Note from Sean: This is a guest post from Location Rebel member Karen Marston. She’s been in the community for over two years, and has built an incredible business for herself as a freelance copywriter. When it comes to marketing yourself as a writer, she’s one of the best people I know.
Take it away Karen!
If you want to become a freelance writer, you’ve probably thought about building a website. And then you probably thought about how hard that will be, how complicated it is, how long it will take, how you don’t even know what the first step is — so you put your writing dreams on hold.
Believe me, I get it. I did the same thing myself. I was a member of Location Rebel for nearly a year before I actually started freelancing as an SEO writer. But as soon as I got started — as soon as I built my website — I found clients immediately. Fast forward to 18 months later and I now run a successful copywriting business.
You can see a mockup of my first writer website here. It’s pretty awful in comparison to my current website, but it was good enough to start me off as a freelance writer — and that’s the goal here. To get started. And now I’m going to show you how to do the same, step by step, in less than a week.
1. Choose Your Business Name
Along with having to build a website, choosing a name is the biggest thing that stops people in their tracks. You probably feel like you want to choose the “perfect” name but, at this point, it really doesn’t matter that much.
Remember, you can always change it later (I did, and I’m doing fine). Right now you just need to pick something so you can dive into the meat of your website. Here are a few tips for picking your name:
- Keep it short and use words that are easy to spell. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to get to your website.
- Be relevant and descriptive. It would be helpful, for instance, if people knew at a glance that they were on a writer’s website.
- Don’t try to be too clever. Trying to be too clever takes a long time, and people probably won’t “get it” anyway.
- Look for domain names that are available as a .com – This is what people are most likely to type in. You don’t want somebody to land on the wrong website just because you could only get the name you wanted in a .net, do you?
- Choose something you like. If you like the way it sounds, you’re halfway there.
Here’s another way of doing things: Make two columns on a piece of paper. In the first column, list lots of words that you feel suit your personality. In the second column, list lots of different words for what you do (i.e. writing, writer, content creator, content marketer, content strategist). Then play around with different combinations until you land on a winning name.
This is how I came up with Untamed Writing.
2. Buy Your Domain and Hosting
There are two things you need to set a website up: a domain (that’s your website’s URL) and hosting (that’s where all your website’s files will be stored). Pretty much all web hosting providers offer both these things, meaning getting your website set up is incredibly easy.
Personally, I use Bluehost. It has one-click WordPress installation, which is something you’ll want. It also has fab customer service and a 24-hour chatline for when you get stuck with something. If you know of another hosting provider you’d rather use, then by all means, have at it (just make sure it has one-click WordPress installation). But if you have no idea, Bluehost will work just fine for you.
Whichever provider you choose, things should be fairly straight forward. Just follow the instructions on screen, hand over your credit card deets, and you’ll click your way to your own website in no time.
3. Install WordPress
If you’re a clever old bean, you’ll have taken my advice and chosen a hosting provider with one-click WordPress installation. And if you went with Bluehost, what you’ll need to do next will be something like this:
- Log in to your website by clicking in the top right corner of the home page.
- Under the heading “Website Builders,” click WordPress and you’ll be redirected to MOJOMarketplace.
- Click “Start a brand new install,” select your domain name from the list, and click “Check domain.”
- If you want, you can change the advanced settings – this is a good time to enter your site’s name and change your password to something you’ll actually remember.
- Check the terms and conditions box and click Install Now.
If you went with someone other than Bluehost, there’s probably a very similar procedure to follow.
4. Choose and Install a WordPress Theme
If you visit your brand-spanking new domain, you will see that you now have a live website. Congrats! Sadly it’s an ugly little thing, and the same as countless other “Hello world!” WordPress sites that have been set up and immediately abandoned. But you’re not going to abandon your new website baby.
You’re going to differentiate it from the others by choosing a new WordPress theme. This will completely change the appearance of your site.
To get started, go to http://YOURDOMAINNAME.com/wp-admin and enter your log-in details (these should have been emailed to you).
In the menu on the left of your dashboard, scroll down to Appearance and select Themes. Now click “Add New” and browse the themes and see if there is one you like. There are a few to choose from, so you might want to narrow your choices down by selecting colours and other variables.
If you don’t see any you like, then I’d check out Theme Forest. They have a ton of really high quality themes, and you should be able to find one you like for under $60 (a whole lot better than $1,000s for a custom design).
Again, the important thing here is not to spend too long on this. You can always change your theme again later without affecting any of your content. For now just pick one you like the look of and move on.
(If you’re interested, the theme on my mockup website is called Fanwood. Feel free to use it if you’re a fan of the whole glaring yellow and black thing.)
