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How to Create a Freelance Website: The Complete Guide

You need a website.

Because real talk – a professional-looking freelancer website is one of the most important things you can have to grow your business and earn more cash.

When I first started freelancing, I didn’t have a website. I had NO idea how to make one and I assumed it would be expensive and time-consuming. Instead, I went to freelancer marketplace sites like Upwork and sent out portfolios that consisted of a Google Doc filled with links.

Not my finest hour.

I told myself I’d figure it out one day. But “one day” seemed to be getting longer and longer.

Eventually, I got sick of the low paying jobs on freelancing sites. I was I was tired of going up against 97 other freelancers for a gig that paid $10 for a 2,000-word article, and applying for countless postings on job boards.

I’d seen many beautiful websites from creators offering similar freelance services, and I knew it was time to step up my game. Even the simplest website was going to better than keeping with the status quo. I figured, if they can do it, so can I!

Flash forward a few years: I can’t tell you how glad I am that I finally made that decision. Not only was it not expensive at all – I’m talking less than $15/month – it didn’t take me that long to put together something simple.

But the most important outcome – I started attracting and landing WAY higher quality clients once I had my own site.

I was getting people filling out my ‘Work With Me’ form regularly. I was quoting them double what I was charging on sites like Freelancer and Upwork. And, most importantly, they were saying Yes!

See – when you have your own website you look professional. And when you look like a real business, people are willing to pay you more.

That’s why I think creating a freelancer website is one of the most important things you can do to start attracting higher paying, higher quality clients.

Not convinced you need one? You really do!

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How to create a freelance website

I know creating your own site seems really intimidating, but I’m going to walk you through it.

I’ll share my favorite themes, tools and software, all dedicated to making the process as easy as possible. You can literally start today and have a website that’s ready to share with the world in a few hours.

Will it be the most beautiful thing? Probably not. But is it going to push you to step up your business game? YES IT IS.

1. Decide on a CMS

A content management system or CMS is the platform that you build your website on. Some CMS options include, WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, Drupal and Joomla. WordPress is my number one recommendation – in fact, it’s what we’re going to use in this guide. I like WordPress because it’s:

  • Free (you will need to purchase a custom domain and pay for hosting, but the CMS itself is free)
  • Fully customizable
  • Easy to use if you spend the time to learn it

Now, you won’t be fully customizing your site because that requires a level of coding knowledge I’m assuming you don’t have (fear not, I don’t either). But there are pre-made themes (or templates) that make it easy to create a beautiful and professional site in an afternoon.

Yes! You can honestly set up a full site in an afternoon if you know what you want on it and how you want it to look.

However, just because I like WordPress, doesn’t mean it’s the only option.

If you want a fully drag-and-drop experience, Squarespace is what I recommend. It ends up being more costly in the long run, in my opinion. But there are genuine reasons why you might consider doing this – for example, if an eCommerce store is on your “future goals” list.

I highly recommend you avoid Wix as they make it really hard to move your content off their platform down the line. Ultimately, WordPress is what I recommend and the rest of this guide is written assuming that’s the platform you’re using.

2. Make a plan

Creating a website for a freelance business often ends up being overwhelming because no one takes the time to plan. You need to know what you want on the site and how you want it to look ahead of time.

You don’t need everything planned out. But you do need some sort of idea so when you’re shopping for a WordPress theme and creating content, you know what you’re trying to achieve. Your plan needs to essentially cover:

  • Who your website is going to be built for
  • What pages your audience needs access to
  • A general idea of your “story” and where it needs to be featured
  • What tools you’ll need your website connected to (Flodesk, Honeybook, etc.)
  • An idea of what your brand “looks” like – color, images, whitespace

When you have a plan set, it’ll be easier to get your site built faster. Plus, you’ll be less likely to go down a website rabbit hole because you know what you need to do. Do what you NEED first, then tweak things down the line!

BlueHost web hosting

3. Register a domain

Your domain is the URL visitors type into their browsers that gets them to your site. Right now, you’re hanging out on thefreelancehustle.com.

I purchase brand new domains through Namecheap because they are less expensive and protect your information better. Though, admittedly, I purchase aged domains primarily through GoDaddy.

The initial domain purchase usually costs around $15 to $25/year on renewal. But I snag domains on Namecheap for less than that regularly.

How do you choose a domain name?

The domain name you purchase depends on what you want to do with the website.

If your freelance business already has a name, use that. Or you can simply go with your own name. But my favorite option is creating an entire brand name, which allows you to scale and diversify your revenue in the long run.

