Apologies in advance if this post reads more like a rant. I've recently started editing a couple of blogs. Both accept guest blog posts. Both invite potential contributors to pitch directly to me - and I have been inundated with terrible guest blog post pitches ever since.
Now, I don't have the magic formula that means you will see success with every guest blog post pitch.
But I have worked as a freelance writer for many years. I have pitched to many, many publications. I am now on the receiving end of these guest post pitches.
And here's where you may be going wrong with your guest post pitches:
1. Your title sucks
Let's look at a pitch I recently received. It's the (poor) standard of pitch that's regularly hitting my inbox.
My first bugbear is the title. It simply says "Add My Blog Post".
Why would I add your blog post? Such a generic title tells me nothing about what you're pitching or your proposed content.
I get hundreds of these emails every day - why am I going to click on one that says "Add My Blog Post"?
You need to grab an editor's attention with a catchy title and details of your proposed copy.
For example, "Pitch: How to Rock An Event At Your Coworking Space" would be a far better title.
Tip: Use your title to tell the editor what you want to write.
2. Sorry, who are you?
The majority of pitches I receive have a generic "gmail.com" domain. This irks me because it tells me nothing about you and, when I open the email, there's also no further information on who you are.
Are you a freelance writer? Are you working on behalf of a specific company or agency? Where's your email signature with details about your job title?
Such pitches give me no idea why I should take you seriously as a writer.
Tip: Include a couple of sentences about you and use a corporate email account.
3. You don't even know my name
No, I haven't got all egotistical here. But you should, at the very least, add the name of the editor you're pitching to in your intro.
A "Hi Gemma" will suffice - it shows you're not just sending the same generic pitch to every blog editor in the world (because you'd never do that, right?).
Also, I edit more than one blog - which one are you pitching to? You just need to say "I'd like to pitch a post to your [INSERT NAME] blog..." here.
Tip: ALWAYS use an editor's name and mention the publication.
4. Have you really read my blog?
Great! You've read my blog! You think it's good and impressive!
This isn't going to impress me. What would impress me is a more insightful statement with proof that our brands are aligned or that you have some value to add to my blog.
For example, a better start would be "I read your post on how words are failing women in technology, I recently decided to leave a career in science because of everyday sexism and would like to share my experiences on your blog."
Ta-da! You've also just told me a little bit about yourself, shown that you've actually read my blog and demonstrated how you can add value with a unique perspective on a complex topic.
Tip: Prove you've read the publication and provide insight.
5. Check your spelling and grammar
Oh my goodness. I shouldn't even have to write this down.
If you're pitching to WRITE for a publication CHECK YOUR SPELLING AND PUNCTUATION.
If you struggle with this, then download the Grammarly app.
Admittedly, it is easy for such mistakes to slip in. But a glaring grammatical error can be all it takes for an editor to hit the delete button.
Tip: Double check every pitch for simple mistakes.
6. Read the editorial guidelines
Now, while there may appear to be nothing wrong with a polite concluding sentence, it's clear this pitcher has not read the editorial guidelines for the blog.
If they had read the guidelines, then they'd know that I only respond to pitches that follow a specific format and how I will proceed with successful pitches.
Editors receive hundreds of pitches a day. We don't have time to respond to every pitch and we certainly won't respond to lazy pitches that don't follow the guidelines we've taken the time to write.
Tip: Tailor every pitch to the specifics of every publication.
7. Know when to quit
So, what does make a good pitch? Here's a pitch template:
[TITLE] Pitch: [PROPOSED PITCH TITLE]
Dear [EDITOR'S NAME],
My name's [YOUR NAME] and I [DETAILS OF YOUR EXPERIENCE/BUSINESS].
I recently read [POST TITLE] on your [PUBLICATION TITLE] and [YOUR INSIGHTS HERE].
