Why I blog as a freelance professional – a meta-post

It’s been a pretty busy 2011 so far, with very little time to blog. I was advised never to apologize for long spans of time between posts, so I won’t, but it got me wondering why I push myself to make time to blog at all, even in the midst of a full writing/editing schedule. So I thought I’d blog about it – as a friend of mine would say, “How very meta of me.”

Going back to July 2010…I had just attended a seminar hosted by my local AMWA chapter on syndicating your work. I realized that in order to syndicate something, I had to write stuff first – and who had time to write stuff outside their paid work? The Q&A veered off into the reasons why you would want to syndicate your work online, and then whether and why and how to even have an online presence as a medical writer. Even though I was at least a couple of steps away from syndicating anything, I came away convinced that joining the online community was going to be important for me as a freelance writer, and with specific recommendations on how to do it.

The easiest way? Start a blog. But I first had to figure out if it was really worth my time to regularly plan topics, write, and post to a blog. What would I get out of it? Would I have a decent return on my invested time? What purpose would it have? Was it going to be professional, personal, or a bit of both? Who was my audience? The most obvious potential benefit of having a professional blog was attracting new clients. But I already had a company Web site – shouldn’t that be sufficient?

As a medical and science writer/editor, my client base is largely a consequence of networking, word-of-mouth, and earned trust. I started to see that a blog, like a testimonial, could go a long way in building my professional reputation and provide a kind of stepping stone for potential clients – my online blog personality would precede me and hopefully make me more approachable.

So I could justify the time spent maintaining a blog if it helped me attract new clients, but it had to add value by going beyond my company Web site. I didn’t realize until after I jumped in that a blog can be more than just a collection of posts. Depending on the platform, it can link to other blogs and sites, show your Twitter feed, etc. Bonus! My blog could be more than just a place to write about stuff – it could be a destination that represents my professional world. It could be a place to share links to interesting news, issues, and resources in my field. And as the potential content of my blog expanded, so did my planned target audience. I could use my blog to speak to potential clients as well as current clients, professional peers, and prospective writers/editors.

As a result of all this analysis, I decided that a professional blog was the way to go. It would introduce me, my work philosophy, my professional interests, and current topics and issues I find interesting. But I also realized that every one of my posts would have to be well thought out and well written, because they would be (ever)lasting examples of my skill and approach to my profession. And with my links and comments and Twitter feed, I would be curating my blog site as a reflection of me – rather than just writing posts from time to time. (I almost chickened out at that point – more pressure, just what I needed, right?)

But that wasn’t the end of my online plan. If I have learned nothing from my time in healthcare communications, I have learned that if you build it, no one will come if you don’t advertise what you have built. Fantastic speaker program with sub-optimal mailers? Don’t be surprised if only 5 people show up. Superb interactive monograph with poorly targeted banner ads? No one is going to click-through to see your hard work. So anyway, I recognized that I couldn’t just have this comprehensive, useful blog if no one knew it was out there. I had to actively promote it by linking it to and from my Web site, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

I’ve been blogging for 8 months now, and although keeping up the blog has been time-consuming, and the timing of my posts is erratic at best, I think it has enhanced my profile and reputation both online and off, and has made it easier for potential clients to find me and get to know me. (I need to collect some data on this, I think)

A nice side benefit of joining my online professional community is that I have discovered some amazing fellow bloggers and Tweeps, found sites on topics that directly and indirectly impact my work, made professional connections with other medical and science writers/editors, and been better able to keep up with the latest issues in my field. And I don’t think I could give all that up, even if I had 20 looming deadlines.

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