Bloggers October 16, 2020

How do you blog?

Rosie Sherry @rosiesherry

Most indie hackers wouldn't say no to a successful blog, how to make that happen is a different story.

And of course, success is defined in many ways. For some it is more about the writing habit, for others it is about building up a brand and driving traffic.

No matter what stage of the journey you are at:

  • what tools do you use for blogging?
  • what's your writing habit like?
  • how is it working out?
  • what has been tough?

(I'm pinning this post to the top of the Bloggers group so that it can be a super useful resource for indie hackers.)

  1. 15

    Before it was a very bizarre process, but now after 1 year of trials and errors I finally got the perfect routine for that.

    • I use Notion for content calendar,
    • I publish 2 articles a week with 3 days between them
    • I block 1 hour each single day to write,
    • I use grammarly and http://www.hemingwayapp.com/ to improve the writing.

    It's working out for me like magic, I always know what to write about and with the 1 hour blocking routine it's actually quite liberating.

    Because I don't need to have bizarre thoughts about writing all day, I know that I have 1 specific hour to focus on it and that's it. So I write all my ideas in Notion and just write consistently.

    1. 5

      +1 for hemingway app. such a great tool to check your blind spots before hitting publish.

      1. 1

        Interesting, found that different tools cater for different writing practices, for instance Hemingway encourages passive voice and ProWritingAid discourages it => also a great grammarly addition.

        1. 1

          Yeah, I use it to check for major blind spots. I don't want to lose my "voice" in my writing, so I let a lot of things slide, but I tend to write in an active voice since I do a lot of screenwriting...haha

    2. 1

      Question Anne, do you blog about a certain topic or just whatever piques your interest?

      1. 2

        I blog about community building and podcasting. I have two projects in that niches. I can for sure say that settling down for some specific topic is much better for the project, engagement and subscribers.

        1. 1

          Great, thanks for response.

  2. 5

    I've kept a private blog, or work journal, for many years. It runs on my local machine and uses WordPress. I probably write 500 to 750 words a day detailing what tasks I did for my clients and side projects. It's a really useful bit of reference material to fall back on.

    On the flipside, the blog on my company's site has been dormant or infrequently updated for years. I'm generally either short on time, ideas, motivation, or all three. I recently decided to hire a content marketing agency to lend me a hand and their first post is going live next week. The process is much easier to manage from my end: we have short Zoom calls and I also record a quick video of my thoughts on a given topic. They turn it into written content, get my approval and then handle the process of posting it to the site and social media for me.

    I'm lucky in that the pandemic really hasn't impacted my business so I'm able to basically throw money at the problem. I've told myself I'll give this method a shot for at least a few months and see how it goes. I don't expect instant results so I'm more interested in the process right now.

    1. 1

      May I ask how the price for a post is calculated? I probably have to go down this road.

      1. 1

        I pay a flat fee for two posts a month. The word count is not set in stone. Right now I think the price I'm paying is high for what I'm getting but, as I mentioned above, I'm willing to pay just to get the ball rolling down the hill. I'm also paying a premium for all of the hand holding in terms of generating topic ideas and handling the busy work as well.

        There are other ways to go about this and I looked into all of them. Cost per word is the most common and the price swings wildly from next to nothing to very expensive. There are also services where you pay a flat fee per month for X amount of words but most of those seem to be less than high quality.

        I think the best approach is to find one or two freelance writers I trust and like and have them churn content out for me long term. If I can come up with a large list of topic ideas on a schedule that would be ideal. The past has proven I can't and won't do this reliably on my own.

