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When is it time to ‘Go Pro’ as a Blogger?

Instant Messaging Conversation with Reader (used with permission – name changed to protect the innocent)

Rex – ‘Darren Darren Darren….I’ve decided to become a Professional Blogger!!!!’
Darren – ‘Wow that’s exciting Rex!’
Rex – ‘yeah I’m writing my letter of resignation as we speak….’
Rex – ‘I can’t wait to see my boss’s face when he sees it! :-)’
Darren – ‘that’s great…. but before you resign can I ask you a couple of questions?’
Rex – ‘sure’
Darren – ‘how long have you been blogging?’
Rex – ’3 months’
Darren – ‘how many blogs do you have?’
Rex – ‘just one’
Darren – ‘and if you don’t mind me asking how much does it earn each day?’
Rex – ‘…around $1.50′
Darren – ‘do you have any savings to live off for the next year?’
Rex – ‘………..’

This is a real conversation and one that I seem to have about once per month – bloggers who are excited by the potential that blogging has to pay them an income – who are so eager to ‘Go Pro’ that all sensibility goes out the window.

Most people would make sure they have another job to go to before resigning from a current one (or at least they’d make sure they had a way to survive in the short term) – why wouldn’t they do the same with blogging?

I’ve written about this before at Monkey Bar Blogging (a public service announcement that I wrote for bloggers a few months back) – it’s a post that I’d highly recommend anyone considering ‘Going Pro’ has a read. What I write below is similar I guess and my latest thinking on the topic.

So when should a blogger ‘Go Pro’?

Let me start answering this question by saying there is no one way to enter into blogging on a professional level. I know quite a few bloggers who have gone full time into blogging and with virtually every one there is a different variation on the story of how they did it.

Below is some of the advice I give to bloggers with aspirations to full time blogging:

Don’t view going Pro as an event, instead see it as a process

You don’t just decided to turn professional in any area of life without there being some sort of process that leads up to it. Tiger Woods didn’t just decide to turn pro one day – he had practiced for yeas, he’d put a lot of time into his golf, he’d had coaching, he’d played tournaments as an amateur, he’d developed skills and had made sacrifices. There must have come a time in his development when he (and those around him) realized that he was ready and he officially became a Professional athlete – however in reality he’d been becoming professional for many years proceeding that date. I think bloggers need to take a similar approach. It takes practice, ground work, experience, sacrifice and planning to go pro in most cases – it’s not just a decision.

One step at a time

The temptation when embarking upon this journey is to behave like you’ve already arrived and to forget the reality of life that you’re currently in. Don’t just quit your job without having some way of surviving in the mean time. This is irresponsible. The way I did it was to recognize I was in a transition and to slowly back off the work that I was doing in my ‘real job/s’ and as my blogging earnings increased to increase the time I allocated to blogging.

In the beginning for me blogging was a pure hobby that I did after work. 9 months in it was something I was able to cut my ‘real job’ back to 4 days per week, 18 months in I was 2-3 days per week blogging….and the process continued. Even today – almost three years after I started blogging I have another part time job (this ends in a month). I have this partly because when I took it I still wasn’t sure whether blogging would sustain me full time and also because I didn’t want to spend all day everyday alone in front of a computer).

It takes Significant time

I always say that ProBlogging takes time on two levels. Firstly on a long term level – getting to a full time level with your blogging can take years. Some do it quicker but the reality is that for most that have achieved this goal it has been a long journey. In the IM conversation above, this was one of the key things that Rex didn’t understand – he thought it was like starting a job – you start work and you get paid. This is not the case. The work you do now many not really pay off for 12, 24 or even 36 months. In fact the reality is that it may never pay off (sorry to be the prophet of doom).

Secondly blogging takes time on a daily basis – significant time. You need to be able to find spare hours in your day for blogging if you want to build a career out of it. It’s not easy money. My tip to new bloggers exploring income from blogging is to put an hour or two each day into it. Get up an hour early, go to bed an hour later, sacrifice some time in front of the TV, do it in your lunch break – I don’t care where the hour or two comes from but if you don’t invest significant time into it in the early days it is very difficult to develop a blog (or blogs) big enough to sustain a large enough income to begin to cut back on your ‘real job’. Any small business owner will tell you that the set up phase calls for a lot of time and sacrifice – a blog business is no different.

