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Don’t Be Lazy: 9 Ways to Blog Smarter and Harder

This is a guest contribution from Eric Cummings who writes about art and philosophy for On Violence.

I’ve been writing this post for three years. What can I say? I’m lazy.

Or I should say, I used to be lazy.

That’s not the case anymore. Four years ago, my brother and I started taking our writing career seriously. I now write. A lot. On my days off from work, I regularly put in over ten hour days, just writing, editing and re-writing. I’ve learned how to work, both smarter and harder. You can too.

(Finally, an admission: though I wrote down an outline for this post three years ago, I resuscitated this idea for today’s post a few weeks ago.)

Tip 1: Forget the “To Do” List. Use Next Actions. 

“To do” lists don’t work because most people include “do’s” like “write a novel”, “pay bills” or “find web hosting”. I know, because that’s what I used to do.

Then I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Instead of “to dos”, Allen proposes “next actions”. “Next actions” answer the question, “What do I need to do next?” Instead of “start a blog”, your next action is “research domain registries”, “brainstorm blog title ideas”, and “list blog post ideas”. This way you know what you need to do next.

For every blog post I write, I have a “NA” written at the top, stating the exact next action, like “research the topic” or “edit post” or “proofread”. I can’t do the entire concept justice in a blog post, but I’d recommend everyone read Getting Things Done. If you can’t do that, when you’re writing a “to do” list, ask yourself, what do I need to do next?

Tip 2: Figure Out Where You Lose Time

A number of years ago, my co-writer started listening to a podcast on business advice called Manager Tools. One episode changed my whole perspective on time, the appropriately titled “Time Management”. Most importantly, I learned how to do a “time audit”.

A time audit records everything you did on a given day. For one week, every ten or fifteen minutes, write down what you just did. At the end of the week, analyze it. Where do you waste time? What did you actually work on? What can you differently in the future?

What’s our most valuable resource? Time. You may want to write, you just don’t have the time. Then figure out where your time is going. Trust me, this analysis will blow your mind.

Tip 3: Figure out Your Golden Hours

A few years ago, Darren Rowse keyed me into his principle of “Golden Hours”, the two or three hours of the day where everyone is the most productive. Some people work better in the morning. Others write better at night.

My golden hours occur between 9:00 to 12:00. Knowing this, when I have a day off, I make sure I’m writing during my golden hours. I do other tasks (chores, bills, answering comments) later in the day.

Figure out your golden hours and organize your day around them.

Tip 4: Break Up Your Writing…With “Productive Breaks”.

Ever find yourself doing chores before writing? It’s a common delay mechanism. Instead of delaying, solve this problem by planning out your day before you start writing.

If I know at the start of a writing day that I have chores to do, I plan on doing the chores in half hour chunks between bursts of writing. So I will write a guest post for an hour, then do dishes. Then I’ll research blog posts, then sweep. Then I’ll edit posts. Then go shopping.

Breaking up your writing day has two benefits.

First, you can clear your mind and recharge your batteries. Second, it frees your brain, which is still thinking about what your were writing about, to come up with new ideas. You can’t write straight for hours on end. Some people probably can, but I can’t. So I break up my day with “productive breaks”.

Tip 5: Break Up Your Writing…By Writing About Different Things

My co-writer and I write a lot of different things. Blog posts, guest posts, essays, research papers, screenplays and more. We do this because we like writing about different things. But more importantly, it breaks up our days. I can get more writing in if I write in different mediums about different things. If I only wrote screenplays, I’d get bored. If I only wrote blog posts, I’d lose energy.

Vary up your writing and you’ll work harder.

Tip 6: Monotask 

Multi-tasking doesn’t exist. Sorry, but your mind can’t input multiple streams of information at the same time. You can’t write an email and talk on the phone at the same time. It’s impossible. And switching rapidly between tasks takes away your energy and focus.

So turn off your email, Twitter and chat programs. Don’t answer your phone. Stay off the Internet, unless you’re doing research on a current project.

Tip 7: Use Email in Bursts

As I just said, email can be a horrific time waster, especially if you leave it open all day.

Try this instead: Check your email in one hour blocks throughout the day; hopefully once in the morning, afternoon and at the end of the day. This applies to social media like Twitter, Facebook and chat programs as well. While that seems like an outrageously small amount of time, with practice you’ll learn to get all your social media taken care of in these quick bursts.

Tip 8: Strengthen Your Will Power Muscle 

New studies show that “will power” is a muscle that we can train like real muscles. I’ve learned this the hard way. When I first started writing five years ago, I could only work for about two hours at a time. Every year that time has increased by two hours.

Today, for instance, I’ve already been writing for about five hours, give or take some five minute breaks and a twenty minute walk. I’ll probably write for another four hours, before I totally crash. I can only do this because I’ve been developing the writing muscle for a long time.

