Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Set up a Web site to sell your services: here's a rundown of what keyelements to include and how to drum up business.(Business Freelancing).


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MUST YOU HAVE a Web site highlighting your services, capabilities, experience and skills as a freelance business writer? If you are starting out, yes, you must; and even if you are experienced, I think you should. Oh, you can still find a few freelance copywriters who don't have Web sites and do OK. But they are increasingly at risk of being branded as obsolete or out of touch.

We live in an Internet world. Every client who hires you to write print materials will ask, someday soon if she has not already, if you can write online copy. If you don't have a Web site, it raises doubts about your qualifications as an online copywriter: If you don't believe in the Web enough to have a Web site for yourself, how enthusiastic can you be about writing Web sites for others?

When potential clients call, one of their first questions is: "Do you have a Web site?" Answering "no" is a turnoff to them: Today's business prospects want copywriters who are Internet-savvy and conversant in the latest electronic-marketing techniques. Also, many potential clients turn to Google first to search for freelance copywriters. If you do not have a Web site, the chances of them finding you on a search engine are slim at best.

What to put on your site

The most important things to put on your Web site are the facts potential clients feel they must know before making a decision to hire you. Key among these are: who you are (your bio), who your clients are, what you charge, and samples of your writing. (Note: To see examples of all the various Web site sections discussed here, go to my Web site, www.bly.com, and select the page you want to see from the menu bar on the left, or click on one of the links at the bottom of the home page.)

Your bio--a standard writer's bio emphasizing your copywriting and business-writing services--should be a single Web page, selectable from your site's main menu, and titled simply "Bio." Some of the things you may want to emphasize in your bio include:

* Pertinent experience in business writing or copywriting;

* Past employment in the business world (e.g., your last job as a programmer would interest software marketers who need writers for application notes and white papers);

* College degrees and other specialized education relevant to your potential clients' products and services (e.g., if you have a biochemistry degree, health-care clients would be impressed);

* A summary of business-writing clients and key projects completed to date--with results, if available (if you are a beginner, you obviously skip this part until you have a few projects under your belt);

* Names of magazines and newspapers in which your articles have been published (business clients are impressed by writers who have written for magazines and other mainstream media);

* Writing awards related to marketing or business (don't list awards for novels, poetry and other creative writing);

* Books published (including title, publisher, and year of publication).

On a separate Web page, post a list of business clients you've written for. Tip: By using the heading "Clients/Experience" instead of just "Clients," you can include organizations you've written for as an employee or volunteer, not just those who are actual clients--a technique that helps make your experience look more well-rounded, especially when you are just starting out.

Perhaps the most important section of your Web site is your online portfolio, a page where you post samples of your work--again, preferably those related to sales, marketing, employee communications, or other business areas. On www. bly.com, I organize my online portfolio by type of writing assignment (e.g., annual reports, case studies) as well as product or industry (e.g., software, trading systems). When you click on the portfolio, you see thumbnails of the writing samples; clicking on the thumbnail expands the image to a size large enough to read the copy.

As for pricing, you can either post your fees on your Web site or send a fee schedule via e-mail as a PDF to potential clients who contact you. Both of these approaches have pros and cons, but I prefer to send my fee schedule when requested, not post it on my site, for three reasons.

First, it gives the potential client a reason to contact me, which helps me find out more about his needs and initiate a discussion that can lead to a contract. If everything is on your Web site, the prospect may simply skim the pages without talking with you, and you lose a valuable opportunity to probe his needs and propose a solution. Second, it's too easy for prospects to misread or misinterpret your fee schedule; I prefer the opportunity to explain the scope of each service, what I include with it, and its value. And third, I don't want to make it easy for my competitors to see my fees.

More stuff for your Web site

In addition to the things your clients look for when making a decision about hiring you, you should also post on your site facts that you want the prospect to know about you. Include credentials that give you an edge over your competitors and sway the prospect to hire you instead of another writer.

The most important of these items is a page on your Web site of testimonials: favorable comments from your clients, editors, reviewers, former employers, and others praising you and your writing. How many? The longer, the better, but your testimonials page should have at least three to five strong testimonials to start; otherwise, it looks too thin.

Have you won any business-writing awards? Have articles been written about you and your business-writing services? Post links to those articles. Hint: Send a press release announcing your new copywriting business along with your photo to your local weekly paper. The smaller your town, the more likely it is that the paper will run a short article about you, and posting that favorable press coverage on your site helps build credibility.

A good way to market yourself as a freelance business writer is to write how-to articles on business writing, copywriting, marketing and other topics related to your services and to publish them in trade magazines as well as online newsletters. Put up an articles page on your Web site where you post all your articles. Google gives higher rankings to Web sites rich in content, so having an articles library online can increase your site's organic search traffic.

Capturing leads and e-mails

How can you convert traffic on your Web site to immediate inquiries for your copywriting services, or at least future prospects? There are two techniques I use that I recommend you put to work.

The first is to have a contact form where someone who might be interested in hiring you for a writing project can request a price quotation from you. If you go to www.bly.com and click on the burst in the upper right corner that says "Need Great Copy? Click Here Now," it brings you to my contact form (please don't fill it out!). I always had a link to the contact form in the main menu, but when I added the burst and placed it in the upper right corner of every page, my online sales leads nearly tripled.

Some visitors may not have an immediate project but could still be potential clients. Wouldn't it be nice to capture their e-mail addresses and send them periodic reminders about you and your services? You can do this by offering a free electronic newsletter about writing, marketing or related topics. Place a sign-up box on your home page offering your free e-newsletter to anyone who submits her e-mail address.

Don't charge for your e-newsletter. Give it away for free. By doing so, you build a list of subscribers who are interested in the topic of the newsletter (many of whom are potential writing clients) and give you their e-mail address and permission to send e-mails to them, whenever you wish, at virtually no cost.

To build your e-newsletter's circulation, create an interesting special report or short tip sheet on business writing or another relevant topic (this can be one or more of your articles formatted as a downloadable PDF file). Offering this information as a gift to people who subscribe to your e-newsletter will greatly increase sign-ups.

Here's another subscription-building method that works: Create a separate domain and Web page where people can sign up for your e-newsletter and get your gift. This is known in online marketing as a "free-on-free name squeeze page." It's called a "name squeeze page" because it extracts or "squeezes" new names for your list from Web traffic. You can see my name squeeze page at www.bly.com/reports. Sign up for my free newsletter and you get a library of marketing reports with a retail value of $116 free (hence the term "free on free"). By offering this bribe, I convince nearly one out of every two people who visit my squeeze page to subscribe to my e-newsletter. This is the primary vehicle through which I have built my list of 80,000 online subscribers.

Reserving your domain name

A logical choice of domain name for your Web site is your name or some variation of it. Of course, this works best if your name is short, simple to spell, and easy to remember. I am fortunate in that my last name is only three letters, and so I chose as my domain name www.bly.com.

If your name is Jane Alexander and www.janealexander.com is already reserved, you can still reserve some variation of it--for example, www.thejane alexander.com. You can reserve domain names for less than 10 bucks each at www.ultracheapdomains.com, where you can also find out almost immediately, at no cost, whether the domain name you want is available.

Robert W. Bly is the author of more than 70 books, including Secrets of a Freelance Writer. Web: www.bly.com; e-mail: rwbly@bly.com.

Source Citation
Bly, Robert W. "Set up a Web site to sell your services: here's a rundown of what key elements to include and how to drum up business." The Writer July 2009: 41. Academic OneFile. Web. 5 Jan. 2010. .

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