3 Big Ways Most Writers’ Blogs Go Wrong From Minute One

Carol Tice | 96 Comments

Wrong way red sign isolated on whiteNearly every new freelance writer I meet wants to start a blog.

Why? Here are some answers I hear a lot:

“It’ll be a great marketing tool.”

“Writing a blog will give me some samples.”

“It will get traffic for my writer website and help me get hired.”

“The blog will help me learn about social media.”

All of these things could be true. But often, this budding blog accomplishes nothing except to waste some of this newbie’s precious time.

Why blogs die

The vast majority of the startup blogs writers create are a dead end. They go nowhere and are seen by no one. They don’t get any comments or social shares.

Without any positive feedback, the writer soon comes to dread posting on their blog, until one day, they stop. So much for a blog being the magical key to getting noticed as a new writer.

Why does this happen? The whole premise of the blog is wrong. From the very start.

Here are the three basic ways writer blogs get set up to fail:

1. Your blog is nameless

I’ve reviewed a lot of writer blogs and I’ve noticed a spooky thing they have in common that causes the blog to fail as a marketing tool.

Most writers set up their blog as a tab on their writer site. Which is fine. But here’s the problem: about 90 percent of the blogs set up this way have no name.

They’re under a tab called “blog” and when you click on that (if you bother), you see a blog. But there is no header or name for the blog. It simply blogs along, and you’re left to scan the headlines and try to divine the focus or theme of this blog.

Tip: If blogging is so uninteresting to you that you can’t even take the time to think up a name for your blog, do not start a blog.

If you’re serious about using a blog to promote your writing, give it a name. It could be straightforward like “Joe’s Marketing Ideas: Tips for small businesses” or something more conceptual and cool like Angie Mansfield’s Tranquiligeek blog.

Use your blog name on the blog tab if it’s on your writer site, and on the blog page, too (check out how Angie does it). Because no one wants to click on a tab that simply says “Blog.”

C’mon and give it a little more spice!

If you’re stumped on a name, at least come up with a theme for the blog. Then call your tab “my marketing blog” or “my quilting blog” or whatever it is.

That will help prospects understand it’s a real blog with a topic, not some marketing-fodder joke.

2. Your blog is your random notepad

To get gigs, you need a blog that’s similar to the ones paying clients would want you to write. In other words, a blog that focuses on useful information for a particular audience. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of blog most writers want to start.

Instead, writers want to navel-gaze and discuss whatever strikes their fancy. For instance, one blog I recently reviewed had the tagline “social and economic problems that keep me awake at night.”

That’s a big problem.

When companies go looking for a blogger, they want someone who knows how to focus on their customers’ needs rather than their own random musings. You show you get it by sticking to a single topic on your blog and providing useful information to your readers, not venting about eight of your pet topics.

A good blog is not about you — especially not one designed to get clients. A good blog is always written in service of a reader.

Just this morning, I had a new blogger cheerfully comment to me, “If you’re interested in sci-fi/romance novels, Buddhist meditation, singing, swimming, or other topics I blog about, please visit my blog!”

When you throw a confusing mix of topics together on your blog, there is no reader you’ve got in mind. It’s just you venting or rambling on about whatever you like.

Then prospective clients think you don’t understand how to blog to build an audience — and they leave without hiring you.

3. You don’t really want to blog

Good blogs are driven by passion.

Blogs are a lot of unpaid work (at least at first), so the successful ones tend to be written by someone who is crazy about their topic.

Like, you’re lying awake at night because you can’t wait to get up in the morning and write another post for your blog. That excited about it.

But most writers start blogs for a different reason — because they’ve heard they’ve just got to have one. Or they think it’ll help them get gigs. Or they want to get rich and they’ve heard blogging is the ticket to a fast fortune.

They’re not thrilled about the idea for their blog, but they sort of hold their nose and plunge ahead.

No surprise that a lot of writers complain to me, “I’m not keeping up my blog I put on my writer’s site. I just don’t have any ideas for it.”

When you start a blog you had no burning desire to write, it’s not going to work. That lack of enthusiasm shows, and you end up with a blog you hate — and that doesn’t impress clients.

Another big problem: You can’t really grow the blog, because other bloggers sense you’re lukewarm. It’s hard for you to find guest post opportunities or to get top bloggers to share your posts.

So you don’t get any engagement on your blog — and seeing no comments and zero shares also seriously underwhelms clients. They want to see you know how to get people talking and sharing.

How to create a winning blog

The bottom line? Think before you blog.

Give your blog a name, a mission you love, and a target reader. Then, ask those readers what they need to know from you.

You’ll create a blog that’s a great writing sample, and possibly much more.

How to be a Well-Paid Freelance Blogger

96 comments on “3 Big Ways Most Writers’ Blogs Go Wrong From Minute One

  1. Victoria Marie Lees on

    I agree that a blog needs a straight forward theme and title. That’s why I have two blogs. The blog associated with my name is my Adventures in Writing blog about writing a memoir about attending college with five children in tow. My Camping with Kids blog is about our family’s camping adventures and what we learned with each experience.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have many followers and need to rectify the situation. Thanks so much for a very informative post and wonderful comments. It is all very helpful to me.

  2. rebecca on

    Hi Carol,
    Great Advice. I have two of my own blogs with very catchy names that bring in a lot of attention; Paperback Writer, and Dogs Rule Cats Drool. The name on a blog is everything and it must be exciting and intriguing for you to go take a look.

    What does Paperback Writer make you think of? You guessed it, the song by the Beatles. and Dogs Rule Cats Drool – I get a lot of comments because the cat people hate the title and the dog people so agree with it. Although, I do love cats and we have both species at the blog. With this title I have managed to pull in more than one type of crowd, the intrigued, the dog lovers, cat lovers, advertisers, job leads and friendships.

