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Writers, You Don’t Have To Blog – Really!

Picking blog topicsHere and over at the 5 Buck Forum, I often get questions and comments from freelance writers about blogging.

It seems like most of the time the writer is expressing frustration about either finding the time to do a blog or figuring out what to blog about. I get the sense that a lot of writers somehow think because they write they should also have a blog.

The good news is freelance writers do not have to run their own blog.

They should have a website if they want to be found, and that site can be run on blog software like WordPress for ease of changing stuff. Running a fairly static website on WordPress or any other content management system does not, however,  mean you have to blog.

What, exactly, is a blog?

Blogs started out as diary, sort of. According to New York magazine, a guy named Justin Hall published the first blog in 1994. He says:

Since January 1994, I’ve been using the web to publish my notes. There’s a mess of pages, some inaccuracies, a bunch of broken links, and too much information.

So diary probably isn’t very accurate, although there are a lot of blogs that are just that – a public record of what someone does, daily, weekly or whenever. Many of these are about personal lives, some, like Lori Widmer’s Words on the Page, are about professional lives.

Then there are blogs like this one which are designed to share information and maybe make some money. Problogger.net is another example, so is Jennifer Mattern’s AllIndieWriters. These are pretty major undertakings, can be a whole lot of fun, and some of them become lucrative, some really make a ton of money – many don’t make much.

So a blog is really pretty much anything you want to make it – diary, info or authority site, book promo, place to share, to celebrate, to whine… whatever.

Then there are the business blogs – blogs started by businesses in order to promote the business and/or products and services. Freelance writers are often hired to write for these blogs. Stonyfield is one example, so is Intuit’s Small Business blog – I don’t know if either of these use freelancers, but they could.

Should you start your own blog?

Should you start your own blog? As a freelance writer, presumably you’d have an easier time getting the writing done than others, but that’s not a good reason to blog.

You really should have your own blog if there’s something you feel passionate about and you want to write about that passion. If you’re not really dedicated to the topic and if you don’t enjoy writing about it, the chances of you ever becoming a successful blogger are darn close to nil. “Success” in this instance defined more by the number of readers than the amount of money you’re making.

Sure, if you want a blog just for the family, go ahead – in that case success comes because the family reads it.

But make no mistake about it, blogging regularly and doing the marketing to bring in readers takes time – time you could be spending on more lucrative projects.

Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t, but don’t feel you have to!

Do you blog? Why or why not? Let’s talk about it in comments.


Hey, it really helps drive traffic to this site when you share posts with your network. Thanks!

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Joni

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have always read (since the internet came along) that you MUST have a blog to be a writer. I do not want to blog but I do want to write. I have written a little and been published a little but do not have the time to run a blog for various reasons. I appreciate this advice as I have never thought about it. I agree you need a website to showcase work but you do not have to have a running blog. I feel so free.
    Thank you again!

  • I’ve been writing a blog for around two years. It has been a wonderful promotional tool to gain a following and to provide content to my facebook author page and twitter feed.

    I do a mix of author interviews, book reviews, articles about the craft of writing or essays about events that I attend as a writer.

    When one of my works is published, it allows me a place to announce and promote it. I also have a portfolio of my work listed.

    A blog takes a great deal of work, but for me I feel that it has been time well spent.
    Wendy recently posted..Book Review: Sorcerer’s SonMy Profile

    • Wendy, blogs really do work for many people, you and me included – but for some writers it’s not a good fit and it isn’t a have-to – at least not in my opinion.

  • Some fine points to ponder, Anne!

    I started a blog a few years ago. I guess you could say I was jumping on the same wagon as other writers trying to make their mark. Starting a blog seemed the thing to do. Did I know what I was doing? Nope.

    I don’t regret starting the blog. I use it as a learning tool. I have figured out how to add widgets, a book store, how to categorize my posts and upload about anything my heart desires.

    I experiment with the blog, as well. I test articles … headlines. I am always looking at my stats to see which posts are being read the most.

