There's that saying, "Dance like nobody's watching" - where you're encouraged to let yourself go and just have fun, be silly and not be self conscious about what you may like when you're dancing. I'm a big believer in doing the opposite of this when blogging. As in, Write like someone is watching. Actually, write like someone influential is always watching. Write like someone's going to find you. Especially if being a published writer is something you've always aspired to. (This is not to say don't have fun with your writing.)
This mantra could mean be mindful of what you blog about. I believe this is very important as an employee, a parent, a friend, a partner and within the blogging community because you need to protect your reputation and privacy, not reveal too much about your family, friends and employer, and maintain good netiquette. But in this instance I mean you should write in such a way that others would want to publish your work. Blogging is such good practice. I've heard it being described by a prominent writer as "an apprenticeship". Use your blog to prove to an editor why you should and can write for their publication.
Write blog posts that can be pitched to other publications.
Ensure your blog posts contain correctly spelled words, good grammar and punctuation, and original content that has some currency, relevance and interesting and unique perspectives. And make sure your pictures are quality too - clear, and the right way up! While I tend to write more conversationally than formally, I follow a style guide to an extent - for example, using UK English, spacing after full stops and paragraphs (sometimes paragraphing is tricky when using HTML, especially blogging on blogging apps on the iPad, so do take care), the way I write numbers, and capitalisation in headings. I base my style a little on the style guide I use in my day job (a variation on the Commonwealth Style Manual), and a little on the journalism techniques I learnt at university.
Some online publications don't pay their writers, but they will take previously published blog content, and I believe this is a great way to get a start with freelance writing and get noticed more widely. I've submitted my original unedited blog posts to The Peach and Mamamia, and they've republished them, often with a little editing.
Other publications take original blog posts and ask the writer to edit them or have their own editor edit them - and offer payment. Last week's publication on Daily Life was an example of this - I had such a great response to my original blog post that I pitched it to the Daily Life editor, she suggested some changes, and I spent two hours editing my original piece to suit Daily Life. The spelling, grammar and content was already fine, so the only editing needed was reducing the word count and rejigging the order of some paragraphs.
Editors are also great at offering writers advice they can use for future pieces. I used to have a mentor in my day job who would make red pen corrections to everything I wrote and distributed to staff - after I'd distributed the messages - and then I'd review her corrections, and take these on board for the next time I wrote to staff. Each subsequent piece of writing was corrected less and less.
And other publications pay their writers but only accept previously unpublished content. So your blog is a great portfolio to show to prospective editors (and also PR companies if pitching for a sponsored post - like I did when pitching to the publicists at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival) when submitting a pitch.
When I started this blog, I did it to develop my writing skills and also to create some sort of portfolio. And I refer to it in almost everything I pitch in my writing, speaking and TV work. Writing this blog has worked for me. Many people ask me advice on how they can get their message out there. I always recommend they start a blog, write a few pieces on their blog and use them (and the contacts built through blogging) to pitch to relevant media outlets. Your blog is your resume.
Here are some bloggers who write consistently high quality blog posts that
Apples Under My Bed
The $120 Food Challenge
Big Words Blog
Be your own promoter.
A friend told me I am a good self promoter. I told him that if I don't promote my own work, who else will?! I use social media to promote my writing, and this has got me noticed. Don't be afraid to tweet your posts, share them in relevant Facebook groups, and pitch them to editors of relevant publications (I highly recommend doing a course at the Australian Writers Centre to learn about editing and pitching). Include social media sharing buttons on your blog too, so readers can easily share your work.
By promoting your writing, it gets seen and shared by a huge amount of people - some who could help you with your writing career.
Keep the testimonials you receive.
Thank people who have helped you.
Finally, if someone helps you with your blog post or freelance writing, such as providing information or a quote, write back to them thanking them and including a scan of or link to your published piece. You never know if they'll offer to republish it or send it on to someone who will, or better still commission you to write an original piece for them!
I can no longer count just how many opportunities have come my way because of blogging. And it's all because I've made a conscious decision to write like someone's watching - and promote my blog posts so that someone does notice. Have confidence in your ability and don't be afraid to promote your blog.
It you've got any questions about blogging, do send them my way. I'm thinking of making blogging tips a regular feature on my blog. What do you think?
Previous blogging tips:
Invest in those who invest in you
Being a responsible employee and social media user
Social media and employees
Being a responsible patient on social media
Blogging as therapy
Taking your blog to the speaking circuit (guest post on Styling You)
What I know about writing (Tale Teller podcast)
Finding the blogging balance
Six tips for new bloggers