Freelance writers sometimes overlook a critical piece of marketing that can drive traffic, generate leads, and land assignments… writer websites.
How’s your writer website?
Maybe you’ve got the basics like a home page, about page, and your portfolio. Maybe you’re still looking at writer websites to get ideas for setting up your own.
- What should your writer website include?
- Does design matter?
- What makes other writer websites perform well?
- What about SEO?
- What can you do to stand out in a crowded niche?
These are questions an elite group of freelance writers, authors, and content marketing experts can answer.
Ask Google to help you find a “top NYC writer,” and you’ll get slammed with 19 million results. That’s more than double the Big Apple’s daytime population of 8.6 million.
So how does a NYC writer stand out online? Being smart, creative, and friendly helps. But in today’s digital world, writer websites matter, too.
So I Googled ‘Top NYC writer,” and reached out to the writers whose websites topped that search. Below, eight of those top-ranking writers share their secrets for creating writer websites that seriously get you found and hired.
Ready to launch or revamp your writer website? Here’s what you need to know.
1. Find your lane to stand out from the crowd
Copywriter, content editor, and wordsmith extraordinaire
“As a writer, when you have a ‘lane,’ you tend to stick to it,” says Brennan. “I know digital writing like the back of my hand, so I gravitate toward it.”
Brennan’s lane is digital health and beauty for clients like L’Oréal, Men’s Health, Cigna Health, Garnier Fructis, and many others. She’s even written health-related marketing content featuring celebrities like Demi Lovato and Nina Garcia.
“Be you. You’re selling you on your writer website. If you are a good writer, your work speaks for itself. Pick the best examples that art and copy works best together and showcase it.”
Fun fact: Brennan didn’t spend a small fortune on her writer website, or hire a designer to put it together. She did it herself using Squarespace.
- What’s your ‘lane’ or niche as a freelance writer? Use it to enhance your writer website.
2. Boost writer website rank with paid ads
Copywriter, instructor, and creative director
“The biggest thing, and pretty much only thing I do to self-promote my writer website is run a lot of Google Ads,” says Hugh Gurin. “I spend $200 to $300 a month, and if that nets me one gig, which it almost always does, it pays for itself ten times.
If that sounds like a lot to invest in your write website, consider this…
“As writers, we automatically have an advantage here: 99% of Google ads suck. So if you write something even moderately compelling, you’ll get clicks. Clicks move you up in the rankings. And so on.”
Gurin started writing more than 30 years ago, worked a long list of successful copywriting jobs for companies and agencies, and launched his freelance writing business four years ago.
Fun fact: Gurin doesn’t even live in New York City. He lives in San Francisco, Calif. But his online marketing efforts have helped his writer website rank well.
“I have no idea why I’m No. 2 in NYC…I do have some NYC clients, but Google’s algorithm works in mysterious ways. I get a lot of love from Canada for whatever reason. I love you too/Je t’aime aussi, Canada.”
- Have you considered advertising your writer website to generate leads?
3. Leverage experience
Real estate copywriter and New York City’s ‘Poet of Property’
Need a real estate copywriter in New York City? Hire the ‘Poet of Property” Valerie Haboush. How’s that for defining your niche or finding your lane? It happened almost by accident.
Fun fact: When Haboush was writing fresh out of college in New York in 1990, she got a call from real estate investor Barbara Corcoran to write thousands of broker profiles. Yes, that Barbara Corcoran. That single gig helped her define her niche as a real estate writer in one of the most competitive markets in the U.S.
“I’ve been in business for so many years that my ranking has grown organically,” says Haboush.
Showcasing your experience on your writer website can help you land clients. But it’s not the only thing prospects look for.
“Obviously the writing itself on your website should be good, descriptive and catchy,” says Haboush. “And the samples you showcase should be diverse and interesting.”
- What experience can you showcase on your writer website?
4. Show off your personality
‘I make things that people like to share on the Internet.’
Copywriter Mike Lacher’s writer websites uses a pretty simple design. And there’s a reason for that.
“I built my site myself, because I couldn’t quite find what I wanted in a template,” says Lacher. “I tried to keep it very simple so it would be within my (very) limited skills as a designer.”
So what’s the secret sauce to connect with clients who visit your site? Personality and simplicity.
