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A Few Last Lessons On Blogging

The blogosphere’s a tough place. And to create a blog that survives and thrives under absolutely Darwinian conditions isn’t easy. Since this business week is coming to a close, I’d like to share a few universal lessons that I’ve learned over the past six months that have allowed me to enjoy a few successes that I’ve had, such as being paid for blogging, getting hired, then promoted, at a blog news magazine, growing a personal blog that cracked the Technorati 5000, and have it be mentioned by major blogs to mainstream sites, and of course, being offered this plum guest blogging spot. Oh, and all the while continuing with my medical residency.

1. Are you willing to do what it takes?
For the vast majority of you, you will try to start a blog AND have a life at the same time. A job. A spouse. Perhaps a kid of three. Relationships with your friends. TV to catch up on. Every single day you’re going to have a laundry list of reasons NOT to blog. And the fact is that this is going to be the case for any worthwhile extra curricular activites you’re going to want to do, whether they be learning how to invest in real estate, start a part time business, or learning how to ride a motorcycle. It sure looks like I hit a nerve with my first post, when I commented on the time commitment. Without beating a dead horse, let me rephrase things in a different perspective.

Are you willing to do what it takes to succeed in blogging? How dedicated ARE you to making it “work”? How dedicated would you be to ANY extra curricular project that you want to do? Life is short, and the number of extra hours you have in a day or week are limited. Don’t waste it on squandered and half-done efforts. Life is going to hurl all kinds of obstacles at you to prevent you from your blogging success. Ask yourself first — are you going to let it? Get that question out of the way, and answer it honestly. If you find there are other things you’d rather do, or other things that are more important, that’s fine. But have the awareness that to achieve a certain level of success will require you to take away time, energy, and attention from something you’re currently doing right now. And if you find that doing those things, whichever they may be for you, is more important than blogging, then its time to reconsider your blogging goals. Being a hobbyist blogger is fine, but I’m presuming that’s not the reason why you’re on this website, nor reading this post.

2. Find a mentor
What? You want to do this without having to talk to anyone or depend on anyone else? Get over it. You need to find someone who has done it before and who is willing, for a lack of a better phrase, to be your friend. Yes, they’re not easy to find, but in your checking out of other blogs, keep your eye out for potential individuals who might fit the bill for you. Don’t let the word “mentor” freak you out. All I mean is finding someone who is willing to answer emails, instant messages, and answer your questions about the challenges you’re facing and how to overcome them. A good mentor is available, friendly, and isn’t afraid to tell you the truth. A good mentor will also feed you opportunities, and extend their own personal network with you. Hey, as I said — you need to find a friend with experience. How do you find one?

It isn’t always easy particularly because any blogger who is worth is salt is busy. Real busy. But keep your eye out for blogs when you’re surfing. Try and find blogs that have a similar interest as your own. Then narrow it down to bloggers that actually respond to email. Be nice. Be courteous. Be helpful. And by no means should you straight out ASK for their help with your blogging career right off the bat. Always remember that they’re busy, and that they could be doing something else OTHER than replying back to your email. Let it evolve naturally. Participate on their blog. Or, their forum, if they have one. Reply back to their own posts with posts on your OWN blog. Send them useful information once you get to know what they need or want. If a relationship develops, you’ll know because they’ll be interested in replying to your emails or instant messages. Maybe they’ll start asking your opinion on things. The idea is over time, hopefully they’ll start taking an interest in YOU. If you find that they are not replying emails, or they’re not taking an interest in your affairs, don’t take it personally. Move on. But don’t give up.

3. Network like your life depended on it
Scary business, as I’m sure many of you are the introverted type who don’t cotton well to approaching strangers and striking up a conversation. Heck, I know I am to certain extent. I’m not sure how to say this other than to say “get over it”. You’ll accelerate your success if you find a mentor, or someone who has experience who is willing to be a good friend, and you’ll also accelerate your success if you just plain ol’ have more online “friends” period, and I don’t mean people you forward jokes to. I mean people who have a strategic worth to your blog and your blogging career. Sure, it sounds mercenary, but again, the benefit of a strong network is absolutely huge in blogging. A good network of contacts wil provide you with leads to stories, new blogging jobs, a foot-in-the-door to blog networks, introduce you to bigger and better bloggers, in addition to things like mentions and link-backs in their posts, potential interview subjects, more participation in YOUR blog and so on. So, how do you network?

