You’re a superhero, flying through the sites and blogs of the internet, saving readers from bland writing and boring content. Maybe you even wear your underwear on the outside of your pants. Either way, I salute you.
While you (hopefully) won’t be striking fear into anyone’s heart, you need to step up and claim your identity. To become something more than the average. Even Bane knew this.
No one cared who I was until I put on the mask.” – Bane
When Batman puts his mask on, he doesn’t sit around eating shawarma; he goes out and kicks criminal booty, and he doesn’t apologise for it.
When you’re a freelance blogger, it’s not a hobby. No more random posts about why your cat is the best in the world (even if it is), or how you can’t believe that Whatshisface got voted off Celebrity Budgie Smuggler. If you must write those hobby-posts, save them for your personal blog.
When you put on your Super Freelance Blogger mask, there’s no room for fluff. You write top quality content, and you don’t apologise for it.
Every Pitchfest at BAFB requires that participants explain why their post is suitable for the site, and why they’re qualified to write it. That’s because it’s important to have that clear from the very start. Even if your client never asks, you need to know the answer. Otherwise, your lack of confidence will stand out in the post.
No ‘in my opinion’ or ‘I could be wrong, but’… You’re a professional. If you don’t know what you’re writing about, you research until you do. Be the blogger they deserve and need.
Superhero Mission: For your next pitch, make the value for the audience clear, and why you’re qualified to write it.
Bat-tip #2: Failure to plan is planning to fail
Batman may be an expert detective and martial artist, with more tools on his utility belt than a Swiss army, but he doesn’t have superpowers. When he takes on super villains (or even Superman), he doesn’t charge in, fists flailing. He comes with a plan.
As a freelance blogger, you can’t just jump in without any thought and expect positive results.
Let’s be straight: it’s going to be hard to convince someone you can blog for them if you have no published examples of your work. At the same time, you don’t want to cram your website with any pointless pages or widgets. Make sure your website is professional, and that every page, post and line serve a purpose. For a head start, check out Alicia Rades’ post on 5 Simple Tweaks That Put the Bang Into Your Writer Website.
The planning doesn’t stop there. Whereas most entries for the BAFB Pitchfest are professional, you always get the odd one that hasn’t read the guidelines. At all.
Don’t be one of those guys. Carefully study any guidelines, along with the posts already on the site. Then plan your pitch accordingly. Then, for that superhero knockout, use that pitch to plan your post, making sure the final product ticks all the required boxes.
Superhero Mission: Make sure you’ve planned out your website, pitches and posts, so that they hit the target.
Bat-tip #3: Keep to the code
He may not be a boy scout, but the Dark Knight has a code that he keeps to, a line he would never cross.
It’s time to think about your standards. As a freelance blogger, are you willing to send out some mistake-ridden work if you think you can get away with it for quick cash?
It can be tempting, when you’re desperate for money and the work’s piling up. You look at the first draft, and figure it’s good enough. Here’s a hint: Just good enough is never good enough.
When a post gets published, it may have your name on it. It’ll be on your clients blog. If it’s not in the best condition it can be, it looks bad for both you and your client. Two things can happen:
Your editor notices, and you have to do a rewrite anyway. But now your editor’s annoyed.
Or, even worse, the editor lets it through. Now it’s up on their site, with your name attached to it. You look bad, your client looks bad, and the readers will disappear, disappointed.
Always re-draft and edit your posts. I don’t care how amazing it is, you owe it to yourself and your editor to give it that second (and third) run-through.
Personally, I go over a post multiple times, checking:
It meets the guidelines.
I’ve addressed all the points I needed.
There are no needless words.
Spelling and grammar are correct and appropriate.
When you submit your post, it should be in the best condition it can be. But this doesn’t mean perfect. If you wait for a post to be perfect, you’ll never submit it, and you’ll wind up picking the post to pieces. Finding the right balance is an art, and one that only comes from practice.
Commit to a code of practice, and make sure the standard of your work is as high as possible. This will make sure you’re still getting work years from now, rather than just today.