    Most of my writing jobs, leads, book ideas and improving skills and knowledge have all come from blogging across different platforms. I have developed friendships that are worldwide and it has been well worth all the effort and time that I put into each one of my blogs.

    • Carol Tice on

      So…these two blogs are financially successful? I’m curious how either of those are monetized. Maybe you could share? Particularly fascinated how a blog by the title of an old Beatles tune draws an ongoing audience. Or are you just saying they help you get freelance gigs because they’re well done and get good engagement?

  3. Joy Neighbors on

    Hi Carol,

    I love to blog on two of my favorite subjects and have two blogs that I write weekly (and have for 2 & 3 years) – Joy’s Joy of Wine @ http://joysjoyofwine.blogspot.com and A Grave Interest @ http://agraveinterest.blogspot.com about cemetery culture. However, making money from the blogs is a trick I have yet to figure out. I’m building a reputation in both fields, but how do I make my blogs at least pay for themselves?

    Thanks!

    Joy Neighbors

  4. STEVEN J. FROMM, ATTORNEY, LL.M. (TAXATION) on

    Very interesting points here. I have found you really have to be committed to blogging and have a passion for what you are writing about. With my website, I have tried to give my readers some really good and free tax, estate and legal information. Anyway, thanks for the insightful post.

  5. Penelope Silvers on

    Hi Carol,

    As always, your post has really given me food for thought. As an author and self-publisher, my website started out as a place to showcase my books. I then started the blog about all things writing and self-publishing. I never thought of naming that tab something other than “blog.”

    I’ve actually been pondering writing about other things but still want to keep the main focus on writing, self-publishing, and all avenues of book promotion. I have many other interests, but don’t want to stray too far off topic. We also have a radio show, but I don’t want it to be all about radio. Something to think about.

    Keep those great posts coming, Carol! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Sherry B on

    Hi Carol,

    I just started a little over a year ago writing about one of my passions on my first website blog, http://dogbunker.com/ which is about dogs and dog training. I had never written anything up until then and was scared to death to even start, but start I did. Once I got started, I realized that writing is something I enjoy doing.

    Recently, I started on my second passion on http://bossfreeopportunities.com/, which is learning how to make a living online for people that want to quit their jobs that they don’t enjoy. I’m writing about what I’ve learned so far and from where in hopes of helping others to succeed online too. I have a lot of work yet to do on it, so I haven’t shared it anywhere much yet, up until now anyways.

    After reading your post, I realize I still have to name my blog, so I’ll be frying a few brain cells trying to think up a good one. I hadn’t realized how important that would be to do before, so thank you Carol!

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Sherry —

      Sorry, those 2 links made you go in spam — just found your comment.

      Running 2 blogs is tough…I know few writers who’ve successfully launched more than one at a time. It seems like your blogs have names — the name of your site, right?

  7. Nicole on

    Hi there!

    I only just stumbled across your blog and wanted to say thanks… a great topic and lots of useful info! I think blogging offers so many opportunities as a writer (even if it’s just a bit of a creative outlet), but it’s definitely not as easy as it sometimes looks!

    Thanks again! =)
    Nicole (all the way from South Africa)

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Nicole — welcome to the blog!

      I think blogging really IS easy — write something and hit publish.

      Blogging successfully, where you build an audience of fans and/or get gigs from it because it’s so well-written and helpful and well-designed…that is not so easy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Shikha Jain on

    I completely agree with this post! While it does take a lot of work, it also takes a lot of strategy. Content matters, but if you donโ€™t strategize the way you release the content, it wonโ€™t matter at all. No one will see it. Itโ€™s posts like these that made my blog so successfulโ€ฆthanks so much for sending out this information!

  9. Isaac Mathu on

    Blogging should first and foremost be a product of your writing skills rather than a marketing tool. Creating a quality reader-oriented blog is in itself the best marketing tool you could use to find well paying writing gigs.

  10. D Kendra Francesco on

    Good post. Makes me think of how far I still have yet to travel to get my site the way I want it. I have points one and two covered, insofar as my site is “Writing by Kendra” and I’ve a title for both the recent posts and archived (and said titles may change once I’m “there”).

    But, the third is where I’m falling down. I’m writing about writing, but it isn’t really what I’m truly passionate about. I feel like my posts are all rehashes of what I’ve read over countless years, including this year. Others – like you and Anthony and Erika, like Bly and Bowerman, Stelzner and Slaunwhite – say it so much better than I’ll ever want to.

    I have one thing I’m grateful about regarding my site: it’s too little yet to generate much interest, so it’s become my laboratory. I can still make changes without scaring my few followers too badly. I know what I want to write about. I just need to learn how to create it so that my preferred clientele wants to read it.

    Only then will I be able to count to three!

    • Carol Tice on

      I really meant to put that in the post — that you don’t have to write about writing, which a lot of writers seem to think they do.

      If that isn’t your passion, feel free to shift it and start writing about something else! Rename it. Hardly anyone is really looking! You’ve got the right idea — it’s not too late to change it.

  11. Julie on

    Hi Carol!
    I’m a new blogger and my blog is: mountmom.com. My target reader is a christian woman. My tag line is: Inspiring you to climb your mountains. My goal is to bring scripture & everyday life together in a way that’s useful.

    Somehow I haven’t figured out how to get comments and shares. I get a ton of emails though! Is it bad to ask people to specifically ‘like’ a post who email me?

    I would like this to be a paying enterprise as well.

    Thanks for the great post!