I’ve found its most helpful to do it the old fashion way — and not much different than finding a mentor. Surf blogs. Read loads of blogs. Email the authors. Start an interaction. Then follow up with other emails that they might find helpful. Keep contact regularly. Don’t let your friends grow stale. Be good to them, and see if they’re good to you. Again, if they’re not, don’t take it personally, and move on. But if they do, help them with their own blogging relationships. Introduce them to who you know. Maybe there’s someone who you know that can help them with their problem. The more you can help your new friends, the more they’ll find you useful to them, and the easier it will be to ask for favours when needed.

4. Spend time working ON your blog, not just IN your blog
So I’m going to regard the whole issue of “creating quality content regularly” to be a given. You need to do that, and without creating great content all else is moot. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Having said that, don’t forget to spend time working on all the other things OTHER than creating great content. I know — where are you going to find the time for THAT? Well, that’s a topic for another discussion. But if you *don’t* spend time on working “On” your blog, and not “In” your blog, you’ll find that all of your blogging efforts at creating great content will have gone for naught. No one will visit your blog. No one will comment on your blog. And you’ll feel frustrated, disappointed and a little cynical. So what are the “other” activies that need to be taken care of on a regular basis? Marketing’s a big one. A huge one. For every hour you spend writing, you should spend some time marketing.

You’ll have to decide what that ratio is, but the more you DO spend on it, the greater your return will be. And it can be all kinds of things. Seeding your post with links. Participating on other blogs. Submitting your site to StumbleUpon. Heck, I wrote a post on it already. Another is analyzing your blog’s log files. See where people are coming from. what posts do people find useful. What links are people clicking on. How long they’re staying on your site. Actually, measuring metics is a post in and of itself, but understanding where people are going and what people ar edoing on your site is pure gold, because it provides real time feedback on what you’re doing.

Long story short: You must spend time working other things AROUND your blog, not just the blog content. Both are necessary for survival and success.

5. Of course its a Marathon — I just wanted to remind you.

Even if you’re a lousy writer and spend almost NO time on marketing, if you’re willing to stick through it, you’ll discover something interesting. After a while, your competitors will start dropping out. The fact is that out of the tens of thousands of blogs that are started every day, only a tiny fraction will exsit after a few weeks, and less after a few months, and even less after a year. People get discouraged. There are other priorities in their lives. Life moves on. All are perfectly legitimate. But, it should be some solace to the seriously interested among you, because by just surviving, you’ll have outlasted a significant portion of your competition.

And in that way, although its great to have a sense of immediacy, a sense like “I gotta do it now”, just remember: Blogging isn’t a sprint — although there will be times when it feels like you’re running for your life. Blogging’s a marathon. If you’re willing to do what it takes, you must be willing to do it for the “long term”. Blogging in short and erratic bursts will never earn you the kind of audience you deserve. And you’ll never gain the respect from your fellow bloggers that they ought to give you. It takes time — perhaps months, not days or weeks — before reach the goals you set out for initially. And it takes time to reach the right amount of ‘escape velocity’ to separate and elevate yourself from the rest of the pack. The downside is that someone’s got to be producing fresh content. And someone’s got to spend time actually promoting your blog. Most of the time it’ll be you. But the upside is that if you’re willing to stick with it, your dogged determination will be a reward in and of itself as many of your would-be competitors will quit.

Blogging isn’t easy by any means, and many find it a long and hard road to travel before they find any personal success, cash or even validation. Sites like this are excellent because they give you tips and tricks on how to monetize your blog. But in my months as a blogger, I’ve found that the most important things I’ve learned about growing a blog have nothing to do with adsense positioning (mostly because I don’t have any ads on my site), the nuts and bolts of copywriting, or even the ins and outs of how to make WordPress “work”. Those are all part of the finer details in blogging.

