Blogging impressions: how to get to the point

How much did you write when you started blogging?

When I started blogging I wrote with no aim in mind except that of writing. Because I simply had to write. Needless to say my posts were long, not to say rambling… One of my first ‘Blogging impressions’ posts was about getting a sense of focus into a blog post, for good reason 🙂

Writing along or getting to the point

The prescribed treatment helps if you’ve written a blog post and you’re wondering if you could have made it shorter than 1000 words… and whether you should make any alterations, and how. Continue reading

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How your job experience will help you get your ideal career

Do you ever feel you’ve wasted years in all the wrong jobs? The bad news is you can’t get those years back. The good part is it was not all in vain.

What career perspective are you looking at?

Job experience is seldom wasted

If you feel you’ve mindlessly pulled someone else’s plough for years and think you’ve got nothing to show for it but sores, think again. Take writing, for example. Continue reading

Blogging impressions: your blog as an online portfolio

Apart from if you’re actually a professional blogger, what’s the use of having a blog?

Why would you want to blog at all?

What is in your blogging portfolio?

Portfolio cover of color plates by Charles S. Graham. Field Museum Library

  • Because you enjoy writing (or making videos, in case you’re into video blogging).
  • Because you don’t mind (or love) the attention.
  • Because you don’t mind the kind of work involved: writing, getting or creating pictures or videos, making sure your content is properly tagged so people who don’t know you will still find you by searching for the topics that are on your blog.
  • Because you need a portfolio. You need to create content for whatever purpose.

Even if you don’t start blogging for that purpose, posting fresh content on your blog will eventually build a portfolio of your content. What would you like to do with it?

Why would you want an online portfolio, and of what?

What goes into your portfolio – that is, onto your blog – shows a couple of things about you as a blogger which may be of interest to a potential client or employer:

  1. That you can write – in a language of your choice. (In my case I might have written in Dutch, but I chose English instead).
  2. That you’re able to create content to a schedule. That may mean posting daily, but it doesn’t have to be that intense. Once a week can be enough. Keeping it up for any length of time and consistently producing good or at least acceptable (although you should aim higher) content costs time and energy. Can you keep it up and still enjoy blogging?
  3. That you’re able to build a community around your blog. You may do so on your blog, or off – I know people who have little interaction on their blog, but much more on Facebook. In my case, readers react on my blog, on Twitter, or on LinkedIn.

Your blogging portfolio as a (first?) step in your career

A potential employer or client may be interested in one aspect of your blogging efforts or all:

  • content creation as a creative process
  • regular content production
  • community management on or off your blog

And of course depending on what you blog about, they’ll get some idea of you as an expert on one or more topics – and as a person.

What kind of portfolio is your blog turning into – and could it support your chosen career?

How a content strategy will help your blogging career

Suppose you want to turn blogging – or let’s call it content creation – into a career. The first thing it means is that you need a business attitude at least where it comes to how much content you’ll create about what topic(s). What you really need is some kind of plan for your content.

A Content Strategy is important for your blogging career. So is Meditation. Relax...

What are the characteristics of a (good) content strategy anyway? I ran into a nice, possibly helpful definition on Business2Community, to which I’ve decided to add my own perspective in this post.

A content strategy for your blogging career

Having a content strategy means you

  • deliberately create content
  • which you have optimized for search. This means that you base your content on keyword phrases that drive ‘organic search traffic’ (and conversions) – this is what the article I mentioned focuses on,
  • that demonstrates an understanding of your potential customer’s knowledge acquisition at various stages in their buying cycle. Don’t worry, I’ll explain later 😉

This means you don’t write whatever you like – a different approach from what you’d do on a personal blog. Instead, you start by finding out what keyword phrases your potential customers are probably using to find the information they need.

What kind of content is your potential customer looking for?

Put yourself into your customers’ shoes for a moment. What information you need depends on several aspects:

  1. Whether you’re already familiar with a type of product or service. Do you need to know what different smartphones do, or do you own one and do you want to compare the latest smartphones with yours?
  2. Whether you’ve already decided which product or service you want, or from which company you’ll buy.
    1. You may want to compare prices to get the best deal regardless of the brand so long as the product meets your demands.
    2. Or you know what product you want. All you need to know is which site or company offers you the best deal.
    3. Or you’re fed up with the lousy service you’ve had from company X and you need to make sure you find a company that does know that “customer service” contains the word “service” for a reason.

Every different situation means you’ll be using different keywords while looking for information.

A content strategy that is optimized for search means you take your potential customers’ search behavior into account even before you start creating content for your blog (or website).

What do you know about your potential customers? Can you ask any of the customers you already have?

Delivering your content to your potential customers

Next: you deliver your “optimized” content to your potential customers in a relevant and compelling way.

What is relevant depends on what your readers and/or your potential customers are looking for, not what you feel is important for you to tell the world.

Compelling is a word I’ve seen too often since I started reading about content marketing, and relevance takes care of a lot. True, it doesn’t help if you analyze quite interesting stuff down to the level of atoms for potential customers who either want you to help them or to entertain them. On the other hand, maybe you’re doing exactly the right thing to attract the people you need for your business. Do you know?