Another thought on will power: it will deplete itself. I lose energy at night, especially after I eat dinner. Understand this, and figure out when/why you crash and stop working.

Do something post dinner that requires less attention, like commenting or tweeting, than something you do during your golden hours.

Tip 9: Follow a Blogging Schedule!

My co-writer and I write our posts early, and schedule them ahead of time. When you’re blogging, force yourself to follow a schedule. Know that you’ll post two, three, or four times a week and stick to this schedule. It will make you a better writer and a better blogger.

There are no excuses for missing a week of posting. Write posts ahead of time, and create a folder of hold posts to use for emergencies. And write every week.

Eric Cummings writes about art and philosophy for On Violence, a blog on military and foreign affairs written by two brothers–one a soldier and the other a pacifist. Find him on Twitter, @onviolence.

Forget about Marketing: Concentrate on Blogging

This is a guest contribution by Nicholas Whitmore.

The title: What on earth does it mean?

Well, recently it seems like a lot of bloggers fancy themselves as marketers. You can’t read a post on a blog without seeing a load of other bloggers commenting at the bottom, with a link back to their own site. Of course other bloggers use black hat SEO tricks and other shady tactics in order to drive traffic to their blog. Each to their own you might say, but at the end of the day life can be much, much easier.

If you publish blog content that’s truly awesome, everyone else will market your blog for you.

If you seem to spend half your life trying to promote your blog with your efforts never coming to fruition, now’s the time to stop. There’s a reason why things aren’t working out – and you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s the actual content in your blog posts.

Sorry to have to break it to you, but your blog posts suck.

A man shocked at your lack of proofreading!

It’s time to go back to basics because if you’re guilty of trying to build links and force traffic to your blog, you’re trying too hard.

The art of blogging involves thinking up great topics and blog titles, performing research where required, then authoring great work.

Building links and driving traffic to your website does not fall under the blogging remit – that’s marketing, something different altogether.

Good things come to those who wait

Starting a successful blog is not something that you can do overnight. In fact, it can take months or even years before you start to see traction and those crazy traffic figures you’ve dreamt of. If you’ve got a short attention span or you’re incredibly impatient, the chances are that you won’t make it as a blogger.

Whilst some bloggers out there make a living from their sites, don’t go quitting your day job and blowing your life savings just yet – getting a blog to the point where it can be successfully and sustainably monetized takes a very, very long time.

Expedite success with more awesome blog posts 

The only way in which you can expedite the success of your blog is to publish more high quality content. Be careful not to inundate your visitors with too much content to digest though in your race to the top. Careful balances need to be struck between quality and quantity – a balance must also be struck between too many and too little blog posts.

Rarely will you see a sparsely populated blog that’s extremely popular. One of the core ingredients of a successful blog is frequent content – there’s no getting away from that fact. You don’t have to post 10 new blogs each week, but it would help in a lot of cases.

Hard work always pays off 

On my desk is a mug that my father used to drink out of. It says: “Hard work always pays off” – I find that little saying resonates around my head at least one million times each day. There are few things in life truer than this saying – and it can of course be applied to the world of blogging.

Be prepared to spend a good few months writing awesome posts that few people will read initially.

Keep plugging away – keep publishing great content and your blog will be recognized. The pay off comes when the recognition that your blog receives snowballs – links from other blogs start rolling in, and people recommend your posts on social media.

Recognition usually starts like a little trickle of water – gradually it will build up into a raging torrent. The more recognition your site receives, the more people will read it. As more people read your blog, it’ll receive further recognition. It’s an infinite loop of goodness for you as a blog owner!

In Summary 

When you write and publish awesome content on your blog, good things will come your way.

When you write and publish boring content then spend hours on end building links to it, trying to force people to your website, good things will never come.

Spend your time blogging – not marketing. The marketing side of things will be taken care of for you by your visitors if the blog posts that you publish are good enough to be recommended and shared across the internet.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sharing posts you publish via social media with friends and followers – it’s the ideal way in which to generate that initial buzz and interest about your blog. When the marketing of your posts takes longer than it does to actually write them however, you’ve almost certainly lost your way as a blogger.

 Nick is a freelance journalist and website content editor from http://www.contentwriting.org. He writes extensively about the art of blogging, as well as online marketing techniques such as SEO, PPC and SMM.

Why Your Blog Posts Are Falling Short of Greatness and What To Do About It

This is a guest contribution by Belinda Weaver, marketing copywriter behind The Copy Detective.

You’ve finished your latest blog post and it’s pretty good isn’t it, isn’t it?Boy looking confused

Are you sure?

 

Some bloggers think that coming up with ideas is the hardest part of blogging. Maybe you agree. Personally, I think it’s harder to turn an idea into blogging GOLD.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Writing a really great blog post isn’t simply down to your writing. Sure, you need to use language that will appeal to your reader, and all your verbs need to be the right way up but the secret to writing an exceptional blog post, every time, is the planning.

