How to connect with bloggers in your niche

First of all, I want to apologise for using the word, ‘niche’ in a heading! Getting a bit jargon-y there!  A niche is simply a narrowed-down subject that you like to blog about. The narrower the better if you really want to know your subject well.

Red-and-white-heart-connected

I have just read the blogging challenge email where Sarah Arrow encourages us to connect with bloggers who do the same sort of thing that we do and comment on their blogs, helping their visibility and ours. I already knew this, but I had forgotten it. Long ago, before Linked-In and Pinterest came along, the first thing that came up when I searched my name on Google, would be comments that I had made on blogs. I just checked today and on page 4 my name comes up linked to comments that I have previously made on blogs – the oldest of which was in 2010 when I was just starting out!

So comments on blogs can hang around for a long time, especially on high-ranking blogs. It is worth doing as long as you are happy with your comments.

I love finding bloggers to connect with in the things that I do. But how can you find people to connect with? And when you do, how do you connect?

Ask a question

If you have any burning questions, then ask them on Google and quite often bloggers who have answered those questions will come back. You can then check out their websites and look around. You may also want to see how well they answer the question as it will help you to see what their knowledge and experience is like.

Search hashtags

You can use hashtags to search on Twitter and Instagram, and even Facebook as hashtags are used there. Look for keywords that link to what you do and see what links the hashtags bring back. Twitter is a great place to connect with other writers and you can get to know people through hashtag hours as quite often the same people show up to chat.

Search keywords

Intentionally searching for people starts with keywords. The bloggers that come back are worth checking out. Again, look around the website and see what kind of information they offer. They may offer free ebooks for signing up to their mailing list or courses. I have to say that I am normally turned off by hyper-spammy websites – the kind where an advertising pop-up follows you down the page like a dog! I normally close those straight away and never go back! However occasionally you find an amazing website that’s full of useful information and those are worth bookmarking.

Facebook groups

Finding and joining Facebook groups that link to what you do is a great way to connect with other people. They can also be the most helpful in terms of giving advice and help to other people. Not all groups are public and you may need to apply to join and even answer a question or two. Of course you could start your own Facebook group too.

Blogging Challenge

Doing the 30 day blogging challenge with Sarah & Kevin Arrow is one of the best ways I know to find some like-minded people and connect with them. You are not necessarily writing about the same things, but that means you get to learn more and enjoy meeting people online. You also get to read some blogs that you might otherwise not have read. 

Other Challenges

Other blogs offer other challenges which can be just as useful. It’s worth searching out challenges to take once in a while. Pushing ourselves brings growth and change.

How to Connect

When you find a blogger that you like, how should you connect with them?

You can try a number of things:

Interview them (I interviewed Sarah Arrow for my blog once) and write up as a blog post

Comment on their blog post (if allowed)

Bookmark the website and come back to it

Even better subscribe to their feed and their email list

Follow on Twitter

Take their challenge

Join their Facebook group

Just one word of warning: try the things that seem right to you, but don’t do it all at once. You’re trying to make friends, not scare them off!

How do you get to know other bloggers online? Comment below and let me know.

Share

10 tips to working from home when you’re used to being in the office

Many people are finding themselves working from home for the first time in a long time, or even ever! Adjusting to this situation, which has occurred very quickly could take some work. The children may be home from school and your partner may also be around more. There could be a lot of distractions, but you’ve still got to get work done. As someone who has been working from home for a while, here are some tips to being able to effectively work from home.

Laptop, coffee and cake on a duvet work from home

Set up a workstation. This may seem simple – but you need a chair that you can sit in comfortably, a good internet connection and a big enough screen so that you can see your work. It is best if you can find a space where no one else is, so that you can take telephone calls and conference calls.

You may also need to find a different space so that everyone can work. It is still best to supervise children while they use the internet. They should have work set for them, but it won’t take up the whole day.

Stick to Work Hours

Decide on your work hours. These do not have to be the same as your normal hours, as long as you can fit your work in. You need to take work calls into account, but allow yourself time to get away from the keyboard in the middle of the day.

Stick to your work hours. Once you start answering emails at 10pm at night, then there’s no going back! Well, there is, but it’s best not to start.

Make time for your loved ones too. Make sure you have time to connect with them and spend time with them. Equally, don’t let go of your work friends. Find some time together to chat or you could spend time in a team chatroom over lunch.

Ignore the Housework

Ignore the housework that is calling to you. Do it at the time that you normally would.

Make time for exercise. This might be pedalling an exercise bike, following a YouTube exercise video or going out for a walk in isolation. You really need at least 15-30 minutes of exercise every day.