  3. 3

    I have been blogging since Oct-6-2006 and have published 1,978 Posts and 1,467,670 words. I have written some "lessons learned from blogging" posts, the last was October 2018 Lessons Learned from 12 years of blogging

    Tools

    • WordPress for content management
    • Yoast plugin for SEO
    • CheckDog for website spellcheck / link check / image check (runs as a cron check every two weeks to catch minor edit mistakes and link rot)
    • Grammarly for grammar check
    • Libsyn for audio / podcast storage.
    • Vimeo for video storage
    • Rev.com and otter.ai for audio transcript generation

    Writing Habits

    • I collect quotes for entrepreneurs that I tweet roughly daily on @skmurphy and accumulate into a single long post at the end of the month.
    • I revise content from emails to customers and prospects and publish as a blog
    • I revise content from forum posts (LSC, HN, IH, etc..) and publish as a blog
    • I can get inspired by other blog posts and articles (e.g. extend, critique, or rebut)
    • My goal is to offer practical content on the realities of getting an early stage startup off the ground.
  4. 2
    • what tools do you use for blogging?
      Just markdown that I publish on my website (flask + bootstrap)
      https://www.hugomontenegro.com/

    • what's your writing habit like?
      .... very bad. So many ideas and stuff I want to write about, but I always get self-doubt when I get to it.

    • how is it working out?
      Honestly pretty good. My first proper blog post got about ~15k views.

    • what has been tough?
      Actually getting to write. I KNOW it will, eventually, be good, but the journey to get there is a little hard.

  5. 1

    (1) VSCode, Grammarly, and Netlify to host the site (2) Typically, at least 1 post every 2 weeks if not once a week. (3) Been doing it for about a year now but recently revamped site to new domain. (4) Toughest part has been building an audience or rather finding and keeping an audience that is interested in my topics. I recently read Doing Content the Right way by Step Smith which has helped a lot in that regard.

  6. 1

    I started my blog in December 2018 https://infodistillery.com/ over the chrismas holidays 😊

    Tools: I use Roam Research and grammarly, as well as Figma for the visualisations

    Writing habit: I have an accountability writing session with 2 friends, we do it every sunday. It's super helpful because if I don't write at all during the week, at least I know I'll write during the Sunday sessions. I publish on average 1 article a month but I've started publishing more regulary.

    How it's working out: it's working out pretty well, but I'd like to increase my publishing cadence to once a week, the tricky thing is that I mostly prefer longform which takes longer to write.

    What's been tough: striking a good balance between writing both long form and short form. Reading back my past work and cringing sometimes 😄.

    Overall, I am deeply grateful for having started my blog and for being able to sustain it. It's taught me a lot and has been a great way to "present" myself to the world. When I see my analytics from the previous night, I kind of think of it like my writing going out there and making me friends while I sleep! (actually I'm going to tweet that now 😂)

  7. 1

    For me I enjoy blogging when there is a topic that I enjoyed learning about or have a unique perspective to share.

    • I really love using Bear to craft my notes
    • I write occasionally but once every 2 or 3 weeks
    • It has created awareness for topics that I have insight in and I recently have been tracking the traffic it is bringing

    The toughest part sadly is still knowing what to write.

    What worked for me was going back to basics, a simple guideline to get me started (sometimes I just go in cold!)

    • Introduction
    • Middle
    • End

    (after, you can take your main ideas and turn it into headings)

    Make a point, Make people care

    Use "you" and "I" to make it conversational. Write short paragraphs.

  8. 1

    I’ve been blogging for years, although mostly ghost written content published by others until the last year or two.

    • I blog on a couple of platforms, but mainly Medium, Substack, and my own WordPress powered blog. I also still occasionally ghost write for larger publications.

    • I don’t have a set schedule. I tend to get really good ideas late at night so a lot of the ideas behind my blog posts come from my everyday thoughts. I have a digital content calendar but I prefer my 4 giant whiteboards surrounding my desk to plan posts.

    • I would say it is working out far better than I expected. Enough so that I have actually been able to spend time researching various digital publishing platforms and even launching a course on Medium blogging, recently!

    • The toughest part for me is prioritizing what ideas to write about and sticking to this more efficient schedule. Some of my best posts have been written totally out of my “planned” schedule. Most likely because by trying to stick to a “logical schedule” my best ideas which distract me tend to emerge quite clearly (it takes a really good idea for me to disrupt my schedule once written on the whiteboards).

