On the weekend I was speaking with a friend, Alex, who is a Farmer about blogging and the more we talked the more we realized that there is a lot of similarities between what we do. I thought I’d rehash some of the main points from our conversation here:
Taking Time – One of the most frustrating parts of farming for Alex is the length of time it takes from the time of sowing to that of harvest. From the day he plants a crop to the day its safely on the way to be sold can be a nerve wracking period of months. There is a lot of hard work and money that goes into the initial time of planting and no income until quite a long period later (and sometimes not even then).
Blogging takes time also. Building up a blog to the point where it earns a good income can take months, if not years. No one starts a profitable blog and makes a fortune straight away – you have to build up archives, build up a reputation in your niche, build up your ranking in Search Engines, build up relationships with other bloggers – these things take time. I worked for 18 months on my blogs outside of my normal jobs before I was able to pull enough income from them to justify going full time.
Risky Business – Alex never knows whether the crop he’s planting will be a bumper one or a complete failure. Farming is hit and miss. External factors like weather, plague and market prices can make you or break you.
Blogging is similar – there are a lot of things you can do to prepare for a good harvest – but sometimes its the external factors that can be the difference between success and failure. The way other bloggers link to you or how Google decides to treat your site can play a massive part in traffic levels and earning capacity. Of course you can better your chances with some good strategy but ultimately its out of your control.
Creating an environments – Farmers don’t make crops grow. Ultimately there are forces ‘out there’ that bring about the growth. Its got to do with a magic mix of sun, rain, soil etc – coming together to do their biological thing. Alex told me that one of the biggest paradigm shifts in his farming that he’s gone through was about understanding this process and realizing that he couldn’t make his crops grow. Instead of making his crops grow – his job was to understand the process of growth and what sort of environment it takes for good growth. He now sees his business not as growing crops – but as creating furtile environments. It might seem like a bit of a pedantic distinction but I think its helpful.
As bloggers we can’t make blogs earn us a living. But we can understand the process and be in the business of creating an environment where our blogs have every chance of flourishing. This means educating ourselves on things like SEO, income streams, writing well etc, doing our best to act on what we learn, working hard at the different elements that stimulate growth and then stepping back to watch what happens. In the process we should be learning more about what to do next season. That is the approach I’ve been taking for a couple of years now with blogging and I hope that ProBlogger is becoming a useful part of that process for more than just me.
Seasons – Farming is obviously a game of playing the seasons – timing is everything and learning to read the environment is a skill that a farmer relies heavily upon. Alex makes calls all through the year about which crops to plant in which fields at which times, about when to harvest, when to irrigate, when to fertilize etc.
Blogging can be similar. I look at my earnings graph for the past 12 months and I notice some definitely swings up and down. If I break down my performance on a blob by blog basis the swings differ vastly between blogs also as different events. A skill I’d recommend you develop as a blogger is being a good observer of what is happening around you. If you can anticipate environmental changes and trends you can position yourself nicely for harvest time. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to entrepreneurial blogging – each blogger and topic takes a different blend of skills, income sources, design etc to make it fruitful.
Patience – Alex is one of the most patient people I know. He has persisted in his work for many years – sometimes through very lean periods in the belief that if he continues to employ the knowledge that he has that his work will be beneficial to him and his family. He works at producing quality crops rather than taking short cuts, he puts in many hours of work and the result is that he’s built himself a farm that is not only sustaining him but that is a thriving business in a time where many farmers are struggling. Alex is smart – he plans and he persists. These are all strengths that we as bloggers would do well to learn from as we seek to grow our own blogging crops.
PS: yes the picture is of me – its a from about 8 years ago when i did a trip around Australia. I used to do a little bit of farming myself!