What I’ve Learned in 7 Weeks of Blogging

Post - 7 weeks of blogging

Hi there.

I just realized this blog is officially 7 weeks old. (I’m counting from when I officially relaunched in the beginning of July)

Seven weeks sounds like an infant in blog years, but it’s enough time to take stock of how things have been going so far. Since I did this with my freelance writing business in my last post, I will focus today’s post just on my blogging efforts.

Here we go:

Blogging for blogging’s sake is easy; intentional blogging is harder.

For the record, blogging is not as easy as you might think. It’s not just writing what you want, when you want, how you want.  Now, if you don’t care about numbers, then that’s just fine.  Keep doing that.

But if you want more readers than your mom and your best friend (and I hate to tell you but your friend is likely too busy to read your blog), then you need to approach your blog with focused intent.

It’s sharing what you want to share in an honest, open and authentic way without sounding like you’re trying too hard.

It’s trying to perfect the no make-up make-up or the messy-hair-don’t-care look, but in the blogosphere.

Whole industries have been built on teaching people like us how to start and grow our blogs the right way so we can stop hitting ‘refresh’ every 30 seconds to see if anyone’s liked or commented on our posts. There’s definitely skill and expertise involved.

How do I know this? 

Because I’ve consumed countless video tutorials, podcasts and blog posts on this very subject. 

As a freelance writer, I know there’s a real need in the online space for well-written, consumable content.  I’m learning as much as I can now so I can add as much value as I can later for my prospective clients.

A good blog post includes at least one really good, relevant visual aid or photo.

Whether we like it or not, aesthetics play an important part in how others view us in the online space.

We all know really good content keeps readers on our sites, but fantastic images help get them there in the first place.  That’s where many of us get stuck.

We see the beautiful Pinterest-ready or blog-ready images, but don’t know quite how to turn them into what we want. I’ve used Canva before and have been able to crank out fairly decent images with basic text overlays, but I’d love to know how to do it really well. Pictures and graphics are a huge time suck for people like me who know what they want, but presently lack the skills to bring their visions to life.

Goal:  Start learning the basics of graphic design with Canva. Design a business logo and learn to create beautiful, branded blog images, social media graphics and infographics.

Value:  Increase blog engagement and readership experience with visually appealing pictures or graphics. Build brand awareness through consistency in brand color palette, logo and choice of fonts and images. Help stand out on more visual platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.  Add value to work for prospective clients.

Tools:  For free design programs: Canva, possibly PicMonkey (free versions); For free stock photos: Canva Free Stock photosUnsplash.com, Pexels.com, Burst.shopify.com

Links to more great resources:
21 Amazing Sites with Breathtaking Free Stock Photos by Chris Gimmer

Source: Snappa Blog (3/28/18)
URL: https://blog.snappa.com/free-stock-photos/

8 Data-driven Tips for Using Images With Blog Posts by Neil Patel 
Source: HubSpot Blog (Originally published 10/31/14, updated 8/26/17)
URL: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/images-in-blog-posts-tips

Social media and online networking is critical to gaining traffic.

You can write a good blog post, but what’s the point if no one knows it exists?

I have to remind myself of this whenever I write something new.  Bloggers write to be seen or heard by others, or we’d set our blogs to private or write in a journal instead.  Since I’m using my blog to help build my online presence, I make it a point to share my posts on Twitter and, on occasion, in re-purposed form on Medium.  While I don’t have a ton of followers yet on either platform, I do get a couple more every time I post, and even more when others engage in what I’ve written.  It’s easy to see how social media — when used effectively — can really drive traffic to your blog.

Right now, though, I’m still deep in the learning curve and have made a few rookie mistakes.  Take it from me, know your settings on your various platforms.  I’ve sent duplicate tweets about the same article because both my blog and Medium accounts were set to automatically tweet whenever I published new content.  I’ve tweeted links to posts without any pictures or descriptions (which, unless I’m Tony Robbins or J.K. Rowling, is akin to launching your work into a gaping black hole). I’ve tweeted without hashtags which, again, may be fine if you already have your loyal following, but if you’re just starting out you need all the potential engagement you can get.

