In this article, I explain how blogging for writers works and provide practical tips for getting started.
Are you struggling to find a direction for your work? Will starting a blog answer these questions and help you become a better writer?
I started blogging in 2013 after I was let go from a dream job that didn't work out.
Knocked down, discouraged and running out of money, I wanted to set myself a realistic writing challenge: fill my free time and find a job.
That website was a failure because no one found my content helpful (ouch!).
My old website helped me get a writing job as a copywriter, and I learnt many painful lessons from my mistakes (more of those in a moment).
Blogging is the perfect outlet for authors and freelance writers who want to build a platform, share their message with an audience and develop their writing practice.
The internet's number one blogger, Seth Godin summed it up best in his 5000th blog post:
My biggest surprise? That more people aren't doing this. Not just every college professor (particularly those in the humanities and business), but everyone hoping to shape opinions or spread ideas.
Entrepreneurs. Senior VPs. People who work in non-profits. Frustrated poets and unknown musicians… Don't do it because it's your job, do it because you can.Seth Godin
1. Put Your Readers First
Content marketing rule 101: it's not about you. It's about them.
There's little point publishing post after post about what you had for dinner, your thoughts on the latest Apple product, and why the new Batman vs Superman film is an awful or great idea.
Wait! I'm not a content marketer. Here's the kicker:
If you're a blogger, you are.
As a blogger, it's your job to identify a niche and then commit to creating high-quality content that solves readers' problems in your niche.
I learnt this lesson the hard way.
Years ago, I wrote posts about home theatre systems, books, and my thoughts on the latest Apple software.
Who reads my boring, meandering content?
Almost no one.
This is one reason why I pulled the plug on my old site.
On Become a Writer Today, I publish articles mostly about the craft alongside some writing apps reviews. I'm committed to publishing content that helps readers (you) succeed.
This is why I ask every new reader: what are you struggling with right now?
Their (your) answers give me focus for my work and makes my posts about them (you).
2. Build Up a Library of Blog Topic Ideas
It's easy enough to find topics to blog about if you know where to look. You could write about:
- A problem a reader is having
- A lesson you learnt
- A recent case study from a client (if you write non-fiction)
- Your creative process
- The craft
It's a mistake to publish articles all about you. Entertain, inform, inspire and educate your readers.
Keep your ideas for blog topics in a personal swipe file, Zettelkästen or Evernote.
3. Write Articles Based on Uncompetitive Keywords
When you're starting out, I recommend aligning your blog topics with a keyword people are searching for but which doesn't have a lot of commercial intent. That way, you can easily rank without facing stiff competition from more prominent websites.
I use keyword optimisation tools like AHREFS, Clearscope and Marketmuse to find keywords. These tools are pricey for new bloggers. But you can easily research popular keywords and topics using:
4. Tell Stories About Your Work
There are over 600 million active blogs in the world today.
Here's the problem:
As a writer, your website has almost no chance of rising over this noise (sorry!) unless you learn basic online marketing strategies.
Many new writers are uncomfortable with the concept of marketing, but there's no need to run in the opposite direction.
Marketing is simply a way of telling stories about your work. You can:
- Write quality guest posts for more prominent blogs in your niche (more on that in a moment)
- Build relationships with other bloggers and reach out when you’ve great content to share
- Start an email list and ask your most loyal fans to join it
- Build your personal brand as a writer on social media
- Pay for products or services by more successful writers and marketers and leverage these customer/buyer relationships to skill up
5. Try Guest Blogging
Guest blogging is an excellent way of building a relationship with other top bloggers and finding new readers. A former mentor of mine likened it to opening for the Rolling Stones. People are there to see the main act, but some of them will become fans of your work.
Find a bigger blog in your niche and pitch the site owner with a helpful article that over-delivers. Include a clear call-to-action back to your website. This will grow your readership and domain authority.
Guest blogging will help you learn how bigger sites operate and what type of content to create. It will also help clients find your work.
Want to learn more? Read our guide to guest blogging.
6. Acquire Some Technical Skills
You don't need to be Bill Gates to learn how to set up a blog and publish your posts. WordPress is free, and it only takes a few hours to learn.
Creating blog posts and running a website isn't always as simple or straightforward as some make it out to be.
I've spent hours figuring out:
- The best hosting provider for a serious blogger
- How to change the look of my WordPress theme of choice using HTML and CSS
- The pros and cons of various WordPress plugins
- Taking SEO courses via LinkedIn Learning and, more recently, Traffic Think Tank
None of these tasks directly connect to writing, and they take up hours each week. But it's time well spent.
