Most blogging advice does NOT apply to freelancing. Or, it applies in different ways than you read about.
In any case, most of what you read about online marketing is wrong for your freelance business. How do I know? See if any of these are familiar to you:
- Your blog isn't generating leads for you like you'd hoped.
- The people you're engaging with online are your peers instead of your prospects or customers.
- The work you're getting isn't coming from your website, but from word-of-mouth referrals.
- Nobody is signing up for that email list you're supposed to build.
If you saw your own freelance business reflected in any or all of the points above, you've been getting bad advice. It's not your fault, however, because 99% of the blogging advice out there is not aimed at freelancers. It's intended for "pro" bloggers and other kinds of online businesses such as e-commerce, coaching/consulting or information product selling. It's not directed at the unique needs of freelance businesses at all.
But when you search online for information, this kind of advice is all you find. It's understandable, but there's a better way.
From Bad to Worse: "Pro" Blogging Advice
Let me be clear: When I say "pro-blogging," I'm talking about pro-blogging in the generic sense. I'm not specifically singling out the Problogger website for any supposed sin. But let me be equally clear that much of what you read in "pro" blogging advice does not apply to your freelance business.
Here's why: if you follow that advice, you very well may have a successful blog!
How is that a problem? Don't you want a successful blog?
No, you want a successful freelance business.
If you're not getting the leads you want, it's not because your blog isn't "big" enough, it's because you're blogging for the wrong people, for the wrong reasons or for the wrong goals.
- Pro-blogging is designed to grow an audience, not generate leads.
- Pro-blogging's monetization model is advertising- and affiliate sales-based rather than services based. The goal is to send visitors away from the site in order to make any money.
- A blog is not a business. A business, however, may use a blog as a marketing channel. The difference between the two (in mindset and motivations) is huge.
The Problem that Masquerades as Success
If you follow most pro-blogging advice, you can have a successful blog. It will get traffic, comments, subscribers and social media shares. By all rights, it will be successful... as a blog.
But it will not get you leads for your freelancing business. You will have a liability which is a drain on your time and money instead of an asset which makes you a profit. Think about it:
- You pay for hosting on a site which gets you too few leads.
- You have to take a large amount of time to write blog posts and answer comments.
- You spend a lot of time reading other blogs and commenting on them.
Essentially, you will have a situation where the tail is wagging the dog. Your "successful" blog will be worthless because it will deplete you instead generate revenue.
How to Blog for the Right People
The goal of a freelancer's blog is not to attract an audience. It's to get leads which turn into clients. Yes, being a thought-leader among your peers is a wonderful thing and you should strive for that. But you can't write to your peers and to your prospects simultaneously. You have to decide which group your next blog post is for, and write it only for them.
Your prospects are going along a connected path of thoughts and questions which will lead to a purchase:
- Awareness problem exists
- Information gathering and research
- Sorting of options and solutions
- Comparing solution providers
- A provider is chosen and a purchase is made
You want to enter into this process at the first or second step. As part of the second step, people will often ask for recommendations from their network because they know this is a shortcut to finding someone trustworthy without doing all the research themselves.
Word-of-mouth referrals are a freelancer's best friend. A client of yours gives your URL and/or email address to a friend of theirs. This friend may look you up before making contact. What will they see when they land on your site? Information which confirms you're the right person to hire? How will you accomplish that?
By writing to that person when you write blog posts.
What to Write about on Your Freelance Blog
What would a person who may hire you want to know?
- Confirmation that you provide services that will help them solve a key problem.
- The options available with your services, and why they may want to consider certain options (benefits and pitfalls).
- That your work has helped others succeed in the past.
- That you are safe and reliable to hire.
- That you and the client are a good fit for each other.
- That they can afford you.
The last point is the most malleable, because if you hit all the other points, the client will be able to afford you. If you don't, she won't. It's like magic!
In some ways, everything I'm saying here looks like "typical" blogging advice, right? Show your expertise and authority. Write about what you know. Choose a niche audience. But notice the slight (yet critical) difference in the angle we're taking.
If you follow this advice, what you'll end up with is a blog that will look like a complete failure by pro-blogging standards -- mainly because its audience will be small. However, through the lens of lead-generation, your blog will be a success. Because if you get regular, well-paying work as a result, your blog is a success by freelance blogging standards.
And you know what? No other standards matter.
Freelancer Blog Post Types
What kinds of posts you can write that will help your objectives?
- Interviews with clients
- Informal case studies
- Client success stories
- Definition posts
- How you dealt with a problem
- What to look for in a [service provider or tool]
- Your stand on any polarizing issues around the work you do
- Why you do what you, how you got into it
- How you do what you do, and why it matters to the client
- What inspires you, and why
- Examples of work, what went into them and the results they achieved
These kinds of posts are clearly aimed at prospects who need to make a hiring decision. In fact, your peers (who wouldn't mind one bit poaching your clients out from under you) would be loathe to comment on many of these posts. What could they say that wouldn't make them look like also-rans and make you look like a thought-leader?
Below each post in your blog, make sure you provide an easy link to contact you privately. You care much more about getting leads and inquiries than you do about comments.
How to Get Started and Turn it Around
Now that you understand why "normal" blogging advice doesn't apply to freelance blogs, you can change how you write posts and what you write about. Here are some steps to help you get started:
- Create a "persona" of your ideal client. In the world of marketing and advertising, personas are used to create an imaginary ideal consumer so that the marketing message is on-target. I suggest you read up on personas, but you don't need to create anything quite so elaborate as what's described in professional advertising information. Do write up a description of your ideal client, maybe a page or two.
- When you write, always write to your ideal client. You are writing only to one person. Pretend you and your ideal client have met for coffee or a drink and are having an intimate, informal chat. This will create the effect of "getting inside the head" of your prospects and they will respond.
- Create each one of the post types I list above, then create them again. Mix up the order (the order doesn't matter). Put 'em on "shuffle" in your editorial calendar and repeat as necessary. The exception is timely events which you can respond to and offer your opinion on: don't delay on those.
- Change your blog design to add in a contact form or link below every post. No hard selling here or sleazy marketing. The marketing already took place in your blog post. All you need do is provide an easy means of private contact.
- Keep going even though your blog readership may shrink. That's okay, because the people that leave would never hire you anyway. You're only losing dead weight.
- Ask every client why they hired you. Whatever they tell you, keep doing more of that. If, for example, you learn that some clients hired you because of a client interview you posted, then do more of those.
Michael Martine is one of the web's top blog consultants for solopreneurs looking to successfully market their business with blogging.