Beware, though.  As you start ramping up your online efforts, you may run smack dab into a thing called social media FOMO.  With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Snapchat, and multitudes of other lesser known platforms, it’s easy to spread yourself so thin in your attempt to be everywhere that your content quality suffers simply because you’ve run out of gas.  Choose a platform or two that makes most sense for you and what you’re trying to accomplish, and don’t worry about the rest. Remember, a Jack-of-All-Trades really is a master of none.

I’ve chosen to expend my energy on Twitter, Medium and Pinterest.  Technically, Medium is an online platform to share writing and Pinterest is more of a search engine (akin to Google), but both require time and intentional cultivation, so I’m including them here.  I’ll save my reasons for focusing on Pinterest for another post, but it has to do with the long half-life of a pin (for marketing purposes), traffic generation, and the set-it-and-forget-it marketing strategy.

This means I’m currently not actively engaged on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, all powerful social and networking platforms for freelance writers.  I plan to update my LinkedIn profile in the near future. I’ve also considered starting a Facebook group for freelance writers or bloggers, but there are so many great ones already with engaged followings that it may be more valuable to join one of those existing groups than to create a new one.

One final thought on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are all extremely visual — another nod to why it would be a wise investment of time to learn to create those click-worthy images and graphics that stand out and make people want to engage.

Goal:  Really understand how Twitter posts are circulated and how they show up in users’ feeds. Learn how to use hashtags to get content in front of a target audience. Learn Twitter etiquette and the life cycle of a tweet (including retweets, likes, comments).

Additional great resources:

Creative Revolt with Jorden Roper: https://www.creativerevolt.com/twitter-for-freelance-writers/

Make a Living Writing with Carol Tice: https://www.makealivingwriting.com/writers-win-social-media/

The Writing Cooperative on Medium (Angely Mercado): https://writingcooperative.com/how-i-use-twitter-to-help-my-freelance-writing-3ab878cd0f30

Your website or blog is your business card.

We live in a digital era, and, in the freelance industry anyway, our primary contacts are no longer limited to those in our local community.  As our networks become more global, our websites and blogs have become our digital business cards, conveying to the world who we are, what we do, and what value we have to contribute to the online marketplace.

The good news: we have the ability to make amazing connections with people and businesses all over the world.

The bad news: the space is incredibly saturated with people vying for the same attention as us.  What this means is if we have, let’s say, only three to five seconds to make a decent impression on our blog, then we need to take care that our content really hooks and grabs, and that our site is as visually pleasing as possible.

In addition to publishing new content and tweaking the old, I’ve been trying to create a more inviting reader experience by customizing my WordPress theme. Since I’m limited to what I can do with the free themes, I’ve been experimenting with the side bar widgets, the site pages on the menu bar, and the font types of both the headings and paragraphs (for readability).

By adding the ‘Recent Posts’ widget to the sidebar, I hope to boost my site’s stickiness factor by showing readers there’s more good stuff to read other than the post that originally brought them there.

Since the ‘Recent Posts’ only lists the blog titles, I know I need to make them as interesting and catchy as possible to entice readers to click and read. If they read a couple posts, maybe they’ll ‘like’ the posts or even choose to follow my blog.

Increased engagement = valuable social proof to prospective clients that my writing could boost their audience engagement as well, which may convert to more subscribers and lead to potential sales.

Blogging as a powerful promotional tool for your business.

So where does that leave us?

Blogging is more of a business tool than I ever imagined.  Initially, I thought blogging would be a way to build community with other freelance writers and to showcase my writing skills, but the more I learn the more I understand the power of a forward-thinking, value-laden blog.

While I still see value in sharing parts of my journey as I continue to build my freelance writing business, I want to take care that each post includes a valuable lesson or takeaway that will help others — otherwise my post is just a confessional and I’m only serving myself.  While writing to work through struggles is an extremely valuable practice, it may be best reserved for private journaling or morning pages.

I’m excited to see where this blog leads.  I’m even more excited to share what I’m learning with you.

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