This article contains affiliate links to brands I know, use, and trust. I receive a small commission when you purchase services through these links.
Deciding to be a freelance writer is a dream for many people. The ability to work from anywhere and make your own schedule is pretty appealing, especially now, when it’s more common than ever to work remotely due to the novel coronavirus.
But not everyone is cut out for freelance life. Whether you’re looking to write full-time or just as a side gig, there are a few key traits that any good freelancer should have. Here are the most important qualities to develop if you want to pursue a writing career.
Freelance writing can easily get kind of chaotic, especially if you have multiple clients. A good freelancer knows how to keep their deadlines straight, whether that involves keeping a meticulous paper planner or using a project management software like Asana, ClickUp, or Trello.
Personally, I use ClickUp – which I only just started using recently. I like their paid version better than Trello (with whom I had an account for years and used it only sporadically) because I can switch between the board and list views.
Since working on The Write Hustle, my freelance writing course, ClickUp has been a game-changer. It’s helped me keep track of what I need to get done every week for the course as well as ensure I’m keeping tabs on all my work for my own freelance writing clients.
I also use my Google calendar and set up daily reminder emails to keep track of my own content as well as my clients’ content. Between these two systems, I keep my freelance writing business on track.
When it comes to freelance work, there’s no manager checking in to make sure you’re writing at any given time. It’s easy to get distracted by other tasks you want or need to get done (hello, Netflix and all the books I’m trying to read!), but you need to have the discipline to work – even though it’s always easier (and tempting!) to nap or watch TV!
A freelancer should have solid time management skills, especially if you’re writing as a side hustle. It’s hard to maintain a work-life balance when you work from home, so you’ll need to make sure you can get your work done on time while juggling all of your other responsibilities.
It’s not always easy, but setting up consistent routines can help you get into the groove. I’ve found that having specific days where I focus on certain clients or projects really helps me to not only stay organized but know what’s coming up every week. I use my ClickUp and Google calendars religiously.
Often, writers who write for agencies or big companies will have an editor to look over their work before it goes live. When freelancing, however, you have to be your own editor. It’s important to have a good eye for detail so you don’t send over work that’s riddled with mistakes.
Not everyone is a natural perfectionist, though, and that’s okay. Thanks to spell check, the burden on you is significantly reduced. Of course, spell check alone isn’t enough to guarantee a perfect article. Read everything over several times before you send it to a client to detect any grammar or syntax mistakes that spell check might have missed.
My biggest tip is to read your work aloud. It makes you feel a bit stupid, but it works like a charm. Sounding out your sentences gives you a better idea of how they flow and grammatical errors can be more jarring when you hear them than when you read them.
If you really want to get fancy and be extra-sure of your work, try reading paragraph-by-paragraph from the end and read in a pattern of 3 to 4 words at a time. Each sentence takes on a new cadence and, believe it or not, you’ll spot things that feel or sound awkward (or straight up don’t make sense) better than you will if you’re just reading straight through from beginning to end.
Once you’ve read “backwards” and have made changes, start again from the beginning and read it aloud naturally to ensure everything still makes sense.
If all else fails, try giving yourself some time between finishing your piece and sending it to the client so you can look it over with fresh eyes before submission. Sometimes being too close to the work can blind us to otherwise obvious mistakes.
While some people might think freelancers sit at home in their pajamas all day, freelance writing is a job like any other. You have to take your own work seriously if you want your clients to treat you right.
Be on time if not early. Never send work late – I live by this rule: “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.” Sending work after the deadline you’ve agreed on is a no-no.
Be courteous and respectful in emails and conduct yourself the same way you would if you had a boss looking over your shoulder. Know your worth and don’t be afraid to stand your ground. Your clients will respect you more if you stick to your rates and take pride in the work you do.
Freelance work ebbs and flows. One month your calendar might be booked solid, while the next… crickets. Factors like holidays, time of year, or current events can all affect the number of freelance jobs available at any given time.
That said, there is always a need for freelance writers. There is a place for every story and plentiful opportunities across the internet. Sometimes you have to hit the virtual pavement to find new gigs, but it’s doable.
