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How to beat blog burnout

Have you ever felt tired of blogging? Thought about giving up your blog? I have. There was a month when I hated all of my new posts and felt enthusiasm about no potential topics. My energy had been flagging for awhile. I say this because “blog burnout” flashed into my head when I saw this statue on Michelangelo’s tomb in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, Italy.Sculpture on Michelangelo's tomb, Basilica of Santa Croce

I pulled myself out of my slump. Perhaps you, too, can beat your blogging blahs with the techniques I share below.

1. Reexamine why you’re blogging

Take a new look at why you’re blogging. If your business has changed, perhaps your blog is no longer worthwhile. Consider dropping it. It felt liberating to considering dropping my blog as part of my goal-setting process.

However, that positive feeling turned to horror, as I considered losing my readers and my chance to express myself on topics about which I feel strongly. My readers and my passion for clear, effective communications are reasons why I continue to blog.

2. Ask if your blog builds your business

Can you see how blogging contributes directly or indirectly to your bottom line? It may be rare for clients to say, “I picked you because of your blog.” However, your blog makes you easier to find online. It also helps prospects to get comfortable with you before you ever meet them. Your blog also helps you connect with and educate  clients, prospects, and referral sources.

These are some of the measures I mulled over as I thought about my blog. I also thought about how my blog feeds my e-newsletter and helps to differentiate my social media feed from that of people who rely on curating other people’s content. My blog leads indirectly to new business. That’s another reason to keep it.

3. Consider ways to ease your burden

If you want to keep your blog, but you’re losing your oomph, consider cutting the time you spend on it. Options include

  • Taking a break or posting less frequently
  • Getting co-workers to contribute, if you work at a multi-person firm—I’ve discussed this in “How to manage a group blog: Financial advisor edition.”
  • Inviting guests to contribute to your blog
  • Republishing old posts, taking the time to update them prior to republication

I’ve enjoyed contributions by my guest bloggers. I’ve also updated and republished one old post, “Seven tips for slogging through blogging: Lessons from the Blogathon.” I may do that again.

4. Find fresh inspiration

You need fresh ideas to regain enthusiasm for your blog. Ironically, getting out of my office is one of the best ways for me to do this, as I’ve explained in “Museums can inspire your blog posts.” As I mentioned above, this post was partly inspired by a visit to Florence, Italy, and partly by searching for lessons in my own struggle.

I look everywhere for inspiration. Sometimes I find it in something as simple as a photograph, as I explained in “Photo + Mind Map = Blog Inspiration.” Other people’s blog posts and books can also inspire. Plus, there are the ideas in my book, Financial Blogging: How To Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

What’s your best tip?

My list of slump-breaking tips isn’t complete. What has worked for you? I’d like to learn.

20 topics for your financial blog

If you feel frustrated by coming up with topics for your financial blog, the journalist’s five Ws and one H can help. Below I share a list of 20 topics inspired by the five Ws and one H.

As you brainstorm topics, think about how you can solve problems for members of your target audience. This will make your posts relevant to them. For help with this, read “WHAT PROBLEM does this blog post solve for them?

WHY

  • Why I blog—remember to focus on your readers as you write about yourself. I aimed for that in “Why I write for you.”
  • Why I manage money the way I do
  • Why I became a financial planner or an investment manager
  • Why I changed my mind about a topic important to how I help clients
  • Why investors should pay less attention to financial news

WHO

  • Who can you trust with your money
  • Who should inherit your wealth

WHAT

  •  What do you want?—ask your readers what they’d like to learn about on your blog
  • What is most important for the success of your investments or financial plan
  • What is the biggest risk to your financial success

WHEN

  • When should you retire or start collecting Social Security
  • When you’re ready to buy a house

WHERE

  • Where in the world should you invest
  • Where should you custody your assets

HOW

  • How to go broke—sometimes writing about what not to do can be powerful
  • How to pick a financial advisor or investment manager
  • How to pick a mutual fund or ETF
  • How to create a portfolio for the long run
  • How to deal with the stock market’s ups and downs
  • How to protect yourself against inflation

For more ideas about generating blog post topics…

…check out “Photo + Mind Map = Blog Inspiration.”

 

 

Note: I corrected some typos on Dec. 21, 2014.

Save your trash to feed your blog

Writers often cram too many ideas and facts into their first drafts. This happens often in blog posts. It can even happen in longer pieces, such as white papers, scholarly journal articles, or books. You need to trim the excess to polish your final version. However, you don’t need to lose your extra content forever.

