Update: This article is part of the Earn Your First $1,000 as a Freelance Writer challenge in which I set out to earn $1,000 as a beginner freelance writer within 2 months. Not only was the challenge a roaring success, but you can read the entire series in the challenge here.
In my last post, I revealed my strategy for achieving my goal of earning $1,000 as a freelance writer within 2 months. In this post, the real action begins.
I’ll start by addressing the first phase of my strategy, which is the foundation stage: this involves creating a freelance writer website and building an online profile.
Starting from scratch, these are the steps I am taking to build my website and an online presence. If you want to create your writer website, follow these steps:
Step 1. Define Your Niche/Specialize
In order to make yourself more alluring to potential clients, it helps to specialize; just like you will only visit a dentist for tooth-related problems and a surgeon for surgery-related issues, clients prefer to hire freelance writers that are specialized.
A client in the real estate niche will prefer a freelance writer specializing in the real estate niche over a freelance writer without specialization.
That said, niching does not necessarily prevent you from working on other types of writing if the opportunity arises. Instead, it enables you position yourself as a specialist in order to increase your perceived value and command better rates.
By specializing, you:
- Make yourself appear more relevant to potential clients compared to other freelance writers: health businesses will prefer a specialized health writer over a general freelance writer anytime.
- You position yourself to command good rates: specialized niches pay well. The reason is simple: the majority of freelance writers do not specialize, and this has led to serious competition that has driven down the value of unspecialized writers.
If thousands of other people can do the same thing you do, naturally your value will reduce. By specializing, however, and focusing on niches where very few writers are, clients will take you more seriously and pay you well.
- Make it easy to prospect for clients; by specializing, you know you only have to target clients that your specialization appeals to, and this makes your work much easier.
I recommend specializing in the following two ways:
- By niche. For example: health, real estate, business, etc.
- By service. For example: ghostwriting, blog posts, copywriting, guest posts, etc.
For this challenge, I will be specializing both by niche and by service. In other words, I will position myself mainly as a freelance writer that covers the following niches: tech, startups, and business. And I’ll only focus on these core services: ghostwriting, blog posts, guest posts, newsletters, ebooks, ecourses, landing pages, and content strategy.
Depending on demand and my ability to do the work, I can take on projects outside of my specialization. However, I will only market myself as a freelance writer that works based on my specialization.
There’s also the question of deciding on the name of your writer website: should it be your name, or should it be something else?
Again, this depends.
As long as it is a professional website (i.e. yourname.com), any of the two options will work.
However, for this challenge, I decided not to use my name. Instead, I used something relevant to my kind of specialization; since I want to be writing about tech, startups, and business, I decided to go with a variation of techwriter.com (I won’t be revealing the exact domain name until after the challenge, but it has “techwriter.com” in it). I did this for the following reasons:
- It makes it instantly clear what kind of writing I do.
- It makes it easy for the domain name to rank in search engines later down the line; this won’t have been possible with a domain name based on my name.
That said there are advantages to using your name, too:
- You can eventually turn your website into anything in the future, even if it has nothing to do with freelance writing.
- It makes it easy to change your niche in the future; in my case, I can’t use the same domain name if I want to write in the real estate or health niche.
- It makes it easy to build your personal brand.
With that out of the way, it is time to set up my writer website.
Step 2. Set Up Your Writer Website
To set up my writer website in the format “mywebsite.com,” I need a domain name registrar and an hosting service.
In most cases, hosting service providers also serve as, or have special links with, domain registrars. In my case, and for this challenge, I’ll use and recommend SiteGround. I’ve used several other options (including some of the most popular ones out there: Bluehost, Hostgator, etc.) in the past six years and SiteGround is without doubt the leader.
Here’s why I’m going with SiteGround for hosting:
- When it comes to service quality, SiteGround is the best. I’ve used Bluehost, Hostgator, and Namecheap hosting in the past. With these service providers, I either have to deal with constant downtimes or my site repeatedly getting hacked. This hasn’t been the case with SiteGround.
- SiteGround offers stellar customer support. I’ve only had to use their live chat, and ALL my requests have always been addressed in minutes. I can’t say the same about the other hosts I have used.
- At the time of this update, I’ve been using SiteGround for about 4 years and have had ZERO complaint. That’s unusual in the web host industry.
- For people not technical savvy, SiteGround will help you with basic stuff — either moving from your current host, setting up your website, etc.
So for me, the process starts with registering my domain name and linking it with a web host.
SiteGround, which is what I currently use for all my websites, will handle both the domain registration and website setup. Their cheapest plan costs $3.95/mo, but they will require you to pay at least one year upfront.
If you already have an existing website, you don’t have to create a new one. Instead, you only have to tweak it to ensure it properly reflects your specialization. In that case, you can skip this section and go straight to the next.
