A CodeNewbie's Diary
- From CodeNewbie To Full Time Freelancer -
Part 3: Website
In the last post I talked about learning to code, bootcamps, and my decision to work exclusively with the WordPress CMS. I had come to the resolution that I would get trained, change careers, and pursue full time freelance web development.
So what now? Clients!! I needed to find work! Where do I begin?
Your Name vs. Your Company
A website itself does not bring clients, but it is a central hub by which you will want to point them to. It must be professional (no WIX) and it must demonstrate your ability to meet the need of the target client.
At this point, I didn’t have a company name, a domain, or really any idea how I wanted to market myself. For any new developer looking to freelance, there is always this battle of whether to market yourself or some new company that you haven’t started yet.
I made up my mind that I was not interested in starting an agency but wanted to market myself and the services I offered exclusively.
And guess what……..travisrodgers.com was taken and I didn’t like the idea of adding the middle initial, shortening it, or adding on some addition like dev or “the real” (who does that??).
What I decided on was a “controversial” (I add quotes because ma.tt) .media domain……something simple…..travis.media. Perhaps it was a good idea….perhaps not….we’ll see.
I also decided on using the Genesis Framework and built the site that you are now viewing.
Would you in the future want to grow the company to more than just you? If so, you may want to consider a company name over your own personal name.
What To Include
What to put on my new site? Over time I have added things and removed things and here are a few components that I have found to be essential:
A Unique Value Proposition: In a couple of sentences, what is your company’s purpose and what value do your provide with your services. Make it short, powerful, and put it on the homepage where it can be seen on page load. Here is the gold standard as to how you should formulate this.
Your Photo: No matter what you would like to think, people want to see who you are. Have a “professional” photo taken and post it on the front page (and perhaps a variation on the About page).
Portfolio/Testimonials: I did not have any portfolio items or testimonials at this point (I will talk about how I got them in a future post, and I still do not have a lot due to the type of work I have been doing). Your portfolio should include projects, a brief story about the project, and what value you were able to bring to the table. And in EVERYTHING you do, if it was a positive experience be sure that you get a testimonial from the client and include it in each portfolio item.
Contact Form: This is obvious…you want people to be able to contact you. Make it easy for them to do so.
Blog: Having a blog helps in so many ways: It helps your site’s SEO, it allows you to demonstrate your expertise, it builds an audience who may turn into future clients, and it gives you a change to provide knowledge and value for your reader. (And if you are a web developer, you can show off some beautiful code with plugins like this!!!)
About: This can be a separate page or a section on the front page, but let people know a bit about yourself.
What else?: The above items are, in my opinion, essential. In addition to the above you should eventually set up a page outlining your process, an email opt in form to start capturing leads, perhaps WooCommerce if your are offering service packages, and a page devoted to the specific services you offer, who you intend to work with, etc.
And at this point it happens just like it happens with all CodeNewbies….we become obsessed with having the perfect website. We spend hours and hours tweaking and planning, with no end in sight. We want to try a static site, then we want to switch to a WordPress site. Then we want to develop your own custom theme with a bunch of neat new gadgets that we can now code.
Then you eventually come the realization that this is not paying the bills, helping you find clients, or helping with job searches/interviews.
So get a basic, yet professional, website up and running….and take a break for a while in regards to perfecting it. There will always be the next tweak you can add, but fight the urge up front.
There is another temptation that comes with learning to code and that is wanting to do everything from scratch, wanting to create EVERYTHING with a custom finish. I mean, you now know how to code, why not customize everything!!??
From the outset I had the desire to start a static Jekyll site. Why? Because it looked technical, codealicious, and I felt like I could demonstrate my knew coding knowledge with all of the customizations that I made to it.
Because my goal was to become a freelance web developer. If one thinks about this, marketing yourself has very little to do with your technical demonstrations, but instead what value you will bring to a potential client with a need. And yes, the client could care less about your Github repo!!
On my side, I had studied the Jekyll documentation, created some nice code to display categories, templates, archives, had some complex front matter, etc. But on the client’s side, my site was amateur and tacky compared to other more “professional” sites out there.
You see, they didn’t care about what it took to create this site from scratch, they just wanted someone to build a site that looked as professional as others out there and wanted to know if I could reproduce that.
This was a huge lesson learned for me. If I spend all my time trying to do everything from scratch, my business goes nowhere. It is always helpful to build on the excellent work of others if it saves time. You can read all about this important lesson here.
I eventually migrated over to WordPress (where much of what is custom in Jekyll, comes packaged easily in WordPress), and this allowed me more time to focus on my business, creating content, and finding new clients.
CodeNewbie, don’t try to do everything from scratch now that you have the ability to (do it on the side, in your free time). Build on the shoulders of those great developers out there. I always suggest creating a site with WordPress as it can handle a massive range of demands with ease, and that ease allows you to put more time and effort into growing your business.
And NO, its not an overkill in related to your needs. Your business will NEED it.
So now that my website is up and running….
Well, I took a bit of a different route than many do, and it ended up being a successful one. I will talk all about that in my next post.