Living Creatively: How to Start Blogging and Do What You Love

Living Creatively: How to Start Blogging and Do What You Love

Woo! Yes! Congrats on taking your first steps to live a creative life. Doing what you love and brings you joy can seem daunting. It’s what we’re taught NOT to do. Today, nearly half of the world’s population is online. And looking for a way to break free from the monotony that has become much too common. You may worry that with so many writers, designers, social media managers, etc. etc. that what you want to do is already being done. Or the highlight reels may make you think you just don’t have what it takes. You want to do something from the heart, something that makes you jump out of bed in the morning and that you’re passionate about. You may wonder if it is even worth it to start blogging.

First, let go of fear & comparison.

Fear and comparison are two silent killers that are always after our dreams.

But think about this…

Two sparrows sell for a coin of small value, do they not? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.

But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.

So have no fear; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:29-31

Do you really think there’s someone out there who is exactly like you? Down to the way you think, the experiences you’ve had, the hairs on your head? Sure, you’ll find similarities. But the specific, minute details of who our Father and Creator made you make you and your life uniquely yours. You see things differently. You have your own perspective. Like those two sparrows, your value and what you have to offer is not defined by the sell, but by the knowledge, the Maker himself has embedded in you. And that’s what this world needs. Besides, do you really want to look back on your life and say “man, I should’ve done that really scary thing that could’ve made me really happy?” Hmmm… yeah, nope. Exactly. SO. Sweep all of those doubts and fears and worries and anxieties into the trash bin (where they belong, thank you very much) and rip a page out of Nike’s playbook. Just do it.

Next, why do you want to start blogging?

There are a number of reasons why you may want to start blogging. For example, are you a young professional looking to explore your career interests, build your expertise and create a solid portfolio? Or are you a 9-5’er looking to build your own freelance biz? I mean jeepers, you could even make blogging your career! Whatever your reason blogging can be a really fun and rewarding experience.

Creating consistent content – whether that be in the form of blog posts, videos, or even social media – is a great way to connect to your community and potential customers. A blog can show that you know what you’re talking about and can help position you as an expert in your craft. In this four-part series, I’ll share exactly what you need to know to start blogging and get your biz off the ground!

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

One of my favorite Ted Talks is with author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek. In his talk, “How great leaders inspire action,” Simon shares that moving people to action is all about understanding your motives and intentions. Your why. Keeping your “why” top of mind will be what keeps your drive high when the honeymoon period wears off. And yes, the honeymoon period will wear off. But if you clearly identify why you do what you do the spark will come back every time. So what are some reasons to start blogging?

  1. To entertain: Creating a blog to entertain can keep readers on their toes. Many online publications and magazines use their blog for this purpose. This could be a fun way for a filmmaker to share their inspiration and tease out an upcoming script. Exhibit A: Issa Rae‘s blog. If you find that you really love lifting people’s spirits and providing entertainment then this could be the way to go.
  2. To sell or promote a cause: Do you primarily sell goods or services? Are you creating a non-profit? A blog here can help you get your idea out into the world. For folks who are very passionate about a cause or craft, a blog provides you with a platform to connect with people of similar interests.
  3. To network: Sites like LinkedIn, Medium and DeviantArt have created ways for us to share work online. Displaying your expertise and networking with others is another reason why you may decide to blog. Say you’re a finance professional building a Styling agency. With a blog you can begin actively sharing fashion news, developing your brand voice and letting people know about your new venture.
  4. To build community: By tapping into what’s going on nearby, a blog can work as a catalyst for why your work exists. A local artist can benefit really well from having a blog that highlights how her drawings are inspired by the surrounding community.  Your customers will appreciate knowing the background and history attached to your craft.
  5. To teach: Are your friends always asking you how you make those delicious apple pie turnovers? You may just have a skill that others want to learn or know more about! Educational blogs range from social media managers sharing “how-to” create a personal brand to life coaches helping others develop self-confidence.