I would like to pitch the following idea to you:
Working title: [PROPOSED PITCH TITLE]
Synopsis: [GUEST POST SYNOPSIS]
Thank you for your time. Please let me know if there's any further information you need from me at this stage.
For example, here's the guest post pitch template with the blanks filled in:
Pitch: 10 Editors Every Writer Should Avoid Like the Plague
My name's Gemma and I'm an experienced freelance writer in the science and technology sectors. You can read examples of my work here.
I recently read your post "10,000 things I hate about whinging editors" on the Completely Fictional Writers blog and, having worked as a freelance writer for more than 10 years, it strikes me that there are specific categories of editor that every writer encounters.
I would like to pitch the following idea to you:
Working title: 10 Editors Every Writer Should Avoid Like the Plague
Synopsis: From the overly critical to the over-askers, this post will identify 10 different types of editor, their character traits and how writers can work with each type.
Thank you for your time. Please let me know if there's any further information you need from me at this stage.
The freelance writer who gets tech: www.geditorial.com.
Some final guest blog post pitch tips
In summary, good guest blog post pitches take time. You can't spam every editor you find with the same generic pitch hoping you'll get a hit.
You also need to keep your pitches short. If an idea peaks the interest of an editor, they'll ask you for more info.
Finally, don't offer to write the same generic fodder others could write. Identify an angle or information that's different from the competition.
Be polite. Be specific. Be brief. Be different.
Remember, editors are human beings.
We all have our bad days (as this post clearly demonstrates).
But, if your idea is a good one, we can't wait to work with you.
A friend once told me that I was "living the dream" as a professional freelance writer. When asked what they meant, they simply said: "Because you're your own boss, you work the hours you want and you get to see your children."
It's an interesting set of assumptions - because they're all completely wrong.
While I am (technically) my own boss - I'd argue that a boss (in the conventional sense) has been replaced by the fleet of customers I have on my books. They're all my bosses now. I suppose the one advantage is that the tables have been turned. I can choose whom I work with and "fire" any one my "bosses" if I want to.
And, yes, I do get flexibility in my hours. But I just worked for most of the bank holiday weekend as I listened to my children playing outside. So, that's points two and three of my friend's statement scuppered too. But, to be completely objective, I do get to pick my children up from school every day - I just have to work until 1am most nights to make up the hours.
Now, please don't think this is going to be a big rant about the woes of freelance writing. If you're thinking about a career as a freelance writer, I ABSOLUTELY recommend it (I even used capital letters to emphasise this point, which means I'm REALLY serious about this).
The best and worst part of my work is: I love it. Why's that a bad thing? Because I can't say no to the flurry of fascinating work that comes my way - so I always end up with too much on my plate.
Boo hoo. Poor me. What a chuffing first world problem.
I could write a very smug and self-indulgent piece on why I LOVE my job. (Yes, capital letters again. I know you noticed.) But I don't think you'd want to read that. And I don't think I'd want to write that. (Which breaks the golden rule about only writing stuff you'd want to read.)
Anyway, the assumptions people make when I say I'm a freelance writer are intriguing. (My favourite question so far from someone I'd only just met is: "Are you writing the next Fifty Shades of Grey then?" No. I'm more geek than grey.)
So, I was particularly fascinated by this white paper on The State of Freelance Writing in 2017 by the bods at Freelance Writing. It gives a fascinating insight into life as a professional freelance writer. Here's a synopsis of the findings:
The full infographic is at the end of this post if you want to see all of the stats.
Why a specialism matters
I was quite disheartened by the findings of this white paper. It seemed, on first inspection, to paint freelance writers as a struggling bunch of workers with a below-par income.
But, the middle sentence, really stuck a chord with me: Most writers gained specialised expertise in previous jobs. This expertise then allowed them to be better freelance writers.
And I think that may be the thing no one tells you about freelance writing:
The secret is in the specialism
I'm quite flattered when people ask me for advice on following a career as a freelance writer. I'll be honest, it's more luck than judgement that has led me to "living the dream".