    Best,
    Julie

    • Carol Tice on

      You know — I ask everyone who emails me a comment about a post to put it on the post comments. Tell them it lasts a lot longer that way and then other readers can benefit from their knowledge. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Seems to work.

  12. Jim on

    I started my first blog as part of my search to find my passion. It lasted about seven posts, I don’t believe a single person read it other than me AND I found my passion. My second blog is about building a 30 ft Falmouth Cutter which is a good bit of what my passion is about. My third blog, which you’ll find if you click on my name, was originally about living my life with passion and what I experience along the way. It has become a major tool in my learning to write campaign. I can honestly say that what I’m learning through the process of writing my blog and reading about writing will play a major role in shaping the future that I must have – exploring the world by boat and writing about it. My blog may not be ‘successful’ as defined by another person however I’m in the process of teaching myself skills of infinite value.

  13. Nicolia Whyte on

    I started a blog earlier this summer. I made two posts and then just forgot about it because I started it for all of the reasons that I shouldn’t. It was a topic I liked, but just wasn’t passionate about. I’ve been going back and forth, trying to decide if I really need to blog or not. I would like to become a paid blogger, but I have so many different interests. I guess I’m a bit of a generalist. I’m trying to find one topic to settle on and just go with that. Thank you for this; it was pretty timely ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Lorraine Reguly on

    I have a blog. I created it four days after buying a computer. Before that, I wasn’t online for years. So, basically, almost never.

    I’ve grown so much in the last year. I have been blogging since January 2013. I started writing my first blog post on the 13th, and published it on the 15th. Since then, I’ve published 72 posts. Four I wrote for search engines. Six or seven made it to the first page of search results. My fourth post hit the first page of google search and visitors were landing on my blog daily. They still are, but now it’s due to a different post.

    I started it before I even knew what blogging was. I thought it was an online diary. Heh. I was wrong. I only wanted to document my journey to being published. This is before I knew of the changes to the industry. Self-publishing was not in my lexicon.

    I was advised by The Writer’s Market to get a website and build a platform. HUH?

    I started out blindly. With sun-glasses on. LOL

    I wish I knew then what I know now. I may have to change my strategy next year, now that I have one!

    In the last three months, the number of visitors to my blog has increased so much. I had about 3200 views in October, and 2100 in September. For me, this is HUGE. I had 27 in January. LOL I know this because I just documented my stats yesterday.

    I’ve guest posted on 4 blogs already, and have 2 coming out next week, on blogging blogs. I’ve even written an ebook, which began as a blog post. It should be available for sale on Dear Blogger next week.

    I’m also putting together an ebook of 4 short stories I wrote long ago, plus working on a book about my life. Pre-laptop! The sequel will be Post-laptop; my life has changed so much this past year.

    I’m not sure where I’m going, but I know the path I’m taking is an exciting one. I’m loving my blogging (online) journey.

    The best part? I’ve made friends. And I’m having fun.

    I also don’t sleep as much anymore.

    With NaNoWriMo upon us, I doubt that will change, too!

    Now I’m off to do some math (LOL) to post this comment.

    • Carol Tice on

      Sorry about the math problem, folks! We were having HUGE problems with spam which were causing crash-outs and have had to make it a little tougher for robots to post here.

  15. Sandra Branum on

    I began my blog to cope with the fear of vision loss. I’m in my 3rd year and write about life, fear, pain. If I can help just 1 other person cope with their fears; then my writing is not in vain.

  16. vicki on

    For Now, I blog for the freedom and art of writing. I don’t have a huge following and while I would welcome the growth, I am happy to just do my thing. I haven’t ventured into finding clients – it’s been a stumbling process and hours reading “How To’s” to even get this far in finding this site – but one day I will find my niche and paying jobs. I’m happy to blog about parenting, trials of parenting, and other random thoughts.

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Vicki —

      Well, glad you found me! Try again to use the CommentLuv tool if you’re like to show us a blog post — my spam filters don’t allow links in guest comments much, so I’m glad you didn’t end up in spam!

      • vicki on

        pardon my “innocence” … what is comment luv tool?? It wasn’t there ( in my reply box) the other day. I see it now because 4 of my recent blog posts just showed up where I was registered for my blog. Thanks a bunch * still learning to navigate all these tools*

        • Carol Tice on

          No problem! You have to put in your blog URL as the website, and then commentluv will offer you a post headline you can link. Looks like you got the hang of it now.

  17. Lizzie Andrews on

    These are really great tips. I know that when I see a blog on a writers page or company page that just has a tab that says blog I don’t click on it. It just doesn’t catch my eye at all.

    • Carol Tice on

      Exactly. You’re asking the prospect to be so curious they’re willing to click on a tab that goes to something they don’t know if they want to read or not. Take the mystery out and show you understand niche blogging by signaling that with a topic or blog title! You’ll get more prospects to read the blog.

  18. Angie Mansfield on

    See, this is what I get for reading blogs so late – I had no idea you’d mentioned me in this one. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I am SO with you on choosing a topic you’re actually passionate about. I tried to write about writing on my regular site, and it bored me to tears. I made it to six posts before giving up. I hit on the idea to approach stress relief from a geek’s perspective, and haven’t looked back. My readership is still growing, but at least I HAVE a readership — thanks, in no small part, to the enthusiasm I have for the subject.

    Better to have no blog at all than a blog you can’t stand to look at.

    • Carol Tice on

      What — check your pingbacks girl! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I meant to put that in the post, the whole “I’m going to blog about writing” OR marketing, to appeal to clients, and how that usually fails.

      Obviously, it didn’t for me, but I find most writers go nuts writing about their process. Write about some other passion or hobby of yours instead. Clients don’t care a lot what your niche blog is about, I find — just that you show you understand niche blogging.

