Scrivs posted today that he was surprised by the amount of freelancers who don’t blog to promote themselves. On the one hand, I agree. Blogging can be a great way to position yourself as an authority in your service market. On the other hand…
1. Are you a natural writer? Most people… aren’t. There’s little point in blogging unless it’s going to make you look better. Say you have bad grammar — or even if you have perfect grammar but are boring or can’t express your ideas clearly — is writing really going to help you look better? Could it possibly make you look worse? I don’t know about you, but I think 9 out of 10 blogs positively suck, and if you’re not gonna be in that top 10%…
2. Do you expect your plumber to do your taxes? (disclaimer: this doesn’t apply to copywriters) So you’re a designer and I’m thinking about hiring you… I don’t give a HOOT if you can write something interesting. I want to see your homepage’s design, and your portfolio. If you’re a programmer, I want to play with something you’ve built, and know what technologies/languages you’re good with. What does your blogging ability have to do with it?
3. Vacuous time waster If you have a lot of down-time, then maybe blogging is a good (and cheap — main cost is your time) way to build your business. But then, once you GET those new clients, and suddenly you ARE busy, you’ll probably either a) not have time for your blog anymore, and let it site around looking ‘dead’, or b) get the bug and spend too much time at it, and not enough on ‘real work’.
Now, take this all with a grain of salt because a ton of people have built profitable businesses off their blogs (Scrivs included)… but I don’t think it’s a no-brainer.
And I also think we should mind the standard FTC disclaimer: Past performance is not a guarantee of future returns.
I do totally agree with your first proposition. We are not all writers. And if you aren’t a writer, a blog probably won’t help you.
The second proposition has only partial validity. As an independent designer, I’ve had to help more than a couple of clients with their copy. And a body of writing can position you as an expert.
I find that I wear many hats: coder, designer, photographer, copy writer, business consultant, programmer, SEO consultant and hand holder. My writing has convinced more than one potential client to hire me. Writing won’t substitute for a good portfolio but it can certainly add to one.
And, honestly, good copy is at least as important as good design to a successful website, a site that actually helps convince visitors to buy or subscribe or take whatever action the site is intended to encourage the visitor to perform. If you are interested in search engine positioning it is even more so. If I can add copy writing to my list of skills I improve my position as an independent consultant.
On proposition three you have already made the most important point. Successful design work requires a time and effort balancing act. It doesn’t necessarily follow that success precludes writing. As that great philosopher, Billy Crystal said in Throw Mama From the Train, “A writer writes.”
I am just translating “people should blog frequently” to “people should do PR frequently” and it must absolutely not be blogging to promote yourself.
Thanks, you’ve said exactly what I was thinking – contrary to popular belief here in the Land of Blog, NOT EVERYONE can write, and NOT EVERYONE should.
Posting a good, solid (oh, and correct) answer on a popular tech site will do as much to drive traffic and business to you and your site as any ad you pay for or blog post you write. Sites like linuxquestions.org or drupal.org get far more traffic than the average blog is likely to. Taking the time to help folks out in forums like those is a very positive statement. Just don’t forget that link back to your site in your sig line
There is an option for certain markets, programming for example. If you don’t write or design your blog particularly well but are HELPFUL it can work really well. It is much like being helpful in forums, newsgroups and email discussion lists, can be a great way to promote yourself. If someone is looking for an answer and they need that answer ASAP, they don’t really care what it reads or looks like, just like you don’t choose your plumber based on appearance or diction.