QUICK UPDATE: My stock, YOMAR, is rising up on Empire Avenue – it’s strangely exciting to see how my social influence ranks throughout various communities. Come visit me!
If you’ve been around the blogosphere enough, chances are you’ve come across blogs preaching the importance of planning out content, doing SEO, and monetizing your efforts. Most of the advice is sound. It makes sense to make blogging more worthwhile, if not lucrative. The first real step we bloggers should take is asking ourselves…
Am I a serious blogger or a hobbyist?
I’m surprised more people do not tackle this aspect of blogging. Rewards and success come in different flavors. Really, I’d say the longevity of your blog comes down to two things:
- Sustainability. WordPress.com initiated postaday2011 and postaweek2011 as a way to create urgency for bloggers. Some “experts” will tell you should blog 3 times a week, if not daily, but can you keep this up? For how long?
- Passion. Blogging is more of a selfish act and it should be.. BUT blogging solely about what interests others will bore you. Are you passionate about your subject matter or just following trends? You need a balance.
Blogging, like any business endeavor or project, can become a chore if you’re not focused on your goals and motivations. Product longevity depends on a number of factors so you have to consider what the heart of your “thing” is and how long that focus will work. You have to be honest with yourself here. Let’s look at the things you should consider before stepping things up with your blogging efforts (or not)…
Testing The Waters
The things that usually keeps people from taking the plunge and truly launching their blogs are the same things that keeps people from going into business for themselves. We’re afraid to fail. Doing things “for fun” softens up the blows that can come from real commitment and investment.
Are you afraid of success or are you truly happy with the way things are?
Some bloggers may be complacent or comfortable. You may have a small audience. You may only blog for friends or people that agree with you. That’s manageable. It’s safe.
What if you want more from your blog?
I say test the waters first and be reasonable with expectations. Here’s what you can expect if blogging is to represent any sort of ROI (Return On Investment) for you:
- Some will hate your style, others will love it.
- Criticism is inevitable – welcome and learn from it!
- Not everyone will be a Seth Godin, Darren Rowse, Dino Dogan, Marcus Sherdian, Danny Brown, Chris Brogan (you get the idea).. but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a living from it.
- It’s going to take work but it’ll be FUN with the right attitude and focus!
- There is no niche: everyone has the same ideas as you but how you present and position them differentiates you.
With that reality check out of the way, I urge anyone considering blogging as a business to just get out there and do it. Tweak, revise, and optimize later. Just launch, observe, and stay persistent!
If you stir some interest, you may very well be onto something…
Love The Trolls
Feedback is important. How well you take it and internalize it determines how much you evolve or stay the same. Realize that, once you taste significant success, there will be naysayers and negative nellies looking to knock the wind out of your sails.
Love the trolls. Embrace the trolls. They keep us in check.
If you are focused and passionate enough, the sting of caustic glibness and jaded cynicism won’t deter you from your goals. You may learn a thing or two if you separate the negative junk from the heart of the message. Truth be told, we could all improve somehow.
I really like what Dino Dogan said on KTT (Kitchen Table Talks) about criticism and negative people. In essence, this is what he said:
Separate yourself emotionally from your work. People are judging it, not you. That is the Buddhist way.
Don’t give in to the haters and doubters. Quite often, they have nothing better to do than to make those with more ambition and better ideas than themselves feel miserable. Misery loves company.
Allow me to go off on a tangent…
Buddhism is something I believe works. It helps us separate ourselves from petty thoughts and useless emotion. As a bit of a bohemian and utilitarian, it makes practical sense: cut the fat out of your life. Focus on what really matters.
I got exposed to Buddhism thanks to MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and an awesome gal I dated once upon a time. It’s not a religion so don’t worry: no chest-beating here! It’s more about everyday spirituality and seeing the world in a whole new way. Buddhism teaches us that everything is connected, which I dig lots since people have this silly notion that work and life are separate things.
