Close
Close

While I’m Away – Skellie Will Play

As this post goes live I’m jetting out of Melbourne to Las Vegas for Blog World Expo.

I’ll be away for a week and while I’ll probably post one or two posts from BWE I’m handing the ProBlogger Keys over to Skellie for the next week. If you’re not familiar with Skellie’s work you can see some of it at Skelliewag and Anywired. She also edits the popular FreelanceSwitch.

Skellie was also a regular contributor for ProBlogger for a number of months last year.

To get a taste for her work check out these previous posts that she wrote on ProBlogger:

  1. Building Your Blog With StumbleUpon
  2. How to Transform Readers Into Raving Fans
  3. How to Maximize the Benefits of Guest Posting
  4. How to Write Posts That Set StumbleUpon on Fire
  5. How to Develop the Habit of Writing Posts in Advance
  6. How to Create Social Media’s Favorite Type of Blog Post
  7. Value Blogging: A New Model For Success?
  8. Blogger or Mind-Reader? Six Ways to Give Your Audience Exactly What It Wants
  9. How to Keep Your Subscribers Forever
  10. Prolific Blogging: Five Methods I Swear By

Yep – it’s going to be a good week on ProBlogger. Enjoy!

Skellie Launches Anywired

I don’t announce the launch of too many blogs (I like to see the runs on the board first) but today a blogger who is very dear to ProBlogger launched her second blog.

Anywired Header

Yes Skellie (ProBlogger’s first staff writer) has just launched Anywired.

It’s a blog with the tagline – ‘work online, work anywhere, live free’ and will be a blog for anyone who works through the web (freelancers, entrepreneurs, bloggers, webmasters, telecommuters etc).

Skellie has launched with three great posts that will give you a taste for the blog:

This will be one to add to your RSS feeder – here’s the RSS feed.

Introducing Skellie – New Regular Contributer at ProBlogger

SkelieI’ve got some exciting news to share with the ProBlogger community.

A few couple of weeks ago I sat down in a local cafe with fellow Melbourne blogger – Skellie from Skelliewag.

I’d been reading Skellie’s work for a number of months and recently she wrote a couple of guest posts her at ProBlogger (How to Draw StumbleUpon Users Into Your Blog and Building a Blog With StumbleUpon). I’ve admired Skellie’s writing style since first coming across her blog and when I found out that we both lived in the same city I thought it’d be fun to catch up.

The result of our catch up was that we had a great conversation and…. (getting to the exciting news here) Skellie has agreed to start writing a regular (weekly-ish) column here at ProBlogger.

My reasons for getting Skellie involved are numerous:

  • Firstly I think she writes great posts that will benefit us all
  • Secondly I need a day off a week – while ProBlogger gives me a lot of energy, it is a 7 days a week job in and of itself (not to mention my other blogs my work with blog network).
  • Thirdly, Skellie’s approach to blogging fits well with mine. While she’s her own person and has a unique style and voice – I think you’ll find that there’s also plenty of synergy between us. This is important to me as I don’t want ProBlogger to become too mixed up and ‘hotch potch’.

So there’s my reasons – I hope you enjoy this new voice at ProBlogger.

Skellie’s first post will be up in the next couple of hours and should follow on a weekly(ish) basis.

PS: do yourself a favor and also subscribe to Skelliewag’s RSS feed – you won’t be disappointed.

7 Places Bloggers Can Get Design Work Done (Without Breaking The Bank)

This is a guest contribution by Skellie Wag.

Every blog has a design. Whether it’s a beautifully put together custom job, a WordPress theme, a template or something frankensteined together with a vague knowledge of HTML and CSS.

Most of us are not web designers, and because of this, the design of our blogs can end up being a thorn in our side.

We want to make changes, but don’t know how. We’d like a better logo (or simply to have a logo at all), but aren’t sure how to get one. We know our header image is a little ugly. But what to do about it?