What kinds of content can you deliver on your blog?

A couple of categories of content that could work in the context of your blog are:

  1. Case studies that show how you dealt with a particular kind of issue. This lets people know what to expect from you.
  2. The ‘how to’ posts are familiar and they can be quite popular. However a post doesn’t become popular just because the title starts with “How to…”. Again, relevance to your potential customers matters most.
  3. White papers that give in-depth information to those readers you’ve selected as possibly interested in more than the average blog post.
  4. News about events you attend or organize, so people know where/when to find you.

Final considerations for a blogging career

If you’re serious about a blogging career you also need to consider which format suits your potential customers, and where they hang out for preference.

  • Are they the reading kind or do they prefer video?
  • Do they write lengthy comments on your blog or do they drop a short line on Twitter?

If, like me, you’re writing for the fun of writing, or to help your thinking process along, these considerations are probably not for you. But if you’ve decided to try to make money blogging, you’ll need to cater for your potential customers’ preference rather than stay in your own cosy comfort zone wondering where they went.

How to get the hang of creative writing

A while ago I wrote about my urge to start writing a book. In this post I’ll share my discoveries about writing. If you’re a seasoned writer, some of what I tell you may not be totally surprising.

Creative writing beginnings

At first, creative writing was like having to crack my head open – Greek mythology, goddess-Athena-born-from-the-head-of-Zeus style.

Creative writing is much like climbing a steep hill

To climb steep hills … (Shakespeare) – Image by Mark Notari on Flickr

If you’re at that painful stage, check my earlier post and do what I did. Or not. Odds are you’re trying to move a rusty lever from rational, business, objective to creative, psychological, inner-world.

Word count – how fast should you write?

There is no rule for word count. The rate at which I produce – or, let the words out – has accelerated since I started. On a really good weekday I do between 500 and 1000 words:

  1. Wake up et cetera.
  2. Commute by train: phone, 1 hour for writing max.
  3. Work.
  4. Commute by train: phone, 1 hour max.
  5. Cook, dinner, TV with family.
  6. Sit down and type: laptop, 90 minutes of writing max. But of course that blog post needs attention – time – as well.

700 words in 3,5 hours is about 200 words per hour. 250+ in extreme cases.

On bad days? 100-200 words. Zero if I don’t find the time.

Finding extra writing time

Now the days are getting longer I’ve wondered myself if I should use some quiet time on Saturday or Sunday morning (not both – please!) to get more words out at the weekends. But I’m not sure yet. Our son has entered another “I just wanna be close to you” phase. Which is endearing but extremely impractical.

Would spending a whole day writing help?

If you’re getting started in creative writing you may find that spending an entire day at the keyboard doesn’t help at all. Why not? I’ve given this some thought.

  • If I could get a full day of writing I could, theoretically, write 8 x 200 words = 1600 words. I wouldn’t call that a good day if it meant sitting at a keyboard for eight hours on a day off.
  • A good day would include 3 hours outside walking or gardening. In reality I’d spend part of those 3 hours doing housework to avoid feeling guilty about the mess after a day spent at home.
  • With 5 hours left, I’d be down to about 1000 words – which isn’t that much better than I do now.

Based on this insight I haven’t tried to write for eight hours straight just yet. Or even five.

First results, quantity-wise

So far (April 7) I’ve produced a bit over 6000 words. Since novels tend to have at least around 100.000 words these words represent 6% of a novel. That’s if I’m lucky and this stuff turns out to be good raw material for the next stage. And if I’m not on a 150K-word writing quest.

Update April 18: I’m now at 12000 words. Possibly because I really got 90 minutes’ value in the evenings in the past week? Anyway this could mean I’ve reached 10% of a novel 🙂

To be quite honest: I have no idea if I’ll be able to keep getting useful stuff out of my head. Hopefully I’ve hit a ‘steady stream’ stage.

What will the next stage of writing look like?

Easy. Rewriting.

I happened to read a post by a fellow blogger about how after writing, at first you’ll end up with “really crappy crap”.* That’s when the fun of rewriting begins. I can’t wait. But first, I have writing to do 🙂

* If that fellow blogger was you, let me know in a comment. You may add a link to your post about “crappy crap” first drafts, because it was obviously interesting enough to remember.

Tip for budding writers

Keep the pressure way down until you manage to move that rusty old switch in your head from ‘business’ to ‘creativity’:

  1. Don’t worry about word count, poetic phrases, or anything like that.
  2. Don’t force yourself into an eight-hour-a-day writing schedule. An hour every other day is fine – just write.
  3. Don’t invest in high-status writing software just yet – the empty screen will stare you down.

Remember my little unpretentious notebook. – which I’m not using any more. I’m keeping it though, as my no-pressure ‘just jot it down somewhere’ option.

Read more:

What does (creative) writing mean to you? Add your thoughts about creativity, writing and the like in a comment and expect a reply 😉

Blogging impressions: tips to make guest blogging work for you

Since August last year I’ve written “Blogging impressions” posts regularly to keep track of my progress in blogging. I regularly share tips on how to overcome issues many bloggers must run into.