  19. Asheritah on

    I found the conversation going on in the comments is so interesting, especially the exchange about keeping each blog focused on a particular topic, even if that means running several blogs at once.

    I’ve had several personal blogs over the years, and I always felt like a failure when I stopped blogging on each of them (for various reasons). After a two-year break, I started reading your site and several others (including Jeff Goins and Copyblogger) to learn what it takes to set up a successful blog. I realized that I could learn from those blogs and view them as stepping stones instead of failures, and I started dreaming about a better blog. I spent a solid month making a plan, honing in on an audience, and writing content in advance. When I launched my most recent blog, I was surprised by how quickly I gained subscribers and followers on facebook. I realized that I wasn’t a failure–I was just going about blogging the wrong way!

    I blog because I want to encourage women to dwell in God’s presence so that can live and love like Jesus. At this point, I’ve decided not to monetize my blog (because I feel like that’s somehow prying on others’ insecurities… I still need to explore my feelings on that and come to a final conclusion). But the success I’ve experienced with this blog in just one month has given me the idea to start another one that I WILL monetize, and I’m really excited about it!

    Thank you for sharing your expertise here and for interacting with your readers. More power to you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Gippy Henry on

    Hi Carol,

    I totally agree with all of your complaints about writers’ blogs. I’m included in at least one of the distressing facts you mentioned. I do have a blog name. I also create title names for each blog. I’ve only blogged twice and opened it about three weeks ago. I had planned blogging once a week for now. I’m trying to juggle finishing my first book of three in a series of Crime Fiction, keeping up on my reading as promised to various authors, being a part of social media (a full-time job), eating and sleeping occasionally and, most importantly, interacting with family.

    My blog is supposed to be about my series and books in the future: the Power in Criminal Acts. I’ve always been for the underdog and the vulnerable: children, animals, seniors, etc. So I’d like my blog to stay along that subject line, as most of my stories will reflect for as long as I’m able to write.

    So my worst fault, I believe, is finding the time to create the blogs. I’m guilty as charged. Thanks for reminding us. Best, Gippy

    • Carol Tice on

      Well, Gippy, remember the 80/20 rule for new blogs. You shouldn’t post on a new blog very often — instead, guest post on popular blogs to help draw an audience TO your blog. Otherwise, you’re posting to your blog for very few readers!

      If you need to learn more about how to get guest blogging assignments from popular blogs (and even earn money from ‘free’ posts), be sure to check out my upcoming training on that with Jon Morrow:

      http://guestblogging.viprespond.com/GB500-tice-nov6?orid=6624

  21. Kate Johnston on

    I just celebrated my second blogiversary. I love blogging, but I have had to work hard to fit it into my crazy schedule. It takes passion, yes, and discipline. I took the summer off, but because I had already established a small following, it was easy to jump back into it. I am lucky that I found a loyal community, which encourages me to blog even when I don’t feel like it. The support is amazing, but again, it takes time and work to get to that point.

    • Carol Tice on

      Ha! How cute! I have no idea when my blogiversary is…would have to go back through the old caroltice.com blog archives to figure it out…but now I want to!

  22. Jackson Anderson on

    Nailed it all in one Carol!

    Great insight.

    I know for myself my writing style originally was very inwards focussed especially on my first drafts before posting but I’m now always trying to write for an audience rather than myself!

    It’s definitely a transition for me but the thrill you get when talking to a reader in the comments on one of your posts is so great plus when you know it’s your writing that got them interested and sparking off thoughts of their own you know you’ve hit the mark!

    I definitely have a long, long, LONG way to go in becoming the best blog writer I can be but I already feel like when planning out my posts I have a better flow more naturally now.

    With each post will come more experience and inevitably better posts to resonate with my audience and connect on many levels!

    Thanks for the emphasis to know my thinking is on the right track!

    Have a great weekend!

  23. Andrea Arthur Owan on

    Hi Carol,

    I started my blog a little over a year ago for the purpose of helping parents, siblings, grandparents and family recover physically, emotionally and spiritually from the death of a baby, either in pregnancy, in delivery or soon after birth. I knew from the start it would be a small, niche blog with a limited audience. I also knew I’d have to be committed to it and make sure my post is released at midnight every Monday.

    I have a small following from readers in about 75 countries, so I know I have more than my family and friends reading it. (Actually, none of my family reads it since they lived through the death of our daughter and know the story.) Right now I’m covering how people suffering from grief can recover from the depression that often comes with such a loss.

    Thankfully, even though the reading is sometimes hard, I still have the passion to write it after a year. When I want to make a comment on something elseโ€”and aside from my topicโ€”I alert the readers that I’m going to do it and tell them when they can read it. I don’t do that often, and it’s been successful.

    Thank you for all of your great tips. I always learn something from you!

    Thanks!

    Andrea
    Andrea Owan recently posted…12 Steps to Defeat Depression (Food and Diet Part 2)

    • Carol Tice on

      Andrea, just a thought — if you broadened that to surviving the death of a child, or a death in the family, rather than just a baby, you’d have a wider audience, and it’s a topic you still have authority to write on.

      I’m sure it’s very fulfilling to feel you’re helping others who’ve gone through such a tragic loss.

  24. David Gillaspie on

    Carol, you hit the right notes so often it’s hard not to dance to the tune. And then the comments. It’s a symphony of knowledge blasting from the screen.

    You’ve made a dent on content and presentation. By following your advice I’ve been head-hunted for a writing job from my blog. Feeling pretty special down in Oregon.

    • Carol Tice on

      That’s awesome David! Thanks for sharing the success story.