Frustrated blogger

Image copyright Renee Jansoa – Fotolia.com

Finding designers for smallish jobs like making tweaks to a blog theme, designing a new header, or adding an email form can be a little tricky. It involves working with a designer who is willing to take on a small job, who fits with our budget, is friendly, communicative, and does work in a style that we like. That’s a lot of criteria to fulfill!

Because finding someone like this seems tough, many bloggers will overlook necessary design updates, or try to do it themselves. If you’ve ever stayed up until the wee hours trying to make one small change to your blog’s layout, only to mess up everything on the page, you’re not alone.

My life as a blogger became much easier when I realised that there are several places where you can get small design changes done at a good price, by good people. I’ll dig into these options below, examining the pros and cons of each. Next time you need design work done on your blog, you may consider using one of these options.

1. Elance

How it works

You write an outline for your job, and list a budget. Freelancers will write proposals for why they are the best person to do the job, and will ‘bid’ a price for completion.

Pros

Because each job generally receives bids from multiple freelancers, there is downward pressure on pricing as freelancers compete to win the job. Working with freelancers from Elance tends to be affordable. Because there are hundreds of thousands of freelancers working through Elance, you are likely to have a rich selection of proposals for your job.

Cons

Because Elance is highly competitive for freelancers, many try to speed up the process of submitting multiple proposals by submitting generic copy and paste messages. In some cases, the freelancer may not have properly read the details of the job proposal.

Because the quality of a freelancer’s work is not approved prior to joining Elance, quality varies.

The verdict

If going through Elance, take the time to do due diligence on any freelancer you are considering hiring. Make sure you’re willing to devote some time to go through the multiple proposals your job is likely to receive.

2. oDesk 

How it works

Browse freelancer profiles listing their hourly rate, skills, and the number of hours worked through oDesk. Alternatively, you can post your job and budget and receive applications from oDesk’s freelance community.

Pros

You can pick and choose a freelancer whose work you like, whose hourly rate you like, and who has a great reputation on oDesk. Alternatively, you can post a job and receive applications (much like on Elance.com).

Cons

If you post your job to oDesk, you’ll have a volume of applications to go through, not all of which will be from ideal candidates. You need to ensure that you have the time to perform due diligence on applicants. If the job is only small, the time taken to choose a freelancer might outweigh the benefits of outsourcing the job.

The verdict

For small jobs, consider selecting a freelancer directly to save time, rather than posting a job.

3. 99designs 

How it works

On 99designs you create design competitions rather than post jobs. Designers enter multiple designs aimed at best fulfilling your brief. If you select one of these designs as the competition ‘winner’, you claim ownership of the designer’s work, and the prize money is divided between the designer and 99designs.

Pros

If you don’t like any of the designs provided by competition entrants, you don’t pay anything. You’ll receive designs in a variety of styles, with many different interpretations of your brief. Most jobs receive around 30 design pitches, giving you a wide range of work to choose from. If you’re not sure exactly what you want, this could be a smart route for you.

Cons

This service is a better choice for a large scale redesign, as they do not do small tweaks. 99designs also focuses on design work only. Because designers who enter your competition are not guaranteed to be paid unless they win (the chances of which are statistically low), their work may reflect this. Some members of the design community also believe that spec work is unethical, because the designer may or may not be compensated for their effort.

The verdict

99designs could be a worthwhile choice if you need a complete redesign for your blog. If you aren’t sure exactly you want, having a range of options to choose from could be useful.

4. Microlancer 

How it works

Freelancers create listings for their services, with price, turnaround time, number of revisions, and work examples provided upfront. Buyers purchase the service they want. The work must be completed and approved within the turnaround time, or the buyer is eligible for a refund.

Pros

Microlancer is specifically designed for small design and coding jobs, the kind that bloggers usually need done. Freelancers are reviewed for quality, meaning the standard of design and code is high. Terms, price and work examples are provided upfront, making it easier to make an informed decision. 

