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Content Isn’t King… Here’s What Is!

Over the years I’ve heard many debates in the blogosphere about what is ‘king’.

‘Blogging is King’ was something many argued almost 10 years ago as it began to rise in popularity.

‘Content is King’ was the catch cry for many years… then it became ‘Community is King’ for a while as community management became the big thing.

‘Twitter is King’ was something I heard a number of bloggers crying (as they gave up their blogs to get onto Twitter), ‘Facebook is King’ was the cry a few years later when setting up pages there was the cool thing to do. YouTube was king for a while, and more recently some have argued for Instagram, Pinterest and other social networks being King.

Lately there’s a new ‘king’ every day. Infographics, podcasting, hangouts, webinars, apps… you name it!

The arguments for all of these things being ‘king’ are good… but they all kind of miss the point in my opinion. You see I think something else is king…

Usefulness
Yep – in my books ‘Usefulness is King’.

Creating content is just one way of being useful.

Building community is another.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and G+ are just ways of delivering usefulness.

Infographics, videos, podcasts and even blogging… all just different mediums for being useful.

Over the last decade that I’ve been doing business online a multitude of trends have come and many have gone but those who remain and have build valuable enterprises are those who understand that they’re in the business of being useful.

I’m often asked if I’ll be blogging in 10 years time… if the medium will still exist?

I don’t know the answer to that – blogging may well fall by the wayside at some point (although I don’t see it disappearing any time soon).

What I do know is that usefulness will never die as a strategy for building a business (online or offline).

How to be useful?

So how should we be useful as bloggers and online entrepreneurs?

Ultimately for me it comes down to understanding people’s needs and creating content, community and experiences based upon meeting those needs and solving their problems.

There are many ways to do this.

Here’s a slide from a recent talk I gave to business bloggers which begins to unpack a few ways blogs can be useful (and it scrapes the surface).

How to be useful
My blogs tend to focus most upon ‘education’ and ‘advice’ (with a sprinkle of inspiration and community) but other blogs are equally as useful by taking different approaches.

How Is Your Blog Useful?

So my question today is – ‘is your blog being useful’?

This is something I ask myself semi-regularly as I review what I do. If the answer is no – it’s time to refocus!

Passion – Do You Have It?


Recently on Twitter I was asked for some tips on what sets ‘great’ blogs apart from the rest.

With millions of bloggers creating blog posts every day – how do you stand out?

It’s a big question, and the reality is that there are many ingredients to building a successful blog.

A variety of words came to mind as I struggled to come up with my 140-character guide to ‘standing out’.

I started to list them:

  • Credibility
  • Share Your Opinion
  • Great Writing
  • Ability to Connect
  • Understanding Readers
  • Injecting Personality

As I brainstormed, I realised 140 characters was not going to cut it:

  • Great blog design
  • Tell Stories
  • Use Great Visuals
  • Network with other bloggers
  • Be prolific
  • Be funny
  • Be smart
  • Be first
  • Write great headlines

I started to think of the blogs I love and what makes them stand out:

  • Be Useful
  • Be Entertaining
  • Take note of your readers
  • Have a different spin on things
  • Be Original

The list continued to grow and with it my heart sank a little.

“There’s no one way to stand out…”

But then I had two realizations:

Firstly – I love that there’s no one way to stand out! There are no rules. There is no blueprint – and that’s what is so simultaneously exciting and frustrating about blogging.

That’s why I love what I do. Constant experimentation, learning, testing and trying new things.

The second thing I realised is that there actually was a common feature about all of the blogs that came to mind as ‘stand out’ blogs.

Passion

There are plenty of bloggers that do the things in the lists above. There are bloggers sharing opinions, writing well, with a heart to connect, with great personalities…. bloggers who are smart, funny, prolific, original, entertaining and bundles of wonderful!

But something that seems present and that shines through in the blogs that I read and love is passion.

They are created by people with passion for the topics being covered, passion for the process of creating content, passion for their readers, passion for learning, and passion for pushing the boundaries of thinking and creating.

They love… they enthuse… they delight in what they do. By doing so they somehow draw others into their passion too, which is where the real magic seems to happen.

This isn’t to say that passion is the only ingredient needed for success – but maybe… just perhaps… it’s what binds it all together and helps a blog just click.

Are you passionate about your blog?

Happy Valentine’s Day.

What My Wife Has Taught Me About Blogging After Just 3 Months

Next week marks the 3 month anniversary of Vanessa (my wife) starting her first blog at Style and Shenanigans.

