Nearly every new freelance writer I meet wants to start a blog.
Why? Here are some answers I hear a lot:
“It’ll be a great marketing tool.”
“Writing a blog will give me some samples.”
“It will get traffic for my writer website and help me get hired.”
“The blog will help me learn about social media.”
All of these things could be true. But often, this budding blog accomplishes nothing except to waste some of this newbie’s precious time.
Why blogs die
The vast majority of the startup blogs writers create are a dead end. They go nowhere and are seen by no one. They don’t get any comments or social shares.
Without any positive feedback, the writer soon comes to dread posting on their blog, until one day, they stop. So much for a blog being the magical key to getting noticed as a new writer.
Why does this happen? The whole premise of the blog is wrong. From the very start.
Here are the three basic ways writer blogs get set up to fail:
1. Your blog is nameless
I’ve reviewed a lot of writer blogs and I’ve noticed a spooky thing they have in common that causes the blog to fail as a marketing tool.
Most writers set up their blog as a tab on their writer site. Which is fine. But here’s the problem: about 90 percent of the blogs set up this way have no name.
They’re under a tab called “blog” and when you click on that (if you bother), you see a blog. But there is no header or name for the blog. It simply blogs along, and you’re left to scan the headlines and try to divine the focus or theme of this blog.
Tip: If blogging is so uninteresting to you that you can’t even take the time to think up a name for your blog, do not start a blog.
If you’re serious about using a blog to promote your writing, give it a name. It could be straightforward like “Joe’s Marketing Ideas: Tips for small businesses” or something more conceptual and cool like Angie Mansfield’s Tranquiligeek blog.
Use your blog name on the blog tab if it’s on your writer site, and on the blog page, too (check out how Angie does it). Because no one wants to click on a tab that simply says “Blog.”
C’mon and give it a little more spice!
If you’re stumped on a name, at least come up with a theme for the blog. Then call your tab “my marketing blog” or “my quilting blog” or whatever it is.
That will help prospects understand it’s a real blog with a topic, not some marketing-fodder joke.
2. Your blog is your random notepad
To get gigs, you need a blog that’s similar to the ones paying clients would want you to write. In other words, a blog that focuses on useful information for a particular audience. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of blog most writers want to start.
Instead, writers want to navel-gaze and discuss whatever strikes their fancy. For instance, one blog I recently reviewed had the tagline “social and economic problems that keep me awake at night.”
That’s a big problem.
When companies go looking for a blogger, they want someone who knows how to focus on their customers’ needs rather than their own random musings. You show you get it by sticking to a single topic on your blog and providing useful information to your readers, not venting about eight of your pet topics.
A good blog is not about you — especially not one designed to get clients. A good blog is always written in service of a reader.
Just this morning, I had a new blogger cheerfully comment to me, “If you’re interested in sci-fi/romance novels, Buddhist meditation, singing, swimming, or other topics I blog about, please visit my blog!”
When you throw a confusing mix of topics together on your blog, there is no reader you’ve got in mind. It’s just you venting or rambling on about whatever you like.
Then prospective clients think you don’t understand how to blog to build an audience — and they leave without hiring you.
3. You don’t really want to blog
Good blogs are driven by passion.
Blogs are a lot of unpaid work (at least at first), so the successful ones tend to be written by someone who is crazy about their topic.
Like, you’re lying awake at night because you can’t wait to get up in the morning and write another post for your blog. That excited about it.
But most writers start blogs for a different reason — because they’ve heard they’ve just got to have one. Or they think it’ll help them get gigs. Or they want to get rich and they’ve heard blogging is the ticket to a fast fortune.
They’re not thrilled about the idea for their blog, but they sort of hold their nose and plunge ahead.
No surprise that a lot of writers complain to me, “I’m not keeping up my blog I put on my writer’s site. I just don’t have any ideas for it.”
When you start a blog you had no burning desire to write, it’s not going to work. That lack of enthusiasm shows, and you end up with a blog you hate — and that doesn’t impress clients.
Another big problem: You can’t really grow the blog, because other bloggers sense you’re lukewarm. It’s hard for you to find guest post opportunities or to get top bloggers to share your posts.
So you don’t get any engagement on your blog — and seeing no comments and zero shares also seriously underwhelms clients. They want to see you know how to get people talking and sharing.
How to create a winning blog
The bottom line? Think before you blog.
Give your blog a name, a mission you love, and a target reader. Then, ask those readers what they need to know from you.
You’ll create a blog that’s a great writing sample, and possibly much more.