Cons

Because service categories have a minimum price, Microlancer is less affordable than other options. Job size is limited, so it is not a good choice for a complete blog redesign. Additionally, payment is required upfront, which might deter some buyers.

The verdict

Microlancer is a good choice if you have a clear idea of what you want and don’t want to spend time trawling through dozens of job proposals. It isn’t well-suited to larger projects, such as a complete redesign.

5. Freelancer

How it works

You post a job and freelancers submit job proposals and bids to work on your project. You can also search freelancer profiles, or post contests (similar to 99designs).

Pros

With projects, freelancers and contests available, there are many options for getting your design job done. If you’d like to choose from a number of interested parties, post a project. If you’d like to choose one person to work with, select a freelancer based on their profile. If you’d like to receive many different pitches for completed work, post a contest.

Cons

Going through project proposals requires time to perform due diligence on each application. Choosing a freelancer from the 8 million+ profiles might also be time consuming. When posting a contest, it will take time for the entries to come through. Freelancer.com might not be the ideal choice for a job that you need done urgently.

The verdict

Freelancer offers flexibility in how you want the job done, and a huge pool of freelancers to choose from. It is a solid choice if you have the time to make sure your job is done by the right person.

6. People Per Hour

How it works

People Per Hour is structured around hourly rates. You can choose to work with individual freelancers who state their hourly rates upfront, purchase an ‘Hourlie’, a fixed price service, or post a job and receive proposals.

Pros

You may be able to find a freelancer who has posted an ‘Hourlie’ rate for exactly the job that you need done, for example, a blog header redesign. Otherwise, you can post your job and receive bids, or choose a freelancer who seems like a good fit for the job.

Cons

Freelancers on People Per Hour don’t pass through a review process, so the quality of their work varies and may not always be clearly visible upfront. You should look deeper into any freelancer you are considering working with and make sure they do the kind of work that you’re looking for.

The verdict

People Per Hour offers the flexibility to find a freelancer through several different means. You’ll need to take the time to make sure you’re happy with your choice before you commit.

7. Tweaky

How it works

The Tweaky website offers dozens of fixed priced jobs based around small tasks and customisations. Once a job is purchased, it will be completed by a freelancer on the Tweaky team. The project is overseen by a Project Manager, there to ensure that things run smoothly and that work is delivered on time.

Pros

Tweaky was deliberately created around small jobs and customisations, so it is well suited to the kinds of tasks that bloggers need done. The presence of a staff Project Manager on each job offers an extra level of professionalism and protection against poor quality work.

Cons

Tweaky focuses on code rather than design. Some bloggers may not like that they aren’t able to choose who will complete the work they need done (freelancers are assigned to jobs by Tweaky staff).

The verdict

If you’re not overly concerned with who does your work, only that it gets done quickly and for an upfront price, then Tweaky could be the right option for you.

Who Do You Recommend?

Would you work with any of these companies to get design or customisations done for your blog? Have you done so already? If so, we’d love to hear your reviews and experiences in the comments.

Skellie is a writer, entrepreneur and web developer. She is currently helping out the team at Microlancer.com.

Behind the Scenes of the DPS Pinterest Strategy: Case Study

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked if I wanted to set up and manage the Pinterest account for Digital Photography School. Within a week, we had launched, and Darren explained his take on the process in this case study.

So far, the account has nearly 5000 followers. We have been getting a lot of great feedback and have noticed a lot of people signing up just to follow us. We’ve tapped into something amazing in the DPS community and I believe that a lot of the success is to do with our approach.

In this case study, I’ll be talking about how we went against common advice for bloggers when it comes to setting up a Pinterest account. It may get a bit geeky when it comes to the marketing strategies, but trust me: your blog will be better for it.

Pinterest foundations

I’ve been interning for The Village Agency for some time now, with a strong focus on Pinterest. We noticed two behaviours that were being repeated across various brands:

  • People follow boards, not accounts.
  • People don’t just want pretty images. They want context.

