Maybe you have a blog or want to start one. Maybe your firm wants to start a blog or get more consistent with the one they have. Maybe you aren't interested in what goes on behind the scenes. Well, I'm going to tell you anyway.
The basic process is straightforward:
There are times when it all comes together in a totally different way, but this way makes sense to me.
If you aren't always overflowing with ideas, it helps to stockpile them during the times when you are. If you are blogging about your design work, here is a list of opportunities.* In my case I periodically brainstorm ideas that I can write about. I put these lists in Evernote tagged as 'topics'. When I use one of them, I add the tag 'published'. Then I can filter my notes for all 'topics' not 'published'. Another source of topics has been my firm's standards that I can find in our Dropbox "server". I also search our Dropbox server for details and projects that I can write about. These drawing files are copied into a Google Drive folder where I can manage their use without affecting the office archives. I move them into and out of folders named 'on deck', 'ready' and 'published'. If you like to use a white board or hand-writing when brainstorming, just photograph or scan the results and file that. Evernote, which is free, is great for that technique.
Since this was originally posted in 2013, things have evolved. I recently moved away from Evernote and now use Bear in a similar way. You will almost certainly have a preferred way of doing this sort of thing anyway.
Select An Idea
Occasionally an idea presents itself out of the blue (like this article), but usually I look through my stockpile for a topic I am in the mood to write about. As I mentioned, I organize the stockpile with tags to make the search more specific. There are over 80 unpublished idea notes, many of which contain a half dozen ideas or more. Evernote makes all of this about as easy as it can be.
So does Bear.
Write A Draft Of The Article
I use iA Writer for all writing of drafts. [See Fig. 1] I enjoy the mini-project aspect of writing an article. Just an hour or two later, at most, the real core of the article is wrapped up. I can imagine getting a real jump on this step by dictating the content from rough notes while away from the office; but, alas, I am rarely on the road long enough to make that feasible. iA Writer comes highly recommended by real writers. I enjoy the 'focus' feature that blurs out everything but the three lines you are working on. I really like its multi-platforms, I make constant use of the app on my iPhone, iPad and Mac, which are always in synch with the documents stored in the cloud.
Ditto for Bear.
Find Or Manufacture An Image
Not everyone bothers with an image for every post, but it is hard to 'decorate' a blog that doesn't have pictures. You want people to like your work, so I think graphics are a must. In the beginning this will seem like a real burden, but you develop shortcuts as time goes on. I've collected several free image websites that I can search. [See Fig. 2] To be safe, give credit in a caption or in a footnote. If something that I can take a screenshot of will help, I do that, like the images in this article. Another tactic I use is to manufacture an image. Usually I start with the PhotoInWord app for the iPhone where I can create a solid colored background, add text, and save. I also have several solid color 'photos' stored in the Camera Roll that I can use with TitleFx. As a freehand option, I have also used SketchTime and Paper by 53 to draw icons. The Architekwiki logo and icon were done with Paper. Skitch, now integrated with Evernote, is a dream for cropping, re-sizing, and even changing the file format. Weebly makes inserting an image as easy as any CMS that I have come across - insert image widget, drag and drop image to widget, re-size if needed, locate left, right, center.
Update: For the last 18 months or so, my go-to methodologies for graphics are Canva and screenshots. There is a little cost with Canva, but the time-savings is big.
Final Draft With Image, Proofread
Most of the time, this is the point when I start a blog draft in Weebly. [See Fig. 3] The process of filling in the blanks rarely takes more than 20-30 minutes. Most of that time is taken up with formatting, previewing the results, and proofreading. Sometimes this stage is started earlier; then it looks like the image in the upper left of this page.
'Push The Button'
Building readership takes many initiatives. A good source of information and inspiration is Pat Flynn's SmartPassiveIncome.com. HootSuite [See Fig. 4] is a great way to inform your Twitter followers, Facebook 'Likes', Google+ circles, LinkedIn contacts and any other social media you use. HootSuite can publish the same thing to all those streams. You can easily shorten the URL of your article, which has the added bonus of HootSuite tracking its performance. HootSuite also lets you schedule all of this in advance so that you only spend 20-30 minutes taking care of all the social media follow-up. Social Media will be how most people discover your content until you are famous.
I now use Buffer's Awesome account that costs $10/month because I can limit this chore to an hour or two every 25 days. Your need for Social Media exposure may be more modest and Buffer's free account will serve you just fine. Buffer now has Pinterest (paid only) and Instagram feeds as well.
For the first six months my goal was to publish M-W-F every week. Then I stepped it up to every weekday after noticing that page-views dropped off every time nothing was posted. Three months later I started posting daily, but that proved unsustainable. Now I post every weekday and tweet about older posts that were published before I added any social media. I learned recently that there are two tactics for how often to post. The first is to post constantly, which will probably mean shorter posts. The second approach it to post weekly, but with better-developed articles. I have been using the first tactic, but I think I should segue to the second tactic.
Update: I did.
Well, that's the process. I probably average about 1.5 hours per article. You should think of blogging as a main feature of your marketing efforts. This link will take you to some of my thoughts on how and why to do that.
* This list will provide an opportunity about once a month for each project you are working on. You can also 'feature' a project that you have finished. Write about clever solutions to your clients' problems that you have solved and how. Flog your specialty. Introduce your staff and the firms you partner with. The focus in all of these articles should be the benefits to the clients rather than "Look at how great we are!"
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