Blog treasures from trash

Let’s say you came up with three great examples and one example with only tangential relevance. If that fourth example tells another story more powerfully, you can use it to start a new blog post.

Sometimes it’s hard to delete information that fascinates you, even if it weakens your final product. I hope that knowing you can use those ideas elsewhere will make it easier for you to trash it, and then use it to feed future blog posts.

Your examples?

Have any of your blog posts started with content you sliced out of other pieces? Please share.

Blogging with James B. Stewart of The New York Times

Looking for ideas on how to structure your blog posts? Newspapers like The New York Times can provide inspiration, as I’ve found with many articles by Floyd Norris and with the column by James B. Stewart that I discuss in this post.

You can find a formula for introducing a blog post in Stewart’s “Why Russia Can’t Afford Another Cold War: Now It’s Part of the Global Economy.”

Stewart’s formula? “This, this, and this have happened. This may seem like X, but actually it’s Y.” This intrigues the readers by overturning their expectations.

Here’s the formula matched with Stewart’s content:

Thing #1: “Russian troops pour over a border.”

Thing #2: “An autocratic Russian leader blames the United States and unspecified ‘radicals and nationalists’ for meddling.”

Thing #3: “A puppet leader pledges fealty to Moscow.”

Mistaken perception: It’s no wonder the crisis in the Ukraine this week drew comparisons to Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 or that a chorus of pundits proclaimed the re-emergence of the Cold War.

Today’s reality: “But there’s at least one major difference between then and now: Moscow has a stock market.”

Stewart follows his discussion of people’s mistaken perceptions by introducing the key factor that distinguishes the situation this time. This sets up the article to discuss how his key factor, the stock market, made a difference this time. As the stock market plunged in reaction to Russia’s actions in the Ukraine, it limited the invader’s aggression.

It’s easy for me to imagine how you might apply this to a blog post about a specific investment strategy or asset class. You could list three facts about, say, small cap stocks. Then say “this may make you think these stocks are overvalued (or undervalued). But here’s why that’s not true.”

This format can persuade readers. Just think about all of the investors who bought into the “new paradigm” suggesting that tech stocks were not overvalued prior to the 1998 market correction. Those often followed the approach I described in the preceding paragraph. Please don’t throw out this formula because it led some investors astray. You can harness it for the powers of good.

If you’ve used this technique, please share examples below.

Blogging Q&A with Carolyn McClanahan

Carolyn McClanahan’s fearless sharing of her opinions across social media, including on her blog, spurred me to ask her to participate in my Q&A series with financial advisors who blog. She’s a great example of an advisor who communicates her passion about her topics, which include the intersection of medical and financial planning issues. Carolyn, who began her career as a doctor, is with Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Fla.

 

Q. When did you start The Quest for Simplicity, your blog for Forbes?

A. November 2011.

Q. How has your blog brought you new business or improved your existing client relationships? Please explain and quantify, if possible.

A. Unlike most financial planners, whom I assume blog for business development, I’m blogging for my colleagues in the industry and opinion makers. The purpose of the blog is to educate other financial planners and the public about an area in which our firm, Life Planning Partners, excels—incorporating health conversations into all aspects of financial planning. The firm’s goal is to be an innovative financial life planning practice that is nationally recognized as doing great things for our clients and the profession, demonstrates a model other financial planners want to emulate, and serves as a base for us to make great change in the world.

Has my blog brought us new business? Probably not directly. Do our clients love my blog? Yes, they are very proud of the work we are doing to improve the financial planning profession. They participate in all our “experiments,” love when I share their stories (with permission of course), and refer clients to us readily. I think the referrals are not due to the blog alone – it is a combination of our great service and our ideals. Our business is so good that we had to close to new business for now. Our waiting list had grown to eight months long. I think we are doing something right. New business comes from a confluence of factors.

Q. How else does the blog affect your relationships with clients and prospects?

A. We actually share our business plan with our clients. By doing this, we’ve created a “tribe” of people who get what we do and are very supportive of the change we are trying to make in the financial planning profession. The blog is part of how we implement this change.

Most of the new clients who come to us have read the blog. My unbridled openness about some very controversial topics actually attracts clients to us. And the really good news—people who are uncomfortable with us do not come to us. Therefore, we have only ideal clients and our client retention is off the charts. We have authentic, deep, and difficult conversations with ease.

Q. How will you know if you’ve succeeded as a model for other advisors?

A. Our metrics are:

1. The number of people who read my blog.

2. The number of speaking engagements and type of topics I’m asked to provide.

3. The number of planners who ask about our business model so they can incorporate it in their practice. I will watch with interest how many firms move to retainers and hourly work over time.