It’s been a fascinating process to watch her plan, launch and grow her blog.

Some might imagine that being married to ‘the ProBlogger’ means she’s constantly being told what to do and being given secret tips and advice – however I’ve been remarkably restrained in my involvement and very impressed by what she’s intuitively built already.

While she’s not got a huge readership – it continues to grow and it has already opened up some pretty cool opportunities for her.

In fact having watched her over these last 3 months I have been somewhat inspired and learned a lot and in this post want to share some of the things I think she’s done well that have helped her to grow her blog’s traffic and profile already.

My hope is that in doing so it’ll help others at the beginning of their blogging journey to get their blogs rolling.

1. Focus Upon Community Management

Perhaps the #1 thing that I’ve been impressed with so far is Vanessa’s commitment to engaging with her readership.

This has shone through in a number of ways including:

  • writing in an engaging style – most of her posts end with a question that invites comment
  • every comment on the blog is responded to
  • every comment on her Facebook Page is responded to
  • every incoming Tweet to our Twitter account is responded to

This is partly just who Vanessa is (she’s very engaging and inclusive in real life) but was something that probably stretched her a little too. I remember in the early days when she would get comments from people she didn’t know for the first few times it was certainly a bizarre feeling for her to engage with them – but she’s fully into the swing of things now!

Interestingly she’s now well and truly passed the tipping point of having more ‘strangers’ reading her blog and following her on Facebook and Twitter than she has ‘real life’ friends.

2. Personal/Personality Driven Content

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 8.15.43 pmI wrote a few weeks ago about Vanessa’s first foray into including a few ‘selfies’ on the blog. These more personal ‘Everyday Style’ posts have continued and have been received well (they’ve been the most commented posts on the site). In fact her ‘Everyday Style’ series of posts have become something she’s become well known for of late.

Other experiments with a more personal style of content included a post about a dinner party we threw for a few friends and a couple of posts about a short trip we took.

And then there’s Facebook…. this for me has been one of the most fascinating parts of the journey because her blog Facebook Page has gone ‘off topic’ and into a more personal space than I would have predicted.

There are certainly the predictable updates that are links to new posts on the blog – but mixed in are plenty of slightly more personal updates. Photos from things she’s doing, questions, funny family moments, personal quick tips and random off topic humorous posts.

The result is that she’s got a page with pretty high engagement – in fact if I had the engagement she had on my pages relative to how many people were ‘liking’ my pages I’ve be over the moon!

3. Helpful Content

The other key thing that I think is going to work in Vanessa’s favour is that the bulk of her content on the blog is ‘helpful’ and solves problems for readers.

V is what Malcom Gladwell would describe a ‘Maven’. She is a gatherer of information, a watcher of trends and LOVES sharing what she finds. She’s been doing this on the topic of style in her friendship circles since before I met her and her blog is an extension of that.

The bulk of her content reflects that and is basically her curated collections of different themes of fashion and home wares.

Her typical posts feature a collection of suggested products on a colour style or brand theme and the comments I see on them are often people saying thanks for the suggestions.

Also of interest to me is that I’m starting to see readers leave messages asking for advice on particular areas based upon her posts.

4. Understanding the Audience

Her 7am post - got decent engagement.

Her 7am post – got decent engagement.

This morning Vanessa was posting an update to Facebook at 7am and I suggested that it might be a bit too early in the morning for her readers to be checking Facebook.

She responded that it was one of her best times of day and that when she posted that early she often got a lot of responses by 8am as people checked their phones over breakfast.

I had my doubts but as I ate my porridge I watched the comments come in on Facebook and the blog and realised she had her finger on the rhythms of her readership perfectly.

Also of interest is that she’s already noticed that some days of the week seem to get more comments on posts than others and that certain types of Facebook updates at certain times of the day get more interaction.

This is golden information!

5. Getting OFF her Blog

I’m always talking here on ProBlogger about how important it is to ‘get off your blog’ if you want to grow traffic and to monetise your blog.

Vanessa has intuitively started to do this without much prompting at all.

It is a challenge – she’s a busy person with 3 active boys (two home during the day), working a day a week, involved in a variety of community activities etc – but she’s going beyond just writing content and responding to comments.

