I’ve been breaking writing rules my entire freelance career. Sadly, I don’t always break rules on purpose – often I just make mistakes. Luckily, for me, the rules I’ve broken haven’t hurt me much.
When I stared out freelancing FT I broke way too many rules…
- I never pitched to small local magazines in an effort to work my way up. I sent queries to all the big name magazines I liked.
- I’d send the same query to multiple magazines too, thinking, most will reject me anyhow.
- I didn’t have any magazine clips for my queries so I’d send business clips I had written for companies. I’m talking bits of proposals and brochures. Nothing actually article minded.
- I didn’t give editors all that much space. I wouldn’t call me annoying exactly, but I’d send follow up emails or call. The books I’d read said not to do this more than once, but I wanted my name out there.
- I wasn’t all that careful. Yeah, I’d write nice queries, but I’d also fail to pause and re-read before sending them.
Then about 20-30 or so queries in, I actually put the wrong editor’s name on a major email query; and when I say wrong I mean I put the name of an editor at a rival publication. Gasp. This is when I started thinking – maybe I shouldn’t be writing.
Luckily this particular editor who I called the wrong name just wanted a story and bought my query. Not only that but I had queried for a small piece (I do follow some rules) but she said, “We think this would make an excellent feature.” A feature! I was shocked at how badly I could mess up and still land the main cover feature in a national magazine.
Now that I look back I feel like I was extremely careless and wouldn’t recommend anyone do the same. Being a careful writer is an asset. However, what I did learn from my early mistakes was that being myself actually worked out ok some of the time; maybe more than some of the time. When I got into blogging I took this same be-yourself mentality with me.
For example, as a blogger I…
Write insanely long posts. I see so many probloggers (and some not so pro) advise against this. Honestly, I believed said bloggers at first and tried to write shorter posts, but it’s not me. I’m chatty. A normal post by most recommendations is about 250 words. A short post for me is about 500 words and that’s if I’m REALLY trying to keep it short.
I applied for high paying blogging gigs from the start. To be perfectly it did surprise me a little when I first started out and I’d get a high paying gig. Something in me would say, “I should be working my way up.” However, the money is nice too.
I blog personal. There’s a big debate over how much of yourself to give away or not as a blogger. My general feeling is this – if what I say might get someone I know fired or in major trouble with their family, I won’t post it. I also won’t post where I live exactly – like a street address. I talk about myself, my son and other people I know a lot though.
I pay little attention to SEO. If I’m writing for a client, of course SEO is a consideration but I refuse to lose the human element in my blog posts. I won’t take gigs anymore where a client is (IMO) asking for too many key words; to the point where I think it reads badly. That takes the fun out of blogging, and fun, well, that’s a major reason I blog.
I write what I want. I won’t cover hot news just to cover it. I won’t change to a more popular niche. I started blogging because I had stuff to say. That’s still the case. Even when I’m blogging for clients I tend to take their topics and slant them my way. I could actually make more money if I’d cave and write about stuff I’m not as interested in (I’ve done it before) but what’s the point? There comes a time where if you’re going to write for a living, you should write on your own terms. Writing is a hard enough job to handle without also being bored 24/7.
Beyond the above there are lots of other so called blogging rules I break. Especially when I apply for blogging gigs I tend to blow off directions. I’m not some crazy rebel and I do think there are blogging rules we should all follow. In fact here at Freelance Writing Jobs I talk about how to blog better or blog this way or that way all the time but you can feel free to make up your own rules. You don’t have to listen to me.
Mainly I just want to do my job as myself. I like many successful bloggers who give great advice, and yeah sometimes I even listen and follow that advice, but in the end I don’t want to be just like them. I want to be my own sort of successful blogger.
I talk to bloggers who sound really envious of such and such blogger or who talk as if they’re striving to be like their favorite successful blogger and it’s a little sad. I think you can be yourself and still be a successful blogger. In spite of being myself I’m doing fine and making a living as a blogger, even on a steady diet of 1,000 word posts.
How are you being yourself? Are you being the best blogger you can be on your terms or are you trying too hard to be some other blogger?
PS Yes this post was close to 1,000 words. Luckily, for you guys, I cut some stuff.
Jean Sarauer says
I break the rules all the time. People said I needed a professional design before I started blogging. Well, phooey on that. I just got out there and wrote and ended up winning a free header design (being produced right now!). I also tend to write in a style that’s half conversational/half polished,because that’s what comes out naturally. I love learning and read everything I can get my hands on about blogging, but the real fun comes when I adapt it to work for me.
.-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..When Bad Things Happen to Good Bloggers =-.
I write in a fairly conversational style too, but then I also won’t read blogs that are too stuffy. The difference to me between bloggers who speak to me (as if chatting) vs. bloggers who act like they’re writing the novel of the century is huge. I like a conversational style. I like your last statement about adapting; very true.
I just wrote a post on this very thing, as I think the best blogs are those that are the most authentically genuine and not cookie cutter. While my blog is personal and not professional, I still felt like I had to follow all the “rules” that were out there. When I did, it was boring. As soon as I let myself write how I wanted, when I wanted, it became much less of an obligation and much more of a release.
I realize professionally this is different, but I agree that a little bit of the personal, a little bit of the unique, can make it stand out and differentiate a blog from the millions of others out there.
Not cookie cutter – yup those are the best blogs. I read a lot of blogs that aren’t on any pet topics of mine, simply because they’re different. I like the originality. I agree, once you let go of some of those “rules” you sound so much more unique – and this can work for a personal or professional blog.
Jessie Haynes says
Jennifer, being yourself is a total asset. That’s what others will hire you for. I’m with you on the long blog posts and ignoring SEO. For just me stuff, I generally write in 750+ words minimum and I don’t give a rat’s ass about SEO. Human quality is my focus. However, I do have a method I use for client work and doing SEO that I feel provides proper balance-published a blog post about it on Writing Job Resource not too long ago.
Re “working your way up” in magazines-it seems like starting at the top would be a great idea. Brava on the balls to do that.
Being yourself is an asset. I swear I can tell often who has written a post just from reading it (never from seeing the name) and that’s the BEST kind of post. When your voice comes through like that, you’re doing something right IMO. Re: working my way up in magazines – I think it was less balls and more I didn’t have a clue – but thankfully it worked and sort of set the stage for how I do things now. I think working your way up is way overrated.
I just started blogging for personal reasons not too long ago, but am interested in moving towards a more professional attitude. I have a hard time imagining myself writing anything significantly lower than around 1,000 words!
I also write in a conversative style as though I was speaking to my readers, and actually found your article to read really quickly because of that. I actually do the same things you do as a blogger, with the exception of applying to gigs.