Is it Possible to Earn a Full Time Salary as a Part Time Blogger?

“Is it possible to earn a full-time salary as a part-time blogger? (eg, if you’re student)”

This question has been voted up quite high in my Q&A sidebar widget so I thought I’d attempt an answer today.

It’s one of those questions with two answers:

Yes…. and…. No

Let’s unpack both (and I’d encourage you to read both as they bring balance to the question).

Yes it is POSSIBLE to earn a full-time salary as a part-time blogger

Part of me wants to simply answer this question with a ‘no’ answer and give a long list of answers why it’s not possible (because to answer ‘yes’ will mean some will accuse me of painting an unrealistic picture of blogging for money). However I have met a number of bloggers who make a good living from blogging as part time bloggers (in writing this I don’t have permission to share their stories so I’ll keep this fairly general).

However in every case there are a few observations I’d make about these bloggers. They usually had all of the following characteristics (or at least a few of them):

1. They worked hard – they might not have put full time hours (40 or so hours a week) into their blogging but they certainly did work quite a few hours and worked hard in those hours. Many of them did work full time on their blogs at certain times (summer holidays etc).

2. They were very good at what they did – they had an exceptional knack of being able to write engaging content, build networks and build community on their blogs.

3. They had an element of ‘luck’ to their story – I am thinking of a couple of bloggers particularly who really found themselves in the right place at the right time when they started their blogs.

4. They were able to draw others in to help – one way to overcome an inability to work full time hours is to draw others into your blog to help shoulder some of the load.

5. They made money indirectly ‘because’ of their blog and not just directly ‘from’ their blog – interestingly a number of the bloggers I’m thinking of have developed products (e-books and courses) of their own that they sell from their blog (and other people’s blogs). This means they are not just building a revenue from advertising but have a secondary source of income.

6. They USED to work full time as a blogger – one blogger that I’m thinking about now works about 20 hours a week blogging and make a very good living from his blog – but only because he used to work full time. ie he built up his blog to a point where it really was earning good income which then enabled him to scale back a little and coast a bit (he also hired someone to help him – see point #4).

No it’s not LIKELY that you’ll make a full-time salary from blogging part time

It is possible to make a full time living from blogging part time – but the sad reality is that the bloggers I’m thinking of are not in the majority.

Most bloggers who do get to a level of earning a full time living from their blogs are working full time hours (or above) on their blogs. And even then many that are working full time hours are not able to make a full time living from blogging (time is just one element of many factors that build a successful blog).

When I’m talking to new bloggers wanting to explore blogging as a way of making money I generally encourage them to see it as something to supplement their existing income.

Yes it is possible to make a full time living from the medium but the reality is that most never get to this point. Sure – have it as a goal, but set yourself smaller goals in terms of your earnings and see it as something that progresses over time as you invest more time into blogging.

If you’d like to see a progression of how this unfolded for me I’d encourage you to read my story of becoming a Pro Blogger. It it you’ll see that I gradually stepped up my time put into blogging – but only as the earnings I was receiving allowed me to.

PS: Are You a Part Time Blogger Earning Full Time Income?

If you’re one of those bloggers that I mention in this post that are able to pull in a full time income from blogging part time I’m sure my readers would love to hear from you and learn from some of your wisdom. Feel free to share your own experiences (either with your URL as an example or anonymously if you’re not wanting to go public) – looking forward to your own lessons.

12 Tools and Techniques for Building Relationships with Other Bloggers

building-relationships-bloggers.jpgImage by Michael Sarver

A recent question asked in the Q&A widget was from a reader asking me to write about:

“How to go about building relationships with other bloggers?”

Building relationships with other bloggers is an important aspect of blogging. I see it as crucial for a number of reasons:

  • Finding Readers – one of the best ways to grow your readership is to have another blogger recommend that their readers check out something that you’ve written.
  • Learning Your Craft – as I look back on what I’ve learned about blogging over the last five years I would credit other bloggers as teaching me a good proportion of it. The more you interact with bloggers the more you’ll learn about building a better blog.
  • Accountability and Advice – at times blogging can be a fairly isolating task and it’s easy to get off track or become deluded (either by your ego getting out of control or by becoming depressed about some aspect of what you do). Having other bloggers around you that you give permission to keep you grounded and to lift you up when you’re despondent is important at keeping yourself balanced.
  • Friendship – blogging can be a lonely business. Having other bloggers around you who know the ins and outs, the pressures and the quirks and the highs and the lows makes the whole thing a lot more enjoyable.
  • Sharing of Skills – I’ve never met a blogger who knows everything about their niche or about how to blog (I’ve met a couple who think they do) – the reality is that we all have gaps in our knowledge and skills so to have others around us that might complement what we have can add a new dimension to a blog. As I remember the early years of my own blogging I’m struck by how much ‘trading’ of skills we all did for one another. One blogger would do a design for another one, in return they’d get some guest posts or advice on ad optimization etc.

So HOW should a blogger approach this important task of building relationships with other bloggers?

There are a large number of tasks that networking and building relationships with other bloggers can involve. I’ll list some of them below but before I do I think it’s worth saying that some will fit with some bloggers more than others.

