Freelance writing lets me travel and gives me the option of a location-independent lifestyle, which I take advantage of for a good part of the year by house-sitting in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere with my partner Stephanie.
Simple — we get to stay in beautiful homes and explore beautiful parts of the western United States. We own our home near Mount Shasta in rural northern California, 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 snows a lot around Mount Shasta), 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…
…the spiffy little “small website” I put up a year ago.
Setting Up Our House-Sitting Site
No surprise here: I used self-hosted WordPress and the Thesis premium WordPress theme. (And my Hostgator account allows me unlimited websites.) 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 likes.
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 from last May: House-Sitting and the Location-Independent Freelance Lifestyle.
Sixth, I added an actual blog to the site last month, 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…
Well, we just 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.
And here’s how we rank in Google for important search terms:
- San Francisco house-sitter: page 2, #2
- San Francisco Haight house-sitter: page 1, #2
- San Francisco Cole Valley house-sitter: page 1, #1
- Marina district house-sitter: page 1, #1 (Marina is a major district in SF)
- Santa Cruz house-sitter: page 1, #4
- Ashland, Oregon house-sitter: page 1, #8 (We house-sit here frequently; it’s the nearest civilized place to our home.)
Note: I checked these using a browser I almost never use (Internet Explorer) with all cookies and history deleted. And for good measure I did it at a coffee shop rather than at home, just in case Google can actually target results for a specific IP address.
Help Us Find House-Sitting Gigs!
We’re actively seeking house-sitting opportunities from now through March from the San Francisco Bay Area down through Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara and San Diego and all the way into Arizona. You can send people to HouseSit.info for all our details.
And in addition to being highly qualified and very reliable: we usually don’t charge!
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.
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?