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Blogging — What’s the Point?

Keep Up and Blog On
Image by Alexander Baxevanis via Flickr/Creative Commons

What’s the point? There comes a time when every blogger will ask herself this question.

Creating good content on a consistent basis is hard work and most of us aren’t pulling a paycheck from our posts. So why bother blogging in the first place?

Well, some folks do get lucky. Some bloggers build a massive following and grab the attention of big-name brands. Some bloggers generate enough revenue from ads, sponsored posts, and affiliate links to quit their day jobs.

But most of us do not. But here’s why you should keep blogging anyway.

Blogging can make you a better writer. Writing is a practice. Just as athletes must train to get better at their sport, writers must practice to get better at our craft. Blogs make for a great training field. Blogging has taught me how to be more concise in my writing and taught me how to write faster, even faster than I did as a reporter with the Associated Press! If you set a posting schedule for yourself, blogging can train you to meet deadlines, too.

Blogging can help your writing career. Blogging will only help you as a writer if you’re striving to post quality work. And it’s important that you don’t put out crap just to say you’ve updated your blog for the week. People are paying attention. Your blog could land you a book deal or at least opportunities to write for some of your favorite publications. Case in point, I have a journalism degree from UC Berkeley, but the editors I work with couldn’t care less. Nearly all of the regular freelance gigs I have right now I snagged because I blog. So while I don’t make money directly from my blog, I do get paid for my freelance work and so blogging like crazy is worth it.

Blogging can help you establish an online platform. And you can use this online platform to promote your book or business or to spread ideas.

Blogging can help you find community. Blogging can help you find like-minded people with whom you can wax poetic about your passions or just hang out with and have fun. You thought you were the only 35-year-old black woman in the South who loved comic books, graphic novels, and video games. But then you started a blog about this obsession of yours and now you have a gaggle of geeky gal pals to take with you to Dragon Con.

Blogging can help you position yourself as an expert. As I mentioned, most people don’t make much money directly from their blogs. But your blog is a great way for you to promote your expertise. So use your fitness blog to promote yourself as a personal trainer. Use your fashion blog to promote yourself as a stylist. Take for example, Megan LaRussa Chenoweth, who owns the style coaching service Southern Femme. Chenoweth a top-notch, in-demand image consultant and personal shopper and is also a stylist for several magazines and fashion shows. But Southern Femme actually began as a fashion blog. Chenoweth used SouthernFemme.com to show off her style expertise and soon she went from bloganista to businesswoman.

Why do you blog? 

Are you interested in blogging more but having trouble finding the time to do so? Then don’t miss the launch of my time management e-course. To be notified of the launch date, simply click here and sign up for my personal blog’s newsletter.

Each day in November for #bloglikecrazy I’ll be publishing a blog post that answers your questions about blogging, social media, writing, wellness or women’s empowerment. Send your questions to javacia@seejanewritebham.com.

What Blogs Do You Read?

the 25

A blogging buddy of mine once advised me to make a list of 25 sites to regularly visit for information and inspiration and I did just that. Over time my list has changed, as expected, but I believe it’s imperative that writers read.

So today I’m updating my list and sharing it in hopes that it will inspire you to create a list of your own. Obviously, I don’t have time to read 25 different blogs a day. But if I skim through 5 a day, 5 days a week and do more close reading on the weekend, I stay on top of things and I have plenty to jot down in my journal of blog post ideas.

My list includes websites on the topics that interest me most — writing, blogging, feminism, and business — as well as some of my favorite lifestyle blogs. Many of the sites are also online publications I hope to write for someday. It’s important to be familiar with a website before you send in your a pitch.

Here’s my top 25:

  1. Feminist Wednesday
  2. Gabi Fresh
  3. Erika Napoletano
  4. Goins Writer
  5. Independent Fashion Bloggers
  6. Fit and Feminist
  7. Sarah Bessey
  8. Project Eve
  9. Writability
  10. The Blog Maven
  11. Bust.com
  12. Hello Giggles
  13. Kim Garst
  14. BritniDanielle.com
  15. All the Many Layers
  16. Ms. Magazine Blog
  17. HuffPost Women
  18. Write to Done
  19. Feministing
  20. For Harriet
  21. Feministe
  22. Clutch
  23. xoJane.com
  24. The Hairpin
  25. A Place to Dwell

What websites and blogs to do you love?

