Close
Close

2014 Reboot: Find Motivation and Inspiration to Blog Better This Year

We are mining ProBlogger content this week for super-useful information to kick-start your blogging year with gusto. Today we go all the way back to the early days of ProBlogger.net, where Darren encouraged us to put our best effort into our blogs, showing us how to find motivation and interest in the most inspiring of places.

This post “Declaring War on Blogging Apathy” was part of a series that originally appeared in 2005.

It’s time to talk about something that has the potential to KILL your blog….

Apathy.

A blogger can have the best strategic plan in the world but if they have no motivation, passion or drive for their blogging it will almost always amount to nothing at all. One of the keys to the success I’ve managed to have as a ProBlogger is that I’ve taken a long term approach to my blogging which calls for constant work over 2.5 years (so far).

Whilst there have been times where my spirit has been low and the drudgery of researching, writing, networking and dreaming has threatened to put a stop to what I do – I’ve continually pushed myself to find new and creative ways to beat down the blog killer of Apathy. I’ve seen other bloggers not been able to break through this and as a result their blogs today either don’t exist or have become something like the ghost towns of the Western Movie with breezes blowing around the tumbleweed of comment spam and out of date content.

So I’ve decided it’s time to declare war on Blog Apathy and want to share a number of the things that have helped me keep my motivation up in blogging. Feel free to add your own experience and tips in comments.

• Start a Series - it gets hard to constantly come up with new topics to blog about each day so why not pick a larger topic to break down over a week or so. I find that once I’ve got a topic to work on I often get the creative juices flowing – a series can fast track the process. The past few days have definitely lifted my own interest in ProBlogger (not that it was too low) – simply because I’ve been in ‘series mode’.

• Invite questions from your readers - get your readers involved in your blog by setting the agenda for you to write about over the next few weeks of your blogging. Once again this is about stimulating ideas for topics.

• Revisit old Posts - if your archives are anything like mine they are full of posts and articles that you’ve put hours of work into. Keep in mind that many of your newer readers would not have read your old posts and so from time to time it might be worth either reposting old posts, updating old posts or simply bouncing off old posts and continuing old streams of thought.

• Redesign - I always find a fresh coat of paint can really lift a room, a haircut can improve a mood and a blog redesign can get the creative juices flowing again. Tweak it, adapt it or completely redesign it – either way you might just inject a little more energy into something that’s grown tired and find that you’ve got more energy for your blogging.

• Write Posts Ahead of Time - this won’t help you now if you’re in apathy mode – but if you’re not and currently have some energy consider writing a few extra posts that are non time specific to keep for a rainy/apathetic day. When you’re inspired write more so that when you’re not you don’t have to.

• Keep an Idea Journal - this is similar to the previous point but just involves keeping a list of possible post ideas you could write on at a later uninspired point in time. It might include just titles of posts or even a few points that you could write about. I’m constantly jotting down ideas for posts or series and even new blogs all day everyday. Take your journal with you everywhere you go so that if inspiration strikes you can capture it.

• Develop a Posting Schedule - it’s amazing what you can produce if you give yourself a deadline. Whilst for some people the idea of schedules and plans might have the opposite effect – for many of us they help keep us going. My posting goal is 25-35 posts per day – knowing what I’m aiming for helps keep me on track. Whether you’ve got a goal of 2 daily posts, or 500 monthly posts some goals can help get your blogging into gear.

• Get a Guest Blogger - put a little new blood into your blog by inviting someone else to join you in posting either while you take a short break to rejuvenate or to blog alongside you. I’ve recently added a few bloggers to a handful of my blogs and have really enjoyed both the pressure that it’s taken off me but also the energy and fresh ideas that they’ve brought.

• Read other’s blogs - sometimes its easy to become so focused upon blogging that we forget to interact with other bloggers. I remember a few months ago realizing that I rarely really read other blogs any more (apart from those I scanned each day for useful information to blog about). Get back to basics and actually read other blogs – you might just find that in doing so you rediscover the reason you started your own blog in the first place. In addition to that you’ll probably find yourself stimulated to bounce off their blogs with your own.

• Interact with other bloggers - connected to the last point I also find it very useful to not only read the work of others but to converse with them. I regularly chat via instant messaging or phone with other bloggers – in doing so we encourage and inspire each other to break through the dry times. So leave a comment somewhere, start an IM conversation, send an email – talk to someone. Don’t let blogging become an insular lonely thing – rather take advantage of the relational aspects of blogging.

• Meme it Up - another way to get yourself a little more interested in and energised by your blog is to start some sort of Meme. Run a competition, start a blogging project, add a quiz or survey – do something fun, creative and interactive to get other bloggers involved in what you’re doing. To be honest this is why I started the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project - seeing the wonderful response from readers has definitely lifted my blogging spirits this week.

• Subscribe to a new Source of Information - sometimes it’s easy to get into a rut when you feel like you’re just seeing the same sorts of information on your blogs topic over and over again. So subscribe to some new keywords on Google News Alerts or Topix RSS feeds or find some new blogs to follow. If you put fresh content and ideas into your head hopefully some fresh content will come out.

• Short Posts - if you don’t have much to say – don’t say much. Keep your posts short and to the point. Even if they don’t feel profound to you, just the act of posting something might loosen the blogging creativity within you. Short posts can actually be incredibly effective communication tools also so it might just add something special to your blog.

• New Stimuli - one of the best ways to get your creativity levels up is to expose yourself to new stuff. Buy a book, watch a movie, meet someone new, go for a walk, spend time with your family, listen to some music – get out of your normal daily rhythm and expose yourself to some new sights, sounds, tastes, touches and smells. Remember that what you put into your life has a direct baring on what comes out.

• Just Write - it’s amazing what comes when you just start writing sometimes. Some of my bests posts emerged out of really dry patches when I forced myself to sit and write. The first few paragraphs might end up being scrapped – but if you keep writing you’ll eventually hit gold.

• Get a Coach - I’ve talked a few times here recently about how I’ve found myself a business coach. Whilst the two of us don’t catch up heaps these days – every hour I spend with him is invaluable. He forces me to take a step back from what I do and look at the big picture, he keeps me accountable to the direction I’ve previously set, he asks the hard questions and he encourages me when I’m in a slump. The great thing about him is that he has a very limited understanding of blogging and sees things from quite a different perspective. So get a coach or a blogging partner (you can coach each other). You might consider paying someone to do it or just find another blogger/friend/business person/family member to fill the role. Give them permission to ask questions and give you a kick in the pants if you need it.

• Take a Break - as many people have said in the comments of previous posts in this series – taking a break is often just what a blogger needs. We all need a holiday from time to time so I suggest bloggers build into their yearly rhythm extended periods of non blogging as well as shorter ones on a weekly and even daily basis. I would suggest that if you’re taking a break that you set an end time and date for it – this is important for a couple of reasons, firstly it gives your readers a sense of where you are and when you’ll be back (I find it frustrating as a reader when a blogger disappears for an extended period without warning) and secondly it puts a boundary at the end of you break which will help you to start up again.

I’m sure between us we can come up with many other strategies for breaking the back of blog apathy – I’m interested to hear the suggestions and experiences of others in comments below.

