As a writer who makes a living selling his services online, I’ve always assumed that I had to sell myself in writing in any way possible.-Above all on my own website.
But a few months ago, I was interviewing one of my fellow freelance writers for a story — and when I asked for a URL to link to her website, she didn’t have one.
She was as successful as me. We even had a handful of the same clients and were targeting the same industry with our services. Basically, she was my (friendly) competition. But what upset me was how well she was able to sell herself without a blog all its own and still manages to keep customers coming to its doorstep.
So I started wondering: was all the time I was spending on my blog, creating content and posting a new post every week (even recording videos), really worth it? After all, creating all that content takes a ton of time and effort. If I could be securely booked without it, why should I continue?
It didn’t take long for me to decide that running a blog suited my long-term business goals, and that do not having one would likely be detrimental to those goals. But it definitely got me thinking: Why do other freelance writers run personal blogs, especially if they can get bylines on some very popular industry publications that will generate lots of leads for them?
So I reached out and asked three freelance colleagues, all of whom I consider successful in their craft, about their different personal blog philosophies.
1. Remember: audience first, blog second
Danavir Sarria, the mastermind behind copy monk, has a blog, but he doesn’t stick to a strict posting schedule. He knows that consistency is important and that he would likely have a bigger following if he blogged once or twice a week, but that’s just not the case.
The main reason?
“I get lazy and I don’t like to write.”
And you know what? I totally understand it. As freelance writers, we’re so busy creating awesome communications for our clients that it can be difficult to gather the remaining brain energy and funnel it to our own sites.
But his second and arguably strongest reason is that producing blog posts really isn’t the main reason a blog grows your business, it’s the blog’s audience.
“Fundamentally, the content is not the trump card,” Sarria explained. “The audience is. The goal of content marketing is to create content and distribute it as much as possible in order to get the audience you’re looking for. That said, it’s easy to create high-quality content if you know what you”. Distribution is the hardest part, and it’s the part that matters the most. In other words, the real bottleneck is finding a way to get the most people to see your content.”
So if you’re in a position where you decidedly don’t have time to distribute your own content and you don’t yet have an audience for your own blog, your time may actually be better spent taking advantage of client sites than yours. (Given, of course, that it aligns with your business goals.)
2. Show who you really are
Emma Siemasko, founder of Emma’s Storiesgets good publicity for her bylines on her clients’ blogs, but chooses to write for her own blog so she can attract the right kind of people to work with.
“In the past, I’ve struggled to attract the right clients,” she explained, “and I think that’s because I haven’t always stayed true to who I really am.”
Siemasko explained that having her own blog and owning her own space on the internet has allowed her to be herself, which helps her attract customers who truly love her for who she is.
“At the end of the day,” she said, “I keep my own blog and I have my own mailing list because I want to have total control. Also, if I want to leverage audience from someone else, I can still do it. Have my own blog and write because others aren’t mutually exclusive – I regularly contribute to posts to boost my brand and have my own blog.”
3. Blog for the business you want
That’s why I kept blogging (even after my mini thought crisis wondering if it was really worth it). I knew the business I wanted to build involved teaching and helping people on a large scale, which required a following, which meant I was headed toward building that following.
Blogging, for me, was the easiest way to attract those subscribers to my website and get them to sign up for my eBook and newsletter. And even though I’m not quite at the point of having my ideal business yet, I’m building the audience so that the transition will be much easier to make when I get there.
Web Editor Jacob McMillen said his main reason for having his own website (and blog) as a freelancer is because he knows he doesn’t want to be a freelance writer forever.
“It’s not that you can’t be successful without a website,” he admitted. “You can.”
But while he writes for his clients’ blogs, he uses it as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone to get paid while building backlinks for his future business.
After all, when companies voluntarily pay hundreds of dollars per high-quality backlink and you have the opportunity to get paid to build them, it makes sense to do it wholeheartedly while you have the chance. Plus, for McMillen, it builds domain authority when he decides he’s had enough of freelance writing and wants to move away from it.
“I don’t want to be independent forever,” he explained. “It’s not cumulative. I work today. I make money today. Tomorrow, if I want to make more money, I have to trade more hours. There is no multiplier to my efforts. Being a service provider is a bit different than being a real business owner. The hard cap on my income level is based on the number of hours I’m willing to work. So a Part of what I do is turn my expertise into products that I can sell to writers and other freelancers.
To address this, he focuses on the long-term image of leveraging his clout as an expert blogger into an authority-based business owner.
“So far I’ve invested very little time and effort into the product side of my business,” he said, “but just having a few lead magnets and writing the occasional blog post , I was able to rack up subscribers and sell a few thousand products. It gives me options. It gives me something profitable to work on when I have downtime in my service schedule, or more realistically at this point, when I’m just sick of writing about marketing and need a productive distraction.”
To blog or not to blog?
If I were giving you one-on-one freelancing advice, I would just tell you to find a way to take the time to run your own blog. You can post as little as once a month, but I think it’s so important to keep your hand in the game. Also, when you decide to pivot in your freelance career, you have something on what to support you.
But I come from the mindset that I don’t want to freelance trade time for money forever. Or, at least, I don’t want to rely on it completely for the rest of my working days.
If you don’t mind this exchange, maintaining your communications through client sites is a perfectly valid approach. Just make sure the clients you choose are well-established in their industry and are good sources of potential referrals. Because regardless of our long-term goals, I think all of us freelance writers can agree that doing marketing and outreach to cold leads for new clients is rough.
But what about you? What are the reasons why you maintain (or not) a personal blog as a freelancer? I would like to know, tell me in the comments!