This is because of a concept called the interest graph.

The interest graph

Many bloggers have a presence on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Most people do this because they want to know others on theses networks and socialize with them in some capacity. People follow information based on their interests, but their behaviour is mostly social.

The interest graph shows when people are connected by common interests. The social element takes a backseat at this point—people want to find information that is relevant to their interests.

This is where a lot of bloggers mess it up.

A lot of people hear about the traffic potential of Pinterest and start pinning their content. An example is the Problogging board by David Risley. This board is based around the interest of the blogger, not of the people in the Pinterest ecosystem. This means that David will get traffic from people that visit his account, but the conversation will end there. People are unlikely to repin that content—and the action of repinning is what makes your content go viral on this network.

Note: I have to commend David for actually having a Pinterest account. You can’t learn anything unless you experiment!

What does this mean for bloggers?

This means that people don’t want your Pinterest account to be an extension of your blog. As Darren pointed out with his case study, people are already pinning your content.

If you really want to develop a strong Pinterest presence, you need to curate pinboards based around the interests of your readers. This is especially relevant for those outside of the popular niches on Pinterest.

How we did this

We developed a series of boards based around the common topics on Digital Photography School, such as lighting, portraits, and composition. I went through the archives, and looked at the ebook topics on the resources page, and came up with a rough list of 25 boards. I then set about finding content for those boards.

I started noticing patterns and trends while I was creating the boards. I noticed that other users had created boards based on certain types of lighting or certain technical aspects of photography. I knew that I had to narrow down the focus of certain boards to really tap into the interest graphs for these users.

Sites such as DPS and Problogger are authority sites. They are known for containing a lot of content on a wide range of topics that are important to the fields they cover. This is part of the appeal of these sites.

Most bloggers—and photographers—however, are specialists. They are interested in general trends affecting their community, but are focused on very specific information that affects their niche. This means that people don’t just want information on taking photos of people. They want to know how to take photos of newborns, children, families, and seniors. They want ideas for specific types of lighting or poses. We created specific boards targeted towards these interests and have gained a lot of traction from that effort. We now have twice three times as many boards as we originally planned.

We took this idea one step further

Within hours of launching we had over 1000 followers, but I felt like we were missing something. We were collecting a lot of solid information about digital photography and had been grouping it into categories. This information was great for existing photographers, but … then I realized what we were missing.

Newbie photographers, such as myself, would have been overwhelmed by the myriad of boards. I still use my camera as a point-and-shoot tool. Imagine if my first exposure to the DPS brand was the Pinterest account! I may have been too overwhelmed to check out the site and see the fantastic resources in the Beginners section.

Tweaking the strategy

I might be brilliant at social media but, as I say, I use my DSLR as a glorified point-and-shoot snaps. I´ve had it for four years and only have a vague ideas about what the buttons do. I decided to set up a board covering the basics, but even then, I found the information to be overwhelming.

Photography has a steep learning curve for the newbie. That is where resources like Digital Photography School come in. So what if I structured some of the boards like they were lessons? I could use the description area to create additional context and tell people what board they should visit to get their next “lesson.”

We set up a board called DSLR basics. The next four boards focused on elements of a concept called the “exposure triangle.” The first board focused on why exposure was important. The following boards were dedicated to each part of the triangle. I linked to relevant blog posts in the description.

The first board in the “series” said:

Learning exposure is the first step you should take when it comes to understandind photography. Read our tutorial on the exposure triangle: http://bit.ly/1N3I In the following boards, we talk about the 3 parts of the triangle: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.

The following boards contained a brief line about why that concept was important.

We have only just started experimenting with this technique, so we don’t have much data about whether or not people are responding to this. We are giving away space above the fold to boards that, visually, aren’t as interesting as some others we’ve created. But we’re hoping it pays off.

