Many people start blogs as a creative outlet for sharing their passions and reaching out to help others by sharing their advice and vast knowledge on an any given topic. Add to that the potential for making a very comfortable living doing what they love, and it’s easy to see why so many are eager to try their hand at blogging.
I’ve spent several years following many talented writers who regularly crank out thought-provoking, valuable content-rich posts on a weekly basis, quickly and insightfully responding to questions and comments from their knowledge-hungry readers. But really, who has time for that?
Let’s be real. Blogging requires hard work, dedication and organization and honestly, wouldn’t you rather be vegged out in front of the TV or tucked away in your bed, dreaming your life away? Of course you would, and I know a few cats who would agree with you. But what do you do when you find that you’re caught up in that exhausting cycle of writing, publishing, promoting and engaging? When the freedom from the 9 to 5 office grind has got you totally regretting that impromptu beach trip with your family?
Well today’s your lucky day, because I’m here to share with you (with the help of a few of my feline [mostly] friends) several fool-proof ways to disengage with your audience, slow down or stop your production and ensure that your audience and profits will drop faster than the speed of light!
You remember how it was before you started your own blog, right? You lurked for months or more in the blogosphere, perusing the comments sections and related social media posts, looking for answers to questions that you yourself were afraid to ask. I get it. You’re a bit shy at times and people can be scary, so the less risk you take by immersing yourself in social engagement with readers and fellow bloggers, the better. And if it ain’t broke… After all, networking is overrated and you surely wouldn’t want to risk drawing attention and traffic to your brand or the posts you’ve worked so hard to write. We’ll talk more about writing posts in a moment. But first:
Nothing you have to say is really important, so why bother sharing who you really are with your readers? Valuable information is valuable information whether it’s doled out in a way that amuses or in a way that bores, and since you don’t really owe anybody a damn thing, don’t feel bad about lulling your readers into a snooze fest with your monotonous writing style. After all, if you really wanted people to get a feel for your down-to-earth nature, delightful humor or scathing whit, you likely would have tried your hand at stand-up comedy, not incorporate these charming qualities into your writing, amiright?
You’ve heard the saying: “Opinions are like _____ …” It seems everybody’s got one and can’t wait to share it, whether you want to hear it or not. Screw them. This is your blog and you can run it any way you like. That a few well-meaning readers might have a question about, or an alternate perspective on something you’ve written does not obligate you to engage in respectful mature debate. And who would blame you for giving the occasional dissenter a real piece of your mind? In fact, the sense of security and anonymity the internet offers can be a real advantage when the urge strikes to respond with contempt to anyone who dares exhibit a thought that conflicts with your own. This strategy is guaranteed to drop your readership, too. It’s a win‑win!
As pointed out above, dazzling others with your winning personality and engaging with your readers and fellow bloggers is a lot of work that takes time away from other activities you could be doing, like napping or bingeing on your favorite Netflix Original show. Happily, this problem is best solved by becoming lax in your blog output all together. By simply learning to prioritize in a way that allows you to be inefficient and maximize the precious time wasted, you’ll soon lose inspiration and ambition, run out of ideas for blog posts and eventually be free of those pesky readers who’ve kept your analytics counter moving north. So free yourself of the guilt you’ve been carrying around the past couple of months because you’ve neglected your writing and embrace your MIA status with open arms. Your conscience will thank you.
Despite employing all of the above, is entirely possible that you will find yourself with a few remaining blog subscribers or readers. Whether these hangers-on are the result of loyalty or the consequence of being too lazy to click the “unsubscribe” link, don’t despair. Their small number won’t bring you enough troublesome traffic to warrant any profit. Just the same, these too are handled with comparable ease as the above-listed steps. Are you ready for it? Simply walk away. Resign your blog to the vast graveyard of dashed hopes and save yourself the hassle of checking your blog dash for comments, keeping up the social media accounts or the expense of a domain and monthly hosting. You’re in good company. One New York Times article cited that 95% of blogs go belly up. That’s huge. Why should you stand apart from the others? You’ve got nothing to prove. Soon you’ll be free to spend your time doing the things you really love. Your couch awaits.
We all experience days where we just cannot get motivated, and some of us more than others. Lackluster motivation can be a detriment to any task, but when you’re trying to pump out blog posts or accomplish any other imaginative work, it can be a real creativity killer.
