BRIAN CASEL: Hello everyone and welcome to FreelanceJam. This is episode number 5. The topic for tonight will be blogging and we’ll talk all about using a personal blog and blogging elsewhere on the web, and anything related to writing and using it for your business and your personal brand and all that kind of stuff. A little bit later we’ll be talking with Amber Weinberg. She’s a fellow web designer developer and blogger, so we’ll bring her in, in a couple of minutes. But for now – how’re you doing there, Dave?
DAVE YANKOWIAK: I’m doing pretty good! Pretty good, it’s good to be doing another show this week and I’m excited about tonight’s guest and the topic, and it should be a good show.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, it should be interesting because, you know, I think all three of us all blog a lot in different ways, different places, and it should be interesting to get different takes on that.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, definitely, definitely, and me not so much as you and Amber. You guys are kind of all over the place, which is cool!
BRIAN CASEL: Well you do, you’ve got Anywhereman that’s been around...
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, I kind of blog in my one place, I guess. I’m looking forward to it, and it should be a good conversation. But now – how did the last week go for you, Brian?
BRIAN CASEL: Pretty good. Things are – I guess they’re always busy, you know, just a lot of different things going on at the same time, but I feel like the past week has been especially busy with work and wedding planning as well! So that’s coming up in about a month!
DAVE YANKOWIAK: That’s right!
BRIAN CASEL: I know that Amber, our guest, is working with the same deal, but yeah, you know, things have been good, and keeping busy and so on.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: And we were still on time to do a jam session last week.
BRIAN CASEL: That’s right, yeah. We do these kind of impromptu YouStream chats, usually on an off week in between our actual show weeks.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Right. It was a good discussion last week, so if anybody’s interested go log into our YouStream account and look that one up. It was a – man, we covered a variety of topics.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, that one really touched on, like a thousand different topics.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, it was fun. So that’s a good one. Well, this week we’re kind of doing our first – what we’re going to call, you know, sponsor of FreelanceJam, and this week it’s W P Bids, which is actually Brian’s own product, but it’s a WordPress theme for doing all my proposals and estimates and I actually use it. I used it for all my proposals to clients and prospects and it works great, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments. But it’s wpbids.com and right now I think we’re going to do a discount, 60% off for the next two weeks. So between now and our next show, if you sign up for the FreelanceJam email newsletter we’ll send you a code for 60% off.
BRIAN CASEL: Yep, and it’s a pretty good deal. I mean the, you know, the theme just like all my themes go for 59 – and you’ve got unlimited support and updates with that, so 60% of that it’s pretty good. And that’ll be going for the next two weeks. And yeah, just sign up for the email list and the sign up is right here on the live page and also on the home page on freelancejam.com.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Right, right. And like I said it’s a great theme, I use it, and you can customize it and put together a really professional looking online proposal. So wpbids.com and yeah, let’s talk a little bit more about our email list.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, so we sent out the first email newsletter this week to the people who’ve already subscribed. Something - I guess we’ve kind of been meaning to do that for a while and we never got around to it...
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Right! So yeah, we’re going to try to use that list. We’ll probably just email maybe twice a month. We’ll do the newsletter at the beginning of the month and then just maybe a reminder of the week’s show, you know, two weeks into the month. Well, three weeks I guess it’ll be. I don’t know, depends on the month, I guess, but we won’t send you too many messages or anything like that, we just really want to build that list and keep you guys informed of our guests and what we’ve got going on. So get on the list!
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, indeed.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: And you can sign up right below the live show and it won’t like, redirect you or anything like that, we’ve got a box on there.
BRIAN CASEL: And speaking of the live show, just for all the listeners who are hearing us on the recorded version, you know, it’s a good idea to come out and try to join us for the live shows. That way you can get in on the chat, you know, near the end of the show we like to bring in questions and comments coming in from the chat room for the guest and for us, so you know, if you get on the email list you can find out, you know, hey, the show is tonight, this is who’s coming on and you can get in on it.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: That’s right. Well, shall we get on with our guest here, and start talking some blogging?
BRIAN CASEL: Absolutely. Alright, so I’m going to bring in Amber. Alright, well here she is! Welcome Amber Weinberg, and Amber’s site is amberweinberg.com. she is amberwienberg on Twitter, so keeps it nice and easy, and easy to remember on the names, and she’s also the founder of Code Snip It, which is codesnip.it right?
AMBER WEINBERG: Right.
BRIAN CASEL: And so, yeah, we’ll hear all about that. Amber, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself, your business and how you got into web work?
AMBER WEINBERG: Sure. I’m a (inaudible 0:06:21.4) developer and I specialize in HTML, CSS and a little bit of THP but mostly on WordPress. I’ve been coding since middle school and I started coding Sable Moon websites, so I’ve always been a big geek!
BRIAN CASEL: Very cool.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: So you started in middle school, huh?
AMBER WEINBERG: In the sixth grade.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Wow!
BRIAN CASEL: They had the internet around back then?
