Bloggity, blog, blog
Sloggity, slog, slog
What I’ve learned
Is a blog is a hog!
It hogs my time
It hogs my thoughts
But I also think
I like it a lot.
I’m here to tell you some of what I’ve learned. And what I’m still learning, as I develop my freelance writer’s website and business.
And the first lesson is a blog is a must
Especially if you are looking for work as a writer. It becomes a testimonial of sorts, showcasing your work and what you can do for your clients.
By producing your content, customers and prospects will see what you can do for them. And some of what they can expect.
I look at having a writing business website as a sort of online resume that helps people get to know me.
For me, you, and many companies, a website with a blogging presence gives added value. It becomes a big old playground of sorts to experiment and learn things every single day.
Kathryn Aragon, a content marketing expert, calls it my sandbox and I think she has a point. Even so, I’m afraid of playing in there sometimes. Here’s why.
For one thing, I’m technologically challenged and don’t want all my work (so far) to crash.
Then again, with mentor Kathryn egging me on, I’m doing some pretty fancy things with technology. Things beyond what I ever dreamed I’d be able to do.
I know because I tried before. But with a burst of determination, strong-headedness, and some educational guidance (Thanks, K.A.) too, I am working beyond what I ever believed I could, technologically speaking.
Web businesses need to be malleable to compete in a turbo-paced digital environment. So the attitude of the experimental sandbox may be a good philosophy for companies of all types.
If you’re ready to take it up a notch, the new Rainmaker Platform promises to offer a robust and updated platform but requires an investment to use. I suspect it will become more and more prevalent and from what I’ve read, they’re aiming for high capabilities sure to benefit users.
Takeaway 1: Do it or you never will. Even with technology. It’s the way business works now. I know, I’m so 2015!
Let’s face it, it’s not like I’ve never made a mistake before…how about you?
If you look at technology struggles with a “what have I got to lose” attitude, you may surprise yourself.
Sure it will be a fight for some time to come like it was before I began to take it on, but I’m learning, and I love it. Guess I’m up for the challenge after all. Though if you’d asked me a year ago, I would have downright laughed at you.
Keys I used to crack the technology code
WordPress, an industry standard, was for me a humongous intimidating, scary monster.
As it turned out, it was only one among a million technology creatures. But you have to fight creatures in order to get into the blogging and content marketing game, in a digital kind of way.
So be ready to push yourself. It’s just too important to NOT learn. For oh so many reasons. The responsive design and blog posting capabilities in this platform are just two.
An online business presence and YOU need to get to know each other so you may as well embrace it.
Having your own hosted site and domain name establishes your “real estate” online, as Sonia Simone, CMO and co-founder of Copyblogger Media, refers to it.
Kathryn Aragon calls it your “Marketing Hub” or the anchor of your business’ website content and marketing efforts, too.
So jump in and make your own internet space to work from.
Own it and love it even if it feels like it may break you.
At least that’s my approach. Besides, I refuse to get broken. Ha.
Takeaway 2: Develop your own real estate. You have to. It’s the only way to go.
Whether you’re just jumping in or in knee deep, what are some of the must-have tools you can’t live without?
Look, I’m still amazed at the interesting and mega useful tools out there. Software, apps, plugins (which I had never even heard of a short time ago) and, well, tools, help make your website, blog, and even you, productive and first rate.
Most of the stuff I am working with is great, even at the free level. Others are inexpensive, which works for the developing small business budget every time.
My method of attack to bring new frightening beasts into my digital work goes a bit like this:
- Listen to what mentors and other resources suggest or recommend.
- Try the ones that seem either important or necessary for progress.
- Play, test, experience, and otherwise feel your way around. It helps you know what you can and want, to incorporate into your website and your writing arsenal.
- Find tutorials, webinars, or user guides. Make help desk phone calls, even, before you stop using something. Especially if you like it, or must use it, as is sometimes the case. (example: WordPress.org)
- Persist. Because quitters never win, right? Take it slow, one at a time if you have to. That’s what I did.
