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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Five Ways to Build a Better Blog: Advice from Jane Boursaw

Got a blog? Thinking about starting one? You're not alone. Seems like everyone I know has a blog, but that doesn't mean you should, too. In fact, I suggest freelancers blog with purpose--whether it's to make money, to sell books, to build your platform, to attract clients, or a combination of all of these.

I came late to the blog-o-sphere, but freelancer Jane Boursaw was blogging, and making money for it, long before most of us considered trying to master the form. Boursaw, who writes about entertainment, started her blog to accompany her main website, ReelLifeWithJane.com. Today, her blog still serves as a "moving picture show" to her site, which holds clips, testimonials, syndication info for editors, a list of syndication partners, links to her social media networks, full-length movie reviews, and other related info--but it makes money has well, and has attracted the interest of advertisers and sponsors.

Sounds great, huh? But it’s not as simple as just deciding to blog and then watching the cash roll in. You need passion--and some kind of plan--before you launch a successful blog. Identify the purpose(s) for your blog, your audience, and what topic(s) you'll cover before you launch yours. I played with the idea of blogging for several years (and took Boursaw’s excellent blogging e-class), considering and discarding potential topics before I settled on one that stuck. This blog was created for four primary reasons:

The tagline of my blog is “helping nonfiction freelancers make more money in less time.” That identifies both the purpose and audience of my blog. While I occasionally stray from the strictest interpretation of this phrase, my blog posts always relate to the challenges and benefits of freelancing. My readers know what to expect every time they visit it.

So make sure you’ve identified the your audience and your purpose before you jump in. There’s nothing wrong with blogging because you’d like to write and sell a book--that’s becoming a common way to nab a publishing deal, especially when your platform is still "in progress." My friend Polly Campbell started her imperfect spirituality blog, to help build a readership, and sell her book of the same name--and a traditional publisher picked it up. Freelancer Denise Schipani’s blog, Confessions of a Mean Mommy, http://www.confessionsofameanmommy.com, got her noticed and led to her first book deal, too.

Ready to blog for bucks? Follow Boursaw's five keys to successful blogging:

1. Pick a topic you love;

2. Create a business where your blog blends well or is the foundation for the rest of your business;

3. Have faith in your abilities and your message, whatever that may be;

4. Always, always, always provide quality content on your blog, no matter whether the post is short or long. Great writing is what sets the professional blogs apart from the rest of the pack; and

5. Network with other bloggers and people in your niche as much as possible. Spend time on Twitter and Facebook and join groups with like-minded bloggers. If there isn’t a group for your niche, start one.

Boursaw has found that the more she blogs, the more readers she draws, and the more advertisers and syndicators she gets. She offers a variety of blogging classes for both new and experienced bloggers.

While you may not have as much success with your blog as Boursaw has, I suggest your blog for more than pleasure. Your time as a freelancer is limited and finite, remember? That's why I believe your should, at the minimum, attract new clients and build your platform--and hopefully much more.

**Readers, do you blog for passion, profit, or a mix of both? Have you found work through your blog, and if so, how has it helped you build your business?