Which one of these 5 do your blog fall into? I love getting to talk to other writers and creatives about how to stay healthy, master social media and see the world while doing what we love. For me, it’s really fun to be part of a community, share and collaborate. Keeping this why at the center helps me stay motivated. Once you’ve got you why turn it into a pretty quote or poster and put it somewhere you’ll see every day. That way, you can always keep motivation high!

Living Creatively: How to Start Blogging and Do What You Love via Dronile Hiraldo

Ok, so… what will you blog about?

Whew! You’ve sacked your fears, you know your why, and you’re ready to start blogging. Now you’re wondering what do I even blog about? Good question Padawan. This is where knowing your business and being totally YOU comes into play. The first and most important thing to think about: Why’d you start your business? Ha! See, why your why is important now? 😋

When you start blogging, to do what you love, put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Think about:

  • What made them look for your blog in the first place?
  • Are there challenges or problems they’re currently dealing with that you can write about?
  • What questions do they have about your goods and services?
  • Who would your readers like to hear from or know more about?
  • What resources (books, podcasts, events) would your reader be really interested in?

For instance, say you’re the girl who’s always got the freshest sneakers. You know where to buy for the best deals, you know how this brand is really changing and stepping up the sneaker game, and you know they come in 3 dope colors. It may seem obvious to you because it comes naturally, but to others (hello 👋🏾 moi) style and fashion may just not be a forte. And that’s ok. That’s why your fashion knowledge and expertise are needed. You could… create style guides on how to wear this season’s hottest kicks, interview up and coming designers, share a recap of a cool fashion event you attended with inspiring quotes, create a Christmas shopping guide for sneakerheads based on personalities… and on and on…

Really, the sky is the limit when it comes to deciding what to blog about. Looking to your own challenges and lifestyle can provide tons of inspiration. Ever stop to think and wonder why mommy blogs are so popular? Life experiences help us connect with one another. They offer us opportunities to swap ideas and tell others what we know. There will always be people interested in trying that new fusion Japanese place down the block with the really good fish tacos. Or learning how to create a budget for their next trip to Italy. Digging through your own interests, hobbies and challenges can provide you with blogging gems.

Cool. Sounds like you’ll need a name.

Once you’ve settled on what you’re going to blog about, you may be wondering what the first step is. Do you dive straight into blogging? Create social media channels and then start blogging? These are all really great questions.

First though, take a step back. You actually want to iron out what your blog name is. This will be the domain name or website address that people will use when looking for you. Mindset coach and business strategist, Melyssa Griffin, has a great guide on how to choose the perfect name for your blog or business that you’ll definitely want to read. It’s what helped me ultimately decide.

When thinking about your name refer back to why you do what you do and what you’ll start blogging about. You may decide to give your blog a title, the way Contently does or you may just allow the blog (and your potential business) to fall under the same name. A name may define your values such as, Soul Lipstick Mavens, for women who use makeup as a form of self-love. Or your name could hint at what you do. “In The Air Virtual Assistants,” a virtual assistant biz for high-level execs in the travel & hospitality industry. Most of all, have fun and let the name you choose reflect you.

And who will your readers be?

Sure, you may be creating this blog because you’re an aspiring author or because you’re really good at creating graphics and want to help others create pretty posts. But your reader is the cornerstone of what you do! A wellness blog, for instance, will attract others who are into healthy living and taking care of themselves. Similarly, who will your blog attract and why? Some things to consider:

  • How old are they?
  • What’s their lifestyle like? What are their hobbies and interests?
  • What do they do for work? How much do they earn? Where do they live? (City, Suburbs, Farm?)
  • Are they single? Married? With kids?
  • What are their challenges? Why are they reading your blog?
  • Where do they shop? What magazines or publications do they read?
  • Do they read your blog from a laptop? A tablet? A phone?