Find peace in your life and you’ll feel more fulfilled. Buddhism teaches us that happiness is being free of debt. If you have negative thoughts plaguing your mind, how can you ever let the good thoughts in?
Here’s what my meditation has lead me to: at the end of the day, the trolls, bullies, and petty people don’t pay your bills. There are ways to turn everything into a worthwhile experience. Good personal development will give you a winning attitude, an open mind, a big heart, and the right outlook on things.
Longevity And Sustainability
Another thing Dino mentioned on episode 30 of #KTT (BTW, tweeting that hash tag while the show is LIVE, every Tuesday at 2pm-ish EST, does magical things) was how we all should think about this:
Will this matter in five years?
That statement grants you freedom and empowers you. Why let people live in your head debt-free (personally, I rather live in my own head)? Why are you wasting time with mundane things that have no long-term value? Why do you seek affirmation and motivation from others?
It’s those kinds of questions that drive the entrepreneurial mind. Today’s entrepreneur doesn’t think outside the box, they live outside of it. You can’t rely on external factors: success and happiness alike start with you. This is the beginnings of what will make your efforts in blogging, business, and life as a whole both sustainable and long-lasting.
Do you want to start a legacy and leave your mark in history?
It’s not merely about fame and fortune, though that may work for some. The sustainability and longevity of your life’s work, your products, is contingent upon your reasons. Make sure you blog for the right reasons and “check yourself”.
SIDEBAR: Apparently, checking yourself and taking the plunge is a concept all over the web. Even Michele Welch and friends have been talking about similar things (I recommend Marlee’s blog on not holding yourself back, too – check the comments on NewBizBlogger).
The five-year outlook Dino speaks of is one of many ways to look at long-term growth and value. In simpler terms, look at your daily life to see how everything you do develops you and your ideas.
How closer are you to your goals and dreams at the end of the day?
What I’ve found throughout my many ups and downs is that building momentum and income is easy but sustaining it is tough. Bulletproofing our egos and becoming true self-starters is no easy feat. Now that I’ve beaten a dead horse, let’s move on!
Is Your Blog REALLY Just For You?
Quite frankly, I think most that say they blog purely for themselves are full of it. If you did not want an audience, you would keep a journal, no? I sometimes offer my services for free (at least initially) to help budding blogs and web sites get a jump start. When they see it’s hard work to become more visible, they resort to excuses. Sadly, a simple shift of perspective can overcome this if you stop playing the victim or defeatist cards…
Oh, I’m just doing it for fun.
Really? Why do you have a donate button up there? Why do you have a Facebook Fan Page? Why do you promote your blog at all, if it’s just for you or your friends?
I’m not calling anyone out but I am asking you to be honest with yourself: why are you blogging?
Believe me, here on Y3B, I have mainly used blogging as a creative outlet.. But I’ve also monetized my blog enough to create urgency and provide myself with some supplemental income. I know that my blogging may take away from other, more productive activities so, for me, monetizing my blogs further with time makes sense.
How about you?
Will your blogs be one of the millions of blogs that eventually fizzles away into oblivion? How will you feel about your investment of time then?
Art Versus Business
Again, I will reiterate that being a casual blogger is great if that’s what you are really doing. I’m trying to appeal to the underachievers that put in all the work then give up. I’m also talking to the perfectionists that work so hard and don’t go for the gusto.
Do you see blogging as an art or business?
Why can’t your blog be BOTH? You can write about whatever tickles your fancy AND make a living. When I think of the phrase “starving artist”, I can’t help but to shake my head. It’s masochism.
I’ve been there before. Part of it was foolish pride. Part of it was fear of failure and tainting my name, my personal brand. I felt like my passions, my art and life’s work, needed to be separated from the restrictions of traditional work. That’s partly why I went into Information Technology instead of doing programming and game design as a living, which is what I really love. Then again, I also love cartooning and illustration.. And writing.. But that’s besides the point!
