I’ve been blogging on my firm’s site for a couple of years now, but I did not really take the job seriously until the end of 2015. I cannot recall exactly what motivated me to write more than just the garden-variety financial advisory firm commentary, but I can say with certainty that the result of joining the financial blogosphere has led to somewhat of a renaissance for me, both intellectually and professionally. While I cannot say that I have mastered the art of blogging, I can point to many different things that were something like epiphanies to me as I wrote. Here are ten of those things:
1. The greatest idea in the world is worthless if you cannot communicate it effectively. This is especially true in writing; you are vying with countless distractions for your audience’s attention, so first attracting that attention and holding it while you convey your message is paramount.
2. In blogging, less is more, so understand that what you depict graphically will stay with your readers more than what you spell out in words.
3. Who reads your articles matters more than how many read them. If you are fortunate enough for your material to reach the desks of influential thinkers and personalities then your message stands a much better chance of getting out. To this end, do not be embarrassed to share your ideas with other bloggers. I have found that almost every other blogger is more than happy to share ideas and give feedback.
4. Blogging is educational for you, not just your audience. This was lost on me until recently when a prospective client voiced his opinion about some investments he thought should be excluded from his portfolio. Having written previously about those particular investments, I was prepared to challenge his assertions and to explain the value of including them in his portfolio. Such an exchange helps to build confidence and understanding in an advisory relationship.
5. It helps to be original. So many financial firms publish the same canned content about markets doing X, Y, or Z, and fail to stand out because they are simply regurgitating the same message as most others. Both you and your readers (likely your clients) will get much more out of a couple well-written articles – even if they take a while to write – than a series of hurried and uninspired posts.
6. You will get some of your best ideas based on what others have written. No, I am not endorsing plagiarism. I am simply saying that coming up with an idea about which to write is very difficult if you first do not have an inspiration. Therefore, you, as a writer, should pay attention to what others are writing because, more often than not, it will lead to an idea you otherwise would not have had.
7. I am not a fan of social media, but Twitter, which I have described as a ‘marketplace of ideas’ is borderline indispensable to an aspiring blogger. In its own way, Twitter is like the ancient Roman forums in which intellectuals would gather to discuss the matters of the day. It is through Twitter that I have made many tremendous connections who have helped me with my writing and who have helped me cultivate my analytical skills. It is difficult to imagine the financial blogosphere without it.
8. Do not be afraid to ask questions in your articles. All too often in finance, we take certain things for granted simply because that is how they have played out in the past. Very few stop to think and ask, “Why did that happen?” much less, “Will it happen again?” By not thinking critically and simply parroting financial data you will not achieve any greater understanding of the topic than your readers, and so you have essentially wasted your effort, and their time.
9. Learn which criticism to heed, and which to ignore. It is helpful to bounce an idea off of your trusted friends and colleagues, especially if you are unsure of it. However, if you feel that something you have written is worth sharing, you are better off going with your gut instinct. There are countless entertainers and musicians whose initial receptions were muted at best. So, if someone offers you negative feedback but you think your idea has merit, ignore the criticism, and forge ahead.
10. The best way to become a better writer is to read more. This not an original idea of mine, but it is probably the most important point in this list. Reading books that challenge you – think classic English, or Shakespeare – will help you practically (e.g. broaden your vocabulary), and stylistically as you find your own unique voice. Similar to spending time in the gym before a competition or a race, reading is what will help you the most as you prepare for your own writing challenges.