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If you’re a freelancer, you should have a blog or a website.
A freelance blog or website is the perfect space for you to let people know about you and your freelance skills. A lot – probably most – freelancers choose to start their sites on WordPress. In fact, 455 million websites in the world are WordPress sites.
Fortunately, starting a freelance WordPress blog or website can be done fairly easily. Once you set up your WordPress site with your web host, the next step is choosing the right theme. This step might feel overwhelming because there are literally thousands of themes out there.
So how do you decide which theme to choose for your freelance site?
Here is a list of 16 criteria which will help you not feel so overwhelmed and choose the perfect WordPress theme for you.
How to Choose the Right WordPress Blog Theme
1. Achieve your objectives
The most important criteria for choosing a theme is this: which one matches the purpose of your site?
For example, if you are a photographer, you will need a theme that helps you showcase your portfolio with beautiful pictures. Whereas if you are a blogger, you will need a predominantly blog-based theme.
But if you want an ecommerce website, then it is best to directly start with a WooCommerce supported theme, for example.
Remember, the more closely your theme matches your site objective, the lesser you will have to work on customizing it later.
2. Match your brand
Everyone has either a business brand, a personal brand, or both. So choose a blog theme that matches your brand story, personality, communication style, and tone of voice.
Ryan Biddulph’s brand, for example, is about blogging and helping other bloggers, while he is travelling the world. And his website theme perfectly reflects that mix of travel and blogs.
3. Responsive theme
Compatibility with different devices is no longer optional for websites. If your website is not legible or accessible on the mobile, visitors will do a sharp exit.
In fact, with Google’s mobile-indexing first policy, you need to ensure that the theme works brilliantly on different mobile screens.
Suggested reading: How to start a freelance blog with SiteGround Hosting
4. Lightweight and fast
Another criterion for Google to rank sites in 2021 is the Core Web Vitals. Your site needs to load fast and provide a good user experience.
So you need to choose a theme that is lightweight, even if it is packed with loads of features.
Your freelance blog or website should be easy to browse, navigate, and search. Simple features like a ‘scroll to top’ option in a long blog post page make browsing much easier for the reader.
Or if you want your blog to have a sidebar as that is better for your audience, make sure your theme has that inbuilt. It is very difficult to build those in later.
6. Customization options
Your freelance blog or website absolutely needs to match your brand’s visual identity. I.e., your website and your other brand and marketing designs should have the same consistent look.
Whether you are the one doing your site design and customization or outsourcing itl to a designer, there will always be some customization required. For instance, colors, fonts, icons, hover link options.
The theme needs to be able to support these options. For example, you don’t want to be stuck with the default colors and fonts that don’t work, and not be able to customize them to your brand.
Suggested reading: How to become a blogger
7. Compatibility with most plugins
WordPress is an open-source platform, which means that anyone can create a plugin to add any functionality or feature to it. All you have to do is upload that plugin to your theme and use the features provided by the plugin.
However, not all themes and plugins are compatible. So before you install a theme, note down the features you would like your website to have, and research which plugins can help you achieve those.
Only select a theme that is compatible with all the plugins you need.
8. Updated regularly
Any technological tool needs to be updated at regular intervals to get rid of bugs and improve performance. Both the basic WordPress platform and the plugins are also continuously being updated.
You need a theme that can keep up. Choose one that is also constantly being refreshed and improved to serve the newer versions of the other tech tools.
9. Match your page builder preference
The first step is to be clear on the difference between a theme and a WordPress page builder. The theme is basically the look and feel of the website and includes some template pages. The page builder is the tool to edit and customize that theme or create pages from scratch.
While usually most good themes are compatible with most builders, if you choose to have a simple premade layout that is very easy to edit, then you can go with a builder like Divi or Elementor which offers dozens of pre-existing layouts.
So you have to decide whether you will choose the theme first or the builder.
Suggested reading: SiteGround blog hosting review
Both free and premium themes exist in the WordPress library, and price, of course, is a key factor in determining which theme you eventually go for.
A big difference in free and premium themes is that the free ones have minimum features. The advantage of that is that they are then more lightweight and beginner-friendly, but they may not have the most advanced design features or have as frequent updates as the premium ones.
The paid themes usually come with an annual license and can be used on single or multiple themes. They also come with additional 1-on-1 support, while for the free themes you might have to depend on posting your question on an open forum and wait a few days for an answer.
This brings us to the next criteria.
If you’re designing your freelance site yourself and if you’re not an expert web designer, the good news is, it is absolutely possible to DIY a beautiful, branded blog. Without any coding skills.
However, you might need some support from time to time. So if you’re choosing a free blog theme, before you decide on a theme, go to the community board for that theme and see how often the developers of the theme respond to questions and help requests, and if the issues get solved.
12. Match your design skills
If you’re following the DIY route, then how customized and stylized you can make your blog or website depends on your creativity, familiarity with design concepts, and tech-savviness.
Thankfully most themes are already detailed enough that you don’t have to do much. But you will still need to make customizations. So if you’re an absolute beginner, go for a theme where you need to do minimum edits.
But if you’re familiar with the software or can pick it up quickly, you can experiment with the theme and then can go for a slightly more challenging theme.
You can always install plugins to improve your site’s SEO. However, some elements are embedded within the theme. For instance, good coding, schema markup, integration with social media. You can test the SEO-friendliness of a theme with the W3C Markup Validator.
If you’re not a tech-savvy person, this might sound complicated to you. So you can also look for reviews of the theme regarding seo-friendliness.
14. Meets your digital marketing goals
Some websites exist for the sole purpose of sharing content, some only sell deals and coupon codes. Or you might want to take your visitors through a marketing and sales funnel, with email marketing.
Your WordPress theme should be able to support all kinds of online and digital goals for you.
Suggested reading: How to choose the right blog niche for you
15. Browser compatibility
All themes may not perfectly adapt to different browsers. Even between Chrome and Firefox, you might find discrepancies in some themes. So make sure that the theme you choose works across the most common browsers, at least.
16. Positive reviews
In today’s world, most of us don’t buy anything online without reading the review first. So once you have narrowed down your list of themes, just Google for all reviews and tutorials to analyze if the theme works for you.
Optional: Translation adaptability
If you need to have your site in different languages, you need to have a theme that lets you add multiple translated texts to your site too. It can be through a plugin called Polylang or WPML or some other translation plugin, but research this adaptability first, before you get the theme.
You may not find the perfect theme in one go. You may have to search for different themes as per your needs, install them, and check if it works for you.
As mentioned earlier, a good place to start might also be deciding which WordPress builder you want to use.
Finding the perfect theme might take a little trial and error, but it is better to invest that time and choose one that meets all your needs as changing themes later takes even more time.
The World of Freelancers theme is from Envato Market. Using the tips in this article, you can find the right blog theme for your site on Envato Market too right here.
Poulomi Basu is a marketing consultant who helps small businesses and entrepreneurs develop their brands and optimize their websites with SEO strategies and content writing.
After having worked in branding and marketing in multinational companies across Asia, Middle East, and Europe for over 17 years, she started her own business Ignite Marketing in 2016. Her mission is to help and coach small business owners to achieve their business objectives through digital marketing. You can find her sharing tips and thoughts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.