Regardless of which you choose, you want your domain name to be:

  • Easy to spell
  • Simple
  • Memorable
  • Preferably searchable

If you already have a domain name in mind, you can simply type it into Namecheap and see if it’s available:

Screenshot of "freelancingvixen.com" typed into the Namecheap search engine to demonstrate how to search for your preferred domain name. Instructional image for How to Create a Freelance Website: The Complete Guide blog post.
Screenshot of “freelancingvixen.com” typed into the Namecheap search engine.

What happens if your domain name isn’t available in the .com form?

I’m not going to lie – a lot of domain names are already taken, especially shorter, simpler ones. You might also find that the domain name you’re interested in is considered a “premium” domain and is going to cost you $1,000+, so what do you do?

While a “top level domain” or TLD like .com is preferred, it’s not the only option. Other popular URL endings include:

  • .co
  • .org
  • .net
  • .io

But before you make a purchase, make sure you double-check what’s on the .com domain. You don’t want to confuse readers by creating a site that’s too similar. It’s not good for you or the other sites!

Do you need other extensions?

The other domain-related question I answer a lot is whether or not you need to purchase extra extensions to “protect your brand.” If you already have the .com, do you need the .org, .net, and .co too?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask, but I’m firmly in camp no. Each extension is going to cost another $10 to $25 on the purchase price, plus at least that amount every year for renewal. If you want to spend that extra money, you’re welcome to.

But you absolutely don’t need to. I honestly wouldn’t worry too much about protecting your brand on day one. You need to build it first, don’t worry about things that don’t deserve that headspace yet. You have a TON of things you need to work on!

Domain add-ons

You can purchase your fresh new domain from any ole registrar (like Namecheap), or you can do it through most hosts. Regardless of where you do it, make sure to double-check your cart before you make your purchase.

These companies often try to tack on “extras” to bump up the bill – you don’t need these. Stick with just the domain name. And, as a bonus, if you purchase it through Namecheap you get “whois” privacy protection for free.

Not sure what to choose with a URL and want to start a brand to diversify your freelance income in the long run? Check out our pre-built blog plans. You can get a domain and 12 months of pre-planned content. There’s even an add-on package where we can build the initial site for you, if you want to slash it off your to do list!

4. Purchase hosting

To build a WordPress website, the first thing you’ll need is hosting. Most bloggers start with shared hosting because it’s the least expensive. You can get hosting for a single site for less than $3/month (right now) on both Dreamhost and Bluehost.

I personally use DreamHost for starter sites that I build, but I originally started with BlueHost. If you want dedicated hosting with full support (as in AMAZING support) I recommend Lyrical Host – that’s what The Freelance Hustle is on.

Can you host a website for free?

Not a business one. Look, there are absolutely “free” hosting choices like Blogger.com or WordPress.com (self hosted sites use WordPress.org which IS different). But you’ll end up making a lot of work for yourself in the end. If you self-host a site (that is buy hosting and build a website) YOU own the content and YOU earn money from your site.

With free options you’re paying for any and all add-ons, plus you’re at the mercy of whoever owns the site. If they don’t want your content on it, they can shut you down. And, most importantly from a busines perspective, they can (and do) limit your making money ability on your site. So, buy a hosting package and put in the work. If you do, you’re more likely to see long-term results.

Pick a package

Once you’ve decided on what hosting provider you’re going with, you’ll want to pick your actual package. There are a ton of choices, but if it’s your first freelancing website just aim for a single-site capacity (even if you have empire dreams) – you can ALWAYS upgrade later.

Your basic, shared hosting will be the least expensive. This can help ensure your up-front investment is more manageable. When you’re going through the check-out, make sure you un-check any add-ons that the hosting provider is offering – you don’t need these. If you want to add these on, you’re welcome to.

But things like SEO tools, security and backups you can have set up for little-to-no extra cost. Your bill will probably come to something between $50 to $100, depending on what hosting company you go with.

Review Order Details

Before you purchase ANYTHING, you want to give your order a quick review. Make sure you’re only paying for what you want. If you see other costs included, scroll up to double-check if there are any add-ons still checked.

Now you have hosting! Do a mini happy dance.

5. Install WordPress

This is part of the process is easy to do but can be a bit confusing. You want to install WordPress on the backend of your hosting (often called the CPanel) but not WordPress.com.

