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What Blogging Skills Are Missing from Your Blogging Toolbox?

Someone asked me the other day what skills I wished I had to enhance my blogging.

I was able to answer them very quickly as most of them are glaringly obvious to me and probably those around me. The gaps in my web skill set are mainly technical. Blog and Graphic Design, Blog Set up, Coding etc.

While I’ve learned so much over the three years since I started (I still remember the day I had to ask Rachel, who has been very patient with me, how to make words bold) I still struggle with some of the things that many of you can do in your sleep. For example setting up a WordPress blog is something I’m only now learning to do (the b5media guys don’t let me near the back end – and rightly so).

On one level this frustrates me a lot. I don’t like that if I want something done that goes beyond ‘tweaking’ my blog that I need to rely upon someone else. I also don’t like that even the most basic tweaks can take me many times longer to do than what others can do with a few keystrokes.

On the flip side of things I’m increasingly aware that it’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses and to work with them rather than against them. You see my brain is just not wired in a technical sort of way. I don’t naturally learn the technical things easily – in fact it takes numerous times of going through a process before I’ll get it (and even then I mess it up). While this is frustrating the realization that I’ve come to is that I don’t need to be good at everything because there are plenty of other people around who have the skills I don’t have who are willing to give advice, be hired to do work and even at times to do a little work for free or in exchange for some other services you might have to offer.

It is important to learn new skills and develop your abilities to do some of the basics but there will usually be an area that you’ll need to draw upon the expertise of others to balance out your own abilities.

I’d be interested for people to briefly share in comments below what type of blogging skills they do an don’t have. For one it’d be interesting to see what we do and don’t know collectively – but it might also be an opportunity for some working relationships to form between ProBlogger readers. I’m pretty confident that between everyone in the ProBlogger community we have the skills needed to get virtually every blog job done.

PS: I just saw this cool Photoshop Tutorial on creating Banner Ads over at Performancing which is exactly the type of instruction I need if I want to learn something technical. Step by step and using language that even I can understand. Of course I only have Photoshop Elements at present so it’s only ‘almost’ perfect for me.

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. Nick says:

    I feel like I’m opposite of Darren on this one. I can set up a blog and code thigns with ease, but when it comes to writing, I’m very hesitant. I’m just not sure how to talk to people about the things I want to teach/tell them.

  2. Duncan says:

    Coding and design is the fun part, knowing what to write, and writing it well is often more difficult.

  3. Victor says:

    Well, I am somewhat technically proficient. I have been an IT professional for a while now..particularly related to web technology. IT/GIS is my main field (with writing as my “dream” job). I’m capable of working with the usual technologies (photoshop, web related: html, scripting, yada-yada, .NET, VB, and a few others).

    On the flip side (opposite of you), I think I lack an interesting “voice”, if you catch my drift. My writing sometimes sounds too formal and stiff. I’m working on it (what else can you do?).

    Hey, I’ll trade skills with you, if that means I get to be a proffitable and self-sustainable blogger! Guys like us are a dime-a-dozen these days, guys who can write interesting content and make gobs of money from it, well, aren’t. I’m working to flip that around one day in the near future. ;)

    I hope that sheds some light.

    Vic

  4. Jesse says:

    Ditto

  5. Declan says:

    Hey Darren – When it comes to the technical side such as coding, tweaking, modding I am illiterate. But I have had considerable success with creating solid content based sites. I am still trying to figure out how to set up my new WordPress blog at http://www.sixfigureblog.com. If anyone can give me a dig out that would be great.

    Declan
    Melbourne

  6. Ashley says:

    Having just launched a redesign of my blog, I think I have the technical skills (programming and graphics) down. Like Victor and some of the others, my writing suffers from a form of “stiffness” and a lack of focus.

  7. twins15 says:

    I struggle with everything!

    But in all seriousness, I too struggle with the technical stuff. Which is I guess why I am on blogspot. :) When I am writing about something I like (like sports) I usually don’t have trouble coming up with stuff to write about.

  8. Rachel says:

    Hi Declan,

    You’ve got one of the settings wrong in your WordPress set-up and that’s why the stylesheet isn’t loading on your blog. Go to Options > General and make sure both paths say

    http://www.sixfigureblog.com/blog/

    Hope that helps,
    Rachel

  9. Clark says:

    Writing really well is what is missing for me.

    Writing for various sites these past 8 years has offered an excellent opportunity to improve this very essential skill. If taken seriously, I think the “weblog format” (publishing schedule and limited templating) is a great way to improve on various skill sets. Instead of tackling a large essay or journal article I can day by day write more manageable bits of writing – I’m more likely to write a number of smaller entries on a weblog everyday than one long researched journal article. Practice makes perfect so having to communicate my ideas daily has hopefully improved my writing in some way.

