Why Blogs Still Matter and How to Get Started
It may seem like the era of blogs is dead, but we are two content creators who are here to convince you otherwise. In this special blog post collaboration, both of us talk about our experiences with blogging, the benefits, and some tips for future bloggers out there.
Why We Started Our Blogging Journey…
Claude: I started my blog in 2011. At the time it was called “the negotiation room” and I focused on complex negotiation situations and how to unpack them. I picked that topic because I had more than 10 years of experience in conducting and coaching Fortune 500 executives for critical commercial negotiations. At the time I believed I could only write on topics where I had the strongest credentials. After a couple of years, I got bored writing on soulless topics only a few people in the world would really care about. Especially that I did not, deep down, care about the same people. Over time, I pivoted to The Black Negotiator, where I focus on growing the number of Black Millionaire through fostering the Black millionaire mindset and sharing how to negotiate while Black. This topic is closer to my heart and is enabling me to connect with many like-minded individuals.
Nancy: I started my blog and newsletter The Millennial Exec last year to mobilize leaders to optimize for high-performance and more joy at work during COVID. It’s no secret that COVID changed how we work, probably forever. I felt like there was a missing dialogue on how to actually practice delivering strong results while avoiding burnout, fear, and isolation. After years of being Chief-of-Staff and lead strategist with some of the world’s top leaders, I knew that the most successful executives are those who adapt to change in a way that works for them. I started to experiment with techniques for high-performance + fulfillment in the remote / hybrid work environment, and I used my blog/newsletter to document my journey and inspire others. This led to my newly launched coaching service that takes it one step farther by helping others access my process, data, and learnings to create a tailored coaching plan to achieve their goals and experience more joy in the modern workplace.
Why a Blog versus Podcasts, Video, Etc?
Claude: Two reasons. The long-term strategy and the return on investment. From the beginning, I decided that my focus would be on creating great content. The type of content that has passed the test of time is written. There seems to always be a market for written words. The return on investment was the second factor. Blogging has a higher ROI than other formats. For instance, I love to edit videos and do it for fun. But editing even a short video can take a couple of hours, plus recording time and up-front cost of equipment to ensure you look good, sound good, etc… Whereas on my blog, it takes me about 90 minutes to write a 600-word blog post. And the process is very fluid: Random ideas come to mind, I log them on my google keep, and I write the first draft in 1 hour and spend a max of 30 min finetuning it. Having said that, I still dabble a bit in videos, to give my audience something new, and learn new skills. This year I created a 4 episode series on mental health with a great Trauma Recovery Coach
Nancy: I started blogging because (1) writing tends to be easier than other content formats, (2) there’s a low barrier of entry to start, and (3) there are tons of long-term benefits to blogging. My advice on content creation would be to lead with your strengths and then build from there. If you’re like me and writing comes most naturally to you, blogging is a great way to create a lot of content from scratch very quickly with minimal editing. By blogging regularly, I was able to develop a rhythm of putting stuff out there, refining my voice, and creating quick feedback loops with my audience. If other mediums come more naturally to you (podcasting, vlogging, etc), I’d start there and still consider adding a written blog to your arsenal over time. There are tons of benefits to blogging, which we’ll go into next…
What Are the Top 3 Benefits to Blogging Today?
- Investing in myself. I am developing skills useful every day. The most notable is to appropriately share my opinion on sensitive topics. I write on topics such as reparations for African Americans (the pros and also the cons), discrimination, wealth gaps, etc…. These are challenging topics, that no one can really get 100% right. Taking the time to articulate my thoughts, put them in writing, is a great way to have sharp messages during conversations.
- Sharing with the world what I am about. I am happily surprised how many people take the time to read my blog before we meet. Even potential employers have read my blog before interviewing me. It is great because it acts as a filter. People without a compatible worldview do not engage with me (saving me precious time), while others lean in and we have amazing connections (I can invest more time into them since I am not wasting time with haters).
- Improving your writing skills. Over the 10 years, I had my blog I noticed how much faster I can bring a storyline together. How much faster I can write a post and most importantly how I can play with words to convey how I feel.
