For independent consultants who want to create a professional website for their practice and aren’t sure how to get started, we’ve created this step-by-step guide on how to build a website in one day.
The guide covers identifying your goals for the website and your positioning, deciding what content to include, and selecting what platform to use to build your website.
To inspire your thinking, we’ve included examples of more than 90 websites built by independent consultants for their practice, and the story behind how they built their website: what were their goals, how they approached the task, and what technology they used.
Consultants who choose to engage a professional to help them design and build their website often invest a significant amount of time searching for the right person. We’ve included a directory of web design professionals who were recommended by members of our community.
Goals and purposes of a website
Your website is often the first thing a prospective client will look at, or look for, when evaluating your experience and qualifications as a consultant. This process will help guide you through how to build a website — and you can get the basics done in one day.
A professional website allows consultants to position themselves in the way they want to be perceived, as well as build trust and credibility in the marketplace. Think of it as the equivalent of a modern resume for independent professionals to establish their expertise.
There are two fundamental goals or levels of aspiration you can achieve with your site:
- Credibility: Establishes your expertise and provides information to people who are considering hiring you.
- Discoverability: Serves as a marketing tool for your sales funnel to bring leads to your business through search.
For most independent management consultants, credibility is the primary or only goal of their website. Roughly half of the consultants we surveyed built their websites themselves, with the other half getting outside help — whether that was professional services or the assistance of a friend or colleague.
Building a much more robust, content-heavy site to bring in leads through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a whole different level that some professionals may want to bring into their marketing strategy.
There are a number of purposes that your website can serve:
- Content: Publish blog posts, articles, and other thought leadership pieces.
- Podcasts: Promote your podcast and help build an audience.
- Newsletter: Provide a sign-up form for your newsletter.
- Project List: Host your project list and/or case studies and testimonials.
- Press: Media appearances or articles in which you’re quoted.
- Sell: An online store to sell products or services.
- Other collateral: A place to host videos, white papers, or other collateral.
Three main approaches to build a website
Before getting started, you’ll need to decide where you will build your website and what hosting company to use.
There are three main options for building a website:
- Website builder: Platforms that offer intuitive, easy-to-use web building tools. The major players here are Wix, Squarespace, and GoDaddy, along with others such as Weebly and Sitebuilder.
- Content Management System: Standalone software system to build a custom website; technical knowledge is required. The main CMS is WordPress; others include Joomla and Magento.
- Custom build from scratch: This option requires a high-level knowledge of web development and coding, and is typically used for large, complex websites.
Most independent professionals — more than half of those we surveyed — start with the first option, using templates and drag-and-drop building blocks to create a basic website that achieves the first goal from the previous section: credibility.
Once you have this website in place (or if you already do), the next iteration might be to migrate to a CMS and build a more robust site — especially if you have a lot of content you want to publish or you want to sell services or products such as downloads, e-books, courses, books, etc.
Most people need to hire a web developer to go this route, as building and maintaining a WordPress website can be more of a technical challenge if you don’t have experience with it, particularly as your site grows and becomes more complex.
The third option, a custom-built website (which would be extremely expensive and time-consuming), is not feasible or necessary for most independent consultants and small businesses.
Jake Jorgovan, founder of Content Allies and a consultant who has helped countless organizations increase conversions with online assets, led a virtual workshop for Umbrex members in which he outlined the process of building a consulting website in one day.
Jorgovan personally recommends Squarespace due to what he describes as its highly intuitive design and a luxury feel. Many consultants we spoke to built their websites on Squarespace or Wix.
If you’re looking for more customization, or “discoverability” is your goal and you want to optimize SEO, WordPress might be the better choice.
In addition to choosing your web building platform, you also need to register a domain name if you haven’t already, and get a host for your site. Most of the sitebuilders include these things with their packages, or you can use services such as GoDaddy or Bluehost for this.
Now, you’re ready to get started building.
There are three main considerations in the process of creating your professional website:
Let’s look at each of these in detail.
When someone lands on the home page of your website, they need to immediately understand what you do and what your firm is about. Within seconds, your positioning should be clear.
This may be in the form of an actual positioning statement clearly shown. Mike Ryan’s website, for example, lays his out front and center: “Solving Supply Chain & Inventory Headaches for Manufacturers.”
Similarly, Michael Koved states boldly at the top of his home page what his company does: “Advanced Analytics drives revenue growth and customer engagement through strategic consulting and by harnessing leading edge data science and technology.”
