What Every Freelancer Ought To Know About Blogging

freeelance-blogging
[tweetmeme]“Freelancer, you absolutely must have a blog if you ever expect to become successful…”

Have you ever heard this claim?

If you’ve been working online for any length of time, then this claim is probably not new to you. Nearly every small business advisor will tell you that blogging is a great way to build up your online presence.

However, many freelancers begin blogging with unrealistic expectations. They view blogging as a sort of magic bullet that can somehow instantly propel them to freelancer rockstardom.

This post takes a realist look at some of those expectations. It also discusses what a freelancer can realistically expect from blogging.

A Realistic Look at What Blogging Can Do for You

There’s no denying that having a blog is beneficial to most freelancers. We’ve already explained why having a blog is important to a freelancer. That’s all good information, and we won’t go over it again in this post.

However, with a very few exceptions, starting a blog for your freelance business won’t actually put you on the fast train to freelance success. It can take a long time for a community to develop around a blog. Also, your new little business blog may not even get much notice at first unless you work very hard at promoting it.

Yet, starting a blog (if you don’t have one already) is probably a good move for your freelance business.

Why? Let’s look at a few real-life benefits that blogging brings to your business:

  • Clients can find your information. It’s your blog, so be sure to include everything a client might want to know about you (such as what type of work you do, how long you’ve been in business, and any philosophy or vision that you have about your work). Don’t forget to include a way for the client to contact you.
  • It’s pretty much expected in some fields. Are you a freelance writer, web developer or graphic artist? If you are, your clients probably expect that you already have a blog (or at least a website) for your freelance business. If you don’t have a blog, they may believe that you’re not really serious about your work.
  • Can serve as a sample of your work. We all know that it’s a good idea to link your portfolio to your blog. Did you know that for many freelancers your blog itself could also serve as a sample of your work? If you’re a writer, clients will look at the writing on your blog. If you are designer, they will examine your blog’s design.
  • Connects you to colleagues. Probably the first comments that you will receive on your blog will be from peers in your field rather than from clients wanting to hire you. This is not necessarily a bad thing. You can learn a lot from your peers and it’s always good to have connections in your line of work.

We’ve looked at some of the real-life benefits to having a blog. Let’s examine some of the equally real drawbacks.

Some Real-life Drawbacks to Blogging

While blogging can provide many benefits to freelancers, you should also be aware that there are some drawbacks to blogging:

  • Time. There’s no doubt about it. It takes some amount of time to create and maintain a blog. If you are very busy or overloaded, you may feel that you don’t have time to blog. The good news is that a business blogger doesn’t need to post something new every single day. You may be able to get away with posting once a week, or even less frequently.
  • Embarrassment. While this is usually a drawback of the freelancer’s own making, it can be a very real problem. One mistake that many freelancers make is that of posting information on their blog that is too controversial or too personal. (Do your readers really want to see a blow-by-blow account of your gallbladder surgery? Do you want to see it?)
  • Technical Snafus. If you already have a blog, you know that there technical problems that occasionally crop up when you blog. Even if you are an expert in web development these problems can sometimes be time-consuming to fix. I can recall spending an entire morning on the phone once with my webhost’s technical support team trying to figure out why my blog was down.
  • Trolls and Other Undesirables. It’s a known fact that there are a few unsavory characters online. While most of the people who connect with you will be decent human beings who are well worth getting to know, there are a few trolls out there who only stop by your blog just to give you grief. The best thing to do is ignore these folks unless they become an actual threat, in which case you should contact your Internet provider (and possibly the authorities).

In fact, after looking at the list of problems associated with having a blog you may be wondering if you can possibly get by without one. We’ll look at that next.

Can You Succeed as a Freelancer Without a Blog?

I’m often asked this question and while I’m a big proponent of blogging for freelancers and small business owners, I have to be perfectly honest and answer “yes.”

I know this answer firsthand because I did it myself. I was able to find freelance work without a blog for the first few years of my freelancing business. Was it harder? Probably, but it was not impossible.

Blogging is out there as a tool to be used if you need it. You don’t have to use it. While I think having a blog related to your freelance business is an excellent addition to your arsenal of effective marketing tools, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to take advantage of it.

Share Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts on having a business blog? Do you have one?

Describe any benefits you feel that you have gotten from blogging.

Are you a freelancer without a blog?

Discuss the reasons why you have chosen not to blog.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image by anniemole

Comments

  1. says

    What is good about a blog is that you can connect with other people who also have a blog and thus learn in their example by reading their post. Over time, your knowledge grows, which you can apply in your own blog. It is a useful long-term strategy. I do not have a blog, but I use twitter and when I thought better twitter as a social media also involves something called microblogging.

  2. says

    I used to have a business blog but I found that what I was blogging turned out to be dull, bland and irrelevant. So I decided that I would spend more time actually freelancing than mucking about with my blog. Instead I have a personal blog for all the weird and irrelevant bits-and-bobs and leave the occasional business blog post for recent work and free giveaways.

  3. says

    Good points!

    Branko, you make an excellent point about connecting with others. I think networking is vital. Blogging is indeed one way to do that.