I know what you’re thinking. Planning? How time-consuming and boring!

I know some bloggers sit down and let the words simply pour from their mind. Others will agonise over each word. Whether you find blogging easy or difficult, planning your blog post for as long as it takes to have a cup of tea will bring you that much closer to bloggy GOLD.

Quick–fire planning process

The planning stage of writing a blog post – or any piece for that matter – is all about deciding what you’re going to say.

You might love to start a post and let the keyboard take you where it will. And that’s ok. Your post will be ok, but it won’t be great. If you want your blog posts to stand head and shoulders above the thousands of other blogs in your niche, you have to aim higher.

Step 1: Boil the kettle

My favourite way to procrastinate is to make a cup of tea and that’s the perfect way to start your planning process.

While the kettle is boiling, grab a pen and some paper, or the app and device of your choice, and set a timer for 3 minutes.

Write down the main point you want your readers to walk away with. Just one or two sentences about what you want them to learn or maybe how you want them to feel. That’s your blog theme.

It will depend on what you’re blogging about and your style of blogging, but setting a high-level theme to your post will help you assess whether you’ve nailed it once the writing is done.

Step 2: Dig deeper and explain it.

Your next task is to turn your theme into a more detailed outline.

Set the timer again – this time for 7 minutes.

Blog time

Image courtesy stock.xchng user colombweb

Create a list of specific points you want to make. It might be the elements of the story you’re telling, or the top takeaways on the topic you’re delving into or even the steps of a process (like this post).

It doesn’t have to be a long list. I recommend having no more than 10 points in your list. Depending on your topic, this might even take you a lot less time than 7 minutes.

Remember, you’re not writing the post during this time. You’re simply creating a list. Just like your blog post theme from step 1, this list will help to guide your ideas and your writing.

Step 3: Plan the introductions

How you open your blog post is pretty important. Actually, it’s very important as it’s in the first few sentences of your blog post that your reader decides whether to stick around, or lend their eyeballs to someone else. Not literally, of course.

Set your timer for another 5 minutes.

Write down the challenges your reader is facing, the ones your blog solves or even just talks about. You should also jot down why they would care about your post. What are you offering them?

These two elements will help you keep your reader in mind while you write. After all, your blog posts aren’t really about you… they’re about your readers.

Then you need to choose your approach. There are lots of different ways you can introduce your reader to your topic. You can ask a question or quote a statistic, make a claim or tell a story. Here are 10 great ideas from Darren or you could startle your reader with something a little more shocking.

Now, let’s see where we are.

You’ve got your theme. You’ve got the guts of your post mapped out and the introduction. And you’ve only spent 15 minutes out of your day!

happy_time

Image courtesy stock.xchng user lusi

Step 4: Plan the wrap-up

Now you need to plan the conclusion. Your conclusion is the final impression you’ll leave on your reader’s brain. It’s possibly one of the biggest influences on how much your blog post is shared and how many comments you get. So it’s worth a few more sips of tea, isn’t it?

Get that timer and set it for 3 minutes.

Inspiring your reader to take action is a really popular way to end your post. Think of asking your reader to share their story or their advice, or even setting them some homework. But you don’t have to set an action in your conclusion. Your wrap might simply spell out the main point you wrote down in step 1, leaving your reader feeling inspired.

Here are 7 powerful ways to wrap your post up. Choose one and make a note of it in your plan. 

Step 5: Name your baby

The final piece of the puzzle is the blog title. This might just be a working title until your blog post is written but your title is one of the hardest-working parts of your blog post. Before they even get to your introduction, many readers will have decided to read or ignore your post, based on the blog title.

Here are some of Darren’s tips on writing a blog title that gets noticed.

I often write a few working titles during the planning stages then choose one and adjust it once I’ve written the post.

And you’re done!

Sometimes, the best-laid plans will go to waste. In fact, they might just be thrown out the window and driven over a few times. And that’s ok.

Don’t feel that you have to stick to your blog post plan if inspiration pulls you in another direction. Go with it!

But, if you spend a little bit of time, your blog posts will:

  • Make the writing stage so much easier.
  • Make sure your points are clearly made, without rambling.
  • Give you more ideas for follow-up or add-on posts!

Now it’s over to you. I’d love to know how you approach your blog writing now, and whether you plan your posts out. If you don’t spend any time planning right now, can you find the time to have a cup of tea to lift your blogging game?

confidently walking the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand personality. Get your FREE copy of her cheat sheet to incredibly effective copywriting or get Copywrite Matters on the job.

How to Make Your Blogging Dreams Come True

“ONE DAY I’ll be a full time blogger!”

‘V’ – my wife – must have heard that statement 100 or more times in 2003-2004.

