Ok, you’ve made the decision.
You’ve decided to take the leap and work for yourself.
You’ve read our epic post on how to become a freelance writer.
You’re going to be a freelance writer.
Awesome, that’s your first decision made.
Now, it’s all about creating your freelance writing website.
To do that you’ll need three things.
For a lot of beginning writers, it’s the theme that holds them up. They know they need something that will work for a writing portfolio and maybe a blog, but let’s face it there are about a million options.
With so many WordPress themes out there, it can get really confusing on what’s going to be the best bet for your needs.
Make the wrong choice, and you’re stuck with something that’s hard to figure out, doesn’t work, or worse useless.
And then you’ve sunk dozens of hours into trying to figure how to get this $&@^ theme to work at the expense of actually getting out there and finding freelance writing jobs.
So the point of this post is to help.
We’ve put together a quick guide on how to choose the best freelance writing portfolio sites for your needs. Plus, we highlight some of the most important things you need to consider and our recommendations for a few themes that will work for beginners.
You can check out more in this video:
Alright, let’s do this.
Why you should pay for a theme
While there are plenty of free themes out there, it’s usually better if you make an investment in a premium theme for your site.
Free themes are often free for a reason. For the most part, they don’t have a ton of features or the designers move on to something new and don’t update the existing theme anymore. When that happens you lose a lot of functionality and your site can end up not working at all.
Plus, they might just have a super basic design that doesn’t allow you to get exactly what you need for your freelancing website, so you’re left trying to make it work.
That’s more time and effort that you should be extending to looking for clients.
With premium themes, you can have an awesome looking site that’s still really functional and easy to update through its design or with plugins. Plus, you’ll have access to support which can save you tons of time for when you accidentally blow your site up.
Trust us, it happens a lot more than you think.
Premium themes don’t need to blow your budget either, there are tons of great options out there for under $75.
What you need to think about when picking a theme
There are a couple of factors you need to consider when you’re considering a theme. In fact, looks shouldn’t always be your first thought, though it is important.
So here’s what to factor in as you decide.
What’s the purpose of your site?
There are thousands of themes out there, but the vast majority aren’t going to be a good fit for your purpose.
If you want a theme to show off your writing portfolio, then picking an e-commerce storefront is going to make it look like a mess and not fit your needs. It might look cool, but it’s going to be packed with all these random features that will just slow your site down.
You know you want a site to highlight your work as a freelance writer, so start there.
Then, now that you know the basics, you can start searching for themes that are compatible with that versus trying to jam your site into something that looks cool and has too much or too little functionality.
Right now, for example, ThemeForest has over 1200 portfolio themes.
What functions do you need?
Here’s a huge secret, especially for those brand new to this…you don’t need many functions on your website to start.
You don’t need a million fancy features, and although they will undoubtedly look cool, you might have to trade off a steep learning curve figuring out how to make it happen.
Remember, the goal here is to get up and running relatively quickly. If you’re burnt out because you’re stuck on getting a slider on your website to look perfect, you’re not going to have a lot of energy to get clients — which is the entire point.
So for your needs, here’s what you want to look for:
- Blog option
- Email opt-in option
- Portfolio page or option
- Mobile friendly design
Don’t go overboard on the functions. Stick to the basic stuff that you think you’ll need. You can always go in and add stuff later in the form of plugins, but too many functions can end up being more trouble for you than you need right now.
How are your technical skills?
Now don’t get nervous.
A lot of people still think that in order to get a website up and running you need to know how to code. But with all of the options today and with one click install through your host, that isn’t further from the truth.
The vast majority of you don’t need a theme that’s super fancy or high tech. Avoid picking any theme that is going to require you to get too technical if you’re new to it, that’s just going to frustrate you.
If you are just starting with WordPress stay as simple as you can. You can always upgrade your site to a new theme as you get more experienced with the ins and outs of WordPress.
Also, look for themes that offer support with purchase. And don’t be afraid to use it. You’re paying for that as part of your theme, so if you run into any hiccups, reach out to the theme support team and they will be able to help you.
Is your theme easy to read?
Let’s get to the basics here.
The point of your writer’s website is for potential clients to have one easy place to check out your work. The vast majority of these people don’t care all that much about what your theme looks like or how fancy it looks. What they do care about is it’s easy to navigate and read so they can figure out if they want to work with you.
Don’t make this part harder than it needs to be, if prospective clients can’t read your site, they aren’t going to stick around.
So look for a clean theme. A theme that’s not too cluttered and is going to be distracting. It’s ok for it to be simple and have plenty of white space. And it’s ok for it to just be one page too, it doesn’t get much easier to navigate than that!
Tips on picking the best writer portfolio sites
Now that you have an overview of the basic considerations, here are a few more things to keep in mind as your exploring theme options.
Keep your budget in mind:
You don’t have to spend $100’s to get a great theme, there are plenty of excellent options for a one time cost of $25-65 that will cover everything you need.
Look for support features:
Most people will need help at some point with something on their theme. Having a theme that has a great support team can make it really easy to fix issues and not suck your time. So make sure that’s an option available to you.
Test the theme first:
Make sure you look at all the options the theme offers. Also, see what it looks like as a full page on both desktop and mobile bef0re you buy. Remember, most people use mobile to search sites, so if it looks like a hot mess on a phone, avoid that theme at all costs.
Google has a tool you can use to test mobile sites, check it out here.
The great thing about WordPress is all the plugins you can use for your site to tweak and upgrade it. But if you have specific plugins you know you’ll want to use, make sure you check and see that your theme is compatible.
If you aren’t sure or have any questions, don’t hesitate to shoot a message to the theme support team or message the developer of the plugin, they can let you know.
Read the reviews:
Always take a look at the theme’s reviews to see what people are saying about it. Also, look and see if people comment with questions about the theme, how responsive the theme designers are about answering them.
If you see lots of engagement with the designers then that’s a good sign you aren’t going to be left high and dry if you have questions or run into issues.
A few theme recommendations
Alright, we’ve covered a lot, but we also wanted to highlight a few theme recommendations for you to check out too.
That’s not to say you have to pick these, they are just freelancing websites that meet the criteria above. When you explore ThemeForest on your own, just be sure to keep everything else we mentioned in mind as you pick and choose.
note for sean: not sure if you’re able to link to the below themes through your affiliate link, if you can update them
- Bifrost – This has some great simple options – specifically the “Medium Blog” Template
- Rosemary – A nice clean and simple site that is responsive and has a few built-in layouts.
- Hyper-X – This is a theme that was specifically created for portfolio sites so it’s got pretty much everything you need built-in.
- Typology – This is another theme that’s super simple and clean with a lot of white space but quality design and support.
- Scribbler – This is one that might border on too many options. But if you choose the “Simple Blog” template, I think this could work great as a portfolio site to show off your samples.
Once you have your theme picked, you can check out this post on how to get your site up and running.