This is where bloggers can really stand out: give people a reason to visit your Pinterest account other than to check out images. Create a destination. It’s risky and requires a lot of work, but it has the potential to send a massive amount of targeted traffic to your blog.

How can you apply this to your blog?

The first step most people take is to set up their own Pinterest account and start pinning images. If your main goal is to get traffic, you should focus on creating prettier images on your own blog first.

There are a number of ways you can do this:

  • Increase the number of images in blog posts. This gives people multiple pictures to choose from when pinning a post.
  • Hunt for incredible images on Flickr. This post by Skellie gives details about how to do this.
  • Include a portrait-oriented image later in the post. Landscape-oriented images work better to grab attention on a blog post, but the portrait image suits the pinboards better.

I also recommend that bloggers create a Pinterest account for themselves to experiment with before creating one for their blog. You don’t have to do this, but it will give you the chance to understand Pinterest a bit more before making a big commitment.

Creating your own Pinterest account

Many pinterest newbies start by pinning pretty things. That´s what all the “experts” recommend you do. I’ve noticed, though, that having a nice image is just one part of Pinterest success. The second is telling people why they should click through to read the article connected to the pin.

This is incredibly easy and will make you stand out as an authority. Sometimes you will need to read the article to add context, but often the headline will suffice.

Importantly, once an image has been repinned, you lose control over the conversation. It will get shared and, often, the text will get edited. Adding information means that people will have an additional reason to categorize it according to their interests. It also helps people discover your pins via the network’s search tool.

What do I do with the account?

Having a Pinterest account isn’t enough—you also have to give people a reason to click through to check out your boards. Here are some suggestions to tie it your Pinterest account to your blog:

  • Link to relevant boards when discussing issues in your blog posts. This is a great way to give more information without sharing a bunch of links.
  • Create a Pinterest landing page on your blog. This is like a Twitter landing page—it’s where you talk about why your blog is relevant to those who have clicked over from Pinterest. You can see our example for DPS here. I’ve also created one for my marketing client at The Village Agency.

How do I drive traffic to the account?

Some of the comments on Darren’s earlier Pinterest experiment post suggested that we achieved a lot of success because of the strength of the brand name. This was part of it. But interestingly, there was a lot of traction before we publicly launched the account.

Something that, I believe, will really grow the account is the way Darren is involving the community in the growth of the account. Look at the questions Darren asked in the launch post:

  • If there’s a topic you’d like to see us develop a board for, please suggest it in the comments below.
  • If you have a photography board of your own, please let us know about it in the comments below—we’ll be following as many as we can and repinning the best of the best from our community.

Here’s why this step was important.

The fan cycle

I’m a huge fan of word of mouth and how it can help bloggers spread their message.

I discovered this concept called Cycle of a Fan which shows how a person can go from introduction to ownership. This can also apply to Pinterest accounts.

People naturally want to share something that they feel that they are a part of or have contributed to. This step allows us to engage with the DPS readers and, even better, gives us valuable information about how we can improve.

  • have created several new boards based on reader feedback
  • are following many of the boards of people following us
  • are planning new boards once we’ve gotten through this launch period

We can then use the information from these boards to influence the content at the blog.

Over to you

We’ve had an incredibly busy couple of weeks since we launched the DPS Pinterest account. It has been a constant process of refining and tweaking the strategy.

I’d love to hear any feedback you may have—or any questions! What are you biggest problems related to creating a Pinterest presence for your blog?

A Surefire Way to Suffocate Your Blog (And Your Passion)

This guest post is by David Masters of Social Caffeine.

I’m a stats addict.

Whether it’s my Twitter feed, an email newsletter, my latest blog post, or my overall blog subscriber numbers, I’m constantly checking the stats. I’m obsessed. Comments, retweets, Likes, clickthroughs, I check them all.

Of course it’s important to check your stats. Without them, you wouldn’t know if your readers like what you’re doing. But, in a painful lesson, I’ve found out that obsessing over them is dangerous.

