If you’re going to go into freelancing then you’re going to need to advertise for clients but in a world where there are so many options for advertising, what’s the most important? Should you freelance without a website, for example, and then focus your efforts on something else.
Now, firstly let’s acknowledge that, with the possible exception of web designers, you can certainly freelance without a website. But that’s not the question. The question is should you? And to that we’re going to say, “no”. It’s pretty easy to set up a website. It’s not expensive. There’s no good reason for you to not have one.
How Much Does It Cost To Run A Freelance Website?
Well, thanks to Google services. You can host a website completely for free, forever. So, your only cost needs to be a domain name. That’s going to set you back roughly $10 a year.
Now, it’s fair to say that the completely free approach is going to be too much technical pain for some of you – it certainly would be for us. We’re a two-person band and neither of us wants to learn server admin to save $30 a year.
Yes, you can get annual hosting for as little as $30. Namecheap.com, for example, has introductory offers for hosting for peanuts most of the time. They’ll even throw in a .website domain for free.
Now, normally – I’d exhort you to buy a .com or a .net if you were thinking about setting up a website for any other kind of business or a blog but in this one instance – I don’t think it matters in the slightest.
Your website is simply an online portfolio to show clients. Unless you’re going to spend a disproportionate amount of time on SEO (which might be worthwhile if you’re an SEO expert but is otherwise way too much work compared to other sales and marketing efforts) you’re going to send the URL directly to someone – they’ll click on it, review it and then come back to you.
So, you don’t need to worry too much about the TLD (top-level domain).
We also recommend that you just use your name or a variant of your name as the first part of the domain. E.g. JohnSmith.website or JanetSmithFreelancer.website
This is because you’re the brand when you freelance. So, you might as well get it upfront.
Therefore, it’s going to cost $10-$40 to run your freelance website each year.
How Much Does It Cost To Make A Website?
Well, we’re going to assume that you’re going with some nice cheap hosting and your own domain. Next, you’re going to install WordPress which is completely free and if you’re using Namecheap or a similar hosting services provider – you can install it with a single click from within cPanel.
It takes less than 5 minutes to install WordPress. This is the most commonly used CMS (content management system) online. If you write, design, or do anything at all on the Internet, sooner or later – you’ll probably need to know a little about WordPress. Think of this as practice.
Once you have WordPress installed. You need to log in and choose a theme. You can use one of the million free themes available online or you can pay for one – themes cost, normally, between $20 and $300. A higher price doesn’t necessarily make a theme “better”.
Our own preferred theme is $99 for unlimited lifetime licenses. That’s an amazing deal for us because we run many websites and it’s really fast.
However, it really doesn’t matter much which theme you pick for a portfolio site unless, of course, you’re a web designer in which case – you’re going to customize your theme and you already know all there is to know about this (or you really should, anyway).
Once you have your theme installed, you can start to add content. You need to learn the difference between pages and posts (head to YouTube for this) but this isn’t very hard to understand.
Then it’s time to get some content up.
Then you may want to add a logo. If that’s the case – head over to Fiverr and buy a logo. Unless you’re a logo designer then you might want to make one yourself, right? You can get one made for about $7 (including Fiverr’s fee).
For most freelancers with an established body of work – it shouldn’t take any more than a day or two to create their website using this method.
Note: It’s going to cost between $0 and $299 for you to create your own website. Plus $7 for a logo.
How Much Will Company E-mail Cost Me?
Good news. E-mail accounts come free with your cheap hosting plan (or they ought to – make sure they do before you sign up).
You can create plenty of @mywesbite.com e-mail addresses in the cPanel of your hosting provider. They will normally supply some sort of webmail program for you to keep the email in but you can also link to a Gmail account or even go old fashioned and send your mails to an Outlook or Thunderbird e-mail box.
This is one of the best reasons to set up your own freelance website. There is nothing less professional looking that a @gmail.com e-mail address. Yes, it’s more common in Asia but even there – it screams “amateur” and worse it feels scammy to many people.
Investing in your own website means that you can show clients that you take them seriously. Plus, it feels good to have your own e-mail address, it makes your freelance business feel like a business.
Note: It won’t cost you anything to set up your e-mail as long as you’re using a paid hosting plan. That’s a super $0 outlay.
What Are The Advantages Of Having a Freelance Website?
OK, now we’ve established that you can set up a freelance website from scratch for very little money and in a reasonable amount of time. Let’s take a quick look at why you should have a freelance website:
- It establishes professionalism. Real businesses invest in their online presence. In the West we expect businesses to have a website. It’s really that simple.
- It allows clients to see your work. An online portfolio often feels more “real” than the one you send by e-mail. Also, many e-mail clients now strip out attachments as security risks. Your web link ought to be fine, however.
- It establishes credibility. Again, there’s something reassuring about being able to find someone online before you hand them money or work.
- It makes local marketing easier. If you want to target a particular geographic location many businesses have very little local competition – therefore SEO can be an easy thing to pull off to get attention from that area.
- It gives you a chance to showcase: your services, your testimonials (you’re missing out if you’re not offering happy client testimony), your blog (a chance to show of not just what you do but your understanding of the industry you serve and how you can create value), an opt-in form (use MailChimp to create a free marketing list) and to specify what kind of clients you want to work with.
- It gives you a chance to spell out what you can do for your clients: this is really important don’t just list stuff you do. Show why it makes sense for a client to do business with you. You don’t “write copy” but rather you “use copy to make sales and engage future prospects”.
It’s simple stuff but it can make all the difference when it comes to closing business.
Are There Any Circumstances Where You Would Work As A Freelancer Without A Website?
Yes, I stopped running a website for a period of about 5 years because I was getting so much business by word of mouth that I no longer wanted to advertise for work.
I’ve recently been working on a new website though. I’ve been changing the focus of what I want to do and that means going back to basics and winning over new clients. If I want their business, I need to showcase what I can do and part of that is having a freelance website.
When it’s ready, I will link to it here and probably elsewhere on the site too.
This scenario is vanishingly rare though and I don’t expect it to take place ever again – the niche that I was mining by myself has nearly disappeared and unique opportunities where you can dominate a market are very unusual for freelancers.
If you want to win over customers as a digital nomad freelancer – you need a website. For those on the tightest of budgets – $10 will get you going for a whole year. For those more reasonably financially endowed – less than $100 is more than enough for your initial investment with annual costs of about $50 thereafter.
It will only take a couple of days to build your site and we’d recommend that if you’re thinking about quitting your job to go freelancing – that you build and launch the site while you are still working. Think of it as a weekend project.
So to answer our initial question, no, you shouldn’t freelance without a website even if you can.