If you want to rely on freelance work as a source of income, you’ll have to be resourceful and manage your workload so you’re never left with no (or not enough) money coming in. Sometimes this involves spacing out client work so you’re not overwhelmed all at once, but other times all you can do is make sure to have a savings cushion to get you through the lean times.
6. Great Writing Skills
Last but not least, the obvious answer: In order to succeed as a freelance writer, you have to have strong writing skills.
The good news is this can be learned! Writing for the web is different from creative writing or journalism. The flow is very conversational and as long as you have a solid grasp of spelling and grammar, you should be able to learn the rhythm with a little practice.
If you want to improve your writing, there are plenty of resources out there to help you learn. Udemy, Coursera, and Skillshare are three big-name online education platforms with plenty of writing courses. Hubspot Academy is another great website to learn about writing for the web.
While not everyone is cut out to be a freelance writer, it’s possible to learn if you have the drive. With a little dedication, you can master these skills and start earning money while living the freelance dream.
Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur selling a physical product or service, a blogger, or hoping to become an internet influencer sensation, you’ve got to build an audience.
There’s no question that it takes time to develop an engaged following and there’s more than one way to do it, but the fact remains: it’s a crucial part of earning money online.
Without followers, no one will buy from you because you have no one to sell to.
It’s that simple. Seems simple, right?
In theory, it is. But building an audience online takes a lot of work and consistency. The beginning stages are oftentimes the hardest because you may not see much return for all the elbow grease you’re putting into the work. But with time and dedication, you’ll soon have your systems running practically on autopilot and bringing in more and more fans to your audience.
So, how do you do it?
5 Ways to Build an Audience
Like I said, there’s more than one way to build an audience. If you want to maximize your reach, your best bet is to utilize a mix of social media, email newsletters, and online content.
No matter how you go about it, you’ll have to do a little research to see what will get your people to engage with you. This might mean testing a few things at once (not everything at once!) or trying one thing at a time for a few weeks to see what works well and what doesn’t.
The main ingredient here is to determine who your ideal audience actually is and where they spend the most time online. If you can figure that out, then you’ll know where you focus your efforts.
Here are the X main areas to focus on when building your audience.
1. The Social Media “Big 4”: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn
Social media is a huge, HUGE part of building an audience – there’s no doubt about it. As of 2019, people around the globe spend an average of nearly 2.5 hours scrolling through their social feeds every day. That’s a lot of social time.
It makes sense that every business and brand wants to have a strong social media presence. But, like everything else, it doesn’t make sense for every brand to have a profile on every platform available.
Sure, massive companies like Nike, Apple, Starbucks, and others probably have social media accounts and followers on every conceivable platform out there, but they also have massive staff and advertising budgets that allow them to give multiple people the responsibility of keeping those profiles updated consistently.
As a solopreneur (meaning you’re doing everything yourself, girl!), you don’t have that luxury. Instead, you need to focus on where your ideal buyers are spending the most time.
The safest bets are Facebook, Instagram, and maybe Twitter.
Facebook is a no-brainer. Since its debut all the way back in 2004, it’s remained the largest social media platform on the internet. Everyone who is anyone (ahem, all the peoples) spend at least some time on Facebook every week if not every day.
Facebook has created some great ways to communicate with your followers. While Facebook pages have lost their luster over the years, Facebook groups are a fantastic way to offer value to your fans and build trust so they’ll eventually buy from you.
Build your Facebook audience by engaging in other groups, inviting friends from your personal circle of relationships and acquaintances, and talking up your page or group when you’re engaging with new people both on and off the internet.
Instagram isn’t technically in the “top 3” most popular social media sites, but when we hear the term “social media,” tell me Instagram isn’t one of the main platforms you think of. (It ranks in your head with Facebook, doesn’t it?)
Instagram is, obviously, image-driven. Increasingly, videos are becoming more popular on the platform, too, but it remains a mostly still image site. It’s harder to share links here (you can only do that well in your profile bio) and there’s no such thing as “Instagram groups,” but as humans, we love looking at pretty, interesting photos.
Instagram isn’t the best place to focus for everyone and it can be tougher to engage with your audience on this platform. On the flip side, it’s a great place to be for many entrepreneurs.
