On a hunch yesterday I started Googling “[insert city here] freelance graphic designer.” I looked at New York, Seattle, San Fran, London, and more. I spread from there to agencies.
I saw sites from well-established peeps to ones who, as Kevin O’Leary from “Shark Tank” would lovingly say, were “cockroaches no one’s ever heard of.” (His words, not mine!)
Those websites were sick, and needed a dose of Millo advice stat.
PS: Do you know what potential clients really think of your portfolio? If not, click here.
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So I made a list. A list of the most common issues I saw that I knew, from experience, were turning new clients away. Here it is, and what you can do if your website is making these mistakes too.
Contact Page Troubles
For many of the sites I came across, the ONLY way to get in touch or ask a question was to fill out a form. But imagine that scenario in person. Let’s say I specifically want someone who can make me a WordPress website. All I want to ask is, “Do you work with WordPress?”
And your response to that is, “Hi, to answer your question just tell me your first name, last name, phone number, email address, budget, line of work, and how you heard about me.”
Pretty crazy, right? And very unnatural.
You want your website to flow like a natural conversation. And you want it to be EASY for people to reach out to you.
Contact forms are great for people who know what they want and are ready to get started. They’re not so great for quick questions or people who are more hesitant and need some reassurance.
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Our agency’s site is currently under construction, but on our last site we provided options for calling, emailing, texting, and filling out a form. It worked, extremely well. We’d get inquiries from just about every one of those channels but texting.
And if you check out the website of my agency’s new PSD to Code service, Reliable, you’ll see an email link in the main nav on every page, and on just about every page our phone number / email address is also at the top too, near the header.
(We have a contact form too – but even the contact form is paired with alternate ways to reach out.)
Again, we get inquiries from every single one of those channels. In fact, the Reliable site is one of the highest-converting ones we’ve yet to create. We want it to feel extremely easy to get in touch. We want to appear available and approachable. So we give lots of options and opportunities to reach out.
On the other hand… when you “lock” someone into a channel like a form that asks rather invasive questions, you make them feel trapped and pressured. From that place, they are much less likely to reach out.
Some people are phone people. Some people are email people. Some people are form people. Cater to all three.
You have some explaining to do.
Super renowned geniuses with celebrity status aside, you need to explain yourself on your website.
I saw a tremendous amount of sites that simply displayed portfolio pieces with no explanation. There was no services page to talk to me about what you actually offer. The work didn’t speak for itself, so I had no idea why, if at all, you were different or better than the next choice.
There was simply a grid of portfolio pieces, and a link to a blank contact page that had nothing but a form (again with the forms!).
Unless you’re the Picasso of the design world, you need to talk to me about what makes you special. I know, it’s uncomfortable at first. Trudge through it and do it anyway.
Use your website’s copy to explain your strengths, and how they’ll help your new clients achieve their goals.
Clearly list your services.
Expanding on that last point, make sure you clearly list out what services you offer. On many sites, I had to sort through the portfolio and create a mental checklist…
“Okay, so they do logos… oh there’s a website, guess they do that too… Ah ha! An infographic! I guess you could order one of them…”
I felt like Sherlock Holmes.
If someone has to go through the steps above to figure out if you’ve got what they’re looking for… well, no one’s going to do that.
Most people will just hit the back button and click on the next choice. So make sure you list services out so people know right away if you even offer what they’re looking for.
Sorry, Sugar. This ain’t your 15 minutes.
I also saw many websites where the main focus was a giant photograph of the freelancer. While they had the smiles of champions, to be honest… prospects could care less.
I’ll take a Frankenstein who delivers amazing work on time over a lazy Heidi Klum-looking designer any day of the week.
Again, unless you have hyper-celebrity-status in the design world, in which case your face is your brand, your photograph should just be a small addition to your site that shows you’re a nice guy / gal. That’s it. It’s just sort of the icing on the cake, if even that.
It’s not your main selling point, and as such, it shouldn’t take up 75% of the home page, pushing your headline and copy down well below the fold.
Make the site more about your visitors than you. Make it about their problems, their goals, and how you help them solve those problems and achieve those goals.
You have some explaining to do: the sequel.
On the subject of copy, make sure your portfolio pieces have copy as well. You want to talk about who the client was, what their problems were, what their goals were, and how you solved / achieved both.
I whipped this up as an example:
Bitter Rose is a high-end flower delivery service. They wanted a website that immediately told visitors that they were the “real deal”, premium, and a luxury option. I used a minimalist design to convey sophistication, and made the focus of the website on photographs of their beautiful flower arrangements. After all, this, more than anything, showcases their unique talent.
Are you starting to see a pattern? Problems, solutions, ease of communication. All of the issues I saw were a lack of one or all of those three.
Our agency’s own site used to be a disaster, too.
So I’m not taking the high ground here.
In fact, for years it wasn’t a reliable source of new business. Or any business. But that all changed when we refined our message, clearly stated our strengths, and made the focus on what benefits we could provide our market.
After that, it literally became a source of clients whenever we turned on Adwords. This stuff works. Give it a shot.
Have questions about your own site?
Post’ em in the comments! I’d love to help. Or if you have some other suggestions that have worked for you, leave a comment and share with the tribe.
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