    It is important to focus on your strengths. If you are a great writer than focus on writing. While it is great ( and allot of fun) to get some experience in many different areas, it’s far more efficient ( and makes good business sense) to rely on partners who have the expertise that you lack.

  10. jasonclick says:

    One of my main problems is sticking to a subject to write about. Sometimes I’ll have an idea, be really into it for about a week. Then I’ll have another idea and totally abandon my earlier project. For instance, last week this time I wanted to take advantage of a domain I already owned. I had a GPS store setup at http://4clicksgps.com setup for a while and lost interest in it so I decided to delete it. Since I still owned the domain, I figured I would just start a GPS review site. I worked on it most of the day this past Sunday and wrote a few reviews. Now a week later I’m thinking, I don’t really feel like writing reviews. I want to try something else.

  11. Tom says:

    Jason

    I run into the same issue. What I am learning is to promise each site a certain amount of posts per week. Then whatever else I want to write is a bonus.

  12. cat says:

    Although I’m not wonderful at wp, it’s the writing I’d like to improve more than anything as I can ask programmer friends for a hand, but cannot really ask for writing assistance.

    So I try to keep my thoughts short, and let the featured bloggers speak for themselves. Even when I do a feature on a theme in Creative Latitude, I step back and leave most of it to them.

    Yes, I really should concentrate on writing skills, but … it’s a lack of time most times. Where will the extra time come from?

  13. Chris Howard says:

    Self-discipline.

    Is that a skill? I can write and code, but am way too easily distracted. And of course I procrastinate – but again… if only I had self-discipline.

  14. Ben Helps says:

    BwAHAHAhaha! Really Darren, did you expect anything different than “I can write but I’m not technical” Vs “I can build a site but I’m not creative” ?

    I’ll just go lie down somewhere quiet now…

  15. Darren Rowse says:

    Ben – what about:

    ‘I can/can’t do SEO’
    ‘I can/can’t do AdSense (or other ad systems)’
    ‘I can/can’t do affiliate programs’
    ‘I am good/are not good at generating traffic’
    ‘I am good/are not good at building community on a blog’
    ‘I am good/are not good at coming up with fresh ideas for blog topics’
    ‘I am good/are not good at getting bloggers working together’
    ‘I am good/are not good at working on building RSS subscribers’
    ‘I’ve got/need experience in adding a newsletter, or a forum, or a shop to a blog’

    There are so many skills that bloggers might have or need that go beyond the technical or ability to write…

    just my two cents worth

  16. I can get by with SEO, but making money is not something I’m good at. I excel at the technical and can make WordPress sing. I suck at setting up MoveableType, but I write well. I find it difficult to maintain long blogging streaks and often try to tap into other talent to help me out.

  17. Cary says:

    I personally find that I’m fairly comfortable with writing AND coding, and I’m pretty good at sticking to my posting goals, but I’m downright terrible at getting out there and generating traffic for some of my blogs…

  18. Clark says:

    There are so many skills that bloggers might have or need that go beyond the technical or ability to write…

    I hadn’t thought of your topic in such a narrow sense. There are a ton of business development skills that I lack which is why I rely on sites such as yours to help fill in for my lack of knowledge.

  19. Peter Davis says:

    Gotta say, you might be thinking about this in the wrong way Darren. I think you significantly decrease your level of productivity when you try to do all things yourself, particularly those things you either don’t like to do or aren’t especially talented. And believe me, I’m guilty of it myself too, too many times I get frustrated trying to explain to an employee or a contractor how I want a job done and just jump in and work on it myself. But, when we do that we distract ourselves from the higher level things that we need to do to reach our peak productivity level.

    There are some skills that are absolutely critical to survive in any business. Communication, for example. I’d have to say that’s maybe the only skill you can’t do without as a blogger. You need to effectively communicate your ideas. Heck, they don’t even need to be your ideas really, if you’re more effective at communicating the ideas than the person who thought them up was, but I digress. Hmmm, maybe this is a great topic for me to blog about myself…. but it’s 1:15 am.

    Cheers :)

  20. Darren Rowse says:

    Peter – not quite sure what you mean – you write:

    ‘I think you significantly decrease your level of productivity when you try to do all things yourself, particularly those things you either don’t like to do or aren’t especially talented.’

    I think that’s what I was actually arguing – sometimes when we try to do everything we end up less productive so it’s better to get someone to help you so you can do what you do well well.

