Submitted by guest-blogger:
Kevin Gruzewski, CTRS (www.kevingctrs.com)
Do you love to write? Are you passionate about certain topics? Blogging is a great way to create a space to share and connect with others. Even if you are not tech savvy, starting a blog is possible. It takes time and learning, but the benefits are worth the commitment.
With all the blogs on the web, I learned there were surprisingly few dedicated to the Recreational Therapy profession. I honestly believe us RTs would benefit from a few more quality blogs to share ideas, stories, and wisdom. This is why I am encouraging any of you aspiring writers working in RT to consider starting a blog.
My Blogging Journey
I still remember the moment the idea struck me to start a Recreational Therapy blog. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but it was one of those ideas I couldn’t shake. At the time, I didn’t spend much time in front of the computer, didn’t have a clue about coding or HTML, and wasn’t sure what I would write. I had no idea where to begin–but the ideal beckoned…
So my research began. There are so many websites and articles dedicated to starting a blog, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Don’t worry, though, like I said, it’s not as hard as you think.
How to Start Your Blog
Setting up your blog may be the most overwhelming task. I know I spent weeks researching and mulling over decisions.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
What do I want to write about? Can I see this a a long term commitment?
If this is one of those ideas you have that will fade in a month or two, it’s best not to even bother. Writing and maintaining a blog takes time and effort. If you want to write about your passion, but don’t want to commit, consider guest posting on a current blog (Hint: I’m always looking for guest posters).
What am I hoping to accomplish?
Are you blogging for a few close colleges or friends about your personal ideas, goals, and accomplishments? Are you looking to reach a wider audience with thoughtful posts? Do you want to spend the extra time promoting your blog?
Do I want to (eventually) make extra income with my blog?
Yes, it is very possible to make money with your blog with advertisements, affiliates, and even your own products. The relatively small Recreational Therapy niche might make it a little harder, but if you are willing to branch out, making money is definitely a possibility.
Once you answered these questions, you may have a better idea where to start.
If you’re looking to start a small blog without aspirations for making income, start a blog for free on WordPress.com, Wix.com, or Blogger.com. Get a feel for blogging and see if it is something you would enjoy. There are some limitations to using free platforms. Many of the free sites have restrictions on how you can use it–for instance you can’t monetize your blog by putting in advertisements or selling products. Also, you won’t have a dedicated domain name that is easy for readers to remember. Like:
www.iamthebestrecreationtherapistever.com. (That one is available, by the way. You could purchase it.)
How to Create Your Own Blog and Domain
- If you have the funds available, I suggest your purchase a web hosting plan to get a domain name. This gives you total control how over your blog. There are no shortage of web hosting companies available with all sorts of plans. For instance, Go Daddy, Blue Host, and Host Gator, are all popular. I use A2 (no affiliate) and haven’t had any issues. The choice is yours. Choose your domain name wisely, since you will be stuck with it.
- Install WordPress to your site. WordPress is like a word processing program for your blog. It is easy to use and has a ton of features. Once you learn to use WordPress, making a professional looking blog is much easier. You don’t need knowledge of code or HTML. Many hosting sites will upload WordPress when you purchase your domain for no extra charge.
- Find a theme. There are countless WordPress themes–both free and paid. A theme determines how your website looks. I used three themes over the past several months, and found paying a little extra (about $50) gave me a theme that was easier to customize with lots of options. If you are not happy with the theme you chose, changing themes is not hard, but you might have to spend an hour or two changing some settings if your blog is already established with several articles.
I hope I didn’t lose you. Completing these steps isn’t as hard as it sounds. Many websites offer tutorials, guidance, and customer service reps ready to help.
Let’s talk about the fun stuff. Writing your blogs.
Creating a blog post with WordPress is easy. Like I said, it’s basically a word program for bloggers. Type your post, add an image or two, and post your article. It’s ready for eager readers.
Tips on Writing A Great Blog Post
- Start with an eye catching title. There is so much information on the web. You need to grab a reader’s attention right away.
- Make it visually appealing. This isn’t a novel. Long paragraphs may overwhelm readers–especially those with little time to spare. Break up your paragraphs with headers, include bullet points, and make your content conversational. It’s not a college term paper.
- Add images. Break up text with appealing images. Aside from using my own photos, I use Unsplash for royalty-free photos. It’s free and there are tons of great images. If you use an image from another website, make sure you get permission or give them credit.