    Duncan–you bring up an interesting point. Namely this: is your blog adding any value? If it’s not, then that’s something to think about.

    Keep the comments coming!

  4. says

    I do have a blog though I do not consider it a business blog. This is my PERSONAL BLOG that highlights my journey as a freelancer. However, I try to make it relevant and well written so that anyone thinking of hiring my services can be confident that i can deliver. The benefit have gotten from blogging is exposure. You can also read my two-part posts about the lessons have learned from my blogging experience.
    http://kenyanfreelancer.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-have-learned-about-blogging-part-2.html
    Laura as usual great post!

  5. Archan Mehta says

    Hey Laura:

    Well, thanks for your excellent piece: I learned a lot and enjoyed reading about your ideas.

    I don’t maintain a blog because I would not know how to go about it. Plus, I am busy and have no time to update it. However, I enjoy reading the blogs of other people out there. It is fun. However, not being too familiar with computers can hinder your growth as a writer, I feel.

    It is a great learning experience to learn from others even for a non-techie like me. However, maybe I will have to start a blog someday if I want to pursue freelance writing as a career.

    Some of the blogs out there, by the way, are fluffy, but some are worthwhile and add value.
    I think the trick is to find blogs that are relevant and useful and add value to your life.

    Please continue on your creative quest and it is a joy to be educated by somebody like you.
    I always look forward to reading the ideas of people who know what they are talking about.

  6. says

    Thanks Kenyan Freelancer and Archan.

    Blogging is definitely a YMMV (your mileage may vary) proposition.

    Some freelancers will discover that they love blogging and may even be able to earn a modest income from their efforts. Others will find it frustrating and discouraging. Still others will enjoy it, but find themselves so swamped with work that they have trouble maintaining it.

    Thanks for sharing your individual stories.

  7. says

    An option to a blog is a website. That’s what I’ve used to promote my copywriting services, and it’s worked very effectively.

    I don’t need to update it nearly as frequently as I would if it were a blog. Writing posts is a time commitment that I’d rather use to do client paid work.

    The information on my website is organized and presented for potential clients, my target market, not for subscribers as would be a blog.

    Also, my website is search engine optimized for keywords that I know potential customers are using. I have page 1, #1 ranking for numerous phrases, which delivers new clients to me almost daily. I don’t know that I could accomplish that with a blog.

    Lastly, my website has a call-to-action on nearly every page. On a blog, it would be offensive to subscribers to include a salesy push at the end of each post.

    Those are my reasons for going the website route. Of course, the best solution is to have both a personal website and a blog. Then you surely have all your bases covered.

  8. says

    Blogs are fun and definitely helpful in many aspects, but the amount of time it takes to stay consistent and frequent is so hard for me right now with all that I have going on. Sometimes it is discerning and frustrating… I just have to learn how to set my time better, which I am getting better at… :-) Great post!

  9. says

    I see the blog as very important for profeshional freelancing, too. Keeping posts on regular time-frames can be dificult in periods with lots of freelancing work although there are blogs tricks with preparing posts in drafts for days you don’t have much time. ;)

  10. says

    I started blogging on June 5th 2009 – I have WP and use a plugin to automatically push my blog to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and that is the only Tweet I ever have on my blog post. The amount of traffic I’ve seen to my site as a result has been amazing. How many clients I’ve gotten because of it – a few – not as many as I would like but I am using it as a way to share information and to also demonstrate that I’m doing all I can to stay on top of technology.

    Eventually I do hope my blog will turn into “more clients” and in the meantime I’m loving sharing what I find. There is too much out there for any one person to stay on top of things!

  11. says

    Everyone has their formula and if blogging is not your thing why should you have to do it. Conformity? Be just like everyone else? Who said that you have to blog? Unfortunately, things are a bit harder if you go against the wind but as long as you understand that, you should be fine.

  12. says

    The thing I love about blogging is that it means I always have a creative project. Even when things are slow or when I’m focusing on projects that aren’t that exciting, I know I have a creative outlet in my blog. If time is an issue for freelancers who want to blog, then there’s always the option of joining a grog (group blog), guest posting, or using a microblogging site like Twitter. Of course, if you want to write your own blog and think you don’t have the time, then remember that every posts doesn’t have to be a feature length treatise. It could be a short post, a photo, a video, or a collection of useful links. In fact, I find that it’s helpful to vary the length and format of posts so it doesn’t feel formulaic.

  13. says

    A blog that is part of or attached to your website is a great way to demonstrate that you know what you are talking about, particularly if your business is based on giving advice. This can be hard through usual website content where you need to be succinct and focus on solving the users problems.

    Blog posts can be conversational, something that the rest of your web content in most cases shouldn’t be (because people won’t read it).
    If your blog is well written and adds value, people will keep coming back to it. This forms a relationship over time (even if you don’t know it). They are more likely to buy from you when they have a need, because they feel they know you!

  14. says

    Can You Succeed as a Freelancer Without a Blog? Yes. We tell our clients that they do need need some web presence. If not a blog, then a website. Blogging is not for everyone. It can be very time consuming. Before any clients jumps into blogging, we always tell them to be real clear on why you are doing it. Don’t do it for money, or expect to get any clients from it.

