Guest Post by Nick Thacker
If you’re anything like me, you struggle with self-discipline every now and then—especially when it comes to your business. I run two businesses, and am trying to build a successful blog. My businesses, luckily, are getting to be more and more self-sustaining every day, though they constantly need work and updating to maintain their “edge.” My blog, on the other hand, has been a terrible headache for me to grow and manage.
Until I realized it, too, was a business.
I never planned to sell anything on my blog, and may never want to. I knew that other popular businesspeople, “gurus,” and professionals had started blogging, some for pleasure and some for money. For a long time, I was under the impression that these people only found their success through hard work, determination, and a bunch of luck. I assumed that starting my own blog was going to need that luck as well.
When I began writing and blogging, however, I quickly realized that the workload and planning that my blog needed resembled the time commitment my companies required in their infant stages. Recently, I began thinking of my blog as a business, and that has made all the difference.
If you are starting a blog for any reason, it will greatly benefit you to begin viewing it not just as your own personal journal, but a living, growing business. Businesses need nurture, dedication, and planning, and one of the best ways to grow a business and “make your own luck,” is to look for ways to “systemize” it. Here are five great ways to begin systemizing your own blog to take advantage of processes, time management, and growth control:
1. Post schedule
There are already numerous articles on ProBlogger.net that discuss ways to schedule your posting frequency, but understand the importance a set schedule can have, psychologically. By writing out a physical schedule, I’ve been able to maintain a steady stream of fresh content for my own blog, and having the schedule on my desk has provided a great deal of “accountability” for me—if I miss a post day, my calendar will be there to remind me! A post calendar or schedule is also a great place to manage post topics and ideas, as is the Post Ideas WordPress widget.
2. Daily schedule
Going hand-in-hand with the first tip, planning out the time you spend in front of your computer can pay huge dividends in the long run. Before I had a plan, I would sporadically check email, write a bit, browse the web, read favorite blogs, and a plethora of other things. Now, I sit down around midnight every day (I’m a night owl) and spend 15-20 minutes checking emails. I spend about half an hour checking my RSS reader and commenting on insightful posts, and then work for about two hours on client work. For a break, I write—sometimes a blog post, sometimes just a rant. I finish up any client work, and then I spend about 1-2 hours researching and writing a post for my blog. This schedule is not perfect, but it keeps me active and ensures that whenever I’m working, I’m in “the zone” and not bouncing back and forth between numerous tasks.
3. Communication filtering
Part of promoting a blog, as you know, is reaching out to fellow bloggers and authors and becoming an active part of their communities. Commenting, posting on forums, and emailing are great ways to do this, but you can get carried away “following up” in so many different capacities that you forget to “follow through.” I used to comment on blogs and forums so often that I wouldn’t remember where I’d commented, and my efforts would go to waste. Eventually, I decided to set up a “system” for my communications to keep me in line. For example: whenever I comment on a blog or forum topic, I immediately drag the page to a bookmarks folder called “Threads.” At the beginning of my workday (night), I click “Open all in tabs” to see what changes, if any, have taken place on the sites. In addition, I always subscribe to “comment updates,” if available, to ensure that I’m contacted immediately after someone else has left a comment or post.
4. Staying in the game
I mentioned earlier the importance for my businesses to maintain their “edge,” and now my blog (about entrepreneurship in college) needs to be on top of current events and trending topics in my arena of business. Being a professional in your own industry may be enough for you to stay aware of what’s going on in your community, but if you want a little extra support, consider using services like Google Alerts and Twitter “hashtags.” Another great way to stay ahead of the curve is to become active in popular social media communities (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). While being able to drive referral traffic to your blog, being a Web 2.0 socialite has the added benefit of letting you build these social systems into your blogging schedule (dedicate a specific amount of time to developing relationships, communities, and followers every day).
5. Building habits
My schedule is not ideal for many people, but remember—I’m not married, not (currently) taking classes, and don’t have a day job. I maintain a midnight-7am schedule for blogging because that’s when I’m able to focus without being distracted—no matter what. I may be able to work undisturbed during the day every once in a while, but by choosing a time to work that is consistent has led to my building a habit around this time. My body now knows at midnight that it’s time to focus, crack down, and produce. Habits are a great “system” to have in place because they can help force efficiency and effectiveness in everything. Get in the habit of writing at least once a day, and start building good habits around your blogging “business” as soon as possible.
The ultimate goal of systematization is not necessarily automation—though when executed deliberately and correctly, automation can be a welcome hand in your business’ operation. By systemizing your blog, you are able to begin working “on” your blog, not “in” your blog—to borrow from a popular business expression. Sure, you need to provide great, original content, but understand that there’s more to blogging than what you type (unless, of course, the blog is for your eyes only!)
Systemize whatever processes you can that will free your mind and time for “business building” tasks, and you’ll find that your writing quality will actually improve rather than suffer!
I hope I’ve started the ball rolling for you to begin examining your current habits and systems, and I hope you’ll consider working out your own “systems” for maximizing your effectiveness blogging. If you have any thoughts or advice I’ve left out—please comment to let us all know!