Articles - 25th September 2020

Is blogging still relevant for freelancers?

Words by Louise Quick
Illustration by Jon McCormack

Everything moves faster online. In a world where social media trends change faster than you can say “What’s a Tik Tok?” you’d be forgiven for thinking that blogs are a digital relic, assigned to the internet archive alongside Facebook’s ‘Poke’ feature and Tom from MySpace.

It’s true that the neglected corners of the internet are littered with blogs started, (and abandoned), by millennials in their early 20s in a fit of determination to document their gap year, write their novel, or become professional foodies. While these well-intentioned ventures may have been abandoned, it turns out blogging itself has stood the test of time and actually become a powerful tool in the freelancing belt.

Dip your toe into the blogosphere and it quickly becomes apparent that there’s a vast array of blogs out there, each varying in levels of professionality, purpose, and audience. So, how can they benefit the freelancers who are willing to dive in and splash around?

Ultimately, freelancers aim to make money – shocking, I know – and there are predominantly two ways to achieve that through blogging. The first is directly through a blog, via advertising, sponsored posts, merchandise etc. Then there’s the way most people actually profit from blogging: indirectly.

We may all know of the odd professional food blogger or smug travel blogger who seems to rake in money from every post, or even those bloggers whose sites amassed such a following that they outgrew the realms of simply being ‘a blog’. The digital magazine Man Repeller, for example, started out life as Leandra Medine Cohen’s fashion blog ten years ago.

However, for the vast majority of us, blogging is more of a complementary asset or marketing tool, which increases your chances of being seen, respected, and considered by clients. The means of achieving this depends on your industry.

For writers, content creators, and artistic folk, blogs are a fantastic practice ground and somewhere to get creative. One of the ultimate advantages of a blog – and the reason we still sign up for them in our droves – is the fact it’s entirely yours; it’s your space (not MySpace) to do with however you wish.

As copywriter and marketer Francesca Baker says, “It’s a great way to showcase your skills and thoughts. As a freelance writer it’s an opportunity to show I can write.”

It could be a space to try new creative styles, build a portfolio, test the waters with a new project or, for some of us, somewhere to post articles you love but know would never be commissioned. Blogging changed the game all those years ago when it gave us both a canvas in which to get creative and the ability to share that creativity with the world, (or at least that one aunt who’s your biggest fan). This hones a freelancer’s skills and gives them somewhere to direct potential clients.

Senior freelance copywriter Jonathan Wilcock tells me, “Blogs are a great way to push yourself in creative directions […] it also helps clients to see what your sense of humour or style is.”

One defining feature of a blog has always been the personality of the person writing it. As such, they offer a great opportunity for people – hopefully clients – to get to know you. Fingers crossed, they like what they see and get in touch.

According to Katie Earl, editor and writing coach, an active blog “becomes a treasure trove for potential clients, as they can binge on all the blogs you’ve written and really get to know, like, and trust you very quickly.”

True, that thought may leave you panic-scrolling through your blog archive deleting some of your older more questionable posts – perhaps the fan-girl post analysing the TV series Veronica Mars from 2014, for example. However, blogs do something CVs only wish they could: have some personality. And that’s a great way of attracting clients, keeping their attention, and building trust.

I’d like to end the feature here: with the message ‘just be yourself’ as I pump my metaphorical fist in the air in the style of Judd Nelson while Simple Minds blasts in the background. Alas, an annoying truth of freelancing is that it’s not just about being yourself, but standing out from a crowd of other freelancers also being themselves.

Fortunately, a regularly-updated blog can raise a freelancer’s profile, thereby providing a pedestal to be seen above the crowd. By providing a space for freelancers to talk with authority on their industry, blogs can show the world that they know what they’re talking about and are passionate. From content creation to carpentry, an active blog will increase your chances of gaining clients’ trust.

Not only that, but you will literally be easier to find. Regularly publishing blog posts, combined with some basic SEO tools, means your site will hop up the Google search results faster than you can ask, ‘What happened to Ask Jeeves?’.

“Blogging can bring you more site visitors,” advises Karen Webber, marketing coach, trainer and founder of Goodness Marketing. “Each post is another indexed page on your site and another chance to include keywords, which makes you more visible in search engine results, which leads to more traffic.”

Moreover, for those also juggling social media commitments, blog posts provide content to share via social media. This not only saves time on thinking about what to post, but raises your profile further across different platforms.

“Blogging is a super efficient way of creating marketing content”, explains Webber. “If you approach blog writing strategically one blog can be chopped up into dozens of social media posts.”

Every freelancer uses blogs with varying degrees of formality. While some use posts to regrettably vent about the brilliance of Veronica Mars, for example, others use them as essentially FAQs. The latter means posting comprehensive answers to questions that clients often fire at them so that next time the freelancer can point them to the answer rather than repeating themselves.

Earl describes how one of her clients was “often asked the same questions day-in and day-out. So she explains the answer in a blog and points people in that direction rather than writing the answer out every time. It saves her hours.”

It’s safe to say that blogs aren’t dead – far from it. They may look more slick than our student travel blogs, but they remain well and truly thriving and have in fact become a powerful marketing tool for freelancers if used correctly (and updated more than twice a year). So, maybe it’s time to dust off that old neglected blog, but maybe leave the MySpace account for now.

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