Essentials for building your professional freelance business website

What every freelancer should know about making a website
A website is like a window into your world. It can house your portfolio and your work, advertise your product or service, invite clients to get in touch with you, or simply present your digital self to others. A website often feels more private than a social media profile and can be customised to fit your needs better. It is not as easy as setting up your Linkedin profile, but with the right guidance, the effort will be worth it. This is why our partner Django.city provided these useful tips for starting your own website.

1. Purchase a domain

A domain is essentially the name of your website – like facebook.com or freelancebusiness.be. Finding a domain name is relatively simple, as long as you can think of one which isn't already taken either by an existing organisation. The suffix of your domain specifies the top-level domain, such as .com, .org, and .edu, which show a specific purpose for the website, or .co.uk, .be, .nl, which point to a specific location. Your domain name affects SEO optimisation, so you need to take that into account.

Bear in mind that you might need to buy your domain name, which may not come with the price of your hosting package. Some providers offer a free domain name, others do not. You also won't own the domain you buy – you will just be renting it for the duration of your contract.

Opening a website is often the easy part. The problem is the cost per service over time. If you are not a web designer yourself, you can run into high cost per service. This is why choosing the right hosting company is essential and can avoid extra costs in the long term. Some companies make it very affordable to start hosting, but they can become expensive over time. Evaluate from the start what kind of pay per service costs you are willing to pay - the hosting, the website builder, the support, the premium plugins, the updates, etc.

2. Build a website

There are many options for building a website, and the right choice comes down to your personal preferences. You can either build a website from scratch with software like Adobe Dreamweaver (or hire a freelancer to do it), or use a platform which includes simple drag-and-drop website-building tools.

The most used website system is WordPress. It's an open source website management platform that integrates with various 'plugins' who let you build your website without any coding.

As a freelancer, you could take advantage of working with pre-build and user-tested website designs. These website templates are shared with premium plugins or add-ons. Website templates can be customised for your freelance activity.

If you're looking to create a secure, user-friendly and SEO optimized WordPress website at an affordable price, Django.city have created an easy solution for home workers such as freelancers and solopreneurs, where you can get a domain name and a WordPress website. They offer our readers a deal to get you started: launch your new WordPress website and get a free domain for just €49 per year + €20 discount on other services (social media marketing, design, etc). Just use AQ0MAAPX1V at the checkout. Find out more here.
3. Domain with email address or not
Communication between clients and businesses often takes the traditional route of email, as it is seen as more formal and professional. Having a business email that is branded with your name or your company's can boost the confidence your clients have in you.

Many web hosting companies offer a customer email along with their domain name, so you need to consider if your chosen hosting service offers this email and if it will charge more for it.
4. Branding and Marketing
It is important for your website to add to your brand, instead of clashing with it. Make sure to keep the colours and typography consistent and use the same tone of voice as in your other channels. Don't forget to add links to your other social networks and email, so it will be easier for your visitors to connect with you.

This is also where you will take SEO into account. You'd want Google to display your website as much as possible, so finding ways to optimize it is important.

As a freelancer, you want to make sure that your website and its branding fit your stage in development. When you start out your business, you will need a website that fits your beginner's needs - increasing visibility for your brand. You won't need a Tesla-like-website-hosting when you just launch your activities. Once your freelance expertise is growing, you could benefit from growing your website's marketing automation: email marketing, lead capturing, dedicated landing pages, etc., so you can communicate on different levels with your website. A dedicated website advisor can help you to keep you on track.

Bear in mind many hosting companies can allow you to promote them to your vast network. Referring others to them can turn your website into an income stream, so it's worth considering the option.
5. Obtain an SSL certificate
An SSL certificate is a protocol for encrypting Internet traffic and verifying the identity of the server. Essentially, it helps make the website more secure by keeping data private and verifying the authenticity of the website. Customers will naturally trust a website with a valid SSL certificate more. You can get a certificate from a third party, known as a certificate authority (CA), but it may cost you extra. Some website hosting providers will include a free SSL verification, so it's worth keeping an eye out.
6. Control over your website and updates
Even when you have made the perfect website, you don't technically own it, as the host of your domain still has control over it. Familiarise yourself with the rules of the hosting service and make sure there is effective customer support to turn to if there are any issues.

Choosing a self-hosted open website system can avoid issues with your host. A dedicated, personalized hosting platform for freelancers can minimize the risks combined with your website.

A professional website should also run on the latest software, and it should allow you to update your business content regularly. Updates keep your website on top of the game and every website should update its source code. This can be done for you, automated or manual. Your website should be dynamic, publishing updates of opening hours, events or information about your expertise, should be easy to accomplish. Updating your website content will give your visitors more and can boost your search engine presence. You can use this automation to display business reviews or new event details automatically on your website.
Conclusion
Regardless of the reason for it, a website is your personal house in the overcrowded megapolis of the Internet, and often not having an online presence may result in lost revenue.

If you'd like to learn more about building the perfect website and fitting it to your needs, you can join our free freelance masterclass with Renaat Sioncke from Django.city. He will give you expert advice on:

- Building your website
- Making the right decisions when purchasing a domain
- Safety and security essentials
- Working with a website design agency or DIY?

It will take place on 16 September at 16:00 CET. Sign up today here. If you'd like to get your own website off the ground before that, see Django.city's exclusive offer for our readers here.
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