We all make friends differently in ‘real life’ and I suspect will do best when we approach blogger networking in our own way and bringing our own personality to the task.

12 Blogger Networking Techniques and Tools:

  1. Commenting on Other’s Blogs – basic but effective, but only when you add value with your comments.
  2. Emailing Other Bloggers – once again, this works best if you add value in some way. Don’t just email to say hi, email to contribute something, give some advice, offer to help etc
  3. Guest Posts – one way that can make an impression on another blogger is to offer to make a post. This particularly makes an impression when they need it most (when they are sick, have a vacation coming up, have some crisis). Keep an eye out for these times and be prepared to do what you can to assist.
  4. Story Tips – if a story breaks in your niche – email other bloggers to let them know.
  5. Link Out – linking to a competitors blog could seem like a crazy thing to do but it can make a real impression and show other bloggers your willingness to interact.
  6. Instant Messaging – interaction via IM can really take a relationship to a new level as it’s real time and personal.
  7. Social Networking – this should be a no brainer – social networking tools are exist with the purpose of connecting people. The key is to pick social networking tools that fit for you and your niche and focus on those. For example if other bloggers in your niche are interacting on Twitter – join it, if there’s a lot of activity on Facebook, go there – if LinkedIn is more relevant to your niche interact there!
  8. Social Bookmarking – one of the best ways to get on the radar of another blogger is to be responsible for sending them a huge wave of traffic. While most of us can’t do this from our small blogs – we can submit other bloggers sites to social media sites like Digg and StumbleUpon. Instead of spending your day working on campaigns to build your own votes on these sites why not do it for another blogger?
  9. Interviews – there’s nothing more flattering than having someone email you with a request to interview you and then to have them go to the trouble of thinking up interesting questions that show they’ve taken time to research the interview. Interviews can be good content for your blog but I think the real benefit of them is that they put you into a conversation with the person you’re interviewing and can be a springboard into relationship!
  10. Forums and Discussion Groups – forums are one place that a lot of niche bloggers lurk. Engage genuinely in these spaces and you never know who you’ll end up connecting with. The building of relationships is one thing that I see emerging in the ProBlogger Room on FriendFeed.
  11. Pick up the Phone/Skype it – while IM can be good at making your interactions more conversation like – voice to voice interactions take it a step further. Of course be a little careful with a cold-call – I’d recommend working up to a voice call with some emails etc as some are better on the phone than others with strangers.
  12. Real Life Networking Events – one of the best ways of building relationships with bloggers is to meet face to face. A lot can be achieved without actually meeting (at b5media none of the founders had met until a year into our business and after we’d secured VC funding) but meeting another blogger has a way of cementing a relationship that is quite special.


Knowing about and using the above tools and techniques are not enough on their own. Each of them can be used both to build fruitful relationships with other bloggers and to hurt your relationships. Many of the above techniques when used in an overbearing way can come across as spam – proceed with caution!

Tomorrow I want to expand upon this topic and share with you 17 principles of building relationships with bloggers that I think will put these tools and techniques into a context where they can be used well.

12 Traits of Successful Bloggers

traits successful bloggers

I was just doing an interview on an Aussie radio station and was asked to name some traits of successful bloggers. My initial reaction was to giggle – because no two successful bloggers are the same – however as I began to answer I realized that there are some common traits among bloggers who gain popularity. Here’s a list, presented in no particular order, of some of the traits of successful bloggers that I observe:

1. Creative and Playful

PlayfulnessOne of the things I love about blogging is that it can be a very playful space. Bloggers who find new ways to communicate old truths and that have the ability to surprise their readers with fresh perspectives and means of communication often find themselves on a fast track to a wide readership. Also, in the midst of ‘playful’ experimentation new discoveries come that help a blogger to develop in maturity and influence in their niche.

Image by Yelnoc

“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” – Edward de Bono

2. Innovative

InnovationOften ‘innovative’ is used to describe a blogger’s use of technology – but it goes well beyond this. Innovative bloggers are those that are able to extend and explore their topic in ways that others are not. They are thought leaders and forge into new ground not only in the way that they present in what they say.

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs

3. Connectors

ConnectedMost successful bloggers that I’ve interacted with have an insatiable desire to connect with as many people as they can. They have an ability to connect not only with their readers but other bloggers and key people in both the online and offline world. Their networks are often far reaching – enabling them to draw on all kinds of relationships when needed.

“It’s not what you know but who you know that makes the difference.” – Anonymous

4. Community Enablers

CommunityThere are many blogs with great information – but it’s those that are able to draw in and build up a community of passionate and energetic people that often go to the next level. Readers are no longer satisfied just to consume content – they want to participate and belong online. Successful bloggers don’t always actively participate in or lead the community aspect of their blogs but they do have an ability to attract other community builders and to empower them to build a community around the content on the blog.

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” – Jane Howard

5. Information Mavens

MavenSuccessful bloggers are often quite addicted to the gathering of information. What sets them apart from other information gatherers is their ability to filter the vast quantities of information that they collect and to identify and communicate that which applies to others.

