I analyzed 100 freelancers websites in the creative industries. The idea was to gain knowledge about what my fellow freelancers were doing on their websites.
What I found was a little eye opening so I decided to share the data with you.
I found the 100 websites by doing a google search and asking freelancing friends. The list is random and it gives a good representation of creative freelancers.
Table Of Contents
- Clear call to action
- Mobile responsive
- What platform
- Phone number
- Social media
- Google page speed
- Key Takeaways
Clear Call To Action
27% of sites didn’t have a clear call to action. This means a visitor gets to the page, sees a few portfolio items, but is unsure of what to do next. More than likely (I didn’t have access to the sites analytics for this project) this means that the visitor is leaving.
What you should do instead is tell people what to do next.
Want them to see your excellent case studies? Have a button that states “View Case Studies”. Take it one step further, and make sure that your case studies page has a button that says “like what you see, request a quote”.
What this does is take your prospective client on a journey in which you are the guide.
Creating a clear call to action or unique selling proposition is never easy. Here are a few articles that will help you create yours:
91% of the websites I analyzed were mobile responsive. That is great but this means that 9 of the 100 were not mobile responsive. In today’s mobile first world where 50% + of all website traffic is from mobile devices you need to be mobile.
While I did a basic check to see if the site was responsive (I resized the browser windows) this is not a full on mobile responsive analysis. I did notice that while some sites had a few media queries, they were not doing a great job of putting the most pertinent information right in front of the visitor. Tt was a scaled down version of the desktop site. This is fine for the most part, but you are missing an opportunity by not getting your most important info right in front.
Think to yourself, if someone is visiting this site from a mobile device what does it mean? Are they in need of a freelancer right away? Have your contact info right at the top.
59% of freelancers used WordPress to build their site. The other most used CMS was SquareSpace.
It doesn’t matter what platform you use. Don’t stress over the tools, the idea of your freelance website is to show your work and use that to get more clients.
If you are getting started then I suggest using WordPress as it is the most expandable in the long run.
Only 23% of Freelancers had a newsletter.
Most people that visit your site (no matter how great it looks) will more than likely never come back (close to 80%). This means you will never hear from them again. Sad face.
A good way to make sure they don’t forget about you is to have a newsletter. This is helpful in 3 ways.
- You get to share your knowledge and prove you are an expert
- You get to keep in touch with them
- They might not need a website when they see first visit, but at some point they could. Who do you think they will chose? Probably the person that has been sending them helpful tips for the past few months.
Having an email list is not easy. It takes a lot of setting up, at least at first. But once it is setup it is pretty low maintenance and is worth 150x the effort and cost.
6% of freelancers displayed pricing on the home page. This did not surprise me as it is a growing trend to not show your pricing until after the client has contacted you. The pricing I did see was from the freelancers that are at the upper end of the pricing scale.
I have always been a fan of showing your “starting at” price. Or a range. This gives people an idea of what it will cost to work with you and helps feed out some of the tire kickers.
I also suggest having a lower entry service such as a one hour consult. This is beneficial for both parties. You get paid a small fee for your time and they get to see your awesomeness at work!
While I don’t think you have to display your pricing on your home page, it’s not a bad idea either. Here are some more articles about that topic:
Pricing is a double edged sword, on one end people might look at your work and be amazed. If you don’t show any pricing they might assume you are way out of their budget. Little do they know that because you are a freelancer and your costs are low you charge a decent yet affordable rate.
Meanwhile, Joe Shmoe the race to the bottom freelancer has his prices published. His work is “ok” but his prices make it seem like a great value. They probably go with Joe, simply because they already know his pricing.
This shocked me! 52% of creative freelancers did not have a personal image on the home page. It is my opinion that showing you makes people feel more comfortable. They get to see that you are a real person. This gives them a chance to make that human connection before they even meet you.
I know it is a little scary at first, changing the “we” language for your company of one to “I” and “Me”. When I first started freelancing it was only me, yet my website made it seem like I was a huge web design company.
I made the change to being a solo freelancer on my website. It made a huge difference. People felt comfortable because they knew who I was right away. This was the number one factor for my quick growth which allowed me to go from 0 clients to quitting my 9-5 job in 3 months.
28% of the freelancer’s websites that I analyzed had at least one testimonial on the home page. I thought this number would be higher. Having a testimonial on your homepage is a great way to show off how amazing you are in someone else’s words.
When you buy something on Amazon what is the one section you always check? The reviews. A couple good reviews and you are ordering that new coffee maker!
Having a testimonial on your home page lets people know that you have completed projects in the past and have happy customers. They will want to become one of those happy customers.
Not all testimonials are created equal though. Here are a few tips to make sure your testimonial hits home:
- Keep it short. I would suggest 1-3 short sentences.
- Is the client giving the testimonial in the same industry as clients I want?
- Show a picture of the person giving the testimonial. People trust testimonials more when they can see a face.
18% of Freelancers display a phone number on the home page. I am guilty of not doing this myself, although when I first started I did display it. Some people still prefer phone communication to email.
If you want to go the extra mile, display your phone number and have a clear call to action around it. Just displaying it is not enough, do something more like “have a question? Give me a call, I always answer: 123-456-7890.
Interestingly enough the majority of the websites that did display a phone number were in the UK. I find this very interesting. Perhaps it is customary over there to always display a phone number on your website while over here in the US we hide behind email.