Superhero Mission: Make sure when you send your post to the editor that you’ve reviewed it against the client’s guidelines, spelling, grammar, and given it a heroic extra polish.
Super-tip #1: Forget your mask
Yes, yes; I know what Bats said — and he’s right. But Superman’s different. When it’s time to fight crime, he takes his mask off.
The best blogs (and the best blog posts) win readers over with genuine character and personality. Sure, you want to be a superhero, but you still have to let the real you shine through.
My favourite example of a blogger with real voice is Karen Marston, over at Untamed Writing. Her tone and style are unmistakable, and along with the buckets of attitude comes a genuine sincerity.
At school we’re taught to write academically, and it’s easy to carry on that way. We perfected posh, correctly structured, bore-you-to-tears sentences. Sure, some people may read blog posts simply to stay informed. But even if you’re blogging on the paint-drying championships, there’s no need to make it boring. Put some personality in there!
Now, I’m not saying you have to write exactly like Sophie or Karen. In fact, I’m saying the opposite. You have to find your own writing voice. It’s so easy to write in a way that emulates our blogging heroes, but unfortunately, if it’s not your own voice, your style will end up inconsistent and insincere. Inject some of yourself into it. Your editors and readers will thank you.
Superhero Mission: After you finish your next post, read it out loud. Imagine you were talking to a friend. If you sound more like a lecturer, then rewrite it in your conversational style.
Super-tip #2: Watch out for kryptonite
Supes may be able to shoot lasers out of his eyes and reverse time by flying around the world really really fast, but bring out the green stuff and he’s powerless. Do you know what your strengths and weaknesses are?
When you’re looking for sites to pitch to, consider the subject matter. Is it something that plays to your strengths? This doesn’t mean you have to be an expert on the subject. Research is part of the job, and a newbie’s perspective can lead to original and unique tangents. Rather, consider if you can give the subject your best. Can you be enthusiastic? If not, you’ll only be wasting your time.
I’m one of those guys who has a million hobbies and find most things interesting. Maybe you’re the same. But if just looking at the subject leaves you feeling weak and lifeless, then you’ve found your kryptonite.
If your client has a minimum word count that you know you could only hit with padding, it’s kryptonite. If the site’s ethos runs counter to your own, guess what? Kryptonite.
Please, don’t think I mean you should give up whenever the going gets tough. We all face obstacles, every day. Just make sure you’re picking the right battles. Life’s too short to be battling kryptonite all the time.
Superhero Mission: Review your next pitch. Do you feel happy and enthusiastic about it? Do you agree with the site it’s for? If so, great! If not, work out why, and if necessary, move on.
Super-tip #3: Collaborate
I know Batman will agree with me on this one, but even the Man of Steel needs a team. You never know when the Justice League or a nosy journalist is going to come in handy.
As a freelance blogger, you’ll find life a lot easier with a support team behind you. How do you go about building your very own super-network?
Well, you’re off to a great start. Along with regular posts that can help you get started or take your game to the next level, BAFB also has a forum full of friendly, clever folk who are happy to help you out.
In addition, I highly recommend finding a good mentor. Both Sophie and Lauren offer coaching services, which offer a great chance to learn from someone who does this freelance blogging thing for a living.
Even if you’re not in a position to hire a coach, it’s worthwhile finding bloggers you admire, then paying attention when they talk. Whenever they post, podcast, tweet or send smoke signals, you can learn a lot from the right person. Look for people who have walked the walk; talkers are a drachma a dozen.
Sure, you can figure out this whole freelance blogging thing on your own, but you can save a lot of time if you listen to those who’ve been where you are. But more than just advice and guidance, a good network gives you a place to share your successes, or a shoulder to cry on when things aren’t going so well. Even superheroes need high-fives and hugs!
Superhero Mission: Find yourself a good forum and mentor to follow, then make use of them to the full!
Whether you’re into masks and spandex or not, you can be a superhero, with superpowers of your own.
You can entertain and inform millions of people, giving them knowledge, inspiration, or maybe just a smile.