You may or may not wish to explicitly state your positioning in the prime real estate of your home page, but the design and content of your website should clearly convey it. Visitors shouldn’t have to dig around to find out who you are.
A good positioning statement should sum up quickly and concisely:
- Who you serve
- What problems you solve
We help X accomplish Y through Z.
For example: “We help consultants increase conversions with targeted digital assets.”
It’s important to establish what clients you want to serve, and the solutions you will provide them, before developing your website. You should also consider whether you want to position yourself as a solo independent consultant, or as a larger firm/team.
If you’ve already crafted a Fishing Line — the consultant’s equivalent of an elevator pitch — this can serve as a great start to develop your positioning statement. Check out consulting expert David A. Fields’ process for creating a Fishing Line, with examples from Umbrex members.
Once you’ve nailed that all-important positioning, you need to decide how your site will be structured. Below are the basic sections or pages that any website should have, with actual examples.
Your experience, qualifications, and the history of your business.
Robbie Kellman Baxter’s About page offers a bio and resume — and lightens up the business tone with some “fun facts about Robbie.” She also includes a one-minute video that succinctly explains what she does and how she helps her clients.
Marja Fox’s About page starts with a simple, clean section in which she outlines the core beliefs that shape her work. Underneath that, she expands with her bio and qualifications — as well as her straight-shooting style.
Robin Albin’s About page continues the Insurgent design of having some letters facing backwards. It’s brash and bold — just like the company brand. Colors are dramatic black and white, with a small bit of unexpected red in script for emphasis.
A more detailed description of what you offer and how you do it.
Readysmith Advisors’ Services page (below left) offers a quick, easy-to-digest list of their services, with a brief bio and photo of owner Debra Reddish. The page also includes case studies and her client list.
Barry Horwitz (below right) includes a snapshot of his services in a clean format with icons; each has a “Read more” button that leads to a full description on a separate page. He also includes testimonials, client list, information about his approach, and his bio.
While Reddish and Horwitz include their client list on their Services page, many consultants create a separate page for this.
Peter Bancroft of Recast Partners organizes his clients by industry (below left).
For the FRC Group, James Schoen displays his client list with the use of logos (below right) — including many highly recognizable companies.
How to get in touch with you.
On Cimbal Capital’s Contact page, he lists phone number, email, and social media handles — as well as a form people can fill out.
Ushma Pandya of Think Zero features her firm’s email address and social media, along with office hours. She also provides a contact form, with an option to check the box to subscribe to her newsletter.
You may prefer to offer a contact form people can fill out rather than your email address — publishing your email address often results in a lot of spam. You may also want to include a link to your calendar for scheduling consultations.
In addition to these most basic sections, some others you might want to consider are:
- Team: An introduction to your personnel, partners, or colleagues.
- Project List: An ongoing, updated Project List of work you’ve done.
- Case Studies: In-depth case studies on your success stories.
- Newsletter: A sign-up form; possibly an archive of previous newsletters.
- Podcast: Episodes of your podcast to stream and a subscribe button.
- Blog: Your original articles and blog posts.
- Insights: White papers, reports, or other content you’ve published.
- Downloads: E-books, PDFs, or other downloads you have available.
- Resources: Any industry or service resources you want to offer.
- Press: A repository of your press mentions in the media.
- Client Portal: A place for your clients to log in, if you have one.
Paying attention to the design and layout of your website is absolutely integral to looking professional online. Here are some tips for great design:
- Template: Choose a template according to the assets you have. If you have good photos, for example, choose a template that will showcase them. If not, go for a text-based layout.
- Clean: Strive for an uncluttered design that gives plenty of space for the eye.
- Text and icons: Use simple iconography and clear text.
- Scroll: Choose whether to present your content on a single scrolling homepage or separated across several pages.
- Calls to action: Scatter CTAs, such as ‘Learn more’, ‘Get in touch,’ and ‘Get a quote,’ throughout your website.
- Video: Consider using Vimeo instead of YouTube. For a subscription of around $50 per year you can remove all Vimeo branding. YouTube, on the other hand, will display its branding and suggest alternative content even if you embed videos hosted there.
- Optimize for mobile: It’s essential that you check how your website will appear on mobile before you publish it.
Be sure to sprinkle calls to action throughout your site, at least one on each page. These increase engagement and help encourage potential clients to take the next step along your sales funnel. Your visitor should never get to the bottom of a page and not know where to go next, says Jorgovan.