As I gain more experience in blogging, I’m learning that I need to take advantage of the moments that I have ideas and/or things to say about those ideas by recording, writing or typing them right away. That way, when I am in the mood to write something and my creative juices aren’t exactly flowing, I have a stash of ideas ready and waiting to be elaborated on. Also, I’m terribly forgetful and thoughts and ideas dash out of my head almost as quickly as they come in.
But what about those times – and we all have them – when the obstacle we face is lethargy, lack of desire or disinterest? When the desire to curl up in bed or lounge in front of the TV for a Netflix binge overpowers our self-starting nature?
I do take time out on occasion to regain my sanity by indulging in a lazy day of nothing, but it’s a slippery slope. Add to that the day-to-day stresses that can pile up and sap me of energy and even hope, and I’ve got to have a strategy ready to implement when I’m stuck in a cycle of inertia or else I’ll end up putting off my writing or worse, neglect it long-term, and that doesn’t work for me.
Following are my go-to steps for getting back on track and into the game:
Endorphins or “feel-good” hormones are secreted in the brain and nervous system and activate the body’s opiate receptors, reducing stress and fatigue, lifting our moods and causing us to feel more focused, among other things. One of the most powerful endorphin boosters is exercise. A mere 10 to 30 minutes (each person is different) can make a world of difference in your mental outlook. So, go for a run or do some intense exercise to raise your heart rate and produce a good sweat. Or if you’re like me, you benefit from simply blasting music and dancing around your house. It’s free and nobody has to know but you! A quick high-intensity workout really refreshes me and gives me a positive perspective when I’m feeling down and blah.
Another free and easy trick to feeling better and lifting the mood is to get natural sunlight. The serotonin boost occurs when sunlight goes through the eyes and triggers receptors in the retina that signal the brain to produce more of the hormone, reducing stress and anxiety that can get in the way of creative thinking. Five to ten minutes is all that’s needed!
The sights, sounds and smells around you can have a drastic effect on your focus and creativity. Waking up to a cluttered bedroom or walking into a cluttered office can really hamper your ability to be productive; so, when fighting to get back into a creative mindset, take time to ensure your environment is clean and organized before going to sleep at night, allowing you to wake up in a clutter-free space. This contributes greatly to mental clarity and ability to focus on necessary tasks.
Additionally, a pleasant workspace can be very inspiring when you need to write. Decluttering your desk or worktable, playing some mood music and lighting your favorite incense or candles will go a long way toward getting your creative juices flowing and help you out of your slump. And if you need to, get out! Take your work to a coffee shop, a park or the beach. Change your surroundings and get flowing, stat!
Finally, what you put into your body has a huge effect on your state of mind. Nutrient-dense whole foods nourish the mind as well as the body, while sugar and starches make you sluggish and slow down the thinking process. It’s science! So the next time you sit down to work or write and you’re feeling foggy, reconsider reaching for the sugar-laden coffee drink with pastry and instead opt for something that will rev your engines, like a handful of almonds and a nice flavored mineral water (if that’s your thing).
Of course, you will have days where you will have no choice but to submit to a good day of relaxation for your mental health, and there’s nothing wrong with that! But if you’re like me and you find that one day leads to
a week or a month a year (okay, ya got me!) of neglectful lounging, it might help to have a few tips up your sleeve to start climbing out of your hole.
Try all or a few of these tips and let me know how you get on. I’d love to hear from you!
We all could use a little more cash at times, and some of us need more than others.
Writing, blogging, design and technical jobs are all great options for skilled and motivated individuals who wish to trade in the office grind in favor of being their own boss or bring in a little extra income.
But what if you’re not really a writer, or feel completely lost when it comes to anything technical, and you’re not feeling very entrepreneurial? Well, you’re certainly not alone, and there are still great options available for you.
The internet contains thousands of lists of jobs you can do at home. I’m sure you’ve already scanned through dozens of them and maybe determined that most weren’t a fit for you. There was a time (long before I started this blog) that I had no interest in a career or becoming a brand, and I just simply want to bring in a paycheck that allowed me to focus on being a mom.
It feels like only yesterday I was living in a tiny apartment with my husband and two small children (One of those children just graduated college – woo hoo!), stressing about how on earth we were going to pay our rent and keep the power on. My husband had a part-time teaching gig at the community college around the corner, but the money from that was so little, we had to depend a lot on family to get us by.
