by Terreece Clarke
Freelance writers always hear about the importance of having a blog. In the beginning it seems pretty simple. Freelance Writer + Ideas = Successful Blog. However, things are never as simple as they appear. Synchronized swimming – incredibly difficult. A decent backstroke won’t get you on the team. Lion taming – again, something that should only be attempted by a trained professional, not every Bob, Dan and Emily with a chair. The formula varies from blog to blog, but there are five key ingredients most successful blogs share.
1. Defined Focus.
What is your blog about? Is it slice of life – giving readers an inside look into your life and observances as a mom, dad, single girl, married woman, married man, GLBT? Is it subject defined – cats, dogs, children’s books, freelance writing, celebrity life, going green, activism, etc? Not having a focus will affect your audience loyalty and oddly enough, being able to write about anything may leave you unable to write with purpose. It’s sort of like a buffet – so many choices you’re initially paralyzed and dabble around, meanwhile an audience may not wait for you to find your favorites.
2. Research, Research, Research.
Bloggers don’t get a free pass in the research department. If you’re writing about celebrity news, you’d better know the difference between Angelina Jolie and Megan Fox. Even slice of life bloggers need research. Sure you’re just writing about your life, but you still need to keep notes on where you were when a funny event happened and other details that will bring the blog entry to life. If you’re using a blog to establish yourself as an expert, solid research is imperative. Reading other people’s blogs counts as important research. Following popular blogs will not only show you what works; it can give you ideas on how to set yourself a part. By the way, real research goes beyond Google and Wikipedia.
3. Committed to Consistency.
Some writers blog everyday, others blog three times a week. It doesn’t matter the frequency. Well, it does if you’re trying to rack up hits, but daily blogging is a commitment many writers find difficult in the beginning. Three times a week is plenty when you produce quality, well-put-together posts. It is easier to increase the number of posts as you see fit, but audiences may wonder if you’re here to stay if your posts are inconsistent. When people chose to follow a blog, they are investing time into you and your ideas. Honor their commitment by keeping the number of blogs and days of posting consistent.
4. Pick and Learn Your Blog Software.
WordPress, Blogger and TypePad are just a few of the seemingly endless choices in blogging software. It doesn’t matter the software, it matters how it’s used. Bloggers at least need to know basic functions: inserting a picture or link, how to adjust fonts, etc. Bloggers who want to branch out and blog for others need to know more about several types of software to be competitive. A blogger’s knowledge should also extend to their offline blogger and ad software.
5. An Editorial Calendar/Blogging Ahead.
No matter the subject – except breaking news, every blogger can and should set an editorial calendar. Some writers decry the lack of spontaneity; others herald the calendar as a savior on those cold, writer’s block nights. Know what you’re writing and when you can, blog ahead. A simple scheduling option in most blog software allows you set a blog weeks in advance. That’s a good thing. Probloggers will tell you Murphy and his law often comes to visit. Storms knock out electricity, writers get sick, emergencies happen. Shoot, vacations happen! (I know several writers just stopped and asked, “What is this thing called “vacation?” Get thee to a beach w/in the next month). Scheduling ahead gives a writer breathing room, back-up protection and provides an outlet for those “Oh I have to blog this!” ideas that may otherwise lose their fire as they languish on an idea card somewhere.
Blogs come and go, but the successful ones, the ones with staying power and loyal readers like FWJ all share these five ingredients. Your blog says a lot about you as a freelance writer so start your blog off on the right key.
I only listed five successful blog ingredients; do you have one you’d like to share? What other traits have you witnessed in successful blogs?