So you already know that there are a ton of reasons to start a business blog.
But where should you begin? How do you fit blogging into an already manic schedule? Can you really make sales from your business blog? And how the hell do you cope with writer’s block?
Panic not, Fiona from Fiona Robertson Graphics, who has been blogging for 10 years (!) has ever-so-kindly agreed to talk about how she earned the (unofficial) title of blogging superstar.
Not that fiona set out to become a blogging superstar. In fact, she didn’t really have much of a plan at all:
‘To be honest I was just jumping on the bandwagon. It was 2009 and I kept reading how blogging was so good for your business that I just thought, ‘hey, I’ll give that a go’.
It was all very haphazard. I hadn’t planned what to write about, how often to write, or how I could make it lead to sales. Not at all the way I recommend people do it now! When I started my second website, I made sure to plan out the blog. That’s had a much more strategic start than my first attempt.’
Wait a minute…a second website?
Yup, as well as running her visual branding business, Fiona has a second business venture, Fox and Finch, where she sells adorable handmade illustrated cards and gifts.
So with two businesses to run, how in the world does she fit blogging into her busy work week?
‘I actually write it into my schedule. Google Calendar and Asana basically run my life for me — if it ain’t in the calendar, it ain’t happening. So I have a regular spot in my week reserved for working on my blog and an editorial calendar in Asana that lets me plan out what to write and when.’
And when things get really hectic?
‘Sometimes I do have to bump it from my schedule. If things get too busy in other areas, blogging is usually one of the first things to go. I used to feel really guilty about missing a session, but I’d feel worse about missing a client deadline because my calendar told me I should be writing a blog post instead, so these days I’m a bit kinder to myself. As long as I stick to the schedule most weeks, I’m good with that.’
Of course, when things get really manic, Fiona knows that outsourcing can be a good option:
‘I love spending time on my blog, but running two businesses by myself I have so many other things needing my attention, so something has to give. I can be a control freak, so outsourcing design or finance stuff just stresses me out. But blog posts are one of the things that I didn’t fret too much about outsourcing. You’d already worked on other parts of my website and I knew that I was in safe hands. I could trust you to write quality posts that would fit the style and tone of my blog.’
Aw shucks, thanks Fi (I owe you some chocolate cake for that one 😉)
One of the things most people struggle with is coming up with new content ideas — after 10 years of consistent blogging, you’d think that she’d be on first name terms with writer’s block by now…
‘It has been a recurring problem over the years. Now I keep a big list of post ideas so that I never need to be stuck for something to write about. I add to the list of ideas regularly. And actually, that brainstorming session we had a while back [Fiona kindly helped me road test My Business Blogging Boot Camp] is still giving me post ideas. I haven’t used up all the ideas you came up with yet, and I’ve been able to riff off of them and generate even more topics than those we came up with during the session.
Sometimes the block is more that I just don’t feel like writing, but that’s ok. I’ll check my list to see if there’s a quick-win type of post idea — like a quick tip that will take me less than a half hour to put together. But if nothing grabs me I just let myself be blocked. I’ll go do something else and maybe another day I’ll be in a better frame of mind to write.’
So with the stress of running two businesses, scheduling in writing time and dealing with writer’s block, Fi could certainly be forgiven for packing it all in — or taking a lengthy break.
So what keeps her going?
‘The first time I had a post shared by someone I really admired I think I actually squeaked with excitement! Then finding out that my blog had been mentioned in a post by FreeAgent was a real happy dance moment; having a big company like that mention little old me felt like I had really ‘made it’ and that it was worth sticking with blogging :D’
Ooooh yes. You can’t beat a good backlink for blog promotion. And I’m guessing the additional sales don’t hurt motivation either?
‘Yep. The beauty of things like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights is that you can track this stuff — perfect for geeks like me. I’ve had sales of my eBook that I can see resulted from me sharing the blog post about it on social media. Then I’ve had several people book services with me who’ve read my blog and then got in touch. I make sure to regularly promote my posts, both new ones and old ones, so that they keep sending people to my site — you never know if the person reading it will turn out to be a potential client.