2014 Reboot: Finally Finding Time to Blog

We are mining ProBlogger content this week for super-useful information to kick-start your blogging year with gusto. Today we tackle a common topic – time. Who has it and how can we get it? Darren shows us seven ways to finally carve it out.

This post “7 Tips for Busy Bloggers on Finding Time to Blog” first appeared in April 2013.

Last week I tweeted a question asking my Problogger followers to share the biggest challenge that they face as a blogger.

Around 50 replies came back and a couple of themes emerged – the biggest one centred around ‘Time’.

Time to blog

Finding time to blog is something that all bloggers struggle with. Whether you are just starting out and blogging as a hobby, blogging as a part time job while juggling work, home, and a social life or even blogging as a full time business amidst other demands such as up-keeping of social media accounts, responding to comments and emails etc. - finding time to write is a consistent challenge.

This issue is so prevalent, we actually published an eBook on the topic last year - BlogWise: How to Do More with Less (featuring 9 busy but productive bloggers such as Leo Babauta, Gretchen Rubin, Brian Clark, Heather Armstrong and more).

7 Tips for Busy Bloggers on Finding Time to Blog

I’m someone who periodically struggles with the challenges of being productive in limited timeframes. Over the last 10 years of blogging, I guess I’ve settled into something of a workflow and routine. What follows is a collection of reflections on what I’m learning.

I hope something in it connects with where you’re at!

1. It Starts with Life Priorities

I feel a bit like a parent saying this but the truth is, time management is a lot to do with priorities. 

It’s important to take time out to identify what is truly important to you, as this is a starting point for working out how you should spend your time.

If blogging is important to you, the first step in finding time to do it is to name it as a priority.

Of course ‘naming’ it as important is only half the battle. For many people there is a HUGE gap between what they say is important and how they actually spend their time.

One of the most confronting exercises I’ve ever done, when it comes to time management, was when (as a young adult) I was challenged write a list of my priorities. I then had to track how I used each 15 minute block of time over a week.

At the end of the week I tallied up the different activities and was amazed to discover how much time I was spending on things that did not feature in my priorities list, and how little I spent on the things I’d named as my priorities.

My list of priorities included things like studying, career, relationships etc.

My actual use of time was dominated by TV, computer games, time in the pub etc.

Of course, at the time I was young and reckless… but I suspect if I did the exercise again today there would probably be a bit of a disconnect between my priorities and how I spent my time. The activities I ‘waste’ time on and my priorities today might be different but the pattern would probably remain.

One of the keys to finding time to blog is working out whether blogging is actually important to you and arranging your life so that time is allocated for it!

I know it’s sounds obvious but it is easier said than done… and needs to be said.

2. Name Your Blogging Priorities

In the section above I talk about ‘life priorities’ but now I want to hone in on your blogging priorities.

The challenge many bloggers face is that they feel overwhelmed and often distracted by the many elements of blogging that they feel they need to do to have success.

Writing blog posts, reading and commenting on others blogs, responding to readers comments, guest posting on others blogs, being active on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, Pinterest (and more), working on your blog design, writing an eBook, finding advertisers, creating a media kit…. the list goes on and on.

I’ve had periods in my own blogging where this list overwhelmed me – to the point it almost paralysed me.

When I felt overwhelmed, I tried to strip my blogging back to the core tasks I knew I needed to do to keep my blog moving forward. Again it was really about priorities.

What do you need to do to grow your blog and make it sustainable?

For me, I strip my focus back to these areas:

  • Writing Content
  • Finding Readers
  • Building Community
  • Monetizing

These are the non-essential priorities I have with my blogging. Simply by naming them simplifies things a little for me so I’m not looking at a long, crazy list of little things that I need to do.

With this list in mind I’m can set myself some achievable goals in each area.

For example, when it comes to ‘Writing Content’ I’m set myself some goals with how many posts per week or month. Then I start to think about the types of posts I want each week.

So here on ProBlogger, my current goal is 5 posts per week as a minimum with 3-4 of those posts written by me and at least one of them to be a longer form piece of content (like my recent Guide to the Amazon Affiliate Program).

Within each of these areas I would normally have at least a couple of goals/priorities at any one time.

Simply having this list of things I want to achieve suddenly gives me direction on how to spend my time, which makes me much more effective when I do blog. Instead of sitting down at the computer to blog and then working out what to do, I have a list of things I need to get done – and I find myself just knocking them off.

3. Batch Process Your Main Tasks

I won’t go into great detail on this as I’ve written about it before but a number of years ago I changed the way that I do my weekly tasks and it significantly boosted my productivity levels.

Before making this switch, I would sit down to blog and find myself going through a whole day flitting from one thing to another…. but not really getting much done. I’d write an intro to a blog post, then jump onto Twitter, then talk to another blogger about a collaboration, then go back to the blog post, then moderate some comments, then jump on Facebook and then…. well you get the picture.

So I began to carve out longer chunks of time to do the most important tasks in ‘batches’.

For example, one of my weekly rhythms is to use Monday and Wednesday mornings to write. On those mornings, I will often set myself up in a cafe and work offline for 2-3 hours. This enables me to write as much content as possible for the days and week ahead. It is not unusual for me to write 4-5 blog posts that I’m then able to schedule onto the blog for the coming days.

By silo’ing off time to do the most important tasks, and removing other distractions, I found I churn through a lot more work than I had previously been able to do.

I now ‘batch’ process many tasks. I’ll often set aside half an hour to do social media for example (instead of popping into Twitter 20 times a day, I might spend a longer period once a day). Email is similarly something I try to do in batches, similarly I tend to read other blogs via RSS in batches etc.

Read more about ‘batch processing in my post ‘How Batch Processing Made Me 10 Times More Productive‘.

Mental Blogging

In the early days of my blogging I had very very limited times to blog. I was working 3-4 part time jobs at any one time while also studying in the evenings. As a result I often would only have half and hour here or there during a lunch break, late at night or early in the morning to write content.

In order to be more effective at those times, I began to do what I now call ‘mental blogging’.

So while I was working in one of my jobs in a warehouse packing parcels, I would begin to write my blog posts in my mind. I would come up with a topic, decide upon a title and then begin to map out my main points – all in my head.

I sometimes would use a small notebook to jot a few words down to remind me what I wanted to write but after a shift in the warehouse, I would often be ready to sit down and quickly write out a pretty decent blog post (sometimes more than one) because I’d effectively written it already in my head.

Since that time I’ve come across countless other bloggers who do a similar thing during their own daily activities.

Later on I did a similar thing by jotting down my notes on my iPhone or even speaking blog posts into an audio recording app on my iPhone while I was out on a walk.

4. Idea Generation and Editorial Calendars

In my early days of blogging one of my biggest time sucks was coming up with ideas. I would sit, staring at my computer screen for hours on end, trying to work out what to write about on my blog that day.

I discovered that a much more effective strategy is to put aside batches of time specifically to come up with post ideas.

Instead of deciding what to write about each day, I began to create times to brainstorm and mind map blog ideas. I would then developed a file for each post topic so that on any given day I could sit down and within seconds I’d have something to write about

Mind Mapping is my favourite technique for generating potentially hundreds of ideas (read Discover Hundreds of Post Ideas for Your Blog with Mind Mapping).

Just having the ideas ready to go when you need them will save you a lot of time. You can take this a step further and consider creating an Editorial Calendar where you actually slot the ideas into a calendar over the coming week, month (or longer) and map out where you’ll be going with the blog in that period of time.

