One Week to a Professional Blog
There’s a boat load of people out there who would like to make a living out of Blogging, but few who actually do. I happen to be one of the dreamers. I’d love to make a living out of blogging, it’s something I enjoy and to be honest, it just doesn’t seem like real work. To prepare for my new found career, I decided to take a week that I very conveniently had off normal work, and set to work as a professional blogger. This is what I did on each day, and the lessons I learnt.
Monday was very much a planning day. I sat down and worked out what needed to be done and, more crucially, what was achievable. If I was to seriously consider blogging as a profession, I needed to be sure that it would be time well spent. Could I achieve the targets I set myself and where is my time best spent. It’s important to point out that planning wasn’t all about what posts I would write, but also about the general maintenance tasks on the blog and a few tweaks here and there. Once my plan was set up (I won’t bother repeating my plan here, just read on for what I ended up doing), I set about getting some skeletal posts drafted. I also identified a shorter post I could write and post there and then.
Tuesday I set aside for addressing some of the issues with my blog. This includes tweaking the design slightly and upgrading the software and plugins to the latest versions. This actually took longer than I would have hoped but generally went smoothly. After these tasks were completed, I had a look at some mild promotion, mostly leaving comments on other, related blogs and padding out some of the posts I started writing earlier.
As it happens, Wednesday turned into my writing day. I hadn’t planned it this way, with writing spread more evenly across the week, but I got in the groove. I’m a firm believer in doing something when it feels right. And writing felt good that day. So apart from taking a few breaks to leave comments on other blogs and the other essentials (checking feeds and emails) I write pretty much throughout the day. The upshot of this is I have pre-written content for the next few weeks, at least. Normally I post sporadically at best, but with this content pretty much written, it’s much easier to keep to a stricter posting regime even after returning to my normal routine.
I’m glad I took this day out of what most would consider the normal blogging tasks and focused on auditing what was already there. I looked at my current design and content in order to discover what was working, what wasn’t working, what was good, what was bad and what was missing. This was a very important, and time consuming task but was well worth it. Essentially, I tweaked a few aspects of my design (again), wrote up some standard pages (e.g. “About Us” and “Contact Us”) and went back over some of my old content. The purpose of going back through old content was two fold. Firstly, was everything still up to date, relevant and accurate. Secondly, in the spirit of my “Reducing Bounce Rates” post, I checked for any links to relevant content I could insert into the posts.
Interestingly, Friday turned into a strange day. I had planned to do some research into future posts I could write. Posts much further into the future than the ones I had currently planned. This involved quite a lot of research into what was hot, and what I thought was going to be hot. As some of you may have noticed, I tend to only post unique content on this blog. I don’t, as a rule, regurgitate news and stories other bloggers have already covered unless I think I’ve got something unique and interesting to add to the conversation. This meant that my research wasn’t particularly fruitfull. There was a lot of interesting content out there, but nothing which really matched with my vision for this blog. What I did find, however, was that I ended up posting comments in forums and other blogs while doing my research. So while I may not have come up with my own content, I was still productively adding to the blog. In the end, I had to sit down and come up with content myself (boo), although using the tips on finding content scientifically right for my blog did help.
In addition to the tasks I planned for each day, there were the usual daily tasks that I tried to handle as quickly as possible. This includes responding to comments and trackbacks and checking the logs and stats. I try not to be a stats watcher, but it’s important to keep an eye out for repeated failed requests (e.g. 404 responses) in case there’s a problem or a site is linking to your blog with the wrong address.
The net result of this weeks work is that subscribers went up 50% and visitors went up 75%, and the levels have remained at those points (roughly) since. I’m not sure of taking another week out would have such a large effect. For example, I saw my bounce rates drop significantly after following the tip I posted separately, this would only work once but the links would need refreshing so they point to the most relevant content. The site design maintenance and audit is likely to be similar, with future changes not having as great a result. The key thing that going full time would provide is marketing. I’m not entirely convinced I could come up with a great deal of additional content by going professional, thanks to stikkit I’m pretty good at getting my ideas down, but I would have a great deal more time to read and contribute to other sites. And I believe that was what made the biggest difference.
One other quick note, financially I would have to be one of the top bloggers to make an equivalent amount of money to a non-blogging job. In fact, one of the top Blogger, Darren Rowse, announced he was on course for a six figure (US$) salary for the year. Converting that into GBP (Great British Pounds) and you end up with roughly £50,000. While that’s not to be sneezed at, it’s worth considering whether attaining that sort of salary is easier in another line of work. Frankly, in the IT industry a salary at that level is far from uncommon. And logically, bloggers like Robert Scoble would, presumably, have had to have taken a fairly significant pay cut when leaving a major company as he did. Of course, at the end of the day this comes down to a quality of life argument but, it’s worth pointing out that even the most successful bloggers aren’t as far out of reach, financially, as you may think.