Do You Know How to Ruin Your Writer Website?

What makes the difference between a successful writer website, and one that’s just . . . blah? If you’ve been surfing the web for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed that there are sites you like, and sites you don’t.

You may even have noticed that some writer sites look old-fashioned, and some look modern. Some look professional, and some look, well, NOT. Have you ever wondered what those crucial differences are, and how they came to be?

Do You Know How to Ruin Your Writer Website?

One of the more important ingredients to success is a good writer website.

If you’re on this site, you’re interested in freelancing. One of the more important ingredients to freelance success is a good writer website. There are lots of articles on how to vamp up your site.

Here, I’d like to focus on what you shouldn’t do – because if you do, I can almost guarantee you prospective clients wont give your site a second glance.

Mistake #1: Clutter Your Site

A good-looking, professional site needs to be neat, clean, easy-to-read, and easy-to-navigate. If your prospects can’t find what they’re looking for with relative ease, they will give up and go somewhere else.

Try to make sure you have one page for each topic, with minimal overlap. Put links to these pages in the header, or on a sidebar – but NOT both, and NOT in every post on your home page.

Mistake #2: Make it Old-Fashioned

Personally, I like the old-fashioned look. It’s simpler, and somewhat nostalgic. I like how it makes me feel when I read through one of these sites.

However, a business isn’t just about nostalgia. Sure, nostalgia might get you some customers. But if you’re too old-fashioned, you’re also sending an additional message:

You’re not up-to-date. Not in writing style, not in research, not in business. You might have some good, old-fashioned advice, but . . . why would anyone want to hire you?

Mistake #3: Oversize Your Site

You know those sites with too-big picture headers that take up half the page? How annoying are those? Yeah, I thought so.

Headers are great. Pictures are terrific. And easy-to-read font? You bet.

But if you’ve made things too big, it makes your readers work harder, and they might start to wonder why you made it that way.

Teenagers like big, clunky jewelry. Babies like big, clunky, toys. But you’re a mature adult. Size it right, so that you’ll look like one.

Mistake #4: Use Bad Grammar and Spelling

If you can’t spell, and you can’t use spellcheck or grammar check, then you’re not professional, and not worth hiring. Period.

This may come off as harsh, but it’s true.

Don’t use capitals in the middle of a sentence, and don’t misuse commas and periods. There is no reason for anyone to have such horrid grammar and spelling, when there are editing tools to fix it.

What if English is not your primary language? There’s still no excuse – if you put the time and effort to learn English – make sure you’ve taken a refresher course before promoting your language-based services.

Also, don’t use ten exclamation marks, or even one, unless it actually makes sense to do so.

Mistake #5: Use Run-On Sentences

This one is right up there with bad grammar and spelling. You don’t need to call yourself, “E.E., sole proprietor and owner of S.L.S., Specializing in Human Rights, Paralegal, Landlord-Tenant, O.D.S.P, Judgement Enforcement and Small Claims Court in Ottawa.”

Or how about, “When you need professional paralegal services in Ottawa, and legal services on Human Rights cases in Ottawa, Small Claims court, and Landlord-Tenant services in Ottawa, Call S.L.S.!”

As you’ve just seen, run-on sentences can make you feel out of breath and confused. Don’t use them.

Mistake #6: Use Irrelevant Pictures

Pictures can make or break your writer site. Often, what attracts a reader’s eye is the imagery, and many times, a Google Image search will be what brings someone to your site.

Even if your reader found you by Googling, “New York Freelancers,” you don’t want to give them impression that you make decisions without thinking.

When you post an irrelevant picture, the message that you’re sending is, “Pictures help make me more Google-able, this looks nice, let’s use it.”

You want customers to have faith in your ability to make decisions and to produce quality work. Use images wisely.

Mistake #7: Use Unreliable Testimonials

Sometimes, in an effort to get testimonials, people turn to family members who may or may not have used their services. This just looks bad.

When I see a testimonial from someone with the same last name – or worse yet, someone who not only has the same last name, but also is a close connection on LinkedIn, I work hard not to gag.

Sure, we all know that your mommy was the first, and often only, customer of your Girl Scout cookies. But if she’s still among your biggest promoters in business, I start to worry that either you’re not professional, or your mother is super-involved in your life.

