I’ve been a freelance writer for over four years, which means I’ve received my fair share of advice from more experienced freelancers. I’ve consumed endless blog posts and podcasts over the years as well as invested in courses and coaching about how to become a freelance writer.
And over the years, I’ve noticed that most people share the same basic advice:
If you want to be successful as a freelance writer, you absolutely must set up your freelance writer website and optimize it for your niche.
And the underlying message always seems to be that if you don’t have a website, you’ll never be seen as credible to potential clients. Instead, you’ll be stuck writing blog posts for one cent per word on content mills forever.
The advice about setting up a website is spouted off so often, it’s taken as some sort of gospel. But is it actually true?
If you’re just getting started as a freelance writer, do you need to set up a website right away?
My unpopular opinion is no.
4 reasons you don’t need a writer website immediately
To be clear, I do think having a website matters. I just don’t think it’s the most important thing new freelance writers can focus on.
Here are four reasons why.
1. A website in itself doesn’t do anything
Just setting up a website in itself isn’t going to find you clients or make you money. How do potential clients even land on that website? You need a marketing plan and a strategy and those come with experience.
For many people, setting up a website turns into some sort of vanity project. They’re focused on “building their personal brand” when what they really need is paying clients.
If you’re just starting out, your time would be much better served by setting up a basic portfolio website. And you can do that in about 10 minutes with a site like Contently or Muck Rack. From there, focus on finding and pitching clients.
2. You may not know who your ideal client is
Some freelancers know exactly what their niche is from the start. They already have a subject they’re passionate about and have expertise in so picking their niche is a piece of cake.
But for most of us, that’s just not the case. In all likelihood, you probably have a variety of subjects you’re kind of interested in, but nothing you’re ready to commit to. Heck, you may not even know what types of clients you want to work with.
The thing is, you figure those things out by working with clients and figuring out what you like and don’t like. That’s why I think it can be helpful to get some experience as a freelance writer first and then set up your website.
3. It can turn into a giant distraction
One of the hardest parts about starting any new venture is knowing what you should focus on. After all, your time and money are limited so you want to spend it in areas where you know you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
What I commonly see with new freelancers is that setting up a website turns into a huge distraction. You’re focused on figuring out how to choose a domain name, wondering whether you should use WordPress or Squarespace and searching for stock photos.
In fact, you’re so busy working on the website that you haven’t quite gotten around to pitching potential clients yet. It feels like you’re doing something productive, but you’re really not because your efforts won’t necessarily lead to paid work.
4. A website isn’t necessary to find clients and get hired
A lot of people will probably disagree with this statement, but I don’t believe you need a website to get hired. After I started freelancing, it took me four months to set up a website. I found tons of clients and earned thousands of dollars in the meantime.
And today, I write for clients like Business Insider, Credit Karma and Quicken Loans. None of those editors ever asked for a link to my website. They did, however, want to see some writing samples.
The idea that you need a website to get hired is an idea that’s mainly perpetuated by other freelancers. It’s a made-up rule that new freelancers use to stress themselves out and waste time.
The bottom line on your freelance writer website
If you’re just getting started as a freelance writer then you probably will want a website at some point. But just understand that your website isn’t what’s going to find you clients or make you money.
All you need to make money as a freelance writer is to find a client who’s willing to hire you. So make it your goal to put yourself out there, find a client, and earn your first $1,000 as a freelancer. Once you’re making money and solving problems for people, then you can worry about setting up a website.