If I told you I’d spend all day, every day telling people about your editorial services and promoting your skills, all for less than $20 a month, you’d take me up on it, right?
Well that’s what a website does for you—it spends 24 hours a day, 7 days a week marketing your business to the world. And it does it all for practically nothing. For my part, I spend more on coffee in a year than I do on my website!
As a freelancer, you’re not just an editor, you’re a businessperson. In fact, you are several businesspeople. You not only have to do the work of editing but also have to run the business, keep the books, and find new clients. You might not be able to afford an accountant, but a website is an affordable way to free up some time to do what you do, and probably like, best—edit.
A website gives you global reach
In addition to marketing your services every minute of every day, a website markets your business everywhere. You can attract clients from all over the globe. This is especially useful if you have, or want to have, a specialty.
For example, a friend of mine now edits architectural reports exclusively. Before creating his website several years ago, he edited just about anything because there weren’t enough architects in his area to support this niche. Now, his global client roster is so profitable that he has taken his website offline for a while because he’s booked until 2018!
For my part, the majority of my income over the past three years, and the three biggest contracts I’ve ever won, came through my website. In fact, I’ve only met about a quarter of my regular clients in person—many live in other provinces of Canada, or in the United States, or, as of last month, in Europe!
A website won’t completely replace other marketing efforts, but it will help expand your reach beyond those places you can feasibly travel in person.
A website gives you credibility
According to a 2014 study, 81% of consumers conduct online research before buying. The study focused on retail purchasing patterns, but it stands to reason that patterns would be similar for services. In fact, consumers may be even more likely to research services online because they can’t go to a brick-and-mortar store for them.
We are now in the Digital Age, and for better or worse, the sales cycle starts on the web. It doesn’t matter if your product or service is superior—if the consumer can’t find it, they can’t buy it. You need to put your product or service where consumers are looking for it, and they’re looking online.
A website tells potential clients that you’re serious about your business and that you offer a credible, competitive product. It won’t win you the client by itself, but it will help ensure that when they contact you, they’re already partially sold.
A website gives you a competitive edge
One of the biggest advantages of business moving online is that it levels the playing field. Small and large businesses alike can afford beautiful websites. In fact, small businesses and freelancers may even have the advantage online. Smaller sites are cheaper to design, host, and maintain. They are also easier to use, which tends to translate into better conversion (i.e., sales or leads).
On the web, there’s no way to tell how big or small a company is. What matters is how well a company communicates the value of its product or service to potential clients. Your website can put you in a league with companies bigger, older, and more profitable, and as long as you show your skills, you have just as good a chance at landing the contract.
A website will not magically bring you more clients or better projects, or suddenly take you into a new income bracket. You still have to do good work and go after the clients and projects you want. But a website takes some of the marketing onus off of you. It advertises your business when and where you can’t. It makes your business look like a business in the absence of a commercial office. And it puts the focus on the quality of your work, not the size of your company.
With all of the easy, affordable website options available today (to be discussed in later parts), the question isn’t should you have a website, it’s why don’t you?
Emily Dockrill Jones is a communications consultant specializing in online and digital content. She is also a college and university instructor and corporate trainer helping others adapt their writing and editing techniques for the web. You can contact her at email@example.com.