Either way, prospective clients won’t want to work with you. They want to know that you can keep their information confidential, and that you’re professional.

So, if your testimonials all sound alike, or all have your Facebook poll attached to them, you’re not professional, either.

What do you think? Am I being judgmental or reasonable? Do you have anything that you consider to be a site turn-off? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Chana Roberts is an experienced freelance writer and blogger. As both a mother and writer, she is motivated and passionate. Chana currently lives in the beautiful land of Israel.

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Hi Chana: Thanks for your useful tips. I set up a site about a year ago after I started to realize that just having a blog wasn’t enough. As a result, I’m always looking for tips on making my site into something that will grab peoples’ attention.Reply to Rosemary
What a great help! I have some work to do, but you are making the job far easier, and I thank you! I have one question about testimonials: May I simply lift what someone has said about me without asking them first? And what about using initials instead of names? Okay, that was two questions. I have one more question, this time about over-sizing: How large is too large, and if the first image, which is large, is superimposed with signup links and comments, making the image more like a background, does that help a bit? Hmm. Two questions, again, in a run-on sentence, I’m thinking . . . . And I call myself a writer.Reply to Katharine
Hi Katherine! I wouldn’t publish what someone has said without asking them first. Here’s why: It’s bad manners to quote someone without asking them first. And initials often make a testimonial look like it’s made up. Of course, names can be faked, too, but it’s not the same as an initial. How large is too large? if it takes up more than half the screen, or I have to constantly scroll down every few lines, it’s too large. You want your readers to be able to scroll once and get a full screen’s worth of text. I’m not sure what you mean about “like a background,” but I’d suggest making sure that you’re not overwhelming your readers with extra information or too many visuals. Good luck!Reply to Chana
Oops, I apologize. I should’ve written your name “Katharine.” Sorry about that. :/Reply to Chana
Chana, Great posts. I always like “mistake” types posts. They grab my attention because I often wonder, am I making those mistakes too? For me the biggest pet peeve of mine is a lack of branding appeal on your site. Take the time to develop a cohesive visual identity. You can do this easily with a font, color and headshot. You can even add a logo or pattern to strengthen your brand. I often see no branding appeal or too much. Great tips overall!Reply to Elna
Yep. I also check “mistake” posts – just to make sure that I’m not one of “those” people. Hm. I get what you mean about branding. I can’t say it’s my “pet peeve” but you’re right, branding is important. And (unlike the mistakes I mentioned) I probably have what to fix there.Reply to Chana
Old-fashioned websites are a huge pet peeve of mine. It makes you look really out of touch if your site looks like it was created a decade ago and never updated since. And it can also make prospects wonder if you’re actually still around or if the site was abandoned. It’s SO easy to create a nice, modern, professional looking site these days, there’s really no excuse.Reply to KeriLynn
Agreed. The reason I like them is that they remind me of the “good old days.” Or something like that. It’s sentimental. But professionally, old-fashioned sites drive me nuts. And they’re so much harder to read and navigate. The thing is, “old-fashioned” is ten years ago. Every few years, “modern” gets redefined, and I get it, it’s a pain to redo your site.Reply to Chana
Good points Chana. I notice many writer websites loaded with lots of links and writing. They look messy. It’s hard to attract clients with a raunchy website because you make your prospects confused with all that clutter. As you said a neat, clean and easy-to-read website with lots of white space is important for a professional looking website. It helps you to grab your prospect more conveniently than a messy one.Reply to Sajib
Definitely. I would say, not necessarily “confused” but “overwhelmed.”Reply to Chana
Great post, Chana. One thing I see a lot with new writers is irrelevant pictures. I once reviewed a writer’s website that looked more like he was selling private getaways in the woods than writing services. There’s nothing wrong with using pictures from the niche you specialize in, but when they’re just random pictures, it’s time to rethink your design.Reply to Alicia
Oy vey. I know exactly what you mean. I’m just imagining how the site looked. I think it’s also a personality thing – some people get so involved in the pictures and want to have every single gorgeous one up. Except, it’s not a photo album (although, those are nice too; I happen to really like photography sites).Reply to Chana