Are you interested in learning how I find time to read all the blogs I love? Then don’t miss the launch of my time management e-course. To be notified of the launch date, simply click here and sign up for my personal blog’s newsletter.

Each day in November for #bloglikecrazy I’ll be publishing a blog post that answers your questions about blogging, social media, writing, wellness or women’s empowerment. Send your questions to javacia@seejanewritebham.com.

Do I need an elevator pitch for my blog?

elevator pitch
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

Whether you’re attending a national blogging conference like BlogHer or just networking at an event in your hometown, you need to be able to quickly and concisely explain what your blog is all about. You need an elevator pitch. Here’s how to craft one:

Be brief. In your elevator speech you need to explain what you blog about and why in about 30 seconds.

Be clever. When working on your elevator pitch consider comparing your blog to something the folks in your niche would recognize. In the New Year I plan to relaunch my personal blog with a new look, a newsletter and a new focus. And after that relaunch I want people to say that I’m like a feminist Jeff Goins. But feel free to be funny or witty when finding a comparison for your blog. Maybe you’re Erika Napoletano without the f-bombs. Or maybe on your running blog you hit people with f-bombs and the hard truth on the regular and so you’re the Erika Napoletano of the fitness world. (Can you tell I really like Erika Napoletano?)

Be yourself. Mainly, you just need to be  sure your elevator pitch is authentic. Your blog’s tagline is not your elevator speech. While that tagline is great for your business cards, if you say it in actual conversation it will probably sound too contrived. For example, my personal blog The Writeous Babe Project is about “writing, wellness and women’s empowerment.” It’s about how I am “writing my way through life as a southern fried feminist.” But when I say either of those out loud I sound and feel like a jerk store. So instead of an overly rehearsed speech, consider just having bullet points that present the highlights of your site.

To craft a truly effective elevator pitch start with the mission statement for your blog. Focus on your Why. I blog to empower women, especially those who write and those yearning to live a life worth writing about. That should be at the core of my elevator pitch and at the core of all I do for my blog.

What tips do you have for crafting a good elevator pitch? 

Interested in learning more about the relaunch of The Writeous Babe Project? Click here to sign up for updates. 

Each day in November for #bloglikecrazy I’ll be publishing a blog post that answers your questions about blogging, social media, writing, wellness or women’s empowerment. Send your questions to javacia@seejanewritebham.com.

How do I find my ideal reader?

ideal reader
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

When people ask me for blogging advice one tip almost always give is to identify your ideal reader and only write for her.  What are her passions, hobbies, and dreams? What are her problems and fears? What keeps her up at night? After you determine your ideal reader and what she wants and needs, only blog for her. This sounds scary. This sounds as if you’ll alienate other readers, but you won’t. An ideal reader is someone who not only reads your posts but also shares them with others. She’s not just loyal, she’s evangelistic. Writing for this reader will simply attract more like her.

Write out a detailed description of your ideal reader and keep it close, using it as you plan for future posts. You should even give your ideal reader a name. I call mine Quinn.

I am fortunate enough to have an actual person who is the basis of my ideal reader description. I have a reader who not only reads my blog posts but also attends and promotes nearly every See Jane Write event and talks about See Jane Write to other people more than I do.

But if you’re just starting your blog you probably haven’t found your Quinn. And that’s OK. When you’re starting out simply ask yourself what kind of reader you want to attract. Write a detailed description of that person and start there.

Or perhaps you can begin by just writing for yourself. Create the blog you want to read.

But if you want to find your Quinn, you need to go out and look for her. You need to network with people interested in the topic of your blog and with people who appreciate blogging. Get involved with local blogging groups (like Birmingham Bloggers and See Jane Write, of course). Attend conferences. Participate in Twitter chats and Facebook groups for bloggers and those related to your niche. Read and comment on other blogs. Guest blog for other sites.