But the one bit of advice I give time and TIME again (see, capital letters, this is important) is to (drumroll please): HAVE A SPECIALISM.
I've touched on the importance of a specialism before, and it's absolutely vital if you want to thrive and survive as a professional freelance writer.
Throughout my 10+ years as a writer, I've always focused on science and technology. After all, I have two degrees in physics, I've worked as a research scientist and software developer (amongst other things) and have an unhealthy obsession with Brian Cox. I write about the stuff I love and know about.
That's not all.
If you really want to succeed as a writer, you need to give your clients real value in everything you write. No one wants to read another listicle about the top 10 ways you can do XYZ - people want real insights from real people.
So, make sure you find your niche and work hard to become an expert in this area.
Before I came up with the (dubious) tagline that "I'm the freelance writer who gets tech", I was part of the below $10K salary demographic identified in the Freelance Writing survey.
As soon as I started shouting about my expertise in science and technology, the work snowballed.
So, if you want to "live the dream" - you have to invest the time in that dream. You have to work out what you want to write about. Then, work your socks off to achieve that dream.
And try hard not to punch anyone in the face who claims you're "living the dream" as a freelance writer as you work until the wee small hours to make another ridiculous deadline.
After all, you're you own boss, right? And you can work your own hours, right? And when did you last see your children?
The real truth about freelance writing is: it's a tough job.
But it rocks.
Here's the full infographic from Freelance Writing:
Freelancing is a famine or feast existence and, recently, I've been feasting so much I felt like fitting a gastric band on my business.
Deadlines came in daily waves and all-nighters were starting to feel like the norm instead of a one-off occurrence. It's not a sustainable existence, and I'm grateful for the influx of work - but I'm equally grateful to kick back and go back to working the usual 9-5, not 5-9.
There's a problem with the famine period of freelancing though. I find it really difficult to stay motivated.
Suddenly, I find 101 things to do around the house. I start raiding the fridge with alarming frequency - and then going to the gym to work off the 14 Crunchie bars I've consumed in one hour*.
But I still have work to do. I just can't seem to get my bum into gear to do it. It's been a difficult and chocolate-heavy week - so I wanted to share a few productivity tips I've stumbled on during quiet times:
1. Tomato timers top the list
The Pomodoro technique is a regular on many productivity posts - but it really has worked for me so I had to give it a mention. The idea is that you work on one task for 25 minutes straight, take a five-minute break and then repeat that cycle four times, before taking a longer break.
This method doesn't work for me when I'm writing a long feature article and need to immerse myself in a topic - but it's a Godsend when I have lots of little jobs to do. And taking regular breaks really does boost your productivity - here's the scientific proof.
2. Get on top of the backlog
Not too busy? Now is the time to sort out your website, write a backlog of blog posts, clean your desk and clear the decks.
I write a weekly Sunday Science blog series that (you guessed it) comes out every Sunday. So, I'm using this period of downtime to write as many posts as I can before I'm busy again. I've set myself a target of writing one post per day and put more topic suggestions up on my editorial calendar.
If you have similar tasks on the horizon, your future self will thank you if you break the back of them now.
3. Reflect on your work
I'm not one for navel-gazing - but I'm currently completing a self-assessment on my business. I know it sounds a bit mad, but I hope it will help me to identify what's going well and where I need to make more improvements.
This post from Rosalind Davies gives some great advice on completing a freelance performance review. If you're more of a small business - then check out these business assessment analysis tools.
4. Stand up!
A couple of months ago, I fitted a standing desk in my office. I originally wanted to improve my health, but I've only just started to realise how it has helped my productivity. I find it easier to retain focus and get back to my desk after a break, for example.
You don't have to fork out for an expensive desk either - I constructed my own desk using a few boxes and some spare IKEA shelves. It's not a long term solution, but it's a good way to trial a standing desk to see if it works for you.
