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!