Starting a blog? Read this before you pick a niche - here are some bloggers that are rocking it despite not having one specific niche.Read More
Articles often highlight the rosy career change success stories where all is well once you find the “career of your dreams”. But the truth is, the career change is littered with many uncertainties and difficulties, and one needs to prepare for them.Read More
It is possible to keep sane in the midst of a deluge of emails. You just need to follow a couple of guidelines.Read More
Inbox Zero isn’t a myth. It can be achieved if you’re diligent and use some of Outlook’s powerful functions.Read More
Malaysia’s print media is being rocked by the Internet age. And it’s reacting by shedding staff and cutting costs. Can anything else be done to stop the bleeding?Read More
How do you use social media if you’re an ordinary Joe or Jane who doesn’t want to be an influencer or market a product or service?
Here’s how I do it.Read More
I've changed a lot as a blogger. My content strategy has changed massively as well. Now with new goals on the horizon, I believe it's time for another shift in my blog's content strategy.Read More
Blogs have changed. And so has my blogging style. I reflect on 14+ years of writing on the world wide web.Read More
Shifting careers is a scary thing. I know, because I have done it a few times. I started out in advertising, then went on to journalism, then briefly to digital marketing and then to nursing and then back to journalism and now I am a content strategist, which I believe is the dream career for me. (Are you dizzy yet? Did I tell you that I also thought of being a massage therapist?)
Each time I made a shift I was terrified, because frankly I am a risk-averse person. However, what really helped me was having my No.1 fear addressed: the fear of ending up under a bridge eating out of trash cans.Read More
A few months ago, I finally became a Content Strategist, a profession I've been trying to get into since I took up the CIM Digital Marketing diploma in 2015.
However, when I tell people that I am now a content strategist, I'm often greeted with a blank look and a polite nod. I can’t blame them. Because until a few years ago I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as content strategy.Read More
I never thought I'd post a video of myself on the Internet. I hate taking photos of myself, much less take videos of myself. I thought posting videos of yourself was a scary thing to do, not only because you expose your less-than-airbrushed self to be viewed by millions, but the potential breach of privacy it entails.
But a blogger once said that we should "do what we fear" and Sue Jeffers said, "feel the fear and do it anyway", so I created a Youtube channel as a personal challenge to myself. Still, I still look like a deer caught in the headlights in my introductory video!
In the end, it's not as scary as I thought. I talk mostly about books on my channel (love Booktube!) and now that I have my MacBook Air, I hope to be more regular with my videos. (I hope)
See you there!
When told that they have to start blogging to promote their books, authors often make this mistake: They follow the advice of marketing blogs.
Blog in a niche, they are told. Write about topics related to your books, some say.
The truth is, blogging for authors is a very different beast. It's not just about your product. Really, an author's blog is really about the author. That's why the best kind of author blogs are the ones that don't just promote the author's books but also help readers get to know what makes the author tick.
Here are my favourite author blogs that'll give you some idea on crafting your own:
Blog type: Slice of life, multi-interest
Roni is my kind of writer - she blogs about whatever she wants. You just never know what you're going to get with her blog. Between the promotional posts about the books that she's releasing, there areposts about her crazy TBR, songs that make her cry or a review of a classic romance novel. The variety not only makes her blog more interesting but reveals her multi-interest personality.
Blog type: Issue based
Mike is the only person I know that can talk so deeply about how the Christian faith influences one's writing (and vice versa). His posts are always carefully-thought-out monsters, and worth mulling over.
Elizabeth Spann Craig
Blog type: Writing and publishing advice
Want to see how good design can enhance an author's platform? Visit Elizabeth's site. It's so well designed, with the right elements all in place, that there's no trouble navigating to where you want to go. You'll learn plenty about the industry at her website as she is very free with her advice. She also gives back to the community with her twitter shout outs on articles that she found useful for writers.