Me posing for my first ever press photo in 2003. Out of shot all my neighbours were watching on and wondering why I was videoing a guy taking a photo of me while sitting in my front yard.

It would usually be accompanied by a spread sheet and/or chart in which I showed her how the earnings from my blog had grown from $9 per month to $11 per month and me excitedly talking about how if things kept growing like that I’d be full time…. in 9 years time.

Back in those days I spent a lot of time dreaming about my future as a full time blogger.

I remember laying in bed at night, hoping  it would happen and wondering what opportunities might open up to make it a reality.

Those of you who have read the ProBlogger hard cover book know the story of how ‘V’ heard me talk about my ‘dream’ one time too many  and challenged me to take my blogging seriously.

In short, she challenged me to start treating my blog as a business ‘today’ rather than hoping it might be one at some point in the future.

Note: I wrote about this in my post ‘The #1 Reason My Blogging Grew into a Business

That challenge changed my mindset and was a huge part of making my dreams and hopes a reality.

We CREATE our Future

I recently came across this quote:

“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” – John H. Schaar

We don’t arrive at our future… we create it!

I wish I’d heard that quote back in 2003 when I began to experiment with making money blogging.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with ‘dreaming‘ of ones future. I just keep meeting bloggers (and people in other fields too) who seem to be stuck in the ‘dream’ phase.

The reality is that nobody really gets anywhere just by dreaming. There needs to come a time to ACT.

Just Do It

Do you dream of your blog one day being bigger, better, more profitable, or bring you better opportunities?

Just Do It!

Your future isn’t something that will just magically happen to you – you make that future.

So the time is now to begin moving in that direction through action!

Is it All Too Big?

Of course, giving the advice ‘just do it’ might be the kick up the pants that some people need to get moving but many bloggers I meet feel overwhelmed by all that lays ahead in order to create their dreams.

I often here one of two things from bloggers facing this:

  • There is too much to do
  • I want to do it perfectly

Both of these statements can cause paralysis and put your future on hold. 

Here’s my advice to you… (and I’m really writing this for me as well… because I feel both of those things too)…

Start With Something Small

Choose one small thing to start with that will move you toward your dream and do it to the best of your ability (tweet this).

Let’s break that down:

  1. Choose One Thing – if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the many things you need to do, you can end up doing nothing or trying to do everything, but failing. Doing one thing well, and then moving onto the next thing, will take you further than either of those options.
  2. Do a Small Thing – if you’re currently ‘stalled’ you need to get momentum so choose a smaller thing to get the wheels rolling. Achieving that small thing will give you energy to tackle the next bigger thing.
  3. Choose something that will Move You Toward Your Dream - it’s so easy to be distracted by tasks that seem like a good idea but aren’t really important in the scheme of your goals. Choose something that is directly tied to your ultimate goal (I’ll give you some examples below).
  4. Do it to the Best of Your Ability – if you only ever do things  you can do perfectly, you may never do anything! Do it as well as you can now and perfect it later. By starting you’ll learn so much and in the long run will produce something great.

What I’ve outlined above has been a strategy I’ve used many times over the years. Let me give you some practical examples.

Example 1 – Starting dPS

I put off starting Digital Photography School for a couple of years before I actually launched it (I’ve never admitted that before).

I had previously had a camera review blog that did well but I always dreamed of starting a more ‘tips’ related photography blog. I thought it’d be more satisfying to write and would have more potential to grow a relationship with readers.

I had every excuse in the book not to start dPS. I already had too much to do. I didn’t have the money to invest into a custom designed site. I doubted my own ability to write content on the topic. I couldn’t find the right brand/domain name…

The list went on.

However, I had the dream and one day I realised that if I didn’t actually start the blog that I’d never have any chance of arriving at that dream. So I started small.

  • I made a call on a brand and domain name – It wasn’t perfect but it allowed me to start
  • I started on GoDaddy Hosting – I knew it wasn’t the best option but it allowed me to start
  • I started with a free WordPress theme – it wasn’t as professional or customised as what I saw in my dreams but it allowed me to start
  • I wrote a handful of posts – I wanted to have more in my archives but it allowed me to start
  • I started with comments switched off to allow me to focus on creating more content – doing so fell short of my vision for a ‘community’ driven site but it allowed me to get moving

The design of dPS when it launched using a free theme.

When the blog launched I remember looking at it with a mixture of:

  • Dissatisfaction at all the things  I knew I could have done to make it better
  • Immense pride that I’d actually got the ideas out of my head and had finally implemented something

With the ball rolling, I was able to improve and grow what I was doing.

I moved to better hosting (and have done so 3 times now). I moved towards a custom design (we’re about to launch our iteration of the design). I’ve since published over 3800 posts and developed a team of writers. I switched on comments and added a forum area to build community.