- Sometimes quitting the frustrating fight with hairy technology gives you the break you need. Even just overnight, for example. Who knows, sometimes things magically work the next day (like after my 20 hours tussle with AppSumo for sharing buttons) because folks wanted to share my work, so I needed sharing buttons NOW! Or you may have a sudden brain flash, so when you go back to working on something, everything comes together, miraculously makes sense, and you figure out how it works. Yay! And sometimes, you may have to actually quit. I’ve had to admit defeat because some things are just plain over my head. For now.
- Give it time. This is the hardest part. I hate taking days at a time to figure out how to work with something or other. I couldn’t even navigate Microsoft WORD, the most popular word processor known to mankind because it’s new to me. I still find it frustrating, but I’m typing on it now because it is the standard accepted submission format for writers. And it’s the easiest to copy to my WordPress site. Remember, everything gets better with practice. At least that’s my plan.
Takeaway 3: Plan a method of attack. Or use mine. And attack.
Synopsis of my favs
Try these out.
Easy, free or low cost, and must-have, depict my selection criteria on this short tools list.
I’m not ordering them in any particular way, but as they flow from connections made in my brain, however, that will work out. Here goes:
Evernote. A revelation for me and still a favorite place to store collections of research on topics in individual “Notebooks.” You can make lists, organize a group of pictures, and save things to read as well as links, quotes, reference materials, and even more.
And I still only use the free version. The next step-up in features is only about 5 dollars a month, so still reasonable, if your needs grow.
I particularly like the simple, intuitive interface that puts magic wands in the design hands of muggles.”
So true. If you aren’t using Canva already, you’re missing an essential ingredient for your blog post design and graphics elements in your writing work. If you’re a muggle too, try it now!
Trello. Ann Handley brings me to Trello. Why? Because I read a post by Ann that said it was an excellent tool for her and thought, hmmm, maybe I should check it out since she seems to like and use this one.
But, I don’t have a team that I regularly work with so I thought, maybe not.
A long story told in a short way, I decided to check it out and am tickled with it since. I don’t usually fuss about tools. Because it’s a big thing that I even try them, but here’s what I tweeted after I started to figure out how to use it, at least a little:
Piktochart. Infographics are not only a popular way to provide data in an interesting way but offer a visually appealing and high cognitive approach for showing information to make your content even more engaging.
Here’s my Piktochart called “Annisms I Love” showing quotes, like the one above, from Ann’s book. (Hey, these are good tips for you, too!)
All four (4) of these are great assets to writing and blogging to help with research, organization and visual presentation in your posts.
The next tools are to use within your WordPress site.
These are only basics in the vast world of plugins but are valuable beyond expected and will help every website of any kind.
AppSumo. I mentioned this one earlier. I had the plugin already installed but was too green, digitally speaking, to even apply it (yet) and then just absolutely had to! And fast. Help AppSumo!!!
AppSumo is an amusing app (group of people led by Noah Kagan) with notes from the “fat ass sumo” and lots of taco talk, but it does some pretty awesome things.
I’m still learning (there’s so much more) about this one and right now am pleased to have free sharing buttons on my site pages and blog posts in my preferred color choice. Look for all kinds of deals that AppSumo will send your way.
Optinmonster is a similar plugin for pop-ups and list building, welcome mats and title bars too, with great reviews. I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet but take a look for comparison.
Yoast SEO Plugin. SEO (search engine optimization) is important if you want your site, your articles, your blog, and your product/services found and ranked in search engines where people look for things.
What I love most about Yoast, is that it helps you learn how…literally guides and scores you…to incorporate your work with SEO on each and every piece. Great!
TweetDis. A super cool, incredibly easy way for people to share your blog posts to Twitter with just a click.
As soon as I decided to dive (think swan dive, fear belly smacker) into the social media pool to join Twitter, I had to have it! I did pay for this one (about $40) but so far, I’m pleased.
There may be other options to click and tweet, but the point is that you do want someone (anyone!) to read your work, and this will help you and others share it.
MailChimp. I’m most pleased of all that I am using this one even though it doesn’t offer an email auto-responder on the free level.
I created a signup form, thank you response and welcome email. A good start:)
It took a little more fooling around and learning to get set up. But you must have a system to collect emails (to create your list) and to share your work, whether you share blog posts, newsletters or whatever.