Alex J Cavanaugh
Blog type: Pop culture
Although the design of his website is wee too cluttered for my taste, I love how Alex has combined his love for pop culture with his work as a sci fi novelist by writing reviews about the latest movies and TV shows. I think it's a brilliant way of attracting readers to his blog, though I'm pretty sure Alex does it because he loves writing about them. He also gives back to the writing community by forming the Insecure Writer's Support Group where he gives other writers a platform to promote and talk about their work - a great way to form a community.
Blog type: Slice of life
I fell in love with Tom's wit and cats through his books, and it was to my absolute delight that his blog is as equally enjoyable. He writes about what you may think of as "mundane" stuff. His (very funny) dad, walks in the English countryside, and of course, about his cats. His wonderful prose makes these commonplace topics shine.
Anne R. Allen
Blog type: Writing and publishing advice
Writers shouldn't write about writing on their blogs because they'll only be attracting other writers, not readers. So goes the advice. However, I don't believe writers should be limited in what they want to blog about - writing is, after all, a big part of who we are! Anyway, Anne dishes out very good advice about the craft in her blog. I like how she ends each post with a shoutout to contests or writing submissions for writers and sometimes, a little promotion of her books. I think that's a subtle and not-too pushy way of marketing - by giving back to the community first, then talking about your work.
But do you know what I most admire about Anne? She takes time - a lot of it - to answer e-mails and readers' comments. Anne once tookseveral e-mails to help me with a writer problem, and I really appreciate her for that. She's one of the most engaged authors out there and believe me, that'll win you loyal fans.
Whatever (John Scalzi)
Blog type: Slice of life, issues, writing and publishing advice, interviews
Scalzi began blogging during the era where mobile phones were the size of your arm, so he's got a lot of practice and a lot of readers to show for it. But his secret is really no secret: Great content, an engaging style and ability to engage his readers. Go learn at his feet, padawan.
Terrible Minds by Chuck Wendig
Blog type: Writing advice, interviews, slice of life
First, I adore his website's design. Clean, white space which makes it easy to read his funny, expletive-riddled prose. Chuck also promotes other writers' works, encourage his readers to write through his various writing challenges and actively engages his readers.
Every writer should have a website, preferably one that bears your name. Not only do you give people a one-stop centre to discover and interact with you, it's a great way to build your personal brand.
I've made a few mistakes when I began building my space on the Internet. And some of the mistakes cost me a lot of time and money!
Here are five things I wish I knew before I built my author's website - may you learn from them:Read More
Want to start blogging? Figure out your niche first.
So goes the popular advice, anyway.
Well, I say toss that much-touted advice out of the window.
I've been blogging off and on since 1999. In the baby days of blogging, posts were more like online journals; it was all about sharing experiences and stories.
In the 21st century, the whole scene seemed invaded by marketers. (Yes, I'm bitter about that.) Now it's all about what you can get from blogging: fame, money or 'brand'.
So it's not surprising that many would urge you to find a niche. You want a strong, targeted message to rope in customers.
But what if you don't want to be a salesman?
Around 2012 I set up elizabethtai.com because it was the sensible thing to do as a professional writer. The website would be the place to showcase my portfolio and, who knows, get freelancing clients.
Dutifully, I tried to figure out my niche. I figured it was marketing and social media because I wanted to develop my career in that direction.
Just a few posts in and I felt as if I couldn't go on anymore.
Mistake No.1: I chose a niche based on what I should write about, not what I want to write about.
And while it may have been logical to use my blog to create a professional "personal brand" and be an "expert in my field" I didn't like talking down to readers as an "expert". I quickly ran out enthusiasm.
Mistake No.2: I wasn't the type to be able to blog about a topic endlessly, even if it's one I'm passionate about. Believe me, I've tried.
I once had a fairly popular blog about Christian living - I outgrew that in four years because I became so comfortable in my faith that I didn't feel like talking about being a "Messy Christian" all the time anymore! Then, I wrote a blog about how I moved from Malaysia to Australia, but a blog about being an expat or immigrant lasts as long as you're one. When I returned to Malaysia last year, well ... that was the end of it.
I knew that if I limited my blog to a few topics, it had a limited life span and worse, I'd be bored with the topic one day. (Blame it on my ENFP personality - we get bored about things 10x faster than most.)
