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5 Things I Learned About Blogging from Being an Author and Journalist

Posted By Darren Rowse 25th of January 2010 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

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 a free career change webinar to 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.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. My career as an IT analyst has taught me a lot about communication. In particular, how to have polite disagreements without anyone losing their cool.

  2. I am a research scientist by profession and currently I blog as a hobby though I am giving a serous thought to venturing into professional writing. Being a scientist has helped me a lot in writing a blog which is partially focused on spreading science awareness. Double-checking the facts is the foremost thing I take care of. Besides landing me in trouble it can also tarnish my reputation if the reader finds out I haven’t made the effort. Also, trying to maintain unbiased, logical approach is something I borrow from my usual research mindset.

    I would like o thank Darren and Alexandra for bringing us this insightful post. It proven very useful for me in regards to moving in the direction of professional writing. I tried to click on the ‘career change webinar’ link though and I am not very sure if that link is still valid. When I tried to register for the webinar it opened up an email. Could that be checked?

    Thanks.

  3. http://justmytwocopper.blogspot.com has benefited greatly from my IT experience and ability to adapt simple solutions to complex problems.

    The site is primarily about making gold in world of warcraft, and although the niche is somewhat saturated in just one year my site has grown to become one of the most popular. I owe that to every single one of the points in this list. Especially #1. Endurance. I can’t stress that enough for new bloggers.

  4. I’m actually trying to go the other way – to figure out how to use blogging to enhance my day job. My blog satisfies a personal interest, and I love writing it… but I’m a geologist – and my clients are technical people who are used to sending their writing/research through a long – draw out – peer-review process, not simply writing something and getting it out there in real time. My worry is that if I use a blog – I won’t be taken seriously…

  5. I’m not anywhere near being a ProBlogger, but I’ve learned from my career in people management to be inclusive. I’ve learned not to refer to one gender, race or ability. I think this is a skill that is definitely lacking within the blogosphere. If one is going to be successful then one will need to speak to and include everyone.
    :)

  6. Every career teaches some important lessons. This is the name of life. I have also learnt some lessons during my time in blogging. TO be a good blogger, you need:

    (1) Perseverance
    (2) Writing skills
    (3) Knowledge
    (4) Marketability

  7. Definitely to be a successful blogger, you need to keep up consistent posting at a high level, market, respond to the community, build loyal readers, not plagiarize, and have a close community. If you can do all of these things, you’re be almost guaranteed success. Unfortunately, they are a lot easier said than done. That’s what all the blogging blogs are for.

    What I’ve learned from being a chess player, stock broker, and writer is that you need to plan well in advance, have a strategy for where you want to go, calculate everything out, figure out what is necessary to get there, and do it. Again; easier said than done.

  8. Nice change of pace over here, I like this post. Straight forward and helpful post. I’m working on through the PoD route now, but hoping to get that coveted book deal.

    From the conversations I’ve had with book agents, it does seem that you need a platform before you can get a deal. Makes me wonder if PoD will gain more traction in the future.

  9. Nice tips. And yes I agree, Loyalty is queen. Very well said. I myself am a future journalist. My blogging will also improve then. :)

    Asad,
    http://hilarideos.blogspot.com/

  10. Alexandra I really felt like you were talking to me when you said:

    “In the beginning, no one reads you and it feels like you’re talking to yourself.”

    My blog is brand-new (a couple of weeks old) and no one is reading it, but I am determined to post every single day, even though I do in fact feel as though I am talking to NO ONE.

    I will take your advice and keeping putting myself out there. Thanks for the great post. It was exactly what I need to read this morning.

  11. I’m a teacher first, second, third and last.

    I use these skills in my blog.

    I do need to broaden its scope though, so thank you for the advice above.

  12. I totally agree with you that it is difficult to maintain the post frequency, it is also important that you should not repeat yourself as a author and it seems to be a very hard.

  13. Great post. I really enjoy reading your posts

  14. This is advice I can put to go use. Thank you. I know one of my short-comings is Consistency. I’ve never had more than a few readers even when I do write a really good post.

  15. My work in marketing and design makes me focus more on the design and user interface of my blog. I want my readers to feel comfortable and be able to find things easily so that they’ll stick around and read more. It’s always a toss up of exactly how successful I am.

    My years as a writer makes blogging feel natural. Hopefully all that practice gives me a leg up, helps me be engaging and easy to understand. And occasionally, I try to be funny as well.

  16. Endurance IS King isn’t it? I think coming up with interesting, useful and more in-depth posts on a consistent basis is very difficult and the main reason blogs fizzle out.

    thanks for the post!