If you are just getting started, displaying your phone number is a great way to set yourself apart.
Displaying your work on your homepage instantly shows visitors what you do. This is important for 2 reasons. 1. They get to see your quality and style. 2. They can see that you have completed projects.
While I do believe that having a portfolio on your home page is important, I do not think that displaying everything you have ever created is necessary or helpful.
Display your best work. Display the type of work that you want to do again. This will attract those types of clients. Also by curating your best items, you help your visitor get right to the good stuff instead of having to filter through all of your work.
The portfolio feed style home page
On some freelancers sites, all that I saw on the homepage was a portfolio. While the quality of work was awesome, It didn’t give me a good sense of who they are as a creative.
A portfolio is not always easy for every industry. The visual ones it is easy. Web designer, display the best websites you have made, Logo designer, display your best logos.
But what if you are a writer?
Display your best writing. I would display a few snippets and have links to where people can read more.
Social Media Links
Ever since I got into online business I have had a love-hate relationship with social media. While it is a great way to make connections and even market your services it sometimes can be a distraction.
78% of freelancers display social media links on their website. I actually thought this was higher. There are more freelancers going against the grain and not displaying the social buttons than I thought.
I noticed 3 things about these social links on most of the freelancer’s websites I analyzed.
- They did not open in a new tab. Make sure your social links open in a new tab.
- They linked to profiles that were not very active. Only link to your most active platforms.
- They had the links in the header of their site. Don’t put such importance on social media.
Check your site, make sure you are not making any of the above mistakes!
Google Page Speed
With most of the freelancer’s websites that I analyzed being web designers and developers, I was a little disappointed to see the numbers! I hope they were so “low” because everyone is so busy making their client’s sites faster.
Average Desktop Speed Score: 62.27/100.00
Average Mobile Speed Score: 53.96/100.00
Want to test your site to compare? https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
I feel like this is an easy win for freelancers. Spend a weekend optimizing your site (I need to do mine as well!).
Quick win for higher rankings
Since a lot of your fellow freelancers are skimping on their page speed scores this is a great way to help yourself out. Set yourself apart in Google’s mind by having a really fast website.
It also never hurts having a faster website. We all know website visitors are hard to come by and are even harder to keep interested. A slow loading page is a surefire way to lose them.
The navigation menu is an often forgotten aspect of your website. You know you need one, but do you regularly analyze where your links are, and what order they are in?
On all the websites I looked at I documented what was in the navigation menu and where in the menu it was.
Of all the websites I analyzed not a single one had Blog as the first item. This is correct if you ask me as a blog is supplemental to what they are doing.
The most popular 1st menu item was: home with 36% of sites having “home” as the first menu item.
This is interesting from a UI standpoint. Almost all modern websites if you click on the websites logo this takes you back to the homepage. This to me shows that this is not as well known as I thought, and I may think about adding home to my sites in the future.
The most popular second menu item was: About.
Having a good about page is important as a freelancer. It is your opportunity to tell website visitors who you are and how you can help them.
In the third spot most websites had: It was a tossup. It was a cross between some form of portfolio and services.
Number of menu items
Your menu should only have the necessary content to get the visitor to the pages that matter. Filling your menu with a link to every page on your site is a recipe for disaster as it gives people too many options. Overwhelmed website visitors take the easy road, which is usually the back button.
67% had less than 6 items
44% had less than 4
23% had 5 items
18% had 4 items
16% had 3 items
5% had 2 items
34% of sites had 6 or more menu items (what I would consider too many). I would suggest digging into your analytics and seeing what pages are not viewed much and remove those. I would also try to remove any main menu links that did not help me towards my main goal.
Do you even blog?
51 % of Freelancers had a blog on their site. Of the ones that did have a blog, I did not check to see the last time they posted. If you have a blog make sure you actually post on it!
I believe that the reason a lot of freelancers didn’t have a blog is because it is hard. Blogging is not fun and is difficult. But, blogging has a lot of benefits.
The biggest benefit to having a blog on your freelancing website is that it shows your expertise. Blog posts also have the added bonus of ranking in the search engine and bringing in organic traffic.
So what do you do if you are one of the 49%-ers that don’t have a blog? You start one.
Here are a few articles that should help you get started.
What I learned and hopefully you did too!
As freelancers, we need to gain an edge. Knowing what your fellow freelancers are doing allows you to make modifications and enhancements that they are not.
The 4 biggest areas most freelancers could improve are:
- Having a clear call to action
- This will help your website visitors instantly learn what you are all about and how you can help them.
- Having a newsletter
- Gives you a way to keep in touch with prospective clients even after they leave your site. Creating a newsletter allows you to get people to come back often.
- Get them. Show them on your home page. Use a person’s image next to them to amplify the effect.
- Improve page speed
- Since so many of your fellow freelancers are skimping on this one this is a way to set yourself apart in Google’s eyes and perhaps get some organic traffic.
I bet you could improve in at least one of these areas. If you could improve in multiple don’t try to do it all at once. Block out time on your calendar this week (at least an hour, you can skip the walking dead this week) and fix one of them. Do the same next week. In less than a month you would have made a huge impact on the effectiveness of your freelancing website.
Download the self-audit checklist and see how your site compares!
You also get access to the list of 100 freelancers websites I analyzed! Check them out in your browser