This niche stuff, this business-like approach to blogging made me batty. Nope, blogging that way wasn't going to work for me.
My shift to non-niche blogging came slowly but surely, first after coming across a pivotal blog post, then reading about Kristen Lamb's "word cloud" concept from Rise of the Machines, and then finally Jessica Lawlor's post about how we don't need a niche for a blog to be successful. She did it. Leo Babuata did it. Why not me?
As an indie author, it makes little sense to take the time I could've used writing books to write a blog I hate. So why not write a fun blog? (Yeah, what a weird concept, right?)
Personally, I believe niche blogs won't benefit you if you're a fiction writer. Why? Think of a niche as a slice of pie. Do your readers only come from that slice?
For example, if I blog about writing (like many writers do), I attract mostly writers to my site. A sliver of that already thin slice may decide to read my Tai Weiland space operas.
Now, imagine if I widened my content scope to write about minimalism, fashion, food and travel. Bigger pool and variety of readers, better reach. (Of course, there's a way to do this without looking too scatter brained, but that's a topic for another day.)
I'll never run out of ideas for the blog this way.
Plus, it's fun!
When fiction writers write in a niche, they are effectively limiting their reach.
But hey, if you must insist on one, here's one: Let it be YOU.
Write about your likes, dislikes, pets, pet peeves, passions and philosophy. Let people know YOU.
There's little competition for that niche, I guarantee you that!
How about you? Do you have a niche blog or a niche-less one? Which approach do you prefer?
The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post about their doubts, fears, struggles and triumphs. Sign up here!
It was a pleasant chat until my friend said: "I thought I should let you know that when I google up your website, there's a note on the search that says, "This site may be hacked."
I groaned out loud.
I've been dealing with numerous security issues with my website for years, and lately it has become an almost monthly affair. Early in 2014 or so, my blog was flooded with thousands of comment spam. The iPage support team said they couldn't help me. The only way out of it was to delete the comments manually. I ended up deleting entire posts instead.
My site was also going offline more often. And each time I would panic, get in touch with a support person and wait impatiently for them to solve the problem. It would take hours, even days before my blog was fixed. Once, my blog was down for a week.
But this Google blacklist thing? This takes it to another level.Read More
I'll come clean and say it. My blog has an identity crisis. I've invested a lot of time and money into designing this website, and I'm really proud of it as it showcases my writing - nearly two decades' worth. It has gotten me jobs, and I even became a guest star on an ABC radio show in Australia because of a post!
Still, most of the time, I wondered: what the heck should I blog about?
Jeff Goins' post What you write about doesn't matter as much as you think gave me a clue about why I've been having such a dry run:
Writing isn’t about picking the right topic; it’s about finding the right voice.
This runs contrary to what I'm being taught in the CIM Digital Marketing diploma course I'm studying part-time. Content marketers are taught to write what people want to read. And that's why we write around SEO-friendly keywords that will send traffic our way via search engines.
As I'm trying to stamp my mark as a content marketer in the vast chaotic jungle that is the Internet, I thought I should write about marketing topics. So I wrote about content strategy. Strengths 2.0. Personal branding.
It's logical. Showcase your expertise. Show people how clued in you are about industry trends. Write and they will come, right?
But the posts felt flat. Mechanical.
Worse, I felt uninspired.
And no wonder. I've been so focused on the "write what people want to read" bit that I ignored the "what I want to write about" bit.
There's no "me" in the posts. You could be reading a post written by a Cylon for all you know, and even they would have more soul.
And, I don't really like to write about marketing. Whoops.
What am I passionate about? Writing. Sustainable and minimalist living. Good financial stewardship. Emotional and mental health. Spirituality.
Somehow, I've left my greatest passions out of the website that bears my name.
The Secret to great content strategy?
I think the secret to a great blog is to balance between these two elements:
Tweet this: Write what people want to read, but make sure it's something you want to write about too. @liztai
But most importantly, does your writing connect with a human emotion?
If you can find a theme — not a subject or a context — in your writing that connects with a core human emotion, you will never run out of good things to say.