If you're not convinced by a standing desk - here are another 15 office design tricks to boost your productivity.
5. Cut yourself some slack
I use Toggl to track my time. It's a great tool to analyse my working week, including the clients and projects that are taking the most amount of time.
During peak times, I can work up to 60 hours a week. So, does it really matter if I only work 30 hours this week and take some time off? No. In fact, taking a break could be a very good idea if you want to avoid the dreaded burnout.
Taking of which, I'm going to take the afternoon off now to do a spot of gardening. And tidy my desk.
Please feel free to share your tips for retaining focus during your downtime in the comments below!
* Slight exaggeration. It was 12 Crunchie bars.
Last week, I went to see one leg of Professor Brian Cox's UK tour. I wasn't sure what to expect and, with two degrees in physics and working as a freelance science writer, I'd even say I was a little arrogant about the show. Was I going to learn anything new?
Yes, but not in the way I expected.
The lecture itself was a tour de force - covering everything from cosmology to evolution. Equations were put up and explained. It was engaging, it was fascinating and Brian struck the balance between making science simple - but never dumbing it down at any point.
A Twitter-based Q&A session was also held with Brian's self-proclaimed sidekick and fellow Infinite Monkey Cager, Robin Ince.
My favourite question from the Q&A has to be "what does space smell like"? Brian postulated that as 80% of the matter in the universe is dark matter and that doesn't really interact with anything (let alone smell), then space doesn't smell of anything, really.
Another question struck a chord and has given me a whole new perspective on my work. Brian and Robin fielded the usual "Did the moon landings really happen?" question - but there was another part to this question:
How can we prove that the moon landings happened?
Hmm. Well, we can't unless we go up to the Moon and see if the footprints from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are actually there. Even then, I'm sure someone will come up with a far-flung conspiracy theory.
So, what's the answer?
Brian went off on a wonderful tangent about trust. About how we have to trust what we are told by scientists. We may not understand the nuts and bolts of the scientific theories and work done behind the world's laboratory doors - but we have to trust what scientists are telling us.
And that's a tricky point.
How can we trust scientists?
This question of trust has been rattling around my head since seeing the show.
I'd like to put forward my own answer.
We need to build trust by demonstrating that science is simple.
Science is not the pursuit of an intellectually elite few. Brian pointed out how, as children, we are natural scientists and the simplest questions that children have no embarrassment about asking, can sometimes probe some of science's most fundamental questions.
Science is simple. Yet, sometimes the methods and the language we use to teach and describe science make it feel utterly inaccessible to anyone without a PhD.
That's when the trust breaks down. And that's what we need to change both within the scientific community and outside of it.
Non-scientists need to keep asking questions about the world we live in. Scientists need to find a way to answer these questions without putting people off their work (check out my Sunday Science posts for some jargon-free science explanations).
We need to keep our children asking questions about the world we live in. Experiments should be at the forefront of any scientific syllabus - and exams should take a back seat. Science is not based on regurgitating facts memorised in textbooks.
It's based on theory and experimentation. It's based on applying scientific principles to test something new or challenge a pre-existing theory.
We are all capable of asking the important questions about the world we live in. And we are all capable of listening to and challenging the answers we get back.
That's exactly what Professor Brian Cox is doing with his world-breaking UK tour on science.
He's demonstrating how science is big, complex but, fundamentally, it is simple and accessible to all.
We're all scientists. Science is simple. And we all need to leave our assumptions and arrogance about science at the door.
UPDATE: How I made Brian Cox nervous
You can only imagine the magnitude of the geek shriek I gave off when Brian retweeted my blog post. Not only because he has 2.5 million followers, but because he called me his "scientific peer". That's totally going on my CV...
This morning, I spoke on the BBC Radio Five Live's Wake Up to Money programme about the gig economy, which is the working practice of picking up chunks of work on a flexible basis.