Mhm, you’re gonna want to get real personal with readers. Think deeply about who this person is and how you can reach them. As a freelance writer, attending blogging conferences and participating in writing communities has been a saving grace! Take to MeetUp, go to local events or even try marketing on social media to find your community. Attend events you love with the kinds of peeps you’d like to work. As you start blogging you’ll make friends who share your experiences and who you can collaborate with.

Make your friends your colleagues

Dope! Now, what’s next?

Before you start blogging and start doing what you love you need to nail down your why. Let go of fear. And stop comparing yourself and your work. You’re well on your way to living creatively! In the next post of this series, we’ll talk about setting up a website, creating a blogging schedule and grabbing your social media channels.

I’d love to hear why you started a blogging or why you’d like to start one. What’s been your motivation? Share in the comments below!

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Social Media Marketing 101 for Writers

Social Media Marketing 101 for Writers

So, you want to be a writer? Is writing from the beach G-O-A-L-S, goals? Today, social media marketing has made it easier than ever for word lovers to live the dream. Back in my day–the days of light up sneakers and grunge bands–writers had to rely on newspapers, radios, even billboards to get their work seen. Talk about ice age! amIright? 😂

Jokes aside, writers these days need to be triple threats: editors, marketers, and publicists all wrapped into one. Your writing can be in front of readers, agents, even fellow writers in just 280 characters. BUT with more than 200 active social media platforms deciding where to put your energy is still a challenge many writers face. Even trying to be on all the major players–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn–may not be ideal for a writer doing #allthethings.

Focus is power, sensei.

Now that you have to be your own agent to even get an agent where does social media come in? From branding, to strategy, to pitching and guest posting the wide world of social media marketing can bring on major anxiety for even the most seasoned writers. But, there’s no need to fret. I got you kid! Here’s a little story I like to call social media marketing 101 for writers:

*Note: This post may contain affiliate links. What’s that mean? If you click the link and make a purchase I get a small commission to help keep this blog and jet-setting dreams alive. I love sharing products and services that I truly believe in, and that will help you become the best you can be.*

Create Your Story: Branding

What’s the backbone to every piece of entertainment? From novels to music lyrics? Well… the story! (Sans of course Fast & The Furious). This might seem intuitive to some but what I mean is as writers there’s a vision that comes to us. Sometimes we hear a character or see a scenarios that sparks the whole thing. Then we flesh these visions out. We give characters motivations: a personality, a backstory, a journey. Creating your brand is no different. The very first step in becoming a master at social media is to create your own story. This means understanding the personality behind the brand, in this case YOU, and who you best connect with.

open notebook with pen on table with plant and chair
Photo: Createher Stock

Part of understanding your own story is understanding what you’ll most want to write about as well. While you may want to write about ALL the things and reach ALL the people (we’re very ambitious people us writers) it’s simply not possible. You won’t become J.K. Rowling by writing in every genre under the sun. The idea of a “niche” makes a lot of writers cringe. I myself have fallen privvy to the “but-what-if-I-pick-a-genre-and-want-to-write-about-other-things?” mentality.

When you’re putting together a social media plan, you need to think about what YOUR story is. The why behind your writing.

First off, let’s be real. Do you really want to write about all those things? Or can you pepper them into what you already enjoy and love? Branding is about authenticity. If you find yourself watching more Romance movies than Comedies, more Historical timepieces than Thrillers then my dear: your interests are telling you something. That doesn’t mean your 18th Century British Colonial (that is a thing right?) can’t have drama, romance, or comedy. Actually, you’ll notice that a lot of different genres influence each other and play well together–for example, the Romance Comedy, one of my favorites. Love is a funny thing especially when you love what you’re writing about. Getting clear on your own story will lay the basis for your brand. Which really means: who are you as a writer? as a person? Who is your reader? Why would they be interested in what you write? What makes you special? What makes your writing special?