Image by dsevilla

“What sets Mavens apart, though, is not so much what they know but how they pass it along. The fact that Mavens want to help, for no other reason than because they like to help, turns out to be an awfully effective way of getting someone’s attention.” Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point).

6. Communicators

CommunicatorSome might think that this point is all about bloggers having the ability to write well – but that is only part of being a good communicator. Successful bloggers have a knack of knowing connecting with readers that goes beyond the way they use words. Good communication has more to do with knowing your audience and connecting with their needs and desires. Successful bloggers have the ability to trigger some sort of response in their reader.

“The two words ‘Information’ and ‘Communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” – Sydney J. Harris

7. Interest

InterestedBloggers know how to be interesting – but being interesting starts with being interested. Most successful bloggers that I’ve met would blog on their chosen topic for free – because they have some kind of passion or interest in it themselves. This energy that they have for their topic shines through and is infectious to others. It’s one of the main reasons that readers are drawn to them.

“There are two levers for moving men: interest and fear.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

8. Entrepreneurs

EntrepreneurSuccessful bloggers are always on the look out for opportunities to go to the next level. They leverage what they currently have to grow something more. They don’t just rely upon others to make their dreams a reality but are self starters and ‘doers’ that go and get what they want.

“The entrepreneur in us sees opportunities everywhere we look, but many people see only problems everywhere they look. The entrepreneur in us is more concerned with discriminating between opportunities than he or she is with failing to see the opportunities.” – Michael Gerber

9. Originality

OriginalityIt is difficult to be unique in the blogging space but successful bloggers find ways to make what they do stand out from the crowd. They develop a distinct voice, use media in different ways and develop their own unique spin on life that sets them apart from the rest.

“Eveyone is a genius at least once a year. A real genius has his original ideas closer together.” – Georg C. Lichtenberg

10. Perseverance

StickabilitySuccessful bloggers know that it takes time to grow a blog and look past those initial awkward months (and longer) after a blog is launched to motivate them to persevere. They do know when to give up when something isn’t working but also have an ability to develop their blog’s with focus and discipline and unswerving conviction over the long haul.

“If at first you don’t succeed, get a bigger hammer.” – Alan Lewis

11. Focus

Focus-1What strikes me about many of the most successful blogs out there is that in a time where there’s an incredible development of new technology happening that many of them don’t allow themselves to get distracted by it. Yes they experiment and play with new ways of delivering content to readers but they don’t become distracted from their core task of producing useful and engaging content for readers. Being able to identify what matters most and sticking to it is so important – particularly in a medium with so many time sucking distractions.

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.” – Swami Vivekananda

12. Curiosity

CuriosityLastly, one of the traits that I see in many great bloggers is a restlessness and a dissatisfaction with the current state of play in their world/blog/industry. They are not content to sit comfortably but are always exploring, pushing boundaries and experimenting. They are curious people who are always asking ‘what if….?’ – a question that leads to all kinds of discoveries and possibilities that the rest of us could only dream of discovering.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

Should I Stop Blogging? 20 Questions to Ask Yourself

“When Should You Give Up On a Blog?” – question from the Q&A sidebar widget.

While they won’t all apply to every blog – here’s a list of questions to consider when working out whether you should give up on a blog.

  1. What goals do I have for this blog? Are they being met? Am I getting closer to meeting them?
  2. Am I Interested in the Topic?
  3. Am I getting personal satisfaction from posting?
  4. How Many Posts Did I write in the Last Month?
  5. Do I have time to keep the blog running?
  6. Is anyone reading my blog?
  7. Have I given it enough time?
  8. Do I still see myself writing on this blog in 18 months time?
  9. Is the niche growing or dying?
  10. Is the blog earning anything?
  11. Is the blog growing my profile and perceived expertise?
  12. Are there any other benefits from this blog?
  13. Is the blog giving energy to or taking energy away from me?
  14. Is the Blog’s traffic and income growing or shrinking?
  15. Are readers engaging with the content?
  16. If readers are commenting – what are they saying?
  17. What are other bloggers writing about my blog?
  18. Do I have anything original and useful to say on my topic?
  19. What else could I do with the time that I spend on this blog
  20. What would the impact be of me not blogging? (on readers and me)

How to Respond to Individual Requests for Help From Blog Readers

Today Lisa sent in this question which I thought might make an interesting post topic:

“I would love if you’d do a post on how you handle emails from people who ask for one on one help.

As my site and blog grows, I continue to get more and more emails for one on one assistance. I often feel guilty about saying “no” but I have to setup boundaries in order to remain sane.

Thanks for the question Lisa – it’s a good one and one that many bloggers grapple with as their blogs grow.

It is actually a good sign that people are approaching you for assistance in this way as it shows that people see you as an authority in your niche and someone that they want trust to help them apply the principles that you talk about on your blog. That is worth celebrating!

OK, so it’s a positive sign, but the problem still remains. How do you respond to these types of approaches? As I see it there are a number of responses – all of them are valid (although I’d avoid #2) and some will appeal to different people depending upon the life stage of their blog and time commitments.

