels them toward contacting you. It should give a good sense of who you are, what you offer, and why you’re the right designer for your target client’s project. It should also lead your prospective clients toward contacting you, and make it easy to do so. If you aren’t getting many leads from your site, take a look at all of these elements and start making some improvements.