It would seem I am not alone on this. Creative engineers, as I like to call them, build and innovate but they often feel that attaching monetary values and external influences corrupts the purity of their “thing”. It can’t be art if you do it for a living. Don’t sell out. That’s what the starving artist may hold dearly. It’s a hobby, something they do just for the love of it. It’s a labor of love.
I call shenanigans on that!
If you truly love your art, why NOT position yourself to focus on it more? Working a traditional job won’t afford you this freedom and you can only moonlight for so long before you burn out (been there, done that, bought a t-shirt).
REALITY CHECK (to the umpteenth power): Making money from your passions, being a little selfish, does not devalue your art.
Just imagine how many lives you could touch if you got your stuff out there. Someone out there is going through the same struggles you are – why not inspire them? I know I get particularly excited when I discover little-known sites and blogs full of useful, fun, and/or inspirational stuff. Then I get sad because I realize these brilliant artists are likely selling themselves short. Are you one of them?
Launching Your Blog
Any Tom, Dick, or Sally can start a blog. LAUNCHING a blog is a whole different story. If you ask me (and I’m thinking you ARE since you’re still here), it’s the difference between being a blogger or a hobbyist.
Whether you are looking to launch a new blog or relaunch your current blog, there are a few things I think every serious blogger should consider:
- Ad Revenue. Google AdSense is one of many routes to take. When you have a small following, focus more on engaging your audience and building trust. Some advertisers will pay good money for small sites with active, tight-knit communities because they know the members support the sites whatever way they can. Getting massive traffic helps, but it’s not a magical solution or prerequisite.
- Other Revenue. Don’t just focus on one income stream. Build up multiple income streams. Join blog networks, affiliate platforms, and business groups. This will position you to take advantage of other income opportunities. Visiting Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger is a good start too.
- Branding And Style. You’ll often hear artsy fartsy types preaching about the need for visual appeal but remember that a clean layout is the more important when it comes to design (unless maybe you are more artsy-fartsy than message-focused). Make the most important stuff, like your brands and services, stick out. Don’t worry if you don’t have a cool logo to boot. Branding comes in many shapes and sizes.
- Nutshell It. Your visitors should be able to see what your site is about from the start. Categories, sitemaps, and “top content” are all awesome here. Landing pages are also very handy, as they help you drive specific audiences to the most relevant content.
- Guest Blogging. When you contribute to other blogs, you get to help others stay persistent and add value to their content. The added bonus is that you develop your skills further and build up your personal brands, while getting some natural backlinks to your site(s).
- Leave Valuable Comments. Visit related and unrelated blogs. Embrace the competition. They’ve made mistakes and they’re human like you (unless it’s an autoblog, then nevermind). Leave comments that build conversations. Don’t just agree or disagree – substantiate your thoughts! Most bloggers live for this feedback and fresh perspective, unless they’re weird or self-absorbed.
- Invite Guests. Keeping your sites updated can be a drag, especially when you manage and contribute to various online communities. Having guests on your blogs empowers others, builds credibility, and adds variety to your site. Building a team is great too as it will keep you engaged. Team efforts often succeed where solo shows fail.
- Make It A Game. Seth Godin often discusses the power of including a “free prize inside”, and with good reason! Game mechanics can be seen in all sorts of web sites. They’re a great way to engage your community, create buzz, and bolster user-generated content. Comment leaderboards are one way to do this but there’s so much more you can do to add fun to your blog.
I Am A Failure At Blogging
By most standards, I suck at blogging and I know it. I break many rules and don’t follow my own advice. I’m fine with that. Y3B is mainly my creative outlet and it has create many opportunities. Most importantly, I’m constantly learning and Y3B has become a vehicle for things beyond blogging. I welcome failures – they are learning opportunities!
I’m not afraid to fail and you shouldn’t be, either.
Learning from our failures can often be the best way to develop ourselves. So, with that, I hope you feel more confident about your journey as a blogger. It can be fun, rewarding, and a serious business. It will be what you make of it. You can do it – make it happen!
Good luck and happy blogging!