      And lately, my readers are rocking the comments! I’m loving the conversations and insights you’re all sharing here.

  25. Pam on

    Hello Carol,

    you are a real inspiration (bet you get that all the time).

    I am new to writing online and want to get started. Your comments and articles are a must for all new and not so new writers. I signed up for your 20 week e-course and have high hopes to be on my writing way as I complete each week.

  26. Miriam Hendeles on

    I love love love blogging. I started blogging to boost my book that was being released a few months later (14 months ago), and I wanted to gain an audience. But that has become besides the point now. I blog because I want to help others with my insights in my niche. I blog because I have larger goals for this niche. I blog because I love the engagement of the many people who follow it. (not thousands yet, but hundreds).

    I have been doing it for 17 months now (but who’s counting, right?)…and learning so much every day. I do a bunch of things wrong still, but I’ve grown so much and do lots of things right.

    Recently, I’ve worked on the aesthetics of my blog more – less clutter..simpler, cleaner, larger print. Also, I work hard at headlines, staying focused on the theme/niche of my blog. I like your list because it reminds me of the areas I still need to work on.

  27. Sarah L. Webb on

    I recently launched my second blog, having learned all the lessons outlined in this post. I’m not only crazy passionate about my subject, I’m also wiser and more confident, which makes a big difference.

    When I started my first blog it was definitely of the online journal variety. I’m renovating the original blog to serve as a good writer’s site, and I’ll probably remove the old blog completely or limit it to a handful of relevant posts that I want to feature.

    I now know why you suggest keeping the blog separate from the writer site. It frees up each one to be the best it can be rather than weighing down one website with the burden of having to be two things.

    • Carol Tice on

      Well, I think if the blog is a ‘thing’ of its own and not just a writing sample — if it has monetizing potential and you’re really invested in it — then you should do it on its own site.

      If you’re just starting out and your blog is sort of nascent, then I think it’s fine to have it as a tab on a writer site. This blog started that way. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      But a separate site allows you to think more about design and give the blog its own personality. And I think that’s a better sample too, when prospects see you’re into blogging enough to have it on its own site, especially a paid-host site and not a freebie. Looks pro.

  28. Donna L Martin on

    Hi Carol!

    I agree keeping up with a blog involves passion, dedication and hard work. I started my blog on Dec 6, 2011 and I chose to create a post every day for an entire year. The name of my blog is ON THE WRITE TRACK and as the title suggests, my blog is about the wonderful world of writing. My target audience is writers, new and established, as well as readers who might be thinking about becoming a writer or just want a better understanding of what it takes to write well. I try to provide interesting posts that motivate, inform, and entertain while showcasing the advice of award winning authors and agents on my WRITERLY WISDOM series.

    My blog is almost two years old and is turning out to be much more successful in terms of strengthening my writing platform than I ever thought possible at this time in my writing career.

    Great post. Thanks for all you do for the writing community!

    Take care,

    Donna L Martin

  29. Annie on

    I agree that a lot of people start blogs for the wrong reasons – especially when the motivation is based on advice the person was given as opposed to having a personal motivation for doing it.

    I started blogging accidentally – many years ago – a writer friend was going on vacation and he asked me to man his blog during his absence. I had no idea what I was doing but since he was a friend I toughed it out. It turned out to be a lot of fun and I decided to start my own – my motivation though was to set up a scenario that forced me to write everyday. And it worked, I wrote a lot.

    I am primarily a fiction writer and none of my posts were really geared at an audience per se, back then – still I did end up getting freelance work because of the blog. It turned out that a friend of a friend read my blog regularly and when a freelancing opportunity arose she emailed me and asked if I wanted to try it.

    It’s been a strange blessing – on the one hand I am stably self-employed, on the other hand I often find I don’t have the time I would like to pursue the fiction. Also, I went through severe burnout on a particularly long and intense project that seemed to shut off the creative fiction side of my brain. Now, things seem a bit more balanced.

    But the key thing I take away from your post, Carol, is that if you don’t have a passion for what you are writing, no matter what it is, then you will struggle.

    Annie

    • Rebecca Byfield on

      Agree with you there Annie. I originally started a blog to promote my first fiction novel. Now the blog has grown to 3 and it’s no longer just me writing but a team of 28. The blogs HAVE become the main focus and I wonder when I’ll ever find time to write my third book.

  30. Daryl on

    I started my blog because I wanted to help other new freelance writers and also wanted to publicly chart my own progress in my freelance writing career.

  31. Michael Feeley on

    Thanks for even more! You’re a giver and your knowledge is much appreciated.
    So you got me. I don’t have a blog name and only just began to think about it.

    AND –Yes! — When you go to my website it says BLOG…but I’m glad you got me. Now I’m ready to change that…give the bastard child a name and then move to step #2.

    – How do you create a name for your Blog?
    – How long should it be?
    – Key words?
    – What is the process?

    THANK YOU!

    Michael

    • Carol Tice on

      Hey Michael —

      If it’s just under a tab, and you’re struggling with a name, give it a theme for now. “My marketing blog” your tab can say. That’s a start.

      I could write a whole ‘nother post about how to name a blog! I’m still not sure I did such a great job of it.

      In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this here on the blog, but the name I originally wanted — Start Freelance Writing — was already taken.

      And man, am I glad, because Make a Living Writing has such broader appeal for both new and more established freelancers, AND encompasses self-publishing and earning from your blog, where the other title did not. So maybe that gives you some food for thought.

      Mine is pure SEO/obviousness. Not real sophisticated or clever. I always find myself envying people who are a bit more conceptual and slick with theirs, like Copyblogger or Revision Fairy (copyeditor Stefanie Flaxman). I consider mine a functional blog URL…but nothin’ special.