Make time to connect and spend time with the children if you have any. If your children have just finished their school term, it could be a very strange and confusing time. Encourage them to get their school work done, but also to have down time and be more creative.

Take time away from the Screen

Give yourself some time away from the screen. Dig out the board games or even have a conversation so that you’re not constantly staring at a brightly lit screen. Get out in the garden if you have one or take a socially distanced walk.

Take advantage of the shows and concerts being live-streamed at the moment. Look for things that you would enjoy and make time to watch them.

Take time to be creative yourself and do something you enjoy.

Have you got any tips for someone working from home for the first time? Share them below.

Share

Sunday Church Children’s Talk

Today, I have been promoting my Sunday Church children’s talk.

I was due to lead an all-age worship service for the baptist church I attend, but it was decided fairly early on that it would move online. With my daughter’s help, I recorded both a children’s talk and a sermon bit.

 

I offer this as a piece of vlog! Enjoy.

Share

Blogs Interrupted

UK March 2020

Day 14 30 Day Blogging Challenge

Things have gone quiet round here. I’m still hoping to publish 30 blogs, but not in 30 days. The world seems to have gone mad: university students are being sent home, IT people are being told to work from home, schools are shutting and everyone is being told to stay home. I can’t think of anything to compare it to in my lifetime and I don’t think I will again.

The good news is that we have the internet to keep us sane. One of the consequences of the direction of non-essential gatherings is that churches are unable to meet. I was about to do an all-age service on Sunday. You know when I chickened out of doing a vlog post? Looks like I will be doing one after all – for my church!

So how do you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs?

Find the positive.

Thankfully, my children are old enough not to need supervision, although my son might if he is to do the work that the school sets. My daughter, the university student is coming home at the weekend and may not pay the third instalment of her accommodation. But what if your child is of the age where they are meant to be doing GCSEs? Or your children are too young to be able to be left?  Hopefully solutions can be found. Everyone’s situation is different and we will all have to find our own solutions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people – everyone has got a similar problem.

Allow yourself to be overwhelmed

I know, it’s hard, but sometimes you just have to feel the emotions in order to get past them. Then you can pick yourself up and find a way through.

Social distancing, not social isolation

These two things are very different. We need social distancing – to stay 1-2m apart to prevent the coronavirus spreading. In China, there were lots of clusters where family members from the same household all caught it. Finding ways to be apart while being together is going to be a crucial part of this time. No one wants to be socially isolated. Those online communities are going to matter more than ever.

Money matters

If this time is going to leave you financially worse off, then reach out to the people who can help sooner rather than later. Contact your bank, talk to the people you owe money too and make sure you take full advantage of any help the Government is offering, even if it is a loan. Businesses that were profitable before this virus will be profitable again after it. Take all the help you can get and make sure that you have money coming in.

Mental health matters

Do look after yourself and your mental health. Stay healthy, get some exercise, eat your 5-a-day fresh fruit and vegetables. Find some hobbies to do that can help you – knitting and crochet, painting or even journalling. There are lots of companies about to offer deliveries online – take advantage.

How do you plan to sit out the current situation in the UK or where you are? Keep in touch via the comments below.

Share

Secrets of Stronger Fiction – more realistic bad guy/girl

Please note there are some spoilers in this blog post in the interest of creating stronger fiction.

Many adult stories do not contain a definitive bad guy.girl. In many children’s stories you will find a baddie character – someone who sees it as their life goal to thwart the main character and make their life difficult. Sometimes that evil character is just out-and-out bad, but sometimes, they are more morally ambiguous. This makes for stronger fiction.

Harry Potter series

For example, in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, the evil-doers are evident from the start. Even the reluctance to name him (he-who-should-not-be-named) points to the fact that Voldemort is not someone that you would like to be best friends with. Some of the other characters who support him are not so clear cut (and some are!). Draco Malfoy, for example, hates Harry with a loathing and the feeling is mutual. Draco tries to kill Dumbledore and this reinforces that he is evil. However at the end of the books, Draco is rather a pathetic figure who has been damaged by the evil that he has done. Dorothy Umbridge, however is definitely evil, but Professor Snape is eventually revealed to have been working for the good forces, for all he disliked Harry.

Of all the characters in Harry Potter that appear to be evil, Snape is the most interesting. At the start he is always there to catch Harry out, his allegiance as head of the house of Slytherin gives him a vested interest in taking points off Harry and therefore Gryffindor, his rival. But as more of Snape’s story is known: his closeness to Harry’s mother Lily at one point and how he felt when Janes and Lily got together gives the reader a sympathy for him by the time of his last scene.