Editorial calendars may not suit everyone but I know of numerous bloggers who plan their blogs content well over a month in advance. This not only gives them an idea of where their blog is headed but they also find it useful to monetize their blogs as they’re able to share their calendar with advertisers who may wish to sponsor a relevant series of posts that might be coming up.

5. Break Down Big Jobs into Small Bites

Late last year, I recorded a free webinar where I shared 10 things I wish I’d known about blogging when I started 10 years before. In that webinar I shared the story of creating the first eBook that I developed over at Digital Photography School.

The idea of creating an eBook was something that I’d been meaning to do for at least a year or two but I’d always put off doing it because I didn’t have the time for such a big project. I’d never done something like that before and I felt overwhelmed by it.

In the end, to get the eBook created and launched, I decided that the only way I’d find the time to write it was to get up 15 minutes earlier every morning to work on the project.

15 minutes a day isn’t much (although we had a newborn at the time so 15 minutes sleep was precious) but I was amazed how much I could get done in that short period of time, on a daily basis. Over the coming 2-3 months I completed writing the eBook, had had it designed, had worked out how to market it, had researched how to sell it (shopping carts etc) and was ready to launch.

I effectively broke down a big job into little bite sized chunks until it was complete. That eBook went on to sell thousands of copies and became the template for 19 other eBooks that I’ve now launched (the main source of income to my blogs today).

I often wonder what would have happened if I’d never found that extra 15 minutes per day!

6. Slow Blogging is OK

“I have to post something today!”

Sometimes, as bloggers, I think we create monsters for ourselves for no good reason when it comes to posting deadlines and frequency.

I’m very guilty of this and it’s been something of a relief to realise that I can slow down my blogging a little and not see it ‘hurt’ my blog.

Here on ProBlogger you may have noticed a bit of a change lately. I’ve gone from posting 7-10 posts per week to posting 5-6 times a week.

For many years here at ProBlogger I felt the need to publish daily posts and at times, even aimed for 2-3 posts per day. While there were some benefits of doing so (more posts can mean more traffic) there were also costs in terms of the quality but also personally (it’s hard to sustain that kind of publishing for years on end).

Since slowing down, I’ve been fascinated to see that our traffic has remained steady (in fact some days it has been higher). The other impact has been a rise in comment levels, in positive feedback but also in my own energy and passion levels.

While deadlines and targets for posting frequency can be motivating - there may be periods of time when slowing down has some big benefits.

7. Make Space for Preparation, Creating and Rest

I recently came across this great video from Aussie blogger Kemi Nekvapil.

What I particularly loved about it was at around the 1.30 minute mark, Kemi talks about the structure of her week and how she has 3 different types of days during her week. They are ‘preparation days’, ‘success days’ and ‘inspiration days’.

Note: I think this originally comes from Jack Canfield who talks about creating days for ‘preparation’, ‘success’ and ‘rest’.

So for Kemi, her Mondays are preparation days when she is getting ready to have a creative ‘success’ day, Tuesdays are successful days, Wednesdays are preparation days and Thursdays are successful days. Fridays are her inspiration days where she gets to do whatever she wants to do for herself.

By giving herself days with a different focus, Kemi says she’s able to keep her creativity up and to sustain herself.

It makes sense really – if every day is a day where you have to produce something and you never have time to prepare or to have a break the quality of what you produce will suffer (as will your energy levels).

I love this idea and almost intuitively have done something a little similar of late. My wife (V) works on a Wednesday, so on those days I’ve had a bit more to do with the kids (drop offs, pick ups and a shorter working day). I’ve decided to go with it not being quite as a productive day and make Wednesdays a little less hands on with work, giving me a little more space to just ‘be’.

I’ve been doing a little work but also am trying to put time aside on Wednesdays to read, walk and have a siesta. It might sound a little like a lazy day on some levels but I’m noticing that having a quieter day in the middle of my week certainly makes me more productive on the following days.

What Are Your Tips for Finding Time to Blog?

What I’ve written above just scratches the surface. I am by no means an expert on this and am keen to learn from your experience.

Update: Check out this post where I ask a number of other bloggers about their tips and blogging routines.

 

2014 Reboot: Make Money From Your Blog This Year

We are mining ProBlogger content this week for super-useful information to kick-start your blogging year with gusto. Today we focus on that old chestnut – is it REALLY possible to earn some cash doing what we love? Well the answer is “yes, but”. So if 2014 is the year you finally knuckle down and make it happen – Darren’s got just the post for you.

This post “Is it Really Possible to Make Money Blogging? [7 Things I know about Making Money Blogging] first appeared in November 2012. 

Every now and again I am pulled aside at a conference or am emailed and/or tweeted by someone wanting to get the “real” scoop on whether it is possible to make money blogging.

  • Is it really possible to make a living from blogging?
  • Is it just a small number of people making money from blogging?
  • Is it only really possible to make money blogging if you write about the topic of making money blogging?

I completely understand the questions and would probably want to add one more:

  • If it is really possible to make money blogging, how likely is it that you’ll succeed?

I’ve written many times here on ProBlogger about this in the hope of giving a realistic picture of the topic, but I think it is worth touching on again because there is a lot of misinformation out there right now.

On one hand, we see hype on the topic. Periodically someone will claim to be able to make millions from blogging quickly. These claims are usually accompanied with the release of a product or service (i.e. they are marketing spin).

On the other hand, I periodically see people writing about how it is impossible to make money blogging (or that anyone claiming to be full time is either a scammer, a liar, or is selling something on the topic of making money online).

The reality is somewhere between these two extremes.

7 Things I know about making money from blogging

1. It is possible

I’ve been blogging for just under ten years and for nine of those I’ve been making money blogging. It started out as just a few dollars a day but in time it gradually grew to becoming the equivalent of a part-time job, then a full-time job, and more recently into a business that employs others.

I used to talk about the specific levels of my earnings when I started ProBlogger but felt increasingly uncomfortable about doing so (it felt a little voyeuristic and a little like a big-headed boasting exercise and I didn’t really see the point in continuing to do it)— but my income has continued to grow each year since I began.

On some levels I was at the right place at the right time—I got into blogging early (in 2002 … although I felt I was late to it at the time) and have been fortunate enough to have started blogs at opportune times on the topics I write about.

However I know of quite a few other bloggers who make a living from blogging, many of whom have not been blogging anywhere near as long as I have.

For some it is a hobby that keeps them in coffee; for others it is the equivalent of a part time job/supplementing other income from “real jobs” or helping their family out as they attend to other commitments (raising a family). For others it is a full-time thing.

I’ll give you some examples below.

2. There is no single way to monetize blogs

Recently at our Melbourne ProBlogger event I featured numerous Australian bloggers in our speaker lineup who fit somewhere in the part-time to full-time spectrum. They included:

The year before, we had others, including:

Most of these bloggers are full-time (or well on the way to being full-time bloggers). They come from a wide array of niches and all monetize quite differently—doing everything from selling advertising, to having membership areas, to selling ebooks, to running affiliate promotions, to promoting their offline businesses, to selling themselves as speakers, to having book deals, and so on. Many have a combination of different income streams.

They are all also Australian, and are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is happening here in Australia—the same thing is being replicated around the globe.