As a freelance writer, I've used sites like Upwork to top up my income in this way. Such sites provide a link for freelancers who want some extra work and companies who need a little extra manpower.
For me, this has worked well. But there are downsides to the "gig economy". Workplace rights are coming under increasing scrutiny. And quite rightly so.
New research from the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) shows that one million workers now use the gig economy.
The To Gig or Not To Gig: Stories from the modern economy report said: “Despite the typically low earnings reported by gig economy workers, they remain on the whole satisfied with their income, with 51% saying they are satisfied and 19% dissatisfied with the level of income they receive. This is significantly higher than the level of satisfaction with pay reported by other workers, where 36% are satisfied and 35% are dissatisfied,” according to The Guardian.
This is an interesting contrast. How can more than half of those using the gig economy be happy with their earnings, if they are typically low?
The CIPD report, and my own experience, may provide the answer. According to the report, the most common reason for taking on gig work is to boost income, according to almost one-third of the 5,000 respondents.
I am, most definitely, in that bracket. I am completely satisfied with my level of income as a freelance writer and sometimes gigging writer.
But, I would not say the gig economy is the sole reason for this satisfaction. The gig economy only makes up around 5% of my total income. Like the vast majority, I supplement my earnings by logging into Upwork and finding a bit work when needs must.
I do no rely on gigging. I use it as and when I want or need to.
Yes, the gig economy gives you another route to find work. It gives you the flexibility to find projects that boost your portfolio. It gives you the opportunity to access projects that you would never find through your own network. It opens doors.
That's the bit I really like. If I want to branch out and write about something different, I can. If I want to earn a little bit extra, it gives me a plausible way to do this.
The gig economy and freelancer lifestyle are natural bedfellows because both offer you flexibility in your work.
Low pay? No way
This flexibility is a double-edged sword. And this is the crux of the issue. The companies tapping into the gig economy have flexibility too in terms of when they hire and what they pay workers.
The majority of those I have worked with in the gig economy pay freelancers a fair rate. You can report businesses that are asking you to work for free on Upwork, for example. It's an important step to ensure the skills of the freelancer community are not undervalued - and a core reason why I support the #nofreework campaign.
But there are also less scrupulous sorts who want to pay freelancers the bare minimum for their skills. Quite frankly, being offering 1p per word is not going to pay the bills. For a 500-word blog post, which can take up to four hours to research and write, that's £1.25 per hour.
This is why Labour MP Frank Field's call for Theresa May to guarantee a minimum wage for self-employed workers is so important.
It is vital that the self-employment lifestyle is not undervalued. Look at the recent debacle surrounding an increase in national insurance on self-employed workers. Before the U-Turn, Theresa May said the shift towards self-employment was "eroding the tax base" and making it harder to pay for public services "on which ordinary working families depend".
On a personal note, I am in an ordinary working family. The suggestion that I am eroding the tax base is laughable at best (I am now much more highly paid and, as a result, more highly taxed compared to my previous life as a permanent employee) and dangerous at worst.
It's dangerous because if you start to tax the gig economy and budding entrepreneurs then you will stifle innovation.
The gig economy gave me an entry point into freelancing. I used it to supplement my income when I was working full time as a software developer. Before I knew it, the supplementary gig work snowballed and I was getting so much work as "the freelance writer who gets tech" that I quit my 9-5 and writing became my full-time job.
I took a chance. I continue to take chances every day as a freelancer because I do not have a guaranteed income every month. The gig economy gives me a speck of reassurance that I can find work every month if the proverbial ever hits the fan.
But, is the gig economy fair for freelancers? If you tread carefully and choose work that pays you a fair wage, then yes. If you use it to supplement your income, then yes.
If you pay me 1p/word? No.
We live in difficult times where many people need to supplement their income using the gig economy. And some workers rely on the gig economy. It is not fair to exploit those working very hard to make ends meet regardless of whether they gig, work or do both.