Here’s a few options for you:

1. Respond to each request for help

At one end of the spectrum is the option of freely helping each person that asks for help. This one is doable for those with either a small blog with few requests or someone with a lot of time on their hands but isn’t really sustainable once those circumstances change – unless you’re willing to lose that sanity that you talk about in your question.

I should say before I give you any other options that this would be my personal preference in an ideal world – but like you say there’s a need to have boundaries.

2. Ignore all such requests for help

At the opposite end of the spectrum we have a fairly harsh approach – while this might help your workload it’s probably not going to help your reputation that much.

3. Work on Reader Expectations

One technique that has helped me a little is to add information to my contact form to help filter some of the approaches that I get. I include on that form that I read all emails but can’t respond to everyone. I also note on my contact form that I’m not available for consulting and link to my FAQ page.

All of this is to help readers to get their expectations aligned with what I can offer. People are still able to contact me but I don’t promise to respond with help for everyone. In having this information on my contact form I found the emails I get asking for help dropped.

4. Develop a Draft Response

Of course no matter what you say on your contact form I still get a lot of emails asking for help. This is something that I enjoy and while I can’t respond to everyone I’ve developed an email response to those asking for help that is an attempt at helping readers find the information that they need as well as decreasing my own workload.

The email is fairly simple and explains that I am not able to help everyone and that I’m not taking on new consulting work. It then goes on to suggest a number of strategies for readers to help themselves. It points readers to my Blogging for Beginners page, my book and some other key pages on my blog. It also says that while I don’t do consulting at the moment that I would be happy to recommend others that do so on a paid basis.

While I’d prefer to be able to help everyone that asks for assistance it’s just not possible and I find that this draft email response has helped a lot. For many readers I try to personalize it a little more. If they ask a question about something I’ve written about I often add a link to the email or make a very quick suggestions. The draft therefor acts as a head start to a response.

5. Public Answers

Another technique that I use is to reply to those asking the questions asking if they’d mind if I answer the question publicly as a post (either giving them credit for the question or not – some like anonymity). You’d be familiar with this technique Lisa as this is what I’m currently doing.

These types of responses kill a few birds with one stone. Firstly the reader gets an answer, secondly other readers who didn’t verbalize the question but have the need get the answer too and thirdly, you get a new post for your blog!

6. Community Discussion

Another tactic is to take the question asked and pose it to your wider readership for them to answer. ProBlogger readers will be familiar with this technique (I did it a few times over the weekend just gone by). The beauty of this approach is that your reader gets an answer (or many of them) and it generates good discussion for your blog. You do need to choose the right questions for this type of thing though.

7. Convert to Paid Consulting

Lastly, you could also respond to such requests with an email that attempts to convert the questioner into a paying client for some consulting work. This won’t work with every type of question – but if what the person is asking is for you to actually help them do something or work through an issue that you can’t do in a quick response it might be reasonable to offer your services in a paid capacity. This might be something you only do in the minority of circumstances but you’ll find that in some people will have a need that they are willing to pay for an answer in.

I’m interested to hear what techniques others use to help them deal with requests for help from readers – particularly when the requests begin to get more numerous than you can actually handle?

5 Tips to Grow Your Twitter Presence in 2012

Twitter has a stronghold on the blogosphere, yet sometimes, it’s hard to be heard. If you’re struggling to grow your Twitter following, you’re not alone.

I have more than 160,000 followers now, and quite a few readers have asked how I’ve grown my following. Here are my tips.

1. Leverage your other “engagement media” profiles

Do you have an existing online profile somewhere outside of Twitter (big or small)? Use it to springboard into Twitter. If it’s a blog, mention that you’re using Twitter in a post, add Twitter sharing buttons to your home page and individual posts, and link to it from your profile and contact pages.

Tweet button

My posts all display a Tweet button

If you’re on Facebook, use one of the numerous tools or apps available to republish your tweets to Facebook. If you promote your blog on Google+, share your Tweets there. Using Pinterest? Cross-pollinate between those followers and your Twitter followers to maximize the return on the time you’re investing in social media.

It goes without saying that you should add Twitter, along with your other social media account details, to your email signature, business card, and so on. The same applies with any online (or even offline) presence that you have—link to your Twitter page and link to it often.

2. Tweet often—but leave space for engagement

The more active you are on Twitter, the more likely you are to have others find and follow you. However, tweet too frequently and you run the risk of losing followers. I try to stick to one topic at a time and create pauses between them to let others interact.

Striking the right balance takes time and experimentation. Watch who retweets your updates—and which updates they’re sharing—to get a sense of your strongest advocates.

And be sure to engage with those who share your updates and those who respond to you. Thank them, answer their questions, and ask them why they likes that tweet or this post. Consider this engagement part of your ongoing market research for your blog, and your social media strategy.

3. Get talking

The secret to building your follower list is interaction. I get most new followers on those days when I interact with other Twitter users_and over time, that’s grown to a massive number of people.

We call them @ replies but you can, of course, also use the @_name functionality to engage with people you don’t know or follow—and who don’t know or follow you.

Asking questions is perhaps the best way to get conversational on Twitter. Get ten people to answer a question you’ve tweeted and if even just one person retweets one of those ten replies (or your original question), you’ll have gained exposure to whole new rafts of potential followers.

