11 Must-Have Features of Every Professional Blog

If you want to thrive as a blogger, your website needs to look professional and polished, both in the eyes of brands you want to work with and in the eyes readers who are visiting your site. To accomplish this, here are eleven features you can add to your site to put you on the path toward blogging success:

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5 Things I Wasn’t Prepared for When I Started My Freelance Business

This article was published Dec. 19, 2016. Click here to read my more recent posts.

Disclaimer: Opinions published on ShellyRawlings.com do not reflect the opinions of my employers or clients and are not intended to be taken as legal, financial, or business advice or other professional counseling (I am not a lawyer or financial adviser—I’m a writer). For more information on this and other terms and conditions, click here.

OK—it’s official. I suck at Blogmas.

But I’m back today with a great, informative post for any aspiring entrepreneurs like myself.

I’m a freelance writer and editor, and while being self-employed is liberating, it comes with its challenges. Between learning how to find my own clients and navigating my own finances (and taxes), catching the entrepreneurial bug has been an uphill battle the whole way. But I’ve learned a thing or two, and in this post, I’m breaking down five of them.

Here are five things I wasn’t prepared for when I first launched my online business:

1. Your blogging experience will carry over—so marketing won’t be as hard as you think.

I’ve been a blogger for about a year now, and I learned a lot more about online marketing than I thought I did through my blog. While blogging for fun, I learned how to utilize social media—especially Pinterest—to drive traffic toward a site, and when you’re an online business, social media optimization is vital.

I didn’t realize that I knew so much about this until I was so successful right from the start. I knew going in that my business needed to have its own website, and that I would need to SEO and SMO the heck out of it, but I didn’t realize that I knew how to do that so well! I already have over 100 views per day on my separate business site, and it’s barely even been up for a full week.

2. Even online, personal relationships are the best way to get paying customers.

At first, I thought that building an awesome website with a popular blog would be the best way to earn me clients—but I was totally wrong. While that stuff is a great way to bring traffic to my site, I’ve really gotten the most paying clients from forums and Facebook groups where I spoke one-on-one with a potential customer, and they liked me so much, they decided to hire me! This personal connection helped them develop a trust in me that converted them from potential clients to paying clients.

3. Visiting competitors’ sites isn’t treasonous—it’s absolutely necessary.

The only way to learn about the business you’re in is to see what others are doing. How do they run their business? Am I operating up to their standards? Am I charging too much or too little? Am I using the correct industry terms? The answers to these questions are all on my competitors’ websites, so I don’t stop myself from taking a look-see.

Additionally, it’s just as important to form solid relationships with your competitors as it is with your clients. In the editing business, we tend to fill up our schedules quickly, and if a fellow editor fills their schedule but I have an opening, I’d love for them to feel comfortable passing that business to me (and vice versa).

4. You have to be willing to turn people down, even if they’re willing to pay.

When I first started freelancing, I basically never said no—especially if I was being paid. And I didn’t argue. You want me to write 5,000 words? Got it. Oh, you need 6,000 now? That’s fine, I’ll do it.

I built a lot of great relationships this way, but I got taken advantage of a lot. I soon decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore.

As an editor, I offer a small free trial of my services to help my authors feel more comfortable choosing me as an editor, and also so I can give them an accurate price for how much work I’ll have to do on the full manuscript. But I soon realized that if I’m going to offer a free service, I need to be very specific on what I will do and what I won’t do for free. I can’t offer more words than what I say I’ll do for free, no exceptions. And I can’t do a complete rewrite of a section for free: it’s a trial solely for the editing service. After all, I started working for myself so I could do what I love and get paid for it, not so I could do what I don’t want to do for free!

5. Work-life balance is going to be even harder when I’m a business owner.

A few months back, I did a blog post all about how to balance your life and bounce back when you’re experiencing burnout. I was totally overworked and my loved ones were suffering because of it, so I promised my family and friends that I would never let my job take away from my time with them. But that became super difficult when I opened my own business.

I always wanted to get back to clients and potential clients immediately, but doing that meant working after-hours when I should have been spending time with the people I love. I have to limit myself and consciously decide to protect the sacred balance between my work and personal life—for my and my family’s sake!

Once I figured out all these things, my business went along a lot smoother…but I had to learn the hard way! Did you?

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Ask An Editor: How Do I Make My Writing Great?

From editorials with no paragraph breaks to sentences with no subjects, there are a lot of writing mistakes that an editor can fix.

We’ll do all we can to help your writing. We can add punctuation, citations, and helping verbs; we can fix your grammar and correct your spelling—but there’s one feature of writing that even the best editor can’t provide for you.

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