The site is now 10 times bigger than any blog I had at the time I started it. It is still not perfect by any means (I have a long to do list) but it is a lot closer to my dreams than ever before.

Example 2 – My First eBook

My First eBook (now no longer available as we updated it)

I shared this story at the ProBlogger Event last year but don’t think I’ve written a post about it.

After a year of starting and then evolving Digital Photography School I began to see the opportunity to create a teaching product to sell on the site. I wasn’t sure at first what format would be best (eBooks, courses, events or something else) but knew there was an opportunity there.

I gradually settled on the idea of an eBook to test the waters with my audience but procrastinated and made excuses on why I should delay doing it for another 12-18 months.

Again my list of excuses was long and I justified my inaction with things like:

  • not having time to write and develop an eBook
  • not knowing how to set up a shopping cart
  • not knowing how to design or format an eBook
  • doubts about knowing enough about the subject matter

I put off the creation of that first eBook for a couple of years but managed to snap myself out of the paralysis and decided to start.

I decided to write the eBook about Portraiture – the topic my readers asked the most questions about and the one that I knew most about.

  • As I was time poor, I decided to get up 15 minutes earlier every day to create the eBook. I would have rather been able to set aside a week or two to work solidly on it but I had blogs to run and a newborn baby at home. I had some major sleep deprivation already so figured 15 minutes less sleep a day wouldn’t hurt! It wasn’t the ideal way to write – but it allowed me to start.
  • I decided to use some repurposed blog posts as the basis for the eBook. I’d rather have written it all from scratch but this approach allowed me to start.
  • I decided to outsource the design but kept it as simple and clean as possible to save on cost. I’d have rather had a beautiful/rich design but it allowed me to start.
  • I decided on a relatively simple and inexpensive shopping cart set up. I used e-junkie (aft) and synced it with PayPal. It wasn’t the most feature rich solution but was relatively east to set up and didn’t hold me back on launching.
  • I hada relatively simple launch. We launched it over 8 days with a pretty simple sales page and sales email to my list. I made a lot of mistakes in that launch and have a much more sophisticated process these days but I got the product launched!

I look back on the creation and launch of that eBook now with a mix of embarrassment at how simple it all was and pride at what I achieved as someone with no experience in creating an eBook.

It could have been A LOT better on many fronts but it was the beginning of something that has transformed what I do.

That eBook sold 4800 copies during its launch (bringing in a total of $72,000) which at the time completely blew me away (in the years after it sold a lot more) but the income from it wasn’t the best bit.

The most valuable part of creating that eBook was the lessons I learned in doing it.

That eBook and its launch became the template for future eBooks. I have now published a total of 12 on dPS, 6 here on ProBlogger and 1 on SnapnGuides.

The creation process of our eBooks has changed a lot (we no longer use repurposed content, now use editors, proof readers etc and have evolved the design quite a lot) and our launches are a lot more sophisticated but it all began with 15 minutes per day and doing the best I could!

More Quick Examples

This pattern of small steps towards big dreams is something that I could give you many more examples of.

Like how I got the ProBlogger hard cover Book published. It started as a draft for an eBook and some content that Chris and I had published on our blogs.

And how the ProBlogger Event was started. This has grown to be an annual event for 400+ bloggers but it started as a hastily arranged day for 100 bloggers in a dodgy suburban hotel.

Like how I developed 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. It started as a series of blog posts that evolved into a quickly produced eBook which grew again into the best selling ProBlogger eBook that we offer today.

And how I developed the ProBlogger Queensland Competition. It started as a crazy idea I got while sitting in an airport. I tweeted something and it ended up being one of the biggest campaigns I’ve ever done with a brand.

I’m certain that others reading this post would have more personal examples – I’d LOVE to see them in comments below.

Choose 1 Small Thing…

Let’s return to the take home advice…

Choose one small thing to start with that will move you toward your dream and do it to the best of your ability (tweet this).

I can’t emphasise enough how powerful doing this has been in my own business (and my life in general in other areas).

Give it a go – I can’t wait to see what impact it has for you! Please let me know what you decide to do and how it works out for you!

Challenge: Update Your Blog’s About Page

Today I want to set us all a little homework – a challenge of sorts – to update your blogs ‘About Page’.

This challenge evolves out of the embarrassing realisation that my own about page here on ProBlogger was dated and in need of a refresh.

It had been well over 12 months since I’d last looked at it – in that time I’d ended some projects mentioned on the page but also started new things like the ProBlogger Event – embarrassing!

It is particularly embarrassing because a blog’s About Page is often one of the first places a new visitor to a blog goes to check out what the blog is about, who is behind it and to make a decision whether it’s a blog that they want to subscribe to!

Many bloggers I speak with report that their About Page is one of their most read pages on their blog – get it wrong and you could be losing readers, hurting your brand or just looking dated.