Matilda

The best stories have a mix of characters including those who are borderline. Matilda by Roald Dahl has a very definite bad gal in Miss Trunchbull, the angry headmistress who hates children. Miss Trunchbull is tall and broad and uses her size to intimidate both the children and teachers. Everyone that is except for Matilda. Matilda is able to use her new powers to scare Miss Trunchbull and protect her friends. But while the headteacher is a very obvious evil person, less so are Matilda’s parents. These two people are self-centred and not above indulging in criminal activity. They don’t seem to care very much for their daughter and even less for her schooling. They are not as vicious as Miss Trunchbull, but because they ignore Matilda instead of chucking her in the chokey, does that make them any better?

Matilda knows her parents’ failings and they do not seem to affect her, but neglect could be a very serious thing for her. Thankfully she has met Miss Honey who is prepared to take her on and love her.

Artemis Fowl

The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer introduces a character who self-identifies as a criminal mastermind, or at the very least an anti-hero. He aims to steal to further his own ends, but finds himself in trouble when stealing from fairies, more specifically a police fairy known as Holly Short. Artemis may have started out as evil (how can you help it after being named Artemis), but he fairly quickly finds himself being forced to do the right thing. Throughout the series of books, he finds himself involved in a number of scary escapades, but usually on the right side of the fairy police. Incidentally, the books introduce Opal Koboi, a narcissistic pixie who is capable of far more evil actions than Artemis, himself.

Which characters are your favourite bad guys/gals and why?

Share

Is there ever a time when a freelancer should work for free?

I came across a job website tonight and read their information on becoming a freelancer. I was shocked to see that they advocated taking a first job and doing the work for free. I am a firm believer that at no point should a freelancer ever work for free. Nor do I believe that they should sell their skills cheaply.

When you are just starting out, it is tempting to take any offer of work that is going, so that you can add to your portfolio and have something to show other prospective clients, but I still think that you should expect to charge for your work.

There is a process of thought that suggests that early-stage freelancers should take work in order to prove themselves. They should take low-paying or free work until they can work themselves up to a more reasonable level of compensation. There are several reasons why this is unacceptable:

Freelancers have to pay bills like everyone else

Taking low-paying work can make you feel as though it is all you are good for

You have to have a certain level of competency to even consider going freelance. Why should you sell it cheaply?

I’m a start-up, will you work for free?

Then there are the people who advertise jobs who usually suggest that as they are a start-up, they cannot currently afford to pay someone to do the work. They usually dangle the offer of more, paid work down the line. But there are some problems with that:

If they can’t afford to pay someone, then why are they starting up a business? Surely if they have no money for it, it will be doomed to fail.

The promised paid-for work rarely materialises or when it does, the pay is not worth the effort

Consider this:

The time that you spend working on something for free, is time that you can never get back.

Does that make it more valuable?

Or

The time that you have offered for free, could be used to market yourself to find a paying customer

Or

Will the product that you have created for free be used to bring this client money?

Then you deserve some compensation for it.

When you start up as a freelancer, it is advisable to work out how many billable hours you can find for your job. That is, the amount of time that you have available to work for clients. Once you have that number, you can use it to do a number of things.

You will need to set aside some time to market your business. This includes writing for your own website, creating products for your own website and running your own social media (without getting sidetracked on Facebook).

You will need some time to do the administration of your business – invoicing and chasing payments.

You will need time for clients.

If you give up some of your time for free, then you are taking some time away from your business. Even if you are a brand new freelancer, you have chosen this path because you believe that you are good at what you do and that you can bring some skills to the table. Your skills deserve a decent reward.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Have you ever worked for free? If so, then do comment below. Did more work materialise? Do you agree with me that freelancers should not work for free? Please comment below.

Share

Freelancer Friday – What makes a readable blog post?

30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 5

Blog post visitors are tricky beasts! We are told that we have a very short time in which to grab their attention and persuade them to stay on the blog. How can you ensure that your blog visitors might be tempted to stay? When you are a freelancer, it can be even more important – you rely on your blog to showcase your talents and your business.

Aim the subject towards your readership. It’s no good blogging about upholstery if your audience is here to learn about freelancing. Freelancer, make the subject relevant to your intended audience and even more important, use relevant images too.