  9. 1

    Been writing on and off since 2 years ago, mostly for fun. Beginning this year, I'm trying to write more to build a personal brand on austinyang.co.

    • Started on Medium then moved to Wordpress w/ Elementor page builder.
    • My content is mostly long-form and takes 1-month to write (on and off)😅 - too busy with day job and other things.
    • I save and prioritize ideas in Notion board, along with other side projects I work on.
    • My goal is having truly high-quality content I'd want to read. I don't add filter content just for SEO.
    • Usually I'd pay an editor on Fivver to do some basic proofreading.

    Speed is something I believe I have lots of room to improve. Would love some tips around this!

  10. 1

    I've been writing in public everyday since January 3rd, 2020 (https://penguinlatte.blog/).

    I like to write something that would be worth reading a year from now, or five years from now. Whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it's a story. Sometimes it's some lessons I've learned from a project. Sometimes it's a shoutout to a friend. And sometimes its a thank you to my readers and listeners.

    I don't have an elegant system, no sophisticated note-taking process. I'm not making content for a company. I do it everyday so that I can get better at writing. Daily reps, like at the gym.

    There is always something worth writing about. Everything is an interesting story if you know how to write.

    Directly into WordPress
    Notion for collecting quit jots and quotes from books or articles I'm reading

    And that's it. The rest I take from me paying attention to the world around me, and my own thoughts.

  11. 1

    I blog on Twitter growth hacking.

    1. I use Django Wagtail CMS.

    2. I write bottom-of-funnel content or pain-point-based content, because those convert the best. I'm moving away from upper-funnel content that drives more traffic but way fewer (if any) conversions.

    3. It's been going good, I rank okay for my keywords, but getting backlinks is hard, as I haven't really reached out for guest posting, niche edits, etc.

  12. 1

    I write about 1 article per month for my WordPress blog. They're usually about tech, business, or design.

    I write directly in WordPress, but run the text through hemmingwayapp at the end. I add screenshots when relevant to what I'm writing about.

    I use Evernote to keep track of my notes and abstract ideas.

    I'm usually working on multiple articles, and jump between them when I start to feel less inspired by the current topic

    https://www.antpace.com/blog

  13. 1

    I have been writing on a personal blog for some time but recently created our blog for our startup at increment.io/blog

    what tools do you use for blogging?
    We blog using the ghost platform. after I write something I run it through Hemingway to make it better. Grammarly is a good tip from the folks below so I will try it out
    Use Keyword everywhere to help with content calendar. Would like to use ahrefs but it’s pricey.

    what's your writing habit like?
    I take the posts seriously and prefer to only publish high quality posts that can stand out. I write one a month and then I outsource one to a subject matter expert. I write the outline first and pass it to the contract writer.
    I focus on writing 100 words a day (started recently)

    how is it working out?
    I have about 4 posts done and am waiting for app to launch so that I can use the posts to drive some attention to the website

    what has been tough?
    Writing high quality pieces that can stand out. We will see where this takes us 6 months from now.

    I really think you need a system for your writing and I feel like I have just finished developing one so we will see how it goes

  14. 1
    1. I'm using Hugo. Other than that I'm using Neovim for everything I type: writing, code, shopping lists... :D
    2. I'm writing every day, the morning. I try to write in-depth articles, so I publish only every month.
    3. It works out well. It's not without difficulties but I'm writing almost every day for years. I have more and more visitors (22k last month), more and more newsletter subscriptions, and it looks like it help quite a few people. To me that's already crazy!
    4. As always: being consistent. We're so wired on the short term it's almost freeky.

    Here's my blog.

  15. 1

    I mostly use Ahref and usally outsource writers.

  16. 1

    Just started my personal blog.

    I post every weekday. Takes me between 30m and 1hour to write a post. They're short though. Writing is difficult so I'm hoping it gets easier.

    It's difficult to choose the topics. What I'm trying to do is to write for my future self as in what I'm thinking or working on today.