The dangers of obsession

I first discovered the joys of blogging in 2007 and I launched my first blog in 2008.

I did everything right. I chose a clear niche, which I had a deep passion for. I set up a self-hosted WordPress acccount and bought my own domain name. I devoted myself to following the advice of the best in the business, including ProBlogger, Entrepreneur’s Journey, and Skelliewag.

I launched my first posts, commented on other blogs, and promoted my content on social media. Within a week, I had my first comment.

I set myself a schedule to post twice a week, and my blog continued its upwards trajectory. After three months, I had over 100 subscribers, and most posts got ten or more comments.

Yet all around me I could see blogs with thousands or tens of thousands of subscribers. I compared myself to them and I felt small and stupid. What right do I have to blog, I thought, with all these amazing bloggers around me? How will I ever be as good as them? I also wanted my blog to make money, and I couldn’t see how it ever would.

That’s when my stats obsession began.

Diagnosing the problem

I started spending more time checking feedburner than writing blog posts. I’d gaze at the subscriber growth chart with a potent mix of hope and hatred, like a jilted lover.

My passion for my blog fizzled out, and I started posting twice a month instead of twice a week. My subscriber count plummeted, and I got even more disheartened. My posts dropped to one a month, then even less often.

Eventually I gave up, let the domain name expire, and archived my blog at wordpress.com.

I loved that blog dearly, and I look back in regret at the way I let it languish and die because of my obsession.

I’m now learning to manage my stats addiction. At Social Caffeine, my new blogging home, we check the blog stats once every two weeks. That’s healthy. It’s enough to check out what’s working (and what’s not) without wasting time every day mulling over numbers.

As a recovering stats addict, I now know that obsessing over stats is a surefire way to suffocate your blog and your passion.

You can, however, use stats healthily to find out what your readers want and to help you grow your blog.

Stats—the healthy way

  • Set aside a time each week (or each month) to check your stats. Check your stats too often, and you’ll find it more difficult to notice overall trends.
  • Look for trends. What topics are the most popular? Which received the most comments? Page views? Tweets? These are the topics your readers want to know more about.
  • Use Google Analytics, and ignore the built in stats counter on WordPress and Blogger. You’ll get a more in-depth (and useful) stats report.
  • Don’t change the core of your passion because of your stats. Your most dedicated readers come because they like to read what you care about. Make your mission chasing readers, and your blog will lose its soul.

Are you a stats addict, or have you got the addiction under control? How do you use your blog’s stats in a healthy and productive way?

David Masters is a writer, blogger and social media consultant. He writes about how to buzz up your social media soul at Social Caffeine.

An Interesting Blog Business Model

This guest post is by Kevin Muldoon of WordPress Mods.

Most of you will be aware of the most popular business models for blogs. A large majority of blogs rely on revenue from advertising such as banner ads and paid reviews. Once a blog is very successful, its owners usually branch out and sell physical and digital products too such as books, membership courses, and premium content. Many successful bloggers simply use their blog as a platform to promote their own consulting services.

It’s important to do a little research into what business model suits you and your blog, as it’s going to be the way you make money through blogging. When I launched my WordPress blog a year or so ago I decided to adopt a magazine model and make money through banner advertisements, adding paid reviews once the site is more successful.

Once the site is established I will be in a good position to sell products through it, too, in the same way that Darren has launched his fantastic blogging workbooks through ProBlogger and the hugely popular ProBlogger book.

A business model with a twist?

The majority of blogs fall into the 10 Blog Business Models that Skellie spoke about a few years ago, however there is nothing stopping you doing something a little different.

A great example of this is WP Candy (one of my favourite blogs about WordPress). Well designed and updated regularly with great content, its owner Ryan Imel adopted the magazine model for WP Candy, though he did things a little differently. Instead of selling banner ads, WP Candy has managed to stay ad-free by using a so-called “Powered By” system.