Build an Instagram following by researching hashtags that correlate to what you do or who you’re trying to reach. Start small here – look for hashtags that have 1,000 or fewer images linked to them. It’s easier to be found with these by new followers who are also searching the same hashtags; it’s a lot harder to be found as a newbie entrepreneur with a still-small following using hashtags that have hundreds of thousands of images linked to them.
Twitter, in my personal opinion, is a dying breed. Yes, the US president likes to air his grievances there at all hours of the day and night and yes, there are plenty of celebs that have great Twitter accounts that are very entertaining… but it’s a hard place to gather a following that will buy from you.
Twitter can, however, be a good place to interact with fans. In that sense, it’s not fair to completely shut it out of the “social media for business” running. After all, if we look at some big brands like Wendy’s (a US-based fast food restaurant) or Netflix, it’s clear that a dash of humor can go a long way in attracting an audience and engaging with them.
Build your Twitter following by following like-minded and -centered brands and influencers, big and small. Search for and use relevant hashtags in your tweets. Engage with others who have similar interests by commenting or retweeting their tweets. To make the most of Twitter, you’ll need to spend a significantly larger amount of time there than you might on Facebook or Instagram – you should be tweeting an average of 7-10 times in a single day.
LinkedIn is different than the other social platforms because it’s specifically a place for professional social relationships. It’s not a “bad” place, per se, for Twitter-like funny quips every now and then, but the tone is quite different than all the other social platforms.
This is a better place to be if you’re selling a “professional” product or service. In fact, professional services do the best here. LinkedIn gives its users some special tools, like groups, that are reminiscent of Facebook, but it also has some extra tricks up its sleeve.
LinkedIn is a great place to show the world you’re an expert at what you do because you can create a sort of mini-blog there. Writing and publishing articles on topics of interest to your ideal audience is a great way to help yourself stand out from the crowd and gain a following or potential customers or clients.
Build your LinkedIn audience by seeking out others in your field or similarly-aligned fields and connect with them. Search and use hashtags like you would on Instagram or Twitter and engage with folks often on their posts. Write articles to publish on your LinkedIn account that are native only to LinkedIn and not on your website.
Other Social Platforms to Consider
While the “big 4” should be on your radar, there are a few others you might not want to ignore.
For example, TikTok has become all the rage in the last year or so. In my mind, it’s the new Snapchat. Both of these platforms are places where a mostly younger crowd spends time. In essence, unless your ideal audience or client is under the age of 25, it’s likely not worth worrying about these platforms.
That said, if you enjoy them and think they may be beneficial to your business, by all means, use them!
Technically, YouTube could be classified as both a social media platform and a search engine.
As videos are open to consumption for anyone surfing the web (assuming the account owner has left them open), viewers can leave comments and interact with the person who uploaded the videos. This makes the platform social. YouTube also gives channels with large subscriber followings the option to do “stories,” something that originated on Facebook and Instagram.
As it’s owned and operated by Google, the search engine side of it makes a lot of sense. Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you type a search question into Google that the results will come back with a few video options on YouTube? It’s pretty cool, right?
YouTube is a powerful tool and if you’re comfortable being in front of the camera, it can be an awesome place to build a following.
Build your YouTube following by using a few strategic keywords in your video titles. Also, make a point to comment on your own video and ask questions to engage viewers to respond. Make sure to invite viewers to subscribe to your channel often.
Your blog is a major place for you to build a following for a few reasons:
- It plays a crucial role in search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.
- It gives you a place to demonstrate and showcase your expertise.
- It shows your audience that your business is alive and kicking.
- It offers a place for your audience to gain free value and ultimately helps you build trust with your followers.
Personally, as a content creator and marketer, I think every business should have a blog. I’m not kidding. Every. Freaking. Business. Needs a blog.
To make the most of your blog and grow your following, you need to write articles that
A) Are on topics that your audience finds interesting or answers frequent questions they may have, and
B) Are consistently offering value.
Here’s the thing, buttercup: No one wants to read a blog article about how you added a new team member to your company. Or about how you’ve gained a new customer. Or spotlighting something that’s about only you or your company.
People will come to your blog because you have something of value to offer them – information, tutorials, tips and suggestions, and so on. Don’t make it about you because ain’t nobody care about you. We’re all selfish (and that’s okay sometimes!), so make it a point to keep your topics focused on your followers’ interest.