    Writing stack
    Just Obsidian

    Blog Stack
    Nuxtjs + Content module
    Netlify
    Splitbee

    If anyone is interested I write about learning to build products. Becoming a generalist.
    ameneres.com

    1. 1

      A trick to simplify topic identification that I use is to choose themes for each day of the week. It dramatically reduces the amount of creativity required as you're not starting from scratch each day. I'm working on a privacy project right now where we've just started putting in place a content calendar

      We've chosen Tuesdays and Thursdays to be interview days where we're asking experts 'Why Privacy Matters?'
      Mondays we're doing weekly roundups of curated privacy-related news
      Wednesdays are for blog posts about our campaign (we're suing Oracle and Salesforce for privacy violations in The Netherlands and UK - support us here https://theprivacycollective.eu - cheeky plug!)
      Fridays are when we schedule all the next week's social promotion.

      1. 1

        Thanks @Rakeye for the advice. I'm starting to do that so it's easier to get the ball rolling every day.

  17. 1

    what tools do you use for blogging?
    I mainly use roamresearch to formula the post. run it through Grammarly and Hemingway

    what's your writing habit like?
    This is the tricky part, I am so sporadic atm. I am juggling a bunch of things and often, sadly, pass the buck on writing. I should be focusing on it more!

    how is it working out?
    Hit or miss. I am also confilicated do I write about something that peaked my interest or conversely something valuable for an audience.

    what has been tough?
    I would say commitminet and the audience vs personal subject matter.

  18. 1

    I write both a weekly newsletter and bigger articles on my blog (but a lot more rarely).

    Here's my process when I write the big articles:

    • Come up with a list of topics (things I want to talk about and pains I've identified from my audience)
    • Research keywords on these topics to prioritize the most promising one
    • Start an outline with my own ideas
    • Research keywords to find all possible things I could write about and put it in my outline
    • Search all those keywords and bookmark all the interesting articles each time
    • Take notes of all those articles
    • At this point I also come up with a list of possible images and draft social posts as I read through the articles
    • Add the most interesting bits of my notes to my outline
    • And finally write my content and publish it

    I use Notion when doing the outline and Statamic as my CMS to publish the content.

    The more rigourous about this process, the better the results. It's really 80% research, 20% writing.

    But it's mentally draining, too much information to analyze and sort through. Doing that on the side is challenging.

  19. 1

    Blogging always came in bursts for me. I had a few periods in which I wrote more regularly, then nothing for months. The timestamps on my blog tell a story about my writing habit.

    Over the last year, I tried shorter posts (~300 words) that I sent out to my newsletter subscribers first. I managed to send one of these every Wednesday for the last 58 weeks, which I didn’t realize before looking up that number just now. They are tucked away on my website. I’m not really promoting them, or giving them the attention they deserve.

    Recently, the limitation in length on the newsletters didn’t feel useful anymore. Initially meant as guidance, many of them felt like half-finished thoughts that didn’t really go anywhere meaningful. Instead of caging these ideas in, I’ll start turning them into longer posts again.

    After reading Deep Work the other week, I am now scheduling my entire workweek in advance. I have blocked regular sessions for Deep Work and Shallow Work, and also several 1½ hour blocks for writing throughout the week. It’s going well so far, but it’s only been a week now.

    As for the toolset, I draft and edit in Ulysses (https://ulysses.app). Before publishing anything, I run it through http://hemingwayapp.com. My writing slowly evolves, so the Hemingway Editor highlights fewer and fewer suggestions over time. It’s a slow process, because I need to unlearn many of the habits I have built over years. It definitely makes my writing a lot clearer.

  20. 1

    Love this question!

    Writing is at the core of what I do to provide value to people before money ever changes hands. I've started adding video and audio to supplement that, but it all stems from the writing that I do.

    I use a mix of tools depending on what I'm writing. For screenplays or other long-form writing I use Highland 2 (https://highland2.app) which is one of my favorite writing apps of all time.

