You’ve likely spent hours carefully crafting your personal website so that it beautifully showcases your most impressive design work. But there’s one thing your portfolio’s probably missing.
Writing about design.
Supplementing your design portfolio with a thoughtfully written blog allows you to share your knowledge with other designers, build your network, and position yourself as a leader in your field.
Trouble is, writing might not come easy for many designers—and even if it does, it might feel like just one more thing to pile on the to-do list every week.
“Sharing your design expertise builds your network.”
I’ve started dozens of blogs in the past few years as a consultant and now as a startup CEO. Each time it’s gotten a little easier.
The secret to easy blogging? Make a plan. Here’s how I’ve been planning for my latest startup, and why you should give it a try to get more eyes on your design portfolio and establish yourself as an expert who’s passionate about what they do.
1. Discover your passion
Write about something you have a genuine passion for. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about the type of design work you’re currently doing—it could be about the type of work you’d like to be doing.
Writing about things you’re just not that into is always a bad idea. If you’ve ever found yourself at the bottom of an article with no idea what you’ve just read, you’ll know what I’m talking about. No matter how informative you are, you won’t captivate readers unless passion comes through in your writing.
“Write about the type of design work you’d like to be doing.”
To complicate things, this passion has to be broad enough that there’s plenty of topics to write about—potentially for years. It also needs to be narrow enough that it appeals to a specific audience.
For instance, “design” is way too broad. Not to mention, if you’re covering everything from graphic design to product design and game design, readers (and potential clients) will have a tough time nailing down what exactly your expertise is. Narrow it down to the type of design you’re truly interested in.
Then try this quick test: write down 10 blog post title ideas that have to do with that type of design. If it’s hard, that type of design might not really be your passion.
2. Set your schedule
Blogging consistently builds trust and increases your readership. When you’re getting started, pick a day of the week or month to publish a new post and make sure you write it down somewhere—use a Post-it note on your monitor or create a recurring event on Google Calendar. Set a deadline and stick to it.
The frequency you should post depends largely on how long the articles you write—or want to write—are. If you’re a fan of long-form articles like I am, you may want to post a 4,000-word essay once a month. If you prefer shorter pieces, maybe 500 words once a week is a better fit.
It all depends on the amount of time you have to write. Don’t burn yourself out by writing too much or putting too much pressure on yourself—you’ll start to dread your deadlines.
3. Make your content flow using themes
Chances are you’ve visited blogs before that don’t have a logical direction. There’s nothing wrong with the content but there’s a lot wrong with the flow of the content.
Making your content flow from week to week lets you take your readers on a journey—hopefully one that involves them becoming loyal subscribers because they can count on you providing insightful, valuable information on a consistent basis.
Use themes to make your content flow better. Start by setting a theme for the year. Year themes should be broad. For instance, going back to our UX design passion, the year theme could be “getting started in user experience design.”
Once you’ve set your theme for the year, drill down to the months.
For each month, choose a theme that fits in with the overall year—and make sure they flow from each other. A good way to do this: think of common paths your readers might take. For example, if you’re writing about getting started in user experience design, the average beginner might:
- Start reading UX blogs
- Look into wireframing
- Find software to help them create pixel-perfect mockups
- Dig a little deeper into prototyping tools
Each of these can be converted into a monthly theme. Topics should be broad enough to where you can write multiple posts on them, but narrow enough that you can explain the topics clearly.
Remember that the point of your blog posts is to share your expertise as a designer and provide value for your readers, who are more than likely other designers.
Once you’ve decided on themes, create a title for each post, keeping in mind how the titles fit together.
You’ll need a post title for each day you’ll be posting (according to your schedule). And remember your plan is a living document—go back and change/optimize things often. Don’t be scared to switch things up, especially if inspiration hits.
So that’s all there is to a killer content plan: regularly write about your passion, with a logical flow.
At the beginning it’ll be tough to keep blogging consistently, especially if you feel like nobody’s reading. Stick with it, though. If your content is valuable, you’ll reap the rewards of an engaged audience that views you as a leader in your field—and you never know what opportunities that could bring.
by Jake Peters
Jake is the CEO of HelpDocs, self-serve customer support software for teams. When he's not helping customers or writing code, you'll probably find him in the kitchen cooking something delicious.