      You definitely don’t want a URL that goes on and on. Mine is probably near the outer limits of length with 4 words in it, I think.

      Anyway…hopefully that gives you some ideas!

  32. Alice on

    I started my blog herbinkitchen.com with a workshop I took last November. The blog turns one this month and it has helped me make connections. The focus is on food and garden and I am now a regular contributor for the Food section over at Parade.

    Best,
    Alice

  33. Laura on

    Thank you for this! I love writing and I love blogging, but my first blog was set up for all the wrong reasons (the ones you listed!). I’ve stepped back and am regrouping. When I launch my next blog, it will be for the right reasons and to share what I’m passionate about.

    • Carol Tice on

      Look forward to seeing that, Laura!

      And you’re smart to kill a blog if it’s never going to work. Too many writers flog away at a messed-up blog that’s never going to help them earn, either directly or as a good writing sample. Move on, I say!

      I just recently read that Jeff Goins had 8-9 other blogs before GoinsWriter…and now we know why that one is so brilliant. He iterated until he got it.

  34. G. Trigg on

    I didn’t THINK I liked blogging. Then I got my WordPress site because someone on the Internet somewhere said that was a fast, easy way to get a web site up. I have begun making entries on it, and despite struggling with a direction for the blogging, I’ve enjoyed myself. I’ve bought a domain name, and although I plan to put up a static home page, I’m keeping the blog.

    Over the last couple of days, I’m realizing a blog theme has actually been coming to life in my mind. I’m realizing I want to blog about my adventures with my startup. After reading this post, this concept has been solidified in my mind. It will be about me, but then again it won’t. By sharing what I’ve done and my experiences, I’ll be giving valuable information to others. And I’m passionate about this. I’m passionate about getting my business off the ground and building my site and my portfolio. When I move my blog to a separate page, I’ll be re-branding it as something like “Adventures of a Freelance Startup”. Along with informing, I’d like to also entertain if at all possible.

    I hope it’s a good direction, because it’s got me so pumped!

    • Carol Tice on

      Sounds like it is then. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Certainly advice sites share personal experiences. The key is having that practical lesson for readers within it.

      Blogging about startup adventures certainly worked well for Tom Ewer, and quite a few others. The trick is the startup has to succeed, and fairly quickly, I think. Then everybody wants to know how you did it.

  35. Rae Botsford on

    Your points all make sense, and if I were trying to make money directly off my blog, I’d try to follow them. For now, though, my blog has no name and no particular point and still somebody who is “picky” about who she allows to interview her agreed to do an interview based on my couple of random blog posts. She really likes my style and personality, and decided I would be able to do justice to her and her band. For now – not forever, but for now – that’s sufficient positive feedback for me.

    I think you have to know the rules to break them appropriately, but I think it’s worth breaking them if you can afford to. I like to post my random stories when I have time, and I like having them attached to my name. I struggled with the search for a niche for a while with my old blog until someone directed me to Hyperbole and a Half. HaaH is popular because of the style in which the author writes her stories, not because she’s giving interesting information in a topic, and that’s the sort of thing I’d rather do instead.

    (I may come back a year from now and say I had to learn the hard way and I should have followed the rules, but I’ll find that out for myself.)

    • Carol Tice on

      Ha! Just reading this…see my comment above, I also love HaaH. And yes, she’s not in the practical-help category. More in the “this uplifts and resonates with me.” Much tougher niche waters to ply, but HaaH rocks it. Because it’s hysterically funny. I think humor or personal inspiration are the two areas where random works better. But 99% of these go nowhere.

      As I said, really the moonshot, trying to do this. The people who succeed at it are all GENIUSES, in my view. Way better than I’ll ever be.

      If you’re just blogging for fun, you don’t have to follow any rules, Rae. My whole focus here on the blog is helping writers earn, so these tips are for positioning your blog to earn directly and/or be a good writing sample to get you hired.

      Yes, strong writing on random topics might help you land an interview and somebody might like it. When you want to take it to another level, where your blog is the basis for a business, you have to get more focused.

  36. Tabitha Dumas on

    Thank you, Carol! I love blogging and I am passionate about many topics, but I am still trying to narrow my focus and figure out how to handle my blog/website to get hired. You always give such clear and practical insights and give me more to think about!

  37. Lisa Baker on

    Looooove this! I thought it was really interesting that you zero in on namelessness first. Not what I expected. But it makes a lot of sense now that I think about it — no name means your blog has no mission, no purpose, no theme, and no target reader. A name — a good name — can encompass all those things.

    Blogging is an amazing genre…the more I do it and the more I learn about it, the more I’m amazed by all there is to know about it and how powerful it is. I really think it’s the way of the future for writers, too. So much opportunity, so much to know, and so few people who really get it. I would definitely not be writing if it weren’t for blogs! I’m an extravert, and I resisted my writing dream for a long time because the thought of sitting around in a room by myself with a bunch of words just sounded so boring — I love words, but people are way more interesting. Then blogging came along, and I discovered writing could be a conversation — a real relationship with hundreds or thousands of people with immediate feedback. I was hooked.

    I started a couple of blogs before my current one and spent some time practicing and learning. The purpose of my blog now is to help moms not feel guilty about their parenting choices and to teach them how to cut themselves some slack — and also give them a good laugh. ๐Ÿ™‚

  38. Crystal Spraggins on

    Carol, what you say makes perfect sense, but I think there’s one exception to the blog with a specific focus–and that’s the blogger whose viewpoint is so strong, people want to read the blog just to know what she thinks about thus and such. I can think of a couple of bloggers (not many, but a couple) like that, and I thoroughly enjoy their blogs.

