Someone once asked me, “How do I become a blogger?”
“Simple,” I wrote back, “Raise your hands over your head, and shout to the heavens, ‘I. Am. A BLOGGER!!‘ And then you are one.”
It really is that easy to become a blogger. Truly anyone can do it. You just need some basic software, and know how to type. After that, you’re good to go.
But becoming a professional blogger is a whole different matter. Here are 5 tips to becoming an actual professional word slinger.
Make sure you define what you mean by “professional”.
There are two types of professional blogger: the person who makes a lot of money selling something via their blog, usually either Google Ads or ebooks, and the professional ghost blogger. While finding success as the former is possible, finding it as the latter is more likely. I have one friend who has a very popular blog, and sells Google AdWords on it. It only brings in a few thousand dollars a year, certainly not enough to make a living. Ghost bloggers, on the other hand, can earn a decent living writing blog posts for other clients. Part copywriter, part social media geek, part blog manager, the ghost blogger is your basic freelance writer, but working in this specific electronic format.
Make sure your writing skills are strong.
Writing is easy, writing well is hard. I realize that we can all write in complete sentences and organize our thoughts into semi-coherent patterns. So can your average eighth grader. Unfortunately, some people never progressed beyond that level of skill. If you want to be a professional blogger, your writing needs to be of a higher quality than most.
If you’re not sure, find some other writers you trust and whose skills you admire, and ask them to honestly evaluate your writing. Tell them you don’t want the typical pat on the head and “it’s pretty good” assessment. Ask them to be honest, and to give you a real evaluation of your skills. If they truly like it, then you’re on your way. If they don’t, start a blog, and work hard to improve. I’ve been a writer for 20 years, and am still learning and improving.
Try to specialize in an area you have experience in.
It’s not a requirement, but it will make your life easier. The one interesting thing about newspaper reporters is that they are an expert for a day, absorbing enough information to write their articles. The next day, they move on to a new subject. Ghost bloggers do this. They learn as much about the client as they can, and will write whatever the client wants them to. The client will usually dictate what they want said, the writer writes it, and then gives it to the client for approval. This way, the writer learns about the client, much like a reporter learns about his or her beat.
When we take on a new client, we spend a lot of time learning about their industry and their company. As we work for them over the months, we do become knowledgeable about their field. But the clients we truly excel at are those we have experience and knowledge in. With them, we can hit the ground running, and our learning curve is significantly flattened.
with other professional writers.
It’s often said we’re only as good as the 5 people we hang out with the most. If that’s the case, make sure you’re spending it with other professional writers (or at least really good amateurs). In fact, some of your best mentors and referral sources will be your competitors. Read their blogs, meet them at conferences, hang out with them at coffee shops. You’ll learn a lot from them. Then — and this is the important part — be willing to do the same for other, younger writers who come to you for advice and education.
Read a lot.
Every writer has a writing style they learned from reading someone else’s stuff. I learned mine from reading Dave Barry, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Waits, Hunter S. Thompson, and Ernest Hemingway. To keep my own style from becoming stale, I revisit my favorite works and re-immerse myself in their words and style. I also seek out new writers with similar styles, and draw inspiration from them.
It’s important to remember, however, not to copy your favorite styles, but take the best from each of them, and synthesize them into your own. By creating your own distinctive writing style, you’ll stand out as a quality writer and blogger, worthy of the fees you demand.