So extra sales is always a bonus, but there’s a much sweeter reason that helps her push through those ‘can’t be arsed’ moments: She really does love her readers.
‘When I share my posts on social media I get lovely comments from people who say the content is useful. I send new posts out to my email list and I regularly get people replying to the emails with positive feedback, saying that it’s helped them in some way, or perhaps asking for a little more detail on some of the points raised in the post.
If I was just blasting posts out and getting crickets, I might have given up, but knowing that I’m helping people – and that they take the time to let me know about it – makes it all worthwhile.’
Blogging has now become such an integral part of her overall business strategy that Fiona can’t imagine what her business would have looked like without it.
‘Yeah, I think it would be quite different. For one thing, I wouldn’t have an eBook and my Pick My Brain and 1-1 WordPress training sessions probably wouldn’t be there. Those have all come from writing and sharing blog posts.
I’d probably have fewer web design clients in general, as sharing WordPress tips on my blog definitely helps me gain those. I can think of a number of awesome clients I would have missed out on because of that!
And my whole marketing strategy would be different. Blogging is a big part of that, as it’s much less scary to put yourself out there by sharing a post you’ve written than by going out and saying ‘hey, I’m a great designer, wanna hire me?’ – let’s face it, that doesn’t sound like fun at all!’
So what’s her take on the ‘blogging is dead’ war cry? Is she even a teensy bit tempted to jump ship and try her hand at video or podcasting?
‘I’ve been doing this a long time and regularly people come out with the whole ‘blogging is dead’ thing. I’ve been hearing it since shortly after I started blogging yet blogs are still popular!
Things have changed though; so many people are blogging now that you’re basically shouting into the wind. If you want people to take notice you have to be properly useful and compelling.
Some of the blogs I love to read don’t have anything to do with design or freelancing, yet I keep tuning in because the content is so damn good. So I guess the thing is just to work at being better than you are now, then work on being better still, and keep going like that.
I have thought about doing podcasting and video. I’d probably choose video, as that would be useful for the tutorial posts rather than just having static screenshots. It would be as well as blogging though. I’m not particularly at home in front of a camera or microphone, and I’m way more articulate in writing than when I speak – just ask anyone who’s had to put up with my umming and ahhing through a phone call, or talking super fast because of a combination of nerves and caffeine! Plus people learn in different ways, so adding short videos in addition to the written posts would let people consume the content in the way they prefer.’
Fiona’s best tip for creating a winning post? It has to be useful.
My most viewed post is Chasing Unpaid Invoices. It’s really old (2012) but it still gets a regular flow of traffic. It’s a fairly short, straightforward post with tips for getting paid plus a couple of copy-and-paste email scripts people can borrow.
SEO-wise it’s probably not that great given its age (I really must update it soon!) but I guess it’s just something that a lot of people are searching for. It’s sad that so many people need it, but I’m glad that it’s useful. Its success has been helped too by the fact that FreeAgent (who I mention in the post) link to it in one of their own blog posts – thanks FreeAgent!
Thanks so much to Fiona for sharing her blogging journey. If you’re feeling inspired to launch a blog on your own website (or breathe new life into a blog you’ve abandoned) Fiona as a few more tips for you before you skip off to find your notebook and pen!
‘There’s no getting away from it, blogging is hard work.
I won’t sugar coat it and if someone hates having a blog then should they really be doing it? But having said that, if they’re just in a funk, that’s totally fixable. I’d recommend trying to figure out why they feel bad about their blog – are they struggling to find time because they’re trying to post three times a week? Cut back to once a month and put less pressure on themselves.
If they don’t know what to write about, they should totally book a brainstorming session with you, Clare! Or if they’re not confident in their writing skills, then practice, practice, practice – my posts used to be rubbish but the more I wrote the better I got – or try another medium, like podcasting. And if a lack of traffic is the problem, then they need to look for ways to promote their existing content rather than focusing on creating more new content.
Also, remember that it takes time to get traction. Can you name anyone who was an overnight blogging success? I sure can’t. But keep plugging away, concentrate on being useful and creating the best content you can and after a while, you should see a difference.’
Cheers, Fiona! Choccy cake headed your way.