 

Images

Pick your images for the impact that they will make, as well as their relevance to the blog post. I look for either bright colourful images that are not too distant or too fuzzy for the size that I need them, or distinctive black and white images can work well too. Either way, the subject needs to be clear and the background works with the picture rather than against it. I always think that the pictures you choose are individual to you and really enhance your post.

Paragraphs

Break your blog post into smaller chunks or paragraphs. When you change the subject, change the paragraph. Keep the paragraphs short and don’t use too many connectives – better to have short clear sentences. You can also divide your blog post up, using subheadings which help your reader to have a clearer idea of what the blog post is about.

Don’t worry too much about a ‘tidy’ blog post at the point of first draft. It is more important to get your thoughts and feelings on the page and shape the post. Once you have said what you want to say, then you can go back over it and polish it.

How long should your blog post be?

Blog posts are tending towards the longer end at the moment: lengths of 1,000 words or more are not uncommon. This is due to the super power of a long blog post to keep you on the page for longer (which is a Good Thing according to Google). This is wonderful for the more wordy among us, but I’ve always found that my blog posts find their own length – they just seem right when they’re done.

By the way, if you can tie blog posts together and do a series, so much the better. Hopefully you can keep bringing back your visitors for more.

Finding your voice

The most interesting blog posts for me are ones where you can hear the author’s voice. For example, I can usually hear Sarah Arrow’s voice reading her blog posts and anyone who knows her would probably do the same. My voice is not so well known, but when I use anecdotes from my life, I am at my most real. I would also say that this can be quite scary to do. Don’t be afraid to change names and make people unrecognisable to themselves, but a little storytelling can help a blog to change from a so-so blog to a post that people will remember and may come back to read again.

Finally, find time to post! You are a fine one to talk, I hear you say to me and you are right. I have been guilty of not finding time to post to my blog. I am making up for it with 30 days of blog penance and I am enjoying it – so far. Finding a rhythm and time to post ensures that when that client comes across your blog, it doesn’t look like a ghost town. You want to be present in your blog and that can only happen when you post.

So enjoy your time on the blogging challenge and keep going!

What tips do you have for making your blog readable? Please share in the comments below.

Share

Freelance Writing: 12 Ways to Promote Your Blog Post

Producing a piece of writing for a client who has commissioned freelance services from you, or for  your own website should be a regular job because of the information and interest it offers to potential customers. However it is not enough to just write articles and web content, you also need to promote it, so that you will attract attention, readers and therefore possible clients or customers to your website. Offering blog and website promotion alongside blog and article writing enables the writer to offer a whole new set of skills to attract clients.

Here are 12 ways that you can promote a new blog post:

  1. Post to social media. Rewrite the headline of your blog post to your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In and any other social media that you have for your business. You can also promote your content on Pinterest and Instagram. Sum up your headline and add a link and a picture for the most interest. Schedule your blog post promotion to run regularly alongside other interesting relevant content.
  2. Share on your personal social media profiles and tag anyone who you think might be interested
  3. Share your blog post on relevant #hours on Twitter. A useful tool is to know when your local #hour is on. Examples might include #Brumhour, #Worcestershirehour and #Malvernhour. These time slots offer the chance to promote your business, which if you include the tag, will then be retweeted to other followers of the tag. These are particularly good for freelance businesses.
  4. Tag possible infested parties when using social media
  5. Leave an interesting and relevant comment on blogs that link to your business. Some blogs allow links back to your website in your name. Blogs that have a high ranking in search engines can return on keyword results for a long time after you left the comment. Make sure that the subject of the blog post you are commenting on is linked to the one that you are promoting.
  6. Answer relevant questions on business forums, Linked-In groups or Facebook groups
  7. Add a relevant post to Linked-In for people to like and comment on
  8. Join Sarah Arrow’s 30 day blog writing challenge – there are normally a number of people doing it at once and it brings a number of blog readers with it. Of course you need to read and comment on other people’s blogs too. By the way, it costs just £1 to join!
  9. Find some groups on Facebook who might be interested in what you are writing about and promote your blog post to them
  10. When approaching potential freelance clients, include a link to your website and invite them to comment on the subject
  11. Include the blog post in a newsletter to your clients on your email list
  12. Include a link to your website on your CV, so that potential clients can check out your writing

Promoting your newly written blog post will help you to increase its readership and help to reach out to clients that you are hoping to freelance for.

What has worked for you?

Share

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – should you write for free?

Actually, there is such a thing as a free lunch! My church put on a free lunch on the first Saturday of every month. They offer soup, fresh crusty bread and cakes, and it is very popular. Some of the homeless people in the town are waiting eagerly outside, at 12 pm, ready to come and eat and stay until the end, at 2. I have known people who are struggling, who are down on their luck, or just not making ends meet that month, come and enjoy a free hot meal. Not even a collection is taken – it is completely free.