Just as important is to participate in other people’s conversations. Reply to their questions and ideas as much as possible.

The key with Twitter really is shared interests. people will share your tweets with their followers if they think you share a common interest with them, and your tweet is relevant. So, be conversational about topics that will interest others. Be conversational in a way that encourages your followers to reach out to their own networks.

Sharable tweets

Make your tweets resonate with a broad audience

Finally, you might find your first few engagements on Twitter easiest if you’re not talking about yourself—I find I do better when I’m not talking about me! No one likes to hang around with people who just talk about themselves, so get the balance right between talking about yourself and talking about others and other topics of interest.

4. Provide optimal value

Tweeting on a personal level is fun and for many that’s as far as it goes, but if you’re interested in growing your Twitter influence, you need to provide your followers, and potential followers, with value.

It’s the same principle as growing a blog—if you help enhance people’s lives in some way they are more likely to want to track with you, read more of what you have to say, and share your ideas with others.

Make your conversations matter on some level. Sure you can throw in personal tweets and have some fun, but unless you’re providing something useful to people (information, entertainment, news, education, etc.) they probably won’t follow you for long, or share your content with their own networks.

5. Tweet in peak times

Last week I tracked when I had new Twitter followers add me, and found (as I expected) that the frequency of follows where made during business hours in the USA.

Tweeting at the times when your followers are online only increases the chances of their finding and adding you to their lists, and sharing your tweets—timing certainly affects sharing on Facebook, and if you look at your retweet stats, you’ll find it does on this network, too.

My being situated in Australia can have some positives and negatives, but one of the things I don’t enjoy about it is that I miss out on a lot of interaction with my followers who are on the other side of the world. While many social media management apps will let you schedule status updates and tweets, there’s no substitute for in-person, real-time interaction on Twitter.

Bonus tip: tweet from the heart

Don’t worry too much about how you “come across” on Twitter. Just be yourself and tweet form the heart. Don’t stress too much about the numbers—instead, use the platform to connect genuinely with the Twitter followers you already have, and let the rest take care of itself!

Top Twitter Blog Marketing Tips has more Twitter tips.

Oh, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the burden of social networks, read my post on how to beat the social media beast!

A Remedy for Blogger Inferiority Complex

Yesterday I wrote about the problem of blogger inferiority complex and how often as bloggers we can limit our potential by defining ourselves negatively.

Today I want to get a little more constructive and suggest a remedy for this common problem. In doing so I want to help those of us who struggle with a negative self view to make a mind-shift in our thinking.

How do you become more positive in the way that you think about yourself and your blog?

Today I want to suggest two starting points in tackling this problem. Tomorrow I’ll wrap up this mini-series with a third.

1. Identify What You Have:

Identify-What-You-Have.jpg There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be something that you’re not, learn something that you don’t know or achieve something that you’ve not achieved before – however sometimes when we’re focusing upon what we don’t have we lose sight of the very thing that could be the key to us going to the next level – what we do have.

When I was in my late teens and early 20’s I spent a lot of time worrying about what I didn’t have and comparing myself to others. As I look back on the way that I lived my life at this time I realized that the motivation for many of the things that I did was that I wanted to be like someone else. The result was a complete mess. I ended up spending so much of my time aspiring to be or have something that those around me were or had that I stopped being Darren.

The realization that I came to was that defining myself by what I didn’t have or by what someone else was wasn’t working. What I did find that worked however was defining myself by who actually was and starting with what I already had.

I went through a process with a small group of friends of rediscovering myself, learning what my strengths were, identifying my passions, reflecting upon the experiences that I had had and looking at what I’d learned. I found that as I began to focus more upon these positive things that I became more positive.

As bloggers I think that many of us need to make this same mind-shift and focus less upon what we don’t have and more upon what we do – and then to build from there.

Are You Focusing More Upon What You’re Not than What You Are as a Blogger?

Firstly, let me say that you’re not alone.

Secondly let me suggest a series of questions that you might like to set aside some time to reflect upon to help you rediscover who you are as a blogger:

1. What has Worked On Your Blog? – Sometimes the key to your success is something that you’ve already done that had a spark of energy to it but which still needs a little more work. Look back over the blog posts that you’ve written and identify those that ‘worked’. It might be those that got linked to by another blog or two, it might be a post that got a few extra comments or it could be something that you enjoyed more than other posts even if no one else noticed. Once you’ve identified some of these posts ask yourself why they worked. Is there a common theme or some identifiable lessons that you can learn that you might emulate again?

2. What do you know about? – A great way to answer this one is to think about the questions that people ask you and seek advice from you on. What knowledge and expertise have you gathered in your life so far?

3. What things do you love to talk about? – What topic do your conversations always turn to? Not sure? Ask a close friend what they think your ‘pet topic’ is. What do conversations keep coming back to you no matter how hard they try to change the topic? These topics are obviously things that you have some passion for – perhaps they are what you should be blogging about.