    Are we saying the same thing here or am I misreading you?

  21. Peter Davis says:

    Hmm, it might make more sense if I reword that quote….

    ‘I think you significantly decrease your level of productivity when you try to do all things yourself, particularly those things you either don’t like to do or aren’t especially talented.’

    should be

    ‘I think I significantly decrease my level of productivity when I try to do all things myself, particularly those things I either don’t like to do or am not especially talented.’

    I come from an old-fashioned New England family where one of the most highly-valued qualities was being self-sufficient. I’m one generation away from the small farmer who lived off the land and sold excess at the market for spending cash. That may have served my ancestors very well in the 19th century, but it’s not going to serve me or my decendants very well in the 21st.

    It’s something I struggle a lot with, and that’s the reason your post resonated with me. I think a lot of us wrestle with that to some degree.

    Make more sense now? :)

  22. Peter Davis says:

    PS: That is a nice tutorial at Performancing, but I also know of a guy who makes pretty good banners for five bucks. 5dollarbanners.com
    :)

  23. AK says:

    Just started my first blog myself, and I’m running into the same problem. I’ve been writing for months, no problem, and I can even fumble through the design and code fairly well (though never very efficiently), but now that I’m actually ready to start marketing it, I find myself lost (that’s why I’m here, I guess). I’m with Peter – I want to be self-sufficient and do it all myself, but it’s hard to justify four hours worth of something I’m bad at when I could do so much more in so much less time if I could stick to what I’m good at.

  24. Darren Rowse says:

    Peter – I think what confused me is that your first comment said ‘you might be thinking about this in the wrong way Darren.’ but then you went on to agree with me?

  25. I have trouble finding the focus and time to keep up with learning all the new techologies and the ways people are using their blogs. Even if I hire folks to do some things for me I still have to know a fair amount in order to get the right kind of help.

    Sheesh! It’s a lot of work… but I love it!

  26. Andy Merrett says:

    Strengths: Pretty good all round techie and administration – although I don’t excel at any one discipline, I can work well with PHP, SQL, Databases, WordPress, HTML, CSS, Photoshop, Unix, Apache, etc. etc. and I learn quickly by doing so am hopefully improving all the time – it helps that my day job is heavily database-oriented.

    I also have strengths as a motivator, encourager. I can explain technical things on various levels, I can write good technical and user documentation.

    Weaknesses: Self-sufficiency – I like to do things myself and don’t always delegate or let go of projects. Perfectionism: Particularly bad at ‘tweaking’. Starting too many new things

  27. We should make a distinction between technical skills (ie writing html, css, php, etc) and design skills. Graphic design is a communication art; my education is in language, semantics, critical thinking, and psychology, not only in the technical nature of photoshop.

    Being able to move around in a program like Photoshop doesn’t make one a designer any more than driving to work makes one a formula one racer. Bad analogy, but you get my drift…

  28. pcunix says:

    I lack patience and prescience.

    I am a jack of all trades, master of none. A scattered, unfocused dilletante.

    It’s pointless to say “I wish I could devote my energies to one thing and do it well”. I can’t – there are just too damn many things that interest me and my blog reflects that.

    I will say that folks shouldn’t worry about writing, because there’s an audience for everyone. Some readers like dry, engineering style writing. Some like amusing fluff, some like in-depth analysis. Some like different things at different times.

    As to technology, well, I do think you should understand as much as you can, for your own protection if nothing else. I write all my own code, but I’m a control freak. You don’t need to do that and probably shouldn’t: there are far better coders than me. But understanding (at least as far as you can) will let you identify and fix problems more easily.

  29. It’s odd that I’ve been thinking about a SkillShare scheme as part of the feature set of Writers Blog Alliance (.com) and, when I read your piece, Darren, immediately posted on it.

    I’m always amazed at how ideas seem to float in the aether above the blogosphere, and lots of people pick them up at roughly the same time.

  30. Moe says:

    The way that I see it is that working on the internet is our education. We are learning something new all the time. We develop new skills as we need them.
    I laugh at all the simple things I did not know before.
    Personally I am great with technical stuff but a poor writer, sometimes I wish it was the other way around. But I will learn and get better as time goes on…I hope :)

  31. brem says:

    I’m omnipotent. Seriously.

    But I have a hard time being clever and funny in my articles.

  32. Joe says:

    Hey Darren,

    I am on the “am OK at” side on most of the questions. My problem is finding ways to promote my Blog. I can’t even decide if I really need an RSS feed or not (I do use Feedburner).

    I want people to visit my site, not just read the Headlines and never bother to read my posts.