This has happened in a variety of ways including:

  • when she’s mentioned brands or other sites in her posts she lets them know (this has already led to one brand suggesting that they might like to work with her and others linking up to her blog!)
  • reading and engaging on other relevant sites/Facebook pages
  • involvement in a small Facebook group for other bloggers in her niche
  • responding to opportunities that other bloggers and media have already offered her to guest post on them

By no means is it easy to get everything done (and there will always be more that you can do) but I’m always amazed at what happens when you push open doors and get active about engaging off your blog with others.

The key lesson here is to not just build a great blog and expect good things to happen to you. You need to take some initiative and get off your blog to see those good things come into being!

6. Involving Others

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 8.22.52 pmIt was several years after I started blogging that I even considered the possibility of other people writing content on my blogs. That’s not the case for Vanessa.

Just 3 months in she’s already had two guest posts. Both have been submitted by the one person – a good family friend – but both posts have added something to the blog that V couldn’t have written herself.

The key is that she’s found someone who writes in a similar voice and that the posts have complemented existing content on the blog (for example this post from Mandy on toys for Girls was a follow up to one V wrote on toys for boys).

7. Visuals and Creating Content for Social

CR-CollageA couple of weeks ago I shared some great image creation tools that I use to create visual content for my blogs. Vanessa is also a convert to PicMonkey and Canva and a regular feature of her posts are collages of the products that she’s talking about.

I suspect that the visual element of her blogging will only evolve in time but these simple collages have been really popular with readers and I think are a big part of the reason that her Facebook Page has had great engagement.

Visual content is gold – particularly on social!!!

Lots More to Learn

By no means am I suggesting that Vanessa has arrived or is a poster child of blogging. She has a lot more to learn (as do I). I just have loved watching her growth and development in these early months.

What did you learn about blogging in the first few months that has stuck with you ever since?

5 First Year Posts that Led to Over 6 Million Views

What sort of content should you publish on your blog to help you grow traffic in your first year?

There is no right or wrong answer to that question as each blog will be different depending upon the topic, your writing style and the purpose of your blog. However, I thought it might be fun to look back at some of the earliest posts that I wrote on Digital Photography School and talk a little about how each contributed to the growth of the site.

What follows is a selection of posts that I published in the first year of Digital Photography School (back in 2007) and some reflections on how I think they helped grow readership on the site.

5 Posts on dPS that Helped Me Grow Traffic

Note: what you’re seeing here is how the posts look today. We’ve been through 3 redesigns in that time.

1. 15 Stunning Images Using Blur to Portray Movement

Early posts on dps

This post was the most viewed post on dPS in the first year (in that 12 month period it had 183,269 visitors). It was published about 8 months after the site launched and was one of the first times I experimented with what I later started to call ‘image collections’.

This style of post was a move away from the normal ‘tutorial’ type of posts that I did. While the majority of the posts on dPS were ‘information’ heavy this post was almost completely images (a series of 15 of them) and it highlighted the importance for me of ‘inspiration’.

One thing I’m glad I did in this post was to link it back to a previously written ‘tutorial’ that I’d written on the same topic (which I did in the first paragraph). This led to some decent traffic to that ‘information’ heavy post.

This post was something of a slow burner in terms of traffic. It wasn’t until 4 weeks after I published it that it suddenly saw a rush of traffic from StumbleUpon and Reddit (peaking at 27,000 visitors in a day).

Two years after I published this post I gave it an update and reposted it to the front page of the site. This resulted in another great spike in traffic to the post as at that time it was featured on the front page of Digg (bringing in 24,000+ visitors in a day).

In 2010, the post again had a spike of 15,000+ visitors in a day after being linked to from another large site.

This post has continued to get traffic every day. It’s not spectacular daily traffic (it has averaged 100 or so visitors per day over the last month) but when you think about the long tail life of this post it adds up. The post has been viewed 786,547 times since being published.

2. 4 Easy Photoshop Techniques to Make Your Pictures Pop!

Early posts on dps 2

This very early post (published 20 days after the launch of the site) was the one that opened my eyes to the potential of the site on a couple of levels.

Firstly, it was the first time the site saw a post go viral from any kind of social media after it was featured on the front page of Digg (which brought in 45,000+ visitors in a day and crashed our servers).

Secondly, the post was the first time I’d ever published a guest post. In the first year I did only publish a handful of guest posts and wrote 99% of them myself but this did change my opinion of the featuring other people’s voices on my blog.

Thirdly, this was the first ever post that we’d done on the topic of ‘post production’. Up until this point I’d always just published posts that were how to ‘take’ photos rather than how to manipulate and process them in photoshop. Later I went on to add a post production section to the site.

