You’re thinking about this whole content marketing thing, and you’re wondering if it’s for you. But you don’t have a blog … oh wait, you do! It was something you wrote five years ago about a trip you took, wasn’t it?
So maybe it’s time to dust off that blog, or rather, forget about that one and start a shiny new one that you’re going to update regularly with lots of sparkly, relevant, helpful content.
Because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
But hang on, before you’ve even started you’re already having doubts about whether you can actually do this. So let’s just deal with them right now and get all that out the way so you can get on with sharing your content with the world.
I’ve been blogging regularly for the past year, and I’d dabbled before that. So I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve been through all of these worries – and not that long ago – so I’m right there with you.
Here are the stumbling blocks we’re going to get rid of:
- Do I need to have a blog?
- I don’t know what to write in my blog
- I don’t write well enough to have a blog
- I’m too scared to publish my blog
- How can I write better for my blog?
- Who can help me with my blog?
- What content can I produce instead of a blog?
Do I need to have a blog?
Why do you want one? Because everyone else seems to be doing it isn’t a good enough reason. You have to understand the benefits of having a blog and want to do it.
It raises your visibility
with your potential customers. As Gary Vaynerchuk so eloquently puts it, if you’re not producing content, you basically don’t exist
. You may feel that’s a bit extreme, but if you’re trying to attract the right clients
, where else will they find you but online? And the best way to be visible online is by consistently producing useful, relevant content.
And a blog is a great way of existing online in a meaningful way. Instead of posting memes on Facebook, or tweeting about the latest political disasters, you could be writing about things people actually want to know – they’re asking Google the questions that you have the answers to!
Think about it – when you want the answer to a question these days, the chances of you searching for it online, no matter what it’s about, are pretty high.
By writing about the questions your clients want answered and the topics they are interested in, you raise your profile and your credibility. When they come to actually buying a product or service, you are far more likely to be top of their mind.
Your content can also help you to prepare your clients for working with you. What information do you need from them when they first get in touch? What do they need to consider before buying from you or hiring you? Can they even afford you? If you can explain these points before the client gets in touch, everyone is in a much better position, and less time is wasted.
And it costs you nothing apart from time and effort.
I don’t know what to write in my blog
The first thing you have to ask yourself – and be really clear about – is who you’re writing for.
Creating an avatar or pen portrait of your perfect client is a very useful exercise to focus your attention.
- What are their problems?
- What are the common questions they ask?
- How can I help them?
- What are they interested in?
I’m an editor, and I write about topics that will be of interest to my potential clients. Other editors blog for their editorial colleagues, with lots of helpful advice for those starting out, or share their experiences of working freelance (as many editors do these days).
You can write about something topical that is related to your business – I got two blogs out of The Apprentice last year. This is known as newsjacking, but you have to be quick off the blocks as your window of opportunity will pass in a flash.
Perhaps seasonal dates are important in your business – Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or Christmas, for example. I wrote ablog about my favourite scary books at Halloween. You can write posts well in advance of these dates, ready to post when the time comes.
How-to lists are always popular – they are helpful to your potential clients and they demonstrate your credibility.
Curating content is a way of springboarding off other people’s content. If you’ve seen an interesting article, interview or podcast, what are your thoughts on it? Giving your opinion on a topic – whether you agree or disagree and why – is a great way of discussing an issue without having to write something from scratch.
I don’t write well enough to have a blog
This is a statement I really take issue with. Everybody has something of value to say, even if they don’t know what it is yet. And everyone can write – it all comes down to practice and confidence.
Now I’m not saying everyone can write a best-selling novel – that’s a different beast. But writing about something you know well – your business, the field you work in, the things your clients want to know about – is something everyone can do. Some can sit down and fire off a fantastic piece in half an hour, while others need much longer and some outside help to shape and polish it.
Practise, practise, practise. Ask people you trust and respect for feedback before you publish a piece, and really listen to it. The next time you write, bear in mind what they said and act on it.
Confidence doesn’t magically appear overnight, but I can put my hand on my heart and say that some of the best blogs I’ve read have been by people who said they couldn’t write well.
Take your courage in both hands and just start. You know how a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step? Yeah, well every blog of a thousand words starts with hitting a key. Or something like that.
I’m too scared to publish my blog
You might have written a blog post, or get it 90 per cent completed, but then can’t actually bring yourself to finish and publish it, so it sits in a folder unread and unloved. If this is you, ask yourself what’s stopping you.
Fear of errors?
Let me tell you a secret – everybody makes mistakes. Even editors. Even people who are really, really good at writing. And if you publish a blog with errors in it, you are definitely not alone. The chances are that someone will quietly point it out to you so you can correct it. Remember – you haven’t chiselled it in stone (now that would be a labour of love!) so you can easily make corrections and changes after it’s been published.
Perfectionism is the enemy of progress.
The world is full of critics, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them. If someone is critical of what you’ve written, think about what’s motivating them. If it’s someone with a different opinion about a particular topic, this is a great opportunity to open up a discussion. Ask questions to understand their position, but don’t, whatever you do, engage in slanging matches or ad hominem attacks. Always be the bigger person. And then write another blog post about your experience!
If it’s someone in the same industry, or a competitor, they may see you as a threat and be motivated by jealousy. You may be seen as a disruptor, and not in a good way. Putting your head above the parapet can be a scary thing to do, but remember that you are entitled to your opinions and you are allowed to share them.
Fear of being seen as boastful?
Do you know what you’re doing in your job? Are you good at it? Do you want to get even better at it? Then why not talk to people about it through your blog?
