Yesterday we looked at reasons why freelance writers need a professional website. Today I'd like to take that a step farther and talk about the reasons most freelance writers also need a blog -- ideally one tied to their professional website.
If you're new to the idea of blogging, let's start with the basics of what a blog is.
Blogs are pretty simple. They're websites where content (articles known as blog posts) are displayed in chronological order. That's it.
Blogs can be standalone websites -- like Lori Widmer's Words on the Page blog. On the other hand, All Indie Writers is not a blog. It's a larger website that happens to include blogs.
When it comes to blogging as a freelance writer, you have to make the choice between those two options. You can run a standalone blog, or you can tie your blog to your larger professional website.
If you care about using that blog to market your services, the latter is the option you want to go with. And that's the kind of blog we're talking about today -- one that exists within your client-facing freelance site. (If you aren't sure how to set this up, I recommend using WordPress. I walk you through the simple process of adding a blog to a static-looking business website in How to Use WordPress to Set up a Combination Professional Website and Blog.)
This post won't go into reasons why you should or shouldn't run a writing blog (like this site or Lori's blog mentioned above). Instead I'm going to talk about the reasons you should have a blog targeting your ideal clients.
For example, if you're a business writer your blog might cover business writing tutorials. If you write for the insurance industry, you could start a blog on news and issues affecting that industry. If you're a journalist you might blog about the state of media (or any specific segment, regional focus, etc.).
3 Reasons Freelance Writers Should Have a Blog
Here are three of the biggest reasons most, if not all, freelance writers should have a blog on their professional websites:
1. A blog can make it easier to attract clients.
Just a couple of years ago, you could probably get away without having a blog on your professional website. It wouldn't have affected your search engine rankings too much, as long as the rest of your professional site featured high quality copy and you built backlinks.
That isn't enough anymore.
More recently, Google started giving more weight to sites with recent updates. That means you need some kind of dynamic content on your website to really stand out. Blogs are one of the easiest ways to introduce fresh content on a continual basis.
Blogs also give you endless opportunities to appear in search engine results for things your clients are looking for. For example, I'm a business writer and blogger. My professional website mostly targets "business writer" related keyword phrases. But blog posts allow me to focus more on individual types of business writing clients are interested in -- like press release writing or case study writing. Then those blog posts give me a place to link readers to my actual services.
If you ignore the SEO benefits of blogging, you're going to miss out on clients. Remember, many prospects find their freelancers by searching for them. You'll never reach them if they search and your website doesn't show up.
2. A blog helps you build authority status in your specialty area.
Blogs aren't just about traffic. They also offer you a great deal of freedom in what you write. That means you can write about any industry issue that might affect clients, share opinions, interview industry insiders, educate your client base about something they care about -- all things that can turn you and your blog into a go-to source for authoritative information.
Why does that matter?
It matters for a few reasons:
- When you're considered an authority in your specialty area, you can command higher rates.
- When your blog shows readers that you know what you're talking about, you have a better chance of getting them to click on the sales-centric links on your site, giving you a much warmer lead.
- When you're seen as an authority in your specialty area, it opens doors to additional revenue streams such as e-courses, e-books, coaching, and consulting services. These can be nice add-ons to your writing services and can help tide you over if you ever have a slow period.
Can you build an authority status in other ways? Absolutely. But it all comes down to control and analytics (just like with your professional website). You want to retain control over how your content promotes your business, and you need to be able to track data that can tell you what works and what needs to improve. By all means, publish elsewhere if it will help you reach your target market. Just don't do that in lieu of having your own blog.
3. Blogging helps you build your professional network.
No, I'm not talking about networking with other writers. That's not what your business blog is for. Your blog tied to your professional website will instead help you build a network of prospects, clients, sources, and other industry insiders.
Blogging helps you build a community. Your blog posts will invite discussion, and even debate. You'll "meet" people you otherwise might never have come across. And those connections matter.
You never know when one of your regular blog readers will need a writer like you in their corner. Or maybe they'll hear from someone else who needs a referral. Guess who they're going to think of -- the freelance writers in their own network who they've come to trust and respect. You want to be one of those writers.
That's not to say blogging should be your only networking tool. But it can be a valuable one.
Other Reasons Freelancers Should Consider Blogging
In the end, you need a blog as a freelance writer because blogs are incredible marketing tools. There are precious few things that will give you as much bang for your buck, and over time your blog can bring in a steady stream of client offers when you make it a part of your writer platform.
The thing is, blogs aren't only about the networking and marketing benefits mentioned above. There are other reasons you should consider adding a blog to your professional freelance writing website. Whether or not these apply to you might depend on where you currently are in your career.
- Blog posts act like extra portfolio pieces, whether you include them in your portfolio or not -- especially helpful to newer freelancers.
- If you write for the Web, your blog will teach you a lot about what your clients do (and what they expect of you). For example, you'll learn about search engine optimization, social media marketing, and content management systems (like WordPress) -- all things you might be expected to know on your next gig.
- Fresh blog posts give you something to promote via social media channels to keep your network interested in your site. You can't keep tweeting about your writing services. You won't land many clients that way. But link to helpful content on your blog instead, and you might have an easier time building your readership -- which is full of prospects.
- Blogs offer a great amount of freedom, which makes them ideal tools in personal branding which is important if you as an individual are the name and face of your business.
- Blogging keeps you writing. If you're new or going through a slow time, it's easy to get discouraged. Managing your own blog gives you something to always push forward on.
