Whether it’s writing, design, photography, or any other specialty – being a freelancer comes with a unique set of pros and cons. Some months are feast, while other months are unfortunately famine. The key to minimizing down months and consistently feasting involves a lot of moving parts – one of which is designing and maintaining a professional website that serves as an effective landing page for potential clients.
The One Design Aspect Freelancers Forget: Social Proof
You don’t have to be a professional web designer to launch your own website. There are so many incredible tools and resources on the web that just about anyone with minimal experience can build, publish, and maintain a decent website. It may not be the most feature-rich or unique site, but you can put something out there that will attract and convert leads. Isn’t that the primary goal?
While you’ll obviously want to focus on getting the basics down – including a sleek homepage, functional contact form, and professional portfolio – there’s one thing you can’t afford to look past: social proof. If the term ‘social proof’ doesn’t ring a bell, it’s time to catch up. This could be the missing ingredient that reinvigorates your freelance career.
According to marketing expert Ed Hallen, “Social proof is the concept that people will conform to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are reflective of the correct behavior.” In other words, it’s the subconscious belief that a product, service, or entity is valid if another individual or group has tried it and found it to be so.
While social proof is present in just about every area of our lives, it’s most clearly found and seen online – thanks in large part to social media and the rise of online shopping. People love to voice their opinions, and consumers frequently listen to those opinions in order to make what they believe to be ‘informed’ purchase decisions.
So, how does this fit into your professional website’s design? Well, it’s simple: Potential clients want to know that their peers have validated your services before investing their own time and money. Very few businesses will hire someone – especially a freelancer – if they don’t appear to be experienced. You must prove yourself each and every time a new user visits your site.
4 Ways to Incorporate Social Proof Into Your Website
Thankfully, there are dozens of different ways to integrate social proof into your website design. It’s up to you to hone in on which of these strategies will be most effective in your situation. Let’s take a look at some of the options you have at your disposal.
1. Client Testimonials
Client testimonials and customer reviews are extremely valuable, but they must be utilized correctly. Simply slapping some quotes into your layout won’t do the trick. It takes a much more strategic effort. Ideally, you want to use what are known as “headshot testimonials.” You can see that I have a couple on my own site.
Headshot testimonials are great because they put a face to the review. People immediately feel at ease when they see a face accompanying a quote. It makes it feel much more genuine and trustworthy. If you have a willing customer or client, you can even take things a step further by adding a backlink to their social profiles. This is the ultimate headshot testimonial, as it leaves no doubt in the minds of potential clients that these reviews are original and honest.
2. Visual Affiliations
Over the past five to seven years, visual affiliations have become an integral part of social proof in web design. This is nothing more than a section that shows some of the businesses, websites, and brands you’ve worked with in the past. All you have to do is include a simple header that reads something like, “As Featured In…” and then incorporates simple logos and backlinks to those affiliates.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to work with recognizable industry names, this can really help you. It’s a subtle touch, but one that makes a huge difference. It’s the sort of social proof that leaves an individual subconsciously thinking, “If he’s good enough for XYZ Company, he’s good enough for my own business.”
3. Qualified Endorsements
Very similar in nature to client testimonials and customer reviews, qualified endorsements are enormously effective. As Hallen mentions, there are five types of social proof, and the two most powerful tiers involve the endorsement of an industry expert of celebrity.
If you’re able to align your services with an industry expert or celebrity, you should leverage this relationship for all its worth. There’s nothing more powerful than attaching their image and a relevant quote to your homepage. It’s the best form of social proof you can use.
4. Power in Numbers
People love numbers, statistics, and facts. They seem so official and tangible. If you can find a way to showcase a couple of numbers in your web design, you’ll greatly enhance your efforts. HubSpot provides a great example of the power of numbers. Their homepage features a section that reads, “Follow us for fresh content. Thousands of people already have.” It then lists the size of their blog readership, Twitter followers, Facebook Friends, and LinkedIn connections. This is a simple, yet subtle way of saying, “People love us, so should you.”
Make Social Proof a Priority
Social proof is incredibly important. As a freelancer, you don’t have an established brand or company backing your name. You must convey credibility any way you can. While all businesses need to leverage social proof, you have to. It’s not an option. If you want to succeed in the long-run, you have to integrate components like testimonials, affiliations, endorsements, and statistics into your web design. Social proof is the one thing you can’t forget.