    Great post!

  15. says

    Well, a strange thing has happened which highlights the advantages you list, Laura: my blog for other freelancers actually helps me to get work. Clients have seen it and said: “I like your style; write for me”. Although I have a portfolio blog, it seems that the writing blog does much more for me in terms of making connections with clients – and of course it keeps me in touch with other writers.

    I agree with your list of disadvantages. I have spent hours in the past year trying to resurrect my blog after some technical hitch or other, and I also have many more ideas for launching blogs than I have time to write posts.

  16. says

    I’ve been blogging a long time (before I started freelancing, on the early versions of Word Press).

    The reason I blog is not so much to get new business, but to share knowledge, for SEO purposes, to keep tabs on what is going on in my industry (I have RSS feeds from my fav blogs linked) and to sometimes (hopefully) educate clients and fellow designers / developers.

    Another reason is that it shows clients that I’m not just blowing air out my … when I say that I can design and develop WP blogs.

    Besides these reasons, If you have a good working knowledge of SEO, specifically how blogs are indexed, then blogging can be a terrific tool.

  17. says

    Funny, but I became a children’s book illustrator because of my blog that I’ve started for keeping happy my friends. I was studying cultural anthropology but I can not stop to draw and my friends really enjoy this, so I’ve started a blog and I’ve posted an illustration or a sketch nearly every day. And the blog started its own life, it became very popular within a short time, and I got more and more comments that people wanted to see my picture books – but I had not any at that time, and people wanted to buy my art – but I did not sell them, there were no prices – because I did the whole thing for my friends. After a while I saw I had to try this children’s book illustration thing in a proper way. I made my portfolio and I send my art to publishers. Now I am working on the ninth and tenth picture books in the same time after two years that the first one has been published.
    What else could I say about blogging? :))

  18. says

    Great post!! – I think getting involved in blogs is necessary for designers (only because users expect it) – I do think we are over saturated with the amount of blogs starting each day.

    So maybe just guest post instead of starting a blog. Create a website that will gather all your posts from different sites – this will cut back on your investment to start a blog.

  19. says

    I started a blog last year, but only as an extension of my portfolio website. I chose to go with Posterous as it was quick and simple to set up.

    I do find, when it comes to the huge amount of design blogs available, it has reached the point where I get a lot of duplicated content in my Google reader. Especially with list posts (e.g. 60 great websites using a black background or 100 great blog designs). I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with those types of posts, but a hell of a lot of blogs have the same content.

    I’ve started to subscribe to blogs of individual designers more. I love seeing their work process and reading case studies. If they show a bit of their personality as well, all the better.

  20. says

    Great post! I think the answer sometimes depends on what you do and for whom. In saying that, the reality is that a blog is becoming increasingly important no matter what sector you operate in. Having a blog (content) is only the first step, the second and perhaps more important step is getting the right people (prospects) see that content. In my opinion, this is when a blog truly becomes a serious tool in the freelancer arsenal.

  21. says

    Luckily, I started blogging about two years before I decided to venture into freelance graphic and web designing. The only problem was that it was more of a personal blog.

    6 months before I made the decision to be a freelancer, I decided to redesign and revamp my blog and I began using it in conjunction with my social networks to build a personal brand. Once I started my design business, I was able to use my blog as a space to host my design work, post my thoughts, offer my services, and connect with readers. It was a smooth transition.

    One huge benefit of this is that I now have a “One-Stop-Shop” where anyone, especially potential clients, can find me. Another benefit is having the ability to leverage social media. For example, when I upload a project that I’ve completed to my blog’s portfolio, a tweet is sent to my Twitter account which is then sent to my other social networks such as Facebook, Tumblr and Virb. This helps to direct traffic back to my site as well as stir interest in potential clients. I’ve gotten several new projects this way.

    I think owning yourself online (ie. your name as the domain name) as well as having a personal blog are vital in sharing who you are and what you do to the world. Web 2.0 has made it so that everyday people can take their voices and their services to the world with just a click of a button. It’s amazing!

  22. says

    Since I decided that 2010 was the year to get off my butt and start blogging, this is very timely for me to read. Thanks!

    Probably the most benefit I have gotten so far is that it makes me take some time to think about different aspects of graphic design before I write about them. That’s a good thing because it keeps my brain moving and growing.

    The downside is since I’m mainly a print guy (I am not a a coder—yet) I have had to rely on a simple website and connect it to wordpress (blog) and deviant art (portfolio). It serves the purpose of being able to send people to a place to learn about my business but could also have the drawback of not looking as “polished” as many other sites out there.

    Still, if someone views the content, they should be able to see that the design work is top-notch and I have at least a decent amount of intelligence when it comes to design.

    Plus, it’s all on the web so once I get better at coding, I can change everything.

  23. says

    I’ve had a portfolio online for years at my own site. Is it best to host the blog on my own site or should I go with an online blog service? What are the advantages/disadvantages of both solutions?

  24. says

    I think this is among the most vital info for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But want to remark on some general things, The site style is perfect, the articles is really great : D. Good job, cheers

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