The most important things involve having the resolve to doing the thing, finding friends to help you out and commiserate when things have gone lousy, and plain old sticking with it. These might seem like tired old platitudes, but I find that if we don’t do some of these “higher order” things right, things that we intuitively know, but perhaps aren’t executing well … well, none of the details will make much of a difference in the long run.

By no means will these things guarnatee your success, but these are things that I’ve noticed that worked for me. And hopefully they’ll give you the best chance at success as well.

—– end article ——

Although the week continues for a few more days, this is the end of the business week, and I thought I would say a few things now (I will continue to post a few smaller things this weekend, don’t worry).

I’d like to thank Darren Rowse for giving me this tremendous opportunity. It showed a great deal of faith to be putting his baby in the hands of a single blogger, who, incidentally, doesn’t blog “full time”, doesn’t really post “tips” and “how-to’s”, and who doesn’t even monetize his blog at the moment (shocking!). Many thanks to the community here of probloggers and aspiring probloggers. Darren mentioned a few things about the community here, but he neglected to mention how amazingly warm and welcoming you would all be.

This past week I hope that my contributions to the site have provided something worthwhile for your time and attention, because its been a blast writing them for you all.

But by the same token, I’m looking forward to resuming my neglected duties as a poster and assistant editor at the BlogHerald, helping my buddy Thord over at BloggerTalks with some upcoming interviews, and continuing my own poor neglected blog at DeepJiveInterests.com. I had hopes of continuing them all to some degree this week, but the time to create the kind of posts that would make Darren proud required a little more time than I had anticipated.

Good luck to you all in all of your blogging endeavors, and should you want to tell me how things are going, always feel free to drop me a line at anthony{dot}hung{at}gmail.com

Cheers,
Tony Hung.

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Comments

  1. Problogger Feedburner grew like crazy this week! I believe it set a record for itself. This is the firsttime I believe it has broken 10,000!

    Congrats.

  2. RE: TONY — Thanks a MILLION for your comments towards my site ! ! !
    That made my day Tony : )

    As for the fight you were in, they rarely are pretty. Take care Tony & thanks again !

    RE: MORE MERCHANT — I noticed that too! The 10,000 mark on Darren’s feedburner, !WOW!

    Michael ((QUESTION of the DAY !))

  3. Garri says:

    Last lessons on blogging? Is it that absolute? Is that it?

    Like most things in life: you never stop learning. There is no ‘last lesson’, unless you die.

  4. Garri says:

    Michael, I love your blog! But I can’t be arsed commenting on Blogger sites, such a rigmarole!

    I think Metallica would do a better cover version of Hound Dog than Robbie because Robbie would probably try and emulate Elvis (and fail), whereas Metallica would give it their own flavour = a more interesting cover version.

    The master of cover versions, in my opinion, is Mark Kozelek.

  5. DS-X says:

    Tony thanks for a great series of articles, but when do you consider a blog “successful”. I’m running a blog with 500,000 visitors a month and I’m trapped on moving up to the coveted million mark. Any tips or ideas from you or the other pro blogger crowd?

  6. Enjoyed reading your posts Tony – you’ve sure made a splash here alright!

    Good work.

    Matt

  7. Enjoyed reading this post. Great food for thought.

    I’m in an interesting position on this, because, as of this last Friday, I’m no longer employed, so the biggest distraction that I’ve had is now gone. Retiring at age 55, I’ve been hoping to augment my pension and investments with some on-line income. I made a little over $2700 US in 2006, which more than pays my internet and computing bills. With more time to work at it, maybe it’ll help keep me from having to become a “migrant nuclear worker.”

  8. Good monging Tony and Darren. I”m a budding blogger so thanks for the tips. Tony, you’ve done a great job coming off the bench for the main man. I’m definitely going to add your blog (s) to my favorites. In my learning, help me with something you mentioned in your tips list above. How “exactly” do you “seed” posts?

    Thanks

  9. great tips as usual. Thanks Darren!

  10. coolthought says:

    Hah… caught something that is long long ago. so long ago this post is posted.

    This post not only serve as advice but also encouragement to stick through till the end to find success.

    Thank you Tony Hung.

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