I remember frantically searching the internet for work-at home jobs, frustrated that every glimmer of hope I mustered was eventually dashed at the realization that I would be expected to fork out money (that I didn’t have!) in order to qualify for whatever work was available. The scams in those days, I tell ya! Thankfully I’m a bit older and wiser now.
I did manage to navigate those days relatively unscathed, and managed to find scam-free, gainful work-at home jobs that really helped my family get through the tough times and allow me to stay home and focus on being a mom. Not surprisingly, most of the legit companies are still around today and seeking honest, self-motivated individuals – like you – to fulfill dignified essential roles in their companies. And I’m here to point you in the right direction.
A telephone customer service representative (CSR) was the very first work-at home (hereafter referred to as WAH) role I ever tried. After the initial relief of finding a company that provided WAH opportunities and surviving a telephone interview, I was overwhelmed with fear that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I had been out of the work force for a few years by then, staying home to take care of a small child and an infant, and as many women can tell you, that transition can really mess with your brain. My self-doubt and insecurity were at an all time-high. But you know what? I needn’t have worried. It was fine.
Phone calls were sent to my computer, which I answered using software from the company, which enabled me to press a button to connect the call. I then simply read from a script that appeared on my screen. Easy Peasy! I took orders for a popular shopping channel, I took orders for a popular pizza chain, and I even took calls for credit card companies, signing up new customers. Everything I needed was right there in the script in front of me. If I did on occasion have an issue that I couldn’t handle, transferring the customer to a manager was as simple as pressing a couple buttons to pass the call to someone more qualified to help. I was soon able to relax enough to have a little fun with the job and be more personable with the callers. It made for a better experience and I’ll say it, I even began to enjoy being a WAH CSR. Three companies that have been around for a long time and have good reputations are:
• www.sykes.com (formerly Alpine Access)
I personally worked for West Corporation and I had a great experience with them. My husband even did some work for them short term, which essentially doubled our income at the time. We were both making $8.00 an hour when we were with West, but admittedly, this was years ago. At the time, $8.00 was pretty good considering the lack of overhead.
Bottom Line: If you’re a people person, have a flexible schedule and love working in your PJs, WAH CSR just might be for you!
2. Transcription from Home
Eventually, my husband got a decent fulltime job which, coupled with my income as a customer service rep, enabled us to adequately sustain our household, and even a few luxuries from time to time. So, imagine my surprise when I was contacted out of the blue by a transcription company claiming that I had applied for them some time ago, and that they now had an opening for me if I was interested. Honestly, I had no recollection (I still don’t) of applying with this company, nor had I heard of them; but cautiously optimistic, I interviewed, went through the training and even received my first paycheck two weeks later.
My bank initially refused to honor the check, suspecting that it was a fraud, but after a triangle of phone calls to and from my bank, the transcription company and their bank, it was determined that it was a legitimate check, the funds were available and the company was legit after all. Boy, was I relieved!
Ten years later, I can confidently tell you that this company is huge, with big-name clients and continues to grow. And I’ve never once had an issue with payment. They faithfully make direct deposits into their contractors’ bank accounts twice a month. In fact, I still maintain one company’s required minimum of typing hours, per month, in order to keep my certification with them because these days, you just never know when you’ll need a little extra cash and it’s always good to have a backup.
The rate of pay is moderate, but the faster and more accurate you type, the more money you stand to make. When I started out, my pay worked out to $9.00 per hour, but I’ve become really fast, and an hour of typing brings me a much higher rate depending on what kind of transcription I’m doing and how my hands are feeling on any given day. HIPAA laws and just general privacy considerations prevent me from naming specifically the transcription companies I’ve worked for, but I will include them in a list below of the more reputable transcription agencies, and you can check them out yourself.
The only investment needed is a foot pedal and a decent computer. Now, I managed to go through the training without a foot pedal, and it was a pain in the butt, but it is possible. However, I highly recommend the foot pedal. You can get a really nice one for $60.00. The software I used is proprietary and free to download once you’ve been set up as a contractor.
Bottom Line: If you’re not really a people person, don’t mind spending long hours at your desk, have flexibility in your working hours, and have strong work ethic and attention to detail, this job might be for you.