My feeling is that I have further to go (and grow into) using MailChimp to the fullest but, I think if I can do it, anyone can.
I told you this was a synopsis, so I’m only sharing the icing on the cake, the gotta haves, for now.
Takeaway 4: There’s a tool out there for you. Find it. Use it.
Follow the leader, but only so far
A writer’s journey follows many paths but, no two will be the same.
Start with finding great examples for writing in your dream trade (or genre if you prefer.)
Blogging and freelance writing for a living present a whole world of struggles and issues, even beyond keeping up your quality blog, but some keys can help you.
Reading, for example, is always a prerequisite for great writers, but can you do more?
I started on a copywriting path, turned left to freelance writer and honed to the off-shoot “content writer for business.” I’m still flitting around though. I have a natural instinct for business, may even qualify as an “expert” in some respects because I’ve owned and operated a small business for over 25 years.
But the thing is, well, I have a lot of interests. And in truth, when you write for other companies and their readers/audience, you need to gear your writing toward very specific goals as prescribed by your client. You need to adapt and learn and grow. And be willing to do so.
Maybe you’re like me and find it hard to “conform” and write in a single, consistent format. Maybe it’s the artist and creative spirit of writers that make this a problem for more folks than me but, at any rate, you have to start by doing something, trying things, experimenting.
You’re allowed to change things and will likely get better as you go.
Find some leaders to emulate! I’ve been so lucky with my discoveries on this front. And I’ve found professional writers and bloggers help each other and new writers out.
Kristi Hines is a great place to start as you probably already know. It took me a long time (probably a year or more) of reading and loving her work before I came across her website. Then I signed up for her list, which continues to provide useful information at every email issued. And also how I found this site.
Kathryn Aragon is a treasure, and I can’t say how much she helped kick my butt in gear, or how much I’ve learned from her. She let me know that reading, more education, studying, courses and research galore (that I had been drowning myself in for 8 months before meeting her) was NOT going to get me where I need and want to go.
But getting my own sandbox sure does! [In my case, I had to get off the website builder and get a “real” writer site with the big kids on WordPress, like it or not, and that’s just for starters!]
Kathryn also introduced me to work of other pro writers who are on the absolutely-must-read list (and I’m certainly not the only one who thinks so). Like: Ann Smarty, Sharon Hurley Hall, and Barry Feldman, just to name a few.
And those writers led me to further contacts and discoveries. Some of which are even more startling than the ones already mentioned.
A-list writers like: Ann Handley (a gem), Joanna Weibe (brilliant), Chris Brogan, Danny Iny, Mark Schaefer, Cathy Miller, Sonia Simone, Henneke Duistermaat, Andy Crestodino, Amy Chick, Jeff Goins, Joe Pulizzi and one writer I like to think of as an insane genius (hope he won’t mind) and that would be James Altucher.
And my latest writer crush (hat tip to Sonia Simone, who shared this fab piece of writing) is, I think, a sports writer mainly, named Joe Poz-something but check this out! Strong. Relatable. Writing.
The point is that once you are blogging and writing, reading other bloggers/writers will teach you and show you a lot of things to aspire to for your craft. It will also give you tons ideas to use.
This group represents writers I’ve found since starting my freelance online writing business (these and more) but don’t forget to read a million other things too. On and off the web.
Now that I think of it, I have A LOT of favorite writers and all kinds, but this group is extremely pertinent for online writing. You can learn a lot from reading/studying any one of them.
Hey, you might even find some things you hate and don’t ever want to do!
Takeaway 5: Don’t just read. Read to understand and learn. Find your favorites and try to figure out what they do that makes them so fabulous and then practice to do it too.
I refer to Kathryn Aragon one more time because she said to me once, “Copy me.” NO, she didn’t mean to plagiarize (or scrape I think the pros call it) but she DID intend for me to try to emulate her work and replicate some fundamental and proper writing techniques.
She wanted me to write about things that can help other people and offer usable tips but in my own voice, and from my own experiences. And, here’s the kicker: write it in an original way.
I hope that sharing frustrations, tips, and tools that are part of the hog that is my blog will help you, too. So let me know by commenting, please.
P.S. Thanks for having me, Kikolani:)