What is interesting to me about this post is that while it is now dated (as there are new versions of Photoshop out and new tools available to photographers) it still continues to get decent traffic. The post still regularly gets 200 visitors a day and has had over 1.7 million page views now despite me never really promoting it since the early days of the site (it’s almost all Google traffic).

3. 11 Surefire Tips for Improving Your Landscape Photography

Early posts on dps 3

This post is written in a style that has always been popular on dPS – the ‘list post’.

As the title suggests there are 11 tips in the post listed. Each point is 2-3 paragraphs long and then most link deeper into the site to other articles that go deeper on those topics. As a result a reader can get a good introduction to the topic but are encouraged to read more of the archives.

Scattered through the post are also great illustrative images for the points mentioned.

In later years I’ve included larger images and more of them – but this was an early version of this style of post.

This post did particularly well on StumbleUpon in the first year after it was published and saw around 148,000 visitors come to the site in that 12 months (half of which came from StumbleUpon).

Interestingly I noticed that as a result of StumbleUpon traffic (and a day that it did well on Reddit) we then saw a number of other larger blogs link to up to the post.

Lastly – for years I have used this post as a piece of ‘cornerstone’ content on the blog and have often linked to it when I mention Landscape Photography in other posts. By linking back to it so many times I was always driving traffic to this post in those early years.

Since it was published the post has been viewed over 1.3 million times – approaching 10 times more traffic than it got in its first year after publication!

This to me highlights the importance of extending the life of posts in your archives by pushing traffic back to them over time.

4. How to Photograph Fireworks

Early posts on dps 4

There are no prizes for guessing what time of year this post went live – that’s right – in the lead up to 4 July 2007 (about 6 months after the site launched). I actually published the post on 26 June to allow it to have time to be indexed by Google.

My theory was that there would be a lot of people searching for tips on how to photograph fireworks at that time, and I was right.

This post saw only a bit of traffic in its first week but on 4th July it saw 32,000+ visitors – almost all of which came in from Google.

I’ve updated this post and republished it on the front page of the site every July since 2007. It is the post that just keeps on giving. Here’s a screen shot of traffic to the site – with spikes every 4th July and New Years Eve.

Fireworks seasonal traffic

To this date the post has been viewed just under 1.5 million times.

The key lesson to me from this post was to consider when you can write seasonal content. We’ve done this a variety of times with Christmas Photography Tips and Halloween Photography Tips posts doing pretty well too.

5. ISO Settings in Digital Photography

Early posts on dps 5

All of the posts linked to above have had spectacular days of traffic but this post was quite unmemorable in many ways.

It was on a very beginner topic. I even remember wondering whether I should publish information this basic in those early days. It was a relatively short post on a niche topic that was a part of a series where I looked at the topic of Exposure and covered ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture.

Traffic to the post in the first year never rose above 800 visitors in a day and averaged only 150 per day.

But here’s the thing… this post is one of the most viewed posts I’ve ever written and has been viewed just under 2.4 million times since I published it.

You might be wondering when it featured on the front page of Digg or was linked to by a major blog… but the reality is that it never had a day of traffic over 5000 visitors (and that was just once). Here’s the traffic graph since the early days:

ISO

Where did the traffic come from? The vast majority of it was from search engines. Facebook is the next highest referrer of traffic and it only sent 17,927 views.

This is another example of a ‘cornerstone’ piece of content that must have linked to hundreds of times from other articles on the site when I mention the term ISO. I did this the same with the Shutter Speed and Aperture posts in this series (incidentally this 4 post series has had close to 6 million page views – I’m glad I wrote it).

The key lesson here is that even the most simple concepts are worth writing about. You might think a concept is too basic but there’s no doubt that others will want that information (another example of this was my ‘How to Hold a Camera‘ post that I almost didn’t publish but which has been viewed almost 600,000 times).

The other key lesson is that growing traffic to your blog is not always about trying to write shareable content that might go viral. This post is just a simple article that attempts to serve my readers. It wasn’t written with growing traffic in mind – rather it was written to serve my current readers.

I do believe that it is wise to write some of your content with ‘finding new readers’ in mind – but the majority of your posts should focus upon serving the readers you already have.

What Posts Did You Write in Your First Year that Helped You Grow Your Blog?

I have really enjoyed creating this post and have actually gotten some great idea for future posts on dPS from doing this analysis of old posts on the site.

