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Starting A Blog? Here are 5 Things You Should Know

Starting A Blog? Here are 5 Things You Should Know

Starting a blog is incredibly easy. You sign up for one of the free blogging platforms, pick a background design, and you’re up and running, right? That works just fine if you’re blogging for your friends and family, but if your goal is to build your business or your personal brand, then you have a different set of objective. These five tips will help you get a professional blog off the ground on the right foot.

1. Research The Market

When you start a business, you research your niche and make sure that you have an original position to take. When you start a blog, you do the same thing. You need to have something new to say to those who are eventually going to follow you, which they can’t find anywhere else. If your selling point is your unique perspective, be prepared for it to take some time to demonstrate that as a value. I’d recommend all newbies to read Jeff Goins post on ins and outs of basics of blogging.

You should be able to articulate the blogs that your customers will also be reading, how they are differentiated from each other, and how your blog will be differentiated from them.

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2. Decide What Your Blog’s Job Is

What is your blog going to do? Just like any other piece of content on the web, it needs to have a clear purpose that informs what you choose to post and share. A blog for a business might decide, for example, to use its blog to answer frequently asked question, share videos and photos of a product and service being used in real time, or create informational posts about the topic at hand.

Ask yourself why you want to start a blog; this is where it all begins. When a blog is being used to build a personal brand, its job is a little more fluid. Usually, you will be presenting an idealized version of yourself to the world. You will use your blog to talk about the things you’re trying to influence. Here is another good post by Ann Smarty that answers the most commonly asked questions and one of the topics is what you want to achieve with blogging.

Someone promoting a lifestyle brand might share their favorite fashion items and stories from the most recent round of designer shows, while someone who is building a career as a life coach might share organizational tips and their favorite planners.

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3. Plan Posts Ahead Of Time

When you’re deciding what your blog’s job is, brainstorm different topics that you want to talk about. Determine how often you want to post. Once a week is considered a bare minimum, and more than once a day generally is overkill.

Once you know how often you’re going to post, start building yourself an editorial calendar. Some blogging tools offer plugins that can help with this, but many people use either a paper or digital calendar. Digital is particularly helpful because you can use the “notes” section of the “event” entry to add links to thinks you want to talk about or images you plan on using.

You can also build drafts of future posts and keep a calendar of what you want to talk about when so you know what to expand on and edit. Here are some good tips from Lory Linn Smith on how to plan and come up with blog topic ideas.

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The important thing here is that you should not get caught without anything to say. By building your blog out instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, you’re building good habits that will help you successfully maintain your blog over time.

4. Build Up Content Before You Promote

Creating a new blog is exciting, and you may want to promote it the very second you have anything posted. Resist the temptation. At a bare minimum, you should have a solid About page, any FAQ pages, and four or five posts in place before you start sharing links and encouraging your friends and family to like your page. The WP Millionaire put up a good guide on standard pages all blogs should have.

Why? Because you are competing with everything else on the Internet for your customers’ attention. If you want to make an impact on their awareness, you need to have enough content available for them to look through and understand who you are. A single blog post isn’t enough to make an impression.

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5. Have A Comment Section Or Not?

A comment section used to be an absolute given, but in recent years, many popular blogs have chosen to shut down their comments sections, citing abuse and harassment occurring. While this may not be an issue when you have a handful of followers, as the numbers increase, you will need to consider what best to do. Here is a good post by Fizzle that covers the pros and cons of blog comments by listing two different opinions from popular bloggers.

If you rarely get comments, it may not be a problem at all. If you get many comments, and you see industry relevant conversations occurring in the comments, it may be best to take a careful moderation approach, but let comments exist. If you find that you regularly see abusive comments, and they aren’t adding to the conversation, just shutting off the comments might save you time.

Running a blog can be an excellent way to learn about writing for an audience, developing themes and persuasive essay writing. What tips would you offer to someone starting up their first professional blog?

Featured photo credit: marragem via flickr.com

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Margarita Hakobyan

MBA from the University of Utah

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5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

Not being able to stay productive at work is a problem that everyone runs into at some point; no matter how much you like your job, there are certain factors that prevent you from staying at maximum proficiency throughout the whole day.

A lack of productive focus at work can lead to extra stress on yourself, missed deadlines, passed opportunities, raise denial, demotion and even termination.

So, if you are someone who has trouble with your productivity, here are five effective tips on how to be productive at work:

1. Take breaks

First and foremost, it’s important for you to take regular breaks. Trying to work throughout the whole day will tire your brain, which will then cause you to doze off and think about something else.

If you keep working your brain, it will fill up and get jumbled with information—sort of like a computer hard drive. Taking a break would be like resetting your computer so that it can start afresh, or de-fragmenting the data so that all the information is in order.

