Stay Creative: How to Blog for Your Personal Brand
Roughly two years ago in March, the total number of sites on the World Wide Web reached the 1 billion mark. That year, 12 million people were blogging via social media networks, while 6.7 million people were active on blogging sites. That’s 25 years after the first website was hosted on the internet in 1991.
Google’s own blogging platform, Blogger, recorded 46 million unique visitors every month.
The number of websites has continued to balloon since. Data from Internet Live Stats shows that we’re close to the 2 billion mark (1,930,878,901 websites were online at 7:33pm, 17 November 2018) – the numbers update by the second.
These astonishing numbers only prove that blogging is still good for business and that blogging in itself is good business. This article is going to re-examine a few aspects of blogging to build your personal brand:
1. Re-introduction to Blogging
If you look at the number of websites above, you’ll quickly notice that blogs are not counted as separate. Blogs, or weblogs, are none other than a website organized in such a way that you can find contents based on a certain order of “updates”. New ones first.
They might look like any other site on the internet, with comments, social media share buttons, dates, hyperlinks, images, and so on.
To create a blog you learn how to create a website. But this does not mean that you need to become a web developer or a web designer before you can start blogging. You’ll need to learn enough to write your first blog post.
Your blogging options
Step-by-step guides will teach you how to plan, design, and code your own website. Your options are online courses, which require commitment but offers certificates, or online articles (no commitment, and no certificates). There’s plenty online, but here are some of my go-to learning resources:
- Guides: how to make a website by Site Builder Report, how to make a website from W3 School, and creating and hosting a personal site on GitHub from Jonathan McGlone.
- Online courses: a free course on how to create a website using WordPress (step-by-step) on Udemy, and how to create a website in a weekend! (project-centered course) from Coursera and the State University of New York.
- Other bloggers: a blogger or a group of them that provides free or paid guides on how to create a blog. Look for ones in your particular niche: lifestyle, coding blogs, data science, influencer, etc.
Another option is to just go ahead and start from the site builder sites, using their guides on how to create a website:
- Cargo Collective and Persona for bold, artistic sites. Read about the elements of website design from Cargo 2.
- Learn from Adobe how to create your website with Adobe Spark or Adobe Portfolio.
- Recommended: build your website with Google Sites and learn everything from their support section and the G-suite guides.
- Other site builders: Squarespace, Wix, WordPress, Blogger, etc. There’s so many of them (free or paid).
Why people blog
Bloggers are of all ages and come from all backgrounds. They blog for many reasons, whether they be personal, business, or both. It can be said that in general people are blogging to leverage on the benefits of blogging and the impacts of blogging. (Also, for extra credit and money.)
1. To be part of a community
By blogging you are becoming a part of the blogging community. Many blogs are created solely for the purpose of introducing one’s self to the digital communities. Next, you become a part of a more segmented group of people who blog, such as students who blog, academics who blog, freelancers, etc.
2. To share experiences and expertise
Bloggers share experiences through articles or other forms of blog posts: reviews of products, guides to places, restaurant recommendations, reviews of services, whatever you can think of. If you are quite fluent in browsing the web for information, you’ll share top tips on how to do online research and where to look for information.
If you’re knowledgeable in taking pictures, you’ll share tips on how to take Instagram-worthy pictures with your smartphone.
3. To share an idea
Well, not just an idea. You can share many ideas with your followers. People use their blogs to sell a product, to explain a difficult process, and they share all the nitty-gritty with their followers.
4. To advance a career or start anew
When you take your work online, you’ll help potential clients find you. Freelancers blog about why they have chosen a different career path and how they do their work. There is also the opportunity to educate potential clients about the services or products you offer and how to best work with you.
5. To keep people updated about life
You might think your boring day-to-day life is of no interest to people, and most likely you are right. But what about family members who live in different countries? Wouldn’t they be excited to learn about your new haircut? Your holiday trip? Updating your childhood friends or recent acquaintances on major life events or a new pet is just a blog post away.
6. To earn extra credit
Check with your professors if they plan to allocate extra points for blogging. Blogging for credits is a common extra assignments in some classes. Usually the topic is decided and you’ll have to meet some requirements on blog formats and content. Sometimes teachers will let you in on extra credit assignments, but other times don’t be afraid to ask or even suggest one.
