Get angry to blog

“Get angry” when you want to be creative, says John Hegarty in Hegarty on Creativity: There Are No Rules. Hegarty is a founder of an ad agency.

Hegarty points to Picasso’s Guernica as an example of how anger can fuel creativity and big accomplishments. He says

When Picasso painted Guernica, one of his most famous works, I don’t think he was whistling happily to himself. No, he was angry. Outraged at the Nazis and Italian Fascists who had bombed this defenseless Spanish town, killing thousands of people.

Anger can fuel compelling blog posts.

For example, do you see individual investors buying things they don’t understand or taking an approach of “buy high, sell low” instead of the more logical opposite approach? Channel your anger into a blog posts that educate readers! Use stories to show them why some strategies don’t work. Explain the steps that make more sense.

You can move readers toward achieving their financial goals as you relieve the tension that you feel from watching them take moves that undercut their achieving their goals. That’s a win-win situation.

 

 

Legal danger for financial bloggers: Two misconceptions, three resources, one suggestion

No financial blogger wants to get in trouble with the law, become liable for financial damages, or tarnish his or her reputation. You’ve probably thought about compliance with laws governing advisors registered with the SEC, FINRA, or other regulators. But what about copyright laws?

I believe a significant number of advisor-bloggers are guilty of copyright violations when they share information written by others. I have come across several well-meaning advisors who mistakenly believed they acted within the law when they copied all or part of other people’s blog posts. In fact, they had broken the law and could have been on the hook for financial penalties.

To help you cope, I’ve written this article sharing two common misconceptions, three resources, and one suggestion to keep you on the right side of the law and make everybody happy.

Fair use of copyrighted material infographic

Misconception #1: If you credit and link, that’s enough

Most advisors and other financial bloggers know you shouldn’t copy someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. However, I’ve seen advisors who think it’s okay to copy an entire newspaper article on their blogs as long as they name the author and publication details in addition to linking online to the original article.

This is not correct, as you’ll realize when you check out my resource section below.

Misconception #2: If you only copy XXX words, it’s okay

There is no word-count rule that protects you from charges of copyright infringement. If you use the “heart” of the work, you’re in trouble, as explained under “Factor 3” in the “The four factors of fair use” section of the University of Minnesota University Libraries’ excellent web pages on copyright.

In fact, even short phrases may be protected by copyright, according to “Copyright Protection for Short Phrases” in the Copyright and Fair Use section of the Stanford University Libraries website.

How can you share content without violating copyright? Check out the resources in the next section.

Resources for “fair use” of copyrighted material

Lawyers use the term “fair use” to describe the legal use of copyrighted materials. Here are two websites and a printable checklist that will help you assess whether the amount of another author’s text that you reproduce in your blog post is acceptable. There are no short, easy guidelines that fit all situations.

  1. Understanding Fair Use” is a good overview of the issues, presented by the University of Minnesota’s University Libraries.
  2. Fair Use,” a book chapter on this topic, is available on the Stanford University Libraries website.
  3. “Thinking Through Fair Use,” a printable checklist from the U. of Minn. library, will help you think through the issues for specific materials. NOTE: the original link no longer works. Instead, see the first link on “Understanding Fair Use.” Or,check out the “Fair Use Checklist” from Columbia University Libraries.

Suggestion to ensure “fair use”

When in doubt, ask the author for permission to reproduce the content on your blog. Don’t assume they’ll say “yes.” However, you may score points with writers who are anxious to spread their message. If the writer says, “No,” at least you know to tread carefully in how you use the author’s content.

By the way, I don’t oppose bloggers summarizing or adding their own spin to other people’s content. But please don’t violate copyright by exceeding what is considered “fair use.” Speaking of authors, I’d like to thank the writers on Freelance Success, including Tania Casselle and Erik Sherman, who helped me find resources for this blog post.

NOTE: I updated and deleted some links on July 25, 2013, after finding the original links no longer worked. I updated links again on August 23, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2018.

 

Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Secret of regular blogging

In 2010, a portfolio manager told me his most powerful tip for blogging on a regular schedule:

“I speak my thoughts into Dragon NaturallySpeaking.”

This speech recognition software transcribes his words, so he need not type his first draft. This is a great time saver.

Back then, Dragon software was your main option for automated transcription of whatever you said. Since then, your options have multiplied. Your smartphone probably offers a voice assistant that can transcribe your speech. There are also options from third parties, such as Otter.ai or the automated transcription service from Rev.

