I'm a big believer in creating a Web presence as a freelance writer. Frankly, you couldn't give me an excuse I'd consider good enough for not building a professional website (although some have tried). Let's explore why I feel they're so vital, and why it may be worth setting up a professional site even if you already maintain a steady client load without one.
What a Professional Website Does for You
When you think about setting up a website related to your freelance writing work, perhaps you think about using it to solicit work. You detail your services and maybe share your rates and some testimonials. Yes, websites can effectively bring in clients directly. But they do more than that. Your professional website can also serve as a:
- Public portfolio
- Download host (if you offer white papers, reports, etc.)
- Media magnet (if you want to secure interviews)
- Direct income stream
More importantly, your professional site can serve as a "home base" for all (or most) of your other platform-generating activities.
Your Website as "Home Base"
When you're building a platform, it helps to have a single primary presence. On the Web, that should be a website. Yes, you have the option these days of using a free, hosted blog (like with Blogspot) or even a social media profile (such as Twitter or LinkedIn). But using those tools as your primary base is a bad idea.
You should never put your platform in the hands of a third party. That's what you do when you use a hosted service, rather than hosting your own website. Companies shut down. Even big ones. They also change their terms and policies, and occasionally have hardware issues (where you have no control over backups).
Get your own site. Put all of your must-have information there (your bio, your portfolio, your services and rates, testimonials, your client list, links to any products you've released, and of course your contact information). Then go ahead and start building other online profiles for added visibility, and link them each to your very own home on the Web.
When you do that, you build links to your website, which directly can influence its visibility when people are searching for writers in your specialty area (more relavant links equals better search engine placement). If you tried to do the same thing with an off-site profile, you may find yourself starting over again every time the next fad tools comes along that you want to focus on. Instead, let them supplement your platform base--your professional website.
It Doesn't Matter if You Have Enough Clients
One of the biggest excuses I hear from freelance writers who don't want to take the time to build a professional website is that they don't "need" to because they already have enough regular clients. That's nice. But it's going to be a hell of a shocker if one or a few of those previously-dependable clients suddenly disappears. It happens.
Even reputable print publications are shutting down, leaving writers to scramble for their remaining pay and trying to secure replacement gigs. You never (I repeat never) should count on any client to always be around or to always pay. On top of that, you have issues that today's economy really helps to highlight. Companies downsize. They overhaul their staff for any number of reasons. The editor you love working with today might be gone tomorrow, and you may not want to work with their replacement for very long. Or maybe clients will want to re-work their payment arrangements with you, offering you less.
You always have to be on the lookout for more work and new clients. Even if you're comfortable now, you should be thinking about what you'll want years from now. Will seeking higher-paying work help you reach your personal and professional goals? If so, kick that comfort to the curb, and stay alert. More importantly, stay visible. By building your website now, while you already have enough clients, it will be more visible a few months or years down the road when you may not. Remember, older websites often have not only a built-in audience, but an edge in search results.
In the end, having even a simple professional website can do nothing but help you. They're absolutely essential for Web writers (at least higher-tier Web writers) because they're a direct line between you and your clients in the medium. Even if you're a print writer or corporate writer, a website can be a huge benefit helping to set you apart from the competition, and allowing you to more easily connect prospective clients to your work and credentials. If you don't have a professional website yet, get on it. If you don't, countless new freelancers will in the meantime. And when you do need to look for new clients again someday, don't you think you deserve an edge instead of giving that space and visibility to someone else? I don't know about you, but I certainly do.