WordPress.com is their “free to premium” blogging platform. You can sign up at no cost and get yourblog.wordpress.com – this is NOT what you want if you’re planning on creating a money making site. Even with the premium (paid) version of WordPress.com, you’re limited on what you’ll be able to do.

Instead, you want WordPress.org.

The good news is, you don’t have to go anywhere special to find it. It will be right in the Cpanel of Dreamhost, Bluehost, or whatever hosting platform you choose.

It might seem overwhelming here, but you can ignore most of these fancy bells and whistles. Simply look for a button that says Build a New WordPress Site or Add a Site. Then Install WordPress. Not that the exact steps might be slightly different depending on the host you choose.

Yes, it’s that easy!

It might take a few minutes for WordPress to install, but once it does you’re all set to go. Note that if you’re using a managed hosting platform, like Lyrical Host, you’ll need to contact the support team who will install it on your behalf.

6. Change your nameservers

Nameservers are what connect your domain and the website you build. Once you have installed WordPress, you’ll need to point your nameservers toward your host. These vary by host and even hosting plan, so you’ll need to doublecheck what they are.

For example, BlueHost shared hosting uses two servers:

  • ns1.bluehost.com
  • ns2.bluehost.com

While DreamHost shared hosting uses three:

  • ns1.dreamhost.com
  • ns2.dreamhost.com
  • ns3.dreamhost.com

To update your nameservers you’ll need to head to your domain registrar (like Namecheap) and manage them from there. Once you update the servers, it could take up to 48-hours for them to update. But in my experience it usually takes an hour or two.

7. Add an SSL certificate

SSL stands for “secure sockets layer” which is fancy internet speak for a digital certificate that verifies the identity of your website. Having one means that there’s a fancy little lock displayed on the left-hand side of the domain when someone visits yours site. This indicates the site is safe.

Your site not having one doesn’t mean that it’s not safe, but visitors will see a warning that you should avoid. Using an SSL certificate means that any data passed between your site and the visitor’s browser is encrypted before being sent.

The good news is most hosts (even the inexpensive ones) provide a free SSL certificate called Let’s Encrypt. These are easy to install, you simply need to add one to your site and wait for it to refresh – which takes about a half hour.

Some hosts, DreamHost in particular along with managed solutions, provide these automatically. Note that you cannot set up an SSL certificate if the nameservers aren’t set up properly.

8. Add your WordPress plugins

Plugins enhance your WordPress site and expand its capabilities. From adding recipe schemas to your blog to adding a contact info form, WordPress plugins are easy-to-install and easy-to-use.

Some of the plugins I add to all my sites include:

  • RankMath – Google Analytics and SEO measurement
  • Akismet Anti-Spam – spam protection
  • WPS Hide Login – move your login page
  • Pretty Links – managing (non Amazon) affiliate links

The one plugin I’d caution you against using is Jetpack. It comes pre-installed with all Bluehost sites, but it really just weighs down your site which makes it take longer to load. Delete it before it has a chance to start adding to your site load time.

9. Add a theme

The “look” of the site is where most people get hung-up. Before you get too far into daydreaming or trying to perfect anything, I recommend putting some time into making a plan. If this is your first website, it can be really easy to get lost.

A plan will help you to save time and avoid pulling your hair out in frustration. Start by getting some inspiration. Look at other websites to see what kind of website design and layouts you like.

When looking at other sites, try to look for businesses in a similar niche or with similar goals. ie – don’t try to copy Facebook’s design because they aren’t trying to sell a freelance service.

Where can you go for inspiration?

  • Pinterest
  • Dribbble
  • Google/Google Image

Search for ‘website design *niche*’ or ‘freelance *niche* website’.

What to look for?

  • Fonts
  • Colors
  • Image styles
  • Layout

You don’t have to be a graphic designer to make a nice looking professional website. Just take note of what you really like, take screenshots, and you’ll be able to incorporate those common elements into your own site. Now that you have an idea of what you want your site to look like, it’s time to start creating it!

Choose a theme

The theme you choose will determine the general layout and look of your website. To get to your theme options, find ‘appearance’ in the left menu and select ‘themes’.

There are plenty of free theme options to choose from. You can browse through and see if you can find something that lines up with the vision you have for your own site.

The Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Freelancer Website

But while “FREE” is everyone’s favorite number (mine included), I’m a firm believer that a free theme costs more in the long run. I highly recommend starting off with a premium, paid theme.

Honestly, I started with a free theme but wasted SO much time trying to get it to look how I wanted. I couldn’t figure out how to get my blog pages to look just right, I had a helluva time creating opt-in boxes, and honestly it was all just kind of a hot mess.