  17. This is a great post.

    I’ve just started on my blogging journey and all the points in the submission ring true. It’s difficult knowing what to blog about. I’ve been running technology for financial services for many years and feel I have a lot of experience to share, but to begin with there’s a little voice on your shoulder saying ‘who cares what you have to say’.

    I’m getting over this and am now concentrating on the content. I’m defining a direction in my own mind and will follow that until it’s time to change…

    Thanks for the pointers.

  18. I spent years in the counseling end of Human Relations. There I learned the importance of listening deeply to all comers whether I agreed with them or not. This has helped me learn to respond with something of value when people disagree with me and sometimes I find I have to change my own position. Doesn’t mean I have to like it. And that’s OK.

  19. Thankyou – the planning is what I have been missing methinks. A journalist in a past life, I am new to blogging (since October last year) and loving it, but find that the constant demand for new subject matter can be a difficult assignment. I have also done small business training, and of course a big part of running a successful business is prioritising, scheduling and planning. So I did know the solution to this problem, but sometimes we just need to be reminded don’t we! I am setting out after work today to schedule my writing topics for the next month!

  20. The toughest thing for me is overriding my need for instant gratification (reflected in # of followers) with patience and perserverance. Listening to those crickets chirping is an exercise in humility, and I can see why so many bloggers give up so quickly. I’m determined and to keep up the momentum.

  21. Thx for the tips! I can totally relate to your information and everyone’s comments.I’m a publicist by trade and have integrated social media marketing into my clients PR campaigns over the past year. Even though I have launched client blogs, doing my own was challenging. What would I say to readers? Eventually it came to me and I finally launched my blog 3 weeks ago. So far I have close to 800 clicks to my blog and about 20 subscribers. Because I do PR for a career, it’s come in handy to publicize my own blog. Utilize Facebook, Twitter and other blogs to get your own blog out there. If you’re commemting on another bloggers post find a creative way to leave your blog link in your comments and how it relates to what you just read. Most of all, have fun and post something at least once a week.

  22. I think that the lessons we learn from many things in life can be applied to blogging so no matter what experience you have, you can apply it towards your blogging career and make it a success.

  23. I’ve held a few jobs in my time (which is quite short, I can’t even drink yet!)

    Each one I’ve always made the point of asking the most successful person, by my standards, how they did it. They all have their own story, but they also have all shared common traits.

    One thing all have them have had is persistence. From my current director to the 25 year old manager I had when I was 16. All of them said to keep pursuing your goals, getting discouraged or losing focus is what will end your dreams before they even seem achievable.

    Another common answer was to market yourself often and do it well. Doing a fantastic job all day means nothing if no one knows you did it. So get out there and market your blogs!

    Working at a Staples in Florida definitely refined my ability to turn the most techy talk into something even the least tech savvy person can understand. This helped me to write clearly and with a very relaxed tone on my blog.

    And thanks for the great post!

  24. I’m one of those new bloggers you wrote about who (almost) no one reads you and it does feel like I’m talking to myself.

    I’m hoping that by putting out useful information I will add readers over time.

    My blog is about addiction to opioids (heroin, oxycontin etc.) and I know people who are opiate dependent and their family members need the information. I’m just trying to figure out how to find them.

    Tom

    recoveryhelpdesk.com

  25. how about the media and the writting style?
    are they also important ?

  26. I’d been teaching English to university students for some time and it’s kind of fun to blend my teaching passion with blogging. I realized that a blog cannot fully replace the conventional weekly classroom meetings but to me a blog may provide a new alternative to somewhat mundane learning methods.

    I tended to treat my students as my friends and that’s what I’ve been doing to my blg’s readers. I don’t want to sound like preaching and acting like Mr. Know-it-all both in front of my offline students and online readers simply because I hate being treated that way. Rarely do I use the second person pronoun (you) in giving tips. I avoid that since it gives impression of being ‘bossy’ and indicating distance between audience and me. I want audience and me to mingle comfortably so I prefer to use ‘we’ or ‘us’.

  27. This makes a lot of sense, thanks for the advice.
    -David

  28. Thank you. Thank you very much. It’s a relief to read you for the first time, to stumble across someone who’s written down such wisdom.
    I got to you via @guykawasaki a few minutes ago at 0515 in Cork Ireland.
    I was arrested by your “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…”
    Your tone of firm sharing feels as if it come from rich experience rather than your head. Makes me vow to read more of you and share you with others. Each of your 5 markers open up lines of thought and inspiring avenue and even the comments from others are a 6th stream.
    I know this sound a bit over the top effusive, and I’m not American – but sincere thanks for putting so much into words.
    @omaniblog

  29. I’ve just started on my blogging journey and all the points in the submission ring true. It’s difficult knowing what to blog about. Even I have to first think of the topic seriously, on which I have to write.