4. What formative experiences have you had? – Often the things that make us most interesting are the things we’ve done in our past. The places you’ve been, the jobs you’ve had, the study that you’ve done, the people that you’ve met etc. Don’t just think about the positive experiences but some of the hard ones too because sometimes it’s through the most painful times of life that we discover purpose and learn lessons that shape our future.

5. Who do you know? – Don’t focus upon the bloggers you don’t know – start with those you do. What have you studied formally? What have you read about? What have you gathered knowledge on in your work, recreation, friendship groups?

6. What readers do you have? – it’s easy to focus upon the thousands of readers that you don’t have, but what about those that you do? Even if you only have 3 and one of them is your Mother – you’ve got people logging into your blog every day to read what you have to say! Not only that, they each have a network of relationships that they could potentially tell about your blog.

7. What problems do you have? What problems have you overcome? – one of the most powerful things that you can do as a blogger is to help people solve problems. The problems that you are best equipped to solve are those that you have had (or have) that you’re overcoming for yourself.

8. What have you achieved? – achievements are not everything but they can certainly be helpful when you’re blogging because you can draw upon them or the lessons you learned in them in your writing. Don’t just focus on the big achievements either – sometimes the small things we’ve done are most important.

9. What sets you apart? – sometimes we focus upon our differences as negatives – but how could they be used for your own good? We operate in a medium where there are millions of others competing for attention – being different is good. It might be how you look, it might be how you live your life, it could be where you live or some other aspect of your life that you’ve been getting down on yourself about. How can you ‘flip it’ to your advantage?

10. What type of personality do you have? – you are wired a certain way – so identify how that is and learn to work to it’s strengths. If you’re a quiet, introverted and reflective person, let your blogging reflect this with posts that are a little more reflective and thoughtful. If you’re loud, brash and opinionated – go with that too! If you can make people laugh – do that in your blogging! Don’t try to be someone that you’re not – start with who you are.

11. What Resources do you have? – what do you have at your disposal that you can use in your blogging? I started out blogging on a 10 year old PC that crashed after 30 minutes of running and dial-up internet connection… and that’s a lot more than many bloggers have. I know bloggers who would answer this question with the answer that they have a membership in a local library that gives them 30 minutes internet connection every weekday. Rather than looking at what you don’t have in terms of tools and resources – start with what you do have and build from there. It might be a computer, internet connection, video or digital camera, a MP3 recorder… or it could be friendship with people who do.

Identifying some of the things that you DO have can be an uplifting experience. While we might be naturally drawn to answer the above questions with negativity – force yourself to look at the positives for a little bit and make a list of what you have. But it doesn’t end there….

2. Build upon what you have


Identifying what you do have is a very worthwhile exercise – but it’s not enough if you want to grow to your potential.

The key to the lives of many successful people that I’ve met is that they take what they do have (as meager as that may be) and turn it into something worthwhile by building it.

  • It might be taking a simple skill and doing it until they’re blue in the face
  • It might be taking a passion and hunch and following it to see where it leads
  • It might be taking a simple resource and using it for all it’s worth

For me as a blogger is was like this:

I started out with:

  • a dodgy computer and dialup internet access
  • an interest and a little knowledge in photography (I’d studied it as a 16 year old for a semester)
  • some spare time in the evenings when I wasn’t working one of my 3 part time jobs or studying
  • a little experience in communicating
  • half a degree in Marketing (I quit half way – my only other training was in Theology)
  • a little experience of blogging on a personal blog

I took that muddled collection of things and began to blog about digital cameras. I made a lot of mistakes but I became more and more determined to take what I did have and to build upon it. As a result things began to grow.

The Story Continues – But First…. Some Homework

As I said above – tomorrow I’m going to finish this series with one more tip for overcoming Blogger Inferiority Complex. I was going to include it in this post but I think that before getting to the last suggestion it’d be well worth pondering the first two steps.

While you wait for the last part in the series take a little time out today to work through them – particularly the series of 11 questions that I suggested and pondering how you can build on them. I’d love to hear what you discover!

What You Say is What You Are – The Problem of Blogger Inferiority Complex

Blogger-Inferiority-ComplexImage by JettGirl

Today I was scanning through some emails from readers and it struck me that so many of those that I hear from are suffering from a similar ailment. Let me share a few excerpts from emails I received today and see if you can spot what it is:

“Darren, I’m just a small blogger but was wondering….”
I’m no A-list blogger but I wanted to let you know…..”
“I’ve only got 70 readers a day….”
“My RSS reader counter is embarrassing….”
“I don’t know any HTML…. I feel like I have so much to learn….”
“I’m just starting out and don’t know much about blogging…..”
“In comparison to others I’m just a small fry….”
“I don’t write as well as they do….”

Notice something about all of these emails?

They all define themselves by something that they are not achieving, that they don’t know, that they don’t have….

Many of them are also based upon a comparison with others.

While I understand why they do this (many are emailing asking for advice and it’s logical to present a problem in such an instance) I wonder if it is also a little more than that.

My suspicion is that many of us as bloggers think of ourselves in similar ways and have “blogger inferiority complex“.

