As a creative freelancer, I’ve seen a peculiar trend among other freelancers more times than I’d like to recount. I’m going to bring some attention to it, and hopefully persuade at least a few out there to reverse it.
The trend is this: many freelancers tend to post things on their blogs that go into the dense particulars of their field and their personal philosophy and take on the issues relevant to the community.
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There’s absolutely nothing wrong with expressing your opinion – if your main objective is to instruct other designers. However, I’m guessing that the majority of freelance designers out there have a more prosaic goal: to get more clients!
Today, we’re going to explore three ways designers, when marketing, often drive the wrong kind of traffic to their personal blogs, and even drive the right kind of traffic away.
Going Window Shopping
Freelance designers often devote far too much time and energy to courting the kinds of people who will never, ever pay them. It’s okay to want to do work pro-bono sometimes and contribute to the greater design community, but too much pandering and showing off for other designers can be detrimental if you’re trying to find new clients.
Clients don’t care about the particulars of design, and they certainly don’t want to find a bunch of complicated design-related jargon when they’re in the market for someone to do the work for them.
Freelancers who spend too much time teaching other freelancers how to freelance risk driving away potential clients who think ‘this website is not for me.’ Examples include: excessive or complex tutorials, industry-specific technobabble, and not bothering to break down the specific process in simple terms non-insiders can understand.
Always remember what your target audience is searching for on your site. Chances are, it’s not what you’d be searching for as a designer. Put yourself in their shoes as a “shopper” – even just a window shopper. What do you look for? A satisfying experience that caters exactly to the needs you have as a paying consumer. Your prospective clients deserve the same courtesy.
Missing Your Mark
Let me be clear: interacting with your peers and contributing to the creative community is always a wonderful thing. But when your main goal is to get clients and grow your freelancing business, it’s important to think about how a client will see your personal site’s content.
Again, remember to put yourselves in their shoes. When you go online to buy something – let’s use a book as an example – you’re probably led through a simple, straightforward process that allows you to select your item, choose a shipping method, and pay without getting a headache and wanting to punch your screen.
What you probably don’t get is something like this: a beautiful display of books, complete with a collection of highly opinionated blog posts about the state of the publishing industry, and maybe a few tutorials about how you can write, bind, and publish your own book.
If you think this example sounds a bit out there, I’ll tell you that I personally know a freelancer who does almost exactly this, except for their own particular industry. This person is constantly complaining that they never get any clients from their website. Hmm – I wonder why!
Just Too Much
I don’t mean to pick on designers exclusively here (in fact, I think freelance writers are the most guilty of this kind of thing – I should know, being one myself). But the non-logic in this practice needs to be pointed out. If you were subjected to this kind of customer experience, you’d hit the back button so fast you’d leave skid marks on your mouse pad.
Yet, dozens of freelancers believe it’s perfectly okay to do something similar to the people who are trying to buy services from them.
Too much information can confuse clients and make them afraid to meet with you. On your professional website or blog, it’s better to stick to elemental basics that the majority of potential clients can relate to. Remember that prospective clients have less experience, and won’t be able – or willing – to follow along with too technical information.
You might think what you’re telling clients is informative and useful for clients to know, but more than likely it’s just boring and off-putting. The worst part is that most people won’t even bother to tell you this – they’ll just leave your site and never return.
All in all, remember this one important bit of advice: 99.9% of potential freelance clients who are put off by your website or blog are never, ever going to email you telling you what you’re doing wrong. They will simply move on to the next freelancer. This is why testing your website is so very important.
I don’t mean simply testing its functionality and making sure your links are all working (although that’s important too). I mean testing things like the readability of your copy, the simplicity of your images and navigation, and the strength of your calls to action. Use non-designers for this task – your friends, family members, or anyone who will be honest about their experience on your site. If they can’t figure out what’s going on, chances are a potential client won’t be able to either.