If automated transcription services’ errors, such as typing “NASA allocation” for “an asset allocation,” are too annoying, you can hire a human transcriptionist.

The bottom line: If dictation helps you to write more regularly or quickly, use it.

Secrets of regular blogging infographic

 

Note: This was updated in February and November 2021.

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?

5 W's and 1 H infographic

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 are 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, made edits on May 28 and October 24, 2021.

Top posts from 2021’s second quarter

Check out my top posts from the second quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on email (#1), writing (#2, #3, #4), and spelling (#5).

My posts that attracted the most views during 2021’s first quarter:

  1. Propel email conversations forward
  2. Long sentences can make you more concise
  3. Working with a sensitivity reader
  4. Lousy headline, provocative first sentence
  5. MISTAKE MONDAY for April 26: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?

9 ways blogging is like sourdough baking

Like many other Americans, I started baking sourdough bread during the pandemic. I love the process and the taste. As I’ve baked, I’ve also realized that cooking with a sourdough starter has similarities to blogging.

infographic: 9 ways blogging is like sourdough baking

1. It’s scary to start

I wouldn’t have started baking sourdough if I’d had to create a sourdough starter on my own or shell out money to buy a starter. That’s because I figured there was little likelihood that my bread would turn out well. However, I received my sourdough starter—a fermented mix of flour and water—at no cost through my local Buy Nothing group, so I didn’t have anything to lose by trying it.

Similarly, starting to blog involved uncertainty about whether I’d succeed. When I started blogging, I had no idea that I’d eventually write and share well over 1,000 blog posts.

2. Little investment is required to start

Aside from my free sourdough starter, I had everything else I needed to start baking sourdough bread in my kitchen. I had all of the ingredients—flour, water, and salt. I also had two small Dutch ovens.

You can start blogging on a free platform like WordPress.org. As long as you also have a computer, you can start blogging for free.

3. Great instructions help

The woman who gave me my sourdough starter included two pages of feeding instructions with the starter. I read them religiously when I started. I trusted Google to find me a good bread recipe. I feel grateful that it took me to The Clever Carrot’s “Sourdough Bread: A Beginner’s Guide.” The step-by-step instructions turned out to be foolproof.

I wrote Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients to provide step-by-step instructions for generating blog post ideas, organizing your ideas before you write, writing your first draft, and doing big-picture edits and line edits.  My readers’ reviews say that I’ve achieved this goal.

4. Starting simply helps

Sourdough baking can get complicated. People buy special baskets called bannetons for shaping the sourdough, they use different techniques for giving structure to the dough, they coat the sourdough surface in rice flour so elaborate patterns that they cut in the bread’s surface will stand out, they create parchment paper slings to drop their dough into preheated Dutch ovens that’ll burn you if accidentally brush against them, and they aim to create an “ear” that makes a slice of the bread look like a side view of a bunny rabbit with a long floppy ear. I haven’t done any of that fancy stuff yet. I might never have started sourdough if I’d thought all of that fuss was necessary.

sourdough bread

Blogging can get complicated, too. You can go for elaborate graphics as illustrations, delve deeply into the best SEO keywords and how to implement them, and much more. Those techniques can pay off eventually, but they’re not necessary to get started.

5. Good tools help

Measuring your sourdough using a scale instead of measuring cups helps because the 500 grams of flour add up to a different number of cups depending on various factors. I quickly upgraded to a digital kitchen scale from my manual scale. I also benefited from buying an instant-read food thermometer to check the inner temperature of my loaves so I can confirm they’re not under- or over-baked.

For blogging—or any kind of writing—I find mind mapping incredibly helpful at the idea generation, organization, and analysis stages of writing and editing. I’m also a fan of automated tools, such as PerfectIt  (subscription required) and Grammarly (free version available). Folks who care a lot about search engine optimization may benefit from tools like Yoast or Wordstream’s free keyword tool.

6. There’s a role for discard

The process of nurturing a sourdough starter means that most bakers generate more starter than they can maintain or bake, so it becomes “discard.” That’s why there’s a whole category of recipes for this flour-water mix, including this great collection of sourdough discard recipes from King Arthur Flour. I’ve regularly been making a double batch of the sourdough pizza crust recipe since I discovered it early this spring. My second favorite recipe is for sourdough popovers.

Discards from your blog posts can also turn into something useful, as I discussed in “Save your trash to feed your blog.”

7. There are many variations on the basic recipe

I’ve experimented with many variations on the basic sourdough recipe. I’ve used different kinds of flour, seeds, dried fruit, herbs, spices, and even vegetables and cheese.

