It’s unavoidable. The moment you start blogging, your self-confidence and assurance will go out the window. It’s true. All that authority you have? Your experience? It won’t matter. There’s just something about publishing to the Web and that awful white screen that turns people into mumbling zombies. But you can re-find yourself and your voice on the Web. You’ll need if you plan not to suck and want to connect with anyone. You can do it. I’ll hold your hand.
One of the biggest struggles people face when writing content for the Web is working to develop a unique voice. If you’re a blogger, you’ve felt it and it may be your personal hell. If you’re not a blogger, you’ve read something on the Web and thought to yourself, “hmm, they’re trying too hard to be X”. It’s not an uncommon occurrence; however, it is something you can kill.
I have quite a bit of experience creating Web voices for clients and even in my own personal projects. Here are some tips that have always helped me find myself, my voice and, in the end, a paying audience.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may know that last week I wrapped up an 8 week writing class I was taking through the Arts Center here in Troy, NY. The biggest lesson my professor stressed to us – Be Brave. A lot of other people will tell you the first rule of blogging is “don’t be boring”, but I think calling it bravery is actually a better term. Writers who are brave take risks with language, they allow themselves to try new things, and they grab a sword when others grab a filter. And you know what your brave voice sounds like. It’s you on Friday night when you’re a little tipsy – either on alcohol, love or life. It’s when you’re YOU without the filter you apply to everyday life in order to look or appear a certain way. Honing in on that ballsier version of yourself is what allows you to create your character and form that naked superhero– which, to me, is one of the most important aspects to blogging.
When you write, use the same voice that you’d use to talk to someone. It sounds…simple, but it actually takes some practice if you’re not used to it. Most people can’t write like they speak, which is why they’re as riveting to read as the phone book and nothing ever sounds like them. If you wouldn’t throw big words and jargon in your everyday language (oh, and if you would, please don’t talk to me. Ever.), then don’t use it in your blog posts either. Read your posts out loud and ask yourself, “does that sound like me?” If it doesn’t, don’t publish it. Go have a drink, go for a run, or maybe go do some more research. Because if you can’t explain something simply, then it’s a sign you don’t really understand it. While I’m sure you’re a very complex and interesting person, the core of you is simple. It’s the you that exists when you’re not trying too hard to be anything else. That’s what people want.
Identify an emotional need in the market place
If you’re blogging about crocheting because you love crocheting and you want to share that love with the rest of the world. That’s awesome. Now please move to the left.
Okay, everyone ELSE is blogging for money. That means you need to blend that whole authenticity thing with the ability to sell to people. The most powerful way to do that? Take a look at your market, identify what’s missing, and then be that, loudly. Sometimes finding the space between who you want to be and what will make you a lot of money help you connect with people is hard, but it’s out there if you look for it. Plot the “important” people in your industry and trend out where they’re moving. Figure out what you can bring that’s different and a need that already exists. Maybe you’re the whistleblower, maybe you’re the apologist, maybe you’re the cynic, maybe you’re the bitch. Figure out who you need to be.
Try a range of tools
I found my voice through blogging. This medium gives me a freedom I don’t always have and it’s what feels natural and authentic to me. But that doesn’t mean it’s that way for you. Some bloggers feel more comfortable talking to their community via video because it allows people to see them and it’s easier to gather their thoughts that way than to sit in front of a blinking cursor. Other people use podcasts so that they can simply talk and their audience can download the content and take it for the road. Others prefer to use a hybrid approach. The availability of free content publishing tools means it doesn’t matter what your preferred way of communicating with people is – because there’s a way to do that. If you’ve had a hard time sounding like “you” via text, try some different tools to switch it up. It could be a medium problem that’s preventing you from being able to express who you are.
Understand how people will perceive you
When you land on this blog, your expectations are different based on the author name associated with the post. You expect different types of content from me than you do from Rae, than you do from Rhea, than you do from Dawn, etc. We all carry different brands and perceptions and that’s something to remember and consider if you’re blogging for money. When you start to find your voice, people will start to carry perceptions of who you are what you meant to say, even if it’s not really what you said. Understand how that may affect your writing and your business if you’re projecting a different perception than you mean to. Either decide to change the perception by changing your action or be okay with the consequences of the brand you hold, good or bad.
Those are some of the most important things that have allowed me to find myself in blogging in order to attract an audience. What’s worked for you?