1. Blogging

This module is about becoming an expert in your field. You may already be an expert – but others won’t necessarily know this. Now, you need to have a profile – particularly online; to become the go-to for your industry when the media are looking for comment, opinions, ideas.

Blogging

In 2008, while studying for an MA in print and online journalism, I started blogging. The blog was called Annie Loves and was a fairly narcissistic account of the world through my eyes. There were posts about feminism, film, flowers – whatever I was interested in at the time. Interestingly, I was one of only two people on the course who had a blog.

I had a few hundred hits a day on that blog, and they reached it via social media. I’d share everything I wrote on Facebook and people clicked through. When people asked me how my ‘blogging work’ was going, I laughed; it was a hobby, not a job. At the time, people weren’t commonly earning a living as bloggers.

After a few years, I decided to delete Annie Loves and set up annieridout.com. I was going to become more professional – less about my daily gripes; more about the journalism commissions I had coming in. I didn’t realise that all those thousands of views meant that blog had brilliant SEO. Anyway, it didn’t matter – it was gone.

But after having my daughter, I returned to online content. I could easily write articles from home while she slept. Alongside the paid commissions from other publications, I liked the idea of having my own digital platform where I could publish whatever I liked without anyone checking on me. So I launched The Early Hour.

I didn’t realise at the time that this would be the start of my new career. I saw it as a business, and planned to monetise the site through sponsored content and brand collaborations. And I did do that but more importantly, I was starting to grow an online profile. I set up social media accounts too, and started building a community of fellow parents.

In time, the national newspapers and BBC radio stations were coming to me for my opinion on parenting issues. The content I’d been creating had given me a voice within that field. I’m in no way an expert on parenting but I’ll happily share my opinion when a news story breaks and the media are looking for a response.

If you have a message to share and/or something to sell: you need to be producing online content and building a social following. It was my online community who kindly bought my book when it was published. They’ve supported my journalism. And when I launched these online courses, it was my Instagram followers who were the first to sign up.

Got a blog?

If you don’t already have your own website – you’ll definitely need one. The first thing people do when they’re looking for looking for a new product or service is pull out their phone and google it. You want you website to appear first. You can build a free website on sites like WordPress, Wix or Squarespace. Just make sure it looks the part – if you’re not sure, get a pal with an eye for design to check it. A proper logo is also a must; this represents you and your work.

If you already have a website, do you have a blog section? You can call it ‘news’ or ‘journal’ or ‘thoughts’ but this section should be regularly updated with content. Other pages on your website will probably be static – like the contact page, and ‘about’ – but this should be ever-changing, as new blogs/articles are added.

You want to appear at the top of Google searches when people are looking for someone in your line of work and a blog is a good way to rise up the Google ranks. Google loves fresh, well-written content. If you write regular blog posts that are on-topic, they will start to rank you above the websites that never have new articles popping up. By ‘regular’ it could be weekly, fortnightly, daily – it’s up to you. The more content you put out, the more Google will like you but it needs to be good quality and original. The algorithm picks up on duplicate content (that’s been copied from elsewhere) and penalises you.

So set yourself a challenge for how often you’ll write, and stick to it. You can change this, down the line, but it helps to have a clear structure. For instance, when I launched The Early Hour, I decided to publish articles daily at 5am. This was a shit lot of work but I kept it up for two years. My website rose up in the Google ranks and appeared at the top of the search page when you searched for certain people – like mothers I’d interviewed. This was partly because I was putting out lots of content, partly because it was being viewed lots of times and partly because it was being shared on social media.

Because The Early Hour was appearing on Google searches, and people were sharing the articles online, it became a parenting website that people started to pay attention to. This meant that when the Guardian were looking for a response to a book that had been written about parents getting up early to work before the kids were awake, they came to me and asked if I’d write an Opinion piece. It was the first time they’d come to me, rather than me endlessly pitching. And it was all because of my website. This is what your blog can become for you: a source of well-written articles on a specific subject that alert people to what you’re doing, and can do for them.

After I had my second baby, and now had other freelance work to do, I became incredibly stressed about having to put out daily articles (and schedule all the social media). So I decided to reduce the content to once a week. It felt like I was somehow failing; moving from my initial goal – but I wasn’t; I was adapting. No one minded too much – people still went to The Early Hour and there was plenty of existing content to read.

So, what should you blog about?

This will depend on your industry and also how you like writing. If you don’t particularly like structuring articles, you could interview other people in your field. You could develop a set of questions and send out the same ones each time so that it becomes a series of interviews. You then just have to proofread and upload to your blog. (Always ask for a high res photo from them to accompany the article). An advantage to interviews is that the person you’re featuring will often then share it online, so you have an instant audience heading straight to your blog.

You could also write about your experience of working, or balancing work and family. You could do more click-baiting pieces like: 5 ways to do x, y, z or ‘This tip will revolutionise how you do x’. People love opinion pieces; you could respond to news stories and share your view. If you do this, it’s possible that the media will also be looking for a specific view/response to that story/subject, and they may well come across your blog post and ask you to write one for them.

An example: I wrote a piece about my daughter entering the ‘terrible twos’. A BBC producer came across this piece and asked me to be interviewed on TV about it. I declined, as I didn’t see how it would help me at that time, but it shows that writing about relatable or newsy or niche topics will put you in front of the media.