For a freelancer, a website is an essential marketing tool. It proudly displays your work to potential clients 24/7. It trumpets your accomplishments to art directors all over the world. Most will not even consider hiring you if you don’t have a website.
But not all websites are created equal.
There are some little extra touches that can go a long way in making sure your website pushes you to the top of the hiring list. Some of these tips I’ve just recently learned. In fact, I’m planning to completely redo my website this fall to take better advantage of them.
Put your contact info at the top.
Make sure your email and phone number appear on your header, so that they are readily visible on every page. It’s not that uncommon for an art director to print out samples from two or three artists to show to the boss and/or the hiring committee for a project. If they are having a tough time deciding which artist to call, having your contact info at the top of the page might push you over the edge, especially if the art director is busy and doesn’t want to take time to look up the contact info for the other artists.
Don’t use Flash.
I know many artists use Flash on their websites. It looks cool, and can make it difficult for others to copy and use your artwork. But while it may help you protect your work, but it won’t help you get hired.
According to The Thriving Artist, an excellent resource by Mark Simon, there are two ways Flash can work against you:
First, you can’t print a Flash webpage unless print functionality has been purposely built in (and most of the time it hasn’t). If a busy art director can’t print out your work, your samples won’t make it into the hiring meeting.
Second, Flash sites are not user-friendly. One nice advantage of non-Flash websites is that each page has a unique URL. If you want a potential client to view your character design portfolio, for example, just send them a direct link to that page and they can go right to it. With a Flash website, the potential client will have to start on the home page and poke around for the correct page. To a busy art director at a big agency that could be a turn-off.
Post your resume.
I’ve been freelancing for ten years without a resume, going on the strength of only my portfolio and client list. Recently, I’ve been advised that not having a resume could be limiting the jobs I can get.
Often, I’m told, the hiring decisions at an agency or corporation can take place outside the art director’s office in a more corporate setting. The final decision is not always made by the art director alone, but by businessmen and other non-creative types. In such a setting, the lack of a resume can make you look less professional and keep you from making the final cut.
Taking that advice, I’ve just posted my resume online here. For now there’s a link on my home page, but when I redo my website this fall I’ll make the link more accessible site-wide.
Post a PDF of your portfolio.
Why should the art director have to go online to see your work? Wouldn’t it be great if he/she could easily print out samples to keep on file, or better yet, to bring to the hiring meeting? Take a few of your best samples, assemble them in a PDF, and post them as a mini-portfolio for download.
If you own a Mac, making a PDF is easy. In almost any application, click Print. In the print dialogue box, you should see a little button that says “PDF” or “Save as PDF”. Click it and your file will be converted into a PDF. It’s that simple.
If you don’t have a Mac, you can upload your file to PDFonline.com and they will convert it to a PDF for free.
My mini-portfolio can be downloaded here.
Track your visitors.
Having a website is great, but how do you know if anyone is visiting? Track ’em. Big Brother issues aside, its amazing how much information you can find about your visitors. I use a free service called StatCounter.com. By pasting some code on my website, I can track not only how many people visit my site, but when they visit, which pages they visit, how long they visit, what city/country they are located in, even which web browser and operating system they are using.
I can’t learn anything too personal like name, address, e-mail or phone number, so in my mind its not a privacy issue. There’s nothing to get paranoid about. All it really tells me is how many people are visiting my website, and which pages they are viewing most often. Using that information, I can see if there’s a link that no one is clicking. Or if the number of visitors drops down for a while, I know its time to step up my self-promotion efforts. The knowledge is used for good, not evil.
If you want to get more specific info from your visitors, here’s a legitimate way to do it….
Create a Sign-Up Page
You obviously have a mailing list, right? But adding the right names to the list can be a challenge. The good news is, chances are there are people visiting your site who like your work and wouldn’t mind being contacted with updates. These people could turn out to be your best leads for future work, you just need to find out who they are. With a little website magic, you can create a sign-up page on your website. That way you can get some names on your mailing list from people who actually want you to advertise to them.
Just make sure the sign-up process is short and simple. Quick and easy is the rule. Make all fields optional, and don’t ask for anything more than some basic information. You can view my sign-up page here.
With a little extra work, your website can go from being a simple marketing tool to a promotional machine.