4. Online Advertisements
You certainly can “pay to play” on social media or search engines and drive traffic to your website. While I don’t recommend this for entrepreneurs just starting to build an audience and are still getting the swing of things, paid advertising can be a powerful tool.
If this is something you want to start considering, I would recommend beginning with Facebook/Instagram or LinkedIn advertising. All of these platforms are very affordable and have robust options to set up ads that, with research and practice, are fairly easy to use.
I would also recommend that you drive traffic to a landing page to download a free tool or product, like an ebook or Trello board or spreadsheet you’ve designed. This way, you can add those folks to your email list, which brings us to my last point…
Unlike social media, email newsletters are the only guaranteed way you have to connect with your audience. Why?
Because you don’t own your social profiles, social media platforms do. You could get locked out of your Facebook or LinkedIn group at any time and if you don’t have a backup list of all those people in your group (because let’s face it, who does that?!), then you’re screwed. How are you going to connect with your people?
Also, none of us have control over social media algorithms. We simply can’t compete and “organic reach” – meaning the number of people who see your posts in their news feeds without you paying advertising dollars to get your posts front and center – isn’t what it used to be.
By sending consistent email newsletters, though, we can be certain all our followers have an opportunity to hear what we have to say. Sure, we can’t guarantee that all those people will open our emails, but we can be sure it lands in their inbox and they at least see it there.
Build your email list by offering freebies like I mentioned above – ebooks, spreadsheets or worksheets you create, Trello boards, or other tools you can develop or set up and share. Set up shop with an email service provider like Mailerlite to keep everything under one proverbial roof and stay organized.
Building an audience takes work, yes. But it can also be a ton of fun and as time wears on, it’s well worth the effort you put in. If you’re hoping to make money online in any capacity, you need a flock of fans who are excited about what you have to offer.
If you want to make a living online, it’s important that you’re constantly learning and improving your craft. One easy way to do this is to make sure you subscribe to company newsletters that will help you grow as an entrepreneur. Newsletters delivered to your inbox daily, weekly, or monthly are like a crash course in new tips and tricks. And best of all, they’re free.
There are so many company newsletters out there that it’s hard to know where to start. Here are 7 company newsletters I highly recommend to help you hone your digital craft.
Hubspot is an industry leader in the world of digital marketing. Their blog is full of tips on writing for the web: Optimizing your content, finding clients, growing your social media following, improving your sales tactics, and more. The content is applicable to a wide variety of careers, whether you’re a virtual assistant or a freelance writer or something in between.
Hubspot offers tons of free courses to business owners and entrepreneurs through their platform and they have some powerful paid tools, too. Check out their popular (and free) inbound marketing course for entrepreneurs.
Additionally, the Hubspot newsletter is filled with the latest blog posts so you can keep a finger on the pulse of the digital world. They also periodically release studies and reports with comprehensive data analyses that discuss current and upcoming trends. Consider diving into these so you’ll know how and when to adjust your process.
Yoast is a free WordPress plugin that scores the search engine optimization (SEO) levels of blog posts and web pages. Their newsletter is packed full of the latest news in search engine optimization – from how to adjust to new Google algorithm updates to tips and tricks for your WordPress website.
In addition to their newsletter and blog content, Yoast offers some great courses to help you improve your SEO skills. If you're writing content for yourself or anyone else, having at least a basic understanding of SEO and how it works is important.
Even if you don't take their courses, this newsletter is a must-read. If you don’t, it’s worth subscribing for the SEO strategies alone. Yoast's content is incredibly informative.
Carol Tice is an award-winning freelance writer who’s been freelancing for over a decade. Her goal is to help writers of all skill levels advance in their careers and avoid the pitfalls that many freelancers face.
Carol's online platform, The Freelance Writer's Den, is a paid membership community. Members have access to courses for writers, a job board with highly lucrative writing opportunities, and a supportive community of like-minded freelancers.
Whether you're part of the Den or not, it's worth subscribing to Carol's newsletter. Every email is peppered with advice about starting out as a freelance writer, monetizing a blog, content strategy, productivity, finding reputable clients and agencies to work with, and more. Whether you’re looking to freelance full-time or just to dip your toes in as a side hustle, her words are priceless.