If you feel uncomfortable about this way of working, remember writers who earn a good living work on their craft and their business each day. In the meantime, you can always write on Medium until you figure your niche out.
7. Create Content Consistently
The internet thrives on content, and that includes blogs. If you want to build a popular website, it's going to take time and patience. Creating and publishing blog content consistently means you'll
- Practice writing more
- Learn what readers want and don't want from great content
- Have more chances for your articles to rank in Google search engine results organically
- Explore your thinking and ideas via different blog topics
- Build up a portfolio of articles to demonstrate to clients
8. Build A Presence on a Blogging Platform You Control
That means creating a self-hosted blog on WordPress and launching it on a domain of your own. That way, you can control your relationship with readers without becoming overly depending on an algorithm.
Publishing articles on blogging platforms like Medium is a good choice if you want to earn a little and build a relationship with readers.
But, your profile and call-to-actions should always lead people back to your website. This approach means clients can find and commission you for freelance writing gigs.
9. Balance Blogging With Your Creative Work
Years ago, I wrote fiction in the morning and non-fiction (i.e. blog posts) at night. These days, I write long-form non-fiction in the morning and work on my websites in the afternoon.
I won't lie. It's a difficult balancing act.
I sometimes wonder if I'm spending too much time on the business side of writing and not enough on creative work.
It helps if you figure out what type of writer you want to become and who your ideal audience is before investing time in blogging.
Then, ask how much time you want to dedicate to this craft. For me, this means publishing multiple high-quality blog post a week and dedicating the rest of my time to creating long-form non-fiction.
Any more than one post a week feels like overkill, and any less feels like taking my foot off the accelerator.
10. Limit Time Spent on Social Media
Spending hours tweeting, sharing, liking, pinning content online seems like a productive use of time for bloggers, but all you're doing is feeding an algorithm and consuming other people's content.
Plus, these channels' owners can change the rules, so your content gains more or less attention.
Instead, far better to create content and publish it on a platform on own. After that, by all means, share on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
If you're going to take this craft seriously, write an article or work on blog content for at least thirty minutes each day before logging into your network of choice.
11. Study Copywriting
Several years ago, I took a creative writing class during which we practiced crafting long sentences that expand over 5, 10 and even 20 lines.
Blocks of text may look great on paper, but they are terrible to read on-screen.
As a blogger and online writer, it's your job to learn how to break up your content with white space, lists, and clever formatting tricks.
You'll also need to learn the basics of copywriting.
Blog like you're writing literary fiction, and your would-be readers won't read your content.
Here's the good news:
Blogging and copywriting are types of writing practice that will help you become a more concise writer who knows how to sell a great idea.
If you're a writer, you're in the business of selling ideas.
If you wan to learn more about where to study copywriting, check out our guide to the best writing courses.
12. Don't Worry About Getting Paid (At Least, Not Yet)
If you want to make money from writing, this craft isn't the shortest and easiest way to get paid.
However, as a writer, you can make money by:
- Selling your books to your audience
- Offering writing and coaching services
- Creating an online course based on your writings
- Becoming an affiliate for products and books you recommend
It's only worth doing the above after you've built an audience for your content.
If you write non-fiction, blogging is an excellent strategy because you can repurpose content from your books as blog posts and vice-versa.
It's harder to build an online audience for your blog if you only write fiction, but you can still do it. It won't happen overnight, but you can earn over six and even seven figures from content publishing.
Blogging for Writers: The Final Word
Blogging is a fantastic venue for writers because we can express ourselves for free and practice the art of writing and publishing in public.
We don't need permission to write or to publish our work.
(I hate asking for permission.)
Taking blogging seriously demands you as a writer pivot from talking about yourself and your ideas towards solving problems for your ideal audience.
You need to get into the ring with your readers, understand their every move before they do, and then provide content that knocks them out.
It's a challenge, but you'll succeed if you train like every blog post is a championship fight.
Or as Seth says:
I’ve never once met a successful blogger who questioned the personal value of what she did.
You need to start blogging, but where do you begin?
Pick a topic your readers are interested in. Write about how the topic from the point of view of your expertise. Tell stories and include some real-world examples. Publish this article on Medium. Repeat until you discover what works.
But what if you still need help picking a topic for your blog?
The best blogs focus on their readers and not on the writer. If you're unsure about how to do this, consider the genre you like to write in. Now produce educational and entertaining content related to this genre. If this approach won't work, set up a blog in your name but explain how you help readers.
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