There are many ways to monetize a blog. To give you a quick sense of the many methods check out this “money map” I created a year or so back, which outlines just some that I brainstormed (click to enlarge).

Ways to Make Money Blogging.png

I also recorded this free hour-and-twenty-minute webinar giving an introduction to the topic.

3. There are no formulas

From time to time, people have released products that claim to be formulas for success when it comes to making money online. They outline steps to follow to “guarantee” you’ll make money.

In my experience there is no formula.

Each full-time blogger I’ve met in the last ten years has forged their own path and has a unique story to tell. They have often acted on hunches and made surprising discoveries along the way.

There are certainly similarities in many of the stories but each blogger has their own personality and style, each one is reaching a different audience, and each niche tends to monetize differently.

The key lesson is to be aware of what others are doing and to learn what you can from each other, but to also be willing to forge your own path as well!

4. Many niches monetize

One common critique of the topic of monetizing of blogs is that the only people making money from blogging are the ones writing about how to make money blogging.

This is simply not true.

In the above list of speakers from our Melbourne event you’ll notice I included topic/niche of each blogger. None sell products teaching others to make money blogging—all are on blogging on “normal,” every-day topics.

My own experience of having a blog about blogging (ProBlogger) and a blog about Photography is that it is my photography blog that is by far the most profitable blog (I’d estimate it’s ten times more profitable).

I’ve interviewed numerous full-time bloggers of late in a webinar series including:

Interestingly, none of them make money by teaching others to make money online. Sarah largely blogs about health and wellbeing, Tsh blogs about simple living, and Ana blogs about woodwork.

5. Most bloggers don’t make a full-time living from blogging

Every time I’ve surveyed readers of ProBlogger about their earnings, we’ve seen that those making money from blogging are in the minority.

In a recent survey of 1500 ProBlogger readers we asked about their monthly earnings. What you’re seeing below is the spread of earnings from readers who are attempting to make money blogging (note: not all ProBlogger readers attempt to make money, so not all are included in these results).

Keep in mind that ProBlogger readers are generally newish bloggers—about half of those who took this survey had been blogging for less than two years.

So of those trying to make money blogging, 10% don’t make anything and 28% are making less than 30 cents per day. A total of 63% make less than $3.50 per day.

Let’s be clear—most bloggers who are attempting to make money are not making a living from blogging.

Having said that, of the 1508 bloggers surveyed 65 (4%) are making over $10,000 per month (over six figures per year) and a further 9% were doing over $1000 per month (which is at least a part-time level of income).

My feeling, having been attending blogging conferences for six or so years now, is that the number of full-time bloggers is on the rise, and there are actually quite a few more people now at least making the equivalent of a couple of days’ work a week in income from their blogs.

However, most bloggers don’t make much.

6. It takes time to build

When I dig down into the stats from the survey on income levels above, and do some analysis of those who are in the top income bracket, it is fascinating to look at how long they’ve been blogging.

85% of those in that top income bracket have been blogging for four years or more. Almost all of the others had been blogging for three or four years.

This certainly was my own experience. I blogged for a year without making money and once I started monetizing it was around two years of gradual increases before I approached a full-time income level. It would have been four years before I joined that top bracket of income (over $10,000 per month).

Blogging for money is not a get-rich-quick thing. It takes time to build an audience, to build a brand, and to build trust and a good reputation.

And of course even with four or five years of blogging behind you, there’s no guarantee of a decent income.

7. It takes a lot of work

Longevity is not the only key to a profitable blog. The other common factor that I’ve noticed in most full-time bloggers is that they are people of action.

Passivity and blogging don’t tend to go hand in hand.

 

Blogging as “passive income stream” is another theme that we hear in many make-money-blogging products, however it is far from my own experience.

I’ve worked harder on my business over the last ten years than I’ve worked on anything in my life before this. It is often fun and gives me energy, but it takes considerable work to create content on a daily basis, to keep abreast of what’s going on in the community, to monitor the business side of things, to create products to sell, to build an audience, and so on.

The key is to build blogs that matter to people, that are original, interesting, and helpful. But this doesn’t just happen—it takes a lot of work.

Conclusions

Yes, it is possible to make money blogging. There is an ever-increasing number of people making money from blogging at a part-time to full-time level —however they are still in the minority.

Those who do make a living from blogging come from a wide range of niches, however one of the most common factors between them is that they’ve been at it for a long while.

How long have you been blogging? Are you looking to make money from it—and have you already? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

2014 Reboot: Get Ready for the New Year With a Blog Overhaul

We are mining ProBlogger content this week for super-useful information to kick-start your blogging year with gusto. Today we delve into the world of giving your blog a shake-up for 2014 when you’re a bit weary of the same-old same-old. Ryan Barton, author of Smart Marketing, shows us the way.

This post “9 Steps To Take When You Loathe Your Own Blog” first appeared in May 2012.

You’ve got an editorial calendar, you’ve scheduled blog posts weeks in advance. Look how professional you are. Well done. You’re an inspiration.

You press “publish” and bask in retweets, praise, and a flood of comments. You’re “resonating” with your “tribe.” You’re prolific. You’re a cocky so-and-so.

Then it hits: the loathing.

You’re exhausted. You’re ignoring your calendar. You can’t be bothered to think about new topics. Your writer’s well is bone-dry. You’ve met the resistance and it has won.

Your writing becomes programmed (verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus). It’s no longer art, and no longer an exercise in intellect. It lacks moxy. You’re phoning it in.

This is a low point. Have you been there?

If you bore yourself, how do you expect your readers to read, let alone share, your content?

What do you do when you loathe your own blog?

Find a way to restart, tabula rasa. And you’re the only one who can make it happen.

1. Do a design refresh

You buy new running shoes, and suddenly you want—need—to run. I must satisfy the shoes, it is their reason for existence. You buy a new car and instantly you cease dreading your hour-long commute.

It’s the same with your blog. Launch a new theme and you’ll feel the need to create new content that mirrors the sophistication of your new design. It pulls you back in and urges you forward. Clearly, your own boredom isn’t reason enough for a design overhaul, but it’ll certainly reignite your fire.

2. Narrow your focus

When I launched The Smart Marketing Blog in 2007, my posts were eclectic random. Readers didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to expect. One day, a post about bus stop ads, the next day, how to set-up PDFs to open at screen height, and another day, musings on a new social network. There was no focus.

But now, when I focus only on smart marketing for small business success, my readers know what to expect. I have focus—a roadmap.

3. Take off the chains

Darren publishes daily. Sort of. Somebody on the collective ProBlogger team publishes daily. But I think he’d agree that expecting you, by yourself, to generate mind-blowing content daily is expecting too much.

At one point, I followed an editorial calendar that scheduled posts twice a week. But even those posts were rubbish. They weren’t inspired, they were the result of a self-imposed guideline. Sure, publishing more frequently drives more traffic, but also yields disappointed readers who are trying to digest your traffic-driven rubbish.

Write because you can’t help it, not because there’s a blank post to fill. Today, I write only when I can imagine giving a speech on my topic. The topic is that good. So good, I can visualize myself preaching from a soapbox. And you know what, my traffic has remained the same, despite publishing much less frequently.

