I love reader emails, every time I get one it makes all the hard work worth it! Lately, I’ve gotten a few reader emails asking me for advice about blogging and I knew it was about due time I wrote another post around blogging.
I started building my blog in 2011 when I was a full time grad student and was working part time in market research in downtown Chicago. At the time, blogging helped supplement my measly take home pay and really gave me a crash course in what would become a full time career in social media marketing. Fast forward, I now work full time in a related field, but it can be a struggle to keep growing my blog and building it to the next level with other demands on my time.
Needless to say, this little blog has opened so many doors for me, and the people I’ve met because of it have done nothing short but change my life. I sincerely hope your blog changes your life. Whether you treat it as a hobby or dream for it to become a full time gig, your blog is just another tool to become connected with the world in a powerful new way.
Obviously right? But honestly, do you have a strategy for your blog? What social channels are you going to use to grow your blog, do you track growth and engagement on those channels? Do you have Google Analytics installed? Do you have goals for traffic, sponsorships or media features?
Honestly, some social media sites are a waste of time for your goals especially if your ideal audience isn’t there…some will fit your goals better than others, while others won’t do much for your blog at all (Ahem, I’m lookin’ at you Facebook!) If you have limited time, what channels will you *focus* on to truly shine? Take stock of what channels you want to grow on, so you can focus building subscribers there.
Set a plan for how often you want to post, what social media channels you focus your time on (hint, you can’t do it all, all the time!), and plan both your content and when (nights? weekends? lunch breaks?) you want to regularly work on your blog.
How is your blog going to make money? A few ways are ad networks like Google Adsense, GLAM, BlogHer or Burst to name a few. You could also take on some sponsored posts through Social Fabric, Clever Girls, Style Coalition and additionally, some ad networks also offer paid review/sponsored posts so they provide more ways to monetize.
Additionally, you can offer direct sidebar ads. I use Passionfruit ads, it keeps things simple and I like how I don’t have to track or upload banner ads myself.
Of course, you can always create products- ebooks, online courses, coaching or a supplemental Etsy shop to earn extra cash. Be cautious though, that with mo’ money comes mo’ problems- you’ll want to track your income for taxes later. Keep track as you go along, and keep things simple.
You can totally build a successful blog while holding down a full time job, but you have to schedule time in for it. There are times I totally fail at this, but I do have to sit down and schedule time with the blog several times a week since rarely I ever have an entire free day to sit down and do so.
I’ve been known to schedule an hour for blogging in in the evenings, on my lunch break or on a Saturday morning when the fiancé would rather watch cartoons. Make the most of those free blocks of time, no matter how small, by coming in with a strategy for your session. I will usually sit down with and idea behind that time- either I sit down with 4 ideas for posts and crank them out, or I’ll go through old posts to tweet the links, or simply clean up spam comments and do some housekeeping on the site (like update affiliate banner codes, update old pages or reviewing the analytics).
You not only need to sit down and schedule time for blogging itself, look over the month ahead and see what kinds of content should be coming through the pipeline. Do you like to blog about seasonal events? Should you be preparing for a major sponsored post opportunity that needs to be woven into the content schedule? Don’t get caught off guard by deadlines, you could miss out on a great, shareable post idea or worse, a chance to make some cash!
This ties into scheduling- but when it comes to blogging, while you should be innovative and offer fresh content regularly for your readers, you do not need to reinvent the wheel personally in doing so. What are you really good at? Focus on those strengths and either delegate or set aside time to get through the tasks you hate quickly.
I’m stupid busy- so I use tools like Dlvr.it and Hootsuite to schedule some of my content to be syndicated when I’m unable to sit behind a computer. Additionally, I like to queue up a few posts at a time to get a week or two ahead of schedule by drafting and scheduling my posts in WordPress. Some bloggers have a more rigid content schedule, it’s something I wish I had the brain for- but I can usually get about two weeks ahead before I need to take some time off and get inspired.
An easy way to tackle scheduling and solve for regular content is to create a content series. This year I’m doing a $20k in 2014 series, but I’ve done Week of Gratitude last Thanksgiving. I’ve seen people do monthly net worth updates or weight loss updates, or a themes that mean they’ll never be out of ideas if they hit a writers blog or honestly, those points when you’re busy and blogging seems totally unfun but needs to get done.
It’s easy to feel locked behind a computer, disconnected from everyone, or what I think can be worse, having a false sense of connection because you tweet with a ton of people all day but don’t have any real blogger friends. Being connected with other bloggers in your niche is key to growing your blog. While it’s beneficial to have a ton of surface-level connections with people on Twitter or Instagram, the deeper the friendship and connection, the truly richer the benefit.
There are a few bloggers who I treasure as friends and esteemed colleagues. Frequently, we’ll take time out of busy lives to connect and brainstorm, or if either of us needs feedback or some extra help launching a big project or product, leaning on another blogger can really help amplify those goals. Through the years, I’ve also been a part of a few networking and mastermind groups- sometimes meeting for weekly Google hangouts or simply being looped in on weekly accountability emails- these connections have developed me as a professional blogger so powerfully.