Jocelyn is the mastermind behind the podcast Hurry Slowly, which focuses on creativity, resilience, and slowing down in a fast-paced world. She takes a radical approach to productivity in an era of burnout and constant stimulation, encouraging her readers and listeners to look at the world through a gentler lens.
This newsletter is a breath of fresh air for professionals who are constantly bombarded with ways to do more better and faster. If you want to cultivate mindfulness in your career, this one’s for you.
Paul Jarvis is an author and designer who sends out a newsletter every Sunday to discuss the broader implications of our digital lives. His articles are thought-provoking and cover a wide range of subjects, from running an online business to dealing with your inner critic.
These missives are less about actionable tips and more about starting a conversation around the way we live in the 21st century, but Paul is a brilliant writer with a lot of keen wisdom to share. It’s worth tuning in once a week to see what he has to say.
Create + Cultivate is a company that hosts a series of events across the United States dedicated to women working in creative industries. Their website is full of helpful articles about dealing with stress, growing your career, and finding inspiration in everyday life.
Subscribe to their company newsletter and you'll get great articles delivered right to your inbox in addition to being granted access to the “classifieds” section of their website. The classifieds email is sent out weekly and can help you find remote work doing what you love.
Jessica Stansberry is a go-getter mom who grew her seven-figure business from a small town in North Carolina, USA. She has an incredibly popular YouTube channel, an equally popular podcast, and creates a vast array of content for both seasoned and newbie lady entrepreneurs.
I love getting Jessica’s email newsletters because they’re generally packed with the “kick in the pants” I need to get going – especially on weeks when I just don’t feel like getting to work. (Sometimes you have to dig deep to get things done, even when it’s for your own business!)
Jessica offers some incredible courses and digital products (check out her digital planners if you’re into that sort of thing) and keeps her audience in-the-know about what’s happening in her business. I love Jessica’s mix of encouragement and butt-kicking.
I call this one a bonus instead of truly counting it in this lineup because Creative Market doesn’t really offer any business help in its newsletters like my other recommendations do. But what it is good for is free stuff.
Creative Market sends out 2 newsletters every week: The first one, on Mondays, offers 6+ totally free products for you to download. It could be font files, vector image files, stock photos, or something else. That’s right – THEY’RE FREE! No one wants to pass up a deal like that.
You can use the freebie images for your blog or social media accounts (double-check the licensing to make sure that if you’re using the images to make money, you won’t run into any trouble). You can upload the fonts into Canva or Adobe Illustrator to use in your image designs. And you don’t have to pay for any of it!
The second newsletter sent out later in the week shares “trending goods” from the site that have been popular. These are paid, but they give you a good sense of what other types of designs and images are popular across the internet, so you can stay in line with what’s “hot” at the moment.
The free stuff is hit or miss – there are plenty of weeks when I just ignore the email entirely or don’t see anything that’s helpful to me – but it’s a great opportunity I make sure to check out from time to time.
The Moral of the Story: Subscribe to Company Newsletters
Starting the day with a cup of coffee and a good business-focused newsletter is the modern equivalent of reading the paper (but by all means, do that too!). Newsletters are an effortless way to stay on top of the latest industry news and pick up new skills along the way. When you open your inbox to the right newsletters every morning, you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn, grow, and gain.
Don't stop with my recommendations – find some of your own. I also subscribe to news-based newsletters so I can get a quick snapshot of what's happening around the globe. Like everyone else, I also subscribe to newsletters from some of my favorite retailers to make sure I'm getting in on the best deals when I'm ready to spend a little money.
But most importantly, I really cherish and devour my business-based email newsletters because I know I'm going to get something out of them. I hope you do, too.
This article contains several affiliate links to brands I know, use, and trust. I receive a small commission when you purchase services through these links.
Starting a blog is a great way to bring in additional income for military spouses, remote workers, and everyone in between. It can be done from anywhere in the world and all you need to get started is a little time and determination. While it’s difficult to become a major influencer in this day and age, it’s not hard to monetize a blog.
Many companies are willing to work with micro-influencers with a small but loyal following, not to mention the other money-making options you have at your disposal, such as affiliate links, ebook or digital course sales, and more. If you want to get started on a blog of your own, here are 6 tips to help you get started.
