After 104 blog posts, almost daily, I was wondering if I had burnt out. The day-job has been getting intense. The need to write for a living in my day job was beginning to give me some serious screen fatigue; trying to write a blog at that pace, too, did not work at all. This is what happens with solo bloggers. Without feedback from a team, we’re pretty much reduced to the kindliness of readers to give us incentives. And with other bill-paying demands on our time, well, time for blogging begins to compete with time for sleeping. For me, it’s been that–and learning new things–that have kept me going. I love learning new technology. And I love writing.
What Blogging Has Done For Me
The biggest thing I’ve learned from blogging is that I do love to write. I especially like writing for an audience. I know that this experience has made me a better writer. As a hobby, it’s fun and interesting. It stretches my understanding of social media and social behavior on the Internet. Can I keep it up at least weekly? That remains to be seen!
My plan to move to writing more about health and exercise and all that is still an “I-dunno.” I do know that when your taste for your own blog dwindles, it is time to change it up. And I still have not opened the box on Zumba Gold! (That changes today).
Understanding the Life of a Blog
Over the last three years, my cursory study of successful blogs, by no means sufficiently scientific, has shown me that highly successful blogs tend to change hands and become corporate (like Kitchn) or morph into something else over the course of months and years. Pro Food Blogger, one of my favorite sites on starting a food blog, became a food truck blog, supporting a real-life food truck, and then an easy-going recipe and review site on the taste of Maine (From Away) which is now gone and has redirected to yet another site (by the same folks, the wonderful Bedells) now called mealhack!
Those folks going for commercialization of their efforts face a fairly tough go of it. There is no perfect, easy path to a second income from blogging, at least not blogging by itself. Blogging as part of a range of different entrepreneurial pursuits, however, has its points.
Blogging commercially is about selling something. The question of what we’re selling has to be at the forefront of our purpose–if making money is at the forefront of our purpose. Some people sell their e-books. Some people sell courses, both on-line and real-life. I look at some wonderful sites like Pioneer Woman. She’s a brand. She writes about food, her life, with great videos and I think, There. That’s What I Want. That’s a big ask of a small blog, run by a harried social media research-obsessed recovering academic.
Developing a Personal Brand
While I have all kinds of issues with the book, The Startup of You, by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, (don’t get me started about the bro-culture, white male privilege that dances around those pages), I did get so much out of it. They are absolutely right: work culture today and on into the future is all about personal branding. But if you’re over forty (or worse, over fifty), it seems like a bit late in life to get started on that effort (but we may have to cross that bridge if we’re going to change and grow.)
We aren’t expected to change, grow, develop and be remarkably better after forty and fifty. We have to push back on that expectation.
What kind of personal brand CAN we create for ourselves after forty? If we have day jobs, how would people there react to encountering our online selves? What about future employers? How authentic can we be? How authentic should we be?
What are We Selling? Who are Our Aspirational Models?
Mary Roach is one of my favorite writers. She goes out and does research on all sorts of crazy stuff, packs her knowledge and experience into savory bites of new journalism, and puts them into conventional books you can buy through all the traditional ways. I used to think it would be great to be a writer like Mary Roach.
Joanna Penn has a blog, a raftload of non-fiction and fiction books that she publishes herself, and teaches workshops online and in person. She labors in the field of new media and she makes a decent living. I (and many like me) have aspired to be a new media entrepreneur, like Joanna Penn.
From the time I was oh, fourteen or so, my journalistic heroes were Erma Bombeck and Art Buchwald. I discovered Bombeck when my mother bought one of her books as a book club selection, The Grass is Greener Over the Septic Tank. Art Buchwald’s comic sendup of all things Washingtonian were syndicated; I came across them in the old Dallas Times Herald. Art helped me make sense of politics. Erma Bombeck helped me make sense of growing up female. There is a part of me that would really like to write humor–and dimly, I think about how the direction of this blog might conceivably go that way. Now that, my dear readers, would be the bravest turn of all.
Who is Our Audience? Who are Our Customers?
Audience and customers are subtly different categories of reader. An audience member is someone who reads, consumes the information and joins in the happy party. I have 181 readers, allegedly, at least subscribers. Customers? Those are people who pay money for our work. (I don’t currently have any of those). Understanding the difference is important because so often, bloggers find that their customers are advertisers–people who pay to reach our audiences. Many bloggers are out to reach customers, and cater to audiences just enough so that they can re-sell our attention spans (our eyeballs) to somebody else.
There’s this odd tension between customers and audiences in the blogging community; it often seems predatory, the way bloggers (and the podcasting promoters) attempt to sell others on the get-rich-quick approach. After three years of studying and participating in the blogging community and to a more limited extent, into podcasting, I think it is possible to make some limited income as an aggressive content marketer–but I think in the process, one would more likely drop a few thousand dollars easily–with little if nothing to show for it. Niches are difficult to develop and hotly contested. Scams and dishonesty abound.
Figuring out our path
Best advice: join Facebook Groups to find communities where bloggers help other bloggers. While I’ve been away, I’ve joined a few and found them to be interesting and truly helpful. Here’s an interesting post that I got today on the question of how to fight back when your Pins are being hacked. (Seriously. This happens). What to Do When Someone Steals Your Pins clued me into a whole world of problems and issues I knew vaguely about Pinterest–still an interesting topic for me and the more I study, the more there seems to be to know. So, yes, I’m back now, with a goal of once a week blogging. Getting back into harness. Fingers crossed, touch wood. ~Lola