Exactly how I craft a blog post for the business owners I work with
by brittany taylor | November 9, 2017
I love a good online bulletin board. I’m old-school that way. Give me threaded replies and a signature, and I’m happy.
Years ago, I was searching for one I could turn to while I was getting my freelance writing business off the ground.
After weeks of trial and error, I thought I’d found the perfect solution. I signed up, paid the membership fee, and jumped right in. My first post was a lighthearted question about other writer’s habits and processes. Some replied cheerfully; the admin was not one of their number.
“It shouldn’t matter what other people do and how they do it!” she scoffed. “Do what works for you, period.”
That was all it took for me to realize that this was not the place for me.
Why? ‘Cause I love a good process deep-dive. I love knowing how other people work. I love marveling over how different we are, and I love trying out new tools and processes I’d not thought of.
I find the whole topic fascinating, which is why I’m sharing one of my own with you today. Read on for the exact blog writing process I use for every single one of my ghostwritten client blog post projects.
Fun fact: This first step is one I lifted from a current client, and it’s the only way Google Docs feature into my writing unless my clients specifically request I send drafts as GDocs. (Why? Because I’ve had them go missing, thanks to Google, or be deleted by clients.)
I ask my clients to do a brain dump on the shared document so that I can get a feel for the direction they want to take with the post, the ideas they want to incorporate, and any statistics or relevant facts they absolutely want to share with their audience.
I love a good research rabbit hole as much as anyone. For a more efficient use of my working hours, though, I start with a list of questions rather than a Google search.
The general topic and brain dump my clients share in the Google Doc get me started.
Then, I try to come up with questions a reader might have, should they see this general idea pop up on a website or their social media feed. What do they need to know for it to make sense? What sort of details would round it out? Why is this important? What makes it controversial? How can they apply these ideas to their work or life? Is there any research to support this argument?
Those are the sorts of questions that populate my list.
My friend Google is often my next step. I make sure to bookmark or otherwise save the sources I get my answers from so that I can link to them in the blog post—good web etiquette and link-back hygiene.
For some client projects, I schedule a call and ask them my questions instead of Google. If any of my queries are ones that a quick search can take care of—definitions, dates, fact checks—I complete that basic research first so I don’t waste anyone’s time.
If I do interview my clients (or anyone else), I record the interview and send it out to be transcribed as soon as I end the call. Otherwise, I forget and end up in a deadline crunch.
I don’t like outlining, but I do find that when I outline, my blog posts are more cohesive and sensical than when I don’t. So, outline it is!
It’s not a long outline or a formal outline with Roman numerals reminiscent of high school English. It’s more of a brief synopsis that details where I want to take the introduction, which subheadlines I want to use, and which examples, statistics, or sources I want to use in each of those sections.
Where I start with my rough draft depends on how I’m feeling about the topic. The split between starting with the introduction and starting with the body of the blog post is likely an even 50:50.
What pushes it one way or the other?
To start with an introduction, I need to have a snappy idea, story, or factoid in mind before I sit down to write. Often, it’s something my clients say when I interview them. I know them when I hear them (and I make a note of them on the recording so that I don’t forget when I go back to write later).
If that “aha!” moment doesn’t happen, I start with the body of the blog post. Once I get into the meat of the article, I can come back to the introduction and come up with something punchy to lead it off and draw the reader in.
The longer I work with a client, the fewer revisions they tend to send. When they do provide critiques, though, I tend to get to know the specifics of their work and their POV faster than I would otherwise.
I’ve been a writer for quite a long time now. First my English teachers and then my editors bled red ink all over my articles; I’m used to it now. I always ask my clients to be thorough and to-the-point in their comments. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. In fact, the more they share and the less they beat around the bush about it, the better the end result will be (and the less time it’ll take for us to get there).
Sometimes, I get lazy about proofreading my own posts. I forgive myself for it, too, especially since I edit as I write and tend not to leave in too many mistakes by the time I hit “publish.”
My clients’ blog posts, however, always get two proofreads: one when I send the first draft and one when I send the final draft.
If I have a grammar or usage question, I hit up Google, the AP Style Guide, or The New York Times for reference. A college copy editing class drilled most of it into my skull, but a brush-up never hurts!