Diversify

‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ is the advice I was brought up hearing from my parents. This is a good lesson for ProBloggers. While I know of one or two bloggers that make a full time living off the single blog, most have a number of projects underway. In fact I was chatting to one full time blogger recently and he told me how he’d been full time on a single blog – but that Google had reindexed it in the last update to the point where it was virtually gone from that search engine – his income was also virtually gone.

So diversify – You can do this in a number of ways – start multiple blogs on multiple domains on a variety of topics. Take on some blogging work on someone else’s blogs. Do some consulting work. Have a non blogging part time job. Experiment with some websites that aren’t blogs. Partner with other bloggers to work on combined projects. Hire yourself to a business who wants a corporate blog. Write a book, start a podcast – just mix it up. You’ll find this also helps your sanity as you’re not just thinking about one topic and medium all day.

Adapt

Blogging is a fluid medium (in fact online work in all its forms are fluid). One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt over the past few years is to expect the unexpected in my work and that the key to moving forward is to be flexible enough to maneuver into the right position at the right time as opportunities present themselves. Don’t hold so tightly to ideas that you can’t let them go if they don’t work out. Some of my best ideas for blogs flopped and some of my accidents are my biggest successes.

Experiment heaps, be willing to work with new people and see where collaborations lead and whilst you work your butt off be willing to let go of the flops and move onto the next thing.

Blogger for Hire

One thing that I do recommend for bloggers on this journey to full time blogging is to consider working for someone else – at least in part. I constantly get emails from readers wanting to start their own network of blogs (I got three yesterday alone). While starting your own network is a great way to earn an income from blogging its a very long term strategy and with the emergence of new networks every week or so it’s getting to be a crowded and difficult thing. Perhaps another way forward is to work for an existing network on one of their blogs. In doing this you generate an income (some networks give a guaranteed minimum each month), you gain experience, you build profile, you gather skills and make contacts.

Of course you need to realize that this approach means you’re building someone else’s empire, the reality is that most networks own the content that you write – this is seeing blogging as more of a job than a business. I think this is a totally valid way forward however and a great way to get into the industry. Perhaps as you write for someone else you can also be working on your own projects with the hope of one day being able to transition with more and more time spent on them.

Have your Say

These are some of the things I’d recommend bloggers keep in mind as they consider going pro. I am sure there is a lot more wisdom in our community though and so I’m interested in the experiences and stories of others who are both at the start of this journey or those who have made the transition and are now full time bloggers. Share your stories of going pro in comments below or write your own ProBlogging story up on your own blog and let me know the URL and I’ll include it in my next daily summary (I’d love to read the way it happened for others and am sure I’m not alone).

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Jason Gilman says:

    Darren, nice post and good advice. Hopefully “Rex” took your advice to heart. I couldn’t agree more with all your points. I’m hoping to supplement my income with a few different blogging projects besides axodys.com over the next couple years, but my mindset has always been that it’s going to be a long gradual building (and learning) process.

  2. David Oh says:

    It goes not just for blogs, but for any self-started business enteprise, or hell, non-blog web sites. It took 3 years for various sites of mine to generate a good amount of income.

  3. Darren Rowse says:

    thanks guys.

    I should have mentioned – ‘Rex’ did take the advice and didn’t quit his job. Phew :-)

  4. Kurt says:

    Darren, this is all excellent advice. I got into blogging just to mess around with it, thought I might as well do it right and get an extra cup of coffee a week and pay my hosting bill off for it, and now I’m exploring other options; but I’m looking at it in a long-term sense. I’ve got two years of school left before I have to really start worrying about a steady income, so I guess I’m in a more advantaged position than most.

  5. While I appreciate your advice about diversification, I don’t agree with “start a podcast” advice. There is no money in Podcasting! I.e. there is but only for Adam Curry and his associates. Not for anybody else.

  6. Darren Rowse says:

    What if you became one of his associates?

    I wonder if perhaps there isn’t much money in it now – but 3 years ago there wasn’t much in blogging either – maybe its about positioning yourself for the future and hence diversifying for the future.

    Just a thought

  7. Kim says:

    I fell into it by accident. I started a small site on a whim and it happened to take off (that was a year and a half ago). I now blog in support of the site, which is an online magazine. I quit my day job when a second publisher asked me to write a book. So now my primary income is from book writing, but I spend about a third of my time editing the site and blogging as often as I can to keep some content fresh.

