January 6th, 2013

My best advice about blogging? Do it whenever you can, do it to keep you sane…

Yes, I am still here. I am perfectly aware that I have not published a blog post since Mother’s Day (May 13, 2012), a whole 7 months ago. So I thought I’d kick off the New Year with a blog post about…well…blogging. Since I have had a blog since 2010, I figured that makes me an expert. (Why not? Everyone else is.) Never mind how many posts I have actually published…

So if you’re interested in blogging, here’s my best advice to you.

1. Clearly define your objective. As I explained in my blog post about LinkedIn, before you embark on any social media site, or any activity for that matter, you must have an objective. In the case of blogging, ask yourself these questions: Why do I want to blog? What is the purpose of my blog? Who is my target audience? If the answer is “to share stories about my life on a working ranch in Oklahoma”, then your blog will be different from “sharing my obnoxious opinions about what is wrong with life in a corporation”. And if your objective is “to make money”, see point 2.

2. You will not make money from your blog. Let me kill this right now: you will not make money directly and only from blogging. If you have any doubts about this, I’ll let Penelope Trunk talk you out of this ridiculous notion. Sure, there are some successful for-profit (at least, I think they make a profit) blogs out there: Dooce, Ali Edwards and Zen Habits but, as Penelope notes, you are not them. Don’t be fooled by the low start-up costs, especially if you choose to do everything yourself. Because the revenue stream is also low, even if you use your blog to sell products or even advertising. No matter how I run the numbers, I don’t see that revenue stream as being more than I what I make working full-time as a project manager (or as Penelope puts it “flipping hamburgers”). In fact, the only successful blogging business model I have seen is trying to make money off of people who want to make money blogging: “Buy my seminar for $700 and you too can become a millionaire working from home”. Still not convinced? Chris Guillebeau explains how, after 279 days, and a lot of hard work, he was able to make $49K a year from blogging (p. 13), less than he made running his own business. $49K? Ummm…I can make more than twice that just keeping my head down and my mouth shut. (Oh boy…)

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Blogging allows me to stay sane as a corporate slave so that I can take pictures like this (Barrea, Abruzzo, Italia)

3. Starting a blog is easy. Keeping a blog is not. Gone are the days that you had to know html in order to start a blog. Remember that opening scene in The Social Network when Jesse Eisenberg (playing Mark Zuckerberg) is writing in his blog and it doesn’t look at all like English? That’s because he was typing in html.  Nowadays, with absolutely no knowledge of .aspx or html, you can start a blog in less than 5 minutes by using platforms such as Posterous, Blogger or WordPress.com. Even if, like me, you choose the self-hosted route, which is a little more work, most web-hosting services have install scripts for WordPress and other platforms that make installation literally as easy as 1-2-3. So starting a blog is easy. Keeping a blog? Not so much. Which brings me to the next point.

4. Writing is hard. A blog is all about creating content on a regular basis. (And I loosely define the term “regular”.) Sure, you can create a video blog: if you like wine and understand French, this québecois blog will have you drinking more wine and maybe even speaking more French. Frankly, it doesn’t matter: speaking is just as hard, if not harder, than writing. And writing is hard. It’s goddamn fucking hard. It’s way harder, in my opinion, than managing projects. As Scott Berkun, an ex-project-manager-turned-full-time-writer (*sigh*) puts it: “In a regular job, you show up, there are piles of things that need to be done and people to do them with, and off you go…[Writing] is harder than doing most other kinds of work because you have to make everything up: the page is blank every time you start.” Don’t kid yourself: even for professional writers, blogging is way harder than it looks.

5. Nobody is reading your blog. Most SEO snake-oil salesmen will define success in terms of the number of subscribers and the number of clicks…and then sell you their services to increase both. (Remember: their business model is to get you to give them money.) Don’t listen to them. My blog has (wait for it) 10 subscribers. TEN. I can’t even get my husband to read my blog. Compare that to, say, Zen Habits who claims to have a million+ readers. Jeez. And before you think you can do better than me, go back and read the Penelope Trunk link I gave you in point #2. (You already read it, didn’t you?) Because even among successful bloggers, success in blogging is not defined by the number of readers but rather “influence, connections, friendships, the ability to lead a conversation that matters to people, [and] business opportunities.”

6. Forget blogging every day. Look, everyone says you have to blog regularly. I know this. But I find it practically impossible to work full-time at a challenging job, then come home and work full-time on my marriage and raising my children and still have time and energy to blog. Quite frankly, there are a lot of nights and weekends when all I want to do is lose myself in a good movie or TV show or play around with my scrapbooking supplies. So, if you accept that there is no money to be made from blogging and you have a clear objective, I give you permission to decide how often you want to blog, even if that is once every few months. In my case, I decided early on that I would only publish when I have something of quality to say. (I am not Seth Godin: I cannot come up with top-notch quality every single damn day.) Any random thoughts that pop into my head go to Twitter or my Posterous blog.

Now that you understand these basic bits of advice, here’s how blogging has worked out for me.

1. It changed my life. When I walked into my job interview in 2010 after being out of work for 18 months, everyone present in the interview had printed out the “About Me” and “About this blog” pages from my blog. And they still wanted to meet with me. (Huh.) And after meeting me, they wanted to hire me. (Double huh.) A few months later, the IT Manager sent me an email whose subject read simply “good blog post”. A few months after that, that same manager came into my office and changed my life. “From reading your blog, I figure that you know something about project management” and then asked me to manage a project for him, even though I was not in IT at the time. I did. A job was posted a few months later…and one internal transfer later, here I am: a bona fide IT Project Manager. Considering that back in 2009 when I was trying to break into IT I couldn’t get ANYONE to even interview me for an IT Project Manager job, I credit my blog with helping to change my career path for the better. Of course, my blog is not entirely responsible for this sequence of events: it does help that I happen to know a thing or two about project management. But my blog helped to establish me as an authority in project management, exactly like it says in the report that you can download here.

2. I can continue the argument all by myself. I have a lot of arguments with a lot of people at work. Because I work with a lot of really smart people who like to argue. They drive me up the wall. They annoy me endlessly. Mainly because they come up with counterarguments to which I don’t have an answer. Which really pisses me off. Then motivates me to think of a counter-argument. And, months later, I’ll finish the argument on my blog and send it to them by email with a note like “Remember when we were arguing if project managers should be technical and you said that you have to be technical to manage technical people? This is my answer to you.” And, if they answer me back with a comment that proves that they read my blog post, then I consider it a small victory. Even if they still disagree with me. And come up with another counter-argument. Which they do. Because they are very annoying that way. Which starts the whole cycle again. Which gets me writing again because I am stubborn as all hell…

3. It really is cheaper than therapy. I really love project management. I really hate being an employee. However, I have come to the conclusion that I like vacations in Italy more than I hate being an employee, so I put up with a lot of stuff that annoys me. The problem is: there’s a lot of stuff that annoys me. Tons. I find being a corporate slave really hard. And sometimes (okay most times) it just gets the better of me. And, on those days I blog. I work out what is driving me nuts and it helps to gather the strength to give it just one more try.

And that last one, dear readers, is the true reason I blog.

Blogging keeps me sane.

I can just imagine what my current co-workers, were they to read this, would say: This is you, sane????

Sadly, yes.

To which they would probably say: for the love of God, please, blog more often.

I’m working on it.

Yeah, I’m still here.

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