    For blogs and short-form, I've switched over to using Roam (roamresearch.com) as a starting point so that I can access all of my thoughts and notes on a particular subject to get an outline in place, then I tend to just write in ConverKit (https://convertkit.com?lmref=sfRfDQ) because I want to see what the formatting is going to look like. I've never lost a draft in there (knock on wood) so it feels safe to be writing directly in their composer.

    I write EVERY day, even if it's just outlining or connecting some dots in Roam. I publish once a week on two different newsletters, so I get a final piece finished up at least once a week on both. Every now and then I've got a "random" newsletter I'll send out since all of the writing every day tends to lead to publishing my thoughts.

    It's going well - the newsletters are growing (newsletter.craftsmancreative.co is one principle a week on how to start, fix, and grow your business, and bcc.craftsmancreative.co is a weekly "build in public" newsletter with what I learned that week that you can apply to your own journey building a creative business) and what's more is that I'm getting more feedback this year than ever before, since switching to a more consistent publishing schedule.

    I think people can feel that I'm taking it serioiusly, so it isn't so much of a stretch for them to reply to an email with their thoughts or follow up questions.

    The goal has always been to help people through my writing, and for years it felt like i was just hitting publish and watching those 1,000 words float off into the digital ether, never to be seen again. That was certainly hard, but I feel like I needed to go through those years to get confident in my writing and to understand what it was really for.

    Thanks for this question, it was a fun one to think about!

  21. 1

    Brand new to blogging! I'm writing primarily technical content at DinoSaaS.

    I build open-source apps and then write step-by-step tutorials. While building, I'll keep a notes doc as I go, and keep descriptive commit messages. Then I reconstruct the process afterwards when I write the accompanying blog post.

    My blog is hosted on Webflow. I usually draft posts in Google Docs, then copy them over to the Webflow CMS. My posts have lots of embedded code, which isn't great with those tools, but I've made it work so far.

    What's tough? A few things:

    1. Zoning in on an audience - I don't yet have a great "persona" for who my primary audience is; only hypotheses about who they could be.
    2. Figuring out what types of content work for that audience - I have a few categories of posts. They could be more product-heavy or more tech-heavy. More Rails-specific or more generalized product stuff.
    3. Getting into a publishing routine - I know I should get into a habit of publishing x times a week, on specific days, but so far I've just been going as fast as I can, publishing when things are ready.

    How's it working out?

    1. One article got around 1,000 page views in the first 2 days.
    2. One article is getting picked up by a prominent blog with 800k monthly uniques (yay backlinks!)
    3. One article has around 10-20 page views in its first week...

    Ups and downs, but I've seen enough positive momentum to keep it going! I know the name of the game is consistency.

  22. 1

    Hey Rosie, are you talking about a personal blog, or more of a content marketing blog?

  23. 1

    what tools do you use for blogging?

    I blog to explore my interests, keep track of my creative work and projects, and share my experience.

    what's your writing habit like?

    Whenever I have an idea for a post, I take notes. When I have some free time, I pick an idea and start drafting a post in Google Docs. Then I revise the post, add visuals, and publish it to my blog hosted on Blogger.

    how is it working out?

    In the early days I established a routine of publishing at least 2 posts per week, which helped put out a critical mass of content. These days I post about half that much, I'd like to focus more on quality.

    what has been tough?

    Getting eyeballs, hands down. Now I have a critical mass of content and enough domain authority to enjoy some decent and growing traffic.

  24. 1

    I don't have a schedule or anything yet. I try to spend 30 minutes a day writing.

    I just started! Not really tied to any platform or anything right now.

    Most of my writing I'm doing in substack.

  25. 1

    I only started recently but this is how I do it:

    1. Write the post in Notion or Hemmingway App.
    2. Write everything on my mind in conversational tone. I don't pay attention to keywords.
    3. Publish. I skip images for now.
    4. Come back and add images later.

    Skipping the images seems to help with the flow. I can just focus on writing and get it out asap. 80/20 at work. Then come back, polish it up, add details, add links... whatever.

    Every piece of content I write, I intend it to be evergreen so I will need to keep it fresh anyway.

    Not sure how this will play out over the long run, I'll let you know!

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