I have been a freelance writer and marketer for the last six years. Starting from the very bottom, I learned early on that the most important thing you can do for yourself in this industry is eliminate any minor barriers that could in any way impact your success. And I do mean any, more matter how small and insignificant they may seem.
The problem with freelancing is that there are always about a thousand jockeying professionals of various skill levels aiming for a project.
The problem with freelancing is there are always people aiming for the same project.
Being seen above the rest isn’t always as simple as knowing how to sell yourself, or showing off a solid portfolio. Itty-bitty missteps could very well be throwing off your hiring rate.
Case in point, a slow website.
Are you losing clients due to a slow website?
The Lost Gold Of a Slow Freelance Website
A lot of freelancers have given up on having a website to host their work. I am not one of them. Social media can take you far, but you need a place for leads to land and convert. A website is still one of the most valuable investments you can make.
Unfortunately, a slow website has the opposite effect. You are less likely to retain that traffic, or to even see clicks from the main page when the visitor has to wait for things to load. Don’t believe me? Check out this study by Akamai, which found 40% of people will abandon a site if it takes more than just 3 seconds to load. Harsh.
Once upon a time, some loading buffer was completely normal. But we are living in an age of super fast Internet speeds. People can now load web pages on their smartphones in a fraction of the time they used to be able to load the same page in a computer browser. Visitors are no longer patient enough to wait.
If your website is slow, even just a little slow, you are probably losing the bulk of your potential clients.
Quick and Dirty Tips For Improving Website Speed
Know Your Site’s Speed
Tools like PageSpeed can analyze the current speed of your website, and start to isolate the causes for bottlenecking and DNS problems.
Then they give you suggestions for optimizing the backend to make it faster and easier to load.
Consider Switching Hosts
A pain? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. If you were like so many of us and decided to go with a cheap hosting company to save a few bucks, you could be really screwing with your website speed.
It may cost more, but having a package with a reliable host will give you a good DNS time.
I won’t recommend any specific hosting service here. There too many variables here: Your prica expectations, your site size (if it’s a few-page portfolio, there’s no reason to buy an expensive service!), etc. I use this handy tool to compare and choose hosting packages. It’s very easy to use.
Start Rethinking that Design
That flash based web design that scroll loads to 100% before showing a double layered slideshow portfolio was so cool ten years ago. Now it is a cringe-worthy expression of pretentiousness.
And it is annoying for the site visitor. Clean layouts, simple menus, and easy navigation are must-haves for today’s responsive websites. Here are a few great suggestions of themes to start. In case your site is not on WordPress, here are brief instructions for various CMSs (including Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, etc.)
Enable Compression on Your Server
Depending on the style of freelancing you do, you could have some pretty enormous files in your portfolio/gallery. Especially graphic artists, designers, or traditional artists.
Enabling compression and using a tool like GZip is going to help you a lot. GIft Of Speed has a great and simple tutorial on compression and Gzip enabling to check out. Here are a few WordPress plugins to compress your existing images.
Look into Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
If you have a lot of content to share, you may not want to have it all hosted on your site. This takes up a ton of bandwidth, which can lead to both slow downs and even drops in service.
A CDN distributes your files across multiple networks, sharing the burden. The person who downloads it will get the file from the network closest to them. Here are best CDN services for WordPress.
Make Sure your Plugins Aren’t Killing Your Speed
If you have a WordPress blog, you probably have at least a handful of plugins for different necessary features. But a lot of those plugins, especially outdated ones, can suck up your resources and slow your site down a ton.
P3 Profiler will analyze all of your plugins and identify the ones that are screwing things up for your visitors.
Be Careful When Using Redirects
Pretty much every website is going to have at least one redirect, especially with mobile use.
But you should be careful of how many you have in place, reducing them to the lowest number possible. Follow Google’s guidelines on HTTP redirects.
Stop the Trackbacks
Alright, yes, there is a reason a lot of blogs like having trackpacks activated. Link building dictates a need to know when your blog is being referenced on other sites. But they are a speed demolisher, and really annoying to boot.
A Google Alerts or social media dashboard can keep track of mentions on the social and blogospheres. Let’s retired those tired tracers for good, shall we?
Just deselect “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks)” in “Settings” inside your WordPress blog dashboard.
Get Some Valuable Feedback
I am a big believer in usability testing, maybe to a greater degree than someone with a simple website is expected to be. Usually it is just designers who bother, but you are missing an opportunity if you don’t get on board, A big one. Invest in a couple of testers going through your site and giving their impressions, experiences, and opinions.
Put some emphasis on speed, and if they found the navigation of your website smooth. Ask if they would hire you based on those impressions. Find out if any spot on the site seemed to take longer to load than another.
This is not strictly about speed, which is the beauty of it. You are getting more bang for your buck, able to make sweeping changes that could improve your conversion rate.
Get That Site Up To Speed!
Your site speed may have been the last thing on your mind as a freelancer. But it is an important part of capturing clients. Ignore it at your own peril.
Any tips for improving site speed? Let us know in the comments!