1. Choose a specific topic.
You’ll have a much easier time attracting an audience as a blogger if you have a specific topic that your blog is about. Choose a niche, such as fashion, books, food, or crafts, and make sure the bulk of your posts are about your chosen topic.
While you can branch out with off-topic posts on occasion, it’ll be hard to keep an audience if every post is about something wildly different. By choosing one main topic, readers who are interested in that topic will want to stick around.
2. Host with WordPress.com.
WordPress makes it easy to get started with a blog. Once you make an account, you can choose from a selection of templates and customize them to match your vision. You can start for free or choose a very affordable annual plan for as little as $48 a year.
WordPress is easy to navigate and highly popular, which means there are tons of resources out there to help you make the most of it. There’s a reason it’s one of the most popular blogging platforms around.
3. Find a “dot com” domain.
You’ve probably seen a variety of different domain types, but for your blog, you’re going to want to go with a “.com.” It’s reputable, but most of all, that’s the default most people associate with a website. It’s easier for people to remember a “dot com” domain than any of the other options, even options like .net or .biz.
Try testing out different domain ideas with Google Domains to see what’s available before getting too attached to a name for your blog (but don’t buy from Google!). Ideally, you want the domain to match your blog name and it might take some trial and error for you to find one that’s available.
When you find a name that’s available and you’re happy with it, hop back over to WordPress and get started setting up shop.
4. Use free stock images.
As a blogger, you can get in some serious hot water by just using photos you find on Google Images. The best way to avoid a lawsuit is to use photos that are free for personal and commercial use.
You can find these on free stock photo websites, such as Unsplash, Pexels, or Pixabay. Be careful to read the licensing restrictions on each photo you download, however. If your blog generates any kind of revenue, you’ll have to stick with commercially licensed stock photos.
5. Create on multiple platforms.
The fastest way to grow your audience is to expand your web presence to different platforms. By increasing the number of places you can be found, you’ll increase the odds that new readers will stumble across you.
Social media is a great place to start as it allows you to interact with readers and other bloggers alike. Friendships forged on social media can lead to long-lasting connections and even business collaborations down the line.
Potential sponsors take social media following into consideration when deciding which bloggers to work with, so growing your audience is important for that reason as well.
6. Be consistent.
Finally, it’s so important to be consistent with your content and your posting schedule. If you don’t post for a long period of time, your readers may assume you’ve abandoned your blog and stop checking back for updates.
Regular posts, on the other hand, will keep your blog fresh in their minds, and they’ll know they can expect new content from you on a regular basis. Consistency is key to attracting and retaining a loyal audience.
Consistency also plays a huge role in search engine optimization (SEO). When people do a search on Google, SEO determines the order in which results come back for each search. The big goal for bloggers and marketers is to land on the first page of search results. This is a big topic that takes a lot of time to understand and it’s not a short-term game – good SEO takes time – but it pays to know that keeping your blog consistently active is an important part of the deal.
Starting a blog requires a significant up-front investment of time and energy, but once the initial legwork is done, it’s a great way to put your writing out there and share your thoughts with the world. With hard work and determination, you can turn your blog into a source of income in no time.
This article contains affiliate links to brands I know, use, and trust. I receive a small commission when you purchase services through these links.
Have you been thinking about starting a blog to document your travels and experience living and working abroad? Or maybe been meaning to start one and haven’t gotten around to it?
Maybe you actually did take the leap and took the preliminary steps to start a blog but haven’t been writing much…
Or maybe you:
- Don’t realize how having a blog or personal website can help you after you leave teaching or living abroad and continue on a different career path.
- Feel intrigued by the idea of keeping a blog about your adventures.
- Aren’t quite sure what you’re doing or how to get started.
- Get overwhelmed at just the thought of starting and maintaining a blog.
- Feel excited but don’t know where to start or how to get organized.
- Have concerns that you’re a “bad writer” and you’re allowing that self-lie to hold you back.
No matter where you are on the spectrum, worry not. This guide is for you – to educate you, help you get started, keep you organized, and finally spread your wings and take flight on your own blogging journey.
Busting Myths: “You shouldn’t start a blog because…”
There are plenty of people out there who will tell you you’re wasting your time and that no one is going to read what you put out. (You don’t have to confine yourself to writing, either! But more on that later.)