Q. What blogging techniques or topics have most helped your business?

A. I think our authenticity and unbridled approach in discussing real problems goes a long way. Storytelling is the most effective way to get a point across.

Q. What are three of your favorite—or most effective—blog posts? Provide the titles, URLs and a comment about why you included them.

A. My most popular post is “Five Quick And Important Facts On Health Insurance Through Obamacare.” I think this was popular because it was practical.

Cliffs Notes Version of the Affordable Care Act — Again, a practical explanation of the law.

Gun Owner Rights and Obamacare – Yes It Is In The Law — Although I received a lot of flak about this article from the gun lobby, clients were overall very proud of this article. It was written right after the Aurora massacre, and was the first article pointing out the National Rifle Association’s hand in Obamacare. A reporter from Politico told me this article was the start of President Obama’s executive order protecting health care worker’s rights to ask about firearms in patient care settings. It shows how powerful words and calling out the truth can be.

Q. What’s your best tip for advisors who blog?

A. Writing a weekly blog is a lot of work, especially when you are running a small business. Over the past couple of months, I’ve run into a number of challenges. We are still reeling from the huge growth of our business, we are trying to hire additional help, and I spent some time taking care of loved ones.

A tip I read somewhere that I wish I would have followed? Have pre-written posts in place in case you run into a tight spot and have nothing to post.

Otherwise, only write about topics that you care about – your passion will come through.

If you enjoyed this post, check out this blog’s Q&As with Michael Kitces and Jim Blankenship. If you have a great blogging success story worthy of being featured in a future Q&A, please contact me. I’d like to hear from you.

Wealth manager blogs that my readers like

“Which blogs written by wealth managers do you admire for their ability to connect with clients or to share insights about markets and wealth management?” This question by one of my newsletter readers prompted me to ask whom you recommend.

Below are some of your answers. I’ve shared some of your comments about the blogs, naming the recommendation sources when you’ve given me permission.

  • Mike Lipper’s Blog—”Mike Lipper has me hooked! I look forward to receiving his blog EVERY Sunday evening. After I’ve read it, I make sure to discuss it with my closest colleagues–and with my husband, too!”—Janet Mangano
  • The Big Picture by Barry Ritholz—suggested by Joe Clemens
  • The Reformed Broker by Josh Brown—suggested by Joe Clemens
  • “I find the syndicated writer Scott Burns of Assetbuilder to be an excellent communicator. His writing style simplifies sometimes complex principles for popular consumption.”—Hugh Gallagher
  • “I like Mariko Gordon’s newsletter for Daruma Capital Management. Here’s a link: http://www.darumanyc.com/newsletter/Daruma_2013_09.html to the most recent one entitled ‘Van Halen, Tattoos and Brown M&Ms.’ As you can tell from the title, it’s a little spicy. Please share one you like.”

Which great wealth-manager blogs are missing from this list?

I see this list as a starting point. Some influential bloggers, include Michael Kitces, who explained his approach to blogging in a Q&A with me, are missing. Please chime in with additional suggestions.

Also, check out an earlier list of my readers’ suggestions: “Market commentary with wit and wisdom.”

Note: This post was expanded on Dec. 29, 2013.

Old vs. young for your blog

Looking for a new angle on a classic investment or financial topic? Try the following suggestion from Ray Peter Clark’s Help! for Writers:

Interview the oldest person you know, and the youngest.

I can imagine a nonagenarian and a child would have very different perspectives about topics such as “Why save money?” or “What should you spend money on?”

You might use your interview results in different ways.

  1. Select quotes to enliven your article.
  2. Use a quote or opinion as your article’s starting point.
  3. Tell your interviewee’s story to make a point.
  4. Generalize about the wisdom of youth or old age.
  5. Compare and contrast the positions of young and old.
  6. Point out the weaknesses in an opinion

Have you tried this?

If you’ve used this technique, I’d like to learn about your success with it. Please comment.

 

Image courtesy of Timeless Photography/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Alternate short and long blog posts?

Some bloggers have made their reputations by writing long, thoughtful posts. Their only problem? They’d like to post more frequently, but long posts take too much time.

“Is it okay to alternate short and long posts?” That’s the question one of them asked.

There’s no law against it. Blog posts can run any length. However, if you’re known for in-depth posts, I like the idea of managing readers’ expectations by telling them that you’re alternating short and long posts. The folks who enjoy the long ones will know when to visit your blog. You may pick up new readers with short attention spans with your alternate posts.