4. Ship something

I don’t advocate shipping something simply for the sake of shipping; that only yields mediocrity. But shipping evokes pride and passion and a fierce sense of taking names. Last year I published my book on smart marketing for small businesses, this year I launched my newsletter, and in the months ahead I have two other books in the works. Each functions to inspire and refill my writer’s well.

Aside from your blog—because your blog is not your product, your blog supports your product—what can you create to inject that same inspiration?

5. Change your routine

Want to find new inspiration? Approach your trivial, mundane tasks in a new way. When you break your habits, you force yourself to problem-solve, expand your thinking, and consider other solutions. It’s that same thinking that yanks you out of your writer’s rut. Purposefully take the longer route to the office, travel to a foreign country, run instead of lifting weights, read a different genre book to stretch your mind, expand your palette with a new coffee brewing method, keep your phone off when it’s normally on, watch a documentary instead of that sitcom—or better yet, read a book … with pages, not a screen.

6. Change how and where you write

Last week, I sat in a dark parking lot waiting for takeout from a local eatery. I was isolated, undisturbed, and focused. So much so, I made great progress on a blog post in the matter of minutes. Just me, a journal, and a soft dome light. Working out of coffee grinder-dominated cafes doesn’t foster the same productivity. Neither does sitting in front of a television or high-traffic public venues. Sure, use the excuse that people-watching inspires you. Rubbish.

Take yourself seriously, hide yourself, sever ties to notifications, reminders, and the urge to make sure you’re always in-the-know. Your writing—your art—deserves nothing less than your undivided attention.

7. Read new, not more

How many blogs do you subscribe to? Right now, how many blog posts sit unread? If you’re no longer challenged—if you’re glazing over posts out of habit, if you’re no longer being inspired and challenged—unsubscribe and find new ways to be stimulated. Stop wondering if you’re missing out on anything, cut ties, and stretch yourself. You may be out of school, but that’s no excuse for not remaining a student.

8. Who’s your muse?

Who do you work for? Wake up for? Breathe for? Write for them. Is it your wife, your lover, your most loyal subscriber, or your unborn child? Use them as your motivation to keep driving when you’re not strong enough to persist yourself. Keep this person’s photo nearby as a reminder. Don’t get so busy that you forget why or for whom you’re working so hard.

9. Declare victory or failure

When starting a new project, name your goal. How else will you measure success? Seth said it best, “Declare one or the other, but declare.” Maybe it’s time for self-evaluation. Maybe it’s time to reflect and determine what you did right (to do it again) and what you’ll avoid the next time. Because there will be a next time. “Failure” isn’t never blogging again. No, failure is taking valuable lessons and proactively applying what you’ve learned to the next iteration of your blog.

We’re artists. We all feel the urge to tweak our logos and change our avatars. We see the same “us” every day, and we’re bored. But what we find repetitive and boring and loathe-worthy, our tribe views as consistency and resonation.

The real artists find a way to push through, put their shoulders back and chin up, and reignite their own passion.

Talk back

Have you hit the blogging loathe-wall before? How did you bust through it? Leave a comment below so others might be inspired to do the same. And stick around—later today we’ll take a look at a case example of a blogger who changed their blog’s writing style overnight—and reaped the rewards.

Ryan Barton is a small business marketing, social media, and design consultant. He is the author of Smart Marketing, blogs at The Smart Marketing Blog, tweets at www.twitter.com/RyanBarton, and lives in Los Angeles.

WARNING: These 4 Self-Publishing Myths Are Keeping You Down

This a joint guest contribution from Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt.

Too many indie authors buy into the myths and lies that keep them running in circles rather than charging forward into a lucrative self-publishing career.

Before successfully writing fiction full time, we both wrote for our own blogs for years, along with guest posts for sites like Problogger. We wrote about entrepreneurship and all the blah blah blogging you’re plenty used to. But in 2012, with millions of e-readers in circulation, and hungry consumers in need of content, we made a decisive shift.

We spent the last year writing and publishing 1.5 million words of fiction through our company Realm & Sands. We’ve never been happier, and we’re writing what we want for an audience who loves us.

Isn’t that the dream of every blogger?

Fortunately, we didn’t let some of the most common self-publishing myths hold us down like they wanted. We hope you don’t either. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, avoid these myths and you too can build yourself a lucrative self-publishing career.

MYTH #1: If you self-publish, you can’t publish traditionally.

We’ve get this question all the time on our Self Publishing Podcast. It usually looks like this: “I’ve just finished my book, and figure I have two options: I’m trying to decide if I should self-publish or shop it around to literary agents. Why should I consider self-publishing instead of traditional?”

The root of this question is a fear that the writer has used up what’s inside them — often all they feel is inside them, because the notion of writing a second book feels daunting — and that they therefore have exactly one shot and don’t want to waste it. These writers (and bloggers) see self-publishing versus traditional as a binary decision wherein they can choose one or the other … but not both. If they use their only chance to pursue self-publishing, they’ll never see their book in a bookstore.

Traditional publishing is seen as “better” and self-publishing as “Well, at least you did something.” It’s publishing is often referred to as “real publishing,” as if it’s somehow more genuine or has more inherent value. We get it; if anyone can self-publish but not everyone can traditionally publish, the latter means you’ve passed another tier of approval. But does that matter? Maybe and maybe not.

Is it a mistake to self-publish that masterpiece rather than banging on doors until you crack your way into an agent or publisher?

Well, yes and no. There is some truth to the idea that a publisher won’t want a book that’s already been published … at all … anywhere … including by you. Publishers want fresh meat, so they can shape it how they’d like without worrying about your current readers who may have earlier versions.

If you have Book X and you self-publish, it’s possible a publisher won’t later be interested in Book X because it’s already out there in the world. So, if Book X is all you have in you, and your life won’t be complete unless you see Book X in a bookstore, and nothing less is acceptable, then maybe you’d better keep querying and networking and trying to get it to a publisher. If you’re a total unknown, and Book X is your first and only book, the odds are very, very heavily stacked against you, but if you want to keep at it, that’s your business.

On the other hand, let’s say you can write a second entry, called Book Y. If you publish Book X yourself, and if Book X is a big self-published success, publishers will be much more interested in looking at Book Y. You’ll be able to tell those publishers, “Look at Book X … I already have readers and fans who love me!”

Publishers always want to know about your “platform,” which means “your ability to promote the book without our help.” Racking up a few self-publishing successes before pitching traditional publishing is like playing baseball in the minors: Publishers can look at your record and see you have the chops needed to sell in the majors.

MYTH #2: Publishers can do things for you that you can’t do yourself.

There’s technically some truth to this one, but only a little, and it’s irrelevant for most writers.

Big publishers are built for scale. They can, in essence, take large things and make them larger. But the average writer will get a marketing budget commensurate with what they expect your books to sell. That means virtually nothing for most of us. There’s a certain “chicken versus egg” loop at play. Authors think it’s a publisher’s job to earn them money, but publishers don’t see it that way. In their eyes, you and your book are assets at best and liabilities at worst. You’re a stock in their portfolio; you’ll either perform, or you won’t. They won’t market the crap out of you to ensure your success. It’s more accurate to say that they will market the crap out of you if you become successful.