You can jump genres, even change styles, and readers won’t care, because they’re following you for your voice, not your topic. - Jeff Goins
content with a worldview
Once upon a time, I had a successful blog. It centred around my faith, and readers often commented how they loved my honesty and my frank, unabashed approach to discussing controversial topics. I had "me" all over the blog.
People were reading me because of how I saw the world. They may not gosh darn always agree with me (I once had readers quitting on me in a huff when I wrote about being in despair when George Bush got re-elected), but I had a way of saying things that made them pay attention.
It's time to do that again.
So this blog is going to change direction in a big way. You'll be hearing my voice more. You'll be reading about topics that may squick you (sooner than you think), and you may even get mad at me.
It's time to be unsafe.
How about you? What would you like to write about in your blog?
Photo by Mayur Gala
"This page is temporarily unavailable". These dreaded words were back! This was the fourth time my site has gone down and I was mad.
But it was mostly my fault.
I thought all I needed to do when I got my first self-hosted blog was to write the content and leave it up.
Wordpress is one of the most popular CMS (Content Management System) in the world. It's easy to use, powerful and free. But as a result, it's a favourite target for hackers.
Due to my lazybones attitude towards website/wordpress maintenance, this site was down for nearly four days thanks to a malware infection (hah, I didn't even know that could happen!). After deleting hundred over files, an upgrade and much wrangling with my host's support team, it is finally back.
You don't realise how important Wordpress security is until you lose it.
Don't go through what I did. Here are 7 things you can do to make your Wordpress site more secure:
1. Update, update, update, update!
And I'm not just talking about Wordpress. This includes plugins and themes - even those you do not use! Because old versions often have security holes that hackers and malwares can slip through.
2. Make sure your hosting package has security features
Mine didn't, and I wasn't aware of that. If a package comes with functions such as Sitelock, it scans your site for threats regularly and some may even fix it for you automatically. Don't do without this feature. If a hosting package doesn't have it, look elsewhere. Trust me, you'll regret it if you don't!
3. Don't open suspicious e-mails and avoid unsafe websites
They can hop over to your website.
4. Use strong passwords
Use alphanumeric passwords, preferably with unique characters such as $,! or *. Don't use obvious passwords like your name or birthday. Here is Norton's useful password generator.
5. Don't use admin as your log in
Wordpress generates this for you. Hackers aim for that. Delete the admin user name and create one that is difficult to guess. No log ins that mirror your real name or the name you use on the blog. For example: byt76
6. Install Wordpress security plugins
7. Monitor, monitor, monitor!
Do this weekly. Daily if you must. You can put out the fire before it becomes an inferno. Oh yeah, and don't forget to back up!
Photo by Linder6589
I've been thinking about my personal brand lately: the "me" I want to project to the world. The reputation I want to build online. Should I offer a safe, sanitised version of myself? Or should I tell people: This is who I am, take it or leave it?
In Malaysia, where a wrong word in any medium on social media could result in harsh punishment from the powers that be (whether it be from our bosses or from the government), Malaysians have learned to censor ourselves.
I've always believed that this website, which bears my professional name, will only showcase my portfolio and contain useful content to showcase my expertise - as many personal branding/blog gurus will tell you. One's faith or spirituality - a lava-hot button topic in Malaysia - should be left out, shut in an attic somewhere.
But I'm starting to think that this is the wrong approach. I think weaving your spirituality or faith in your personal brand could be beneficial because:
1. Your faith in God is a big part of how you make decisions, live and work. Removing that significant part of you life from your personal brand would be doing your audience a disservice. At worst, it is dishonest.
2. Talking about your faith in a constructive, non-judgemental and affirming manner could demonstrate your integrity and honesty to potential clients, employers and customers.
3. Talking about your faith makes you vulnerable, yes, but it also makes you more interesting.
There are many writers and entrepreneurs who wear their faiths on their sleeves: Jeff Goins, Michael Hyatt, Mike Duran and Donald Miller. They weave their faith and worldview into their posts about productivity, entrepreneurship and creativity without being over bearing.