We nurses like structure. We like procedures. We feel comfortable when someone gives us a framework that provides us with a series of steps to move through on the way to a desired outcome – such as starting an IV.
So it’s no surprise to me that a great many novice nurse-writers tell me that they’re scared to solicit various types of work – let’s say blog posts – because they don’t know what the format looks like. They follow up by asking me to provide them with a “blog post format” so they’ll know what to do if they land a gig to write blog posts.
I hate to disappoint you, but I do want to set the record straight on this point: There is no such thing as a “blog post format.” Nor a “white paper format,” nor a “case study format,” nor an “email newsletter format.” These things simply do not exist.
Every Client Wants Something Different
The reason you’ll find almost no standards for things like “blog post formats” is because every client wants something different. Every client develops its own standards for “formats.”
Let’s visit these examples to illustrate my point.
- My own blog posts, like this one, lean towards long narratives broken up by a few subheads and the occasional bullet list. I rarely insert a call-to-action (CTA) to promote my courses or coaching.
- Compare and contrast this with this Temple Health blog post titled “5 Ways to Maintain a Healthy COPD Diet.” This post takes more of a “list” format, with large, numbered sections and smaller subheadings. At the end, there’s a CTA to “schedule an appointment.”
- Compare and contrast that with this Cardinal Health Essential Insights blog post titled “How oncologists view the impact of social determinants of health on patient outcomes.” Now we’re back to a longer, narrative style with subheadings and a few bullet lists – not dissimilar to my own posts.
- Compare and contrast that with this blog post by ShiftWizard, titled “Managing Critical Staff Shortages with ShiftWizard.” This post is extremely short and entirely narrative, with no subheads at all.
- Compare and contrast that with this Chilmark Research blog post titled “Walgreens ‘Front Door to Care’ Strategy is Building Horizontally.” Here, we have a highly structured type of blog post that begins with a “key takeaways” section, followed by numerous sub-sections that each contain 1-2 brief paragraphs of information.
Now, tell me: Which of these is “the blog post format”?
The answer, of course, is that they all are. There literally are no industry standards for what constitutes a “blog post format.”
Write to the Client’s Specifications
Instead of trying to become an expert in a concept like “what is a blog post format?”, you should always endeavor to write to the client’s specifications. Even if you disagree with the way a client wants its blog posts (or any other asset) formatted, do it. Your job, as a writer, is not to be the company’s usability or SEO expert. Your job is to do things the way the client wants them.
Sometimes, a client will not specify how to format a deliverable like a blog post. If this happens, you should ask. Always ask. You are not expected to be an expert in how to format a blog post (because…see above), nor can you be expected to read a client’s mind. If the client cannot work with you to figure out how to format a deliverable, then that’s a problem because you cannot please a client that doesn’t know what it wants.
As you gain more experience writing various types of deliverables, then by all means you should collaborate with the client regarding formatting issues, if they ask you to do that. And you can charge a higher fee for providing this broader scope of service, too. I mean, if you’re helping them structure their deliverables, then, at that point, you’re a consultant.
But in the meantime, forget about this notion that there’s such a thing as a “blog post format” (or “white paper format,” etc.) and focus on writing well and formatting deliverables the way the client wants them. This strategy can help you win repeat assignments, which is a key to building a sustainable income from writing.
Does this post help you feel more confident about soliciting certain types of work? Share your experiences in the comments!