As a writer who makes a living selling her services online, I always assumed I had to market myself via written word in any way possible—especially on my own website.
But a few months ago, I was interviewing one of my fellow freelance writers for a story—and when I asked for a URL of one to link back to her website, she didn't have one.
She was just as successful as I. We even had a handful of the same clients and targeted the same industry with our services. Basically, she was my (friendly) competition. But the thing that floored me was how well she was able to market herself without a blog of her own and still manage to keep clients coming in her door.
So I started wondering: was all the time I was spending on my blog—coming up with content and publishing a new post every single week (even recording videos)—actually worthwhile? After all, creating all that content takes a ton of time and effort. If I could get booked solid without it, why should I continue?
It didn't take long for me to decide that running a blog fit into my long-term business goals, and that not having one would probably be a detriment to those goals. But it definitely got me thinking: why do other freelance writers run personal blogs—especially if they can get bylines on some really popular industry publications that will generate lots of leads for them?
So I reached out and asked three fellow freelancers, all of whom I consider successful at their craft, about their different philosophies on the personal blog.
1. Remember: Audience First, Blog Second
Danavir Sarria, the brains behind Copy Monk, has a blog—but he doesn't hold himself to a strict publication schedule. He knows that consistency is important and that he'd probably have a larger audience if blogged once or twice per week, but he just doesn't.
The main reason?
"I get lazy and don't like to write."
And you know what? I totally get him. As freelance writers, we're so caught up in creating awesome communications for our clients, it can be hard to muster up leftover brain energy and funnel it into our own sites.
But his second reason, arguably his strongest, is that blog post production really isn't the main reason a blog grows your business—it's the blog's audience.
"Basically, content isn't the asset," Sarria explained. "The audience is. The point of content marketing is to create content and distribute it as much as possible so that you get the audience you're looking for. With that said, it's easy to create high-quality content if you know what you're talking about. Distribution is the hard part though—and it's the part that matters most. In other words, the real bottleneck is finding a way to get the most people to see your content."
So, if you're in a position where you decidedly do not have time to distribute your own content, and you don't yet have an audience for your own blog, your time may actually be better spent leveraging client sites than your own. (Given, of course, that it fits into your business goals.)
2. Show Who You Really Are
Emma Siemasko, founder of Stories By Emma, gets a fair amount of publicity from her bylines on client blogs, but chooses to write for her own blog so she can attract the right kind of people to work with.
"In the past, I struggled to attract the right clients," she explained, "and I think it's because I haven't always stayed true to who I really am."
Siemasko explained that having her own blog and owning her own space on the internet has allowed her to be her true self, which helps her attract clients who truly like her for who she is.
"Ultimately," she said, "I keep my own blog and have my own email list because I want to have complete control. Plus, if I want to leverage someone else's audience, I can still do that. Having my own blog and writing for others aren't mutually exclusive—I regularly contribute to publications to boost my brand as well as having my own blog."
3. Blog for the Business You Want
This was the reason I continued blogging (even after my mini thought crisis questioning whether or not it was actually worth it). I knew the business I wanted to build involved teaching and helping people at scale, which required a following—which meant I head to build that following.
Blogging, to me, was the easiest way to attract that following to my website and to get them to sign up for my eBook and newsletter. And even though I'm not yet at the point of having my ideal business, I'm building up the audience so that the transition is much easier to make when I do get to that point.
Website copywriter Jacob McMillen said his main reason for having his own website (and blog) as a freelancer is because he knows he doesn't want to be a freelance writer forever.
"It's not that you can't succeed without a website," he admitted. "You can."
But while he is writing for client blogs, he's using it as a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone opportunity to get paid while building backlinks for his future business.
After all, when businesses willingly pay hundreds of dollars per high-quality backlink and you have to opportunity to get paid to build them, it only makes sense to do it wholeheartedly while you have the chance. Plus, for McMillen, it builds up domain authority for when he's decided he's had it with freelance writing and wants to shift away from it.
"I don't want to be a freelancer forever," he explained. "It's not cumulative. I work today. I make money today. Tomorrow, if I want to make more money, I need to trade more hours. There is no multiplier to my efforts. Being a service provider is a bit different than being a true business owner. The hard cap on my income level is based on the number of hours I'm willing to work. So part of what I'm doing is turning my expertise into products that I can sell to writers and other freelancers."
To solve that, he's focused on the long-term picture of leveraging his weight as an expert blogger into an authority-based business owner.
"I've invested very little time and effort into the products side of my business thus far," he said, "but just by having a few lead magnets there and writing the occasional blog post, I've been able to accumulate subscribers and sell a few grand worth of products. This gives me options. It gives me something profitable to work on when I have downtime in my services schedule, or more realistically at this point, when I am simply fed up with writing about marketing and need a productive distraction."
To Blog or Not to Blog?
If I were giving you one-on-one, heart-to-heart freelancer advice, I'd tell you to just figure out a way to make the time to maintain your own blog. You could post as little as once per month, but I think it's so important to keep your hand in the game. Plus, when you decide you want to make a pivot in your freelance career, you have something to fall back on.
But I come from the mind-set that I don't want to do the time-for-money freelance trade forever. Or, at least, I don't want to completely rely on it for the rest of my working days.
If you don't mind that exchange though, keeping up your communications via client sites is a perfectly valid approach—just make sure the clients you choose are well-established in their industries and are good sources for potential referrals. Because no matter what our long-term goals are, I think all of us freelance writers can agree that doing the marketing and outreach to cold leads for new clients is rough.
But what about you? What are the reasons you (do or don't) maintain a personal blog as a freelancer? I'd love to know—tell me in the comments!