AMBER WEINBERG: I’m only 25! They had tables and animated gifs and friends.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Now, did you start – I mean, have you kind of been a freelancer the whole time, or have you done like some agency work and work for companies, or has it just kind of been your own deal the whole time?
AMBER WEINBERG: I actually worked for an agency for about, let’s say a year and a half or so, and I just realized I’m a very outspoken person so I realized working for somebody else just – it wasn’t going to cut it! So I went out on my own and I’m so glad I did.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: And how long ago did you go out on your own?
AMBER WEINBERG: It has been – in August of this year – it will be two years now.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Okay.
BRIAN CASEL: Very cool.
AMBER WEINBERG: So it hasn’t been that long.
BRIAN CASEL: And so, can you tell us a little bit about your current client business. Is it mostly – are you mostly working with other designers and developers, kind of collaborating, like designers giving you PSDs to develop? Or are you working with more end clients, like business owners who want a new website designed and developed? Or is it a mix of the two?
AMBER WEINBERG: I actually specialize in working with other freelancers and agencies only. So I’ll work with designers and developers and I have done some bigger work for companies like Audible, which they have their own design section of their company, so I’ll work directly with them, but I try not to work with the end user very much just ‘cause since I only do development, they don’t need me anyways, they need somebody who could do everything. So I normally refer them to one of my clients.
BRIAN CASEL: Oh, okay. So then they kind of bring you in behind the scenes. Yeah, I think that’s a thing like a lot of – with clients, I mean, there’s so many pieces to launching a website these days. It’s not just – a lot of times it’s not even just static HTML, I mean, you’ve got your WordPress behind it and web apps, and there’s so much more that goes into the coding these days. But I don’t think, like, the end clients always get that, and so, you know, they think ‘web designer’, like somebody just needs to make a design and then you’re good to go, but there’s so many other pieces to that. So yeah, I didn’t even think about that. So you can exist totally without actually working directly with the clients, yet you’re on your own, you’re a freelancer.
AMBER WEINBERG: That’s right. I actually wanted it that way, I just found that the best type of work came from other designers and agencies because they knew what they were looking for, they didn’t try to talk you down price because they knew the importance of semantics and good codes. So, I mean, it was such a joy working with them, I was like, why work with anybody else? It’s kind of cheeky, but…
BRIAN CASEL: Yes, it’s true. I kind of work with a mix of the two, end users as well as other designers and developers and for sure when you’re collaborating with other designers and developers who work in this industry, they know how it goes. Working with clients, they want to be the best client that they can be, you know, I mean when I bring on other developers and designers – you know, I know how it goes and I like to just try to make sure that everybody gets paid faster than they usually do from other clients. I just want to not be that nightmare client!
AMBER WEINBERG: Exactly.
BRIAN CASEL: And I think that goes for a lot of people in our industry who collaborate.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, I never looked at it that way, I mean that almost makes me want to just work with other designers and developers more, because that’s exactly it. I’ve hired people out and you try to give them specs in the way that you would want to get the specs, you try to communicate in a way that you’d want to be communicated with, you want to be accessible. And so yeah, in other words, you’ve got a good gig going Amber!
AMBER WEINBERG: I do, I think (inaudible 0:11:07).
BRIAN CASEL: Indeed. And now do you have any – I mean are you all self-taught? I know that you read a lot of books ‘cause I think in your Tweets you’re always, “I’m on page this or this on this book.” And so I know you read a lot of books, but are you mostly self-taught then?
AMBER WEINBERG: In terms of web development, I’m 100% self-taught. I did go to college for graphic design. But as much as I appreciate design and I’m like a huge fan of like interior design, I just – I can’t do design for clients. It’s so ambiguous to me, it’s so subjective, you know. You can have something beautiful and the client could completely hate it, and I just – I could never work that way and I totally respect designers, ‘cause I don’t know how they deal with it.
BRIAN CASEL: That’s a good way to put it too!
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Indeed, yeah.
BRIAN CASEL: So shall we get into the topic for this show, which is blogging? I think a lot of people kind of first come – my assumption, maybe I’m wrong, but my assumption is most of the people that come to you come through your blogging on other sites and on your sites? So when did you first start blogging? Was it when you went freelance, or were you blogging even before that?
AMBER WEINBERG: I actually – I quit my job cold turkey because of an illness, so I kind of set up a website and a blog in one day, you know, as soon as I came back to my house. So it was kind of a spontaneous decision but it was pretty much immediately as I started freelancing.
BRIAN CASEL: Okay, very cool.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: And was your first blog – was it on WordPress?
AMBER WEINBERG: Yes, my blogs have always been on WordPress.
BRIAN CASEL: I think my first one was on Blogger, so…that was a long time ago. You know, it wasn’t my first blog on Blogger but the first system I did work with was Blogger at the agency I started out at, that was my first, like, working with a blog. And then as soon as I went freelance I started my blog which was WordPress and that was the first time I started WordPress. And it’s been (inaudible 0:13:31) since.
AMBER WEINBERG: Yeah.