I highly recommend going with a theme by Restored 316. They use Kadence as their base design, it’s easy to work with and simple to customize.

Plenty of bloggers recommend Divi theme because it’s both customizable and flexible. This theme uses a drag-and-drop site builder – so no coding knowledge or previous website building experience is required!

It comes with templates and layouts for different pages – like your front page, your blog page, your contact page and your portfolio. The layouts look good and they’re easy to create by dragging in the elements you want to use.

Use Divi’s pre-made templates to easily create a professional-looking site in no time

If your freelance site is going to mainly be a static place you send visitors to check out your services then Divi works fantastically.

But if you plan on building a money-making blog, opt for something gorgeous, simple and lightweight like Scribe or Oliva by Restored 316.

While you can create some amazing sites with them, the site builder is are bulky and can slow down your site. In the long run this will hurt your SEO. It doesn’t matter how pretty your site is, if it’s slow, no one will stay and the money will be scarce!

10. Create your pages

You freelance business website doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to present you as a professional in your friend. If you’re a web designer you’ll want to show off your eye but if you’re a writer, focus on your site’s copy.

There are a few basic pages you should have, including:

  • Home
  • About
  • Services
  • Portfolio
  • Contact

Let’s dig into each of these more.

Home

Your site’s “home” page is the front of the site. When people enter www.yoursite.com this is the page they go to. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to what it should look like. However, you want it to clearly articulate what you do and who you help.

For business sites, this is often a single, static page with different sections. However, if you’re building a full-on, money-making site, I’d recommend combining elements of a static page and rotating content. If you check out the home page for The Freelance Hustle, you’ll see that there’s a bit of both.

Whatever you do, you want to make sure that your home page is engaging and easily digestible to new visitors.

About

You’re “about” page is your first chance to introduce yourself to potential clients. It needs to both tell your story and illustrate your skills. But most of all, it should let a client know what’s in it for them.

It might surprise you to know that this is one of the most important pages on your site. It can help you establish both your credibility and likeability with anyone who might be considering using your services.

Services

The “services” page is EXACTLY what it sounds like. It’s where you take the time to outline what you offer your potential clients. If you have multiple services, especially if they’re distinct from one another, you can create a separate page for each one.

You want this section (these pages) to be organized and make sense. If you have a lot of content on a single page, consider using tabs or an accordion section to keep the aesthetics clean and easy to navigate.

You want your services page to include:

  • A headline the clearly names the service
  • An outline that describes what it is
  • A brief description that summaries what you offer

Should you add pricing to your services page?

I swing both ways on whether or not you should advertise your pricing. On the one hand, it can help weed out people who can’t afford you. But then you’re forced to honor the “range” you’ve implied.

This is all to say, it’s up to you whether or not you want to include pricing on your Service page, but I recommend avoiding it if possible. Especially when you’re first starting out and testing the waters.

Portfolio

Your portfolio plays a big role in your freelance website. It shows off your work to prospective clients, and shows them what you can do for them.

This is your opportunity to show off all your favorite projects (as long as you have permission from former clients). Include a few samples of your work for the prospective client to look at. If you have a website, you can use that as a portfolio as well. You can also include some of your freelance writing, or videos of yourself talking about the services you offer.

Don’t have enough (or any) work to show? No problem. You can always create mockups, case studies or even just use images from other projects you’ve worked on. The key is to show off your skills and give potential clients an idea of what your work product is like.

Contact

Your “contact” page is wildly overlooked as a marketing tool. However, it provides you with the perfect opportunity to connect with prospects. Honestly, without it, it’s really hard for them to reach out and ask you to work with them.

Make sure that at the very least you have an email contact. I prefer to have a form embedded from Honeybook, my client management software, that allows me to gather a bit more information before I engage with clients. But even a simple embedded WordPress website form will do.

11. Add a blog

You don’t have to have a blog, but it can be a serious asset to your business. Even if you’re not planning on becoming a freelance blogger or running in travel circles, you should consider a blog. Not only can it demonstrate your writing ability and knowledge, but it can also be a great source of new clients.

It’s an excellent way to show off your expertise, and it can also help you connect with your ideal clients. It’s especially useful if you’re aiming to work in a specific industry, you can focus on blog topics in that area. Your blog can also bring in extra income in the long-run.

12. Publish your site

With your basic pages created, it’s time to hit “publish” and share it with your network!

