Editor’s Note: This post was written by Gary Dek, a full-time blogger and SEO expert from California. His passion is helping new and professional bloggers build sustainable online businesses.
It’s not easy to become a successful blogger, even when it’s your full-time job. So how do you build a high-traffic blog with a strong community if you’re a freelance designer or developer?
Today, content marketing is the best way to develop brand exposure and relationships, connect with potential customers, and eventually attract leads. If you are currently a salaried designer employed with a company, you absolutely need to start your own WordPress blog and showcase your portfolio. If you’ve already forayed into self-employment as a designer or developer, you likely already have a corporate site but need to grow your online presence.
Maybe your problem is that you hate writing – you’re a technical person and writing doesn’t come naturally. Or you find that the popular blog topics have already been beaten to death, and you can’t figure out how to approach any of them from a new angle. Perhaps, every time you decide to start preparing a new post, you’re distracted by email, social media sites or anything you find more interesting than writing.
The following are some tips to help build your business blog into a lead-generation machine.
1. Get Started
It’s nearly impossible to write anything if you don’t have a plan that will start the process. The best solution is to think of other bloggers and the types of questions or problems they have. After all, amateur and professional bloggers are your target market for web design and development.
As a designer, you have insights unique to your profession. You are familiar with the latest SEO trends and how blog design can affect the user experience, organic rankings, click-through rates, conversions, and ultimately revenue. By offering solutions and valuable information for free, you create trust, authority, and loyal readers. In return, who do you think your readers will turn to when it’s time for a redesign?
Most importantly – just start. Create a morning ritual that gets your day started on the right foot and gets your creative juices flowing.
Ignore The Inner Critic
Once you have a topic idea and can start writing, don’t stop. We all tend to criticize our work as we go along, especially when we’re writing through a stream-of-consciousness. You’re judging yourself on content, punctuation, and spelling. Don’t overanalyze every sentence or worry about the overall message. You can always edit once you’re done. What you want to do right now is just get all of your thoughts on paper.
Don’t Delete Your Work
There are many writers who sometimes talk themselves into believing their work isn’t worthy of publication, and after they’ve discarded their rough draft, all they feel is regret. You may not like what you’ve written today, but come back to it tomorrow or the next day. Even if the piece isn’t perfect, it is a work in progress that can be revised or used as a part of a bigger article.
Don’t Stop Writing
Don’t just spend one productive day writing. Do it every day. Set a schedule, follow a routine, and write. Maybe the early morning should be spent reading industry news, following up with clients, and enjoying your cup of coffee. Afterwards, write for an hour or two, and in the afternoon, focus on your expertise – design.
2. Kill All Distractions
Stay off of social media sites. Before you sit down to write, log out of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other social media accounts. In fact, leave your phone in another room.
Stay away from email. As suggested earlier, set up a specific time every day when you check your email and stay away from it otherwise. Turn off notifications on your phone or else you’ll be tempted to check every time you hear that chime or buzz. If you are receiving hundreds of emails a day, you may want to unsubscribe from those services you don’t use, or get a personal assistant.
Find a good writing environment. Certain atmospheres are conducive to productivity and writing. I personally can’t write at home because there are too many distractions. I like to write at a coffee shop where I’m highly caffeinated and the internet connection is too slow to check my websites, analytics, social accounts, etc. For me, a coffee shop only offers one option – writing in a Word Doc.
3. Set A Goal
So you have an idea of what you want to write about, what’s next? Plan it out. Spend some time sketching an outline. Break it down into smaller, digestible parts.
The average outline structure consists of main topics, topic points and sub-points. For example, you’re planning to blog about vacationing in Europe. Maybe you break it up by countries and cities. The sub-points would be attractions in each city, such as hotels, restaurants, or local attractions.
It has been my experience that the easiest type of post to produce is a list, such as “50 Social Media Statistics You Didn’t Know”, “10 Best WordPress Plugins For Designers”, or “15 Best Marketing Tips For Freelancers”. If you don’t like writing, the advantage of these types of articles is that most of the text is really just curation.
4. Utilize Productivity Apps, Downloads and Ideas
If you find that you are having a hard time staying focused, organized and productive, there are several tools that you can use to make things much easier for you, resulting in you becoming a more productive design blogger. Here are a few that might be worth your while:
- Evernote, Papyrus, and OneNote are award-winning smartphone apps that help you create, edit and organize notes and lists. These apps allow you to upload photos when you feel inspired. The best note taking apps help you organize information, whether it is for your personal or professional life.
- The Pomodoro Technique helps you break down your schedule into manageable alternating work and break times. For example, set a timer for 25-minutes, during which you focus on work without distractions. After, set it for a 5-minute break to do whatever you please. Then set the timer again for 25 minutes, and get back to work. This obviously doesn’t work for everyone, but you’ll never know if it makes a difference for you unless you try it.
- StayFocused is a Chrome browser plugin that increases your focus by limiting your ability to waste time falling down the Internet rabbit hole. With StayFocused, you can block your own access to specific websites for a specific amount of time.
In the end, no app or technique is going to get your work done for you. Tools are made to assist, but you must search for what motivates you and use it every day to build up your brand. Whether it’s producing great work, striving for financial independence, or following your passion, growing your business blog via content marketing is the best way to expand your business.