Not everybody is cut out to run their own business. Finding a job that pays a decent wage that you can do from home with little overhead isn’t impossible, and with a bit of determination, you can turn a good side hustle into a fulltime gig.
I’ve had my blog for more than four years now, with periods within that timeframe where I’ve neglected it completely. It has been only very recently that I decided to really work my blog fulltime and make it my primary focus. In doing so, I’ve been hit head on with valuable lessons, as often happens when one dives straight into any venture. Here are four big ones I’ve encountered:
1. USE IT OR LOSE IT
This oh-so-true cliché applies in at least two ways I’ve experienced: Firstly, when I neglect writing for any length of time, it really affects my ability to craft eloquent blog posts (Honestly, I’m struggling here!). Much like exercising a muscle, writing needs to be regularly practiced in order for one to develop into a skilled and articulate scribe. I’ve always been very aware of the difference in my writing quality after a prolonged hiatus; and the frustrating writer’s block that always follows really slows down my blog output. So, keep at it! Even if you must take a break from blogging, make an effort to write a little something every day. It will make a difference, I promise!
Secondly, neglecting my blog really affects my readership. Even if my readers don’t take the time to actually “unsubscribe” to my blog (though many have, understandably), they simply won’t bother to come back and read my posts when I do publish them. It’s perfectly reasonable when you consider that the writer/reader relationship is just that – a relationship. And just like any relationship, it must be nurtured and I need to be relied upon to be a stable source of education, advice, comfort or entertainment – after all, that’s what we, as bloggers, are sought out for. That’s why it is helpful for me to plan out and write my future blog posts. Some people have a lot to say all the time, but for me that’s just not the case. I need to take advantage of the times I do have thoughts I want to share, to get them out of my head and onto some sort of medium. It’s been difficult for me to do, but the more I practice, the easier it gets.
2. MARKETING IS IMPORTANT
I am not a sales person. At all. I’m painfully shy by nature and the thought of soliciting anyone for anything makes me sick to my stomach. It occurred to me though, that putting my thoughts and ideas out there on the blogosphere will help no one if they’re never seen and read.
It’s taken me a few years of constantly reading other writers’ posts and articles about writing and blogging as a career to finally overcome my resistance to promoting myself; but if I’m completely honest, the lack of confidence in myself as a brand has probably been the bigger hurdle. But it’s important to overcome these obstacles if you want to bring in meaningful income from your blog. As for lack of confidence, just get over it. Realize that there are millions of people out there in the blogosphere, and there are bound to be readers who will be interested in what you’ve got to say. And don’t be afraid to keep changing and improving as you take in more knowledge and learn better strategies. Constant change beats stagnation and neglect – I know from experience!
As far as marketing education goes, if you want to scrape up some money and plunk it down on a marketing course, have at it! But if you’re like me, and you really don’t want to shell out the money, there are so many good blog posts detailing different marketing strategies that you can easily string together to create a successful well-rounded marketing plan of your own. Create a Pinterest account and run a search – the abundance of educational material is staggering!
3. START OUT AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON
I started blogging just to vent my thoughts and feelings, and network with like-minded individuals. Since I had no thought initially of profiting from my blog, a limited free subdomain platform worked for me. It wasn’t until I started reading other blogs and asking questions that I realized the advantages of using a customizable self-hosted blogging platform, as well as the possibility of making money doing what I loved to do best – writing! So, I decided to move to WordPress.org and set myself up for potential revenue.
I was really excited about being on a self-hosted CMF platform with the ability to customize my blog to look any way I wanted. I’m fortunate enough to be married to a wonderful guy who builds websites and blogs for a living, so I have the advantage of an experienced in-house developer but honestly, it is on my bucket list to learn this stuff myself…eventually.
I was not prepared for the reaction of my long-time readers to my new format at all. I think they might have forgiven the drastic aesthetic changes had it not been for the couple of ads now popping up on my blog. Google Ads are a great way to make money, but if your readers are purists and accustomed to an unadulterated ad-free format, the transition can be difficult, and I lost quite a few readers due to the change. Unfortunately, I let that really get to me, which really contributed to the ensuing period of neglect on my part.
