Are you writing a blog? If so, great — blogs are one of the best marketing tools around. Yet, most blogs fail to snag their authors any good-paying writing gigs.
Why? It’s because the blog fails as an audition piece. It isn’t set up to show prospective clients that you are a blogging pro and that you would be a great hire.
I’ve done a lot of paid blogging, which all began when I used this blog as a sample. Over the past few years, I’ve written for companies, publications…even a TV network. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about $10-a-post type work — I’m talking about landing real-pay gigs at decent hourly rates. I’ve gotten as much as $500 a blog post, and haven’t ever made less than $50 a post.
In my experience, there are some basic elements prospective clients want to see on your blog that make them go “Aha! This person is a pro blogger who could help me build my audience.”
Many blogs have some of these features, but most blogs don’t have them all.
Here is my list of the top ten things you want to show on your blog in order to turn it into a client magnet:
- You know how. Most of you will have this one nailed, but to take it from the top, clients want to see you know how to put up a post. It looks nice and clean, in a big readable font that’s consistent through your blog.
- Your design is uncluttered. There aren’t a bunch of goofy widgets, flashing ads, mutiple sidebars, or dark backgrounds with white letters. Clean design also means not having .blogger or .wordpress or something in your URL. Pay the tiny fee and get hosting — you look a lot more pro.
- You write compelling posts in blog style. Your posts are short, focused on a single topic, and scannable, with numbered or bulleted points or useful subheads that guide the reader through your post. Paragraphs are short, too. Each post has several links to other useful information that are successfully anchored to appropriate key words, not ‘naked’ or dead. You don’t use ten exclamation points, three different colors of fonts, or otherwise make your posts look like a note a gushy high-school girl is passing her friend in class. As far as quality, you write your posts like they are $1-a-word magazine articles. You tell moving stories, report trends with interviews — whatever it takes to create content that’s a cut above.
- You write powerful headlines. If you are going to blog for pay and help a client drive traffic, you must understand what makes a headline that readers will click. Learn how to write great headlines.
- You stick to a niche. In my experience, it doesn’t really matter what your niche topic is (as long as it’s not your love of porn or something). What matters is showing you understand niche blogging. The prospect sees you can develop a lot of post ideas on a single topic. You’re not blogging about what your cat ate or whatever comes to mind that day or weird YouTube videos you saw…just about your chosen subject. Every paying client will want you to stick strictly to their niche, so it’s really important to show you get this.
- You find, upload and credit images. They should be simple, clean images installed at the top of each post, nice and big, half-column width (not taking up the entire top of the post so that the first paragraph is pushed down below it). If you’re really slick, you understand sightlines, and eyes in faces or diagonal lines in photos point readers toward your copy, not away from it. If required, you have a citation and link.
- You use social sharing buttons and are active in social media. Most paying clients are hoping you’ll know how to retweet your posts and help promote your content. Buttons on your posts (not just by your name with the exhortation to “follow me!”) show you get social-media marketing.
- You get and respond to reader comments. Prospects want to see you know how to write the kind of posts that can engage readers enough to leave comments. If people do leave comments, they can see you respond appropriately.
- You have a ‘hire me’ tab. Don’t let prospects wonder whether or not you are available to blog for others. I know writers who got inquiries immediately after they added a ‘hire me’ tab.
- You are easy to contact. If the only way to reach you is by filling in an email contact form, know that you are sending many prospects away. Who wants to fill that out? Not me. Post at least one real email address (or a clickable graphic that links to one, if you’re worried about scrapers) on that ‘hire me’ tab — or better yet, in the sidebar so it’s visible from any page. Ideally, include a phone number, too.
Yes, it takes more time to put up a blog with all of these strengths, versus the usual slapped-up, visually unappealing junk that dominates the blogosphere. But a few design tweaks on your blog and a stronger commitment to working on your headlines and posts can really pay off in landing you quality paid blogging gigs.
Homework: Find at least one feature about your blog you can improve this week to make it more appealing to prospective clients. If there’s more to do, set up a calendar and try to make a weekly change until you can check off all ten of the points above.
P.S. Next time on Marketing 101: Tapping pent-up demand.