5. Create the Pages of Your Website
Now that your website’s ready for action, it’s time to add some content to it. Fortunately you really don’t need that many pages to make a basic writer website. And you definitely don’t need a blog. On your WordPress dashboard, scroll down to Pages, click Add New, and create the following pages:
Just click Publish for now — we’ll be adding content to them shortly. We’ll also be setting your About page as your home page. To do that, scroll down to Settings and click Reading. The top option on this page allows you to choose what’s displayed on the home page of your website. The default setting is your blog (“your latest posts”). Instead, select “A static page” and choose “About” for your front page. You can just leave the Posts page blank.
Now we’re going to go back and add content to each of your pages. Under Pages in the menu, select All Pages. Hover over the one you want to change and click Edit. Don’t forget to refer back to my mockup website to give you a better picture of what you’re trying to create. Below is the info you need to include on your pages:
This page is here to explain what you do and how you can help your clients. Here are some of the things I recommend including:
- An intro. Basically, your name and what you do. For example, “Hi! I’m Karen, and I’m a freelance SEO content writer.”
- A bulletpoint list of why someone should hire you. Include things like any writing experience you have, the fact that English is your first language (if it isn’t, don’t worry — just don’t mention it), relevant education, good at adhering to deadlines, a pleasure to work with, etc.
- A link to your samples page.
- A picture of yourself.
- Your email address or phone number.
Your samples are here to show people that you’re capable of writing coherently. So now you’re probably thinking, “But wait! I don’t have any samples!” Now is the time to create them. Make a new page for each one, and just start writing.
Your articles should be around 500 words each and written in an objective, informative way. Aside from that, you can write about pretty much anything (again, see my mockup site for ideas). Here’s what my fellow Location Rebel Kevin Cole has to say about writing samples:
This is by far the most important part of your website. Each and every one of your potential clients is going to look at your writing samples. These have to be near perfect.
Write at least five articles. Even if you advertise that you’re specializing in a specific niche it’s still a good idea to write some sample articles out of your chosen niche. In the beginning it’s going to very challenging just to write articles within your own niche.
You’ll be taking a variety of writing work so you should have a variety of sample articles.
Write a little bit of everything and make them damn good.
The beauty of SEO content is that it can be written quickly, especially if you’re writing on subjects you’re interested in and actually know something about — which is exactly what I recommend doing for your samples.
Once you’ve created your samples, you’ll want to link to each of them individually from your Samples page. You’ll also want to make sure these article pages don’t appear in your main menu bar. To do this, go to Appearance → Menus, and create your primary navigation menu from there. How easy this will be depends on which WordPress theme you’ve chosen. If you’re struggling, the WordPress support pages are a great resource.
There’s an argument to say that you shouldn’t include your rates on your website. But there’s also a strong argument to say that you should, and that’s what we’re going to do here.
Because SEO writing is not the best paid kind of work, clients are going to decide to hire you based on two things: how well you write and how high your rates are. It’s tough to get high paying SEO writing gigs. Average prices for a 500 word article are around $20-25. Low prices are around $5 (protip: don’t write for that little). If you’re an average writer with average prices, you should have no problems.
Decide on a rate you’d be happy with, then go ahead and list it. A good way to figure this out is to time how long it takes you to write your sample articles. If it takes you an hour to write 500 words, and you’d be happy to earn $25 an hour, charge $25 per 500 word article. Simple.
This is where you list all your contact details. Too obvious? Whatever. List your email address and phone number (if you’re happy for people to contact you by phone), and include a web form at the bottom of the page.
It’s easy enough to insert a form in WordPress. Make sure you have Jetpack installed (it will be in big flashing letters on the home page of your dashboard — you can’t miss it), and that will give you the option to “Add Contact Form” when you’re editing your pages. (You might also want to include one at the bottom of your Rates page while we’re on the subject — you want to make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch with you!)
Try not to spend more than an hour on each page or on your sample articles. Adding content to your website will obviously be the most time-consuming part of this whole adventure, but don’t get too hung up on trying to make everything perfect. That goes for the whole process of creating your website. The goal here is to get a workable site up quickly so you can go out and start finding clients and making money.
And that’s everything you need to do! I did everything on this list, including writing my sample articles, within the space of a week, so there’s no reason you can’t do the same.
What Comes Next?
Now that you have your website, you’re probably wondering what you should do next. If you want a more comprehensive guide — with personal feedback from me every step of the way — check out my course: How to Become a Freelance Writer.
Questions? Just leave a comment below!
Karen Marston runs Untamed Writing, where she helps badass businesses write smokin’ hot words. She also dishes out weekly writing and marketing advice for small businesses, and teaches a beginners’ course on freelance writing.