So today I did a quick update of the page to fix the obvious problems and have put a fuller rewrite on the cards for the next week.

I also thought if my about page was dated – there must be a lot of others out there with similar issues so lets do a group challenge of sorts and all refresh out pages together!

There is no right or wrong way to write your about page but if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration check out this previous post on the topic – How Your About Page Can Make or Break Your Blog which gives some practical tips including:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Remember the mantra: What’s In It For Me?
  • Sharing Who the Blog is For
  • Being Personal – but not too personal
  • Determine the goal of your About page
  • Always end with a call to action

Once you’ve updated your About Page – please link to it below in comments so we can see the approach you’ve taken (I’m sure we could all learn a lot about creating great About Pages through seeing how each other does it).

Set Your Blog for Success With These Simple Tactics

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer, Ayelet Weisz.

Blogging is hard work.

You need to come up with fresh, quality materials on a regular basis, promote them, connect with readers, network with peers and mentors – and that’s before you even see a single dollar for your effort.

I’ve put together some simple business tactics to help you set your blog for success, so you can live the pro blogger dream.

Set Inspiring (But Realistic) Goals

Now that you’re your own boss, you’ve got to set up internal motivation. The biggest success stories didn’t get there with someone telling them what to do every five minutes.

Dreaming goals

Mark Aplet – Fotolia.com

A great way to keep yourself motivated is to set up goals. Of course, I don’t just mean any goal. Making a million dollars by the end of your first year as a blogger might not be the most realistic goal you could think of.

The truth is, you have no way of knowing what will happen by the end of your first year, and you have no control over of others’ choices – Will they read your blog? Will they buy your products?

However, you can eliminate some of these unknown factors by conducting research about the possibilities your market contains – and you can increase the chances of realising your dreams by setting a different type of goal.

Focus on what kind of content you’ll write, how much content you’ll write, how you’ll promote it and when.

Focus on numeral items, like 8 posts a months on your blog and 8 guest posts that you’ll pitch to big blogs. Don’t set a goal of publishing 8 guest posts, only of submission. If someone says no, you’ll still have the confidence boost of reaching your goal. Then, you can exceed it by pitching that guest post to an additional blog.

Track Your Progress

The next step is to get the gold stars out track your progress. Write down what you are doing, what your productivity rate has been and notice what times a day or situations support you in getting more work done.

Set a meeting with yourself – be it once a week, once a month or once a quarter – to see how well you did, to discover your strong points. It’s important to be honest on where you need to be more accountable or get support.

Encourage yourself to ask questions, to say “I don’t know”, to ask for help. Sometimes, that help will come in the form of adjusting your expectations or re-shaping your schedule. Embrace your humanity as you embrace your new blogging journey.

Give yourself time, be gentle – and leverage your failures

Starting a new venture is never easy. Acquiring an abundance of new skills and tools takes determination, focus and accountability.

You will make mistakes.

Give yourself a time of grace and don’t be hard on yourself. People around you might pressure you. They could be your friends and family members, they could love you and want the best for you – and they might not believe your blog is what’s best for you. If it takes you time to monetize your blog, and it probably will, they’ll doubt it even more.

Don’t get carried away with that. It will take time. Embrace it as an opportunity to show yourself you can do the impossible.

Support yourself through this time. Join professional online and offline groups, share your challenges with people who understand rather than with people who don’t, and plan ahead financially.

It might work best for you to save a few months’ or a year’s worth of salary, then take that time off paid employment and market like there’s no tomorrow. Alternatively, it might be best for you to start building your blog slowly, as you keep a part time or full time job.

Expect to make mistakes. 

These mistakes will be your guiding points to grow your blog even more as you go on. They could be transformed into guest posts on big blogs, case studies you can use to show your expertise (and how you turned failure to success) – and they can even turn you into a good mentor one day!

If nothing else, you’ll be able to look back one day and have a really good laugh. You’ll also be able to see how far you’ve come.

Socialise

Starting out at the blogsphere can be intimidating.People already know each other and the job.Friendships and communities have already been formed. Relationships with influencers are being shaped and re-shaped every single day.

Linked

Image copyright stock.xchng user lusi

This experience becomes easier once you feel there’s someone you could turn to. You, of course, need to have communication tools and the courage to connect when entering a new environment.

If you’re fearful about connecting with industry members, start small. Post comments on their blogs, then connect with them on Twitter or Facebook. Join online communities and reach out to one person at a time in a personal message.

Ask for their help, or offer a solution to a challenge they brought up. If they happen to just start out as you are, perhaps you could be a force of empowering support to one another, sharing tips and encouraging each other when one loses sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Maybe you’ll even find you have additional interests in common!

Did you face any of these challenges when you were starting out? How did build your blog? Or perhaps you’re just starting out and picked up some great tips for the road ahead. Share your story!