I’d encourage you to dig into your own stats and see what you notice about your old posts that have gone well – I’d also love to hear about them in comments below!

Don’t Fall Into This Trap That Could Destroy Your Blog

NewImageLast week I spent time with a young blogger who was completely stalled with her blog (for the purpose of this post I’ll call her Sally).

Sally’s blogging had started with a bang and had put together 3 great months of content and had started to build a readership but then it suddenly all came to a halt.

I arranged to catch up for coffee to see what had happened and see if there was a way to get her moving again and she told me a story that I’m sure many readers will find familiar.

Paralysed by Comparisons

The reason Sally started blogging was that she had been a reader of another reasonably well known blogger. She had been so inspired by this established blogger that she simply had to start her own blog – which she did.

The problem that brought Sally’s blog to a grinding halt started a few weeks after her blog began when Sally began to compare her fledgling blog with her hero’s blog.

It started innocently enough with her noticing that this others blogger’s design just seemed to flow much better than Sally’s. However in the coming days and weeks Sally started to compare other things too.

Her hero seemed to blog with more confidence, she got more comments, she had a larger Twitter following, she was more active on Pinterest, she was getting some great brands advertise on her blog, she was invited to cool events…

Once Sally started comparing she couldn’t stop. She told me that she would sit down to work on her blog and end up on her hero’s blog and social media accounts – for hours on end – comparing what they were doing.

On one hand Sally knew it wasn’t a fair comparison – she had only been blogging by this stage for a couple of months and her hero had been blogging for over 4 years… but logic was clouded out by jealousy and Sally found her blogging beginning to stall.

She started second guessing herself. She would work for days on blog posts – hoping to perfect them to the standard of her hero only to get to the point of publishing them and trashing them instead for fear of them not being up to scratch.

Days would go by between posts and then weeks. Sally’s blog began to stall… and then it died completely.

The Comparison Trap

Sally isn’t the only blogger to fall into the trap of comparing oneself with others – in fact I’ve heard this story (or variations of it) numerous times. If I’m honest, it’s something that at times I’ve struggled with too.

I remember in the early days of my own blogging comparing my style of writing with other bloggers that I admired who wrote in a much more academic, heavy style of writing. I tried to emulate this over and over again and never felt I hit the benchmark that they set.

The temptation was to give up – but luckily I found my more informal and conversational voice through experimentation and persistance.

Comparing Is Never Fair

As I chatted with Sally last week a theme emerged in our conversation – the comparisons were simply not fair.

Sally knew this on some levels but needed to hear it again.

Her hero had been blogging for years. Sally had been blogging for months.

Not only that – Sally was comparing herself to tiny snapshots of this other blogger.

She could see her hero’s Twitter follower numbers, how many comments she was getting, how many times she Pinned on Pinterest and the instagram photos of this blogger at glamorous events – but she didn’t really have the full picture of this other blogger.

She didn’t know how many hours that blogger worked, she didn’t know whether that other blogger had people working for her, she didn’t know if that other blogger was actually happy with her blog or life and she certainly didn’t see the instagrams of that other bloggers boring, dull or hard moments of life.

I’m not saying the other blogger is hiding anything or doing anything wrong – just that the comparisons Sally was making were of everything Sally knew about herself (and her insecurities) with tiny edited snapshots of the life and work another person.

Run You Own Race

Sally is a remarkable person. I’d love to tell you her real name and story because she’s overcome some amazing things in her life, has some unique perspectives to share and has an inspirational story to tell.

My encouragement to Sally (and to us all) is run her own race. Yes she’s running beside others that at times seem to be running faster or with more flare… but nobody else around her has her unique personality, set of experiences or skills.

Nobody else can blog like Sally – so the sooner she gets comfy in her own skin the better.

Attend the ProBlogger Training Event Virtually

Are you looking for a little inspiration and guidance in your blogging as you head into the rest of 2013? The Problogger Training Event Virtual Pass could be just what you need.

In March this year when I announced the 2013 ProBlogger Event I did so quite nervously because we’d book a venue with 450 seats (up from 300 the previous year) in a new location.

I need not have been nervous – we sold 200 early bird seats in a matter of minutes and the remaining tickets to the Gold Coast (Australia) event sold out two months ago.

Since selling out I’ve had daily emails from people from around the world asking if there was a way that they could attend physically or get access to the training with some kind of a virtual pass.