Here are a few myths you’ve probably heard and possibly bought into:
- The world doesn’t need another [insert your favorite topic here] blog.
- There are too many “influencers” and there’s no place for another one.
- You’re not a good enough writer.
- You’re too shy to get in front of a camera.
- You don’t take nice enough photos, OR
- You don’t take any photos!
- It’s a waste of time because nothing will come out of it in the end.
- No one but your mom and grandma will read your blog.
- You don’t know what to do and it will require too much effort to figure it all out.
These are all bullsh*t. The internet is a big place and, believe it or not, there are plenty of reasons why you should start a blog and maintain it.
You need a blog and/or personal website – full stop.
More than likely, if you're reading this, you fall into one of two categories:
- Like me, you’re teaching English and using your earnings to pay off student loan or credit card debt or simply trying to save money, OR
- You’re a military spouse along for the ride while your other half works as an active duty service member and you haven’t been able to land an on-post job or found something that keeps you occupied.
Regardless of which bucket you fall into (or if you don’t quite fall into either one), here are the realities: teaching English isn’t going to net you much income in the end and the fight for nabbing SOFA-approved jobs isn’t worth the energy – at least not in many cases.
Having a personal blog and/or website is a fantastic way to stand out in a crowd and potentially make more money or help you prepare for whatever future you’re hoping to have or create.
Here are a few reasons why having a personal website or a blog is a smart move:
- A blog gives you a place to point potential future employers. Depending on what you choose to write about, having a consistent and polished-looking blog can help you look more professional. It can also help you demonstrate your communication skills.
- You can build an audience and possibly make a little money on the side. You may not be making enough money from your blog to quit your job and write and travel full-time, but things like affiliate links and advertising can earn you a few extra hundred dollars every few months (or more!).
- You can start a side gig and turn it into a bigger, more profitable business. When you’re teaching English and/or living abroad on a special visa, there are a lot of restrictions. As a teacher, you likely aren’t allowed to hold another job outside of your employer’s school and academy. As a military spouse, you’re confined to the agreements made by your government and the government of the country where you’re stationed. But no matter where you’re living – South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, or elsewhere – if you’re earning money on the side and funneling it through a bank account in your home country, you’re not doing anything wrong.
There may be a million of them out there, but blogs are still valuable and relevant.
Setting Up Shop
Now, do you have to spend a lot of money to make a fancy website?… Nope! You sure don’t.
What you do have to do is commit to your blog or website. Regardless of whether you’re finally open to getting a thing up and running or picking up where you left off months or years ago, you’ve got to be willing to make a plan and put in a bit of work because, in all honesty, it’s not a complete cakewalk and the writing and editing and publishing isn’t going to do itself.
Let’s start by talking logistics. You’ve probably heard of different places to start a blog or set up a website, like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. While they all have their strengths in one way or another, I highly recommend starting and sticking with WordPress.
As an expat looking to get started somewhere simple, I recommend setting up shop with WordPress (which I may also refer to as “WP” moving forward).
WordPress is a great place for new bloggers to get started for a lot of reasons. Here’s a quick snapshot of why:
- There’s nothing technical you have to do. Believe it or not, setting up a blog or website from scratch can be hard work, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing (like most people, including me). WP has tons of free and paid templates you can use to make your website and blog look super cool without the headache of designing and organizing things yourself.
- There’s a built-in community. If you want to get started building a “real” audience, starting a blog with WordPress gives you a leg up by creating opportunities for you to be found by other WP bloggers.
- You can always change things later. The flexibility of WP means that even if, someday, you do want to move to private hosting and have a super-fancy website design, you can!
- You can add features as you grow. In the past, you weren’t able to add any external apps or “plugins” to a WordPress blog that was created on WordPress.com. (WordPress, the company, actually has a few different ways to build blogs and websites, but that’s not the direction I’m pointing you toward in this article.) That was a bummer because to get and use a lot of those amazing plugins, you had to host privately, purchase or “rent” a theme, and set up everything yourself. BUT NOT ANYMORE! You have more flexibility now and can add things as you need them.
