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Freelance

10 Fundamentals of Good Freelancer Blog Posts

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Nearly every freelancer I meet seems to be starting a blog, or at least thinking about it.

But there's a problem: Many freelancers tell me they're posting like mad on their blog...but nothing's happening.

No comments. No shares on Twitter or Facebook.

Even worse, no client nibbles, and especially, no firm new clients.

Blogs are a big time investment. So if you're blogging away and not getting results, that's not good. If you can't get the hang of this, you might want to consider spending your marketing time another way.

But first, let's see if we can fix this and get your blog some traction by focusing on improving your fundamentals.

What's wrong with your blog

Why do so many freelancers' blogs fail to attract an audience? I've reviewed hundreds of freelance writers' blogs, and there are some common problems with the content.

Here’s a quick tip: Blogging is a unique format all its own. It’s not a magazine article or a portfolio or a newspaper article or a sales page or anything else.

Here's a quick tip: Blogging is a unique format all its own. It's not a magazine article or a portfolio or a newspaper article or a sales page or anything else.

Most freelancers haven't studied blog style, and don't know how to write a blog post that's designed to impress their prospects.

Sorry to be harsh...but it's true.

There is a format to blogging that reliably works. Master it, and you can use your blog to get clients. Ignore it, and the blog will flounder.

If you're a freelance designer, webmaster, photographer, or graphic artist, writing your blog may be daunting. This isn't your forte. But it's OK -- you can use your strengths to create blog posts that are strong on visuals and appealing to your target customer (see point 9 below).

The good news is, it's not hard to learn how to craft compelling blog posts that will attract readers and help search engines send you great clients.

Here are 10 basic content elements of blogging that can help you land freelance clients:

1. Great blog name

Good blog names are short and memorable. Readers should be able to tell what topic you write about on the blog, too.  Confusing or mysterious blog names don't intrigue readers -- it's more likely to make them leave.

It's common for freelancers to have a website with their own name as the URL. Often, freelancers also make that name the blog's name, too.

Instead, go the extra mile and give the blog its own, more memorable name and identity. It will pay off. For an example of how this can work well to promote your business and brand, take a look at web designer Chris Coyier's CSS Tricks blog.

2. Informative tagline

Your tagline is a critical spot to fill us in on what the topic is here, especially if your blog name is your own name.

An informational tagline can work wonders to draw and retain the readers you want.

Put search terms in your blog name and/or tagline that readers might search on for your sort of information, and you'll greatly increase your chance of attracting the right sort of readers. Don't waste this valuable real estate -- which search engines regard closely -- with a tagline like "my random thoughts and musings."

If you can, work in keywords describing the blog's target readers. That helps visitors quickly decide if your blog is for them.

You can also build keywords into the meta description of your blog to help search engines send customers, as with designer Chris Spooner's blog, Line 25 -- the description adds "web design blog."

3. Focused theme

The vast majority of blogs are not focused on a theme. The author posts about whatever strikes their fancy that day. They're like online personal journals.

If you’re using your blog to get business clients, you need a single-topic blog — and that means choosing one general topic and sticking to it.

One day it's your outrage over the fate of endangered frogs. The next day a funny video from YouTube. The next a gripe about your kids.

This approach will not attract clients to your blog.

If you're using your blog to get business clients, you need a single-topic blog -- and that means choosing one general topic and sticking to it. It doesn't necessarily have to be about your design work or writing life, but it needs to have one unified theme. (If you've got more topics you're dying to blog on, the answer is...multiple blogs.)

Why? Prospects will be scanning down the blog looking at the headlines to see if you understand niche blogging. If the headlines reveal an unrelated series of topics, it looks like you don't get blogging.

Especially if you're looking for business blogging work, remember that no business is going to hire you to blog about a series of random topics. (No good-paying one, anyway.) All company blogs are about a niche topic -- so show you get that on your blog.

4. Great headlines

Here's another place where the vast majority of blogs fall short. Headlines are often not compelling and lack keywords to help search engines send you readers. Common headline problems include:

  • You can't tell what the post is about
  • Can't tell who the intended reader is
  • No keywords
  • No intrigue, surprise, or mystery
  • No obvious reader benefit

If you devote time to learning one thing about blogging, make it how to improve your headlines. It's a competitive world out there in the blogosphere, and you've got to know how to grab attention with your headlines to get read.

There are great online resources on how to build a catchy headline, including Jon Morrow's Headline Hacks report. Study them.

5. Compelling opening lines

People's attention spans are famously short online. If you write an opening anecdote that winds along for five paragraphs before finally revealing the point you'd like to make, you will probably lose most of your readers along the way.

When you write the opening lines of your post, bear in mind that the first sentence or two of your post also appears in search engine results. Make it count.

Think of it this way: The job of the first line is to make readers want to read the second line. And the job of the first paragraph is to make sure readers can't wait to read the next paragraph.

And so on, through your post. But it's most critical at the beginning of your post. If you lose readers at the top, you won't get them back. If you have a tendency to write long-winded blog openings, go back and chop off the excess so that you cut to the chase.

6. Short post length

Did I mention attention spans are short? Right.

That's why the vast majority of successful blog posts are short. Think 300-500 words. Especially if you're just starting out with your blog, and if you're new to writing, aim to keep posts short.

The occasional long and more detailed post is good too -- if it has a lot of good information, like this one. But keep it simple to start and focus on creating strong, short posts.

7. Scannability

In magazine articles, a paragraph can go on for miles. But that doesn't work online. Readers will simply skip over a huge blob of text.

Many online readers don't really read -- they skim. If your post can't be easily skimmed, you lose all those readers.

Many online readers don't really read -- they skim. If your post can't be easily skimmed, you lose all those readers.

Make it easy to get through your post by including bold subheads, numbered or bulleted points, or pullquotes. Simply keeping paragraphs short also helps make posts scannable.

8. Watch your tone

Hey, wassup! Would you like to discuss how to better obtain clients?

So, what happened there? I combined conversational slang with formal, business-letter tone. That didn't work very well, hmm?

Many bloggers aren't aware of the tone they're using, and their writing style is inconsistent. Iron this out and find your voice. The sweet spot for impressing business clients that you could talk to their customers is usually conversational without being rude, crude, or full of jargon or insider terms.

9. Visually interesting

Here's the part where all the freelance designers and photographers get to shine. A blog is really an online magazine, and as with any glossy magazine that lands in your mailbox, visual elements play a big role in driving reader interest.

Consider paying for quality photography if you aren't a visual artist -- that's what I do. For just a few dollars, you can make your blog instantly look a cut above.

If you are a visual artist, get creative. Your posts might rely primarily on images with little text, or use infographics to show off your design skill. Demonstrate new techniques or showcase recent project work and discuss how it was created. 

10. Engages the audience

Blog posts are different from articles in an important way: They're not a statement. They're a conversation. Blogs that have comments closed are usually written by top bloggers who aren't looking for clients anymore, so don't let that confuse you.

Show you get the interactive nature of blogging that by asking questions at the end of posts, encouraging comments and responding to commenters. Have social-media sharing buttons so you can get retweets and likes. Social shares bring more readers and help you find those clients.

Any business looking to hire a blogger wants to pay a pro because they haven't figured out how to get this engagement. They're looking for someone who can show they know how to get readers involved in their posts.

Is your blog getting you freelance clients? Leave us a comment and share your experience.

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