BRIAN CASEL: Alright. Well, you know, how – I guess when you’re blogging, and I’m just talking about the stuff you do on your own site, how do you decide on a good blog topic? And how do you research that? I mean, do you get and idea and keep a list, or what does that process look like for you?
AMBER WEINBERG: Well finding the blog topic is probably the hardest part of having a blog. Like, as soon as I can figure out a blog topic I could write 1200 words in 30 minutes on the topic, if it’s something that I’m really interested in. So the hardest part for me is the blog topic. Now when I first started, I kept a list of 15 to 20 article ideas, and I was always weeks ahead of time when writing and lately since Christmas I’ve been on kind of a writer’s block, so it’s been a little tough for me but I try to write stuff about – as I experience them – and so if I write a topic on having a bad client, you know that some time recently in that month or so I went through a bad client, or you know, I recently wrote a topic on going on an extended vacation on Freelancebuilder, and that’s because I’m leaving for a honeymoon in a week or so, so I try to really write from my experiences, and that seems to be the most popular type of post, versus me just trying to come up with talking about the latest trend or something.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, I also keep a list of topics. As soon as an idea for a blog post comes up, I add it to my list. I have a separate app that I use for that, but what I’ve found is, I still have this long list of topics that I’ve come up with, but when I come up with that topic usually I’m too busy working on something else, that I can’t just sit down and write about it right now. And I have found that when you’re not writing about it when the idea is fresh, it usually just sits there and either you won’t write about it or it just won’t turn out very good if you do. So I just have this list of ideas now that I’m just probably not even going to touch them.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: No, I agree with that. I usually, you know, I’ll come up with an idea for a blog post and I’ll just create a draft with the title. And if I wait too long, I’ll be like, alright, now where was I going with that? So I respect that if you’re writing at the moment – or close to the moment – that you go through an experience, or you know, have a thought or whatever and be able to crank it out, that’s probably the best way to do it.
AMBER WEINBERG: Well I actually put aside one day a week for writing blog posts only, which used to be Thursdays but it’s now Wednesdays. So it’s a lot easier to get fresher ideas out and if I’m not able to sit down and write a full blog post I’ll try to write it in my head when I’m doing something, like some of my best blog posts have come out of the shower, where I’ll write the whole introduction in my head and then as soon as I get out of the shower, run to the office and type it up really quick. And normally if I can type up the introduction or so, then the rest of it goes pretty quickly even if I have to wait a week or so before I can get to it.
BRIAN CASEL: That’s impressive, remembering a whole paragraph of…but that was actually something that I wanted to ask you about was how do you manage your time? It seems like you are very consistent with a schedule, both on Freelancefolder and I think a few other sites, and then your own site. You know, that’s the biggest thing with blogging, is keeping it consistent and even if it’s once a month, at least doing it once a month. I think so many people fall into that trap where they start a blog, they blog regularly for two months and then they just let it sit there for six months. And it’s inevitable that client work comes up and side projects come up, and then honeymoons, and all these things just get in the way and then it’s just like the blog kind of goes to the back of the line. But it sounds like you kind of really make it a priority, you set a day.
AMBER WEINBERG: Well I actually used to write every – or I had a blog post for every single day of the week. So I would actually like spend a little bit of time after work hours writing a blog post, but then I started realising I was running out of ideas, they were getting shorter and kind of crummier and I just wasn’t happy with the quality. So I now cut it down to two posts a week. Normally one of them is for Freelancefolder so it’s like an introductory paragraph and a link there and then the second one is a full article for my own site. I also had to cut out a lot of guest articles I write, like I used to write for Aspire Studios and there are several others including Think Vitamin, but I’ve been so completely swamped with client work and now the wedding that unfortunately I’ve had to cut that. And I’ve actually noticed a big traffic decrease from that, ‘cause a lot of traffic did come from the blogs. So it’s tough, but setting aside a day at least allows me to get one or two blog posts written.
BRIAN CASEL: And with guest posts – you know, I’ve been writing on Freelanceswitch and like six revisions, and I had a few on Mashable and what happens with me is sometimes the editors there will ask, can you do a regular spot like once a month or twice a month or something like that, and I usually just always decline that. I always say, like well, I can maybe give you like one this month and maybe one next month but I can’t commit to a schedule because I just know I’m going to get busy.
AMBER WEINBERG: Exactly, yeah.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: I experienced that too. It’s like, I signed on as a blogger at Makeuseof or something and did – supposed to do three posts a month and I did three posts and I was like, alright – I can’t do it! It was – either there’s something to doing it, you know, and setting the time aside to do it on a regular basis and just to continually be inspired enough to write something good. I had a hard time with that. I’m more… if you watch Anywhereman you’ll see this – I’ll do like five posts in a two week span and then I won’t do anything for another two weeks. It’s very up and down. But I should probably set time aside to focus on it more, that would help, but…yeah, it’s – when I’m inspired on something I write, and if I’m not I don’t even touch it.