There’s are 3 problems with this type of thinking:

1. The impact it has on You

The main problem with defining yourself with words that describe what you are NOT is that it impacts the way that you think about yourself. I strongly believe that the words we use to talk about ourselves (spoken and thought) impact us.

No I’m not going to get you chanting positive mantras about yourself with the promise of it magically transforming your life but I do think that if you’re continually thinking of yourself in terms of what you are NOT that it has an impact and can be a limiting factor on what you ARE.

Also when your view of yourself is tied to what others do and achieve it can also be very limiting and stop you from actually be something that distracts you from your own true potential (more on this later).

My wife often encourages her friends to be more positive about themselves by using the concept of ‘self fulfilling prophecy’. Sometimes when all we can see is what we can’t do or have not achieved it’s too difficult to move past it and these things not only are our present but they become our future also.

“If we did all of the things that we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” – Thomas Edison

Edison is right – each of us has amazing potential, however unless we learn to see what we have and can do rather than focus upon what we can’t or what others are doing we’re likely to even catch a glimpse of what we can do let alone ever achieve it.

2. The impact that it has on your Readers

While most of the negative definitions of ourselves are generally kept to ourselves or are only spoken about in private – at times they do creep into our blogging and can impact our readers.

Sometimes this happens explicitly (I regularly see people apologizing to readers about the things that they don’t do well) and sometimes it happens more subtly.

I’m not arguing that we should pretend to be something that we’re not and to only talk about the positives in our lives (I think being transparent and honest with readers about our failures can actually be powerful) however when the negative self view becomes the dominating one it can’t help but impact readers.

If you can’t be positive about yourself why would your readers be?

3. The impact it has on other Bloggers

In a similar way – when you talk about yourself in terms of what you’re yet to do, achieve or become your words can impact other bloggers also. I noticed this particularly at the recent SXSW conference where there was a wonderful room set up specifically for bloggers.

As I interacted with bloggers I noticed three groups of people:

  1. Those who pumped up themselves and their blogs beyond the reality of them. The ego and arrogance of this group (a real minority of those I met I should add) was something to behold!
  2. Those who defined themselves by what they are not. Just like the email excerpts above this group quite often introduced themselves with a ‘I’m just a small blogger….’
  3. Those who seemed to have a healthy blend of positivity and humility

It was interesting to see how these three groups of bloggers were received by other bloggers that were in the room. Group one was sniggered about, Group two tended to be talked to politely but people quickly moved on and Group 3 tended to be the ones that people gravitated towards. This third group was also the ones that seemed to get a lot of links after SXSW from other bloggers who were there.

If you want to grow your profile with other bloggers in your niche then I think it’s really important to get the balance right.

How to Define Yourself More Positively

Ironically this post has become a little negative hasn’t it! I’ve just spent the last 850 words talking pointing out how many of us have the problem of pointing out the problems in our lives….

Yes I do see the irony in this, however before I offer some more positives suggestions on how to dig yourself out of a negative framework it’s important to talk about the problem itself (the purpose of this post).

So how do you turn your negativity around and become a more positive blogger in the way that you think about yourself and your blog? I’ve got a post lined up for tomorrow with some of my ideas on the question but in the mean time I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Update: Here’s the 2nd Part in this series of posts.

12 Ways to Be a More Interactive and Accessible Blogger

image by Jeff Bauche

Yesterday I wrote about being a ruthless blogger and named a number of areas that I find helpful to have more harsh boundaries in with the hope of it helping me become more productive and focused as a blogger (and as a result provide a better resource for readers).

There is a problem with ruthlessness though. It arises when you become so ruthless and focused that you end up becoming inaccessible and stop engaging with readers. Put up too many boundaries and you could end up alienating readers.

This is a problem that I hear many medium to larger sized blogs face. The bigger they grow the greater the demands on the time of bloggers and the harder it becomes to stay accessible.

Today I want to share a few tips on how to remain accessible to readers even when your blog is growing and the demands on your time become greater. By no means am I an expert in this – but here are a few things I’ve learned.

1. Set aside time to interact

make-time.jpgPerhaps one of the best tips that I can give is to be proactive in setting aside time to be accessible to readers. Almost everything else that I mention in this post will not work at all unless you DECIDE to be an accessible and engaging blogger and then put your money where your mouth is and actually set aside the time to BE accessible and engaging.

I personally find that I can have all the great intentions in the world to interact with people but that unless I block out time to do it that other ‘urgent’ things crowd out this time. Diarize time for some of the activities that I mention below – or you may never do them.

Clock Image by Mike9Alive

2. Give Readers an Appropriate Way to Contact You

respond-email.jpgThe fastest way to cut off the interaction that you might have with readers is to fail to provide them with any way to get in touch with you. Conversely – the more obvious a way you have for people to contact you the more likely they are to use it.

You’ll notice in the title of this section that I included the word ‘Appropriate’. This is important. Why you ask?

In the early days of this blog my contact page contained so many ways to contact me that it actually became a bit of a nightmare to manage. I had email address, a contact form, my cell phone number (later changed to a SkypedIn number), 4 instant messaging options, profile pages on numerous social media sites… and more. The problem is that I had so many people getting in touch with so many mediums that I spent half my day switching from one medium to another to check if people had been in touch and to respond. It totally destroyed my productivity and ended up being frustrating to those trying to get in touch.

