Freelance writing lets me travel and gives me the option of a location-independent lifestyle, which I take advantage of in winter months by house-sitting in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere with my partner Stephanie.

Why House-Sitting?

Simple — we get to stay in beautiful homes and explore beautiful parts of the western United States. We live in a great place in Ashland in southern Oregon, but we like to experience a wide variety of climates and cultures, and house-sitting lets us do that. We primarily do it during the colder months (it’s foggy and cold in Ashland in the winter), but we can be enticed away just about any time of the year to go to San Francisco, our favorite city, or to an outstanding destination like Hawaii. (I lived on Kaua’i from 1996 to 1999.)

How Do We Get House-Sitting Gigs?

Two ways: word of mouth, and…

Our business card for house-sitting in northern California, with a focus on San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and the greater Bay Area.

…the spiffy little “small website” I put up about three years ago.

Setting Up Our House-Sitting Site

No surprise here: I used self-hosted WordPress. I’m no expert at setting up blogs, but I have enough experience that I was able to do this (in part because I borrowed widget coding and other stuff from ProductiveWriters.com and my other professionally designed blogs).

Getting the Traffic: Six Reasons

First off, I snagged the domain HouseSit.info. It has one of our main keywords, which Google may still appreciate (or maybe not anymore, given all the recent algorithm changes).

Second, I wrote a 1200-word sales page selling us. It’s the home page and you can see it here: “Why We Housesit in San Francisco, the Bay Area, Santa Cruz, and Beyond…

Third, I bowed to the Google god. Note that I used good search-engine optimization techniques in the headers and the keywords/metatags I chose. I also used a few choice photos to help convince owners that we’re quality people that will take good care of their homes and pets.

Fourth, I shared the site on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Fifth, I also linked to HouseSit.info from my other sites, either in posts or in the blog roll, and I highlighted it prominently in this ProductiveWriters.com post: House-Sitting and the Location-Independent Freelance Lifestyle.

Sixth, I added an actual blog to the site, and we used its launch to help promote our site and service to people we know. We did our first post in October and plan to blog once a month.

The Results So Far…

Pet sitting: two dogs in San Francisco

Stephanie and the two wonderful boxers we took care of during our recent San Francisco Cole Valley house-sit.

Well, we spent nearly three weeks house-sitting in San Francisco’s Haight/Cole Valley area, all because the home owners found that small website in Google. And we turned down a two-month sit in Santa Cruz earlier this year, along with another three opportunities that conflicted with either other house-sitting we were doing or our other travel plans; all found us through Internet searches.

The site has also gotten us two other house-sitting gigs in San Francisco, yet another in Cole Valley, and most recently another one in Bernal Heights.

And here’s how we rank in Google for important search terms:

  • San Francisco house-sitter: page 1, #4
  • San Francisco Haight house-sitter: page 1, #5
  • San Francisco Cole Valley house-sitter: page 1, #3
  • Santa Cruz house-sitter: page 2, #3

Note: I checked these using a browser I almost never use (Internet Explorer, of course), and I also clicked the Hide Private Results icon.

In Sum, It Can Work for Freelance Writers and…

A small website that’s well optimized can bring outsized results. This can also work for freelance writers and other business owners who want to draw qualified traffic without a lot of effort.

Your Take

What are your thoughts on using a small website to get good results? Do you agree that self-hosted WordPress is the best way to go? And what do you think of our house-sitting service?

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