The impacts of blogging
If you blog regularly and consistently, you will establish yourself as a credible writer in your topic and you’ll be seen as an expert in your chosen field. Blogging does have some positive impacts on your life:
1. You'll get to know yourself better.
During the planning stages, you’re forced to answer some fundamental questions about your strengths and weaknesses. You might even have to face your fears and anxieties before you’ll finally unfold that part of yourself you want the rest of the world to meet. You’ll learn to organize better, think better, and be more reasonable with yourself.
2. You'll find your own personal brand.
This is a very valuable process in your blogging journey. Once you’ve decided on blogging, you’ll start building your personal brand. By the end of the entire preparation stage, you will have also created the ultimate product: your personal brand.
No matter what your blog is about, be it something to do with your hobbies, your lifestyle, your financial goals, your passion, you will have a set of ideas about yourself laid out as the building blocks. There will be a set of colors, logo, and a set of visual identity for your blogging journey.
3. You'll activate your entrepreneurial side.
Having a blog forces you to think like a business person. Whether you’re writing about motherhood or just a collection of thoughts about some topic you care about, you will find that entrepreneurial side of you. You’re going to take risks and manage your brand like a real business.
2. Your Personal Brand > Your Digital Presence
While the word “personal” might suggest individuality, your personal brand is not only "you" as a private internet user. It is also not just your name, or your popular nicknames, although they can be one of your valuable brand assets.
Your personal brand is all aspect of yourself, including your professional side, your family life, your dreams, even your preferences as a consumer.
How to create your personal brand
In order to stay consistent, you will need to create a style guide for your reference. What you put inside your personal brand guide really depends on your vision and what you want to achieve with your brand. You will find different guides suggesting various personal branding steps, but here are a few constant elements:
- A brand vision. Position yourself in the world by articulating how you would like to be perceived.
- Your own set of values. Include things related to your beliefs, family values, what you want from friendships, etc.
- A visual style guide. For this you can take a look at examples from corporate brands or from other sources. My fave is this Red Fern Guidelines from the City of Sidney.
- Decide on your logo, a set of color palette, fonts, iconography, photography style, brand voice, and web elements.
- Identify what’s important for you. Your passions, your ideal traits, where you want to be, rewarding aspects of your life, your ideal career.
- Create lists. Of people that inspire, of places you want to go, of hobbies you once had, of things you collect, everything and anything related to your professional image.
A word of caution
People can fail in building a strong personal brand because they lack the skills to maintain the brand. Think interpersonal skills, communication skills (verbal and nonverbal), dressing-up skills, blogging and social media skills, and other hard skills related to the workplace. Your personal brand is not a superhero suit you only wear when Louise Lane isn’t looking. It should not be separate from who you are in real life.
3. More Than Likes: Achieving Goals
You’re aiming for a successful blog, from day one. The key to success is of course to be yourself (because everybody else is taken). But seriously, now that you have a branding guide, you can confidently reach your blogging goals.
One way to visualize your long-term goals in the short-term is to use the Tiago Forte three-level review: sort them by importance daily, weekly, and quarterly. What’s so great about looking at your goals in short-term context is you’ll be able to quickly sort the urgent from the important.
People with poor time-management skills struggle with this all the time.
All three levels
- Quarterly. Tiago suggests working on 3 main blog goals over the next 13 weeks. Do your reviews weekly and reflect on your successes and failures. What are your accomplishments? What have you achieved? What did you fail at? With this information in hand, come up with the goals for your next quarter.
- Weekly. Break it down into shorter clusters, for example 5-week periods (weeks 1-5, 6-10); one-week periods (week 1, week 2, all the way to week 13), or biweekly. Build up your goals one by one every start of the week, or during the weekend. Do the reviews weekly and prioritize on the possible.
- Daily. Make reasonable expectations. Break down your weekly goals into daily to-dos, but if you can’t don’t let it get you down. It takes some time to build a habit, so remember that you can always make it up by evaluating what you can. Just focus on what's possible.
Tracking for accountability
Everything counts. Track your achievements any way you feel comfortable. Some prefer the pen and paper method. Some use spreadsheets. Others use apps.
Here are some apps you can use to help you keep track of your goals and achievements:
- IFTTT recipes: find time-tracking recipes to measure how long you spend your time for each metric each day.
- Evernote: write them down in your note.
- Google Docs: use the sheets to document everything.
Aim for 25 to 30-minute uninterrupted work cycles with 10 to 5-minute breaks to clear your mind. You can do a lot in just 5 minutes.