I’ll share a personal example. I love empowering artists and creators of color especially female creators. Because I grew up in a predominately Black & Hispanic neighborhood (Wash Heights represent!) I saw firsthand how little opportunities young artists of color have to follow and pursue their passions. As a little girl, I always wanted to see people who looked like me on tv and in films! But Arts programs in my neighborhood were consistently cut from public school budgets. Since then, I’ve wanted to use my love for writing, media, and tech to help people of color follow their dreams and create a life that excites them.

You may like a whole bunch of things, but you’ll probably notice that what you already pay most attention to is what matters most to you.

So, who are you? What interests and hobbies are central to your backstory and journey as a writer? What has motivated you to write? Think of branding as the initial step in your character development. Let your character–yes, that means YOU!– shine. AND pick a genre. The genre that speaks most to your soul. I pinky promise showcasing who you truly are to the world will be worth it.

Research Your Story: Content Strategy

Alriiight. Now we’re getting into the fun stuff. Marketing, while all fun and creative is also about planning. Think of your content strategy as your writing roadmap. A content strategy, like a story’s research, is the backbone of the entire book or novel. You wouldn’t, for instance, have your character pull out their shiny new iPhone X if your story is set in the 1980s. It wouldn’t be relevant to the world you’ve created. As you begin to map out what happens to your character you add key events and experiences to the story. Same thing with branding.

laptop on black table with water bottle
Photo: Createher Stock

Think about you: the writer. What is most relevant to your work, your values, your mission? What newspapers, magazines, publications would you like to connect with? Who in your field most inspires you?What events and experiences can you offer your audience and community that relate to your work? Take some time to dream and visualize your end goal. Include content within your strategy and marketing plan that puts you closer to your goals. For example, say you’re working on a new script. You can share behind the scenes to your writing process, create a live webinar on dialogue for screenplays, or share a freebie with your email list on the top 10 screenwriting niches. (Hope you’re all taking notes! 😋 LOL) Mix it up and get creative about how you’ll promote brand YOU. Your strategy is all about seeing what relevant topics and themes tie into your work.

What steps do you, the character, have to make in the beginning, middle and end to tie up the entire novella? That’s your marketing plan.

Your strategy will include a string of different mediums from a website to social media to email newsletters. As a professional writer, it’s your job to let your audience know you’re a master wordsmith. Creating a website is an excellent and fairly easy way to do so.

To create a website:

  • Decide on a name. Choosing a name, while challenging, is also one of the fun parts of starting a new website. First, decide what the purpose of your site will be. Are you looking to brand yourself as an author, novelist or screenwriter? If so, use the name you’ll be writing under. It will help readers associate you with your work. If you’re instead looking to create a writing business, think about what makes your business stand out. Have fun with your business name and be creative!
  • To Self-Host or Not? If you plan on self-hosting your own website–which means paying a company to store all the information, images and content from your site– then you’ll want to use a site like Namecheap to ensure the website name you want is available.

I personally chose to self-host because I enjoy the flexibility and control it allows me over my design and webpage. After switching from a different self-hosting company, I decided to go with SiteGround because their customer service is extremely helpful (especially for us non-web designer folks) and it’s one of the cheapest options out there. If you’re interested in setting up your own self-hosted site, use my code to get 60% off.

sitegroundhostingsignup-step1-new

  • Choose a Blogging platform. WordPress.com (not .org) and Squarespace great choices if you’re just starting out. If you’d like a website that’s easy to design and manage then a blogging platform is the way to go. As part of your package, you’ll also get to choose your domain name.
  • Decide on your “look.” While you are yes, a writer, the visual aesthetic of your website will matter. Think of it like your book cover. One of my favorite markets, Creative Market, allows you to purchase affordable website themes and get up and running in a matter of seconds!

Blogs are very popular and one of the fastest ways to share what inspires you. But they’re not your only option! A content strategy is where you get to pick and choose what happens to your character on the journey. It could include a vlog, a monthly newsletter, or even a fun-podcast you co-host for the community. Marketing and business mastermind, Kimberly Ann Jimenez, has a great post on how to create a content marketing plan for your online business over on her website that I suggest you check out to get started.

