On Professional Blogging

Published by • November 27th, 2007 RSS News Feed

Blogging Tips – Part 1 -

Professional Blogging and a quick lesson for budding Entrepreneurs

I’ve been meaning to write this article for some time. I found inspiration on the Problogger website off a guest article entitled: ‘‘ I’m new to blogging on the tech side of things, so please bare with me as I make a minor introduction! Despite the fact that this article focuses on blogging, please recognize that these tips generally apply to any kind of work you’ll do on the business side and entrepreneurial thinking.

Before I offer tips, I’ll give you some background about my personal situation. A few years ago,I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School, primed to take the world by storm and showcase “my talent.” One little problem, the real world isn’t very receptive to non-traditional thinkers. Firms want rank and file types, and that isn’t me. If you are of like mind or in a similar situation, then at this point, you’re probably contemplating a major decision. Either you take the plunge and make a full transition into blogging and/or entrepreneurial flirting, or you stick to a ‘safe’ job with a steady salary and spend the rest of your life wondering, “what if?”

The transition into professional blogging vs. blogging on the side “for fun”

Lets face it, few people blog ‘just’ for fun unless it’s a blog about life to keep others updated with your personal work, life, and family. If you are thinking “pro blogging”, chances are you’ve got the entrepreneurial twinkle in your eye, a desire to break away from the monotony of “the office” environment, or simply looking for something new because you are bored and would rather call the shots than have some idiot at work telling you what to do. It doesn’t mean life will be a bowl of cherries once you split off and take the dive into pro-blogging, in fact.. life may be much more grueling and challenging, but at least it’ll be under your control. That said, I’ll have tips later this week on how you can prepare to make the move into blogging especially if you aren’t ready to take the plunge.

The best advice you’ll ever read, is this:

DON’T BE AFRAID TO TAKE RISKS.

I emphasize that point, because if you don’t have the guts to screw up and learn from your own mistakes, you’ll go nowhere fast. No guts, no glory is very applicable to blogging. Trust me, every professional blogger and entrepreneur would agree with that mantra.

“Be brave, break your blog” is valuable advice on how to develop blogging and design skills over the long haul. I’ve had an argument with numerous close friends who develop software. The question arises over what constitutes ‘proper’ blogging techniques. I’ll concede it’s not a black and white issue, but software development is a different beast from blogging, period.

Creating a secondary site is useful for major site overhauls and changes and especially for software development and other ‘business’ environments where presentation is key and the slightest hint of amateurish design could ruin your reputation. I could be convinced that creating a second blogger website to test out design is also a good idea, it depends on how you use this tactic and how frequently you resort to this ‘detour’. Generally, in my experience, it can and is a major waste of time to set up a secondary site if you simply don’t know what you’re doing and you are doing it purely for the sake of avoiding embarrassing newbie mistakes.

Is it even appropriate to consider a secondary site if you’re an amateur blogger?

If you are visiting a web site on blogging or pro-blogging, chances are you are new to blogging or an amateur (at best). You may or may not be into graphics and web design, but there’s a good chance you couldn’t tell me what a “shell account” is if I asked. You might not have any knowledge about image compression, e.g. when it’s appropriate to use a .jpg, .gif, or .png. If this is the case, forget about this secondary site nonsense, you’ll never get off the ground because you are WAY behind the competition and have a lot of learning to do.

Remember this important tip: the more obstacles you put in front of you so that you don’t look bad, the more obstacles you create that you’ll have to overcome in the future. What this means is it’ll take you much longer than you probably would like for a shot at “prime time.” Don’t try to do too much, secondary sites are only good under certain circumstances and if you over think the issue, you are just asking for trouble!

Self-evaluation is key, you need to figure out where you stand on the skills front, and whether your traffic even justifies obsessing over making mistakes. When you start setting up multiple sites, mirrors, svn, etc, you’re basically creating obstacles to your success. It’s helpful for software developers and teams of web developers because so many people have their hands on the same files and not all are great at documenting their work. By having a test site, software developers are able to keep the ‘live site’ stable, steady and efficient in handling http requests and marketing their product.

If you’re a lone blogger that wears many hats, there are important ideas to consider:

  1. Don’t be afraid to screw up! The biggest obstacle that inexperienced bloggers face is fear of making a mistake and looking bad. You know the “be brave, break your blog” article I liked? It’s great advice on its face but some of the hints are counter-productive if you are just getting started on your journey.
  2. Content is king in blogging, duh! No matter what the neo-blogging experts are saying these days, people are looking for information first and foremost. You can have a killer design and great interactive functionality, but what does it matter if your content is crap, or worse yet, you have none?
  3. Tighten up your writing skills Consider the first six to twelve months as boot camp for blogging. One of the greatest weapons for any blogger’s arsenal is the ability to communicate, connect with audiences, and write effectively. There is a time and place for long articles and short articles, you need to figure out how to push content regularly and when to modify your style to cater to the audience. The short of it is, you need a good mix of both long and short articles to capture different audiences within your niche.
  4. If you blog it, they will come. If you don’t know how to design or install bells and whistles on your web site, please do yourself a favor and just start blogging. Take baby steps, first! Remember, blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. One article a day over a year gives you over three hundred articles one year from the day you start blogging! If you spend too much time trying to do too much, you waste time (assuming you’re not an ultra multi-tasking machine, most people are not).
  5. Learn from others before you make a move on design. It’s important to wait until you’ve saturated your site with some quality content. By the time you reach 100 articles or 30-50 high quality longer articles, you’ve already learned so much about blogging because it’s likely you’ve read through countless blogs and ‘how-to’ articles along the way. Blogging experience is more important than any other aspect, including design. Until you get a point where you can write with authority and produce valuable work, the bells and whistles won’t matter! That stuff is primarily to keep visitors coming back, but it’s not gonna happen if you don’t update your blog or write your own material.
  6. Wasting time is a blogger’s biggest enemy. Trust me on this, if you suck at blogging, your fancy secondary site will be irrelevant in the long run… so pump out articles, get comfortable with blogging, and blog some more. Do it until it happens naturally, it takes a long time to feel comfortable pushing content if you don’t write on a regular basis or lack the discipline and work ethic to become a success.
  7. The eureka moment. You’ll arrive at a “eureka” moment multiple times as you grow into the professional blogger mode. The good news for newbie bloggers is that the greener you are, the more special moments you’ll experience!
  8. Stay organized and set up goals. Expectations and a timetable for progression are important, they keep you focused and help you develop your skills. Never get ahead of yourself if you don’t know what you are doing, make a major effort to learn and tweak your site constantly to get to the pay dirt.
  9. Break your site! It’s funny, because my tech friends constantly tell me “stop breaking your site!” It’s become a term of endearment, almost, because I’m very good at doing just that. I can’t stress enough, what great advice it is. (to break your site, that is) You will encounter problems, you will screw up, you will get frustrated, you will stop, reflect, and second guess yourself. These are all necessary evils, the growing pains happen, deal with it. So your first task after blogging a handful of articles is, GO BREAK YOUR SITE! Install that first php snippet you picked up off your favorite blogging site. Figure out how to fix the damn thing after you break it. Use google religiously and look up errors, chances are there were people before you that made the same mistake.
  10. Forget about traffic. If you are learning and just started blogging, your traffic is insignificant. If the twenty people a day you get happen to see a PHP error for 3 hours or never get to see your article, who cares? If you want to make it in the blogging world, you have to think big. You want to aim for one thousand users a day, then ten thousand, then fifty thousand… the sky is the limit. This is why I believe you should just experiment to start off.
  11. Consider your first year as your personal training session. Learn, learn, learn! People who gather information online, generally have a short attention span. Even if 5k users find your article because someone Diggs one of your gems while your site is broken, the short attention span will remove your web site from their memory. It’s no big deal, really, think about the big picture. Users will return if you give them what they are looking for. They don’t care about broken sites so much as they do the information that they are trying to acquire, so relax about the aesthetics and broken scripts and take a plunge.
  12. Bloggers are a lot like Entrepreneurs. We’re all “Visionaries” to an extent. YOU have an idea and a vision of what you’d like to produce and it is time to put the idea into action. The greatest visionaries in Silicon Valley, happen to head up the largest corporations in the world. Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and even tech start-up guru Guy Kawasaki know something about success and they’re all risk takers. Guess what happens when they have a problem or make a mistake? They hit the books, make some calls, do the research and learn how to fix problems. That’s what you are now, a problem solver, don’t fret about the small stuff. If you want to succeed, you must be very resourceful, confident, and intelligent and for God’s sake, don’t give up!

Just do it! Remember, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel for people overwhelmed by fear and lack of confidence.

Itola Author

is an Attorney, Entrepreneur, and Blogger from the Silicon Valley.
Email this author | All posts by

RSS feed | Trackback URI

3 Comments »

2007-11-28 16:37:31

Hmmm… Well, I’m glad you liked my article, but I think that we both agree and disagree on certain parts.

We’re agreed on the idea that experimenting and learning new things is a great idea, and the besy way to learn. :)

But I disagree (obviously, considering my article xD ) that setting up a test blog is a bad idea, or counter-productive at all!

The one thing that stops people from experimenting and self-learning is fear. Fear that they will break their blogs, lose visitors, and even have to pay someone else to undo their mistakes.

The test blog takes away that fear because the mistakes simply don’t matter anymore. It encourages you to experiment, and to learn. It’s a great thing for newbies and experts alike. :)

(Comments wont nest below this level)
 
Comment by codered
2007-11-28 17:46:55

Hi Michael, I think test sites can be valuable for established sites, but if you’re a nobody.. who cares if you break your site? Until your traffic is significant and you are a blogger with relevance, then I think people should worry. So I guess my point was to try and encourage people to have the guts and break stuff. I understand not everyone has the courage to learn without being ultra conservative and safe, but it is my opinion that those people fail and fail miserably.

You can’t be timid, you can’t be safe, if you are looking to grow and become a force online, you need to screw up and I guess that’s where my emphasis is. Accept that you are going to break your site, have some guts and go out and intentionally put yourself in bad situations so that you are forced to fix it. If you can’t do that, it’ll take you much longer than someone that is ready to get their hands dirty and actually experience the breakage.

My other point, and I think this goes perfectly in line with your article, Michael. If you know what you are doing, and actually have a clue about technology and software, then by all means your strategy is great. People without the relevant knowledge, which is probably more than 50% of bloggers, are going to have trouble with setting up multiple sites -unless- it’s on blogger. Which is one issue you did tackle, and I think you’re correct.

Thanks for the response, I didn’t mean the article as a critique, but I wanted to focus on people who want to make the full transition and are too fearful to take the steps necessary to learn.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
 
Comment by Simple Mindz
2007-12-16 07:44:31

Checked out all your sites, I like them! This is a great article. Thanks! I think I am Queen of breaking my site. lol. I am constantly changing things around there.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
 
Name
E-mail
URI
Your Comment (smaller size | larger size)
You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.