How To Build A Freelance Website That Turns Visitors Into Clients

Learn how to create a website that works when you're not working by leading visitors along a natural, perfect-fit path to conversion.

lightbulb in a mans hand

A website is a necessary tool for every business.

  • When someone wants to make sure you are who you say you are, they’re going to search for your website.
  • When someone wants to know more about you, they visit your website.
  • When someone discovers your business through social media, they visit your website.
  • When someone wants to research a brand, they scroll through their social media accounts, check out reviews, and yes, visit their website.
  • When someone considers spending money with you, they’ll spend time clicking through your website and portfolio.

These days consumers expect a business to have a website. When you don’t have one, or only have a Facebook page, it’s weird — and people question whether you’re actually legit.

The process of planning, designing, and building a website is a critical part of building a business and launching a brand.

Your website is a digital storefront that welcomes visitors from across the globe and helps them find what they are looking for. It is also the foundation for all activity taken by your brand, as nearly all marketing efforts focus on getting people to your website so they can discover your offers and understand how you can help them solve their problems and achieve their goals.

Unfortunately, the website building process is often fraught with problems caused by misconceptions, misinformation, dangerous shortcuts, and poor guidance.

You may think, “That will never happen to me,” but even the most careful and savvy business owners fall victim to bad advice and significant mistakes that sabotage their website’s success from the day it launches. Part of the problem is that anyone with any level of experience can call themselves an expert and sell you a website, even if they don’t know what they’re doing and don’t follow best practices.

TRUTH: My creative agency has been hired by far too small business owners to troubleshoot website problems and fix disastrous websites that were hurting their ability to get found online, publish new content, grow an email list, generate leads, and attract ideal clients.

Luckily, with the right mindset, the right approach to creating your website, and the right website strategy to drive conversions, you can create a powerful website for your small business or freelance business that works when you’re not working.

The Wrong Approach To Building A Website

But first, you need to understand three of the most common website mistakes and misconceptions so you can avoid them when building your website:

1. Needing A Cool Website

A lot of business owners are concerned with one thing: looking cool. They want to be cool and feel cool and they want industry peers and even competitors to see their websites and think:

  • “Wow, that’s cool. They do good work.”
  • “I want to know them.”
  • “They’re legit. What a talent.”

Problems arise, however, when the need for coolness is combined with an inexperienced designer or developer who wants to create something cool or cutting-edge for their portfolio.

It’s a recipe for disaster.

Here are three truths you must understand about creating a cool website:

  1. It doesn’t matter if industry peers or competitors think you or your website are cool. They are never going to hire you or buy from you.
  2. It doesn’t matter if your designer or developer’s peers think your website is cool. They are also never going to hire you or buy from you.
  3. It doesn’t matter if you think your website is cool. You are not your audience or a prospective client or customer.

This isn’t high school.

People don’t care if your website uses the most cutting-edge technology or slick design, and they really don’t care if you, your designer, or your developer won an award for it. People care about quickly figuring out if they’re in the right place, easily finding the information they need, and gaining a clear understanding of how to take action.

Do you know what’s better than a cool website?

A website produces the results your business needs and…

  • Positions you as a trusted authority and opens doors to new and exciting opportunities.
  • Shares your offers, connects with your audience, communicates your value, and helps people feel like they belong.
  • Turns visitors into clients, customers, members, students, and subscribers with clear, well-positioned calls to action.

It’s far more important to build a website that attracts the right audience, helps them feel like they’ve found exactly what they’ve been searching for, and motivates them to take action than it is to build a cool website.

2. Hiring Someone Inexperienced On The Cheap

Yes, hiring a professional web designer or web developer with years of experience and expertise to create your website is expensive. It’s even more expensive when hiring a professional who researches, plans, and strategizes the buyer journey, conversion funnel, and user experience before even thinking about the visual design.

And yes, hiring a professional web designer or web developer to build your site the right way and future-proof the site to prevent future problems and headaches means that your website may take a little longer to build than you thought.

This is why so many impatient business owners succumb to temptation and fall prey to quick-win, inexpensive options like hiring a family member, a neighbor’s kid, or some guy recommended on Next Door that did some other website super cheap.

I’m not going to lie. This approach will help you get a website up and running quickly. But… OMG. YIKES! This makes me cringe every time. When it comes to web design and web development, you get what you pay for (or what you invest in).

Choosing an inexpensive solution doesn’t mean you’re making a bad choice!

If you need a new website and have a tight budget, choose a WordPress theme or website template that has been designed and engineered by professionals who follow best practices and understand what site owners need.

Check out options from StudioPress, Kadence WP, and BizBudding. All solutions use the WordPress block editor, but I love the templates from BizBudding because you can customize everything down to the tiniest detail without writing any code.

Those inexperienced folks who can build you a website for $500… That kid that knows how to click buttons in WordPress… They are building websites that look decent. But too often zero effort is put into anything other than making it pretty. There is no thought toward user experience, no conversion strategy, no design strategy, and no content strategy.

