Depending solely on friends and colleagues to send work your way isn’t a practice anyone recommends. But if you’re a consultant or service provider who tends to get a lot of referrals, it can be hard to understand the importance of having a good website and strong online presence.
Maybe it’s more of a challenge to understand how a professional website can enhance your business even though you’re getting a steady flow of clients through word of mouth.
The variety of consultants and coaches I’ve had the privilege of working with are all masters at what they do and use their sites as proof of their expertise. Their sites offer that legitimacy… the confirmation that what prospective clients hear about them is true and their authority is conveyed through their sites.
Consultants’ niches don’t necessarily demand a fancy site
Often, they’re not even looking for vanity visitor numbers in Google Analytics. Their sites don’t need to rank high in a search, since the majority of their clients hear about them via word of mouth. They need to attract specialized audiences looking for specific skill sets.
One of my clients, Sheila, is a speaker/keynote speaker, educator and consultant with a passion for the science of teaching and learning, presentations and asking questions. (Her bio is included below so you can learn more about her and visit her site.) I helped her understand what’s most important to include on a consultant website to reflect authority and expertise.
I met Sheila at a local WordPress meetup. She was early in her consulting career and attending meetings to learn more and continue DIYing her own site. After a while, she realized that web development and design was not for her. She realized her time was better spent on her business That’s when she sought my help to make her site what she envisioned it could be.
“You know, it’s kind of like this: I’ll paint a room in my house because I’m confident I can do that well, but I’m not doing plumbing or electricity with no background in those fields.” – Sheila B. Robinson
Sheila initially started blogging to “become known and build a voice of authority” around her topics of interest. She knew she needed to build out a website. She knew even though people were referred to her by colleagues, they needed more than just a name and good word before reaching out to hire her for her services. They needed to learn more about her.
When you’re just starting out it makes total sense to DIY your website
Until you are actually in the trenches with consulting work, you won’t know some things for certain. It makes sense to spend time drilling down and getting experience to gain clarity on who you want to work with and what work lights you up. After all, why invest until you have a solid direction?
When you start out with a DIY site, the home, about and service pages are usually enough for a visitor to get the vital information they need to work with you. Make sure to have a contact form or make it obvious for people to take the first step to connect with you. You’d be surprised how many people forget to make it simple for people to start working with them. Your consultant website should make this very clear.
Once you’re established, it’s time to work with a pro
Your website will be your biggest calling card. It’s important to have more than a DIY site, whether you’re found in a Google search or by someone sharing your name. It’s important to have exactly what’s needed by that person visiting your site. Sometimes you may not know how or where on the site that information should show up.
Sheila’s biggest challenges that led her to seeking help were:
- The realization that using a free platform would mean someone else’s template would be her brand. (Think ‘pick a template and drop in your content’.)
- There was much more to creating a website than picking brand colors and fonts.
- She could learn *just* enough to DIY the basics. Then she’d have to learn much more to make things happen on her site the way she envisioned. She simply didn’t have the desire (or the time) for that learning.
- She was missing key background knowledge about how and why websites work for businesses and how user experience makes a website effective with regard to conversion. In short, there was a whole field she didn’t understand.
Sheila knew the stakes were high. She knew she wanted a website to function well and reflect her expertise. She knew she needed to make an investment in a website that could help her advance her goals and sell her services.
Five absolute needs for a consultant website
- Home page – it’s the first impression. They need to know they’re in the right place for their needs in a consultant. Sheila notes, “On my site, the first thing a visitor sees is a video clip of me on stage and a statement of who I am and what I’m about.”
- About page – The content, look and feel of the About page gives visitors a sense of who the person is. It gives them an idea of why the consultant does what they do… and that can attract the ideal client.
- A prominent way to contact you – There are different ways to do this. You can use a simple email address or contact form or form on a specific contact page. (How can someone work with you if you don’t tell them how?!)
- Services page – The services page needs to be sharp to clearly show what you do. If you don’t share what you do in a way that’s easily understood, how can you help people by doing what you do? Don’t make them guess.
- Evidence of your authority – This could be a list of upcoming (and past) speaking events if you’re known as a speaker. Perhaps a list of publications you’ve appeared in, links to published articles, podcast interviews, or blog posts sharing your experiences and educating your audience. Be choosy here. You do NOT need to include every single achievement, publication, article, project, or experience.
Sheila’s a consultant who gets the majority of her business through word of mouth. Her website is set up to convert visitors into clients. It’s also a reflection of her authority, expertise and legitimacy.
It’s part of her toolbox, supporting what others are sharing about her. It’s not about getting a huge volume of traffic, or letting her boast a high number of visitors. The traffic she IS getting are the people looking for her based on word of mouth recommendations, people reaching out to her when they believe she’s a good fit for their needs. That is important to her. This is the traffic she knows will ultimately grow her business.
“It’s been an interesting journey working with you multiple times over the year, because it’s more than a website.
I had this picture in my head of a website designer literally only talking to me about colors and shapes and fonts and plugins and whatever functionality. ‘This thing should be blue, not green. This should be a circle not a square.’ That sort of thing.
You’ve taught me so much about how my website should function as an integral part of my business.
You’ve given me so much insight into branding and marketing and my business goals.
Your service is so much more robust than simply ‘web design.’”
Web design is more than colors, fonts and layouts
Almost all of my clients have come to me for a website after having tried to create a website, using a template not fit for their business, or having DIYed from scratch. They are ready for something more than they can create themselves.
The conversations always start with them asking about colors, fonts and layouts, but end with my sharing about how clarity of business goals and identifying ideal clients are the first steps to achieving a website designed for their needs that helps them achieve their business goals.
Web design is more than colors, fonts and layouts. It’s about identifying and designing towards an end goal, while also strategically considering and compiling a wide range of elements that work together to create a functional, user-friendly, and visually appealing website.
Are you ready to take your consultancy website to the next level? Ensure your website is built strategically so it can be used as an effective tool to achieve your goals. Schedule your 15 minute free consult call to talk about how to make it a reality.
Sheila B. Robinson, Ed.D., of Custom Professional Learning, LLC, is a speaker, educator, and consultant with a passion for the science of teaching and learning, presentations, and asking questions. Through her talks, professional development workshops and university courses, Sheila teaches people how to make the most of professional learning and how to ask good questions, along with program evaluation, survey design, data visualization, audience engagement, and presentation design.
Sheila is also a Certified Presentation Specialist (CPS)™, Vice President of the Presentation Guild, and Senior Design and Facilitation Consultant with Evergreen Data.
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