AMBER WEINBERG: That’s good though, ‘cause I mean I have a commitment to Freelancefolder for one post a week and I had signed on them very early in my freelance career, and they treated me well. But I have noticed lately I just think it’s ‘cause I’m so busy that it’s so difficult to pull an article out, you know, and you can really tell because not that many people are interested and you don’t get as many comments ‘cause I think people can tell that you weren’t really invested in that post.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: I can tell when you’re like – I read your posts on Freelancefolder and I can always tell when you’re going to get a lot of comments because I think you had one where like, why freelancers should never have a business plan, or don’t need a business plan or something. So it’s like, you push people’s buttons a little bit?
AMBER WEINBERG: I do!
BRIAN CASEL: That’s what works, you know, you can start a little bit of controversy, right?
AMBER WEINBERG: Oh man, I get the hate mail so bad!
DAVE YANKOWIAK: I don’t even have to look at the author, I can see – it’s Freelancefolder and if I see a caption like that, I’m like – I bet that’s an Amber article and she’s going to get a ton of comments! It’s a good way to do it.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, exactly.
AMBER WEINBERG: I don’t do it on purpose! (unclear 0:22:04 title bait?) I just really, you know, somebody suggested that article – that topic – and I was, like, you know what? That is a great topic because I feel like they don’t need a business plan and that one didn’t really get as much hate – there is one where I was reviewing different platforms and what platform you should go with if you’re a beginner. And I guess people didn’t realize that it was an opinionated piece, they thought – I don’t know – that I guess I was going to be fair and I’m not a fair person! I love Apple and I talk crap about Microsoft and I love WordPress and I really hate Joomla, and all these Joomla lovers just came out of nowhere and totally attacked me and I’m like, sorry, but you know, my personal opinion is I have bad luck with Joomla and I didn’t like it and it didn’t do what I needed it to do as fast as I needed it to do it, so you know, it may work for you but it’s just not for me.
BRIAN CASEL: I’m sure there are a ton more WordPress users out there who are agreeing with you anyway.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, Brian and I do that with this show a little bit – a few weeks ago we were just bashing the heck out of – well, we were bashing Illustrator a little bit, but we were bashing Windows, and so, yeah.
AMBER WEINBERG: Yes, people get so serious about that stuff. Like you can’t joke about Windows or Joomla or – I’m trying to think of another one – like different coding languages. I mean, people take it so serious and you’re like, come on!
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, I remember maybe two or three years ago, very early on in my personal blog, in the first few months I wrote a post – something about how Apple is better than Microsoft, or using a Mac is better than using a PC. And those were like some of the first few comments I ever received on my blog, you know, just people trying to fight me on that.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: By the way, on a serious note, Joomla does suck, so…I mean there’s nothing wrong here!
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah really, it sucks! It’s – oh, my gosh, don’t even get me started!
AMBER WEINBERG: I don’t know any Joomla lovers but all of a sudden I think all the ones in the world just showed up on that Freelancefolder post, you know, they must all have like a ten person community somewhere ‘cause they all showed up at once and were like, you suck! Joomla’s the best! …and I’m like, never!
BRIAN CASEL: I’m going to look that one up, we’re going to link that one up in the posts for this show.
AMBER WEINBERG: I think (inaudible 0:24:41) have edited it after a while because she was like maybe I shouldn’t have allowed you to post that!
BRIAN CASEL: So let me get you guys’ thoughts on this – so the difference between having a personal blog and then writing guest posts on other sites like Freelancefolder or other like industry sites. And then also how that plays into your clients. I think Amber your personal blog is also your client site, your portfolio – and when people hire you they’re looking at your portfolio and your blog there, whereas like Dave and myself we kind of keep a separation where like I have my personal blog at briancasel.com and then I have a company site, and Dave has Anywhereman and then he has separated from Lift Development. Amber, do you have any thoughts on clients seeing your personal blog or anything like that?
AMBER WEINBERG: Well I use guest articles to bring people to my site because they are the traffic drivers, and then I use my actual personal blog to keep them on the site, and some people I know split them up. But I found for people staying on your portfolio, because if they’re reading your blog and they like what you say, they’re more (inaudible 0:26:3) to click on that little portfolio button and check out what you do, and because my blog is catered to the same people that are my clients, it all kind of works out. Because I don’t write about anything real personal unless it has something to do with development. Like, I wrote a blog post on why I became a developer and that one was actually pretty popular. So I have two types of people reading my blog – the beginners, and then the more advance people, and half of those are either my friends or my clients. So I think both are really very important. I mean, if you’re going to write something personal, like I have another blog called The Pink Elephant, and that’s where I do my interior design and pretty stuff I find, and that one’s a lot more personal ‘cause it involves my home, and I have a link to it on my About page, but other than that it doesn’t show up on my website.
BRIAN CASEL: Very cool.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: And for you it probably makes a difference too because like we said, you’re not working directly with the end client. You’re working with – almost part of the team…
AMBER WEINBERG: Right.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: So you kind of want to give them a little flavor of who you are, what you’re about. You probably get a little bit more personal in your blog and it actually helps.
