With Google, everything we want to know is at the tip of our fingers and this fact has changed everything – job hunting, personal branding, and business growth in particular. We use the internet as our main source of information. So, it’s fairly logical that most of today’s freelancers and solopreneurs rely on the internet for building their personal brand.
Letting others know you exist is the necessary step towards monetizing your services. The first impression you leave is very important, so you have to invest your time and effort into doing it the right way.
But, enough with the theory: how do you actually get there?
Professionals from various industries, recruiters and HR specialists respectively, all agree that having a dedicated website is the ultimate career move. It helps you control your digital footprint and manage your online reputation with more focus, not to mention the wide reach it brings. As you know, the internet bridges common business obstacles such as different geographical locations and time zones, and your website works for you, 24/7.
However, it’s often confusing how to organize your website so that it represents both your achievements and personality in the best possible way.
This is why we decided to introduce you to Michelle Nickolaisen (chelleshock.me), a successful content marketer whose website and career achievements so far deserve 5 stars, at least from our point of view. We will reverse engineer key points of her site and extract some worthy lessons, so you can start your path towards building a solid online presence for yourself, too.
Lesson #1: Answer Every Possible Question in Advance
When people open up your homepage, they will look for specific answers. In order for your website to be purposeful, you have to think about its structure and the most user-friendly way of displaying information. This is the simplest to achieve this is through different categories.
Let’s take a look at Michelle’s website. It has the following categories displayed in the upper bar:
- Services & Pricing
- Writing Samples
- Case Studies
- Working Together
On the Homepage, you can find a personal photo of Michelle and her social icons to instantly connect or snoop around. Then there is a brief introduction in which Michelle shares her accomplishments so far, testimonials, clients, previous speaking occasions and workshops she held, and a CTA + contact form.
What makes this homepage a good one? For starters, it has the perfect balance of professionalism and laid-backness, and this tone clearly communicates Michelle is pleasant to work with. Next, we have positive testimonials, a list of reputable clients, and events where Michelle spoke, all of which add to her credibility and authority, and assure future clients that the results will be nothing less than awesome.
Within the contact form, anyone can instantly schedule a meeting with Michelle and book it within the interactive calendar.
Other website categories are clearly divided, they answer various questions users may have, and make navigation easier.
So, what can you learn here? If you use your personal website for business purposes, you have to be aware of the fact that many different people will land on your page. They will expect to easily find every piece of information – pricing included. Some don’t think displaying prices is a smart business move, while others think pricing transparency is actually something that could give you a competitive edge. It’s up to you.
The truth is, if you answer the majority of questions through the content on your website, you’re likely to shorten the path between the first contact potential clients have with you (via your website), and the first agreed contract.
Lesson #2: Be Specific When Sharing How You Work With Clients
On Michelle’s website, there is a separate landing page called Working Together in which she explained important collaboration details such as her working hours and availability for meetings, turnaround time and scheduling, retainer details, and payment methods.
Being open and straightforward about the way she works allows her to filter out clients from the start, i.e. eliminate those who are not willing to collaborate under the stated terms. It also leaves an impression that she knows what she’s doing and has developed precise operational procedures for working with clients.
She also explains the reasons behind writing these guidelines: defined rules make the process easier and ensure every client she works with is equally respected. In addition, Michelle hasn’t missed underlining that every collaboration is a two-way street:
Of course–I want to know how you work best so that we can make sure my working style meshes with your team and editorial calendar, and that I’m following your rules, to create our best work together. So feel free to send me your own guidelines and best practices, and ask questions about mine.
This shows impeccable business ethics and creates an impression of someone who is a true professional, trustworthy, and reliable. It also signals Michelle’s ability to listen to client’s needs and be open for compromise. It is clear that her primary goal is creating a result that the client will be absolutely satisfied with, through an honest and respectful collaboration.
Lesson #3: Make Your Successful Projects Visible
It’s highly improbable any client will agree to hire you if you don’t have at least some proof that you know how to do your job.
If you’re a photographer, this proof comes in the form of a visual portfolio; if you’re an event manager, it comes in the form of photographs of decorated venues and testimonials of your satisfied clients; if you’re a writer – it’s about providing writing samples and demonstrating your expertise.
This can be rather challenging. Let’s take ghostwriters for an example. As a ghostwriter, you might have awesome and well-researched articles published across various websites, but you cannot actually claim them as they are not published under your name. Also, it’s not rare that clients ask ghostwriters to sign an NDA so to protect these confidential project information.
If you’re a writer, you have to devote some time to publishing pieces under your own name as well. Blogging is one of the most effective ways to build a name in an industry, followed by guest posting. It’s how you broaden your online presence and build authority for yourself.
Take a look at Michelle’s example. With just a couple of clicks, you can find her case studies and writing samples. If you browse a bit, you’ll see she’s managed to publish high-quality articles on renowned websites such as KISSmetrics, Shopify, WPCurve, Fast Company, Freelancers Union, etc.
All of these publications add up to Michelle’s reputation and certainly help her generate traffic back to her website and acquire new clients. So, guest posts are not only great for building your writing portfolio, but also for attracting attention and driving relevant prospects to your website.
Remember: your website speaks on your behalf and it’s there to “seal the deal”, which is why it’s crucial to think about its content and visual appearance. As you can see from Michelle’s website, you don’t necessarily need a flashy web design: its aesthetics can be minimalist and appealing to the eye, while also carrying key information about the person behind it.
Over to You
You work hard to build your expertise, you know what great business ethics means, you learn a lot about target communication and negotiations, but still – rising above the noise remains a struggle. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest challenges of becoming a successful freelancer or a solopreneur is getting yourself out there and start acquiring clients.
Personal websites are the easiest way to communicate who you are, what you’ve achieved so far, and what you can do for future clients. Despite this fact, only 7% of job seekers have their own site, which means you can build your own brand for scratch fairly easy.
It takes time, but it’s completely doable – just look at Michelle Nickolaisen! We hope you’ve learned a couple of great tricks from her website and that it got your creative juices flowing and help you vision your own site.
We at Domain.me are fully committed to helping aspiring entrepreneurs and freelancers launch their careers, which is why we created a list of free website builders and detailed instructions on how to build a business website, too.
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