If you’ve been considering other blog platforms like Blogger, Squarespace, Wix, or even Medium (there are a lot of options out there), I can say with confidence that you’ll be happiest with WordPress in the long run. I have firsthand experience with all of these platforms and they’re simply not as robust or advanced as WP.
The Strategy: Planning for Your Blog
Finally, we’re getting into the fun part!
Before you can write, record, or publish anything, you’ve got to pick a name and actually plan what you’re going to write, record, and publish.
1. Pick a blog or website name.
This is probably the simplest part of getting started with a blog, but not necessarily the easiest!
There are a few steps to finding the perfect blog name.
- What will you write about? List a few broad ideas, then get really specific.
- Who will read your blog? Think about what you have to offer or want to share and consider who would be interested.
- What do you want your blog name to “say” about you? Choose a few adjectives that you feel like describe you.
Here’s the reality you need to be prepared for: Your super creative name may already be taken by someone else. That’s the reality of the internet this late in the 2000s. But even if your original idea isn’t available, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed.
Remember those adjectives you wrote down? Go to Thesaurus.com and pop them into the search engine. Write down a few synonyms that you like equally (or almost!) as much. Be ready with both lists; you might need them.
Don’t forget, too, that you can always use your own, actual name. Case in point – that’s what I’ve done! I have a couple of other websites by different names for different purposes, but I decided that my brand for this website would be best if I simply went with my own name: Krissi Driver. This might be an easy fix to your “cute name” being unavailable.
2. Research available domain names.
This is an important next step. You’ve already done a little homework to choose a name for your blog and hopefully, you’re going to nail down an exact-match domain name ending in “.com.” There are a couple of ways you can do this.
I recommend using Google Domains to search for domain names. It’s quick and it will tell you if your full domain is still available on the internet. Google sells domain names for $12 USD each, but don’t buy it from there just yet! Right now, you’re only checking availability. (You can also do this when you sign up for your WordPress account. The WP engine will tell you if your preferred domain is available or not.)
If you’re not lucky enough to be able to get your first choice, here are some ideas for finding a close second:
- Use your name. Like I said above, if your chosen name isn’t available, you can always go with your own name. If you have a unique name like me (Krissi Driver), chances are your name domain will be available. If you have a rather popular name like Sam Smith, you may need to also incorporate one of your adjectives from your lists or use a middle name or initial.
- Try spelling one of the words a little differently. Don’t get too crazy because you want your domain to be easily memorable. Something like “cre8ivejane.com” might work instead.
- Add a dash. If your blog name is “Diane’s Adventures” and the domain “www.dianesadventures.com” isn’t available, see if you can add a dash in the middle to break up the words. This way, it will read “www.dianes-adventures.com.” That may be all it takes to get the domain you want. (If you go this route, be sure to stress to folks asking for your website that there is a dash. Otherwise, you’re sending them to a different website, very possibly a competitor!)
3. Decide what you’ll write/vlog/talk about.
As we already discussed, there’s more than one way to run a blog and it doesn’t all have to revolve around writing.
If you’re a writer, great. If you’re not, try incorporating videos or podcasting to take the pressure off all the writing.
Better yet, combine 2 or all 3 of these options. Keep in mind, though, that for the internet to know who you are and find you via search engines (if you’re at all concerned about that), you will need to incorporate at least some written content into your posts.
Once you’ve determined what you’re going to do, start writing out an initial topic list. Over time, you’ll likely add to and delete from this list: Things will change and you may decide you want to shelve some topics or dive into new ones. Eventually, you’ll probably revisit the same topics in a different way.
Remember: Blogging is a long-term game and it’s not a one-time deal. All of your content is (or should be) valuable and will remain so for months and years to come. This isn’t a be-all, end-all list. It will evolve over time but for now, you need to have a solid idea of where you’re going.
4. Decide how often you’re going to publish a blog.
Consistency is key, my friend. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you can’t commit to writing or recording a video or podcast more than once a month, don’t. Keep it simple and call it good.
You’ve got your list and you’re ready to set up shop, so get going!
Be sure to share what you’re doing with your friends and family so you can build up a small following. Do some research and learn about the importance of building a mailing list and how to do use social media to grow your audience. No matter what you’re putting out, there are people out there who want to hear it.
This article contains several affiliate links to brands I know, use, and trust. I receive a small commission when you purchase services through these links.