AMBER WEINBERG: Right.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Whereas like mine, like with Lift Development, it’s very targeted towards end clients. So I don’t put a lot of personal stuff in there. But then Anywhereman I’ll put more personal type stuff in that. Yeah, it makes sense, probably just depends on who your visitors are, who your readers are, who you’re trying to attract.
AMBER WEINBERG: Right.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, I think that definitely makes a lot of sense.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Going from there, just to get more into the guest blogging, Amber, how do you seek out guest blogging opportunities? You’ve kind of been all over the place, do you usually seek them out based on what they’re about, or are people coming to you? How did all that come about?
AMBER WEINBERG: I’ve actually never asked to be on another person’s blog besides Freelancefolder. They were asking for guest writers and at the time I was a brand new freelancer, I didn’t have much work and nobody knew who I was, and so I was like, well let me just put my name in the hat and they probably won’t choose me because I’ve only got ten articles on my site, but they really liked my articles and they made me commit to an article a week which was fine, but from that, everybody else kind of came to me and were like, can you please write for my blog, you know, they all pay a nice – a small little fee which is, you know, is not the same as what I get for client work but at least it’s something to help cover the time I lose from spending on articles. But everyone’s – I think once you pop up somewhere, and it’s good work, then everybody else will come to you. And it’s the same with client work.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah that’s definitely true. My first guest writing was on Freelanceswitch. I think that they still have it up but they had this form where you could just submit your name and like and article – an article pitch. I believe it’s still out there so anyone can still go and try to pitch. And I figured like, ah well, they probably won’t even respond to me. But I filled it out and I think like a month later I got an email and then I did my first guest article. I did a few more after that, and yeah, once you get published on one of these sites, you can either take that to another site and try to pitch them, which is what I did, but then, you know, somebody else might see your article on Six Revisions, or Freelanceswitch and then they might invite you on. That’s how it kind of happens, you know. Vandalaydesignblog sees an article that’s really well written, they see that you follow up on the comments – that’s a big thing, and these things just kind of lead to one another.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: So Amber, how has the guest blogging and just blogging in general, how has that allowed you to kind of grow your business, you know, I’m assuming it has. But in what ways have you seen your business grow and flourish because of your blogging?
AMBER WEINBERG: Well, like I said before, I get like a ton of traffic. I would normally get a couple of thousand extra hits a day on top of what I normally get if I have a guest article coming out that day. Also, like I said, my other clients are all developers and designers reading the same blog, so I’ve had a lot of clients come to me saying, hey, I read your articles all the time and they’re great, and I have this project and I don’t have a developer, can we work together? I would say that’s a good 25% of my client base probably came from reading one of my blogs, and then following the link to my website.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: So it’s helped a lot then?
AMBER WEINBERG: Yes, definitely, that and Twitter are probably my best ways of getting clients now.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: How about you, Brian, have you seen an increase in your business from some of the Mashable articles and things like that?
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah. I think the Mashable ones were pretty big in terms of traffic and people emailing me. And then, yeah, eventually it leads to Twitter followers – not that the key is to have as many Twitter followers as you possibly can, but I think actually they key is to have quality Twitter follows. Somebody who read your article or read several of your articles and then follows you on Twitter is somebody who’s really paying attention to your tweets and then more likely to contact you on any web design or whatever it is that you do. So that is how it kind of translates into growing the business, for sure. And then, you know, the other thing is you can say like on your website and resumé and other places, I’ve written for Freelancefolder, and you know, it kind of shows your expertise.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: I think for me, because I haven’t done a lot of guest blogging, or most of my blogging has been on my own blogs, I always tell people if you have a skill, get out there and flex your muscles! Like to me, blogging allows you to just – you know, here’s what I know about, here’s what I’m good at, here’s something I have some expertise in, and you get to kind of demonstrate that through your blog posts, whether you’re talking about WordPress or HTML or CSS or whatever it is, you can kind of create this audience and pull them in with what you know about it. Show them that if you work with me, here’s what I bring to the table. I think for me, that’s where blogging’s really helped me. I’ll share blog posts through Twitter or through my Facebook page or whatever, and I get response from them. People will all of a sudden – hey, we need some help with this site, or whatever. But just to be able to kind of show that you know what you’re talking about, I guess.
AMBER WEINBERG: Right, it definitely shows that you really know what you’re talking about, because you really can’t fake a blog post ‘cause people will know if you’re just copying and pasting stuff.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Right!
AMBER WEINBERG: So I think people are more apt to hire you, not just when you have a great portfolio but when they can read and they can understand what you’re writing and they can see that you really know how to communicate and that you really know what you’re talking about.
BRIAN CASEL: Absolutely, that’s a question that I wanted to ask, is how important is it for any freelancer, or even anyone who works elsewhere, to have a blog, have some kind of blog? And I totally agree that when I’m looking at other people’s work, and just networking on the web, which is really how a lot of us network these days, having a great portfolio is great, but also just having a blog where I can really see what your though process is, and what your ideas are, and just the fact that having a blog shows that you’re taking extra time out of your paid work to write about what you’re doing, and that means that you’re really passionate about it. You’re really in the thick of this industry. That’s what having a blog says to me.