Book publishers can get your book into big brick and mortar stores. That’s true. But unless they expect your book to sell quite well, the publisher won’t pay the extra money to get you prominently featured in that store: face-out on the shelf, displayed in the end caps, laid out on the front tables. That positioning isn’t earned by merit. With the exception of something like staff picks, a bookstore isn’t going to think your book is awesome and set it up front. Chances are, for most authors, you’ll be another anonymous spine on the shelf, begging for attention. Your book will then have a few weeks to prove itself, and if it doesn’t, the bookstore will declare it a failure, pull it from the shelf, and return it to the publisher.

For most authors, publishers will handle editing, covers, and book packaging. They’ll get your book into stores. From publicity to promotion, the rest is up to you.

Yes, technically, traditional publishers can do a few things that indies can’t … but for most writers, those things are irrelevant, especially compared to the loss of control. You can’t make assumptions. Always weigh all sides of any deal; know what you’re getting and what you’re giving up.

MYTH #3: Self-promotion and marketing are dirty.

Much of the resistance to selling and marketing people naturally have is the fault of used car salesmen, timeshare companies, and multi-level marketers — fields based on the hard sell. Nothing matters more than nabbing the buyer, and if you must deceive and bully your prospects to get that sale, so be it. Coffee is for closers, they say. So close, at all costs.

The world’s used car salesmen and high-pressure realtors have left a bad taste in our mouths, because no one likes being sold to, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Being sold to, for most people, is something that happens almost against your will. Like an assault. When you’re sold to, the salesman might as well be putting a knife to your throat. But haven’t you ever bought anything outside of a high-pressure situation? Have you ever seen something in a store or seen an advertisement, thought you might like that thing, then bought it? That’s selling. That’s marketing. The seller set the object or service in front of you and accentuated the positives so that you could agree to buy it. Transaction done, and no one had to get knifed.

Have you ever gone to see the sequel of a movie you liked, or ordered dessert when the waiter offered it after your meal? Have you ever Super-Sized your Value Meal? Those are all examples of an upsell — another “dirty” marketing word. Yet you probably don’t regret any of those transactions.

You might, in fact, have appreciated the chance to get more of what you already knew you liked, often at a preferred price. Shocking!

We could beat this to death, but you get the point. In valid, non-sleazy salesmanship and marketing, everyone wins. Do you really feel that you “lost” and that the seller “won” whenever you buy something? Do you really feel that duped? No? So, why be hesitant when you’re in the seller’s position?

In an ethical sales transaction, the buyer and seller should be equally pleased. Each party should feel like thanking the other.

Ethical marketing is nothing more than letting people who might like your product know it exists — and, ideally, giving them some sort of a deal that makes the offer better for the potential buyer.

If you ever find yourself resisting sales and marketing, read the previous two paragraphs a few times until you believe them, because they’re true. If you refuse to believe they are — if some deep part of your brain continues to insist that all sales and marketing are about manipulation and winning at someone else’s expense — you’ll never succeed as an indie author.

MYTH #4: Self-publishing is a lottery, and you can (or have to) get lucky.

This is one-title thinking.

If you’re thinking self-publishing is a lottery (either one you hope to win or one you hesitate to enter because winning seems impossible), please do yourself a favor and look at the title of our book. We called it Write. Publish. Repeat for a reason. You must write, publish, then do it all over again.

There are success stories out there like 50 Shades of Gray, where an author had exactly one title, and that book blew up big time, but those are lottery scenarios and in no way typical. E.L. James scrambled to write the rest of the 50 Shades trilogy after she started making the equivalent of a small nation’s GNP each month, but even today every book in her catalog starts with 50 Shades. E.L. James did hit the self-publishing lottery, and never has to write another book if she doesn’t want to. But don’t let her story discourage you because it seems so unlikely. Don’t let her story encourage you, either, because you’re hoping for the same.

To the gamblers: You’re not going to have that one-in-a-million hit, so stop hoping for it and keep writing.

To the skeptics: You don’t need to have that one-in-a-million hit … because you can keep writing.

We do not believe in lightning-strike thought, or that you must hit it big to find success as an indie. A surprising hit would be great, and surely boost your catalog. We’ve raised a dozen funnels to market, with around 40 individual titles. If one of our titles hits BIG, everything sells at least a little more. But the magic is that we don’t need a big hit. The approach we believe in, use ourselves, advocate, and evangelize is workmanlike. Get one book that makes $200 per month, then create another 20 or 30 like it over time. Two hundred dollars per month is in no way a big hit, but it’s good. And achievable. It certainly isn’t the lottery.

Any good, persistent, business-minded, prolific writer can succeed if they keep writing and moving forward. For the modern writer, that’s excellent news.

Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt published 1.5 million words and built full-time self-publishing careers from scratch in 2013. In their comprehensive self-publishing guide Write. Publish. Repeat, they tell you everything you need to know about how to do the same. The book is half price for launch (and comes with a bonus book) through Friday, December 6.

How I Diversified My Blogging Income Beyond Having All My Eggs in the AdSense Basket

Last week I wrote about the experience of almost losing my online business as a result of having too many eggs in one basket and then followed up with a post on what I did to diversify the traffic sources coming into my blog to become less reliant upon Google.

Today I want to continue talking about diversification but to switch our attention to diversifying income streams.

Ways-to-Make-Money-Blogging1

Back in 2004 when I almost went under, I not only was too reliant upon traffic from the Google Search Engine – I was also very reliant upon Google’s AdSense Ad Network as the main source of income for my business.

AdSense had been very good to me up until that point (and it continued to be for years after), but by focusing so much of my efforts upon it I now see that it left me exposed and in a risky position.

As I suggested last week, a great question to ask is:

Is there a single thing that could kill my business right now?

At that time, AdSense accounted for 95% of my income – losing it would have had pretty devastating consequences.

I had already been experimenting with a few extra income streams in 2004 (including Amazon’s Affiliate program, some small time direct ad sales, and some other affiliate programs) but had become a little lazy in these experiments – mainly because Adsense was already doing so well (I was pretty much at a full time income from it).

As a result of almost losing it all in December 2004, I came to my senses and decided it was time to get my act together and to begin to grow some serious extra income streams.

How I Diversified My Blogging Income

Other Ad Networks

My first experiment was to try to find another advertising network that might work like AdSense. I tried a few (Yahoo had one at the time, for example) but none really converted as well as AdSense for me until I found Chitika (aft).

Chitika blew my mind. I remember the day I came across it and was impressed with it because, like AdSense, it was just a matter of copying and pasting code into my blog to show the ad – but unlike AdSense it showed ads with product images IN the ad unit. This was particularly good for me because my blog at the time was a camera review blog and I was talking about products every day.

I excitedly added an additional Chitika ad unit to every page on my photography blog at that time and the next day logged in to see how it had performed.

It did really well and that single ad unit made about 25% of what AdSense did every day.

Over the coming weeks I added more ad units and tested new positions of ads and grew that Chitika income to the point that some months in the year that followed saw it earn more than AdSense. Amazingly to me this increase in income from Chitika didn’t come at the expense of AdSense which continued to work well.

Note: Chitika ads don’t work perfectly on every blog. I myself noticed that they slowly slid back in what they earned over the next few years and today I don’t use them any more – mainly because we’ve moved to selling ads directly to advertisers (more on that below).

Making Money BECAUSE of my Blog

As my blogs and my own personal profile grew (particularly here at ProBlogger) I began to notice opportunities open up for me to generate an income by offering my services of creating other products to sell.

