It's a web-based world, and if you're running a business, it's almost career suicide to not have a great website. As musicians, it's important to remember that we're essentially running a small business for our skills and talents. A well-developed website is an extremely powerful tool for the freelance musician. It can be used to attract additional work, as well as simply show experience and skills to potential clients. It makes for a great home base that shows everybody exactly what you're doing and gives links to all of your social media platforms.
But building a website is a pretty complicated process if you haven't done it before. There's a lot that goes into it, and a lot of things can be missed if you don't have some help. If nothing else, simply remember: you're making a website for a business.
Here are six tips for any freelance musicians building a website.
1. Have a clear purpose
This should be the first step. Why are you making a website? Are you using it strictly as an online portfolio to show potential clients? Or are you trying to attract new clients that want to hire you upon seeing the website? These goals will determine where you should put your emphasis when constructing the site.
During this process, you may also find that you need more than one website! Some multi-talented musicians offer many different services, such as performances, arrangement, and/or audio production and have so much content to display that it makes sense for them to have a different site for each discipline. This is fairly common and can actually make the entire process a lot less convoluted, since it can be a lot of work to make all of those things fit well on a single website.
2. Gather content first
A website without high-quality content doesn't really show you much of anything. When you know your goal for the website, you're going to have to decide what sort of content you'll need for it (and how much). As a musician, this will typically involve audio clips, videos, press/reviews/client endorsements, and high-resolution photos. Make a goal of capturing all of this content prior to actually designing the site itself.
Unless you have talented friends in the audio/video/photography world, aggregating this content will likely require a small financial investment. However, it'll make a world of difference to any potential clients viewing your page, and that good impression is much more likely to get them to contact you.
3. Show your best work
Keep your website simple and clean, so that it's easy to navigate. If you have a lot of usable content, try not to put up every single piece of work you have. Instead, post only your best work, the work that you feel best defines you and your style. This will also allow you a little wiggle room, should a potential client ask you, "Do you have any more [audio/video/photos]?"
Time is also relevant in this case. Try to keep the work on your site a maximum of two years old. If the content is much older than that, it probably will not be an accurate representation of your current skills or image. You never want to have to say to a potential client, "Here's the content, but this is pretty old. I'm way better now." That's incredibly unprofessional, and if it isn't representative of your skills, then you're wasting people's time.
4. Advertise your services
This is something that a lot of musicians miss on their websites. Even if says "saxophonist" in bold font on your front page, that alone doesn't define what you do exactly. Do you tour with bands? Play sub gigs? Do session work? Can you provide remote session work from your own studio? All of the above? Then put that on your website! Information like that is a key way to set yourself apart and sell yourself to potential clients. Take some time to define the services that you can offer somebody, and post those services clearly on your website.
The things in this section should ideally line up with the goals that you set (see point one). If you're trying to grow your teaching studio, make sure you're advertising it clearly. If you want to build a fanbase for your original music, you should have that music (and links to purchase it) posted all over your website. You don't want a potential client wondering or asking about what you do.
5. Make it easy
Don't make a client have to figure out where to find something on your website due to a stupidly complex layout. Any time you're making changes or are wondering about how your site could be improved, remember to make it as easy and hassle-free for visitors as you possibly can. If that means making a separate site for each of your services to make your site less convoluted, then so be it. If that means doing away with cool artistic concepts or statements for the sake of clarity, then that's what needs to happen. This could involve a lot more work than you were originally hoping to put into a website, but it's essential if you want to attract work that pays.
Have clear labels on all of your website's pages, and clearly title every piece of content. Make your contact info extremely visible, and display it in as many places on your site as you can. Don't try to put so much content onto a single page that it makes it feel cluttered; if necessary, try to break up the content across multiple pages.
If you're ever wondering about the accessibility of your website, ask friends (especially if you have friends that are in the marketing or web development world). If they have a difficult time navigating, they'll speak up about it.
6. Get help
You don't need to go it alone. Even if you're taking on the task of building the website yourself, you can still enlist the help of graphic designers to help you with logos and fonts, photographers to help you with pictures, and anybody you can to help you gather the rest of your content. Once your website is mostly put together, you should definitely show it to friends and colleagues to get their opinions on it (especially the ones who have great websites of their own). Having help along the way will make the entire process move much smoother, and will really allow you to build the best site that you can. Never be afraid to ask for an opinion or assistance!
Get even more tips for your website:
- 4 Things That Every Great Band Website Has in Common
- 8 Reasons Why Fans Hate Your Band's Website
- 4 Common Website Intro Page Mistakes That Musicians Should Avoid
- Easy, 5-Minute Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Band's Website
- How to Optimize Your Band's Website in 7 Steps
Dylan Welsh is a freelance musician and music journalist, based in Seattle, WA. He currently plays in multiple Seattle bands, interns at Mirror Sound Studio, and writes for the Sonicbids blog. Visit his website for more information.