It’s easy to let perfectionism to get in the way and hold you back from taking your site live. But remember that your website is an evolving thing. You can tweak it and change it later. But it can’t serve you if it’s not live – seriously, it’s going to do you no good to stay unpublished.

There’s no rule that you have to have a set amount of content or be “ready” to get started. Put up your basic content and tweak it as you go along. Take action and, even if you’re nervous, do it anyway.

What do you do once your freelance website is published?

With your freelance writer website up and running you’re ready to start pitching your services to potential clients. When you start engaging with clients, your website is one of the first things they’ll see. If you’re sending out cold emails, make sure you include the link. If you’re meeting face-to-face, hand them a business card with your website address. You can get your website out in the world by:

Connecting it with all your social media profiles

You want to be active on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn to engage in your industry, and this is a great place to show off your website. Most platforms have a space that allows you to link to your website. You don’t want to spam your audience with constant links to your site, however you do want to show it off if you have the opportunity to.

Put it at the bottom of your email

You’ll want to include your website at the bottom of all your emails in your signature. This doesn’t have to be a complex set-up, just your name, company, any contact information you want to include, and your site is perfect. Honestly – I include a few of my personal blogs there too because they’re relevant to my audience.

Share your blogging insights

If you blog, there’s an opportunity for you to share your website more frequently.

While I still stand by the fact that you don’t want to bombard your followers with constant links to your site, if you’re updating your blog on a regular basis you can send those out to any relevant audiences.

Note that your friends and family might not be the right audience, but if you have work or industry-specific accounts, this is a great place to share anything you add to the blog.

Freelance website mistakes to avoid

Building and running a website has its own challenges, and there are a few things you’ll want to avoid right off the bat. Here are the biggest ones you’ll want to be aware:

Forgetting to connect Google Analytics

Google Analytics doesn’t cost anything to use but you need it to grow your site long-term. Even if there’s no one visiting your site right now, you want to start collecting data from day one.

You can connect it via its code, but I recommend using RankMath as your SEO plugin and it can help you connect it without you having to figure out any manual connections. Simply sign up with a Google account (even a free, personal one is cool), and you’re good to go.

Not making your site mobile-friendly

While it depends on your niche, much of the web traffic out there comes from mobile devices. So, it’s a good idea to make your site mobile-friendly. I know that not every website visitor is on a smartphone or tablet, but it’s a growing trend and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Not to mention, if it doesn’t work well on mobile devices, Google won’t look very kindly on it.

Ignoring accessibility

Accessibility is important, and it’s becoming a big thing in the legal online world too. You don’t need a big budget to start your site off correctly. You’ll want to check out the web accessibility guidelines, but a few things you can do to get you started right off the bat is:

  • Add alt text to ALL images – make sure this text describes the image, don’t keyword stuff here
  • Make sure you have easy to read color contrast (like dark on light)
  • Using descriptive URLs
  • Avoid using filler text in forms
  • Ensure your site is accessible to keyboards
  • Make sure you use heading hierarchy properly

Over optimization

Using search engine optimization (SEO) is important for your site, but a lot of people are tempted to over optimize. It’s really easy to keyword stuff on your site, and A LOT of the information “teaching” SEO on the internet actually advises you over optimize. Make sure that you carefully add keywords and variations, without adding them in every other paragraph. That’ll be WAY too much.

Bad security

Your website security is incredibly important. Honestly, I’ve had blogs (even baby blogs with basically no content on them) hacked, and it’s a REAL pain to fix. So, you want to start out with good security habits.

At the very least, you should change your login link so it’s not the standard /wp-admin/ – this is the first step. I also recommend adding in two-factor authentication and make sure that you’re staying on top of theme and plugin updates.

Ready to set up your freelance website?

I LOVE setting up a new website. It’s an opportunity to bring something to life from nothing AND show off your online business talent.

Build a website you’re proud of, create something you’re excited to use, but don’t worry too much about the small details. Websites are ever-evolving assets. There’s always going to be an opportunity to change things and, honestly, it’ll probably never be completely “done.”

Not sure how to get started building your website? No problem.

We’ve got a freebie that can help you get started with your site. Fill out the form and start bringing your freelance small business dreams to life:

Looking for more website insights? Check these bad boys out:

  1. How to Make Money on the Road: 9 Remote Work Ideas for 2022
  2. 13 Best Books For Freelancers & Solopreneurs To Read Now
  3. 9 Money Making Types of Writers That Can Work From Anywhere

Pin these for later! 👇

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