I am often asked how I was able to “break into” the writing business. I am fortunate that I now consider myself a freelance writer who makes money writing. But this was not always the case. It’s been a process of many years, difficult struggles, and attempting several different writing projects. But when people ask me how they can do the same, I always say the same thing: start a blog.
I consider myself a life-long writer. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a journalist. I wrote for my high school and college newspapers, and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism. When I graduated college, I knew I had to join the ranks of the “real world” and get a job. I was fortunate to work in jobs within the communications field, but never as a fulltime writer.
Then in 2007, a funny thing happened to me – I had a baby and suddenly my writing floodgates opened. I had so much to say and writing was the only way I could share my feelings, frustrations, pain and happiness. I suddenly wanted my voice heard by mothers across the country and on websites that could distribute my message. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and teach them the tough lessons I was learning as a mother.
But who would listen to me? I wasn’t a published author. The majority of my writing up to this point was mainly educational marketing copy, college admission materials, and presidential speeches – all pieces without a byline attached to them. I had not published a newspaper article in many years, and none of my work was online.
So in December 2009 – knowing I had something to say and was ready to write it down – I started a simple WordPress blog called Leah’s Thoughts. I remember thinking to myself, “I’ll just start writing my stories, putting them out for the world to read, and maybe one day I can quit this job and be a professional writer.”
And for months and years, I wrote everything and anything on my blog. I shared my struggles with motherhood and balancing a full-time career. I talked about the issues I had with weight growing up. I talked candidly about my financial mistakes and how my husband and I were dealing with furloughs and pay-cuts. And I shared family traditions, holiday ideas, and other stories that came to mind.
In the summer of 2010, I published my first piece with an online website and I was stunned when I received a check in the mail for the piece. After that, I started pitching more pieces to other publications. And I started to get asked to write guest posts for other blogs. My writing was slowly, but surely, building, all the while I was writing more and more thoughts on my blog.
Then in March 2012, I took a leap of faith and left my full-time job to become my own boss. Nearly all of my work now is professional writing published with my name. And I credit my blog for much of my success.
Aside from my personal story, let me share a few solid reasons why starting a blog will eventually help you become a full-fledged writer.
- A blog is your portfolio. You will eventually have an entire website filled with written content that YOU created. You now have work samples that can be seen by other bloggers, publishers and people searching the web for content.
- Blogging makes you a better writer. Whether it’s exercising or cooking, partaking in any activity consistently for one to three times a week is bound to result in improvements. This is the same with writing. You will start to develop your own writing style and pay attention to how you are writing (not just what you write). I look back at the posts I wrote when I started my blog and what I write now and I’m amazed at how my voice has changed and the quality has improved.
- Blogs build brand identity. If you want to position yourself as an expert in your given niche – whether it’s parenting or financial planning – blogs are a great way to do this. Blog content helps you showcase your knowledge and get people coming back to learn more from you. And since Google mines websites for trending words and topics, your blog will be included in that search engine optimization process. This brings your blog – and you – front and center in search results.
- Blogging is easy and inexpensive. It’s pretty simple to start a blog. There are a variety of platforms available – WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, Tumblr, SnapPages – that are either free or have very little cost. The sites are easy to set up and have pre-created templates that do not require an HTML web programmer to create. This leaves you with the time to write and create content.
- Building an audience is easy with social media. A crucial component of blogging is the ability to share the content via social networks. Sharing your posts via Facebook, Twitter and Google+ helps you build your audience and brand. It also gives your readers a chance to share the content through their social networks, which, in turn, builds your audience and gets your name and writing exposed.
It’s been four years since I started Leah’s Thoughts. At the time I had a handful of followers (mainly mom and a few Facebook friends). But in that time, the audience has increased, my writing has improved, I’ve met other amazing writers, and I still love sharing my challenges and triumphs with the world.
So to those of you aspiring writers out there, I encourage you to start a blog and share your musings with others. You will be surprised at how much you will learn about yourself and how quickly an audience will form if you are consistent and honest with your writing. Words are some of the most powerful tools we humans have. Start using those tools, and share your words for the world to read.