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Maybe ChicagoNow is right for your blog, by Diana Schneidman

03 Feb 2018 7:24 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

Maybe ChicagoNow is right for your blog

At our November IWOC meeting, Scott Winterroth of Content Academy said something about using WordPress that made me feel really good: WordPress was developed to make work easier for web professionals. It was not developed to enable all of us to single handedly create our own websites and blogs.

I felt guilty . . .

Winterroth made me feel good because I had been feeling guilty. My personal WordPress website had some obvious flaws, but I did not care to learn how to remedy them on my own. 

I probably could if I worked hard enough. However, I would be investing considerable time in improving my own website / blog but without the inclination or market to justify my time investment by taking on paying work.

I looked into hiring someone to do the work for me.

A freelancer friend gave me the answer: ChicagoNow.com.

It seemed that everyone either charged a substantial amount per hour or would only undertake web work if it was a total re-do with a fee in the thousands of dollars.

So, I put it on the back burner, somewhat embarrassed by website flaws but too cheap to do anything about them.

Eventually I found another reason not to put money in my online presence. I have decided to be more selective about freelancing in favor of more blogging simply because I feel like it.

How to do my unmonetized blog without spending any money?

A freelancer friend gave me the answer: ChicagoNow.com.

ChicagoNow was created by the Chicago Tribune Media Group. As the FAQs explain, "Chicago Tribune content is produced by journalists; ChicagoNow content is produced by the communities that make up the site."

The program was run by phenomenal community manager Jimmy Greenfield since its inception nine years ago. He recently left for a new opportunity with the Trib, and Matt Schwerha has taken over. (He is great too.) He reviews applications and approves bloggers for participation, sets up the blogs, and provides technical assistance, including phone help, promptly and for free.

Participation is open to Chicago-area writers writing on any subject and to those outside the area writing on a Chicago-oriented topic.

Some blogs are on a highly specific topic, for instance, local horseracing or quilting. Others are on business topics, political issues or other broad themes. Yet others are on any topic that strikes the writer's fancy.

There's no required frequency. Some blog daily, others monthly or even less frequently.

The one thing these blogs have in common is excellence. All show signs of thought and editing. While the blogs are not monetized, tasteful marketing of your freelance practice or other business is allowed.

The program is much more impressive than what is described to the public on the website.

There's a closed Facebook group where community members can discuss issues of all types. There's a program to recognize best posts for the month. A free bowling league is running this season.

Another plus: ChicagoNow has Google juice. As of January 31, its global rank is 45,372 and its U.S. rank is 13,337.

To determine a website's rank, go to Alexa.com. The page should say "Find website traffic, statistics, and analytics." Key in website of interest where it says "Enter a website." (This is at top of page directly under "Find website traffic.") Click "find." The lower the number, the higher the rank. (Google is number one, followed by YouTube.)

All is not roses. Apparently, the group has had a sponsored holiday party in the past. In 2017, however, there was no budget and it didn't happen.

Before signing up, look at the restrictions. One is that you must avoid duplicate content by not posting your full ChicagoNow post on other websites.

I'm a newbie. My first post went live on October 22. Here's my blog: http://www.chicagonow.com/girl-born-in-51/

I'm really enjoying this, especially the technical help when I run into a snag. Maybe it's right for you as well.

(Members can comment by clicking on the dots next to the headline.) 

- Diana Schneidman

Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

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