- Write with passion. Find your voice. Let readers know you care about what you are saying. This comes with practice.
- Add keywords for search engines. One way draw website traffic is using Search Engine Optimization (SEO). By adding a plug-in to your WordPress site–don’t worry this is very easy–you could create keywords to add into your posts to draw potential readers to your site. For example, by setting the keyword “Recreation Therapy Activity Ideas” into your content in a few spots, those searching for that term could be led to your site. Take some time to research SEO.
What to Write
Creating several blog posts might seem daunting. What is there to write about? Thankfully, the profession is very versatile with so many ideas–crafts, group ideas, leisure education activities, physical fitness, current trends, etc. If you’re willing to do a little research, ideas for blog posts will come.
How to find ideas:
- What activities work well with your participants? What do you want to learn more about? Sit down with a pen and paper and let the ideas flow.
- Read other blogs. Get ideas from other Recreation Therapy blogs. Check out what other professions like Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, etc. are writing about. Chances are some ideas could be applied in a Recreation Therapy setting.
- Keep up to date on recent research. You may be able to put recent research findings into a practical blog post for Recreation Therapists.
- Check out forums and groups. People often turn to internet forums and groups to get advice and ideas. See what others are asking about and create a post.
- Don’t be afraid to take chances. I’ve written some blog posts that I thought would tank, but actually drew several viewers. On the flip side, I’ve taken a few chances at writing something which almost nobody viewed. Remember: It’s all a learning experience. When you start getting an audience, you will see what interests them.
Promoting Your Blog
Even if you are writing great content, without a little promotion it may not be seen by many. Eventually your quality content starts drawing readers (especially by using SEO techniques), but a little promotion here and there does wonders for increasing blog traffic. Here are a couple easy ways to let others know about your blogs:
- Let your professional contacts and other interested parties know you started a blog. If they like it, they may share it with their contacts.
- Social Media. I will admit, I’m not big on social media. I don’t spend much time on it–I just don’t have the time. But using Facebook to promote my blog has drawn the most readers. I join groups dedicated to Recreation Therapy and Activity Professionals and add a post when I have new content. As I learned effective ways to promote my blog posts on social media, I’ve seen a steady increase in my traffic. Pinterest, Twitter, and Linkedin are also great places to post your latest blog articles.
- Write Guest Posts. Once you get used to writing blogs, reach out to others with similar blogs. Ask to write a guest post. Write something great and link up with your blog. Chances are people will want to read more of your writing. (Another Hint: I’m more than willing to collaborate with guest posters.)
Final Bits of Advice
I started my blog in the spring of this year with zero knowledge. To date, I’ve had almost 10,000 views with 30 different posts. Compared to many successful blogs, this isn’t much, but considering my blog is a specialized niche, I am happy with the results. In addition, I scored a few freelance writing gigs from my blog. Though I am no expert, I know what it is like to be clueless about starting the process. Here’s some practical advice:
- It’s a learning experience. Think of blogging as a journey. With all the available tools and plug-ins, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time. Learn as you go. You don’t need the perfect blog from the moment you start writing.
- Reach out to others. Don’t be afraid to contact established Recreation Therapy (or other) bloggers. They are usually amicable and willing to offer insight. It might be a great connection for future projects.
- Be ready to dedicate time. Maintaining a blog is a commitment. As a full time CTRS, father of a very active toddler, and busy with my leisure time, I often spend a lot of late night hours writing and posting. I do it because I enjoy it, though. It never seems to be a burden–well, waking up some mornings is tough.
- Content is most important. Write with passion (it feels like I said this before). Write about what you love. Find your individual voice. If it seems forced and artificial to you, your readers will probably see it, too.
If you are considering starting a Recreational Therapy blog or are an established blogger, I would love to hear from you. I am always looking for new ways to collaborate with those in the profession. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Gruzewski, CTRS, has practiced Recreational Therapy for nearly two decades. He has experience working with adults with developmental disabilities as well as adolescents with substance abuse and mental health issues. You could find his blog at www.kevingctrs.com. In addition, if you like his writing, he would love to help you with any freelance writing needs.
Great tips! Trying not to feel overwhelmed…but I’m not sure I know what my focus is going to be and so it is all a bit scary. Your honesty is appreciated!