A fair wage is a basic working right for everyone.
Love or hate it - what are your views on the gig economy? Please let me know if the comments below.
Well, International Women's Day has been and gone. It's aimed at inspiring women around the world. It encourages us to celebrate our achievements. And the campaign has women's rights set firmly at its heart.
In honour of the day, I just wanted to share with you some inspiring women who are wonderful wordsmiths:
4. Susanna Clarke
So, you've written the perfect blog post. You're happy and you publish. But you could be turning off your readers before they've reached the second paragraph.
It's not just a waste of your time and effort, high bounce rates are a big no-no for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). In other words, you could be adversely affecting your website's chance of being discovered on the world's search engines.
So, here are the most common blogging mistakes - and how to avoid them.
1: Using long and complicated language
Readers are instantly turned off by complicated language or endless waffling. You're not demonstrating your academic achievement, intelligence, or sophistication. You need to write in plain English.
The Hemingway App is a good tool to access the readability of your work. It highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors.
2. You're grammar sucks
Did you spot the mistake in the above title? No? Well, if you don't know the difference between your and you're, then you need to brush up on your grammar!
As an editor, grammatical errors like this really wind me up. They're sloppy and give your readers the impression you're sloppy too.
Another great tool here is Grammarly. It'll automatically highlight your mistakes any time you write online. Or, if you don't want to download another app, this is a great infographic to improve your grammar.
3. You forget the flow
Sometimes, when I'm writing, I'll effectively put a big brain dump down on the page. I think it reads brilliantly, but when I get back to it, the post is just a rambling mess!
It's important to structure your post so it flows for your readers. You must make sure you guide them through your post. Here's how:
What writing mistakes really wind you up when you're reading a blog post? Please share in the comments below!
Have you considered publishing guest posts on your blog? I have. It seems like a no-brainer. I get someone else to write the content, the contributor gets some brand exposure, I get a unique insight into an area I didn't understand. Share the love, right?
What you may not know is that guest posts could damage your blog. They could drive down your SEO with spammy links and dilute your brand with irrelevant content.
This doesn't mean you should never allow guest posts on your blog. But you have to be picky. I've worked on both sides of the fence - as a guest contributor and a blog editor.
Here are my top tips if you're planning to accept guest posts:
1. Ask for writing examples
If someone asks to write for your blog then you need to ask for some examples of their writing. More specifically, ask if they have any examples that are relevant to your blog and its core topics.
It's also worth researching any potential writers to see if they have a blog and the quality of their work. A quick Google search is a good start. Then, read some of their work to check it gives useful information and isn't filled with links back to their own site.
2. Only accept unique posts
Never, never, EVER accept a post that has been published elsewhere. It'll drive down your SEO. I also use the Copyscape online tool to double check for plagiarism.
You'll also need at least 500 words of unique content on an interesting topic - not one that's been beaten to death thousands of times.
3. Sweat the small stuff
Don't accept a post that's filled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
Well, if the writer doesn't have the time to check for such errors, then they do not have the best work ethic. For me, it's a red flag and such sloppy writing doesn't make the cut. I know it's harsh but you need to work with writers that respect your brand and their work.
4. Get a clear outline
Make sure any guest contributors give you a clear rundown of the proposed post. You need a working title and a synopsis at the very least.
I also get contributors to answer the following questions: "how will your post help our audience?" and "what is your main message to them in 1-2 sentences?"
It makes sure we're all on the same track before they spend a lot of time working on a post.
5. Say "no"
Don't be afraid to say no to a post if it isn't a fit for your blog and your brand. If the writer has gone off the original outline and produced something that isn't a fit - just say no.
It helps to have some editorial guidelines so your policies are laid out in black and white - we'll cover that in a later post.
6. Own your content
Your blog is your blog. I would not recommend giving author accounts. Although the vast majority of guest contributors are honest souls, you are bound to eventually work with those that are not.