Another area of consideration is what type of visual assets your website will have. These might include:
- Headers and other designed images
- Photographs of you and other team members
- Stock photography
- Owned photography you commission
- Interactive elements
The majority of consultants have a logo designed and develop their brand guidelines either before creating a website, or as a part of the project.
When it comes to sourcing royalty-free visual assets, there are several recommended resources:
- Noun Project
- iStock Photo
Taking your website to the next level
Once you have a professional website with the basics, you can take the opportunity to do much more with your site, if you choose.
Tsavo Neal, an expert in helping consultants create websites that do more than just showcase services, shared some tips on how to do this in Episode 59 of Unleashed.
Neal refers to a website with basic essentials as a “brochure” or “Level 2” website. While having this type of website is better than none at all, he says very few actually generate business.
He recommends independent consultants aim for at least a “Level 3” website, which hosts your intellectual property and thought leadership. Better still is a “Level 4” website, which he describes as “an entire digital marketing and sales pipeline.”
Both a Level 3 and Level 4 website will help educate your prospects, which in turn will increase your traffic. Neal offers a free template, consultantwebsitetemplate.com, for ideas on how your website should look and be structured.
Here are some things you can do to take your website to the next level:
Identify your prospects’ needs
Do some research into what your target prospects care about at a high level and think about how you can address this on your website.
Focus on the audience
Take the focus off your business and put it on your client. Use “you” more than “I” or “we.”
Include case studies
Show prospects how their business may look before and after working with you. It’s sometimes helpful to organize these into three parts:
- The brief (the client’s problem or aim).
- Your process (the solution you implement).
- The results (with clear metrics of your success).
- Be sure to include a call to action in this section.
Articles, thought leadership, and resources establish your authority. Consider organizing your original content into a book format to give visitors structure as they work their way through.
Most consultants who say their website generates leads attribute this to their content.
David A. Fields says the leads he gets are due to the great content his team consistently publishes. “Most inbound leads either come from people who read my book (because they found it or had it recommended to them) or heard me on a podcast or saw a webinar.”
Likewise, Luca Ottinetti gets website leads due to his articles. He also implements an SEO strategy that targets specific keywords. “We appear on Google page one or two, for example on ‘Strategic Cost Reduction’ and ‘Market Entry Strategy’.”
Feature others’ work
Once you have a good library of your own content, you might consider featuring some of your peers’ work on your resources page. This helps you position yourself as a trusted advisor and makes it more likely that your website will be bookmarked as a valuable resource by prospects.
Gateway high-value content
Valuable, original resources can be “lead magnets” — consider offering something (a download, e-book, in-depth article) that requires the recipient to give you their name and email addresses for access.
Set up an email automation
Once you have a name and email address, an automated sequence can keep in touch with the visitor. This might be a simple email check-in a few days later or a push to subscribe to your newsletter.
Use email and website analytics
Apps such as ActiveCampaign and MailChimp allow you to see what your mailing list subscribers are engaging with. This will help you personalize your newsletters and hone the content on your site. Google Analytics and other such tools give valuable insights into your site, including where visitors are spending time and what content gets the most reads.
Optimize your SEO
Search Engine Optimization helps you organize your content and develop keywords and descriptions to boost your site in search. Some platforms build this service in, and there are many freelance experts out there to hire.
Integrate the Five Marketing Musts
From David A. Fields, these main marketing tactics are shared in our resource, How to Find Clients for Your Consulting Practice.
Include an offer
Consider offering something specific, such as a free consultation. You can integrate Calendly o prospects can book an online appointment.
Market your website
Include links to your website in your email signature and all your social media channels.
Another facet that is sometimes incorporated into a more advanced website is the ability to sell online. While only a few consultants we surveyed incorporate digital sales, a handful said they plan to do so or are interested in doing so in the future.
Xenia Razinski sells her quarterly reports at IPCH International, which clients can either purchase per-report or as a subscription service.
Crystal Richards sells more than a dozen project management courses at her website, MindsparQ.
OutThinker also sells workshops and certification courses, though founder Kaihan Krippendorff says they don’t push them.
Swift Insights helps transform everyday business users to Tableau savvy analysts and offers a selection of training options. “The new website has the goal of driving people to contact us about opportunities to work with us,” says Mikhail Christiansen.
A few consultants sell their books on their websites, often with a link to them on Amazon. Stephen Cull’s company, Westside Music & Cinema, sells high-end stereo equipment.
Website Examples and Professionals
Continue on to the next sections, where you can browse websites of some of our member consultants, and a directory of website professional including designers, developers, branding and marketing experts.