Blogging is one of those sometimes murky business tasks that many entrepreneurs think they “should” do but aren’t sure why or how. (Other tasks in this category include “rebranding” and “updating my headshots.”) A lot of business owners start blogging but quickly give up when they fail to see a return on their efforts. Even those who are convinced that blogging is an important tool for their business may run out of steam once they exhaust their list of post ideas.

Wanna know the biggest mistake I see business owners making on their blogs?

Blogging for the wrong people about the wrong things.

Hold the phone, you say. I thought I was supposed to blog about MY BUSINESS on MY BUSINESS BLOG. This is true, young narcissist Padawan. But you might be doing it mildly wrong and that might be why you’re frustrated. Just an idea. I’m going to pick on photographers a little because I’ve been on both sides of the table as a (mediocre) service provider and a customer of photography, but be assured that I intend to be equally (lovingly) mean to all kinds of entrepreneurs. (I’m also kinda grouchy in general today, sorry.)

Mistake #1: Blogging for past clients.

Nearly every photographer’s website I see contains a blog that is little more than a glorified, less carefully curated portfolio. (If there’s a blog at all.) Those gallery posts are more important to your past customers than they are to future customers. Now that’s not without value, since happy past customers are more likely to give positive feedback and refer their friends. But when I was searching for a wedding photographer, it wasn’t that helpful to see other people’s weddings. Those posts didn’t tell me how my photographer was going to operate on our wedding day, how she was going to handle our fish-filled venue, how long I’d have to wait to get our photos, or answer any of the sixty-five other questions I had. Well, those are all in my welcome packet, you assert defensively. But if you can start answering some of those questions on your website and blog, you start removing some of the barriers to entry for your potential clients to think about booking you.

Mistake #2: Blogging for other service providers.

The other posts I see over and over again are posts for others in their field rather than their customers. “10 Things I Keep in My Camera Bag,” or “What I Wear to Shoot,” seem to be popular topics. Newsflash: as a customer, I don’t give a murine posterior about what’s in your camera bag. Unless…you have some magical device in your bag that soothes my newborn to sleep while you photograph his angelic face. Or a lens that miraculously erases the clutter of our postpartum home. I don’t care what you wear to photograph my wedding, unless it’s a bridal gown, in which case I won’t hire you. Now if part of your business is mentoring or training others in your industry, these kinds of posts are fine. (They are, in a sense, part of your target audience.) But if your goal is to reach more clients, quit talking to or about your coworkers!

Mistake #3: Blogging for yourself.

Hear me out: blogging about yourself and your business (or even your personal life) is okay. It’s actually a great way to help potential customers know, like, and trust you enough to hire you. But blogging for yourself is probably the mistake the underlies most business blogging efforts. You trumpet your credentials and post gallery after gallery to make yourself feel more legit. You post your latest headshots or new logo or equipment purchase to show yourself that you’re working hard and doing all the BIG BOSS BUSINESS things. But you know what? You’re already legit and you’re already a big boss. You don’t have to waste time and energy reassuring yourself of that on your business blog.

So what do you do instead?

Blog for your potential customers.

If you’re using your business blog as a marketing tool, your goal should be to attract and nurture potential customers. (I would hope that’s the goal of all your marketing, but it’s worth repeating.) It’s not wrong to post about past clients, help others in your industry, or share personal updates, but you should still write those posts with your potential customer’s needs and questions in mind. Here’s what that might look like:

Solution #1: Share everything you know.

Customers will hire you if they know, like, and trust you to meet their needs. Do you know what those needs are? What kind of questions are they asking? Give them the answers they’re looking for. Show them your favorite photography spots. Share your latest fitness routine. List your best business blog ideas.

Give away my precious trade secrets?! you protest. Years ago, I asked a fellow photographer (who was also supposed to be at least sort of a friend) what album companies he liked, and he guarded those company names like they were the nuclear codes. LIKE I COULDN’T JUST LOOK THEM UP ONLINE. (Hopefully we can’t look up nuclear codes online.) Guess who I didn’t hire for our wedding several years later? Here’s the mildly unpleasant truth: there are very few secrets left. In the age of Google, information is at everyone’s fingertips. Do you want your prospects to find the information they want from you or someone else?

By sharing your knowledge, you not only establish yourself as an expert in your field but you position yourself as someone who can help meet your readers’ needs. As a teacher, I firmly believe that knowledge should be free, which is why I provide as much free business education as I can. (Time, experience, and expertise, however, are not free…I’ll talk about the balance when I figure it out!)

Solution #2: Share your process.

Remember the ever-popular “What’s in my camera bag?” posts? The average photography customer doesn’t care what lens or body you have. They don’t care how long you spend editing or what program you use. They care about whether you can deliver nice pictures of their wedding, baby, family, dog, or house.

But the camera, lens, and editing program help you deliver those nice pictures. The big bag of doula tricks helps you support their birth experience. The hour-long strategy session helps you understand their business and brand so you can write authentic and engaging copy for them. Bring them behind the scenes of your business not to show off how cool and competent you are but how you can meet their needs. Show them how you have designed every step of your working process to deliver the results they want, and that will build your legitimacy more than any fancy logo or website will.

Solution #3: Share your growth (including your mistakes).

Vulnerability is hard, but it’s essential to being authentic. Instead of just sharing the shiny polished photos from each wedding, talk about what was challenging about the venue or wedding party and how you met those challenges. Share your personal weight loss journey along with your glowing client testimonials to show that you get it. Admit how much harder it is to write email marketing sequences for your own business than it is for all your clients.

I’m not talking about false humility or self-pity parties. Always keep that potential customer in mind even when you’re writing about yourself. What do they want to know about you? How has your journey prepared you to help them in theirs? Build trust and reinforce your expertise by sharing the lessons you’ve learned and mistakes you’ve made. You won’t look incompetent or unprofessional; you’ll be honest and relatable.

I even created a free handy-dandy worksheet for brainstorming at least 20 customer-focused blog topics for your business blog.

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