Do you want to open your blog up to spammy links? People who can edit and remove content without you knowing? And accept dodgy comments?
It's not worth the risk.
7. But respect your writers
Trust me, writing a quality blog post takes A LOT of time and effort. You want to grow a community of writers that want to work for you - so make sure you treat your writers with respect.
I once blogged for a client who was just rude. There's no other way to put it. What's more, last minute requests to change the copy were constantly made, deadlines would be changed on a daily basis and the criticism was never constructive - all while being barked at by quite an unpleasant person.
Please don't be that person! Talk to your writers, be reasonable and always, always be courteous. I'll talk about feedback and building a community of writers more in my next posts.
Whether you're a guest contributor or want to start working with guest contributors, I'd love to hear about your experiences and any tips you have - please leave a comment below!
I have a confession to make. About writing a blog. It's based on some advice I always share with new clients as a blog writer.
"You need an editorial calendar to schedule your blog posts. It's good practice. It works. It'll rock your blog writing world."
But here's the confession: maintaining an editorial calendar sucks.
It sometimes feels like more work than it's worth. It's difficult to maintain. So, it gets neglected and disorganised. It falls into disarray and, as a result, your blog becomes neglected and disorganised.
Working as a blog writer (and the freelance writer who gets tech) I've tried various online tools to help me master the art of the editorial calendar. Until now, other solutions haven't quite worked. They've helped, but never taken away all of the issues around writing a blog.
Then, I started working with Trello, and things have got a lot less...sucky. I know what posts I need to write and when. It prompts me when a deadline is looming, and it's a great repository to write ideas down.
What is Trello?
In case you're not familiar with Trello, its a fabulous collaboration tool. It organises your blog (or whatever project you're working on) into a board. This board is divided into columns (called lists) and tasks (called cards) pass along the columns from left to right.
Here's a quick tutorial on Trello:
How to use Trello for Your Blog
Let's assume you just want to manage your personal blog with an editorial calendar. Let's look into the three basic components (boards, lists and cards) to set up your blog:
1. Set up a board
Trello organises projects into boards. Your blog’s editorial calendar will be run from one board, so create this board. It’s incredibly simple to do for a personal blog — just hit the “boards” tab at the top left-hand corner of Trello, and click to “create a board”. Call it “editorial calendar” and off you go — told you it was simple!
2. Create a list for each stage of your editorial process
I'd recommend a really simple set-up where you just have three lists for your blog: ideas, writing and published. It should look something a little like this:
Here's what each list is for:
Ideas - this is where (surprise, surprise) you dump all of your ideas for your blog.
Writing - once you start working on a post, pop it in the writing column. This really helps me to push through posts to publishing, instead of letting them stagnate in some half-finished form.
Published - pop any articles you've published here. It's good to keep a couple of month's of posts here so you can make sure you don't repeat yourself or, more importantly, build a story of posts.
3. Assign each blog post to a card
Now we have a board and lists in place, let's drill down to creating cards for each blog post.
For a personal blog, you don't need to come up with a full outline - just a title is enough. Brainstorm and jot down ideas, no matter how daft they may seem, as cards. When you get to the writing stage, you can delete cards and choose which ones you want to write.
You can also add a quick description and outline, and remember to put in a due date. Which brings me to my next point.
A note on scheduling
It's vital to schedule your posts. Trello will alert you when a card is due, reminding you to post (or write!) that article.
I'd recommend installing the "calendar" power-up using the top right-hand menu. You can see when your posts are scheduled on a calendar - it makes it easy to identify any gaps when you should be posting, or maintain a consistent schedule. Here's what it looks like:
This post has covered the basics of maintaining a personal blog on Trello. If you want to extend these principles to a larger blog, with multiple writers, I'll cover that in the next post.
Are you dreading your return to work after the festive break? Do you long to set up your own business and to escape from the 9-5 drudgery?