Ayelet Weisz (www.AyeletWeisz.com) is an enthusiastic freelance writer, blogger and screenwriter, who focuses on business, technology, travel and women’s issues. Get her free report, 48 Must-Live Israeli Experiences, on her travel blog, and connect with her on Twitter.

Are You Ready to be a Full-Time Blogger?

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer, Ayelet Weisz.

A big part of the pro blogger dream is to be your own boss. No more office politics, competitions with colleagues or having to prove yourself to someone who reaps all the benefits of your hard work. You’ll set your own rules and live life your way.

Yet if you’ve never had to be accountable to yourself on a large-scale, long-term project, you might find yourself overwhelmed.

1. Unrealistic expectations. If you don’t know your own limitations, you could end up planning to invest too little time or leaving too little flexibility in your budget. You could also work yourself to exhaustion.

2. Getting lost. Being a full-time blogger leaves you plenty of opportunities to get lost – online, in sleep, in your own fears.

3. Missing tools and skills. There are lots of skills to master and tools to learn – not only in your chosen field of blogging, but in business management, time management, marketing – and the list goes on.

Boy looking confused

Do You Have The Skills?

Fortunately, tools and skills to be a successful full-time blogger are learnable. You need to incorporate the process of learning into your business plan, and don’t despair if you find yourself taking longer in one step or another. Instead, relish in your blogging journey and, as you challenge yourself, remember to give yourself a break.

Would You Hire You?

Few jobs will take you in without an interview – and your blogging business should be one of them. You must define the job before you can find out if you’ve got the right stuff.

You need to research what it means to run a full time blog and own a business, how to live on fluctuating income, what kind of marketing strategies are usually used, and where you could break the marketing rules to help your blog shine.

Read sites and magazines about your chosen niche, as well as general sites about professional blogging (like Problogger!), entrepreneurship and small businesses.

Once you have a vision of what your daily and annual life could look like, ask yourself the tough questions:

  • Are you ready to get started on the job?
  • Which areas require more learning, practise, tools or expertise?
  • What could you do with the skills you have right now to start building your blog?

Just as importantly, put on the interviewee’s hat – and ask yourself if you even want the position.

Go on at least one good course

Getting educated is valuable in gaining a deeper understanding of what you’re getting yourself into, as well as to speed up the process. Your chosen course, or several courses, might be about getting certification or about improving through feedback you’d get from professionals on your creative work. It might be about writing, marketing, business management or creating more self confidence in your life.

You could choose to learn all these aspects or some. You could learn them one by one or mix them together. You could decide learning is another business task, like marketing – or you could set aside a concentrated learning time before you take your first practical step in building your blog.

While you’ll likely keep on learning as you develop your blogging business, it’s easy to get caught up in the learning and never take a step beyond that.

Give yourself a deadline for when you absolutely have to go register your business or pitch a guest post for the first time.

Do You Have The Budget?Piggy bank

Importantly, remember that you need to save money in advance and put it aside to cover the cost of the course and the hours of paid work that you might miss.

Don’t forget to budget enough time for implementation either – homework tends to take longer than what you first expect.

Do You Need a Mentor?

At times, it’s recommended to hire a mentor even if you took a course or few. With a mentor, you’ll be able to ask questions you might not feel comfortable asking in a group, get a sense of direction and compile a list of actions it’s best to take for your specific blog and situation.

You might choose to keep this mentor on payroll for longer, yet sometimes even an appointment or several will do. Then, you could go on your merry way and sign up for another session when you feel one is needed.

Another option is to join a community of peers or top professionals, or one that’s combined of various levels of skills and successes. These can be paid or free, an online message board, meetings in your community or networking organisations’  gatherings.

Either way, that personalised attention will enable you to learn the inside world of launching and managing a blog, of marketing, of communicating with readers and of being the best blogger you can be.

Have you got more tips to test if you’re ready to start pro blogging? Share them with us in the comments!

Ayelet Weisz (www.AyeletWeisz.com) is an enthusiastic freelance writer, blogger and screenwriter, who focuses on business, technology, travel and women’s issues. Get her free report, 48 Must-Live Israeli Experiences, on her travel blog, and connect with her on Twitter.

Discover The “Can’t Miss” Email Technique To Bring Attention To Your Blog

This is a guest contribution by Frank Angelone.

It’s safe to assume that you want your blog to succeed, right?

It’s easier said than done, but whenever you’re trying to market your blog to others, it can be a very discouraging process.  Not only that, as bloggers, we continually suffer from the inability to get in touch with those we aspire to be like.

It’s not that those individuals don’t want to connect with us, but their email inboxes are full to the max and the Internet is flooded with content.  Tough obstacles ahead of us to stand out from the crowd I’d say.