Today I’m pleased to announce you can attend with the ProBlogger Training Event Virtual Pass. You can find out more about it here or pick up yours by clicking the button below.

What is the ProBlogger Training Event?

#PBEVENT (as it’s referred to by many) is held on the Gold Coast (Queensland, Australia) on 13-14 September. It is an event that is designed from the ground up to equip and inspire bloggers to build profitable blogs.

We fly in speakers from around the globe like Trey Ratcliff, Tsh Oxenreider and Amy Porterfield and add in some other great Aussie speakers like Shayne Tilley, Pip Lincolne and myself (see the full speaker list here) and then run 2 pretty intense days of training.

This year we’ve got 31 sessions planned (we run 3 streams at once during most of the days) on topics including:

  • Monetization Where to Start
  • Designing Your Blog
  • Blogging and Creativity
  • Creating Your First eBook
  • Launching a Speaking Career off Your Blog
  • How to Sell Stuff from Your Blog
  • Blogging for Beginners
  • Facebook Marketing
  • SEO for WordPress
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Building Community on Your Blog
  • How to Create Your Own Products to Sell
  • Video Creation on a Shoe String
  • DIY PR to Grow Your Blog and Brand
  • Creating a Professional Media Kit
  • Google Analytics for Bloggers
  • Growing Your Social Media Network

That’s just some of it! See the full schedule here.

What is the Virtual Pass?

Our Virtual Pass is designed to be the closest possible thing to actually being there live at this sold out event.

It gives you access to:

  • Over 30 hours of teaching about building a profitable blog. You get audio recordings of all 31 sessions of training (keynotes, workshops and Q&A lounge sessions). These recordings are yours to keep and listen to as many times as you like
  • Access to an exclusive one hour webinar after PBEVENT with the amazing Jonathan Fields
  • View all slides used in sessions at the live event (yours to keep).
  • Participate in a live and exclusive webinar with myself after the event for a post-event Q&A (and get access to the recording to listen to later)
  • A stunning, visual live social media feed, aggregating all Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ posts and more from live attendees and virtual participants in one place.

Audio files and slides will be available shortly after each session happens at the event on 13-14 September and will be yours to keep forever.

Grab Your Virtual Pass Today

Normally a package of teaching like this would be sold for upwards of $500 but thanks to our friends at Yellow Pages our Virtual Pass is available for you to purchase right now for the price of $249.99 USD. That’s just on $8 per session (plus you get access to the two webinars).

So don’t delay – take advantage of this special price and Pick Up Your Pass here.

9 Ways to Keep You Fresh, Inspired and Creative

Image by Rares Dutu

How do you keep yourself fresh, inspired and creative as a blogger?

I was asked variations of this question three times this week, so thought I’d put my mind to giving a public answer.

There are certainly times when I don’t feel overly ‘fresh’, ‘inspired’ or ‘creative’. However, I guess over the last 10 years of blogging I’ve begun to develop some rhythms and habits that enable me to keep consistently create content on a daily basis.

One of the things that I’ve intuitively done over the last few years is to put aside time each week for activities that help me keep fresh. These activities aren’t specific to blogging and I suspect they might be helpful for people working in many kinds of jobs – particularly those where you need to develop ideas and be creative.

Here’s a quick summary of the types of activities I try to include in my life each week:

1. Inspiration

When I’m not inspired, I find it very difficult to be creative or generate ideas.So every week, I try to build in moments to get in touch with my dreams. I put myself in places where I’m likely to be inspired. This includes everything from spending time with inspirational people, watching inspirational videos (I’m a TED addict), attending inspirational events, watching great movies and reading inspiring books.

2. Preparation

If I’m working on a big project (like a mega blog post, a presentation, or an eBook) I quite often feel quite overwhelmed with the process.

I find I can take some of the pressure off by setting aside ‘preparation’ time for the task of creating the project. I set aside time to research, read on the topic, talk to others and plan out how to go about getting the project done. This might sound a little like procrastination but I find by setting aside time for ‘preparation’, the quality of what I actually ‘create’ (next step) is much higher.

3. Creation

Each week I put aside significant time to ‘create’. For me, the creation is largely around creating content (blog posts, videos, eBooks, presentations) and because of the publication schedule I’m on creation needs to happen on a daily basis. I publish three blog posts per day across my blogs and I need to keep that schedule up.

For me, creation time is usually in the mornings. My Golden Hours are from 9-11am which is a time I protect from intrusions.

