Are You Confusing Your Freelance Writing Clients?

What I’m listening to: Lola by The Kinks

DSC_0390_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorgueFileMan, it felt good to get through that unexpected pile of work on Wednesday. I finished the most pressing deadline just after lunch. I wanted to keep going as I have this one project due next week, but I was spent. So I treated myself to a pedicure and relaxed the rest of the afternoon.

I did some surfing, looking at the websites and blogs of a number of writers I follow on social media. It’s always interesting to see how other freelance writers present themselves. I’m happy to say the people I know well do a great job reaching their audience in compelling ways.

Then there are the others. Oh boy, are there ever others.

Let’s put it this way — if another writer can’t tell what you do, your website has some serious problems. I saw everything from a link orgy of clips on an excruciatingly boring page to a snooze-fest of formatting (no photos, gray background, small font). Then I saw a blog that wasn’t really a blog, but a mishmash of ideas having nothing to do with the writer’s background. Not that the background was easy to locate — I was four pages deep and still hadn’t found mention of projects handled.

If you’re trying to attract clients, there’s something wrong with that.

So how are writers confusing their clients?

No idea who they are or who they’re targeting. From this chair, it seems that most of these writers are confused about who their clients are. Or maybe they’re confused about who they are. Either way, it’s an easy fix. Look at the work you’ve done already. List the projects you’ve handled and the industry or industries these clients are in. If you haven’t had clients yet, don’t make the mistake of trying to attract every client. Focus on what you’d like to do first.

Bad copy.  Writers, this is a mortal sin. Seriously, if you can’t write compelling copy for your own website, how are you going to convince a client you can do right by them? If you have trouble detaching enough to write for yourself, choose a client you’d love to work with. Now pretend you’re writing for them (but substitute your name for theirs).

Trying to be all things at once. Even if you have written for say eight or nine different specialty areas, putting all of that on one website page is just nuts. It’s much smarter to build a separate page for each area of focus.

No focus on what you can do for them. Don’t just say “I have handled numerous projects from a wide variety of industries.” Who cares? Say this instead: “My clients get customized, on-point communications written to their specifications.”
No connecting of the dots. Ever visit a website that has a lot to say, but yet it doesn’t say what you need? Don’t build a home page that doesn’t tell visitors what the site is about. It takes no more than one sentence to get that part right. One. That’s your mission statement, your vision statement, your purpose, whatever you want to call it. You can take a few more sentences if you like, but get the point and tell them what that point is.
Writers, what examples of confusing the message have you seen?
How do you measure your own communications for clarity?

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  • KeriLynn Engel March 25, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    That's funny, I was looking around at writer websites yesterday, too, and had the exact same frustrations. I was actually considering hiring someone to write for one of my blogs, but so many of the websites I found were a complete mess. No portfolio samples, eye-gouging designs, obvious typos & errors on the front page, no contact information. I was kind of shocked.

    My website definitely isn't perfect ~ I consider it a perpetual work-in-progress. And I'm actually planning a big rebrand/redesign for next year. But I guess I'm doing something right, because recently when I asked 2 separate clients to give me examples of websites they liked, they named mine! 😀 And it does work to get me new clients.

    Hope you have a great holiday weekend, Lori 🙂

  • Lori Widmer March 25, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    I can see why, Keri. Your website is about the customer. And I disagree with your assessment — it's actually perfectly positioned to show benefits.

    Oh, I hate the eye-gouging design! What ever happened to keeping it simple and to the point?

  • Cathy Miller March 25, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    I love your site, KeriLynn (just took a sneak peek). Really clean and simple (and I love simple!)

    I recently set up a new business site with my new domain, It, too, is a work-in-progress.

    I have been working on a redesign for my SimplyStatedBusiness site to have it be a resource for tips and freebies for business owners on better business communication. But it is slooow going. Since my whole brand is based on keeping it simple, I am endlessly tweaking to achieve that.

    I would say my biggest pet peeve (that I am sure has a lot to do with my age) 😉 is the teeny, tiny print. I also hate sites that look like they threw up all over themselves.

  • Lori Widmer March 25, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    "I also hate sites that look like they threw up all over themselves."

    LOL I know exactly what you mean, Cathy! Some of those color-crazy, schizophrenic-font shifts, and lord! Where do they get those images of people who look like they're in a fun house? Never understood the appeal of any of those effects.