You may have heard a rumor going around that “email is dead.” The truth? It’s actually the only form of marketing that you have the most control over: remember when you lost all your MySpace friends because Facebook took over? Unless you sell your domain and shut down your site, your newsletter will be a direct line to your readers! So, be sure to invite visitors to sign up for emails and share what you’re working on.

 Pick Your Agent: Social Media

Alright soldier: now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to pick how you’re going to deploy it. This is where your storytelling skills will really take center stage. When it comes to marketing, you generally want to find out where your audience is. This is similar to when you’re sending out query letters, and shopping around for agents. You wouldn’t send your fiction manuscript to a well-known agent who specializes in non-fiction. That’d be a real faux pas. Each social media platform has its own community and “specialization” too. Here’s a nifty social media for writers guide from Writer’s Cookbook that I love!

Photo: Createher Stock

Now, this doesn’t of course mean that if you’re a screenwriter you can only make good use of Twitter. With a little creativity, you could create a presence on a social media platform where most of your audience is not: that’s why your strategy is so important. Because you could, say, share a riveting script about the rise of a media mogul on LinkedIn, where members are always looking for thoughtful, leadership content. No matter what channel you decide on, remember it always boils down to the story: why would someone be interested in your writing? why would they read your book? Watch YOUR film? Catch my drift?

Think about what story would captivate that platform.

At the start you want to choose 1-2 platforms to work with. This’ll make it easier to manage and learn the platform. Once you’ve identified a social media platform’s audience, and the right platform for you it’s time to start sharing and promoting. With your content strategy in tow, start to put out original content and content relevant to the interest of your readers. What I see a lot of writers get wrong in this stage, is that they make their efforts 80% promotional and 20% informational etc. Instead flip it, so that your social media is 80% informational etc. and 20% promotional. How? Simple.

To engage your readers create content that speaks to their interests. Before reaching out to an agent it’s always smart to research what stories they publish and are interested in. On social media this means talking to and connecting with fellow writers, readers, and the community. One great source for learning more about your audience are groups, like Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups, as well as Twitter Chats. You may for instance find that your audience is really interested in learning more about the publishing process, or interesting historical places found in novels. By joining the conversation, you get to listen to what your readers and community really want. And deliver.

Do A Book Tour: Promote, Promote, Promote

Yes! You just:

  1. Wrote a story
  2. Found an agent
  3. Landed a book deal

Now it’s time to take that baby around the world! Guest posting for blogs and publications you enjoy is a great way to get your name out into the world. Websites like The Write Life, The Creative Penn, and Jane Friedman are always looking for relevant guest posts. As a writer though the sky is the limit for where you can submit your work. I, for example, love learning how to stay healthy as a writer and very often submit to wellness blogs and publications to share what I’m learning with other artists and creatives. Just like a book tour puts you directly in front of your audience, so does guest posting.

photos on iphone with laptop blurred
Photo: Pexels

Another way to promote? Talking with podcasters and YouTube influencers. One of my absolute favorite is Marie Forleo. She invites writers, entrepreneurs, artists and creatives of all industries, backgrounds, and ages to share their story on her popular MarieTV. You may already enjoy a number of great podcasts or be Instagram friends with readers who would be interested in sharing your work. Or, you may want to invite your favorite writers to chat with you and share the conversation with their community.

***

Whew! Congratulations! You’ve just completed your first lesson in social media marketing for writers. Figuring out whether to Tweet, Instagram or keep it strictly Facebook can be a MAJOR decision. Instead of spiraling down the marketing rabbit hole think of social media much like writing.

First you decide on your character (personality, backstory, journey, etc.) and key players (influencers, agents, etc.). Then you research your story and get to learn more about what topics and themes need to be included (strategy). Finally, you get it out into the world through an agent and promote!

What tips do  you have about using social media as a writer, artist or creative? Share them below in the comments. 👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