4. Remind Me Again, How Do I Write a Blog Post?
Once you decide on a blogging path, it’s a good idea to find yourself a mentor to help you out when you’re stuck. There’s quite a number of bloggers out there who are helping other bloggers to start their blog right, whether by providing free resources or paid courses. Another idea is to become a part of a community forum. Find a lively one where someone is always ready to help out when you need a blogging hand, but also remember to help other bloggers.
Create a multilingual site
On WordPress.com this is still possible; the same with Blogger. You can either create your posts in two languages, tagged with different language categories, or you can add a translate button widget (the easiest way) to your otherwise English site. The third option is to use site builders with multilingual options: Voog, Squarespace, Wix, Jimdo, and many more.
Choose a blog post type
There are many different types of blog posts. Every day a lot of content is published online, on microblogging sites, on social media, and on websites. People consume all sorts of content on the internet, where at least 3.7 million search queries happen in a minute.
Some common types of blog posts
- How-tos: explain how to do something step-by-step. Explain a process, a method, troubleshooting techniques, software installations, etc.
- Listicles: collect a number of things based on interesting and helpful topics. Ex: tools for bloggers, links related to useful blogging resources, and popular data science blogs.
- Curation: curate information and present your curated list to your readers in formats such as 13 most popular blog post types, and so on.
- Reviews: share your experience and information your readers might want to know about a product. You can also review films, books, restaurants, apps, even services.
- Interviews: a question and answer session with a person or group of persons to introduce an idea, an experience, a concept.
- Series: create a series of posts on a topic. Ex: travel series, food tours, holiday series, all about blogging, etc.
- Guest post: reach out to other bloggers and publications in your niche to write for their audience. Pitch your best ideas and offer your best content.
Promote your blog
You can do this the free route or the paid route. Share your content on social media accounts, community forums, tell your friends and families (ask them to share and provide feedback), join contests, attend blogger meetups, etc. Use possible channels, such as mailing list, newsletter, and other subscriptions. You also have the option to receive help by crowdfunding your work through platforms like Patreon, Ko-fi, or Kickstarter.
Other handy blogging guides
5. Surviving the Other Half
Now you’re entering the second half, the part where you will see results. Stay true to your blogging goals and measure the success of your personal brand. It takes some time to build a habit and it will also take quite a bit of time before you will see the results. After a while, you will have built an audience for your content online and in real life.
Next comes at least three things you can do to take your blogging to the next level:
1. Make a living out of it, monetize your blog
You don’t really need to wait until the end of the first quarter before you can start monetizing your blog, but you will need the put in some effort for this. Your options are aplenty. First, you can generate passive income from your content: apply for Google AdSense, sell resources to help other bloggers, publish your own book on your blog, promote other people’s products and blog posts through affiliate marketing.
You can also work with other brands by featuring sponsored posts on your blog. With referral marketing you’ll generate income or fun perks for your blogging.
2. Build a business around it
Create your own products or sell products on your blog to earn commission. Using platforms like Etsy, Shopify, and Amazon Associates, you’ll be able to sell your own line of clothing, for example. Or artworks, photography, word arts.
If you are more into educating others, you can create online courses and videos. Sell your courses on your blog and using platforms like Teachable, Udemy, and Skillshare. You can start by helping people take their business online, start a blog, or do more with their freelancing. Link your freelance profiles to your blog and start talking about your service offerings to attract clients.
3. Transform it into a community
Engage with your readers on social media by taking advantage of things like Facebook page and Facebook groups. Get your YouTube subscribers together as a community and run contests, online events, or meetups to promote a sense of belonging.
Build a connection on a deeper level and be sure to encourage positive interactions between your community members.
We’re reached the end of this hub. I hope you have a better understanding of the state of today’s blogging after our short walkthrough. There are many reasons why people don’t blog, even though the idea has been sitting there in the back of their mind for quite a while. You can always come back to it later and act on the urge when you’re almost feeling ready.
Resources and Further Readings
- (2018) GFC Global Tutorial: Blog Basics. GFC Global.
- Gery Dek. (2018) Benefits of Blogging - Reasons You Should Start a Blog for Personal Development. Skills You Need.
- (2018) How to Start a Successful Blog (2018). Codeinwp.
- (2016) Answers to 15 of the Most Common Blogging Questions. Blog Hands.
© 2018 Lovelli Fuad