It took me longer than it should have to really grasp and accept that many changes can, should and will be made as your blog evolves but not everybody will be on board. So, if you’re at the beginning stages of a blog and you’re already considering monetizing it, I would suggest making that clear now, either by a readily-visible disclaimer and disclosure or by moving ahead and implementing ads and/or affiliate links. Of course, there will be readers that will stick with you through the process of change; but inevitably, you will outgrow others. This brings me to my final lesson:
4. GROW A THICK SKIN
Seriously. If I let every departing reader, criticism or nasty comment get to me, I’d have one grave flop of a blog. Oh wait – that was me! I totally did that. I obsessed over every lost subscriber. I let every nasty and negative comment cut into me. I felt like a failure and I allowed it to prevent me from writing for months at a time and in one case, an entire year. And let me tell you, it’s not worth it. Your real value has no basis in the volume of your readership or followers, nor on the opinions of a few cowardly trolls. Let me say that again: Your real value has no basis in the volume of your readership or followers, nor on the opinions of a few cowardly trolls. Did you get that?
I know I said earlier that your writer/reader relationships need to be nurtured, and that’s true; but let me be real clear: While that writer/reader relationship does need to be cultivated in order to breed a level of familiarity and establish trust, there is a limit to what you as a writer owe anyone who reads your blog. From time to time, you will encounter some readers who will demand more of you than they’re entitled to. That’s not okay. You have your limits. State them and stick to them. And remember that there will always be critics. Get over it; opinions differ. And then there will always be the cowardly trolls. Always. And vicious ones, too. It’s inevitable. But remember that these know nothing about you, their toxic communications made only in the security of their own homes, shrouded in complete anonymity. They hold no merit whatsoever. Please don’t let them affect your self-value and consequently, your brand.
Sadly, I watched two very skilled writers over the past year shut down their blogs and close up shop over the stress of intense harassment from individuals who had nothing better to do than to spend their days sending nasty emails and posting hateful comments to thoughtful, well-written blog posts. Please, please, don’t let this happen to you. I know I’ve stumbled under the weight of it before, but I’m determined not to let it happen again. Learn from my mistakes.
These are no doubt the four most difficult lessons I’ve had to learn in my blogging endeavor thus far. As with any worthwhile project or venture, you will make your own mistakes and learn your own lessons, adding to your knowledge base and strengthening your skillset. If you have a moment, share some of your great lessons learned – I’d love to hear from you!
From time to time, I find myself feeling a little frustrated when I don’t quite “have it all together.” Case in point, I’m currently sitting in my home office which very visibly has not been vacuumed since my return from vacation nearly a week ago; the mail basket sitting on my desk is overflowing with envelopes I’ve yet to open; my voice mail box is so full it can’t take any new messages; and I’m sipping coffee from one of 3 drinking vessels left on my work station during the course of the week. (About 10 minutes ago, I picked up the wrong mug. Ugh!)
For a few years, a sizable portion of my income while working from home was made as a VA (virtual assistant). While I did well and worked with some wonderful individuals (partners as well as clients), I soon became dispassionate about my work. I was stubborn and slow to accept and learn about blogging as an important facet of running a successful business and I was overwhelmed by social media in general. I’m not as stubborn as I formerly was regarding these common business tools, and while I still have so much learn about them, I am genuinely making the effort.
Far from simply being the 1980’s advertising campaign in the U.S. War on Drugs (yeah, I know, I’m totally dating myself here), “Just Say No” has become a personal mantra for me, from dealings with over-entitled friends and family to pushy salespersons and more recently, clients. While the idea has held for decades that the client is always right, a new perspective with a hefty dose of logic has wandered onto the business scene.
Before I started my own virtual support business, I read every available Internet magazine article; skimmed every blog; lurked in every VA forum; examined and quietly critiqued every known VA web site; and asked thousands of questions. After paying my due diligence, I felt I was ready to get down to business – well, almost.
I haven’t forgotten about my series on legitimate work-at-home jobs; I’ve just been really, really overwhelmed as I’ve had a lot going on, including my water fast. But I’m feeling pretty good and so today I’m going to briefly discuss another option for anyone who wants to work from home and add a really interesting job to their resume – Voiceover work!
I fell into it quite by accident five years ago and honestly, I was very reluctant to do it at first.
In my quest to find a lucrative work-at-home job, I pored over many online ads and sifted vigorously, trying to separate the scams from the legit. My prior extensive administrative experience lent eligibility to much of the typing work available, including transcription, and as I was tiring of the remote telephone customer service work, I thought I’d give it a go.