    Thanks for giving such good advice!

  8. Podcasting – has been on my mind this week. Especially to do with what you say about positioning yourself for the future. How many times do we say to ourselves – ‘I wish I got into XYZ’ last year?

    This week there was a feature on the news here in New Zealand about a couple of guys who are podcasting and have built up quite an audience. Sorry – can’t remember names or exact figures, but it was very interesting. I was very envious of the one guy who lives in (and podcasts from) Queenstown – his house overlooks lake Wakatipu.

  9. I think one mistake bloggers make is confusing the medium with the message. For example, I don’t think of myself as a blogger on personal development. Rather, I think of myself as a personal development expert who happens to blog. If you define yourself as a blogger, you tie yourself to that medium, which limits your options. The fact that you’re a blogger doesn’t align with your true value to your readers. Your value lies in your knowledge, and there are many other ways to communicate that knowledge and be paid for it.

  10. Athomemama says:

    Darren,

    Thanks for the site. I am a frequent lurker.

    I am working toward this biz being economically viable, but right now it just isn’t. It works out ok for me because I stay home with my kids while my husband works (I homeschool them when I’m not blogging). Of course, money is tight, but we manage w/his income. So anything I make is free money (or, at least isn’t ‘bill’ money but can be spent on shoes, school supplies, etc.).

    I have a network of sites, only two of which are true blogs. One of those is a business blog for others bloggers and the other is my passion, a gaming/tech blog. The other 3 sites consist of a landing page to list the other sites on (haven’t really messed with it yet), a sales listings ‘blog’ (with good deals and affiliate links) and a diet site w/message boards and a recipe database.

    I know it will take quite a bit of time and money to get all this where I want it, but I see growth every month. I have recently been spending a little extra money on advertising for my favorite site. Here’e a link to my recent Adwords adventure.

  11. HART says:

    Of course, I won’t quit my “day job” … But, I hope that in the long-term I can supplement me income from the few blogs that I do have .. and take extra weeks off and have longer vacations. Right now, I can only buy Ice Cream at the corner grocery store – but I know that I have to keep plugging at it everyday and it is a long-term project. My mind knows that …

    In my heart, I’m just like REX .. If I had an inheritance or a bank account balance to support me for a year or so – I would quit my “day job” on a dime .. I’d be here all day.. having fun and trying different things, and even get seriously focused.

    Blogging to me (i mean the whole aspect.. writing, design of blogs, research, reading, surfing, learning, etc) .. it’s like it was in the mid 1990′s … Remember when ICQ was first introduced and people chatted on Forums? Back then, it was actually enjoyable to check for new emails .. The instant chat and IRC changed the email excitement .. Now I’ve set my filters to play a sound when I receive emails that AREN’T routed to spam folders and end up in my IN box.

    It’s interesting on your outlook of podcasting and its future popularity maybe in 3 years… I think it will be a much shorter time than that.

  12. I agree absolutely with Steve. You have to separate content from architecture. As a full-time professional writer myself, I’ve learned the hard way that what goes best on blogs is all about Immediacy. Anything with buzz, momentum, excitement, sparkle, plays to the blogosphere and gains audience ~ essential for probloggers. Anything static, staid, long-term, needs a more stable platform ~ of which there are many. So, as Steve says, put your expertise where it works, don’t throw it all on a blog. Watch what Darren does. He knows what blogging is all about.

  13. Drew Whittle says:

    Good words Darren, but I’m taking a slightly different path, I guess I could call myself a ProBlogger now because it is my only income source at present. I got retrenched about 6 months back and haven’t managed to get another job as yet. (wrong skills for the area, but for lifestyle reasons not interested in moving)

    So you can be a ProBlogger quickly, it’s just that you might work for less than peanuts ;

  14. “So you can be a ProBlogger quickly, it’s just that you might work for less than peanuts”

    That reminded me of how I started my main consulting business – I was working at Tandy as a tech support person for minimum wage plus a percentage of the store’s sales. It wasn’t a bad income, but when the IBM computer came out, sales went down. to almost nothing and I found myself living on minimum wage. I had nothing to lose, so I started my business – that was in 1983.

