Get Digital: How to Build a Website on a Budget

By Liz Alton, Contributor, on December 7, 2016

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In the freelance world, your digital presence is the equivalent of hanging out your shingle.

Learning how to build a website on a budget can help you spread the word about your services and better manage your brand. If a recruiter is looking for freelance talent or you’ve met someone who’s interested in your services, their background research will (ideally) lead them to your website or digital portfolio.

According to Deloitte, digital interactions influence $.64 out of every dollar spent in the U.S. today. Whether you’re launching your career or looking to grow your professional niche, your digital platform is a critical link to showcasing your work and closing more deals. Plus, it is possible to build a website on a budget—with the right tools and strategic planning.

Pick a Platform

Ultimately, there are two ways to create a business website. One is to a hire a designer or developer who will handle site creation and launch. This “done for you” approach offers a potentially more customized design, but comes with the trade-off of a higher price tag. It’s possible to do this within a reasonable budget if you’re willing to offshore the work, partner with a junior designer or work on a template-based platform such as WordPress. WordPress is a free service that uses preset templates that outline the design for a site. Each template can be customized with different colors, imagery, layout changes and more.

Another strategy is to use a “what you see is what you get” service such as Wix, SquareSpace or Weebly. These platforms are designed to let non-designers build their own websites using a drag and drop interface. Typically, they can be used for a membership fee. The main limitation is that there are fewer designs and the customization is restricted. But, for cost-conscious entrepreneurs with limited design skills, these platforms can provide an affordable, professional website.

Make Sure It’s “About You”

Creating a website isn’t just about the look and feel, but also the information you showcase. Your professional biography or the “About You” page on your website is also important. It helps the client answer two key questions:

  • What makes you qualified to do this work?
  • What differentiates you in the market?

For example, consider the case study of a financial company hiring a professional freelance writer. What qualifies you to write about this topic? You may be passionate about finance, hold a degree in economics or have a decade working in the banking industry. Each of these helps position you for the opportunities that you want, while showcasing what makes you different from other freelancers.

Another, perhaps more important, element of an online presence? Your portfolio. Whether you write white papers or produce corporate videos, clients will want to see examples of your work before they hire you. An effective portfolio is easy to navigate, showcases your work and quickly helps prospective clients understand the quality of your work. Think about your portfolio as a place to highlight your best work, rather than creating an archive of everything you’ve done.

Don’t Forget About Visuals

One of the most daunting parts of setting up a website (especially on a budget) is mastering the visuals. If you’re not a freelance designer, templates are the way to go. Yet, even when using a template, it’s important to consider specific visual elements, including:

  • Do you need a logo, and what should it communicate?
  • What color scheme and layout best conveys your brand? For example, a trendy designer targeting the startup market will need something different than a designer who wants to work with high-end financial services brands.
  • What images or illustrations should you use to help reinforce what you do? Don’t forget to ensure you’re either using images that you’re allowed to use through Creative Commons licensing or that you’ve purchased on an affordable stock photography site, like Adobe Stock.

Get Active—Socially

Are you active on social media? It’s an increasingly important part of the freelance toolkit, as it gives you an avenue to promote your work and to connect with others in your field. Ensure that your website links to your LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts. Prospective clients will be interested in your reach, as well as how much of your personality comes through in your social interactions.

Ultimately, every freelancer needs a digital presence to connect with new clients and showcase their work. And a website is one easy (and important) way to get this done—even if you lack a big budget or advanced technical skills.

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