    Of course, I will confess to being something of a navel gazer myself. A few months ago, however, I decided to make my blog (mostly) about the world of work (my background is HR) to be taken more seriously by the other thought leaders in the industry. Lucky for me, the world of work is huge, so I can still write about many things and stay pretty much on target.

    I agree there must be a passion and a real purpose for blogging. As we all know, it’s hard work–from the writing to the time commitment to the exposure (of your ideas) to the marketing. But, I personally find few things as satisfying as having someone chew over my idea (even if he then spits it out) before letting me know what he thinks.

    • Carol Tice on

      Crystal, there are definitely exceptions to my rule. What they have in common is they are BRILLIANT writers (or cartoonists). And they tend to stick to a niche topic as well.

      A few I love and follow are Hyperbole and a Half (she’s got a book coming out and I’m so excited!) — hilarious cartoons about her childhood.
      Suburban Jungle by Jenny Isenman — hilarious mom stories
      Stephanie Nielsen of The NieNie Dialogues — inspiring/overcoming adversity

      These are the moonshot, where you talk about what YOU are musing on, and it’s kind of about you…but really, it still isn’t. The reason all of these blogs succeed is they are RELATABLE by their audience. And in that sense, they’re really not navel-gazers. They’re still sharing something that helps their readers.

      You raise a good point about how broad a wheelhouse can be within a supposed “niche” topic. Certainly that’s the genius of Zen Habits — it’s all kinds of productive and life balance, for work, for home, for yourself.

      You can do a lot within a niche blog. But the topics need to relate in some way to your theme and can’t be all over the place.

  39. Shauna L Bowling on

    As always, you give great advice, Carol. My blog page is nestled within my writers site. I’m currently going thru your website boot camp and have a lot of changes to make (just completed session 3 yesterday).

    I enjoy blogging because of the creative freedom it allows. I’m not focusing on blogging in order to sell clients on my services, although it is certainly in the formula. We’ll see what happens after I implement the changes as recommended in boot camp. I have lots of homework to do! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Carol Tice on

      Our Build a Writer Website That Works bootcamp I think is my all-time fave of ALL the Den bootcamps, Shauna! Just packed with actionable stuff.

      Look forward to seeing your revamped site!

  40. Michael Agene on

    Writing has been a part of me and one way I thought was best to express myself was by blogging. I blog for the love of it and also for the passion to help creative people deal with some of the emotional rollercoaster accompanied with creativity.

    I hope to keep blogging even if I have no reader. Of course I sure have but that’s how passionate I am about it.

    Great points you gave here, Carol.

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Michael —

      I don’t know if I would have kept going if I never got a comment or any traffic at all…but I might well have even if my audience had stayed small. I discovered I LOVE helping writers earn more, and if I’m helping even a few people, like you I love blogging and would probably keep on doing it.

      Have been having a LOT of fun with some of my longform posts I’ve put together recently in particular…and stay tuned for another opus about guest posting on Monday that will probably inspire a lot of discussion!

  41. Emily McIntyre on

    Carol, this was an outstanding blog post, and helped me nail something down that I’ve been a bit squeamish on. I know my target audience (folks who dream of travel & love craft beverages), and my mission (empowering said folks to live their dreams in the now) and obviously, my name (Soft Explosions: a travel / beverage blog). So why am I only writing content about my travel experiences? What do these people need to know?

    -How to plan for travel
    -Getting off the ground and pursuing your dreams
    -Escaping/working with challenging life circumstances to travel
    -Finding joy and dream fulfillment in the moment
    -Dealing with challenging while traveling

    And I have a question for you (I understand if you don’t have time to answer). Would you take a short look at my blog and tell me if you the content I’m creating now, blended with posts involving the topics I listed above, would be more compelling to my target reader?

    As always, thank you for your kindness in engaging with writers everywhere.

    EWM

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Emily —

      Are you a Den member? I do blog reviews in there in our Writer Website Review forum…but am not able to do free reviews for the many writers who ask me each week.

      But quick thought — Soft Explosions…that just doesn’t tell me it’s a travel and beverage blog. Not sure why you picked that name and URL…but consider one that would help orient visitors. Your tagline is helping, but a name that really tells us what you’re about would help you find your audience.

      Glad you’re starting to think about what would be useful to your readers, Emily — that way lies income. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  42. Jeff Moser on

    All excellent points. I’ve always kept my navel gazing (what I call introspective drivel) on a hidden subdomain that’s not indexed by the search engines. It’s a good cathartic release, so I don’t consider it a *complete* waste of time. It’s more or less a journal that survives beyond my current laptop.

    My issue has always been related to #3 in your list. It’s not that I don’t want to blog. My driving passions just seem to be on a revolving wheel. I suppose if I set up five or six different blogs, I’d always have 3-4 posts to write each week. I don’t think that would play out well, though.

    The one thing I stay passionate about is unfortunately an incredibly crowded topic. I’ve worked as a web developer since 2001…wish I had started a blog on that years ago. Or maybe I just haven’t drilled down enough to find a unique voice within the field.

    Sorry…didn’t mean to spill any of my drivel on your site.

    • Carol Tice on

      Jeff — we don’t like that sort of negative self-talk around here. You’re not a bad person because you have multiple passion topics! And there was nothing drivel about your comment — you’ve raised issues I know many other writers are grappling with, too.

      The solution with multiple wild passions IS multiple blogs…but you have to ask yourself how much work that will be and where that would all go in terms of earning.

