Sometimes, when I tell people that I blog for a living, they roll their eyes. "That's so easy," they say. "You get a paycheck for sitting on the internet all day and writing. A monkey could do your job!"
That's when I roll my eyes. See, people are quick to deem blogging as a no-brainer job ... but when they actually sit down to write their first couple of posts, it hits them: This is way harder than I thought. Like any person starting a new job, they mess things up.
It's okay -- it happens to pretty much every new blogger. Luckily, it's pretty easy to avoid these roadblocks if you know they're coming.
So for all of you beginner bloggers out there who are looking to get up-to-speed quickly, keep on reading. Below are the eight most common mistakes most beginners make and some tips on how to avoid them.
Mistake 1: You think of ideas in a vacuum.
When you start blogging, ideas will come to you at random times -- in the shower, on a run, while on the phone with your mom. While the ideas may come at random moments, the ideas themselves should never be random. Just because it's a good idea in general doesn't mean it's a good idea for your company.
Solution: Your blog posts should all serve larger company goals.
The reason you're blogging is to grow your business, so all of your blog post ideas should help serve those growth goals. They should have natural tie-ins to issues in your industry and address specific questions and concerns your prospects have.
Need help figuring out what those goals are and how to address them? Chat with your manager about the larger company goals, then schedule a meeting with someone in Sales to hear what questions they get asked most often. After both meetings, you should know which goals you need to achieve and have some ideas on how to achieve them.
Mistake 2: Your writing is too stiff.
Writing a blog post is much different than writing a term paper -- but when bloggers first start out, they usually only have experience with the latter. But that's not the style of writing people enjoy reading.
Solution: Write like you talk.
It's okay to be more conversational in your writing -- in fact, we encourage it. The more approachable your writing is, the more people will enjoy reading it. People want to feel like they're doing business with real people, not robots.
So loosen up your writing. Throw in contractions. Get rid of the jargon. Make a pun or two. That's how real people talk -- and that's what real people like to read.
Need help loosening up? Try literally talking out your blog posts using Evernote, and then cleaning it up a bit in the editing stage. Sounds kind of backwards, but it could help you get unstuck from boring business babble.
Mistake 3: You think people care about you as a writer.
It sounds harsh, but it's true. When people first start out blogging, they think that their audience will be inherently interested in their stories and their interests ... but that's not the case. It's no knock against them as a person -- it's just that when you're new, no one is interested in you and your experiences. People care way more about what you can teach them.
Solution: Show your personality, don't tell it.
Even though people don't really care that it's you that's writing the post, you can infuse parts of your personality in your writing to make them feel more comfortable with you. How you do that is entirely up to you. Some people like to crack jokes, some like to make pop culture references, and others have a way with vivid descriptions. You could do any of those things, or something entirely different.
Mistake 4: Your topics are too broad.
When people start writing, they generally want to write on really big topics like:
- "How to Do Social Media Marketing"
- "Business Best Practices"
- "How to Make Money on the Internet"
Topics like these are far too broad. Because there are so many details and nuances in these topics, it's really hard to do a good job answering them. Instead, you've got to get really specific.
Solution: Create very specific working titles.
Nailing really specific topics is crucial to knocking your first few posts out of the park. My colleague Corey Eridon wrote a fabulous post on how to do that: Go read it, now. Seriously. She'll tell you how to pick a topic that works for business blogs, and walk you through the process of narrowing it into a working title.
The working title isn't final -- it's just a concrete angle you can use to keep your writing on track. Once you nail those two things, it's much easier to write blog posts.
Mistake 5: Your writing is a brain dump.
Sometimes when I get a great idea I'm excited about, it's really tempting to just sit down and let it flow out of me. But what I get is usually a sub-par blog post.
Why? The stream-of-consciousness style of writing isn't really a good style for blog posts. Most people are going to scan your blog posts, not read them, so it needs to be organized really well for that to happen.
Solution: Use an outline.
Seriously, it makes all the difference. If you put in the time up front to organize your thoughts and create a logical flow in your post, the rest becomes easy -- you're basically just filling in the blanks.
Need help writing a blog post outline? Check out this quick tutorial.
Mistake 6: Your content borders on plagiarism.
Plagiarism didn't work in school, and it certainly doesn't work on your company's blog ... but for some reason, lots of beginner bloggers think they can get away with the old copy-and-paste technique.
But you can't. Editors and readers can usually tell when something's been copied from somewhere else. Your voice suddenly doesn't sound like you, or maybe there are a few words in there that are incorrectly used. It just sounds ... off.
Plus, if you get caught stealing other people's content, you could get your site penalized by Google -- which could be a big blow to your company blog's organic growth.
Solution: Learn how to cite others.
Instead, take a few minutes to understand how to cite other people's content in your blog posts. It's not super complicated, but it's an essential thing to learn when you're first starting out.
Mistake 7: You think you're done once the writing's done.
Most people make the mistake of not editing their writing. It sounded so fluid in their head when they were writing that it must be great to read ... right?
Nope -- it still needs editing. And maybe a lot of it.
Solution: Take 30 minutes to edit your piece.
Everyone needs to edit their writing -- even the most experienced writers. Most times, our first drafts aren't all that great.
So take the time you need to shape up your post. Fix typos, run-on sentences, and accidental its/it's mistakes. Make sure your story flows just as well as it did in your outline.
If you need a checklist to help you remember all the crucial parts of editing, check this out. It's a godsend for those of us with shoddy memories.
Mistake 8: You focus on getting it perfect.
I hate to break it to you, but your blog post is never going to be perfect. Ever.
There will always be more things you can do to make your posts better. More images. Better phrasing. Wittier jokes. The best writers I know know when to stop obsessing and just hit publish.
Solution: At a certain point, you need to ship the post.
There is a point at which there are diminishing returns for getting closer to "perfect" -- and you're really never going to reach "perfect" anyway. So while you don't want to publish a post filled with factual inaccuracies and grammatical errors, it's not the end of the world if a typo slips through. It most likely won't affect how many views and leads it brings in.
Plus, if you (or your readers) find the mistake, all of you have to do is update the post. No biggie.
So give yourself a break once and a while -- perfect is the enemy of done.