- Blogging can force you to stay on top of news and issues that are important in your industry or specialty area, so you're never out of touch with what's important to your clients.
- Your blog serves as your social hub -- it's what all of your other social media profiles link back to, giving you consistency in audience and branding.
- Blogs can help you land media coverage or coverage on other industry blogs -- this goes back to building an authority status, which makes you a prime interview source.
- Every single blog post you write gives you another opportunity to put a call to action in front of your prospects.
- Blogging helps you remain current and relevant.
- A blog helps you put feelers out and better understand how your target market feels about certain issues, events, and even working with freelancers. That's a benefit of the two-way conversations blogs encourage.
- Blogs can help you push past writer's block by letting you explore something different for a short time, or by letting you explore things in a different way.
- Blogs are fairly easy to manage in the grand scheme of running a business, and they don't have to take too much of your time.
That's right. Blogs don't have to take a huge amount of time. They don't have to take any time away from client work. That common argument against starting your own professional blog is a complete and total myth.
Yes, You Have Time to Blog
Can blogs take a lot of time to manage? They sure can. When this site was predominantly a blog under its old All Freelance Writing brand, it took a lot of time and resources to manage. But this wasn't a client-facing blog tied to a professional website. This was a blog run as a business model in its own right. That's a completely different animal.
When it comes to a professional blog, you only have to sink in as much time as you're able to.
Blogging: Putting Time in up Front
Most of that time will be put in up front to set up your blog. If you already have a website, that can be a pretty fast process (especially if you built your site on an easily adaptable content management system with a built-in blogging feature -- I always recommend self-hosted WordPress for this).
Even if you're starting a new professional site and blog from scratch, installation is a breeze. Many hosting companies have one-click installations for WordPress. It doesn't get any easier than that. Even if you install the platform manually, WordPress offers instructions for a 5-minute install. If you're already familiar with WordPress, it probably won't even take you that long.
After that, it doesn't take more than a few minutes to get your basic settings in order (like choosing your permalink settings or setting a static page as your homepage so your blog looks like an internal feature of your professional site -- like in the instructions in the article I linked previously).
Choose a theme (your design template) from the WordPress repository or a premium theme provider. Choose something simple where you won't have to do any heavy customizations. Installation, again, is easy. WordPress lets you upload and automatically install a new theme in seconds.
Themes are one of your most likely time-sucks. Try to stay away from image-heavy ones, ones with complicated custom admin areas that you have to learn how to use, and ones that would need a lot of color customization if you're not sure how to do that. Theme customizations can take anywhere from a few minutes to weeks. So make smart choices about your base theme if you don't have a lot of time to spend making it your own.
You might want to spend a little bit of time choosing and installing plugins -- like social media sharing buttons for your posts, or an SEO plugin. But that, too, shouldn't take terribly long as long as you don't go overboard.
The most time-consuming aspect is writing the initial copy (if you're not adding a blog to an existing site) and your first few blog posts, because you don't want to launch a blog with no content on it.
As long as you keep it simple, it won't take more than a few hours to set up your blog. Even that's pushing it if you have any experience with WordPress (or whatever platform you choose). Even if you're brand new to blogging and websites, spending a few days getting things set up is a worthwhile investment.
Once your blog is live, it gets easier in many ways.
Blogging: The Ongoing Time Commitment
One common misconception is that to have a blog, you must blog every day. Not true, especially with these kinds of blogs. A Hubspot survey found that 57% of marketers acquired a customer through their blog. That doesn't sound like much, right? But those were only the marketers who blogged monthly. Yes. One post per month.
No matter how busy you are, you can write one post per month. Remember, this time doesn't come out of your billable hours. It comes out of the time you should have already set aside for marketing your freelance business.
Lead generation improved as post frequency increased. So if you want to blog more often, have at it. Just don't feel like you have to post new content constantly for your blog to be an effective marketing tool. You don't. (Again, this would be different if you're running a blog as a business model in its own right.) And that doesn't even account for how those blogs were used, whether they were used effectively, whether or not posts included a direct call to action, etc. My bet is that you could actually improve those odds.
Blog once per month, bi-weekly, weekly, or even daily if you want. Blogging is a very adaptable tool that can be worked into anyone's schedule.
Taking Time to Market Your Blog
Another common complaint I hear is that writers either don't have time to market their blogs or they don't want to be bothered to market a blog.
In many cases, you won't have to do very much additional marketing for this particular kind of blog. Remember, it's tied to your existing professional website -- something you should be marketing anyway.
Here are some ways you can market your blog without investing a lot of extra time:
- Add your blog URL to your business card.
- Include a recent post list or widget on your main business site to promote fresh blog content.
- Comment on other industry blogs (or blogs that your target market might frequent), and leave a link to your blog where allowed.
- If you already use social networks to find prospects, simply share your new posts with members of your network.
- Write occasional guest posts for other sites in your specialty area and include a link back (something you should likely be doing to promote your business site anyway).
- Add a link to your blog to your email signature.
- Set up Google Authorship so your face appears next to your blog posts in search results (which can increase the likelihood that people will click on your link).
Again, none of these things have to take a lot of time. And some of these things are things you're doing already anyway to market your services or your professional website.
Marketing a blog doesn't have to take nearly as much time as you might expect. And even the little things can go a long way toward building your network and increasing your reach among your target clients.
Do you have a blog tied to your professional website yet? Why or why not? Can you think of other reasons freelance writers should consider starting a professional blog (as opposed to a "writing blog" or standalone niche blog)? Share your thoughts in the comments.