If the contrast between your short and long posts isn’t great, you don’t need to say anything. The length of my posts varies greatly, but I haven’t remarked on that until today.

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Momentum Tricks for Bloggers

Everyone struggles to keep up with their blogging. It’s not only a problem for financial advisors, investment professionals, and the folks who support them. Writers grapple with this problem, too.

Below my friend Laura Laing shares some of her tricks for keeping her momentum going, including picking themes in advance, working on her blog on specific days, and having extra material so she can take breaks from generating new ideas. Laura and I welcome any suggestions you may have for managing this challenge.

Momentum Tricks for Bloggers

by Laura Laing

 

Launching a blog is exciting. Keeping a blog going can be exhausting Every single blogger in the history of blogging has asked, “How can I keep going? Should I keep going?”

 

And I’m no different So I’ve built up an arsenal of tools to help keep me interested. When I’m interested, I keep writing and posting.

 

— I post three times a week — usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

 

— Mondays are usually an interview with someone about how they use math in their work. This is a quick-and-dirty post based on an email interview. I try to get ahead on these, but even if they’re last minute, I can usually pull something together PDQ. They are also my most viewed posts of the week, typically — because the person being interviewed often helps promote them.

 

— Each month is centered on a theme. This way, I can set a monthly editorial calendar. I develop this during the previous month, but my plan is to have an entire year in place, so that I can work ahead or at least gather great ideas and plug in guest posts.

 

— Currently, I’m planning a new weekly schedule for admin and writing. On Fridays, I load my Monday post (an interview usually). On Tuesday mornings (my admin time), I write Wednesday and Friday posts. Eventually, I’d like to get ahead.

 

— I take breaks from blogging. These aren’t scheduled at the moment — in fact I’m currently on an unscheduled break, as I try to recover from a really challenging work schedule in January and February — but I am looking at ways to do that. So far, I’ve just gotten burned out and stop posting for about 10 days or so. It’s not the best thing, but it is incredibly helpful for inspiration. When I get back from my break, I’m usually raring to go.

 

— I have back-pocket posts for when the well is dry. For example, there’s a crazy web video series about a mathletes team. I know that when I’m really uninspired (or exhausted or overworked), I can simply write up a quick intro and link to two or three of these episodes. They don’t drive a lot of traffic, but they keep me posting.

 

When I have a sense of what is coming, I’m able to really focus creatively. One great benefit of my blog is that I can write about things that no one wants to pay me for. I can also try out ideas (that may become paying gigs), and I answer questions that folks have.

 

Laura Laing is the author of Math for Grownups and blogs at http://www.mathforgrownups.com. Yes, she writes about math, so you can count on one thing: if she can stay motivated, so can you. Her next book, Math for Writers, is coming out later this year.

Blogging lessons from the New York Times’ public editor

When she started her job, Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The New York Times, set herself three goals that can also apply to advisors who blog for their firms:

  1. Put readers first.
  2. Encourage conversation.
  3. Promote transparency and understanding.

The goals need some tweaking for advisors because, as Sullivan explains in “My Turn in Between the Readers and the Writers,” “…the public editor’s job is to serve as an in-house critic as well as the readers’ advocate in matters of journalistic integrity.” To make her goals relevant to advisors, I put my own spin on each of her three rules below.

1. Put readers first.

A blog that focuses only on boosting your firm and its ranking in Google and other search engines won’t do you much good. Readers who aren’t engaged by your content won’t stick around. They’re not likely to become clients either.

Your blog should focus on providing useful information on topics that your clients and prospects care about. Write in plain English so they can understand you.

2. Encourage conversation.

Sullivan starts her section on conversation by saying, “Journalism, these days, is no longer a one-way proposition, with celebrated news organizations handing down the news like Moses with his stone tablets.” Advisors aren’t Moses either. Plus, they can gain from listening to their readers.

Encouraging conversation is a tough one for many advisors. Concerns about compliance spur many advisors to turn off the comment feature on their blogs. But even without allowing comments, you can pose questions that invite people to contact you.

If your blog allows comments, that’s even better. Try to get a conversation going. It’s not just a matter of posing questions. When readers comment, you should show your respect for them by responding. At a minimum, say “Thank you.” It’s even better if you react to some aspect of what each person says.

3. Promote transparency and understanding.

Advisors are used to the idea of transparency of fees and the like. Transparency in a blog might mean taking a more personal approach to some topics. Perhaps you can reveal something about your life that makes your blog post topics important to you.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net