    I think the “Jack of all trades, master of none” is the hardest way to accomplish any objective. I read constantly to try to improve ALL my skills, so I end up staying in the middle of the road instead of actually improving any “skills”.

    Always half way there.

    Joe

  33. Joe says:

    Hey Darren,

    Did that even come close to topic???

    Joe

  34. Peter Davis says:

    “Peter – I think what confused me is that your first comment said ‘you might be thinking about this in the wrong way Darren.’ but then you went on to agree with me?”

    It’s a matter of degrees. For example, you said “It is important to learn new skills and develop your abilities to do some of the basics” but I’d say ‘not really’. Take the Photoshop tutorial you linked to, for example. Should I take the time to learn the basics of making a banner in Photoshop, or should I go to the 5dollarbanner.com site and give the guy my $5 and tell him ‘have at it’?

    I think the question should be more, what are the essential skills rather than what are our strengths and weaknesses. Obviously, we all have areas where we’re stronger and areas where we’re lacking. When our strong areas overlap with the essential skills you need to succeed, then great. In other words, it’s as important to know what are the essential skills to succeed at anything, blogging included, as it is to recognize our individual strengths and weaknesses. Then we can identify which weaknesses to accept as weaknesses and which we need to develop into strengths.

    That’s what I meant by saying you might be thinking about it in the wrong way, not that I disagree, just offering another perspective on it. But then, I always start off by thinking someone who doesn’t look at something in the same way I do is “thinking about it in the wrong way”, my personality flaw. ;)

  35. Ashley says:

    I think essential skills can be summarized as follows:

    Design
    Usability
    Content

    Any Others?

  36. tanya says:

    I think marketing or promotion should be added. After all, “if you build it, they will come” may not apply to websites. I think I have all the necessary skills – a popular website in a niche market, which no longer requires too much promotion since 75% of traffic is from internet searches and people subscribed to the feed. My problem is that I’m “anit-social on the net.” I’m really bad at net-networking. I’m constantly in awe of all the people who have met (and maintained relationships) with other bloggers etc. while I’ve personally only dealth with very few (okay – only 1), after a year of being “online”.

  37. Sarah Leon says:

    I’m good enough at the technical side of things to hack my template and form it into what I want.

    But I’m not very good at coming up with images to go with articles, or for my site, even though I can tell when the use of images and graphics is done well. I think it’s that I don’t personally care about images all that much; graphics are an afterthought for me. I plan to work on this and ultimately to hire someone to come up with a graphic identity for my site(s).

    I am excellent at coming up with new ideas for content.

    But I’m not very good at disciplining myself to just sit down and finish writing about the ideas I’ve come up with. I plan to improve this by creating a posting schedule and having some set article types for different days.

    I’m very good at sticking to my main topic(s) because I have chosen things about which I feel very passionate.

    But I still get distracted by other things that come into my life, which could be anything from the need to tweak my template, to another of my passions or interests. I plan to improve this by creating a lot of posts ahead of time, so that if I’m not feeling “turned on” by my blogging during a given time period, new content will still be pushed out.

    I’m good at marketing in general.

    But sometimes I let myself just have the plan for marketing instead of actually implementing it, especially when it comes to networking on the web or in the real world. Or I will ignore particular pieces of marketing that seem overwhelming to me (SEO in particular). I plan to improve this by, well, just doing it!

    I’m a good writer.

    But I’m not very funny in print. I have no plan to improve this…I think I just may have to learn to live with it. Since my topics are more factual and research-oriented anyway, funny isn’t going to be the thing that ultimately leads to my success.

  38. Glenn says:

    I write fairly well, but am striving to get better. I know nothing about coding, heck, I’m not even sure I understand RSS, but I’m willing to learn. With my last post I decided to limit myself to 400 words and focus more on SEO. We’ll see how that works out. I sure wish Technorati would figure out its problems so my blog would show up there.

  39. Staska says:

    The biggest flaw that I had until this year – self doubt and procrastination. I wanted to start blogging for three years now. But only got to it this year. I’ve been blogging for a month and can’t believe how much fun I had.

    Another problem is persistence. I started two blogs in three years, made couple of posts and abandoned them. This is somewhat related to self doubt, but main problem is persistence. Hope this time it will be different.

    Then it’s spelling. It seems that I can not get it right, no matter what I do. I can use spellchecker, reread post 10 times and still I find numbers of mistakes after I post. My style also deserves better.

    And last, but not least, I’m incapable of writing short posts. I sit to write one and end up with 2000 words.

    Finally a little off topic rant.

