Are These Writer’s Website Mistakes Killing Your Career?

Will Newman

When I started copywriting, very few copywriters had their own website. And for the next few years, a good website wasn't important.

But now it's crucial. If for no other reason, clients and potential clients expect you to have a website. And to a large extent, your website is a billboard advertising your copywriting skills … whether you write for the Web or not.

But designing your own writer’s website can be tricky. Get it wrong, and elements you thought would make your website state-of-the-art could actually kill response.

Today I'm just going to highlight four of the most important strategies for website success.

Writer’s Website Winning Strategy #1:
Make your website easy on the eye

I've noticed a distressing trend in websites the last couple of years. I'm pretty sure you've seen some of these sites.

There's a big picture, slide show, or video at the very top. There’s no real attempt to communicate what the site is about. Just an attempt to look top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art, and even "sexy."

Visitors to your site need to know quickly what you offer. These sites fail miserably at that.

For one thing, their dark backgrounds make reading copy nearly impossible. Rule of thumb: Never use a dark background on your website, even if you use very light-colored fonts. Light writing on dark backgrounds is hard to read. You want your visitor to be able to read your content easily.

Along the same lines, never use more than two different fonts. Too many fonts, and your website looks like an old-fashioned circus poster. Not the image to portray.

When you use images, use them sparingly. Always ask yourself, “Do I really need this image?” Make sure they’re clear … but not so large they take forever to load.

Writer’s Website Winning Strategy #2:
Make your website easy to navigate

Give your visitor a break when she spends time on your website. Make sure it's easy for her to go from one page to the next. That means having clear navigation links on your homepage … and on all your pages.

Make sure your visitor can easily return to your homepage from all of your web pages.

Check your website regularly to make sure you don't have any broken links. This can happen when you update your website without checking to make sure all your links are still good.

Writer’s Website Winning Strategy #3:
Make yourself look professional

It's tempting when starting out to try to make yourself look "bigger" than you are. Present yourself professionally but honestly. If you're a one-person operation, don't try to make yourself look like a large agency.

Avoid jargon. Potential clients want copywriters who write clearly for all customers. Jargon gets in the way of clear communication.

Many copywriters make a serious mistake when they learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) copywriting. They stuff their copy with keywords hoping to rank high on search engines.

Doing this does two things. First, you don't sound professional. Second, search engines can spot sites laced with keywords. And rank you lower. Your website scores higher with search engines when you write naturally.

Finally, a simple thing like including links to the most popular social media sites shows you write copy for today's social media user. And you make it easy for potential clients to reach you from those social media sites.

Writer’s Website Winning Strategy #4:
Write for mobile users

Many of your visitors come to your site on smartphones or tablets.

If you design your writer’s website just for desktop computers, your site will be unreadable for mobile users. Design for desktop computers first. Then translate that copy and structure into mobile-friendly design.

These four strategies aren’t comprehensive … but they’re crucial for building an effective, professional, readable freelance writer’s website.

Tomorrow, we’re going to look at one element of website design that increases readability with little effort. In fact, this element increases readability for all your writing.

Until then, tell us if you’re going to build your freelance writer’s website. Comment below.

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Published: September 1, 2016

12 Responses to “Are These Writer’s Website Mistakes Killing Your Career?”

  1. Hi I have built my website, and I believe I have covered all the strategies you mentioned in this email, except #4. I'm not sure how to do my site for mobile. I'm hoping you'll give some instruction for this. Thanks.

    [FROM WILL: Sorry, Anna. I can't advise you on that. I've built couple of websites for nonprofits, and the mobile versions are built into the service I used. Maybe one of our members can help out.]

    Anna K Bir

  2. Strategy #1 - Seems to me, this idea that light font on dark backgrounds (aka "reverse type") is hard to read isn't telling the whole story.

    After all, the most quickly read, and arguably most important, life-saving copy in the world uses reverse type. I'm talking about Road Signs.

    It's not a light on dark issue. Size and contrast makes the difference.

    Many magazine covers also use reverse type (in addition to standard) on their covers - covers tested and designed to be bought on impulse.

    [FROM WILL: You are right about reverse type on signs. However, reverse type has been a no-no on successful printed promotions from early in advertising. The difference is the amount of copy and sustained readability. Thank you for your comment.]

    Sean McCool

  3. Good tips. Always enjoy reading Will's articles.

    I would highly recommend that people go with an easy-to-use platform, such as Wordpress, to create their sites.

    I've seen some writers use a platform that looks like it jumped straight out of the late 90s school of web design.

    Wordpress is cheap, beautiful, and easy to customize. Just pick a nice-looking theme and start writing!

    Guest (Alexandra Gualtieri)

  4. Timely advice for me. I just bought the domain name for my writing business, and have been feeling stuck. Will do my best to apply these four tips.
    Thank you.

    Guest (Dumisani)

  5. Thank you. This article was very informative. Can't wait for tomorrows article.

    Guest (Melvin)

  6. I must soon build two Web sites.

    Guest (jray100)

  7. Are these writers'Website mistakes.... not writer's Website mistakes is the correct way to write that.... right?!

    Guest (Kelly)

  8. Great tips that helped me put together a site audit outline to test my new website as I'm just wrapping up a complete overhaul with new theme etc.

    Great insight from Sean too about using dark backgrounds.

    While Will did say "never," I think he's likely referring to dark page backgrounds with a significant amount of copy. I completely agree, that is hard on the eyes and additionally it just looks ugly in my opinion.

    Short headers on the other hand can work well and break up large areas of white.

    Anna, if you built on Wordpress using a new theme it should be mobile responsive. Check it on your devices and if not you'll need to update your theme.

    [FROM WILL: Cindy, you're very right about reverse type being effective in headlines, sidebars, etc. But with limited space in these articles, I have to get the main message across. Thank you for bringing this up.]

    Cindy Y

  9. Yes! I plan to build my freelance writer website. But there is something getting in my way, I am planning to take that first step.

    Guest (Abimelech Rodriguez )

  10. Hi, I am a multi tasker. I have my own website for all my talents-voice over, screenwriting, authoring, film making etc.
    You can visit at filmnvoice dot com Please check and mark.

    Guest (Mahesh Seelvi)

  11. Thank You Mr Newman for a very useful informative post I have learned a lot


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