AMBER WEINBERG: Right, I think it’s important, but at the same time if you’re a bad writer or you really have nothing to say, I think it’s important that you find some other way and not just type a bunch of words to type it up. I’ve seen some terrible blogs out there and I think if you’re just starting out it might be good to practice or even do a few guest posts before you start your own full time blog, just because it could actually hurt you if you put a bunch of rubbish up there.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, that’s one of the questions I have too – has blogging ever had a negative effect on your business?
AMBER WEINBERG: Not on my business per se, but perhaps on my pride. I do - every once in a while, the problem with having a popular blog is that you’re seen by more people and the more people you’re seen by, the more chance you have of being seen by a troll. And I have had – every once in a while I will have some guy either randomly comment on my blog post or randomly email me through my contact form telling me that my work sucks and I suck and I hope he made me cry.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Jeez!!
BRIAN CASEL: Wow.
AMBER WEINBERG: And I thought it was me at first but I talked to Sarah Parmenter, you know, (unclear 0:36:45) on Twitter, and she’s had the same thing where people will say, you know, you’re only a good businessperson because you’re blonde and cute. They’re just trolls, people hate on you because you’re successful and obviously they’re not if they have time to go and attack me.
BRIAN CASEL: Absolutely, and just the fact of taking the risk to put yourself out there and put your ideas out there, a lot of people just don’t do that and they don’t want to take that risk. To those who do troll and add negative comments, or not even constructive criticism, that’s just the type of comment that’s not even worth responding to. It’s great to go on a WP Candy article and just have like an intense debate about the WordPress community, and have like six different reply threads going on and just really interesting comments being thrown around. But then if someone’s just throwing a nasty crap, nobody likes that and it usually just gets ignored.
AMBER WEINBERG: I admit that I am so bad about responding to people ‘cause I am just that kind of a person and I’m a (unclear 0:38:06), so I will waste half of my day fighting these people if they even give a valid email address! I try not to – I’m getting better at just hitting the ‘delete’ button, but there have been times when an entire day’s gone by, I’m like, oh crap...
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Back to what we were saying with people who may be aren’t that good writers, or are just getting started with blogging. I think the thing for me has been sometimes when you write out a blog post it allows you to actually formulate an opinion or formulate – even if, you know, if I’m explaining something that a client might be interested in. It kind of allows me to almost - not create an elevator pitch, but just create something, it helps me organize my thoughts, and when I talk to people in person I can kind of reference back to how I had it organized in that blog post. I don’t know if that makes sense. Maybe you relate to that, Brian?
BRIAN CASEL: Absolutely. I think that’s one of the hidden benefits of blogging. You’re increasing your exposure and you might make some money from it, but I think really maybe even more importantly is how just writing helps you organize your thoughts. I use my personal blog really more as a personal blog. It’s really just kind of – I do a lot less editing there and a lot just more spewing out my thoughts on what I’m working on and some of my, kind of like – flaw. Like right now I’m writing a lot about this app that I’m designing. It’s not so much about like helping the industry, it’s more just like kind of getting my thoughts out there and then yeah, there have been so many times that I’m just like – alright. I know this is what I’m writing about, but by the end of the article it developed into something totally new, and it helped me really form those ideas and get them down, document them somehow.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Right, yeah. I wrote one a while back just on like all these different ways that you could benefit by using WordPress for your website, and just formulating all those stats now people – if I’m talking to them in person or on the phone and they’re like – well why should I build my website on WordPress? It’s like – bam! I’ve got all these reasons, I can just whip them out and here you go! So it definitely helps you clear your thoughts. And I’ll say that too, like there’s blogging in the typed or written form, but there’s also video blogging. So maybe you don’t write that well but you’re really funny, or have a good personality. Even video blogging, I’ve done that before and I’ll take a few notes before I hit ‘record’, and even that in itself I think can really help you get yourself out there, and like I said, flex your muscles.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, totally, Dave’s blog is – a lot of these video blogs, and I’ve always been kind of impressed with that because I never felt comfortable going on video alone and just kind of talking!
DAVE YANKOWIAK: I watched those earlier ones – man, it’s awkward! So do you ever do any video blogging, Amber?
AMBER WEINBERG: I don’t. I will admit that I am not a fan of video blogging, or video broadcasting which is (unclear 0:41:45.2) but I prefer – well just because I don’t have a lot of time to sit there and watch video. But I do have a lot of time to watch audio, so a lot of video podcasts, you know, most of them have just plain audio streams and I will subscribe to those. And I think those and reading blogs both help you become a better writer, just because you get more practice hearing other people speak and then you’ll start – you know, ‘cause when I was first starting out, I started writing like people I like to read. I don’t know if that makes sense, but like they would have a certain style and they would explain things a certain way, and the way their words flow, I found out because I read them so much my brain started to kind of emulate that way, and then it just made me such a better writer.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, absolutely. Reading is huge. If you want to become a better writer, just read a lot. I think it goes for any kind of writing. If you want to write a novel, read a lot of novels. But yeah, when I got started guest blogging it was because I had been reading Freelanceswitch for years and just reading those articles kind of inspired me to start writing like that.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: So Amber, in your opinion, what makes a good blog post? Like when you’re off reading somebody else’s post, what are the things that you’re like, oh, that was really well written, or they really covered that topic in a really good manner. What makes a good blog post?
