In the past week I heard from several writers who are thinking about starting a blog. Bravo! Now comes the hard part.
There are all kinds of reasons for blogging: building a brand, practicing different types of writing, promoting a book, putting your resume and clips online, or just getting stuff out there that you couldn’t or wouldn’t put in a paid assignment.
Though the reasons may vary, the mechanics of getting a blog started don’t. Here are six simple steps to starting your freelance writing blog:
1. Pick a niche that you’re in love with. If you’re not passionate about something, your enthusiasm for writing about it will fade. So pick something that speaks to you. Entertainment writer Jane Boursaw blogs about movies at Film Gecko. Sandra Hume, a freelance writer in Kansas, blogs about Laura Ingalls Wilder. Another freelancer, Roxanne Hawn, blogs about her dog Lily. I blog here about how digital media is changing the freelance writing business, a topic that combines my experience covering the tech business with my personal interest in keeping up with the times as a freelancer.
2. Deal with the mechanics. Once you’ve got an idea, you need to give it a home. You can set up a blog on any number of free blog sites including WordPress, Blogger or TypePad. Or you can download free software from Moveable Type or WordPress.org and pay a service like GoDaddy to host your blog. Most of these services have extensive FAQ sections and user forums where you can get answers to your blogging-related questions.
3. Present interesting and well-written material. There’s no right way to write blog posts. But there are some good rules of thumb. Short is good. Write like you’re talking to a friend. Vary post styles: lists, Q&As, and anything with bullet points seem to be particularly popular with readers. Blog posts that spell out your reaction to new events practically write themselves. Others that offer your original reporting or commentary take more time and effort. I included a bunch of other ideas in this post on writing great freelance blog posts and in this one on whether to plot out posts ahead of time or write on the fly.
4. Commit to posting regularly. How often you post is up to you, but doing it consistently is a sure way to increase traffic. That’s one of the main lessons I learned from my May blogathon, where I posted every day for a month. Now I blog Monday through Friday. Other freelancers I know post a couple days a week. Boursaw, the entertainment writer, writes multiple posts a day, sometimes as many as 10. Maybe it’s why traffic to her blog is through the roof.
5. Build traffic. There are all types of tips and tricks to get people to find out about your blog, including using search engine optimization or SEO to tag your blog posts so Google, Yahoo and other search engines will pick them up, and putting links into your posts. Other traffic builders: maintaining a blogroll, leaving comments on other blogs, and joining blogging networks. Here’s a list of other tips for improving traffic to your freelance blog. You can find more information on these and other techniques on sites such as Copyblogger and ProBlogger and Blogging Basics 101.
6. Have fun! Don’t freak out if your blog’s not popular right out of the gate. Unless you’re lucky or are using a blog to promote a book that’s already bestseller, it takes time for people to find you.
Got your own suggestions for how to start a writing blog?
Michelle V. Rafter is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore. She has spent more than 20 years covering business and technology for magazines, newspapers, wire services and Websites.