I recently had a conversation with another freelancer about how much of the freelancing blog world is overrun with the same content day after day, month after month, year after year. Don't get me wrong. I've worked in publishing for 10 years, so I understand the concept of "evergreen" topics.
Every spring Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Vogue will tell you the best way to "get ready for summer." Every fall, Budget Travel, Girlfriend Getaways and Travel + Leisure will share the best vacation spots to spend your winter holiday. Every two months, Details and Men's Health will insist there's only one way to sculpt the most perfect abs the world has ever seen.
But this isn't about the evergreen world of blogging. No, this is about freelancers giving advice that other freelancers already know or any new freelancers worth their salt can easily Google. Ladies and gentlemen, we're not only retreading the same topics, we aren't even adding any new, worthwhile dialogue to mask our repetition. It's as if we're all independent theater companies performing the same production of Hamlet the same way every week to an audience who's seen it 20 times all year every year. Except our content is no where nearly as compelling as a 400-year play about a tortured Dane with father-abandonment issues.
Here are 5 posts every freelance blogger should stop writing:
Tips on how to "Save Money as a Freelancer," "Find More Tax Deductions in 201X" or "Use Groupon To Learn What Your Grandma Already Knew" are problematic on many levels. Every couple of months, there's a piece telling us how to cut back on expenses because the feast-or-famine cycle is vicious and cruel. Every blogger covering this topic thinks dining out less or using the library for free wifi access is novel and clever.
Here's the problem with your advice: I already know how to be poor. The only people who know more than freelancers about how to coast on fumes when times are tough are homeless people. I understand that some freelancers grew up middle class or may be coming from a corporate world where paychecks come with dental plans and stock options. But if you're making that plunge into freelancing, you already know that you need to cut back on takeaway, gourmet coffee and shiny, new gadgets that make you look cool while you stand in line grabbing takeaway and coffee.
If you want to give financial advice, offer suggestions that haven't been reiterated in every blog 1,000 times before. Stop trying to pass off old tips as new when we all know it's the same schlock with one extra common sense tip that's no more groundbreaking than the other twelve. I've been poor a lot longer than I've been ... not poor and, honestly, most of you who write these financial advice posts simply convey how rarely you've ever had to go without.
I admit I've come close to blogging about this issue myself. Not because I agree that everyone should have a niche and I feel the need to add my voice to the other 3,000 freelance bloggers stating the same damn thing. No, actually I'm of the other mindset. I don't believe that not having a specialty is a death-nail in the coffin of any freelancer's career. If you're a food photographer, you can make money shooting headshots or wedding events. If you're a health and fitness writer, it is perfectly acceptable for you to pitch (and LAND) an article writing about financial portfolios or art buying for the casual collector.
But my point is can we stop pressuring people to choose? Can we stop labeling each blog entry with the same style and tone? "Why It's Important You Have a Niche." "Carving Out a Specialty in a Bloated Blogosphere." "You'll Always Be Poor Unless You Focus All Your Efforts on One Subject." It's overdone, annoying and insulting to the bazillion of us who either already have a niche or have no plans to specialize in one. Stop it. Bury that dead horse already. It's unoriginal and he's starting to reek.
A more inspired mind once said that the best way to accomplish this feat is to get a job making $60,000/year and blog on the side.
Am I saying it can't be done? No. I'm saying that if you're a pro blogger making good money, supporting your family and paying down your massive debt like Suze Orman on a Four Loko binge, great. Just stop telling people that you arrived in that position by some great planning strategy that will guarantee results. Because you didn't. And we know it.
The reality is, like most freelancers, you probably didn't grow up with idea that "professional blogger" was a viable career choice. You fell into it and you found success. If you want to share your path on how you got there, fine. But stop writing posts promising people that they'll be just like you if they "order now" and follow every step you've taken. It just makes you sound like a con artist, and I don't think you're a con artist. I think you're just peddling the same tired blog post content because you can't think of anything new to say.
Here's the thing: We don't. So you like coffee and you want to teach the world how the perfect cup of coffee changed your life. Guess what? I love horses and no one cares. Not even the people who love horses too. Why? Because it's boring, common and nothing new or interesting has been written on this topic since 1997. So unless you're ready to write a post about how Altavista was clearly the superior search engine of the 1990s, you're just making yourself look as dull as shoe polish and about as clever as sheet rock.
Stop it. Or I'm coming to your house and stealing all of your dry roasted beans. I know you have them stashed in the freezer. How do I know? Because every blogger who writes about coffee tells me so.
Unless you're Alex Blagg or Stephen Colbert, you sound cheap and lazy when you use words that are clearly intended to grab a reader's attention with the promise of something spectacular. "Dynamic" is subjective, "Paradigm" doesn't mean what you think it means, and "Guarantee" only works if you're selling something and it's preceded by the words "Money-Back." And even then, people are suspicious.
I understand the tactic here is to draw people in with your gripping use of fantastical language. I'm a copywriter; I get that. But you're a blogger sharing news, information or a funny tale to delight us all, so why are you talking like a infomercial host at 3 o'clock in the morning? More than likely your blog audience is full of people who work in your profession, freelance in another profession or are interested in your services, but are not random morons. When you underestimate your readers' intelligence, you just attract unintelligent readers.
I know what you're thinking: "These topics are important for newbies," "What should we write about if you're so smart?" and "That was way harsh, Tai!" Look, I feel your pain, but those are just excuses for laziness and complacency. New freelancers may benefit from these topics, but why are we all blogging about it like someone else didn't just write a post on that very same subject three weeks ago? Honestly, how many blogs have you seen sharing WordPress plugin recommendations that mention the same plugins another blogger wrote about last month? ... Um, yeah. Exactly.
But I'm not going to put this all on the bloggers themselves. You know what contributes to this unnecessary cycle of wash, rinse, repeat? The readers. If I see one more "Great idea! This was really helpful" comment on a post that suggests placing your contact info on your website, I will freakin' scream. Stop encouraging mindless and vague content. If a post trots out the same old same, say so in the comments. It's the only way we'll learn. If a blogger promises to help you determine whether you should use a Share This plugin or an Add to Any plugin on your site, but by the end of the post, he hasn't helped you do anything but provide a description of both, let him have it.
Stop letting freelance bloggers off the hook. Tell them to stop advising you on how to do something that's been written about in 85 books and 2,000 blogs in 57 languages around the world. Make them earn your RSS subscription. Because you deserve better. We all do.
There are freelance blogs out there offering quality advice and guidance. You may even own one of them. I know we all have off days, but the staying power of that advice is diminished every time a freelancer regurgitates cliches, tropes and vague solutions. Whether you're a sculptor, musician, copywriter or programmer, I think you're better than that. Make sure your readers know you're better than that too.
What topics do you think have been blogged to death in the freelance world? How do you approach blogging topics when you sit down to write?