Today my first guest post was published. For that reason this post is about (first time) guest blogging.

Why it’s important to guest blog

Guest Blogging (summer visitor, picture from last year)

I’m not going to give you “get a bigger audience through guest blogging” talk. Plenty of blogs will tell you that, and then they’ll try to sell you their e-books for ‘free’ after which they spam you with 400 Dollar webinars until you unsubscribe or block them to keep them from clogging up your mailbox.

Guest blogging is important as a learning method: it offers you a new writing experience. You get to write for an audience you’re not familiar with, so you only have the blog owner’s advice to go on – that and having a quick look at previous posts, and possibly comments from readers.

For that reason I view guest blogging as a thinking exercise. You’ll consider how you’ll gently tweak your blogging habits to suit the audience you’re writing for. In my case, I’d started tweaking before I guest blogged.

Don’ts in guest blogging

  • Don’t even consider writing a sloppy guest post. If you’re lucky you’ll get turned down. If you’re not so lucky, you’ll get published and a lot of potential readers will have a chance to enjoy poor writing or a post with an unfinished feel to it.
  • Don’t write 5 times better than you would on your own blog. If you can’t put in enough time to produce good posts, anyone who finds your excellent guest post and then visits your blog will turn away disappointed.

Tips to make (first-time) guest blogging work

  1. Find a blog to guest post on that is as similar in style and/or topics to your own as possible.
  2. Make sure you meet the blog owner’s criteria: word count, picture, the lot.
  3. Make sure you meet your own criteria for publishing before you submit your guest blog. If you’re not sure if your post is good enough, consider drafting and previewing it on your own blog. If you have doubts about publishing it on your own territory, don’t submit it yet.

Whatever else you do, try to match your own blog’s best posts.

Why guest blogging isn’t a must-do for everyone

If you’re happy on your own blog and you have enough readers to keep you blogging along, that’s fine. It may take you longer to assemble a crowd of readers – but then again, it may not, if you’re able to connect with casual visitors. Which happens a lot on ‘private’ blogs because there’s so much we recognize in each others’ lives.

Getting a personal connection by talking about businessy topics is harder, and tends to happen (at first?) when you blog about something you feel strongly about. You’re only human – people get that.

What are your thoughts on – or experiences and tips from – guest blogging?

Blogging impressions: this is when you stop talking about yourself

A while ago I blogged about the difference between a journal and a blog. This post centers around the question when you should or shouldn’t blog about yourself.

An offline journal is usually written by you, about you and your latest experiences, and for you – and maybe a few others. Old ship’s journals or logs are like that. “Sailed 14 hours straight today, ended up at a new undiscovered patch of ocean in the middle of nowhere, possibly near India.”

Image by Dennis Skley [Flickr]

Easter eggs image by Dennis Skley [Flickr]

In the online version, a lot of readers can read along and enjoy your jokes or sympathize with you on a bad hair day.

Blogging, like I wrote in my earlier post, means you focus on your readers. Ideally you start a conversation with your readers. So how much can you talk about you on your blog – and when should you stop? What are definite don’ts?

Private blog: when do you stop blogging about yourself?

Hey, I’m not telling you what you can’t do in a general sense. It’s your private blog or possibly journal, not mine. However:

  1. If you catch yourself ranting or whining, stop. Don’t whine or rant.
  2. If you do decide to whine or rant, tell your readers why. And then make sure they take away a couple of tips like:
    1. Boiling the Easter eggs before painting them is a good idea.
    2. Appearances can be deceptive. Just a few pitfalls I fell into which you should avoid: 1, 2, 3…. 24… (perfect list post).
    3. How I tried to make money sleeping and was swindled out of my life savings in just under a week. (Surprise: takeaway tips should tell readers how to hold on to their money.)
    4. What blogging might lead to – see my post about my experience with the side-effects of blogging.

The entertaining type of post beats whining by a streetlength. If you know an appropriate street, let me know in a comment 😉

Business blog: when do you stop blogging about your company?

Don’t blog about yourself. You might ask how you’re supposed to do that but seriously, your blog should be as little about you as possible. Focus on taking the picture, not on being in the picture.

A few further tips:

  • Don’t tell me your company and services are unique. Share thoughts and facts based on your personal experience to show the (possibly unique) value you can add, without getting up people’s noses.
  • Don’t lump your readers into a group they don’t identify with just because you see them as a market segment. Whenever you do this, you’re taking yourself as a starting point rather than your readers’ interests or your clients’ needs.

When can you talk about you?

Feel free to share your happy (business) moments:

  • Upload that picture of your kitten after it crawled into dad’s empty pajama’s – you’ll keep people going for a week. (I’m sure my parents still have that photograph in an album from the, what, 1970s?)
  • Let us know you just launched new product X and how hard you worked. Then snap out of it and tell us how that will help us. Blogging is about your readers, remember?

What do you think: so long as you mind how you do it, talking or blogging about yourself or your business isn’t such bad thing – or is it? What are your definite don’ts in blogging?