I had a great lunch meeting with a friend yesterday to chat about his new-ish business and kick around some ideas for blogging, which he’s considering but has never done before. My own blogging chops are rookie-level at best (I’ve been doing it regularly for less than a month), so it was interesting and fun to share my own experiences and hash out ideas for the best ways to get started.
Considering how challenging it has been for me to start blogging regularly even though I’m a long-time writer, I figure any of you out there who aren’t writers must find the idea of blogging even that much harder to tackle. But when you’re self-employed, blogging offers a fantastic way to reach your audience and establish not only what your products and services are but who you are. So it’s worth considering, even if you find the idea oppressive or terrifying (or a little of both).
Based on my extremely limited experience, here’s a condensed version of the thoughts and ideas I shared with my friend yesterday. If you think I’m totally off-base or have better ideas, please lay ’em on me! Mind you, there are a million good articles online about how to get started in blogging and specific tips for developing traffic; I’m not writing about that here. These are more thoughts on how to get into the right mindset and getting over the initial hump.
- Start using Facebook to stretch your wings with writing for a public audience. I finally joined Facebook relatively late in the game, in 2010 when my last book was published. I did it reluctantly thinking it’s just what authors have to do to promote themselves. But my disdain evaporated quickly and I really started to enjoy interacting with my ever-increasing world of Facebook friends (still do). Once I dropped my resistance and started posting and commenting in earnest, I realized that I was developing a whole new skill of writing in a public forum. In essence, that’s what blogging is. So when I finally started blogging regularly last month, I had almost two years of “Facebook experience” in my pocket. Without this, I would be way more lost in terms of figuring out what to blog about, finding my voice, etc. The fact that Facebook is so easy to use makes it a perfect practice field for anyone considering blogging.
- Read other blogs to get a sense of what topics and writing styles are popular. If you don’t already have an RSS reader page, set one up to track blogs that you find interesting. (I use Google’s home page.) Read them regularly and take note of which ones seem to draw the most comments and generate the most discussion. You don’t have to copy them, but use this info to help refine your ideas of what you want to write about.
- Be at least a little personal. One of the trickiest parts of blogging for me is figuring out how much personal info to include. For the moment I’ve found a comfort zone talking about some personal things in addition to the business stuff; other bloggers take it a lot farther and are really self-revelatory. Everyone just has to figure this out for themselves. But in general, I do think it’s safe to say that readers tend to prefer blogs that include some personal details and let readers get to know the bloggers a little bit.
- Use WordPress. Don’t bother with other platforms. WordPress is easy, has tons of free templates, as well as vast numbers of plug-ins for things like portfolios, event calendars, shopping carts, and more. Even if you don’t think you’ll use any of those features now, you might want to in a year or two if/when your blog gets well established.