Finding new clients is a big part of being a freelance photographer. It is even harder when you are starting out and have yet to make a name for yourself. Some of the channels you can use to build your reputation include phone, email, word-of-mouth, and networking. But one channel in particular works harder than all the rest.
A website is the bedrock of all your marketing efforts and even targets clients while you sleep. This makes it the ultimate client acquisition tool for the successful freelance photographer.
To ensure your website is working hard for you, make sure it:
- Has good content related to your specialist area. This will attract the attention of search engines.
- Builds up a good collection of links to other photographers.
- Effectively communicates your unique brand.
- Looks professional.
- And, of course, is a showcase for your best work.
Photographers and technology
Some freelance photographers love technology and are happy to while away their evenings fine-tuning websites and updating blogs. For others, knowing how to use image editing software is as far as it goes.
Open-source system WordPress.org is probably the most popular website platform among freelancers. It is very easy to use once it has been installed and fitted out with a template.
WordPress’s biggest advantage is that it has an endless supply of plugins and extensions. This means the sky really is the limit in terms of functionality. It has its drawbacks too, though. It needs to be updated on a regular basis to keep your website secure, which is a bit of a hassle – not to mention time-consuming. Thankfully there are easier options.
Website builders: focus on design and leave the code to the geeks
Web 2.0 website builders ensure that you don’t have get involved with the technical nitty-gritty unless you want to. Instead of worrying about FTP, PHP or security breaches, it can be well worth signing up with a suitable provider and focusing your energy on creating content and sharing images instead.
Many people think a website made with a website builder would look awful, but this is no longer the case. Unlike the systems of old, today’s website builders come with a range of clean, professional designs that you can adapt and customize to suit your needs. You can even use HTML and CSS to create (or have someone else create) a unique website design from the ground up. This means you have complete control over your site’s look and feel.
When it comes to technical assistance, most providers have detailed help sections, while they also offer email support. All in all, there is no shortage of support for beginners.
So which are the best website builders to watch out for?
Plenty of website builders seem to have missed the Web 2.0 train, and have a long way to go to catch up. However, photographers in particular tend to get great results with systems like Squarespace or Jimdo, two very different website builders.
Squarespace is a premium provider, with sufficiently advanced features to give even WordPress a good run for its money. Its design customization features are particularly relevant to photographers, and its inbuilt blogging software is best in class. If that weren’t enough, Squarespace’s search engine optimization (SEO) options are second to none.
However, this level of quality comes at a price. Plans start at USD $12 a month for a package which is best suited to smaller sites or blogs. The higher-priced plans offer unlimited storage, integrated forum software and member registration.
Jimdo on the other hand, has made its mark by combining a full suite of tools with complete ease of use. While there is a learning curve with Squarespace, Jimdo enables even beginners to hit the ground running. Photographers are usually big fans of its image gallery too, which allows them to display images in a range of attractive ways. Jimdo is relatively modest in price too: USD $5 a month will get you your own domain name (e.g. .com or .net) and email account.
Wix is another tool that attracts photography professionals because of its sophisticated Flash-based visual options. Unfortunately, this also has its drawbacks: Apple’s mobile devices continue to hold out against Flash, and search engines are not the biggest fans of this format either. But if slick design interests you more than mobile compatibility and search engine rankings, then Wix may be worth a look.
It sounds too good to be true – where is the catch?
Once you sign up with a website builder, you will be relying on that system for some time to come. There should be new features added regularly, the site should load quickly and you should feel confident that the provider will remain in business. Do some research online but make up your own mind as to what is best for you.
With a website builder, you won’t have as much flexibility or choice when it comes to design or add-ons, compared to an open-source system. But you can still use a wide range of external widgets that are incredibly easy to install, such as videos, forms or surveys.
So what’s the verdict?
Photographers who put off creating their own websites are missing a valuable opportunity. A good website builder removes all barriers-to-entry on the technical side of things. The sooner you get your portfolio online, the faster you will get found by search engines and therefore also by potential clients. And even if you prefer to find your clients the good old-fashioned way, your clients will be happy to see your new website address on your business cards.
What has been your experience of finding clients, either through your website or with no website? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.
Robert Brandl offers advice on website building and optimization. On WebsiteToolTester.com he reviews the best site builders. His website builder reviews offer in-depth comparisons of different providers, as well as sample sites for inspiration.
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