Obviously, email marketing is an effective way to communicate with our readers, but more often than not, a well known blogger is not signed up to your email list.  The thing is…being associated to these well known bloggers in some capacity can help build the authority your blog needs to get attention.

So how are you suppose to grab the attention of these people?

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

I’ve learned, from my experiences, the best way to grab the attention of others is to keep my enquiries simple and straight forward. 

Granted, in reality, I am marketing to them.

It’s true, whenever you email someone and you wish to market yourself to them, it’s never a good idea to just email them a link to your blog.  You can be sure you won’t be contacted at that point. You want the email to capture their attention from the subject line.

Since you only have a short period to grab their attention, what can you do?

The Subject Line Is The Magic Potion 

Before you start trying to think of creative headlines, let me stop you right there. That kind of advice you’ll see many people give for blog posts and email newsletters.

This doesn’t apply when you’re trying to encourage a well known blogger to open your email. 

In fact, it’s much simpler and easier than you may think. On top of that, you may have used this tactic before and never even realised what a POWERFUL strategy it is.

Tell Me What To Do Already!

This brings me to my personal sure fire way to grab a response…

The magic answer is…

Use the subject line – “Quick Question.”

Really?  That’s it?  Yes, that’s it.  It’s worked for me many times. It’s how I’ve published guest posts on sites like CopyBlogger and here on ProBlogger.

The goal is to create a relationship. Quick Question lets them know…”this won’t take long.” This is what I use all the time.

I can’t believe I’m giving this away because it’s my best kept secret, until now!

How Does This Apply To My Blog?

Interestingly enough, I’ve used this little subject line to build my blog’s credibility. 

I’ve been able to leverage my podcast to build authority for my blog. An authoritative blog is something all bloggers strive for.  By using that “Quick Question” subject line, I’ve brought guests onto my podcast like Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Pirillo, Brian Clark, Seth Godin, and Robert Scoble to name a few. 

I can officially say that all these great people in some way are associated with my blog.

I’m not throwing these names at you to brag, but rather show you that by having these relationships, I’ve been able to connect with new readers / listeners and provide advice to others on how to go about podcasting.

This additional layer of my blog that started with a simple subject line also gave me the freedom to not have to rely on writing blog posts. Writing can be tiring, time consuming, and writers block can occur frequently. Doing audio interviews was my way of overcoming these obstacles and in the process I’ve developed relationships with well known bloggers.

You may not be able to build the readership that you want at this point. You may not be able to get a ton of comments on your posts. However, you can start finding other avenues to build that authority for your blog.

Don’t believe that just because it’s a blog that you’re restricted to only written content…you’re not!

Even though podcasting isn’t what I talk about on my blog, because of the well known bloggers I’ve connected with, I was able to talk to Chris Pirillo’s mastermind group in a webinar on bringing guests to your podcast and wrote a blog post about it too.

So, try this in your next email and let me know how this works out for you in the comments and if you’re able to build some new authority for your blog.

Frank Angelone teaches people how to use social media in business and how to adapt to technology.  He’s also coupled these teachings by interviewing well known entrepreneurs like Chris Pirillo, Robert Scoble, Brian Clark, and Leo Babauta to name a few, on the STZ Podcast.  Be sure to subscribe to be notified of new episodes!

What is Your Posting Rhythm to Social Media?

social-media-update-frequencyLast week I was on a panel discussing social media at a conference here in Australia and a question from the floor asked about how often is ideal to post to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest?

I was fascinated to hear the range of answers we gave as panelists and I thought it might be a good discussion to have here on ProBlogger.

What frequency do you publish to the social networks that you’re active on?

I’ll kick things off:

Facebook Pages: On the dPS Facebook page I try to update 3-4 times a day with posts spread out over a 24 hour cycle. I find if I do it too much more regularly that the posts don’t get as much engagement.

Twitter: On my ProBlogger Twitter account I find I can post at a higher frequency on Twitter as tweets tend to have a shorter life. Having said that most of my tweets are done live when I have something to say (and time to tweet).

Tweets go up automatically when I post a new post here on the blog or when a new job goes up on the Job Boards and I’ll often share another link to a blog post 12 or so hours later. The rest of my tweets are more personal/conversational and not scheduled.

Pinterest: on the dPS Pinterest account I’ve employed Jade to update our board.

Google+: My Google+ account is something I don’t update with great frequency. I use it more when I want to test an idea that I’m thinking through, ask a question or share something I’m excited about.

As a result there are days when I might post 2-3 times and then it might be 2-3 days before I post again! My posts there can be as short as a link or up to 2000 words!

LinkedIn: I’m a dismal failure on LinkedIn. Status updates are largely new posts on the blog and automated. I feel like I could improve a lot in this area.

What about you? What’s your posting rhythm on to social media? Do you update them all the same or have different strategies for each one?