The “Powered By” system is quite straightforward. Every blog post has a small link at the bottom stating who “Powered” the post. It is very similar to those who allow advertisers to sponsor a post, though there’s one main difference: instead of the link going to the sponsor’s website, it goes to a thank you page on WP Candy that tells you more about the website and lists the number of posts the sponsoring company has sponsored (Have a look at the biggest contributor for an example).

Advertisers have a number of ways in which they can gain exposure on the site. Just $5 a month will get you a link in a thank-you post every month, while a one-off payment of $50 will give you a permanent “Powered By” link on a post and a thank you in the weekly podcast.

Skeptics may look at the business model WP Candy has adopted and say that all they are doing is selling text links instead of banner ads. Perhaps this is the case, though they haven’t broken any rules—they are simply linking to a dedicated page for sponsors and the links on that page are coded “nofollow”.

So what they have managed to achieve is provide a unique way for advertisers to promote their products and services whilst removing all banner ads from the site, making the reading experience more enjoyable for the reader (something that Leo Babauta also did with Zen Habits).

Think outside the box

I’m not encouraging you to adopt the “Powered By” system that WP Candy has created. What I do encourage you to do is be more creative with the way you make money through your blog.

  • Build a more personal relationship with your advertisers and encourage your readers to interact with them.
  • Develop high-quality products and services that are related to your blog.
  • Grow your newsletter subscriber base so that you can interact with your readers more.
  • Do something interesting—something that no other blog in your niche is doing.

I’d love to hear of the interesting ways you generate income for your blog. Have you grown beyond the magazine business model and developed alternative ways to make money through your site?

Kevin Muldoon is a webmaster and blogger who lives in Central Scotland. His current project is WordPress Mods; a blog which focuses on WordPress Themes, Plugins, Tutorials, News and Modifications.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

This guest post is by Justin P Lambert of Words That Begin With You .

Quick question: are you having fun?

I mean, you’re sitting here reading Problogger, so you’re likely a blogger, or at least thinking about jumping in. And you’re likely interested in making some money from your efforts. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.

But are you having fun?

He looks happy to be writing...
Courtesy
of Douglas R. Witt (flickr)

Maybe you’ve been at it for a while, or maybe, like me, you’re just a babe learning to crawl at this point. Either way, there’s a universal truth of blogging you’ve probably already figured out: it ain’t easy.

A tough gig

If you’ve done what you’re “supposed” to do blogging is tough. Editorial calendars, social media, building a list, seeking subscribers, tweaking the theme, ads or no ads… Wow.

Back in the ancient days of online journals, (you know, like 1996) most of the folks who “blogged” before “blogging” was even a word did it for fun. They had a particular interest, or just a desire to share their thoughts and activities with the world long before status updates and tweets were even on the horizon.

These folks probably didn’t think about making money from their online activities at all, or at least not seriously. Not long ago, Skelliewag wrote a really beautiful post about the transition that happened later on.

Darren also shared a quote from his wise-beyond-his-years son: “tell the world something important.”

Together, these two uber-experienced bloggers taught me a valuable lesson, grabbing my metaphorical wheel just before I hit the metaphorical guardrail, if that makes any sense.

You see, I started my blog just over six months ago, and I learned quickly that it was hard work. But good writing always is. The payoff, for most of us any way, is that we enjoy writing. Or, at least, we enjoy getting our thoughts out there for others to read/see/hear and interact with. This is something I lost track of, somewhere around post #13.

I started getting so wrapped up in my posting schedule and my analytics, actually writing the posts became an annoyance. “Man,” I’d think, “I wish I could get this over with so I can get back to Twitter!” It got to the point, only four months into my blogging, where I burnt out and suddenly went from posting daily to three posts in a month!

I spent most of that month kicking myself and desperately trying to figure out what happened. The answer blew me away when it finally arrived: I had sucked every ounce of enjoyment out of writing a blog because I had gotten too involved in “blogging”.