However, when you are setting out as a writer, where do you find opportunities to write, if not for free? There are job ads everywhere, offering internships, voluntary positions, or even, the old chestnut, more paid work will be along soon! How do you know whether this is a position that will give you good experience and bring along better things, or whether you are just being taken advantage of? Here are three opportunities, where you might consider offering your services for free, and three where you would be well-advised to stay clear.

Take it!

  1. A local charity is looking for someone to help with writing some articles for the magazine. It is a subject that you know something about, and you would like to write more about. Yes – especially if you are looking for some clips for a portfolio. This kind of thing is fine, especially for smaller, local charities. The only time I would be hesitant, would be if this were for a charity that could afford to pay. Also, make it clear that it would take second place to paid work, and limit how much you produce for them.
  2. A friend is starting up a business and wants to set up a website. They are looking for help to put content together. You agree to write some pages for them, if you can link to their website on your portfolio. Yes – but with provisos! Not everyone chooses to work with friends – it can be a fast way to lose a friendship! Decide on the scope of the work before you start – how many articles, and know how long it is going to take you. Again, free work should only be done after paid work is done.
  3. You decide to join an article-writing website. The article titles are chosen by you, so you can write about what you want, and the website puts advertising on your articles. You can collect the money for the advertising, once it reaches a certain amount. Your articles are passed by an editor before being published. Again – a qualified yes! This is something that I did, when just starting out. I liked the idea that the article had to be passed by an editor, so that meant it had to pass certain style guides. It taught me how to write a headline and how to write for the web. I made a little money out of it – but don’t expect to get seriously rich from this kind of set up! Also do some research before joining such a website – some are better regarded than others. It’s best to check out reviews first.

Don’t Touch it!

  1. A company posts on a job board, looking for writers. They suggest that the opportunity will be great exposure and experience for a writer – but they can’t afford to pay yet. They say that there may be payment somewhere down the line… no! The problem is, that you don’t know the person and you have no idea about their circumstances. They may be telling the truth, but they may not. Stay clear or be taken advantage of!
  2. You are emailed by a person you don’t know, out of the blue. They offer minimal compensation, but ask for a free trial of your writing to check whether you are up to the right standard. Not recommended! If they receive enough writers willing to do a free trial – will they need to pay at all? They may have emailed you, but you have no guarantee that this work is going to be worth your while. I have occasionally sent over a trial piece – but on the understanding that if they want to use it, I want to be paid for it!
  3. You offer an article to a publication that pay for print and online pieces. Their reply tells you that they won’t be paying you because your piece will published as a blog post. You are a new writer, looking for clips – what do you do? This happened to an experienced freelancer who pulled the piece rather than give this publication free work. They would not have offered the work if they had thought that they would not be paid. This feels like a scam – and you should value your work too much to be taken in by it. If something doesn’t feel right – then walk away. There will be other opportunities.
Share

7 retro blog posts you might like to check out

7 retro blog posts

When you’ve put a lot of effort into writing your blog posts, it can be difficult to lose them off the top page and awkward for visitors to your page to find and read them, unless of course, they found them through searching a specific topic in Google. So it is good to occasionally write a blog post review to search through your blog and find some of the highlights that may enjoy seeing the light of day again.

I have enjoyed searching through my blog and finding some of my highlights from recent years. Many of these were from a 30 day blogging challenge I undertook in 2016. Definitely think it’s time for another one!

  1. Great Hero Character Names

In this blog post, I wrote about some of my favourite character names in novels and why I liked them.

2. My Top 10 Fictional Villains

What is a hero without a villain to try to foil them? These are some of my favourite villains, but I know there are many more.

3. Writing Prompts, Story, part 1 and Story part 2, and Editing a Story

I’m cheating here – there are actually 4 blog posts in one go: writing prompts and parts 1 and 2 of a story. I had fun creating this. Then I wrote a further blog post, explaining how I might edit the story, having read it back and analysed what I had written.

4. Procrastination and the Writer

This blog post was one of the most popular on my blog at one point. I think it chimes with most people who want to be writers.

5. 30 Ways to find Blog Post Ideas

For those days when procrastination is at its highest…

6. Six Girl BFFs in Fiction

I love a story with a really good girl BFF in it and here are some of my favourites.

7. Ten of the Best Bromances in Fiction

You can’t leave the boys out! Here my top ten bromances in fiction too.

Share