There is a world of difference between sharing your knowledge and experience and being boastful.
You don’t have to be at the top of the tree to write about the view from where you are!
Writing about your experiences to date, what professional development you are doing and what your plans are for progression are all hugely interesting to others. People love to peek behind the curtain, as it were, and see how other people work. And, above all, it demonstrates that you take your work seriously and want to be as good as you possibly can – what client wouldn’t want to hear that?
This is the human side of content marketing. It reminds people that behind the glossy website or bland LinkedIn profile there’s a real human being who is trying to progress. Your potential client may even identify with your story – your struggle to manage doing an online course while being a single parent, for example, could be the start of a beautiful business relationship!
I’ve written about conferences I’ve attended, reviewed my goals and set out plans in my blogs. These show what I do to keep up to date and demonstrate that I take what I do seriously – I’m not dabbling at it!
How can I write better for my blog?
Don’t think about it too much, just get something written down. Don’t worry about grammar, or punctuation, or structure. Shock! I know! I’m an editor, but there’s a time and a place for everything, and now is not the time to worry about the finer points of comma placement. Just let out your thoughts on the topic and imagine you’re writing to that perfect customer we talked about earlier. Once you’ve written it, put it to one side for a while – a day or two if possible.
Do this whenever you can. Think about a topic that your perfect client would like to know about and then write about it, answering any questions you can imagine them asking.
The more you write, the easier it will get – it really is like a muscle that gets stronger with repeated exercise!
Now come back to a piece you’ve written with fresh eyes. You’ll see it completely differently and will be able to be more objective about the overall structure – you may decide to move sentences or paragraphs around, for example, or break it up with subheadings.
You’ll also notice gaps in the content – there may be things you can add to make it more thorough – and where you can trim words or even whole sentences because you’ve been repetitive or wordy.
Then it’s time to focus on the detail. You need to proofread what you’ve written for spelling, punctuation and grammar. There is plenty of advice available for ways of doing this yourself, here’s some of mine.
Read other blogs
Reading what others have written can be very inspiring. Read what other people in your industry are writing about. Read blogs by your competitors, your peers, people you respect, people you aspire to be like.
You’ll see how many different styles there are out there, how many different tones of voice.
Whatever you do, don’t try to copy someone’s style. It’s vital that you are authentic, and that your ‘voice’ is genuine. People can spot someone trying to be something they’re not really easily. And that destroys trust. Which is not a good thing.
With practice (yes, it’s that word again) you will find a writing style that feels comfortable for you. That’s your voice!
I really can’t do this. Who can help with my blog?
You have a couple of options here.
1 You can throw the towel in completely and accept that you have no interest in writing – it’s not where your strengths lie and you’d rather spend your time getting better at something that you actually enjoy doing.
In this case if you still feel it’s important to be producing written content for your blog you could hire a copywriter to do it for you. This isn’t the cheapest option, and so it depends on the resources you have available and how much money you want to spend on it.
2 You can hire a professional editor or proofreader to work on your rough drafts.
With this option you do the basic legwork and get your thoughts and ideas down on the page. Your editor then takes this and pulls it into shape, rewriting the dodgy bits, reordering to make it flow better, and doing all the detailed stuff about semicolons and dangling modifiers that you’ve no interest in but they absolutely love!
This is the sort of work that I really enjoy doing – it’s so rewarding to edit a draft to help someone get their message out there. The trick is to keep it sounding like they wrote it – holding on to the author’s voice is really important. The writing has to sound authentic, and poor editing can strip the life out of a piece and make it sound like it was written by a text generator. Keep it real! And, yes, that may mean being ungrammatical, but that’s OK!
3 You can get someone else in your company to do it.
OK so this doesn’t fly if you work for yourself. I’ve yet to persuade Bella the Border Terrier to write about anything useful. But if you work in a team why not spread the load? There may be someone who would love to contribute, or even take on blog writing completely. Your team could write on a rota, so you only have to do every third or fourth piece.
If you do decide to have more than one person writing for your company, it’s really important that you impose some consistency of style. The easiest way to do that is to develop a style sheet, which really isn’t as scary or complicated as it sounds.
Can I make other content instead of a blog?
Of course, you can always produce some other form of content.
Blogging isn’t the only form of content that works. There are other ways to get yourself out there. Just be aware that relevant and helpful blogs that are well written will always rank highly for SEO.
What about videos – either pre-recorded or live? Facebook Live, Instagram stories and Snapchat are all great ways of engaging with people. Again, think about your perfect client. Where are they likely to hang out online? If your target market is financial planning for people approaching retirement, I’m guessing that only a small number will be on Snapchat.
Are your clients likely to listen to podcasts? You could record one. Be creative. Think about what your clients or customers ask you about and tell you about themselves. The answers are there for you if you’re listening.
My friends Jack, John, and Kev and Ross are all using other forms of content to market themselves. Why not check out what they’re doing?
A physiotherapy clinic like my mate Jack’s can do really well with short videos tackling common patient questions and problems.
My friends Ross and Kev have just launched The Honestpreneur podcast, aimed at small businesses.
Fellow editor John makes nifty 20-second explainer videos like this one about using emojis on Macs.
Are you convinced? I really hope I’ve answered some of the questions you might have about getting started with blogging and reassured you that you can do it!
If you’ve any questions, please drop them into the comments – I’d love to help. And if you’re into your blogging stride, what worries did you have at first and how did you overcome them? Do you think it gets easier the more you do?