These largely fell into three categories – speaking, consulting and writing a book.

The speaking came first. I had already done a little speaking for free in my local area, but after launching ProBlogger I began to get paid opportunities to speak to groups about blogging.

These started off being local opportunities in my city but then grew to become interstate and international.

Similarly, as my readership on ProBlogger grew, I began to get emails from readers wanting to hire me to help them with their blogging.

I began to offer ‘blog consulting’ services where I would charge an hourly rate to advise bloggers. I didn’t stick at this for long as I didn’t find it as enjoyable as actually blogging – and I also thought I could probably help more bloggers by writing about blogging rather than working one on one with bloggers.

Also around this time I was approached by Wiley US to write the first edition of the ProBlogger book (a paper one). This book is now in its third edition.

While speaking, consulting, or the book never became million dollar income streams, they all did help me to diversify my income – they also all helped me to grow my audience and learn a lot!

Additional Onsite Income Streams

Over the years since numerous other income streams have emerged.

These have come to include the Job Board here on ProBlogger, the membership site at ProBlogger.com (stay tuned for some big news about this in the coming months) and what became my biggest income stream – selling eBooks that relate to my blogs topics.

Each of these streams started as a small experiment to see what I could learn and what I could grow.

The job board has been a slow burner income stream in many ways. It generally only sees 1-2 jobs added to it every day at $50 a pop, but over the years this has added up to bring in more than $100,000.

eBooks had a more spectacular impact on profit. Again, I started slow with a single eBook that I put together largely by myself and a little outsourcing. I didn’t know how it would go but after nervously launching it to the photography blog audience that I’d worked hard to build up, it generated over $70,000 in a week (important note: I had been blogging on that blog for years and had build a decent audience – it didn’t happen overnight)!

The success of that eBook launch led me to publish more photography eBooks (15 so far) and ProBlogger eBooks.

Other Related Sites

As Digital Photography School has grown, there have been a number of opportunities to start new related ventures off the back of that original site.

The first of these was SnapnDeals – a deals site for photographers where we promote both our own eBooks that might be on special, but also other people’s products as an affiliate.

Similarly, we’ve also launched SnapnGuides – a photography mini-eBook site (we’ve published two eBooks there so far) that are smaller and cheaper eBooks/guides on niches of photography.

I have numerous ideas for other smaller ‘sister sites’ for the photography niche that I’d like to roll out in the coming years.

Events

Four years ago I had an impulsive idea to run an event for Aussie bloggers. Six weeks later we held our first ProBlogger Training Day for 100 bloggers in Melbourne.

We’ve held this event every year since, each each time growing not only attendance levels, but also the professionalism of the event.

We’ve also added a ‘virtual ticket’ for those unable to get to Australia for the event.

While not a huge money spinner, it is another income stream in the business and helps support other aspects of what I’ve built.

Direct Ad Sales

In the last few months I’ve circled back to one of the early income streams that I touched on above – direct sales of ads.

I’ve never really stopped doing this but last month have completely removed AdSense from my blogs for the first time since I started blogging and have engaged the services of a great little team of ad sales specialists to sell ads directly to advertisers.

The initial results have been very encouraging!

While I know some people have a lot of negative things to say about AdSense, I’ve never really written it off completely. It’s an ad network that has generated over a million dollars over the last nine or so years, and the people at Google have been nothing but helpful to us. But for now, we’re seeing more potential in working directly with brands.

The Current State of Play for Me

Here’s a breakdown of my own income streams in April of this year. While it doesn’t reflect the switching off of AdSense (Ad Networks) or the increased attention to direct ad sales, it shows you how I’ve become less reliant upon any one stream of income for my blogs.

NewImage

What is Your Income Split Like?

That’s my story – what about you?

Of course there are many many more potential income streams for a blog, but I’d love to hear your experience.

Have you got a variety of income streams? Or are you focusing pretty heavily upon a single one?

How to Speed Up the Blog Writing Process [My Method]

Image by Jonathan Cohen

Image by Jonathan Cohen

Earlier today I was asked for tips on how to speed up the writing process when writing longer posts.

I don’t know that I have an answer that will help everyone with that one as I think it partly comes down to personal style, experience level and skill – but two thoughts did come to mind based upon my own experience.

And before I share them – one quick note/disclaimer…. sometimes slow is best.

While I will talk about my process for writing that has helped me get a little quicker as a writer I do think that it is important not to rush your posts. Slow blogging can lead to posts which have more depth and that are more useful to your readers.

Having said that – I think there are times where bloggers spend so long on tweaking and perfecting their posts that perhaps they could do with some speeding up.

OK – enough disclaimers – here are my two tips!

1. It takes Practice

I remember in my early days when I’d spend hours writing even the shortest of posts. While there are still some posts that are more of a grind to write and can take time (for example three days ago I spent most of the day working on the Ultimate Guide to Writing Comments on Blogs) I do think that my writing has sped up when I compare it to how I used to write.

Related to this idea of practice is that when I write regularly I find that I write faster. If I write every day I get into a groove but if I take a couple of weeks off for a vacation I often find it really difficult to get going again.

While I don’t think every blog needs to publish a post every day – I do see this as a good argument for bloggers to write something every day – just to keep your writing flowing.

2. Break it Down: How I do It

The second thing that comes to mind is that when I approach a larger topic and sit down to write what I think will be a longer post I tend write in a different way to when I write shorter posts.

Knowing that the topic is big I will often try to come up with an outline for the post before I start.

Start with a List

For me this means I almost always create a bullet point list before I start writing a longer post.

The list simply contains the main points or sub topics that I want to touch on in the post. Each point might simply be a word or two but as I create the list I begin to look at the post not as a massive overwhelming job but as a series of smaller tasks that I need to work through to write the post.

Expand Each Point

With the list in hand I will generally try to start writing a paragraph or two on each point.

Of course as I write inspiration might come and I might add in points or change their order – but with the list to work through I quite often find that the post is written before I realise it.

Introductions, Conclusions and Titles

Once I’ve worked through all the points I will usually go back to to the beginning and work on my post title, write an introduction (or tweak what I’ve already written) and will then work on a conclusion and call to action.

I know some people like to write their introduction first but I find my introductions flow a lot better if I know what I’ve written rather than writing an introduction to something I’m not completely sure of how it will end.

Make it Flow and Consider Format

Sometimes I might also need to work a little on tying points together to make the post flow but as I tend to write articles in a single sitting I will often have naturally done this as I’ve written.

The other thing to consider at this point is how I’ll format the post. Because I’ve started with a list might mean that the post ends up looking like a list. A good example of this is my recent post ‘7 Ways to Stay Inspired and Avoid Bloggers Burn Out‘ in which I followed this exact process and then number each of the points in the post.

Your post need not be numbered or look like a list though. Alternatively you might just use headings to start each point without any numbers (as I did recently in my post on on my Facebook experiments) or you might even choose to present the post as an article/essay without any headings.

My personal preference is to break a post down with headings, steps or into a list – mainly because I think it makes my posts easier to read (see below on this).

Edit and Polish

Last of all comes a once over to Edit and Polish the post.

I personally find that this stage works best for me if I have a break from writing – even an hour or two away from the post gives a little perspective and can help make final edits that take the post up a notch.