AMBER WEINBERG: I think both being personable and writing about something unique. ‘Cause a problem I found is when I was first starting freelancing, I’d actually been reading Freelanceswitch and Freelancefolder and a lot of other blogs. And the problem I saw was that I kept reading the same thing after the same thing, and especially as you become an advanced freelancer, you know, after you’ve passed your first year or so, it’s like no advice is new. So it’s very hard to find even in coding, stuff that hasn’t been written about before. So if you can find something that really hasn’t been written about and write it in an interesting way, especially if you can inject a bit of humor in there, ‘cause I mean as much as I love to read when it comes to tutorials and blog posts in our industry I have serious ADD! So it’s very easy to lose my attention, because I have little time. So normally I end up skimming.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, and that’s a big thing. I think a lot of readers do skim. I think blogging is a very specific writing style. It’s a different writing style than if you’re going to write for a magazine or a term paper in college or something like that. It’s all about catchy headlines, catchy titles, short, concise paragraphs and just kind of cover the bullet points really.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: That being said, I cannot read Tim Ferris’ blog. His posts are way too long.
AMBER WEINBERG: Yeah, I hate lengthy posts.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, just stick to SEF Code and one paragraph done!
DAVE YANKOWIAK: That’s right, SEF! I’m (unclear 0:45:09.2) two paragraphs, you know, that’s my kind of – and I actually, like with Anywhereman I actually changed my format on that blog a couple of months ago. I went to more of like a tumbleblock style where I could be – you know, if I was too busy to write, I could post a picture I took on my phone that week, or you know, interesting links that I saw, or this video that I saw. It’s a little more of a ground bag of blog posts versus every one is ten paragraphs and three points, and things like that. That’s helped me a little bit.
AMBER WEINBERG: Yeah, I’m actually writing – probably a book size, I hope – amount of posts on basically starting a WordPress theme and using it as a full CMS, and writing it from scratch. And that’s been kind of tough, figuring out where to stop. And I think my first one is 1200 words, and that I think is kind of pushing people’s concentration there, but you know, there’s only so many – you know, I don’t want to drag it out for a whole year and I’m going to try to make it to where, at the very end, it’s enough to combine into an ebook that I can sell for a couple of dollars. But it’s tough to keep people’s attention these days, especially when you have, like, right next to me I’ve got my iPhone and it’s been beeping every five seconds and I got an iPad next to me and I have brightzillas on the screen! It’s hard to keep my attention ‘cause there’s not enough time in a day.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, absolutely, it’s tough. And I definitely battle with that length issue, specially when I’m writing for things like Six Revisions. Well that site actually really values the lengthier posts I think. One idea that I’ve been kind of working with lately is that I like to try to write an article but then in my head I’m trying to answer the potential criticisms with that article, you know, beforehand, preemptively. And that’s what I’m trying to get away from, is I’m trying to leave room for a little bit of debate and leave room for commenting and shorten the article a little bit.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: That’s a good approach, I didn’t even think of it, ‘cause I’d be the same way. Just like, alright, somebody’s going to counter this point with this argument, so I try to cover that. But yeah, if you leave it open, which I totally fail at – I still write it way too long and just ramble on, but...Yeah, you’ve written some long posts, right? Some of your Mashable ones, I’m like, man, how does Brian have this kind of time?
BRIAN CASEL: Well those aren’t one sit down. I mean, I’m definitely not like Amber, I can’t write 1200 words in half an hour! No way! I’ll write half of it one day and then get back to it like two weeks later, and then, you know.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Wait till you guys have kids, man! I’ve no time to write these big long Mashable posts!
BRIAN CASEL: So before we wrap up here, Amber, do you want to tell us a little bit about Code Snip It? What’s been going on there?
AMBER WEINBERG: It’s been a rough start but we’re actually on our second version now, and we’re getting ready to launch. It’s about half launched, so it’s up in the back end but not the front end yet. We had a friend redesign the entire site for us and we’re coming out with some new features. It’s a secret, but we’re also coming out with the gaming badge feature and what Code Snip It is, it’s kind of a mix up of several different sites but you can post your snippets of code and you can share it with others, but you can also follow other developers and have kind of like a Twitter-like you know timeline, where you can see what they’re posting and what they’re working on. And it allows you to have, you know, if you have a premium account, you can have private snippets, and we’re working on a chatting system between developers right now. And it’s just kind of a cool way, I think – it’s a little bit more interactive way to share your code, because you’ve got things like Dribble and CSS Galleries and all that for designers, but there’s really nothing cool looking for developers.