    As with anything, blogs take time. The nice thing is, blogs will always be there!
    Jodi Hug Dhey recently posted..A Writer’s Two Cents About the Content Mill DebateMy Profile

    • Yep… although when some of us oldtimers got started with blogs we had no idea what we were doing either 😉

    • I don’t know that any of us knew what we were doing when we started, Jodi… and we learned and are still learning.

  • irene

    Thanks for this info Anne. I thought in the beginning that for writers to succeed, they must have a blog.

    • No, although if you make your website with blog software you’ll have an easier time keeping it updated and you can easily post samples you write.

  • I have four blogs and have considered letting go of two of them. I haven’t decided, yet.

    I agree that blogs are great online promotional tools. However, if you blog for clients, you can (ask for permission) use the blog posts as samples for your writing portfolio.

    If you want to start a blog, choose a topic you’d like to write about and commit to a blog schedule, i.e., post once a week. You may want to guest blog, first, before you start your blog. This is a good way to build a following.
    Amandah recently posted..Comment on How Blog Content Costs Your Company Money and How to Fix It by Amandah BlackwellMy Profile

  • When I launched my writing website (and that took some doing), I knew I really didn’t want to blog. I’ll blog for someone else’s site, but I didn’t want to have to come up with regularly scheduled posts to keep the blog fresh. Heaven knows I have passions and gripes to write about. But I guess I’d rather put in the effort for someone else and get paid. I’m so short on time, like so many of us.
    Valerie Bolden-Barrett recently posted..Can Writers and Editors Get Along?My Profile

    • Valerie, then use your blog to showcase only the kind of writing you want to get paid for… that can work…

    • Makes sense to me, Valerie.

  • Of course, sometimes the best of both worlds is blogging (with a byline) on a high profile site, where you get the benefit of promotion without the need to maintain the blog yourself. 🙂
    Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..Blogging Update – Q3 2013My Profile

  • Thanks for the shout-out Anne.

    I think an important thing professionals should consider when deciding on whether or not to start a blog is how a blog will affect their business site. In just the last few months to a year, Google has been putting far more emphasis on “fresh” content when it comes to determining relevancy. That means not having a blog can seriously hurt your search engine rankings these days, which can cost you clients. Sadly I think they’re putting too much emphasis on regular updates over quality right now, and I hope that changes. I’ve seen a few spammier sites rising in the rankings in my niche just because they’re posting more frequent updates than more established sites. Hopefully they’ll strike a better balance later and one type of Web platform won’t have such an edge over the others. But until that happens, it’s just one more thing freelancers need to consider.
    Jenn Mattern recently posted..5 Free Sets of Sexy Social Media Icons For Your BlogMy Profile

    • Isn’t it amazing the way search has changed? Google has done a fairly good job of getting rid of some of the spammy sites… but not all of them… and that’s a good point about fresh content for a pro site…

    • Google’s rules can be very frustrating, so you can’t necessarily count on getting significant search traffic from it, especially if your blog is newer and doesn’t get a lot of social media shares or links from other sites.

      There’s also more and more competition, especially in the writing niche, making it even more difficult to get search traffic.
      John Soares recently posted..Twitter Hashtags for Freelance WritersMy Profile

    • Nice distinction between a business and blog site… sometimes the same, often not. Keeping up with google is almost a full time job.

  • I have to agree on this one, Anne.

    Having a blog is not mandatory for freelance writers; having a website to showcase their writing is — esp. if they’re doing a terrific job of bringing it in front of potential clients’ eyes.

    The thing is, a blog can be a very powerful tool for online promotion.

    As you said, it all depends on how much time and energy a professional is willing to dedicate. I’d add to this — it also depends on their vision and they way they prefer to handle content.

    Sometimes writers just don’t understand the flexibility and the creative opportunities a blog offers — that is, until they start exploring them.
    Helene Poulakou recently posted..Ideas Are Like BirdsMy Profile

    • Love it when folks agree with me, and yes, many writers have no clue how flexible blogs can be.

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