Good for the Writer and Good for the Reader

The other thing worth mentioning is that this style of writing (starting with a list) can end up producing articles that are not only easier to write – but easier to read.

I find that my readers often give more positive affirmations on a post if its broken down into a well organised flow and smaller sections.

This doesn’t mean you can’t go deep into a topic – but just think about how you can get to that deeper destination by breaking it down and ordering your points to get them to the place you want to take them.

How Do You Tackle the Writing Process?

Do you write outlines for posts or are you someone who prefers just to sit and write?

I’d love to hear a little about how you tackle the task of writing in comments below.

Further Reading:

If you’d like to learn a little more about my writing process check out my series – How to Craft a Blog Post which explores 10 points to pause in the writing of a post to make it a better post.

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.

Update: She’s also experimented with seasonal posts – for example Kris Kringle Ideas for Christmas.

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?

Five Lessons Any Blogger Can Learn from Organized Crime

This is a guest contribution from Steven Gomez.

Image courtesy of Boaz Yiftach / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Boaz Yiftach / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Crime in America has many names. There is the Mafia, the Mob, the National Crime Syndicate, or “La Costa Nostra” – Italian for “This Thing of Ours.” In addition to the colorful names and faces are the larger-than-life personalities that turned crime in America literally into a “booming” industry.

Figures like Lucky Luciano, John Gotti, Meyer Lansky, “Bugsy” Siegel, and Scarface Al Capone grew the mob from a bunch of small-time criminals to an empire.

What can a blogger learn from the worst criminals in America? Well, loads of bad stuff, but also some truly epic lessons in how to create a great blog.

1) Provide Your Tribe with an Identity and a Brand They Can Care About

Crime is neither glamorous nor attractive, and criminals tend not to be society’s best and brightest. No one brags about being a drug pusher, a purse snatcher, or a mugger. Yet the idea of being a “Made Man” has an allure and mystique that even Hollywood finds irresistible.

An associate is brought into a dark basement filled with shadowy figures and his finger is pricked. Blood is drawn and a lit prayer card is placed in his cupped hand, the ashes mingling with his blood. He is told that he now has a family that supersedes the one he was born into. A family that values honour and loyalty above all, demands total obedience, and offers prosperity, wealth, and respect.

The reality of the Mafia is decidedly different, but the appeal of being “Made” by the Mob has a romance that is hard to ignore.

It is an identity that promises distinction.

Author Scott Sigler calls his long-time readers “Junkies” and the Noir Factory, my blog, refers to its subscribers as “Confidential Informants.”

While no one is suggesting that you set prayer cards on fire, and – depending on your blog – it may be very inappropriate to demand blood-letting, you should instill that same kind of identity in your tribe.

If you can capture that sense of romance, that same loyalty in your readers, then you not only have a tribe, you have a “family.” Let the identity serve as a badge of honour.

2) Work with Your “Competition” to Create New Opportunities

For years after the Mafia came to America, they were ruled by the Capo di tutti capi, also known as the “Godfather” or “Boss of Bosses.”  This worked well for the Mob if the Capo was an intelligent and sensible man who was interested in the organisation’s well-being and growth.

More often than not this was not the case.

In 1929, Meyer Lansky gathered the heads of the strongest Prohibition-era gangs in America. Combining his wedding with a business conference (he was a romantic at heart) Lansky brought together diverse faces in the crime world, including many who had never worked together before. For the first time, the Irish mob, the Italian mob, and the Jewish mob all sat down together.

Lansky made them see that the Prohibition Wars caused them to lose business as well as manpower and was something that they could avoid. By working together the bosses from Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York formed a governing body, called The Commission, which would meet every five years and would also decide on internal issues as needed.

In one of the Commission’s first exercises of power, Dutch Shultz questioned their authority to have prosecutor Thomas Dewey killed.  Shultz was killed by Murder Inc. shortly afterward for challenging the Commission.

Again, while we do not recommend that you enter into illicit partnerships with criminals, it’s important to remember that YOURS in not the only voice in your chosen niche. You might not form a Commission with those other voices, but imagine the kind of effect you can have on your readers by partnering with the leaders in your field.

Even if you aren’t a leader in your niche yet, by reaching out to the “bosses” of your niche you can increase your sphere of influence exponentially, and increase your readers’ engagement.

3) Network with Your Peers Outside Your Comfort Zone

Like the Atlantic City Conference that built the Commission, the men who would become known as the “Crime Syndicate” chose to meet in interesting places not only to talk business but to build their relationships.

In places like Havana, Atlantic City, and Apalachin, New York, mobsters met with others of their kind to drink, tell jokes, and talk business. In other industries, branding strategies and logistics might be the main topics. With the mob conventions, it was all about hostile takeovers.

At the Apalachin Convention, the mob discussed the distribution of gaming interests throughout the US. In Havana the bosses made decisions regarding working with the Sicilian crime lords and how best to deal with the high profile, money skimming liability that was Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.

You (hopefully) won’t engage in the same kind of networking, but you can connect with the movers-and-shakers in your niche and work towards solving common problems and cementing relationships.

For many entrepreneurs and bloggers, making acquaintances and building friendships lead to interview opportunities, traffic building exercises, and even the odd friendship or two.

4) Always Look to Expand Your Empire

Before Bugsy Siegel became a liability to the mob, he was seen as a young man of vision. A rising star in the east, Siegel was a close friend of mob boss Meyer Lansky and a boyhood pal of Al Capone. His lasting contribution to the mob, however, led him into the west.

Moving to California and embracing the Hollywood lifestyle, Siegel made the acquaintance of William R. Wilkerson, who was building the Flamingo Hotel. Shoe-horning himself in as the liaison between Wilkerson and the mob, Siegel became a guiding force for the mob’s gambling presence in Las Vegas.

While Siegel’s vision led him to a less-than-happy ending, as a blogger, when you are looking to expand your presence, you can learn from Siegel’s example.

Look for new territories that are complementary to your niche. If you write for single mom entrepreneurs, look for other markets that would interest a single mom, and connect with the voices in that field. If you are writing about weight loss with a focus on Italian food, then Italian travel, particularly active-travel, is something that should be on your radar.

Finding these growth opportunities for your blog will allow your voice and your empire to flourish.

5) Always Reward Loyalty

One of the reasons the community tolerated the presence of the mob was that they protected the neighbourhood from small-time criminals and contributed lavishly to local charities. Sometimes those charities were orphanages and churches, and sometimes those charities were policemen and district attorneys.

When someone gives you the gift of their attention, be it by subscribing to your email list, your blog feed, or friending you on Facebook, they honour you with that attention. Never take it for granted.

When you implement a campaign for new readers, make sure that you reward those have been with you for the long haul. If you offer a give-away to new subscribers, email your current subscribers to let them know how they can get in on it as well. If someone is constantly sharing your content, give them a shout-out.

Reward the loyalty of your readers and they will become evangelists for your blog, and from there it’s a small step from evangelist to enforcer.

I’m just saying.

Steven Gomez is a pulp writer in the best (or worst) tradition. He lives and dies with his favourite football team, enjoys old movies and older pulp novels, and writes constantly about pulps, blogging, and crime. To sign up as a Confidential Informant, as well as get a FREE copy of his Knockout Noir Novel – THE STANDING EIGHT – visit the Noir Factory! You can also swear at him on Facebook!