How to Build an Online Writing Platform
Writing online is not only a lot of fun, it can earn money and influence & inspire others.
This series will guide you through some simple techniques to help establish you as someone worth following. This is not about being a freelance writer providing content for others, but about creating your own writing portfolio. Your writing platform will be a stage for you to share your knowledge and a place where your fans can keep up-to-date with your latest work.
By working for yourself, you can establish a reputation as an expert and build an audience of loyal followers.
This can then put you in a powerful position to help others and can even lead to other opportunities. Writer's have something to say to the world and are leaders. How you present your work will greatly effect your influence and progress.
Reasons to Write Online
Now before you actually start tapping at those keys, ask yourself what your motivation is. Why do you want to be an online writer? Your reasons to write will greatly effect your progress, style and longevity. You may have one main incentive to write, or most likely you have multiple reasons, just be clear what they are. Write your reasons down and pin them up somewhere to remind you during times when you are lacking inspiration (hey it happens to us all occasionally!).
- To share and connect~ find like-minded people, tell others about your adventures.
- To make money~ to supplement income or create a living.
- To help others~ raise awareness, offer advice, solutions & information, to inspire.
- To be a leader in your field~ can lead to other opportunities outside of writing: talks, teaching, traveling etc.
Do You Write Online?
Where to Write Online
There are three main choices when it comes to creating an online writing portfolio. Each one has it's benefits and you may find you'll end up using more than one. I like to keep my niches seperate and write over several blogs. When they do occasionally cross over, having the separate sites is also useful for backlinking.
Blogs. Well suited to personal writing, blog content is reflected in the chosen look and layout. You can customise a blog to fit in with your niche and add widgets and adverts as you like. Often created using templates, blogs are quick and easy to set up and run. Blogger is my personal favourite, which even has an app for tablets and smartphones, making it easy to upload a post from anywhere.
Revenue Sharing Sites. These are sites where a lot of the work is done for you in as much as you can sign up and concentrate on writing. Hubpages is a great example! When you write an article, adverts are placed on it and the revenue generated from it is shared between you and the site. You cannot change much about the look~ other than the layout of the actual article~ but there is a ready audience for you and a strong community of fellow writers. Sites like HP are ideal for 'How to' writing as over 80% of readers come through search engines, looking for solutions to specific questions.
Your Own Website. If you like complete control over how your site looks and works you can make your own site from scratch. This is particularly useful if you do not want a continuous article reel as in blogs. This is by far the most long-winded and complicated choice, but if done correctly can be the most professional.
What to Write About
Many people start writing online without much idea about where they are going with it. To build an online audience, you have to give your readers a reason to follow you~ why should they care about your most recent purchase or the fact that your dog has just given birth? Cynical as it may sound, readers are looking for what's in it for them. With increasingly busy lives, time is too precious to read random ramblings that don't go anywhere.
- Be clear~ When writing be clear about what your point is.
- Be concise~ it takes people longer to read from a screen and you don't them to lose interest.
Choose 1-3 niche's and stick to them. This is a much debated topic in online writing. But if you establish yourself as an expert in knitting, gain knitting followers, then start writing posts about swimming, your audience may feel misled, bored and lose interest. An occasional deviation doesn't hurt, it makes you more 'real', but make sure you quickly get back to the reason your audience followed you in the first place.
Write what you know and are passionate about. People can spot a fake a mile off! If you were to write about a subject purely because it is popular and you think it would be lucrative you will not be able to be genuine. If someone were to ask you about the topic, you will look foolish if you cannot answer correctly. You are more likely to stick to writing long-term if you are passionate about your subject and readers will respect you for knowing your stuff.
Connect With Your Audience Personally
Building a reputation and online portfolio of popular work depends on your readers. If you want people to listen to what you have to say and read your future work, you need to appreciate and connect with them on a personal level.
People will not follow you if you are not giving them any reason to and if you are not approachable. Remember, they are there by choice and have decided to dedicate their precious time to hear what you have to say.
Spending time getting to know your readers and taking an interest in them, is not just a good way to build your list of followers. Networking can be very fun and you have the opportunity to build real friendships with like-minded people too.
To get to know your readers:
- Reply~ if you are sent messages and comments, try to reply to as many of them personally as you can. This may become more difficult as your audience grows, but make time to reply to as many as you can. Acknowledge the fact that they have chosen to actively tell you they are there and reading your work.
- Don't just treat them as customers~ We live in a highly commercial world and it often feels like everyone has something to sell or ask of you. Let your readers know that you are not just trying to get into their wallets and give more than you take...people are more likely to spend money willingly when they feel it's on their terms anyway.
- Don't be too formal~ The online world is very personal and informal. I'm not saying use slang, but be real. Let your personality shine through and let your readers know you are an actual person. Use your online platform as a way to start conversations.
Techniques To Be A Professional Online Writer
To be taken seriously and be successful writing online, you need to be a professional on all levels. People won't think you are worth following if they think you don't even think you're worth putting the effort in.
Be positive and confident. People don't want to spend their spare time reading about who upset you or what made you angry. If you do have to write about something negative, put it in a way that is looking for a solution and not just having a gripe.
Be consistent. I cannot stress this one enough. People like to know where they stand and that includes when being someone's fan. Choose a number of times to publish each week and try to stick to it. Don't be over-ambitious either. It's easier to increase consistency than decrease it without losing followers.
Make it look good. You only have three seconds to make your first impression online, before a potential follower will decide to move on or stay. Whichever platform you choose, make sure it looks good and is appropriate to your subject(s). Your site needs to be easy to navigate and read. Often simple is best for websites. Make the layout of your writing interesting too by using a mix of text, video, images and even audio.