Alternatively, you can use Namecheap hosting; this is MUCH cheaper than Siteground, and I’ve hosted my sites with them before, but I had to move my sites due to a hacking incident that they couldn’t fix on time (read: “that THEY couldn’t fix in one MONTH.”). Their support is also not impressive (and I’m saying this as someone who rarely needs their support since I can handle a lot of things I need on my own).
Since WordPress makes it easy to manage my sites (I can easily create pages, delete pages, edit pages, etc.), I’m using WordPress for my writer website.
Installing WordPress is very easy:
With SiteGround, you can start by logging in to cPanel >> Selecting “WordPress” in the “AUTOINSTALLERS” section and following the instructions. Alternatively, you can tell their support that you are not tech savvy and ask them to install it for you. They will do it within minutes.
Once WordPress has been installed, I decided to install the Maskitto Light theme. Not only is it free, but it makes it very easy to create a professional services website. You can see a demo here.
Step 3. Create Your Key Pages
Now that my website is properly setup, it is time to start creating key pages.
For me, at this stage, I only need the following three key pages:
- An “About” page
- A “Contact” page
- A “Hire Me” page
Over time, as I gain social proof and start working with clients, I will go ahead and create the following pages:
- A samples page
- A social proof page
Right now, I don’t need them, and I’ll do just fine without them.
For my “About page,” I decided to include a picture, some background information about myself, my area of expertise, and my philosophy on how I can help potential clients.
The below screenshot basically shows everything I have on my about page:
Next is my contact page, which basically tells people to contact me for partnerships, freelance opportunities, and/or to ask me a question.
The next step is to create my services/hire me page, and I won’t make that more complicated than it needs to be; I’ve written an article here before about how to create a hire me page, and I plan to follow the instructions in that article.
I decided to offer the following seven services to tech companies that are interested in my services:
- Content Strategy
- Blog Posts
- Landing Page Content
- Guest Posts
With all the key pages properly set up, I’m good for now. Over time, I will be updating my website to highlight social proof as well as include samples of my articles that get published on major blogs.
Now, it is time to create my online profiles. Remember, you don’t want to be a ghost.
Step 4. Creating Online Profiles
It sucks to be a freelance writer without a footprint. If clients try to find your name in Google and can only find two or three results, or even nothing… that doesn’t speak well of you and what you can do for their business.
To give myself an advantage, besides my writer website, I decided to create social profiles on the following sites for a start:
I will be creating more social profiles on other sites as time goes by, but the above ones will be sufficient for now.
What is most important right now — which is what my next article will address, and which is the next line of activity for me — is to start pitching major sites and blogs in an attempt to secure guest posts on them.
These guest posts will serve as solid social proof that make it easy for me to close deals with clients. Once I get published on two to three blogs, it becomes extremely easy to convince clients that I know what I am talking about. My guest posts can also serve as an opportunity to link to my writer website and encourage people to hire me.
A Valuable Resource for Your Writer Website
Also, one of the best ways to learn is by observation; if you need more help creating your writer website, then I have a timely resource for you. Freelance writer extraordinaire Carol Tice published an article featuring 10 awesome writer websites that you can model your own website after as well as another recent update to the original post. I took a look at the websites featured, and they are all great examples.
In other not to skew results, or to make things appear as fair as possible, I won’t be revealing my writer website until after the challenge (although I’m sure those who really want to find out will still do; but I won’t mention or link to it here!), but the examples on Carol’s site are perfect examples to model yours after in addition to the tips in this article.
Click the link below to read the articles:
- 10 Writer Websites That Kick Butt and Get Clients
- 12 Great Writer Websites That Magnetically Attract Clients
Also, while you are at it, don’t forget to setup your professional email address (such as email@example.com); this will go a long way towards making you appear professional and marketable to clients. You can simply ask your web host to assist with that and you’ll be set.
1. Create your writer website: For this I recommend SiteGround (I host this website and the website used for this challenge with them. I love their services so much that I decided to be an affiliate for them!)
If you feel that you can’t afford SiteGround, and you want something cheaper, I’ll recommend Namecheap hosting. It is budget hosting, and it’s good most of the time; but that’s it, it’s good “most of the time,” and you get what you pay for.
If you happen to signup for SiteGround, you can ask their support to help you install WordPress on your first website.
2. Create necessary pages: Once your website is setup, go ahead and create the following key pages:
- An “About” page
- A “Contact” page
- An “Hire Me” page
3. Create your professional email address: Once your writer website is setup, the next step is to have your own professional email address. Preferably firstname.lastname@example.org, but anything will do as long as it is @yourwebsite.com. If you use Siteground, they can also help you with this process.
4. Create other online profiles so that you can have a footprint online: Setup a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and About.me account, and fill up your information and profile on these websites.