      In general, I recommend writers start the one topic blog they’re most passionate about it, build it…and then start another if they really want. I don’t know ANY successful bloggers who were trying to build more than one blog at a time.

      Leave some time to do other marketing and find clients, I say!

  43. Kevin Carlton on

    My word, Carol, I can’t tell you how much I’ve learnt from you in the last 18 months.

    But for once I’m going to stick my neck out and pick up on one of your points.

    Yep, give your blog a name โ€“ I think I learnt that one from you. But, by and large, you should still call the links to it within your site ‘blog’.

    Let’s say, for example, I decided to call my blog ‘Blabbermouth’. If people see that in a link on my home page, they won’t have a clue what it is. It’s a bit like changing the anchor text to my contact page to something silly like ‘Where in the world’ or changing my home page links to something daft like ‘Base camp’.

    People want clear, straightforward navigation and don’t want to be bamboozled by fancy names. That link to your blog takes you to your blog, so call it ‘blog’. In other words, keep it simple and don’t wind visitors up.

    As it happens, I checked out the way Angie does it. And I like it. It still has the word ‘blog’ in the link and it’s still crystal clear.

    But if you’ve got quite long name for your blog, things will just get messy.

    • Carol Tice on

      Well, I don’t agree on this one.

      Call it “My personal blog,” if you don’t want to say “My Blabbermouth blog.”

      Call it “My writing blog.” Give people SOME sense of what it’s about and that it has a niche! Or I believe visitors to your writer site don’t go look at it.

      • Kevin Carlton on

        Carol, I so love the fact you say what you think and never agree just to appease readers.

        Anyway, if you look at my home page, it’s so obvious what the site is all about I really don’t feel I need to make my link any more complicated than just ‘blog’.

        When readers see that link ‘blog’, I certainly don’t think they’re gonna expect to find posts about the latest hip-hop albums or French cuisine.

        Maybe it helps that my strapline is repeated across my blog and my static pages.

        And that’s also perhaps why I’m thinking differently on this one.

        Doesn’t stop me being a raving fan of your own blog though.

        • Carol Tice on

          Hey, if it gets you clients, then you’re doing it right. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          But most writer sites I’ve seen, that blog tab will do way better for you if you name it.

          • Kevin Carlton on

            Carol

            If I could do some split testing on that link then I would. But as that isn’t really feasible right now, I have to stick with what makes sense to me and feels right.

    • Rebecca Byfield on

      I’m with you Keviin. I have 3 blogs on my site, which are stored under a drop down tab called All Blogs. My site would be seriously messy if I had to list each blogs title and description. Besides 90% of the posts are not read because someone came to my website and randomly checked out the blog tab wondering what it is all about. They generally come because I have drawn them there to a specific post, or they’ve followed through on a discussion on LinkedIn or some other social media network. In other words I am actively driving readership to each individual blog rather than crossing my fingers and hoping they find it by magic.

  44. Alexa on

    I love blogging. It is definitely my biggest passion. I started my blog after I got divorced for a way to document my progress as single mom trying to build an online business. I have got countless emails from other single mothers showing me support and asking me questions. Plus, my blogging buddies are some of my best friends. Blogging is my way of connecting with like minded people.

    • Carol Tice on

      Sounds like you’ve got a focus and found an audience, Alexa! No telling where you can take it from there. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      And I’m with you. When I found blogging, it was like finding Aladdin’s cave or something for me. You mean I can just press this button and then this is published and the whole world can read it! Pinch me!

      As an old-lady journalist who started back when nothing got published without an editor’s say-so somewhere in the process, I never get over the thrill of getting to be queen of my own little blog kingdom.

  45. Tracy on

    Thanks Carol, this is really good advice. Having recently started a blog, I am still learning my way around the blog universe and reading lots and lots of others blogs. There is nothing worse than coming to one that is not defined. It’s frustrating because as the reader I want to know upfront if this blog has anything to offer me, if there is any reason for me to read it. If I have to take too much time to figure that out, well, I just give up and move on!

    • Carol Tice on

      Exactly. I do a lot of blog reviews, and so often I find myself scanning through some unnamed or mysteriously named blog looking at the headlines and trying to figure out what the blog is about…and I can’t!

      No one is going to stick around when that’s the case.

  46. Robyn Groth on

    I love the social aspect of blogging. A blog can be shared by communities and it can become a new community. The language used in blogging is accessible and friendly, but you can still use that language to give readers deep or serious information.

    And I love that blogs are free. Just like everyone, I have to make a living. But I can still give part of myself away and hope that that part is helpful to someone.

    • Carol Tice on

      Right on Robyn!

      Obviously, I earn from my blog at this point, through the Den and courses I offer and mentoring. But I love that I’ve got 500+ free posts here as well. I started blogging purely as a public service to alert writers to scams and how to earn more, and I want to keep performing that public service,too.

  47. Erika on

    If you don’t actually like to blog, then don’t. It is really that simple. There are other ways to write and to advertise your writing.

    I blog because I think it is fun and because it is a way for me to write in my native language (Swedish) rather than in my work language (English). My blog is also a tool that allows me to spread some information about science and how scientific research works to the public, so at least some of my blogging has a more noble purpose.

    The writing style of blog posts is different from that of journalistic articles, professional reports, advertising texts etc. In most cases your blog should therefore not be your most important writing sample when you are trying to sell your writing to a paying costumer. Also, writing your own blog doesn’t show that you can handle to have someone else edit your text, which is an important part of many writing jobs.

    • Carol Tice on

      So agree with that last — people are always telling me they’re going to create a blog to have a writing sample…but it’s a sample of blogging. Which is great if you want paid blogging.

      If you’re trying to get white paper work, I don’t know if it helps you.

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