For the average freelance writer, blogging can become a frustrating endeavor. It might start out just as you’d planned. You bought a domain and hosting, picked a WordPress theme, and got to work filling your blog with content. But eventually frustration sets in.
Are you building a blog that no one is reading?
The great majority of blogs fail within the first six months. The few that survive that introductory period often fall by the wayside within the first year. The biggest reason: the writers lose motivation. I’ve seen this with dozens of freelance writers, and I expect to see it with dozens more in the future. They’re frustrated that they can’t attract a significant audience.
There’s probably a good reason that people aren’t flocking to your site and sharing your content with everyone they know. While the reason will change with each individual, there’s an underlying cause that covers almost every blog freelance writers start. And that reason is . . .
Your blog’s topic isn’t interesting to many people.
Yuwanda described it perfectly in an article about how to make extra cash by building a blog: “Many freelance writers start freelance writing blogs. Makes sense, right?”
While it might make sense to the writer, it doesn’t really make sense to a lot of readers. When you start a freelance writing blog, you are limiting your audience to freelance writers, and perhaps a few editors. Then there’s the external factor: there are so many established freelance writing blogs that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to crack that egg.
Freelance writers who are thinking about starting a blog, or who have become frustrated with the slow growth of their existing blogs, need to make a decision . . .
It’s a simple and straight forward one: are you blogging to make money, or are you blogging to put your freelance writing talent on display? There’s nothing wrong with the latter as long as you realize that there’s not much money or traffic in it.
Blogging as a Business Card
Freelance writers today need all the help they can get to land gigs. With thousands of writers competing for the same freelance writing jobs work, a freelancer has to stand out or perish. Thankfully, a blog can help a writer stand out.
Even though the blog isn’t meant to make money or generate large amounts of traffic, it still must feature high-quality content. In fact, some of your best writing should go on your blog. You’re not going to impress with B or C efforts.
When fellow freelancers ask about creating a blog as a business card, following are the guidelines I lay out for them.
Freelance Writers: How to Build a Blog That’s the Perfect Business Card
1. Write about something meaningful. Your slap-dash opinion about a recent news event will not help your cause. It might hurt it, in fact.
2. Treat a blog post like a paying freelance writing assignment. Pick up the phone and get quotes if you need to. Remember, you’re blogging with the intention of landing more writing gigs, so make sure to put your best foot forward and impress readers.
3. Avoid writing about freelance writing issues. Again, there are many of these blogs out there and they’re meant to help other freelance writers. This is not the kind of blog you want if you want your blog to act as your business card.
4. Wait 24 hours before publishing. This gives the post time to settle. After 24 hours you might find you’ve made too many mistakes, or that the topic isn’t at all interesting. Better not to publish at all and go back to the drawing board.
Again, a blog that acts as your business card will not make money. Maybe if you write enough interesting posts you can find a small band of loyal readers. But even then, in all likelihood it won’t attract a critical mass. It’s best to avoid all thoughts of making money with a business card blog and focus on using it to make money through more and better-paying freelance writing jobs.
Building a Blog as a Business
If you’d like to create a blog that earns money directly (ie, build a blog as a business), you’re in luck. It is totally possible to create a site that will help supplement — and even perhaps overtake — your existing freelance writing income. It will take a lot more work than just writing great content though. You’re the sole proprietor of this business, so you have to cover all angles.
The most difficult step in building a blog as a “make money online” business is the very first one, which is selecting a topic.
The difference between a blog that succeeds and a blog that fails often lies in this first step. Two bloggers can work equally hard, but the one with the more salable topic will always come out ahead. Make sure to spend days, if not weeks, coming up with a marketable topic.
How to Decide What Your Blog Should be About
There’s one rule, followed by a series of sub-rules, that you should always follow when trying to decide on a blog topic. That is . . .
Teach people something they didn’t know.
It seems simple, perhaps overly simple. But it’s the single rule that most bloggers don’t follow when creating their blogs. Why is this important?
Again, it’s simple — if you teach people something they didn’t know, they will come back for more, knowing that you have something meaningful to share. And those loyal readers will help spread your message far and wide.
Building a Blog: 3 Steps to Finding “Teachable” Topics
So how do you pick what you’re going to teach them? Here are the steps I employ when advising clients and fellow freelance writers.
1. Think of all the things you do very well (besides writing). If you can teach an introductory level class on it, then it’s probably a good idea.
2. What would you like to learn more about? In order to become an expert you have to know everything there is to know about your topic. Surface knowledge is simply not enough.
3. Can you sell anything? As Yuwanda says, in order to make money you’ll need to incorporate affiliate links and sell your own products to actually make money. What kind of products can you tie into your topic?
Here’s an example: A freelance writing friend likes to fix things around the house, so he’s starting a DIY home improvement blog. He knows enough to impart some basics about plumbing and maintenance. That’s a good start. But he needs to dig deeper.
If after the first month he can’t explain the different types of water heaters, then he’s not going to succeed. He needs to have that in-depth knowledge that experts possess.
So . . . Just What Type of Blog Should You Start?
It might not be easy to decide between the two types we’ve discussed here.
The business card model works, because it lets you show off your skills more frequently than you can picking up writing jobs here and there. Prospective editors can see numerous and high-quality examples of your work without having to hunt down publications or open clips.
The few freelance writer friends I know have done fairly well with this. A few of them have gotten nowhere, but let’s be frank: they’re probably not writing about anything interesting. A few have received high compliments for their blogs and have landed gigs because of them. It takes plenty of creative energy, but the payoff makes it worth the effort.
Blogging as a business (ie, blogging to make money online) is a completely different animal, but it can pay off for writers in the form of a supplemental income. In fact, there’s a chance you can turn that into a full-time career. It all depends on the topic you select and how much effort you put into it.
Remember, as long as you’re teaching readers something new, they will reward you with traffic and clicks. They’ll even buy your products.
Writers might be tempted to start a blog about writing, but that’s just not workable these days.
Editors don’t care to read your blog about writing. The few readers who do care about freelance writing probably visit established sites. This is the wrong path for any aspiring or established freelancer.
Either teach readers something new or impress editors with high-quality, freelance-style work. Either way, when building a blog, the choice is yours.
About the Author: Joe Pawlikowski writes, edits and consults for several blogs.