- Ownership of your own platform and audience. Unless you will be creating content 3-5x per day daily with the intent of scaling and monetizing your audience very quickly, it makes sense for you to own your platform and audience directly as opposed to going through social / 3P platforms that own your audience. Creating your own website allows you to own a destination where you control what you say, how it shows up, and how you engage with your audience… it also provides the internet with a broader context of who you are beyond your curated feeds and resume. Pairing your blog with an email newsletter adds a lot of value in developing a more intimate relationship with your audience, getting your ideas out there at scale, and driving traffic to your site. The reality is that building a blog has never been easier than today – whether it’s through Substack (paid newsletters), Medium (blog), WordPress (website) or Squrespace (website). The determining factor is what you want your blog to be: a personal branding device, a lead generator, a new business model, or simply a hobby or creative outlet that brings you joy. There are no wrong answers but be clear on what you want it to be.
- Getting more bang for your buck. Relative to other kinds of content, blogging can offer a really fat long-tail that can last you years. If you understand your audience and create useful SEO-optimized written content that resonates, you’re likely to continue to generate regular organic traffic from those posts. A good chunk of content online is still discovered via search (at least 30% of global online traffic comes from search engines), and keywords are what allow you to show up in people’s path. So written content helps you get discovered and ranked as long as the keywords are still relevant, and blog posts are less ephemeral than most social media content nowadays. Long-time content creators like Tim Ferris talk about how their most successful content is some of their older material that continues to stand the test of time.
- It can be a meaningful side project. You can maintain a blog while doing your day-job because you control the pace and the output! It can be a fun way to put your ideas out there, up-skill in content creation techniques, and help you connect to new people with similar interests all around the world. Whether you’re talking about something personal, a niche topic of interest, or an area where you have a lot of expertise, it can be a really fulfilling outlet for your creative juices as long as you’re not putting pressure on it to perform for you (monetize) quickly. (In the case of the latter, content creation will become akin to a full-time job).
How much time do you commit to blogging each week or month?
Claude: Blogging does not take that long. I would say about 2 hours per week mostly writing posts. On top of that, I would add an average of 20 hours per week to educate myself on topics of interest, completing paid training, setting up my business processes, and my various speaking/mentoring activities. Most of the extra time is invested during the weekend or during my vacations. Because my blog is so aligned with my personal mission, it is intertwined in what I do during my free time.
Nancy: In year one, I spent 2-3 hours per week writing and another 4-5 hours on up-skilling on content creation because I was doing it as a side project, not to become an influencer or professional blogger. In year two, I’ve scaled back to 4-5 hours per month on the blog / newsletter and 60-80 hours per month on developing custom coaching materials (see my services). The hard part about getting started with a blog is maintaining the discipline to do it consistently and staying motivated. As Claude mentions, it helps to find a topic that is something you feel a deep personal connection to. We’ve both been fortunate to tap into that during COVID, and it’s accessible to all of us with some self-reflection.
What advice do you have for someone who’s just getting started?
Claude: Get started. There is never a perfect moment to get started. And do not believe that everything needs to be perfect when you start. You will be amazed how much people react to your message when it resonates with them. Even if you write it on a black and white landing page. Spend your time and energy to really set your vision and how this blog will help you achieve it.
Nancy: Find a topic that you could easily talk about for 3 years for free, not just a few months, and just do it. It could be a passion, a hobby, or something that you think about a lot. Ideally, it’s something that could help others in some way, whether it’s bringing joy to their day, making them think differently, or feeling less alone in the world. When you find that topic, you’ll find that stories and posts spill out of you and you’re able to maintain motivation to keep going once the honeymoon phase is over.
What tools do you find most useful for content creation?
Claude: As a non-native speaker, I use Grammarly. It is great to correct not only typos but also style mistakes. I like beautiful.ai to create slideshows for my webinar super quickly and I use Unsplash to have royalty-free photos to include in my posts or presentations.
Nancy: I use a premium WordPress template for my site | Mailchimp for my email newsletters (signup) | Canva for beautiful social media or slideshows (example) | Shutterstock for stock photos for presentations and my posts.
Any final words of wisdom?
Claude: Do it for yourself and see where it will take you. People will criticize. No matter what. This is how it goes in this digital era. You can not please everyone. If you are pleasing everyone, it means you are pleasing no one.
Nancy: Blogging and creating content for the average person can provide tons of practical up-skilling opportunities, new ways of connecting with others, and the learning that you get from it will be really valuable in the digital age! It’s a great and easy way to invest in yourself while providing some inspiration for others who may need it.