A Guest Post by Alexandra Levit from www.newjobnewyou.com
I’ve been an author since my early twenties, and a journalist since last year. All forms of writing were not created equal, and I’ve found that writing my blog, Water Cooler Wisdom has had its own set of challenges. However, there are a lot of takeaways for bloggers who have spent some time in the trenches of traditional media. Here are some that I’ve observed:
1. Endurance is King
When I’m getting ready to start a new book, the very prospect of it is overwhelming – after all, 65,000 words is a lot of writing. These days, I’m also writing one career advice column a week, and everyone is watching to make sure I don’t repeat myself. In order to sustain my momentum, I have to plan what I’m going to cover far in advance and conquer the work involved a little bit at a time. Blogging requires the same sort of vigilance. 90% of blogs start out strong but fizzle in the first few months because the writers can’t keep up with the posting frequency necessary to engage the community. Blogging’s history is routed in stream of conscious journaling, but to say the medium has evolved would be an understatement. To blog well today, you must continually re-think your approach and topics, and always be striving to learn more about your niche and the blogging craft.
2. Loyalty is Queen
To be a successful author or columnist, you have to build up a following over time. In the beginning, no one reads you and it feels like you’re talking to yourself. But you just keep trying to put out useful information and advice, and you add readers one by one as particular pieces resonate with them. Those people start reading you regularly and recommend you to their friends. They trust what you have to say, and they defend you when online trolls make mean comments. I’ve learned that having a loyal subscriber base is critical to blogging success as well, and that it’s actually better to have a smaller group of highly engaged readers than a larger group of fickle individuals. I rely on my blog readers to provide me with early feedback on new writing projects and to tell me when I’ve mentally gone off the grid. I know that they are always looking out for my best interests and they are the best source of constructive feedback I have at my disposal right now.
3. Straight Writing is no Longer Enough
Authors used to write books – only. And columnists used to write columns – only. No longer. Now authors handle 90% of book promotion themselves, and columnists are expected to adapt to the online format and respond to readers in real time. Similarly, a blog these days that only consists of your writing will probably die a swift death. The best bloggers are product development and marketing whizzes in addition to great writers. They spend almost as much time responding to comments as they do writing posts. Also, I first really grasped the power of video when I decided to make ato supplement my new book, New Job, New You. The format was so compelling that I started regularly using video in my blog too, and I’ve seen my readership shoot up.
4. Source Carefully or Forever Hold your Peace
As an author and journalist, I’m held to strict ethical standards regarding the sourcing of material. I’ve learned to take precise notes when doing interviews, and to ask for permission to cite written passages whenever they exceed a certain word count. I’m grateful that these processes have been drilled into me, because many in the blogosphere play fast and loose with sourcing and get into hot water as a result. A blogger who copies someone else’s post word for word and claims it as their own is bound to be found out and will risk losing their credibility and reputation. On the other hand, bloggers who generously credit others with thoughts and ideas are usually rewarded by the community.
5. The Insider’s Club is Alive and Well
The world of the published author and the related world of the working journalist used to be rarefied territory. Each club was viewed as exclusive, with its own set of rules and behaviors, and members stuck together closely. While authors and journalists may not be as revered as before, they are to some extent still part of a tight-knit group. Members can relate to each other’s experiences and gravitate toward one another socially and professionally. Anyone who has been to Blog World Expo or a BlogHer conference knows this to be true of the various strata of bloggers as well. Even though I’ve never met many of my blogging cohorts in person, I am closer to many of them than I am to members of my family.
All of you ProBloggers had other careers before you started blogging, and many of you still maintain those careers. What skills and lessons have you learned from your other jobs that have made you a better blogger?
Alexandra Levit is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and the author of the new book “New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career.” If you’re struggling with what to do with your career in the New Year, visit www.newjobnewyou.com for free tools and guidance.