A Guest post by Stacey Roberts from Veggie Mama.
As anyone who has ever started a blog knows, it can be hard work. The internet never sleeps, and it seems at times neither do you! In the 24-hour machine that is the blogosphere and accompanying social media, there is the potential for our blog/life balance to be so far off kilter it’s all but disappeared from view. And the best way to deal with blogger burnout is to stop it before it begins.
Working for yourself means you also have the luxury of choosing when you can shift gears. And while you might not have a colleague to step up and take over in your stead, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your site will suddenly plunge to the depths of the internet where blogs go to die if you’re not there to constantly push it back up to the surface. The fear of being forgotten is very real, as the blogosphere is awash with ten more blogs to take your place should you quiet down. But the trick is finding the minimum amount of effort you need to spend to keep your hard-earned traffic, and ring in some help along the way.
Step One: Get organised
First thing you need to do is define how long you are going to spend away. I was having a baby, so I planned for three months and had a tentative plan for the fourth. Figure out how many posts would be the minimum to keep your readers interested, and set them into an editorial calendar. There are plenty of ways to do this – use the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin, use software, a downloadable template, your laptop calendar, a real calendar, or you can go old-school like I did and draw a colourful diagram with connector pens.
The next step is to fill those spots with content ideas. There are plenty of things you can write ahead and schedule – I did a mix of non-time-sensitive posts, recipes, tutorials and guest posts. Once you have an idea, then set aside a chunk of time to tackle the posts and have them ready to go. You already have inspiration because you’ve created a list of ideas ahead of time, all you need to do now is flesh them out. Or if you can’t find the time to write a bunch of posts in one go, then commit to writing two posts each time you sit down to write one. Publish one, and schedule the other for a future date. You also might like to re-post earlier content – we all have that one brilliant piece we wrote when we were first starting out, which only two people read. Bring it back out and let it get the love it deserves!
Spend some time either creating your own images for the posts, or searching for stock images. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to write a post once the title and image are sitting there, ready to go. Make a list of what you need and stockpile them, to save time searching for each one as you write your content.
Write a post explaining to your readers what to expect, and when you’ll be back. Most readers are happy to give you some breathing space and pop back when you return. You’re probably also doing them a favour – less posts in their readers mean they get a break from keeping up with the blogosphere’s breakneck pace!
Step Two: Get some help
If there’s too much to do and too little time, then call for reinforcements. Write a post asking for guest posters, outlining your contribution guidelines (it is much easier if they all come in the same format, because uploading 40 different blogging styles can be just as much work as writing the content yourself!), and setting your standards. You might like to include ideal post length, whether or not it needs an image (and be certain that the image they supply complies with copyright law!), and whether they need to write their own bio and supply a head shot. Guest posts are usually better received if you have written a small intro before they begin, and helps keep your voice on your site, which is why your readers read you in the first place. Submissions in HTML format are light-years more easy to deal with than document attachments and separate images, but not everyone is au fait with that.
Reach out to your networks and let them know you’re looking for contributions. Are you a member of blogging groups or organisations? Put the call out on your blog’s Facebook page and other social media accounts. You might like to open it up to up-and-coming bloggers looking for a big break, or you might like to only invite established writers with their own readership. Or you could simply hire professionals.
Judge what mix is best for you and your readers – keep your own content a constant, if you can. While your readers will appreciate you’re taking a break, and enjoy some fresh views, it’s your voice they want to read.
Step Three: Get away
Get right away. You’ve done all you can ahead of time. You’ve automated tweets and Facebook updates using the scheduled post’s permalink, and everything should run smoothly (you hope!) with little or no effort from you. Stepping back and clearing your head does wonders for motivation and creativity – soon you will miss your blog, and have ideas coming out your ears for future content. But until that happens, break up with your blog just a little bit. Get outside and get a life (as Darren says!), so you’ve got some depth to your writing. Don’t even open your laptop if you don’t have to. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, and nobody likes forced writing. When you’ve reignited the passion for blogging, your words will flow better and you’ll create more of a connection with the reader.
If you absolutely can’t bear the idea of totally stepping away, or you don’t need to, then pop up every now and then with a fresh post. You never know when inspiration will strike, and it’s always best to bow down when it does. Keep up your networking and being part of the community with your social media accounts – maybe Instagram your break and the new things you now have time for, to keep your followers in the loop. If you’re troubled by dips in traffic on the days you’re not posting, then invite readers into your archives by tweeting a new old link for them to read.
Nobody likes a burnt-out blogger, and you and your readers both know when stuff’s getting stale. Take a well-earned break and keep the home fires burning so it’s still warm when you get back.
Have you taken a break? I’d love to hear any tips you learned along the way.
Stacey Roberts is the blogger behind Veggie Mama, and when she’s not writing about good food and motherhood, she’s teaching media law at university. Or avoiding the laundry. She’s an Instagram ninja here, on Facebook here and tweets @veggie_mama.