“I’m a fan of a pages that give you a sense of the person and their work, without clicking a single thing,” says Lacher. “Nobody likes clicking a bunch of thumbnails with no captions.”
Fun fact: Pick up a smartphone and say, “Hey Google.” The phrase activates Google Assistant and searches for whatever you ask for. And it’s one of many projects Lacher worked on as a copywriter for Creative Labs before launching his own copywriting business.
- Does your writer website show off your personality?
5. Drive traffic with keywords and SEO
Co-founder of The Hired Pens copywriting agency
If you want your writer website to rank well, you’ve got to be willing to learn a little about keywords and SEO. It’s what Dan O’Sullivan and Anna Goldsmith did when they launched the copywriting agency, The Hired Pens.
“When we were planning out our website a few years back, we did some keyword research,” says O’Sullivan. “That factored into the nomenclature of the site as well as things like meta descriptions, page titles, subheads, body copy, etc.”
But it’s not enough for writer websites to rank well. You’ll need to do more to keep your site higher up in the search results.
“We’ve also been good, to varying degrees from month to month, in keeping our blog fresh,” says O’Sullivan. “Google likes fresh content. But we also haven’t obsessed over keywords. The success we’ve had in ranking has largely come naturally.”
Fun fact: There’s a juicy story about how O’Sullivan and Goldsmith met in Paris cafe on The Hired Pens site. “Total fiction, although it is true we disagree about the serial comma,” says O’Sullivan.
- What can you do to improve SEO on your writer website to improve your search ranking?
6. Make it easy for clients to contact you
Sara Katherine Runnels
Copywriter, humor writer, life-long creative babe
“I put sararunnels.com on everything,” says Runnels, who left NYC as a copywriter for Seattle. “I put my contact info and writer website on my resumé, my Twitter bio, the emails I send to editors, freelance articles, dating apps…just kidding. I want it to be incredibly easy for anyone to access the work I’ve done in the last decade.”
Runnels is a senior copywriter for Alaska Air. She’s also worked on projects for MTV, CBS, JetBlue, Verizon, the Disney Channel, and others. And it helps that her contact information is easy to find.
Fun fact: While copywriting is Runnels bread and butter, she’s also written a long list of humor and personal essays about dating life for The New Yorker, Medium, and other publications.
- How easy is it for prospects to find your contact information on your writer website?
7. Brand your freelance writing business
Copywriter and co-author of Copygirl
“Approach your own writer website like a branding project,” says Michelle Sassa. “Every message on there should communicate what’s unique about you. But don’t be overly wordy. Showcasing your ability to craft a concise, compelling message starts with what you say, and don’t say, about yourself.”
Sassa’s copywriting credits include Secret Deodorant and the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, Coca-Cola, Reebok, and others. She’s also the co-author of Copygirl, a novel about about the quirky adventures of working in advertising in New York City.
Fun fact: Sassa is also a humor writer, and blogs about life, parenting, and other stuff at Kiss My Sass (how’s that for branding?)
- How could you improve branding on your writer website?
8. Drive traffic with help from your network
Founder of the Copywriter Collective
Fun fact: Jack Stafford might be in New York City. He could be on another adventure like the four-month tour he took to New Zealand and Australia. Or he could be back home in the Netherlands where the Copywriter Collective is based.
Even though Stafford doesn’t have a physical presence in New York City’s he’s managed to rank well in search results because of a unique approach to designing writer websites.
“My advice for copywriters is to think outside the box,” says Stafford. “Do you really need your own website? Is there an alternative? Consider the possibility of teaming up in a co-operative, either with other writers or other complementary marketing specialists.”
That’s the model Copywriter Collective uses and it appears to be working. Search for “top New York copywriter” and one of their writer websites shows up near the top of the results.
“When you make a writer website for yourself, it’s a lot of work and a big expense initially,” says Stafford. “But if you’re part of a small group of creatives, you can split the work and increase the benefits.”
- Have you tapped your network to help you grow your writer website?
Develop your writer website for freelance success
If you don’t have a writer website yet, don’t worry. An effective LinkedIn profile will work for awhile. When you’re ready, try this easy template solution Carol recommends for writer websites. Taking the time to find your niche and create a writer website can be a game changer that helps drive traffic, generate leads, and lands you more freelance work.
Need help improving your writer website? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultra-marathon.