So while that cheap option produced a decent-looking website, the site most likely won’t produce the results you want or need, and a year later you’ll end up hiring a professional or switching to a commercial solution you can customize anyway.

3. Creating An Online Brochure

It’s hard to believe, but I still get website inquiries from business owners who “just want a basic brochure website so something exists if potential customers google me.”

For someone immersed in website strategy, website design, website copy, blogging, and content marketing on a daily basis, it’s hard to see why any business owner would want a website that merely exists. But hey, if you’re happy with where your business is at and happy with your current revenue numbers, and you don’t have goals to grow your business or expand your brand online, a brochure-style website gets the job done.

Now, if you do want to grow your business, build authority, expand your brand reach, become known, attract new opportunities, build your email list, make more sales, or raise your rates, a brochure site isn’t going to cut it.

To compete in the overcrowded, highly competitive digital world, your website must stand out, get noticed, and attract the right visitors.

Your website needs:

If all you have is a pretty brochure-style website, there is no reason for anyone to ever come back after their first visit or pay attention — and that doesn’t set you or your brand up for success.

The Right Approach To Building A Website

With the right approach, your website becomes your best salesperson who knows everything about your brand and business, talks you up like you’re the best thing since sliced bread, removes risk, and does everything you need without bothering you.

For your website to do its job:

  • It must be easy to use, which means you must prioritize user experience. Put things where they’re expected to be, make things work like they’re expected to work, and provide several different ways to discover new content and offers on your website.
  • It must be easy to understand, which means you must invest in quality website copy and content. Write in simple, straightforward, plain language and write to your audience. Have an opinion, take a stance, work your personality into your message, and tell people what to do next.
  • It must be optimized for people and search engines, which means you must pay attention to performance and search engine optimization (SEO). A well-optimized site is about helping people find what they need quickly and easily both on your website and in the search engine results page listings.
  • It must have visitors, which means you need to regularly market and promote your website. No one can hire you, buy from you, learn from you, or subscribe to your list if they don’t know you exist.

Creating a Natural Path To Conversions

The digital business landscape is jam-packed with an abundance of mediocre free offers, email opt-in boxes making promises that don’t deliver, and too-good-to-be-true sales pitches that are more hype than value. Our inboxes are littered with spam and unwanted outreach from companies we did not give permission to and don’t want to hear from.

It’s no wonder people are pickier than ever when it comes to what websites they visit, who they give their email addresses to, and where they buy from.

Whether you want people to purchase, sign up, subscribe, enroll, register, click, comment, submit a form, or join, before taking action, they need to get to know you, figure out if they like you, and decide whether they trust you. They need to feel confident and comfortable with their decision to take the next step.

To ensure your website works when you’re not working, use the following strategy:

Know —> Like —> Trust —> Convert

The Know, Like, Trust, Convert strategy maps out natural paths to conversions from multiple entry points, like blog posts, landing pages, and sales pages. It outlines how people move through the site, what information they need, how to discover and access that information, and what the conversion process or buying process looks like.

This strategy leverages four types of website content:

  1. “Know” Content
    This content is designed to help people get to know you and learn more about you, your brand, and your background, what you do and how you do it, who you serve and why, and what type of results clients experience. It answers the “What’s In It For Me?” question.
  2. “Like” Content
    This content is designed to help visitors see who you are, what you stand for, what you have to say, and whether or not they like you, your approach, and your perspective. This content offers glimpses into your personal life, showcases your personality, and shares your opinions.
  3. “Trust” Content
    This content is designed to build credibility, reliability, and trust by leveraging expert positioning, providing value and quality content, and showing a history of proven results. The goal is to make it a no-brainer for visitors to hire you, buy from you, learn from you, or join your list because they now trust and believe in you.
  4. “Conversion” Content
    This content is designed to persuade visitors to say yes and take the next logical step you present to them. The goal is to convert visitors into paying clients, customers, members, or students, or email subscribers you can stay in touch with and market to with the hope that they convert at a later date.

A Website That Works When You’re Not Working

This approach is all about naturally guiding visitors to action not beating them over the head with pushy sales pitches. It’s about not only designing a valuable, helpful, friendly website that is easy to use but engineering a powerful, profitable digital platform that supports your marketing efforts and makes your biggest business goals a reality.

When you put your audience and prospective clients first, plan an extraordinary user experience, and provide the information, clarity, and reassurance they need to feel confident and comfortable taking action, you’ll discover that:

  • Ideal clients self-identify as a perfect fit for your services, products, and programs.
  • New sales are made in less time with far greater ease.
  • The quality of new leads and referrals improve and the number received increases.

When you help people get to know you, like you, and trust you, prospective clients form a stronger connection with you. As a result, you become not just another choice but the only choice, which means a full pipeline of qualified clients who can’t wait to work with you! And nothing feels better than that!

This post is an updated and improved version of this post originally written for GoDaddy.