Blogging is a great way for the home office freelancer to stay connected with the world, in general, and potential clients, in particular. Blogging for your professional site is different than personal blogging. This series will address blogging topics and techniques for the home office freelancer.
Remember this: as a professional freelancer working out of a home office, the only one who knows how good you are is you. You have to market yourself and your services or potential clients will not even know that you are available. View the blog on your professional site as one of your primary marketing tools. You want to use it in three primary ways: one, for networking; two, for showcasing your skills; and three, for developing content. All three of those primary functions will help you to target and attract the kind of clients that can keep your freelancing career going strong.
First Things First: Be Professional
Every blog post that you publish has your name on it and reflects on your writing ability, your commitment to professionalism, and your quality standard. Don't get sloppy just because "it's only a blog" and you think no one will really notice. Potential clients will notice, even if it is just a minor error or misquoted source. Don't let a lazy mistake run those clients off. Make sure every post you write is focused on a particular topic and does not wander off into other topics that are not relevant. Be brief, rather than wordy. Follow standard (professional) blog post formatting: use bold font for headings, separate the material into paragraphs, and feel free to use lists, either bulleted or numbered, when appropriate. Be sure that you give full credit for any material you use that is not your own, whether audio, video, photographs, or quotes from other sources.
Use Your Blog to Network
But don't let the networking aspect of blogging consume you, and don't spend time networking with the wrong people. Remember, again, that the point of your blog is to communicate to clients, not to fellow freelancers, friends, family members, or just the random Internet surfer. Use a personal blog or be part of a blog network for that kind of communication. For the blog on your professional site, however, implement your normal social networking techniques (finding similar blogs, commenting, responding in forums, using social networking sites) to promote your blog in the Internet spaces where your potential clients are hanging out. Find the websites that are attractive to your potential clients, and create a presence for yourself there; use your blog to interact, respond, discuss relevant topics, and become part of those online conversations. Keep your posts on topic, professional, and well-written.
Use Your Blog to Showcase Your Skills
A great way to show what you have done is to take those previously published articles and quote an excerpt on your blog. Check on the rights here; if you have given full rights on your articles, you may not be able to use them at all. Usually quoting a portion is acceptable, as long as it is within certain limits. On the articles you still maintain some or all rights to, pick out a paragraph or two for a blog post. Of course, you can put the entire article up, but that's not always the best idea. First, you may run into problems with people simply copying and stealing your articles. Second, it simply isn't always necessary. Potential clients need to get a feel for what you can write, your voice, your research capability, and your writing ability. Several portions of different articles often show your abilities and diversity better than a couple of full-length articles.
You can also create summaries or bullet-point-lists of your longer articles as examples of what you have written and how you have covered particular material.
Use Your Blog to Develop Content
If you have article ideas floating around (and what writer doesn't?), your professional blog is the perfect place to begin developing those ideas and make use of them even before they become full-fledged articles. You can approach this in different ways; you can either write a post along the lines of "Articles in Development" and then write a summary and/or outline, with research possibilities, as your blog post. Or you can go ahead and begin an article and post the first few paragraphs as a sample of what a full-length article could become.
Another way to develop content is by highlighting the websites, blogs, and publications for which you have written in the past. You can provide a brief description of the publication, a brief quote from your article, and links to online content from that publication. This allows potential clients to see your writing in use and to see the people you have done business with in the past.