Lots of blogs will advise young or inexperienced designers to blog a lot. On the surface that makes sense but be very aware of the damage a bad blog can do to your reputation.
There are many blogs that will tell you you’re only a few steps away from finding fame and fortune as a design blogger. It’s not for everyone though.
For much of this post, I will be referring to the advice given in “Use your blog to get design jobs” posted on Web Designer Depot.
I recommend you read it, it’s a useful post and I’m not saying it’s wrong – just that because of the focus of the topic and authority of Web Designer Depot it may be some less experienced designers are considering jumping right on board and adding all the bits mentioned in the post without necessarily considering some very good reasons why blogging might not be the answer for them. I’ll say right now – in case it’s not clear – the post I’m talking about IS NOT WRONG. I’m just offering a counter perspective. I’d like to go through all the points and offer an alternative.
A bad blog can be a dangerous thing
Yes, a great blog can be a powerful marketing tool but a blog that churns out very little in the way of new content, is poorly written or researched can potentially be downright dangerous both to your reputation and to anyone who takes the advice you impart.
Adding your voice to the millions of “websites that use the colour orange” type posts out there will do little for you. It might be interesting for you to research and take screen captures but by and large, the web is a small and highly connected community so while maybe a potential client would like some colourful screengrabs, think twice about what you’re communicating here.
What’s the value to anyone? Maybe consider writing either a technical or opinion piece instead. Be warned though, technical blogging (code examples etc) is extremely hard! There will always be someone who wants to find a better way to do what you suggest and it can be tough to stay motivated and keep researching and posting. That said, when it’s done well, the rewards and reputation you can can gain are great.
Getting your content shared
You can add a plethora of sharing, retweeting, liking and plussing buttons to your page but think again, is your content genuinely unique and worthy of a share? People have an incredibly short attention span on the web and your blog better be good if you expect me to endorse it with a tweet or a like. (If it is, keep it up, you’re doing great!)
Sharing button overkill
Think twice though, all those sharing plugins that add several buttons to your website make it look a little like one of those NASCAR cars with the sponsorship logos plastered everywhere. Remember, you’re meant to be a designer – consider the aesthetics of your site before you just install these buttons. Do you have an active presence on all the networks you want people to share on? Most people are able to copy and paste or use a bookmarklet to share content if they really like it and great content IS shared.
Say no to scheduled blogging
I’m strongly against the concept of blogging at specific times – I’ve seen several blogs suggest a good way to get into the habit of writing 3 times a week or on a Tuesday or daily. If you’re posting daily, chances are you’re either reactively commenting on something, posting more noise than signal or on the very rare occasion you truly are inspired (in which case, keep it up, you’re doing great!).
The best time to post a blog article is when you’ve got something to say. Not just because it’s a Tuesday.
Write when you’re inspired, your readers will appreciate it more.
The route to SEO glory – It’s unlikely
If you’re just starting a blog, it may help a little in your search engine listings but please don’t pin your hopes on page 1 results for useful keywords because you’ve installed WordPress. You’re entering a market that’s been saturated for years. Keep writing interesting and unique content and you’ll get there. Again, who are you really doing this for anyway? Keep your human readers in mind and they will reward you. Ask practically any designer and they’ll (hopefully!) tell you that they get more rewarding work through word of mouth referrals than through direct visits from search engines. It’s a route to concentrate on and your content WILL be shared more if it’s well written for humans first.
Income from blog advertising?
Unless you’re running a site that gets tens of thousands of visitors a day/week you’re hugely unlikely to reap any real financial reward from putting ads on your website. Consider again the design of your site and what impact links off to affiliate links will have on your image. Is it worth plastering your lovely design with ads for that $2.31 a week? If you want to make money from a blog, consider writing for someone else instead. This has a couple of immediate benefits.
- You will make more money as a guest blog post author
- You will immediately gain credibility
- Writing for an established site give you the support of their editorial team who will often help you if you need guidance to flesh out an initial idea
- You will gain new followers if you’re on Twitter/FB
So what should you do if you don’t blog?
If it sounds like I’ve been incredibly negative about why you might not benefit from blogging, I apologise. As I mentioned at the outset, I’m offering an alternative view as a Creative Director who reviews a lot of portfolios, blogs and CV’s each week. Blogging isn’t for everyone and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s a very difficult habit and skill to develop and those who blog regularly have nothing but my respect but hopefully you’ll see it’s not all about quick wins.
It’s a long road and one that certainly isn’t for everyone. Having said all that, there are a couple of ways to boost your presence and for a designer, none are better than simply being a good designer! Having a well designed and executed portfolio site with great examples of work will be the reason you’re hired by an agency, not because you’ve installed some sharing buttons on a blog. Your work will be talked about if it’s great. Don’t forget how small and connected this community is once something is passed around on Twitter, your name is remembered and bookmarked which can often lead to enquiries.
Consider a project instead
Why not consider a project instead of a blog? Set yourself a brief, or work on an idea that relates to a particular part of the industry that you would have written blog posts about if you’d installed one. Maybe you’re interested in UI design? Why not imagine a spec for and design some app interfaces or take some existing open source data and work with it to make it user friendly and easy to understand. Real examples of work are always going to be hugely powerful tool for showing your capabilities and getting you hired.
Want proof that a personal project can be a real talking point? Check out Nicole Meyer’s amazing “Branding 10000 Lakes“. There’s variety, there’s a brief and there’s direction. This is already being talked about in design circles and it’s a great ongoing project to follow.
So, what do you do?
Are you a blogger or have you opted for another way to regularly add content to your site? I’d love to hear what you do and how that works for you! Image credits: