Every day, I get to work, grab a cup of coffee, say hello to my team here at OWJ, and open my email. I’m never far from my email, and it’s usually the last thing I check before bed, but somehow there are always plenty of unread little love notes to go through. One of those emails, and then two or three more throughout the day, will always be someone wanting me to visit their freelance writing website. The email usually goes something like this:
Good morning Online Writing Jobs!
My name is Joe Writer and after looking at your site I believe my writing skills can greatly help your company! I have written for numerous publications in the past, and believe that my experience fits perfectly with your goals. Please visit my website for more information.
Being the naturally curious person I am, I visit the website. One minute later, I’m off the website, wondering why I keep falling for this. Here are some screenshots of Joe Writer’s website (which I totally didn’t just create), ThisGuySucksAtWriting.com, and the reasons I wouldn’t hire Joe:
If you want someone to hire you, you need to give them a reason. Remember that their budgets aren’t unlimited, and in fact, when it comes to hiring a writer, the budget’s usually fairly small. Especially early in the lifespan of your website, your traffic is targeted, meaning you went out and found the people you want to show it to. Use this to your advantage. If you went out and found websites that could use your expertise in computers, make sure that your blog is mostly about computers. It doesn’t have to be boring, but if you want to write personal stuff, start a personal blog.
Also, what I’m looking for when I first visit a freelance writer blog is a decent publishing frequency and (hopefully) a fair amount of comments. For me, the former matters more than the latter, but if both are there, I’ll usually contact the writer even if I don’t need anything. If Joe wrote more often and people cared what he had to say, I’d shoot him an email letting him know that his email worked and that I’d bookmarked his site for if I ever need a (enter expertise here) guy.
Joe decided to be cute. The problem is that I want to hire Joe for being a good, experienced writer, not for being cute. There’s nothing wrong with having a great, witty voice. I’d rather work with someone who can make their writing engaging than with a bump on a log any day. Just remember, there’s got to be a happy medium there. Most people who are looking to hire writers aren’t looking to hire comedians. They need people who can relay a message clearly and succinctly. Be that person.
Joe did something right here that I don’t always see. He gave me a way to contact him. You’d think it would be common sense. You’d be wrong.
What Joe didn’t do that might have increased his chances of getting hired was give me an easy method of contacting him. Contact forms are very easy to implement in a WordPress site and are worth using. Just that extra step can mean the difference between someone contacting (and potentially hiring) you and that person just moving on.
Also, if clients aren’t knocking down your door, it might benefit them (and you) if they had an idea if your writing costs a dollar per word or a nickel. You can hedge your bets by writing something along the lines of “These prices are subject to change. For a quote, please contact me using the contact form below.”
Your portfolio should not be the Star Wars fan fiction you wrote when you were 16. It shouldn’t be that poem you wrote about that one time you were embarrassed at the supermarket. It should be an example of the best you can do for a client.
Take your website seriously, or no one else will
So what does a good website do? It tells (and shows) a potential client that you’re a writer worth paying for. Very few people are looking to pay a writer without making their money back. They’re looking to make a profit at least in part through your efforts, and it’s your job to show them they will. Thus, you need to accomplish the following with your site (and this is not necessarily an exhaustive list):
- Show the client you have some level of expertise. It’s hard to convince people to pay money to someone who has no idea about their product or industry. If you haven’t published before (and even if you have), your blog is a great way to regularly publish content in an industry or field that interests you. Remember, it’s not just about getting clients. It’s about getting the right clients. The right clients come back. The right clients tell their friends, and they do this because you did such a good job.
- Make it easy for clients to contact you. Putting your email address on a blank page isn’t enough. Use a contact form. It looks a bit more professional and saves the client a step.
- Show the client this isn’t your first rodeo… even if it is. A page exhibiting your best writing, whether it was your best published work or you’ve never been published before, shows them that you’ve written something they would have published in the past, and you’re more likely to get them to publish you in the future. Do some research into what your dream client has published in the past, and use it to inform your future writing decisions.