These days my contact page attempts to funnel people into the direction of email via my contact form. It gives people the ability to connect with me via Mail and Social Media sites but makes it obvious that the contact form is the most effective method of getting in touch.

3. Interact in Comments

comments.jpgI don’t believe that you need to reply to every comment on your blog (I personally try to develop blogs where the community helps each other) but I think it’s important to have a presence in your own comments section. This is not easy when you have hundreds of posts and thousands of comments a month – but it is one way to keep yourself accessible to readers.

4. Reply to Emails

contact.jpgReaders leaving a comment on your blog is one way that they reach out to you, but when they email you they are taking an extra step towards interaction with you and wherever possible I’d encourage you to respond to these readers as a priority. Again – it’s not easy, but if you have an effective email system like I described yesterday you can drastically improve your response rate. I personally have room to improve in my comments section but am finally getting on top of replying to emails and have noticed a real impact as a result.

5. Get help to manage your communications

virtualassistant.jpgIf the above two points are too hard for you (ie replying to comments and emails) then you might need to get some help. In the last few months I’ve had Lara helping me with my own comment moderation here at ProBlogger and have found this really helpful. She’s able to answer some comment concerns herself (particularly while I’m asleep or away) and emails me important comments that I need to be aware of that she moderates. Some bloggers also have people help them with emails (something I don’t do at this point). In a sense outsourcing in these areas or hiring a virtual assistant is all about ‘triage’ – ie filtering comments and email that you don’t need to see/be aware of (for example comments that say ‘great post’ or emails that are FAQs and that can be answered with a quick link) and pulling out those that are more important.

I’d be very wary of completely outsourcing this area of your blogging as it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in your comments section and emails – however it can take some of the load off and help you become more effective.

6. Video/Streaming

streaming.pngOne of the most effective things that I’ve done in the last year in terms of becoming more accessible to readers is to do more video and to do the occasional streaming video chat session. Video adds something very powerful to a blog. It gives you a voice and personality in a way that text cannot. While it’s a strange feeling at first I’m coming to love the video component of ProBlogger. Streaming chats are particularly good as they are live, fully interactive, give you a sense of what is on the mind of readers and is much more conversational than writing a post and then interacting in comments as it’s real time.

7. Write Conversationally

conversational.jpgThe way that you write has a massive impact upon the way that you’re perceived. Some bloggers write in a very closed and ‘distant’ voice while others are incredibly engaging and conversational. Some of this is difficult to define but a few tips on becoming more conversational in your writing include:

  • asking questions of your readers – invite them to interact
  • asking questions of yourself – asking a question in your post and then proceeding to answer it
  • sharing experiences – tell your readers how you apply what you write about
  • sharing mistakes – showing you are human and fail makes you relatable
  • share questions that readers ask – this beds your posts down in reality but also shows that you interact with readers

8. Twitter

twitter.gifOne of the things I love about Twitter is that it has opened up a whole new arena for me to interact with readers. Many ProBlogger readers now follow me on Twitter and have reflected back to me that they enjoy our interactions there. Part of the reason that I love Twitter is that it’s so concise. Interactions are 140 characters long so people don’t expect too much of you but the interactions can be very conversational, personal and effective.

9. Other Social Media

social-media.jpgNot into Twitter? Have readers that don’t get into it? That’s ok, what about another social media site that is more suited to you and your niche? I was a amazed a few months back how many of the members of Digital Photography School’s Forum use Facebook. It shouldn’t have surprised me really but Facebook is a much more accessible place for non Web 2.0 savvy readers to connect with you. Why not start a group for your blog there?

10. Interviews

interview.jpgNot every blogger will have the profile to be interviewed by others but if you get the chance it can be very worthwhile. For starters it’s a good way to find new readers but it is also good at putting you in front of your current readers in a new setting where they see a different side of you. For example, you wouldn’t believe the response that I’ve had over the last few months from doing this interview on work life balance and being a Dad. The interview touches on blogging but its really on a topic that I don’t regularly write on and it opened up a different side of me that for some reason people found very engaging.

11. Conferences

conference-shoemoney-copyblogger-problogger.jpgI wish I could do more conferences and meetups than I do because it is perhaps the most effective way of engaging with readers. It is amazing way of growing relationships with readers and other bloggers in your niche.

The face to face networking interactions that you have are priceless and the opportunities that you might be able to take to speak or participate in panels or workshops put you in front of people and add to the perception that you’re ‘out there’ and interacting in your niche.

Image by Tris

12. Vanity Watch

vanity.pngOne last tip that can help you have the appearance of being much more interactive on other blogs than you actually are. Set up a vanity watchlist to monitor what people are saying about you and your blog. In this way you can be notified when someone else mentions you and can drop by their post and leave a comment either thanking them for the link, responding to a criticism or answering a question that they might have. Leaving this type of comment shows other bloggers that you care about how they view you, that you’re willing to interact not only on your own blog but theirs and it can help you sort out misconceptions or other problems that could potentially hurt your brand.