    Actually, right now my blogging income is about at minimum wage :-) That’s not so horrible as extra income, so I’m not complaining. But the interesting thing is that the busier I am in my ordinary work, the less time I have for my blog. I force myself to make time anyway, because Darren is right: what you put in now may not pay off until years later – or may never pay off, but if you do nothing, that guarantees no payoff.

    I’m hoping that as I slide slowly into retirement (working less, not stopping working) the blogging income will rise to fill in some of the gap. It looks like it will, but making the investment NOW is necessary. But that’s the good thing too: you CAN make that investment now while still working elsewhere.

  15. Aimee says:

    Great advice; it would be smart for every entrepreneur or fledgling freelancer to take this to heart.

    Eventually, quitting your job to become a professional blogger will be as common as quitting your job to become a full-time, freelance copywriter. There will be more of a market.

    Right now, I’m lucky enough to blog for my company. It’s just part of my job, but by far *THE BEST* part. I’ll have three business blogs running by next month, as well as two personal blogs.

    But I guess I can consider myself a “professional blogger.” Right now I’m one of the lucky few (couldn’t be happier, really – I pretty much have the best job ever), but opportunities are becoming available every day. Whether these opps are being handed to marketing staffers or being outsourced is actually unknown to me. But I noticed that there’s at least one blogging gig open on MediaBistro right now. (Quick, tell Rex!)

  16. LcF says:

    I published my journey to become pro blogger at my blog.
    Link: http://www.liewcf.com/blog/archives/2005/08/journey-to-become-pro-blogger/

  17. ChrisH says:

    There’s another side to this story. Rex’s job dissatisfaction. It’s important with someone who sounds so keen to leave their job, to help them see not only why they shouldn’t (yet), but help them see their job in a positive light.

    And you want make sure they don’t get blogonthejob syndrome. You don’t want them blogging on the job – or researching for their blog. A recent US study said people spend on average 2 hrs per day using the internet for non-work purposes.

    We don’t want bloggers getting a bad reputation as internet-time-wasters.

    BTW I speak from experience – I was a shocking internet-time-waster at my last job (I wasn’t even a blogger then). Not surprisngly, they let me go…

  18. Lei says:

    You probably didn’t intent this post to be a discouragement, but it’s made me realize that problogging is probably not for me. I love writing my genetics and public health blog, but am not really interested in branching out and writing about this and that just to have a consistent flow of sustainable income from blogging. I suspect I’ll eventually head back to work in my field (genetic epidemiology) but doing less original research and focus more on writing, which my blog has helped me to polish.

    Meanwhile, I still like to see what makes the blogosphere tick and ProBlogger is a great place to learn about it!

  19. I wonder what percentage of bloggers make more than $100 per week. What is the distribution curve?

  20. colbert says:

    I am blogging part time right now but hopefully I can go pro and full time in 1 year time when my contract ends….thanks for all the great post on pro bloggin.

  21. Mike says:

    I.5$ per day means 45 dollars per month. Damn! I can’t maximize my utility for 45 $ only. :(

  22. Long way off for me at the moment, but will persevere! These things take a lot of time, effort and endless will-power.

  23. Marc says:

    I was wondering if maybe another way to hedge one self against the uncertainties of Google traffic is to try to diversify ones traffic sources rather than setting up lots of different blogs. Also try to generate and maintain the loyalty of a massive email list. I know it would be difficult for me to be an authority on a lot of different topics.

  24. Leo says:

    Anyone who knows anything about how world works knows not just go from something to nothing until wagon is already rolling. Is a lot like real estate, one does not just jump right into money, is process and one must be doing something in meantime until blog start rolling.

  25. Bird says:

    I am interested in the idea of “blogging”. I have never spent much time in the blogging world and yet I have been recommended by a friend of mine who is in the marketing industry. “Blogging is a great way to let people know that you are the expert in a particular field.” I am in sales so when you can provide information that is interesting and informative, you will see a demand either increase or decrease. Customers or clients will come to you for their purchase.

    Have you experienced anything like this? How does one generate income from blogging?

  26. Kelly says:

    Two things that I think get lost when calculating cost of living: taxes and health insurance.

    In “mainstream” jobs, your employer not only does withholding from your pay, he/she also contributes a matching amount of a minimum of 8% of your pay (for SS and Medicare); that number goes up depending on your state and local tax rules. Add that to your own withholding and you’ll find that self-employed persons pay a lot more out of pocket in taxes – even if you’re not *making* money.