Newsflash. If you want to run a business, there's a 50-50 chance you'll fail in the first five years. I'm living proof of that stat - my first venture closed after just three years, but my second business is going from strength to strength.
So, what went so wrong first time round? And so right this time? I'd argue luck played a small part - but so did the mistakes I made with that first business.
Those mistakes helped me to cultivate my second incarnation as "the freelance writer who gets tech". Here's a (very honest) discussion on the five lessons I learnt with that first business.
I hope they help you get things right (first time) for your business in 2017:
1. Do Something Different
A few years ago, I started a jewellery company after attending a local silversmithing course. It had moderate success. I received orders, built up a client base and things ticked along nicely.
It did not, however, give me the financial clout to quit my day job. Why? The competition has too high and my ideas, quite frankly, were not original enough. The market is saturated with moderately talented jewellery makers. I needed to stand out. And I didn't.
This is where my writing business got things write.
See what I did there?
I found a niche in the market - I don't just write about science and technology, I've worked in these sectors as a research scientist and software developer. I've lived, breathed and worked on the topics I write about. I'd also worked as a journalist for a number of years.
My scatter-gun CV of jobs in the media, scientific and technical sectors gave me an unusual combination of skills. I can do and write about science and technology.
I am very, very different from other freelance writers. And this difference meant I finally stood out from the crowd.
2. Do The Math
I love maths but completely failed to do some basic calculations with that original jewellery business. Once I factored in the cost of materials, other overheads and how long it took me to make an item of jewellery - I was probably only making a few pounds an hour. And, given the infrequency of my orders, I could not rely on that tiny income.
You will need a basic income to survive. Once you know that figure, extrapolate to include your expenses and anything else that could impact your financial health. Or you could just make it up - which is the (surprisingly) excellent advice given in this blog post.
Setting up a business is a mystery in itself - the variables between your business and a competitor's offering will vary wildly. Just don't throw money at any problems - work out what works for you. Here's a great post covering the basics of setting up a business model.
3. Market Your Arse Off
You can have the best business in the world, but if no one knows about it, who's going to invest in it?
You must put time aside to research your target audience and market your business appropriately. This seemed like a dark art when I ran the jewellery business. I wasted a lot of money on magazine advertising and chasing Facebook followers when I should have been approaching local shops and building clients organically.
You need to understand your target audience and how to reach out to those individuals. Here's an excellent article crammed with marketing resources and ideas that could work for you.
4. Prepare For Failure
If your business doesn't succeed, what are you going to do? Make sure you have a Plan B.
For the jewellery business, I didn't quit my day job - I kept it as my safety net because I could commit to both my "proper" job and fledgling business. I did not overly invest in expensive materials and equipment that would now be gathering dust. I kept detailed accounts to continually check the business's financial health.
If I hadn't been so careful, I could have ended up in an awful lot of debt. Yes, you need to invest in your new business - but throwing good money after bad will never save the day.
Be cautious and make sure you can cover yourself should the proverbial s**t ever hit the fan.
5. Prepare For Success
Here's one thing I failed to do with my writing business: I did not prepare for its success.
I assumed that it would take years to cultivate a client base. I assumed that I would be twiddling my thumbs and chasing work. Thankfully, I was completely wrong.
There is a flip side to this success. How are you going to cope if orders come flying in? How can you meet this demand? As a writer, it's involved a few all-nighters when I've inadvertently taken too much on.
It's a learning curve but it's the most important lesson of all - you must prepare for success. You must be prepared to turn down work to maintain the quality of your work or expand to meet demand.
I hope you've found this post useful, but it's just a tiny snapshot of my experiences. I'd love to hear your experiences and advice to fellow aspiring freelancers and business owners.
Please share your tips in the comments below!
Hello. I'm the freelance writer who gets tech. So, I blog on three core topics:
Science and Technology
And I explain science with Lego in Sunday Science.
Need help with your blog?