    Darren,

    Now, that you have feedburner plugin, any reason to put only excerpts in your feed? It’s very frustrating to those of us who use non Web based feedreaders. And you may be even loosing some readers due to this.

  40. Darren Rowse says:

    Staska – I’d love to offer full feeds but I already have many people scraping my content via RSS and if I allowed full feeds it would get out of control. It’s a pity and I know it peeves people off but unfortunately it’s the way things are going for many bloggers.

  41. Amanda Rush says:

    One word: Graphics.
    I have the technical knowhow and can do all the coding, but since I’m blind, I can’t tell how things are going to look.
    Obviously that presents a huge problem.
    I’d also like to add photos to the blog, but am not a photographer for the above mentioned reason, and even if I downloaded pictures, there’s no way for me to verify how they’re going to look, and how to make them match with the rest of the layout.

  42. Paul -V- says:

    Codeing. I wish I knew how to tweak my themes.

  43. Phil says:

    I am definitely *not* an artist. I am a programmer so I have no problem tweaking my themes or adding new features, however when it comes down to template design I have a hard time.

    While it’s not very technical, this tutorial has been useful for me: Blog Tutorial – Tips For Blog Templates & Blog Design In Photoshop

    But I still couldn’t come up with anything so I just used a pre-made theme instead :)

  44. Weefz says:

    I can do the technical stuff and work on developing an interesting blogging “voice” but I truly suck at any form of graphics creation. Design isn’t a problem but making a graphic that looks good is virtually impossible for me.

  45. Ryan says:

    I love to play with photoshop for fun and try to put it to good use on my site (http://www.cybernetnews.com)!

    -Ryan

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Darren Rowse asks What Blogging Skills Are Missing from Your Blogging Toolbox? [...]

  2. [...] I was reading a post on Darren Rowse’s blog just now, that got me thinking about achieving your peak productivity level. Darren was talking about how there are certain skills as a blogger with which he feels himself lacking. I think he does pretty well with the one key skill a blogger needs to succeed; communicating ideas. I don’t really see that him spending a lot of time in things like design and coding will really be a good use of his time. It’s easy enough to hire someone to do a great design for your site, as an example. Easier, certainly, than learning how to design, spending hours upon hours, and ending up with an amateurish product. I’m not saying his site is amateurish, it’s very nice looking (far better than mine), but design is in my opinion an art as much as a skill and it could take years for someone to build up the talent they could easily hire at the cost of a few hundred dollars. [...]

  3. [...] Darren has been posting on something similar over at Problogger, though it seems to be a less structured approach; more a discussion of needs. [...]

  4. [...] But lets play with the figures a little bit. The Blog Herald doesn’t have the largest readership in the world, but it’s primary audience are bloggers and people who are interested in following blogging news (blog network owners, probloggers, smaller bloggers who are giving things a go, people from outside blogging who want to follow the blogosphere). Lets compare The Blog Herald to Always On and Tech Crunch: Yep, The Blog Herald has a similar number of readers as that of the Always On network, and yet if I received 1/20th of the advertising revenue Always On receives I’d be going really well. Darren posted yesterday over at Problogger asking readers to comment about what blogging skills they are missing. Looking at it honestly I’d think my biggest deficiency has always been adequate moneterization. Sure, I make some reasonable money from The Blog Herald, and I am capable of giving reasonable advice to others on the subject (although I’d note its from an all-round experience from other blogs as well..ask Darren at Problogger how much he makes at Problogger for example ), but given the target audience at The Blog Herald I should be doing a lot better. It was one of the reasons I put The Blog Herald on the market, and at the time of writing we’re having some difficulties finalizing the sale as well (if you are interested in the sale side email [email protected]). With somebody who is in North America who can contact and talk to potential advertisers, The Blog Herald could be doing at least 2 to 3 times better on revenue returns than it is now, if not 5 to 10 times. Indeed, if I could find an exclusive advertiser for the site (I’d drop every other paid ad, Google/ BlogAds, text links, you name it) who’d pay me between $3-$5k in advertising for the month, I’d try to back out of the sale, keep the site, and work a darn site harder in producing more content, and probably go and spend some money on getting a new template professionally design as well to maximise the exclusive ad deal returns to the advertiser. [...]

  5. [...] I’d love to see the concept extended further in the future to have sections exploring other potential partnerships that go beyond link exchanging also – perhaps along the lines of bartering of services as I mentioned in my post on blogging skills a few days back. I’m not sure what Duncan’s intentions are with it much further than it’s present form as this isn’t a b5media project but I’m sure it will evolve in time. If you enjoyed this post Bookmark it at del.icio.us [...]