    Folks who have always had their health insurance paid for by their employer will be absolutely shocked at the cost of paying your own insurance. It can easily top $1k per month for mediocre insurance – this is because large businesses get group discounts for bringing business to the insurance company. As a self-employed person, you don’t have that kind of leverage.

    These issues are clearly workable – you can join organizations, etc., and get discounts for insurance, etc. But they are definitely worth calculating. When you figure that you can live off of X dollars per week, don’t forget to factor in those taxes and health insurance!

  27. maneesh says:

    In my case, I quit my job.. then discovered blogging as a profession as an option that I can pursue.

    I feel at 22 am at a far better position to take the risk of continuing my quest to blogging full time without a sufficient income .. at least till the time my bank balance runs dry… For if nothing else I will have an experience I wouldn’t have got with any other job…

  28. Javed Khalil says:

    I have just started two blogs. After looking visits I was excited enough to be ready to go problogger. Thanks for great advice Darren. It definitely is a process and not the decision.

  29. Anup Sugunan says:

    I just read this entire page, including all the comments. It was inspiring. I just started blogging a few days ago, but realize that this is a process. However, I’ve been an actor/writer/director for the past seven years. I’ve always kept a journal (writing up to 100 pages/month single spaced) and started a newsletter about 3 years ago for filmmakers/actors on yahoo. There was no pay, so it was not frequent.

    I love writing. I guess I should thank my college English teacher who gave us points for anything we wrote. That is was made me into a writer. I have a few produced screenplays. But I figure I’d give this blog thing a serious try as it’s great to jot down ideas and publish them immediately instead of going through a six-month revision period and then the whole process of shopping the screenplay.

    This site is awesome. Thanks for the info. Hopefully, you’ll see an update from me down the road – positive or negative.

  30. Vanessa says:

    Great site and interesting comments/feedback. As far as being a new blogger goes, reminds me to enjoy the journey -it’s not just about the money!

  31. SilverDK says:

    A very useful and good post..

    Now personally i am a very new blogger myself (20 days old or so) and i haven’t got much experience in writing either, but i still enjoy it, even though it might be full of spelling and grammar errors. *chuckles*

    I really enjoy the posts on this site, because they are very informative, friendly and helpful even to those of us that are very new to blogging..

    Because i have just started blogging myself, i have not really had any serious thoughts about going pro, because i just simply can’t see any serious money in blogging, at least for myself, yet but that might change in the future with more visitors and traffic..

    Again i thank you for your great posts and helpful advice.

  32. Ryan McLean says:

    I definately agree with you. I do blogging in my spare time at the moment and I am building up my traffic and readership on my personal finance blog. When I finish bible college in decemeber I will be working full time and hopefully be earning enough from my blogging to work one day/week on my blog. Then as readership increases so too will the time i spend on my blog.
    I will only stop working if the amount I am earning on my blog is more than what I earn in my ‘real job’

  33. Hi Darren.

    Thank you for this useful post. I am seriously considering going PRO but I want to make sure that I’ll be secured (financially) while I go through the process. Your post made me realize a lot of important things and maybe, I need some more time to think about going PRO while at the same time continue developing my blog.

    Again, thanks.

    Rocky

  34. Shawn Steel says:

    Nice post added you to my FeedReader and looking forward to more interesting posts.

  35. seth says:

    “Going Pro”… I’ve heard that too much lately. Although it is doable, it is extremely hard and risky. I plan on taking my time and letting the money (if it comes) tell me when it is time to go pro.

    Thanks for your ideas and I know it will save a few good bloggers from a lot of financial problems.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Darren has a more comprehensive post about “When is it time to ‘Go Pro’ as a Blogger?” here. [...]

  2. [...] Yesterday, Darren wrote about how to decide when it’s time to blog full-time as a main source of income. After reading it, I realized that problogging is probably not for me. I’m not interested in writing on a variety of different topics so as to diversify my income stream and I don’t think I could crank out over 20 blog entries a day like he does. [...]

  3. [...] I’ve written on numerous occasions about the e-mails I regularly get from people telling me that they are quitting their job to become a full time blogger without much thought to how they’ll pay their bills in the year or three that it might take to build up their blogging to pay a reasonable wage. [...]

  4. [...] When is it time to ‘Go Pro’ as a Blogger? [...]