Similarly, there are many different formats for blog posts and different ways to approach a topic.

8. Even failures can be tasty

I have yet to bake an outright failure. However, my friend June tells me that it’s easy to turn a failed bread into croutons or bread crumbs. Bread pudding is another option.

Similarly, an idea that doesn’t turn into a full-blown blog post may still help you somewhere. For example, it might turn into an example that you include in a client email or an item in a FAQ on your website.

9. There’s always more to learn

With less than a year of sourdough baking behind me, I still have a lot to learn. I’ve started keeping a sourdough journal where I record the variations that I try and the problems that I encounter. I hope these notes will help me to improve.

I’m still learning about the craft of writing and blogging. Part of the reason I blog is to help me think through the lessons I’ve learned.

 

Disclosure: If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I provide links to books only when I believe they have value for my readers.

Blog like a mangrove

A mangrove thrives because its roots filter out salt from the water it takes in. I learned this at the San Miguelito archeological site that’s part of the Mayan museum in Cancun, Mexico. I suggest that you act as the “mangrove roots” of your blog.

Filter out the “salt”

Think about the misinformation and distractions that confront your clients and your blog readers every day. Your blog can filter out the destructive “salt” of bad information.

When you present only information that’s accurate and relevant, you’re helping your audience to thrive. Blogging like a mangrove’s roots filter salt is a worthy goal.

I recommend the Mayan museum

If you’re ever in Cancun, I highly recommend its Mayan museum at a cost of only about $5 per person.

Here are two photos I took there.

 

Top posts from 2020’s first quarter

Check out my top posts from the first quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on communication (#1, #5), writing (#2, #4) and grammar (#3).

#1 and #5, a guest post by Andy McMorrow, both discuss  how advisors can communicate effectively during a time of crisis like the current pandemic.

My posts that attracted the most views during 2020’s first quarter

  1. Financial communications during the coronavirus crisis
  2. How to achieve continuity in your writing
  3. MISTAKE MONDAY for January 27: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?
  4. Tips for managing author approvals—Managing author approvals can challenge the patience of financial writers and marketers. The process can be equally distressing for authors, if it’s not done well.
  5. Everything old is new again in advisor communications

Top posts from 2019’s fourth quarter

Check out my top posts from the fourth quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on writing (#1, #3, #4), blogging (#2), and grammar (#5).

I got a thrill out of Bryan Garner, the inspiration for the #1 post, retweeting it. He’s an expert on writing and proper usage of the English language.Bryan Garner tweet No brevity without substance

My #2 and #3 posts were included in Michael Kitces’ weekly round-ups of must-read articles for financial advisors, as I noted on my “In the News” page.

My posts that attracted the most views during 2019’s fourth quarter

  1. No brevity without substance, please
  2. Insecure about blogging? Write a letter
  3. Picture one person your work will help
  4. Avoid embarrassment by hiring knowledgeable writers
  5. MISTAKE MONDAY for October 28: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?

 

 

Insecure about blogging? Write a letter

Some people feel they shouldn’t blog. They hesitate because they don’t have novel topics, or they feel their writing isn’t good enough.

Letter exercise

If you’re hesitating, you might benefit from an exercise called “Exploring Self-Compassion Through Letter Writing” in Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion; The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.

As part of the exercise, Neff suggests you write a letter from the perspective of “an imaginary friend who is unconditionally loving, accepting, kind, and compassionate. Imagine that this friend can see all your strengths and all your weaknesses, including the aspect of yourself you have just been thinking about.”

The next step is to “Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of this imaginary friend—focusing on the perceived inadequacy you tend to judge yourself for.”

Your friend’s response to your letter

What would this friend say about your:

  • Writing skills
  • Blog topics
  • Other weaknesses and strengths

Here are some of the points this friend might make:

  • Writing is a skill that can be improved through study or working with an editor. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • It’s okay to discuss topics that others have already discussed. This is because they are perennial concerns of your prospects. You can use your insights and personality, as discussed in “How to add personality and warmth to your writing,” to make an impression on your readers.
  • Blogging can be a great way for advisers to clarify their thoughts on important topics, regardless of whether it brings new clients. It also improves your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) on topics you care about.
  • There may be fixes for other weaknesses that you perceive.

Sure, sometimes your imaginary friend will sometimes tell you to give up on blogging. For example, if you’re an incredibly busy advisor with a steady flow of new clients, and you’re a terrible writer, then that might be a valid reason not to blog.

However, in many cases, your friend will say “Please blog.” Listen to your friend.

 

Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.