So, I ask you again: are you having fun?

How to have fun

Now I’m not going to sit here and try to preach to you about how to fix this issue. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. But since I realized how close I came to giving up, I’ve done a lot of thinking about why things changed. And I’ve come up with a few items that I know are going to help me.

I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts in the comments too, because most of you are far more experienced than I am in struggling with this issue, so I know you’re going to have more ideas to share.

Relax

You know what? While consistency is important and your readers deserve to receive what they’ve come to expect, no one’s going to lynch you if your post is a day late every now and then.

I had a tough time figuring this out, and when life got in the way and I missed a post or sent it out late, I felt the need to fire off apologies to my subscribers and wallow in self-pity.

Give me a break. Do your best. Then relax. It’s just a blog.

Converse

I quickly morphed from sharing interesting information that I thought would be of real value to my readers to slicing off chunks of pre-made content and stringing it out over weeks in order to ensure that a post on a particular subject would go out every Monday for the next four weeks.

This approach is kind of like inviting people over for a turkey dinner and then serving them Spam. I was short-changing my readers and my conscience was nagging me like mad, which is no fun. I lost the conversational aspect of my blog in favor of a series of mini-lectures that (not surprisingly) got little if any comments.

Make sure you give your readers what they deserve: your best every time. Even if that means you can’t post as often. Make sure it stays a conversation, not a choppy lecture. Who has fun at a lecture?

Focus … or not

I struggled for a long time with the question of niches and specializing, and felt like a failure from the start because I just couldn’t narrow myself down to a niche.

I created my blog as a means of sharing my expertise and engaging an audience in connection to my work as a freelance writer. But I don’t specialize on a particular writing format or project group, so how could I blog on just one niche? Yet the experts say I should. Oh woe is me!

It took me a long time to realize that my generalist scope is who I am. Anything less would be boring to me and that would automatically become boring to my readers. So if you’re like me, having a tough time finding a niche that satisfies you,

Get over it!

Think about what you want to write, then think hard about how to connect it all in an understandable frame that your readers can latch onto. It’s better for everyone involved. Like I said, I’m still learning. But I’m finally having fun with my blog, like I was back in June when I first started. I hope you’re doing the same. Because if you’re not, it shows. Believe me.

Please, share in the comments your suggestions for having fun with your blog, how you overcame issues that were keeping you from having fun, or how you plan to do so starting now!

Justin P Lambert is a freelance writer who has been blogging for seven months and has enjoyed it for two. He’s working on it. Drop by Words That Begin With You to see how it goes. You can also follow him on Twitter.

How to Use Guest Blogging to Grow Your Blog Exponentially

Screen shot 2010-07-30 at 10.27.42 AM.pngOne of the biggest challenges for a new bloggers starting out in an established niche is to find a way to stand out from the crowd and find their first readers. Without existing profile and/or credibility – getting those first readers can be very tough.

To combat this a few years back a number of bloggers started to use ‘Guest Blogging’ as a technique to launch their blogs and grow their brands to new audiences. This technique launched many bloggers to prominence – including Leo Babauta, Brian Clark, Chris Garrett, Skellie, Jon Morrow (all of whom have guest posted on ProBlogger) and many many more.

Much has been written on the topic of how to use guest posting but one of the best resources that I’ve seen lately has been produced by Jon Morrow. He’s just released the first in a series of videos (#aff) on the topic and they are well worth watching.

I’ve seen the complete set of videos for myself and they are easy to watch, actionable and inspiring.

Jon himself has used guest blogging with great success – including this fantastic post on speech recognition for bloggers here on ProBlogger which helped many.

Jon’s first video is completely free (no opt in required) and is well worth watching. His future videos require an opt in but you’ll get a feel for whether they’re right for you from the first one. I watched them all and they’re excellent.

Do yourself a favour and set aside some time today to watch these videos.