Don’t assume your best friend will be your ideal reader. Chances are your best friend won’t even understand why you’re blogging in the first place. Let it go. Your blogging buddies (which you found from all that online and in real life networking) are the ones you should turn to for support in your online pursuits. Those blogging buddies are the ones who will encourage you to write on, sister!

Keep blogging and keep networking and soon you will discover your ideal reader. Trust me, she wants to find you just as badly as you want to find her.

 

Each day in November for #bloglikecrazy I’ll be publishing a blog post that answers your questions about blogging, social media, writing, wellness or women’s empowerment. Send your questions to javacia@seejanewritebham.com.

How can I build an authentic brand for my blog?

your brand
Your voice establishes your brand. (Image by Ricardo Bernardo via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Your blog is your brand.

We writers hear this a lot. But sometimes viewing our blog as a brand can feel limiting.

For example, let’s say you have a style blog that focuses on chic, work-appropriate fashion for young professionals. But you’re also inspired by creative, avant garde fashion shows. Because you’re trying to build a brand you may feel it’s not OK to write about both. But here’s why I think it is.

Establishing a brand for your blog isn’t solely about deciding the focus of your content. Building a brand is mostly about your voice and your values.

Whether you’re writing about runway looks or office party attire, your voice is the same. (Or at least it should be.) Your unique writing voice is much more important than what you’re writing about because it’s your voice that makes your blog stand out. Your readers aren’t just coming to your site because you’re giving suggestions on how to dress well for their 9 to 5. There are probably thousands of other blogs out there on this same topic. Your readers are coming to your blog because it’s your blog! They’re coming because they’re drawn to your voice and your style of blogging.

Your values also help build your blog’s brand. Why do you blog? What’s your mission statement? Yes, you blog to help young women feel both posh and professional, but why? Why do you think this is important? If your goal is to empower women and to help them feel more confident then simply make sure that everything you post — including a review of an avant garde fashion show — does exactly that.

For marketing purposes, it is smart to make sure that most of your posts center on your blog’s primary topic (unless you’re trying to shift the focus of your blog). Thus, consider creating a weekly or monthly feature that lets you go a bit off topic.  So Monday through Thursday you’re blogging about what to wear to work, but at the end of the week you have “High Fashion Friday” and on this day you showcase the looks you’d love to rock the runway in.

Remember the thing that makes your blog unique isn’t its topic. Your blog is special because the woman writing it is. 

 

Each day in November for #bloglikecrazy I’ll be publishing a blog post that answers your questions about blogging, social media, writing, wellness or women’s empowerment. Send your questions to javacia@seejanewritebham.com.

How to Write Good Restaurant Reviews

 food-blogging
Image by David Schiersner via Flickr/Creative Commons

It’s a good thing I’ve been exercising every day for the past seven months.

Birmingham Restaurant Week is coming up August 15-24 and I’ve been asked by the event organizers to visit and write about some of the participating restaurants. This is great news for my taste buds, but not-so-good news for my waistline. But I suppose I will have to make this sacrifice for my blog, right?

Birmingham Restaurant Week is a ten-day event that features some of Birmingham’s best locally-owned and operated restaurants, offering prix fixe menus and drink specials. Last night the Birmingham Art Museum played host to the Birmingham Restaurant Week Preview Party. I had a fabulous night with friends at this sold out event sampling dishes from The J. Clyde, Silvertron Cafe, Maki Fresh, Rusty’s Bar-B-Q, Dixie Fish Co., Davenport’s Pizza, Oscar’s at the Museum, and other participating restaurants.

 at-the-brw2014-preview-party
We’re smiling because we’d just had the bread pudding from Silvertron Cafe.

Birmingham Restaurant Week is a great chance to try new restaurants or visit old favorites and blog about your experiences. But when you’re penning your posts you want to have something more interesting and insightful to say than, “This dish was yummy!”

So I turned to food writer Jason Horn for help. Horn is a senior editor at Liquor.com and is the co-founder of FoodBlogSouth, the food blogging conference held annually in Birmingham. He’s also worked for CHOW.com, Cottage Living, Cooking Light, and VisitSouth.com, and his food writing has appeared in B-Metro, Birmingham magazine, and on MagicCityPost.com.

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