This is a great thing because it allows you to solve problems you were unable to solve previously, by seeing it differently; if you are able to organize your thoughts properly, you will be able to take in new information more easily.

There have even been studies about methods of saving time and staying proficient, and taking breaks is one of the leading factors.

According to Christine Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, eating lunch away from your work area every day will greatly increase your productivity. Eating in your work area will give you the illusion that you are working, but whether you like it or not, your brain will begin to wander and think of something else and then you will be working tirelessly with no progress.

It’s important to take breaks before and during work too: if you come to work in a rush because you woke up late, your mind will not be mentally prepared for the day ahead, and you will spend the first 10 to 15 minutes trying to get organized and composed before you can actually start working.

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Instead, you should try to wake up 20 minutes earlier than the time it would take you to “just get” to work. Take that time to stare off into space and not worry about anything.

If you do this, your brain will be empty and ready for all the challenges it has coming for the next few hours.

If your employer only allows a set amount of breaks during the workday, that doesn’t mean you can’t just get up and walk around for a quick break every now and then.

Even if it’s only 5 minutes, it will refresh your brain and you will gain renewed energy to do your job.

Learn more about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

2. Pace yourself and balance your workload

One problem that most people run into is that they underestimate the amount of work they have to do, and end up doing 50% of the work in the last 20% of the time they have to do it. This is due to an issue of balancing one’s workload.

When you receive a project, or are doing a job you normally do, take some time to really plan out your work schedule.

Consider how much time it took you to do this last time; determine how you can break the project into smaller parts and which can only be accomplished on certain days, and whether anything might come up that could interfere with your plan.

All of these questions are important for starting on a project, and when answered, they will help you stay productive throughout each day.

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For example, if you needed to design a project to map out the amount of aid offered in various regions after Hurricane Sandy, you can break it up as follows:

You will need to know what organizations are offering help to begin with, how much aid those organizations gave or plan to give, which regions were hit by Sandy, and which regions suffered the greatest losses.

You start this project on a Thursday and know you have until Tuesday to gather this information.

In order to stay productive, you need to plan out your work week—now you know you can find out which organizations are involved in helping the Hurricane Sandy Victims any day since that information is online, but gathering information on the organizations may require you to call them.

Since phone calls can only be done during week days, you have to plan on gathering all of that information before the weekend comes.

That is just one example of a situation in which pre-planning your project will help you stay productive; had you researched the affected regions first, you would not have received the info on the organizations until the weekend, and may have missed your chance to call them.

That, in turn, would have wasted time you could have spent working on this project to finish it.

Knowing what you need to do, when you can do it, and how long it will take you, is important in balancing your workload and being more productive and efficient.

3. Put your work first

This is an issue that usually occurs with young people who are new to the workforce: they’re often tempted with offers to go out at midday, and then come back lost in thought and unfocused on their work-related tasks.

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While it is important to take breaks, your breaks should consist of you clearing your mind, not loading it up with other less important information—like sports.

However, that is not the only situation where you need to worry about putting your work first before all else.

In a work environment, the senior employees will oftentimes push some of their menial tasks onto the newer employees. If you fall into that category, you need to know that their work is not your work, so if you have tasks that need to be done, you need to do it first.

If you are a new employee, you must learn to say no to other people even when it means you may not be in their good graces anymore. You can help others out once your work is done, but you are paid to do your own work, not anyone else’s.

4. Don’t open your browser unless you need them

In this day and age, everyone is constantly monitoring their social network. This is a major pain point for companies, which is why many don’t allow employees to access their social networks on company workstations.

When you are at work, disconnect the internet from your phone and keep your browsers closed so you’re not tempted to log onto your social media accounts or browse any sites that are not work-related.

If you keep your browsers closed and phone tucked away, only to be used in an emergency, you will find yourself being a more productive employee right away. 

5. Try to be happy and optimistic

If you always have a negative outlook on life, you will be more distracted and less motivated to get work done, so it’s important for you to start your day off right.

This can be done by having a good breakfast or by taking time in the morning to watch one of your favorite TV shows before work.

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If you are happy, you will find yourself able to work much more productively as your mind won’t wander into worrying about something else.

Also, if you stay optimistic and keep telling yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to, the tasks will seem much less daunting and will go by much more quickly.

Take a look at more effective ways to stay positive at work:

15 Ways To Stay Positive At Work

Happiness and optimism are the keys to being a productive and happy employee.

All in all, heed the five tips above and you will find yourself being one of the most productive people at your company.

While you do not need to master them all, each and every one of them will help you become a better and more efficient employee.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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