BRIAN CASEL: Very cool.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: So eventually you’re going to have it so people can – like if I have all these snippets of code that I use on a regular basis that I kind of want to file – or maybe I don’t use them on a regular basis but it’s something where I want to have access to it again someday, I can kind of lock it up and I don’t have to make everything public?
AMBER WEINBERG: Right. If you have a premium account, and those are in place right now, you can have a private snippet timeline. So it’s basically for your eyes only. And eventually we’re thinking about expanding it so businesses can uses it, so perhaps you can have some kind of corporate account where only your members can see your code, and so maybe you can collaborate a little bit like that. But that’s pretty far down the line ‘cause I’m still trying to get – version 2 was supposed to launch yesterday and you’re a bit behind, so hopefully late tonight or by tomorrow we’ll have a nice new design up, and it’s a lot less cluttered and easier to navigate.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: I saw the screenshot of it, it looked good, so I’m looking forward to that. I have an account on there and I haven’t really ever really used it yet, but I’m going to check it out some more.
BRIAN CASEL: Very cool. I think I have an account as well and I really do need to get in on that. I haven’t been there. And the way I keep track of all my code snippets is I just kind of remember different sites that I’ve coded in the last few months. Alright – I need this drop down menu, I kind of did that on this site but now it’s getting to the point where it’s all just like, up here. I don’t have any real system for it.
AMBER WEINBERG: Right, right. Our biggest problem is that everybody has an account but nobody uses the site, so we had like – I think currently we have over 2400 accounts open but we have maybe, I don’t know, less than 100 active users who come back regularly. And that’s our issue. So we’re hoping to fix that by a new design and adding new features for like the premium accounts, because I think that’s really going to help. Because I mean, we also launched about the same exact time as Forest, so I actually spoke to the founder of Forest once and I was like, man, I wish we had found each other before we launched because we could have kind of combined the sites.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: But you know, I don’t think that Forest is really a direct competitor. I’ve been using Forest more lately but I haven’t been using it for code, I’ve been using to get advice for business. I’ve also been putting up design screenshots on there, and...
AMBER WEINBERG: Well, you know, they have a snippet section kind of like ours. But I personally don’t like the design or that they combine so much stuff, because to me that’s kind of cluttered. You know, when you only want to go to look for a design or only want to go to look for a code, you can filter it but it’s still to me so crowded. So I was hoping that this could be a really cool social place for just us geeks!
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Right, a really targeted niche site, it’s all about code.
AMBER WEINBERG: Yeah, I like it.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: So we’ll watch for that in the next 48 hours, the new version of CodeSnipIt. And everybody needs to on, sign up and don’t just sign up, you’ve got to actually use it-
BRIAN CASEL: Start using it. I’m going to start using it for sure.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah. I’m going to post some st- I need it this time, I signed up but I’m really going start using it!
BRIAN CASEL: Cool.
AMBER WEINBERG: Well thank you, guys.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Well thanks for being on the show, Amber, it’s been good talking about the blogging and about your business and just kind of how you’ve gotten where you are now. We appreciate you taking the time.
AMBER WEINBERG: Well thank you guys for having me on the show, it was really fun and maybe now I’ll start watching video podcasts!
DAVE YANKOWIAK: We do an audio version too, so you can still listen to it when we’re done.
AMBER WEINBERG: Yes, I’ve actually been meaning to subscribe. You guys have been meaning to post and I’ve been meaning to subscribe. That’s what I’m going to do now.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: There we go.
BRIAN CASEL: Right, deal. So everybody check out amberweinberg.com and she’s amberweinberg on Twitter and say nice things to her, don’t say mean things about her posts!
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Brian, what’s the music we’ve got in store this week?
BRIAN CASEL: Alright. So the music that we’ll be putting in the recording is from a man called High Respects, (inaudible 0:54:25.2) a few years now, they’re actually from Dave’s home state of Minneapolis. They are –
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Minneapolis is a CITY!
BRIAN CASEL: Oh sorry. Minnesota! All you midwestern people... whatever!
DAVE YANKOWIAK: That’s right.
BRIAN CASEL: So High Respects is a really cool hip hop band and they’re a live instrument – live band hip hop, and when you listen to them it really sounds more – it almost sounds like they’re using samples ‘cause just the way they play so tight and, you know, it’s just really cool stuff. So – you know, check it out. The opening song, clip, is the title track, A Tiger Dancing, and the closing song that you’ll hear is Marching Orders. So that’s the music for tonight. So thank you Amber Weinberg.
AMBER WEINBERG: Thank you!
BRIAN CASEL: Alright. So Dave, I guess we’ll talk later in the week, maybe another FreelanceJam session.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: That’s right, that’s right. Good chatting with you again tonight.
BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, and thank you all for checking out the jabber tonight.
DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah thanks for tuning in, everybody, see ya.
BRIAN CASEL: Alright, see you next time guys.