4. Completion

A few years ago, I went through a stage of creating a lot of content that would then sit unfinished for weeks, even months. I would get distracted by new things or lose inspiration along the way.

So I’ve started to build time to ‘complete’ into my week and I tackled the things that fall into this category. I often do these ‘completing’ tasks in the afternoons or evenings.

5. Interaction

I’m an introvert. I love people but they suck energy out of me so I naturally feel drawn to spending time alone. This works quite well for me as a blogger as I don’t need to be around people to blog.

However… while being around people takes energy from me I know that there are many benefits of spending time with other people. Sometimes my best ideas emerge in conversation and to grow my business, I’ve needed to bring in others to complement my skills and help me scale. Every Friday, I work in a friend’s office (it’s more of a man cave). Three to four of us (mainly people who are in my team) work side by side on that day. We spend some time working together in a meeting, but also time working on our own projects.

I love these days and often find amazing ideas flow out of them!

6. Mindless Activity

I recently asked my Twitter followers where they get their best ideas. I was amazed how many people said two things – ‘in the shower’ and ‘while walking/exercising’. I’m exactly the same.

I often get light bulb moments while I’m doing some kind of mindless activity. For me, it can be while I walk, shower or weed the garden! I noticed this several years ago so decided to punctuate each day with mindless activities. Most days, I take 15 minute walks 2-3 times a day. I also moved my shower from first thing in the morning to mid-morning.

I don’t schedule these activities for specific times each day but rather once I end something I’m working on, I will just do them then before jumping into the next activity.

7. Play

This one has a little overlap with some of the other activities. I like to set aside a little time each day to ‘play’. By play I mean numerous things including playing with ideas and problems (I journal, mind map and daydream) and playing with my kids (I often find doing lego or doing something creative with my boys stimulates ideas but is also fun time with the kids). I’d also slip photography into this category too.

Having a creative outlet that is not about creating something for the blog gives me a lot of energy.

8. Rest

Five years ago I was proud to say that I worked 60-70 hours a week on my blogging. While I often spoke about work/life balance, I was enjoying my work and so I worked hard – too hard. Unfortunately, I was setting myself up for a fall and came to a point where my heath suffered as I began to suffer from blogger burnout.

These days I not only teach work/life balance but practice it. I take more regular vacations, rarely work on the weekends and schedule a couple of hours off every Wednesday afternoon. I still work hard but I also prioritise rest and I see the positive impact it has upon my blogging (and life).

9. Self Improvement

Lastly, each week I attempt to do something that is not so much about creating content or improves my business but which improves me in some way.

Often we look at the early years of our life when we attend school or university as the ‘educational’ period of our life but I’ve found that if I’m not learning, not stretching myself or not working on doing something to improve skills or knowledge then I often become stagnant. As a result I like to take on mini-projects to work on who I am.

These might range from the fun, I recently took a Thai Cooking class, through to more serious and related to my work like reading a book, taking a course or attending a conference related to my work.

I’d love to know, what do you do to keep yourself fresh, inspired and creative?

Lost Your Blogging Groove? Kickstart it with this 2 for 1 Deal on ProBlogger eBooks

Can you believe that it’s almost the middle of 2013 already?

If you’re anything like me you started out this year with big dreams and intentions to deliver on some signficant goals with your blog.

However along the way to reaching ones goals often comes a lot of distractions and challenges to get you off track. Sound familiar?

If so – you’re not alone. A mid year slump is common with many bloggers!

Today I’d like to offer ProBlogger readers an opportunity that might help get your blogging back on track for the rest of 2013.

For the next 7 days we’re offering a 2 for 1 deal on ProBlogger eBooks.

Buy any ProBlogger eBook this week and you can choose another one that is of the same value or less for free – saving up to 50%!

There are 6 eBooks to choose from so the combinations of eBooks that you can pick up are many. For example:

  • if you’re a new blogger (or are about to start) – you might like to get our ‘Guide to Your First Week of Blogging‘ as well as ‘31 Days to Build a Better Blog‘.
  • if you’ve been blogging for a while but have stalled you might prefer ‘31 Days to Build a Better Blog‘ combined with our productivity guide ‘Blog Wise‘.
  • if you’re looking to learn about monetizing blogs check out our ‘Guide to Online Marketing‘ and ‘Blogging for your Business‘.

Choose your eBooks here.

But don’t delay, this offer ends in just 7 days from now.

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!