  30. If I had known blogging is so much effort, I would not have started 2 blogs. Since I were so damn stupid, I got to continue the daily blogging.
    I can’t imagine writing 65,000 words either. I guess the combine word counts from all the blog posts already exceeded that. I just take one day at a time, easier to think of writing 2 blog posts per day at 800 words each.

  31. Thank you for the article! it is really valuable to read the thoughts of a writer!) I like writing also, and some ideas were extremely useful! Thank you very much! I hope it is not the last article like that! Good luck with the next books!!!

    May be U would visit this blog and say what u think about some essays please??? That would be more than great!!! Anyway, good luck!

    Teacher Online http://teacher-on-line.net/

  32. This was a really good post. When you first start blogging, you don’t think anyone is listening, but they are, just don’t know it yet. Writing, link references and being consistent are very helpful to readers to prove or accentuate the content.

    I appreciate it…

    Thanks,
    LHenryJr.
    http://www.lehsys.com

  33. As a professional dog trainer I have learnt that often the people that you assume should be the most knowledgeable about a subject because of association in reality know the least.

    Interestingly its often these same people that have the most to say.

    Eg people assume that “dog breeders” know a lot about dog’s – they don’t : )

    This carries across into all aspects of professional life, you only need to look at the 10,000’s of sites in the “learn to make money niche” that make no money online to see this in action. Its only when you learn enough about a subject to have a real opinion do you realize most that very few so called experts are expert at all.

    The most amazing niche to me is the SEO niche – SEO’s if you really knew how to get a site in the traffic stream for competitive keywords you would own the site promoting an affilate or CPA not be selling your time for a few dollars an hour !!!

  34. Still relatively new in this world of blogging, I’m glad to hear you say it’s more than just the writing. Hoping my years of corporate sales & marketing will compliment my efforts here as well and my endurance will prevail! Thanks.

  35. Alexandra, you have a nice writing style. Just a side note: the free career change webinar link in point 3 leads to a 404 page. Appending a “.html” to the link should do the trick. The correct URL is presumably: http://www.newjobnewyou.com/webinar.html

  36. We always build on past experiences. I was a teacher and real estate broker. I’ve found that editorial calendars are very similar to lesson plans. The writing calendar keeps me on track and helps me remember to cover basic themes on a regular basis.
    As a RE broker, it was important to clearly explain the benefits of a property and to ask for the sale. Now my blog posts include the benefits of the information I’m giving and a call to action for my readers (few but growing!)

  37. Wow, is this true:

    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.

    I was amazed when one of my publishers asked me if I was going to hire a PR firm!

  38. I’m an employee, using my expertise to write what I think. But it is sometimes difficult to determine select, continue to write or changed professions to become a journalist?

  39. Excellent reminder to get my buns in action and do a whole lot more writing…both on my blog and commenting on blogs. I am also finding that making comments on http://linkedIn.com really has helped increased my visibility.

    You are absolutely right…make sure you do not steal other ppls writing. As someone pointed out to me one time–everything can be improved….so use your own observations and stories to make your points.

    http://www.kathycondons.blogspot.com

  40. As a former journalist, this post makes me happy. While making sure the right point gets across, it’s important to know that people’s attention spans are growing increasingly shorter, so making every word count definitely applies in blogging.

    (For other journalism nerds, see Strunk & White’s rule 17!)

    Keeping articles around 250 words is something I strive to do, though it’s not always easy. I think that’s a pretty good length to keep people engaged to stay focused to the end.

  41. Even if you write easily on a subject, it’s because you’ve spent quite some time reading, learning and getting inspired by others.

    Writing isn’t an easy task, let alone talking about the style you have to internalize or adopt. Trying to be yourself while copying to what the web appreciates is another challenge.

    You do all this and finally realize that a great majority of web readers are scanning, not reading what you write. What a bonus!

    Yet, we write as:

    -> There are some who really care for VALUABLE information,
    -> There are some who CANNOT write and need us,
    -> There are search engines who need SEO content.
    -> There are clients who need high RANKINGS,
    -> and so forth.

  42. I’m a former lawyer and banker, and I think those careers taught me to get to the point quickly and to keep my audience in mind. Hopefully those lessons help keep my blog interesting.

  43. I’m new to blogging. I used to work in advertising and now I’m in Marketing. (almost the same thing :) So I have experience with promoting businesses. I’m using that experience with our blogs and finding new ways to promote our blog. We are in the process of relaunching our two blogs.
    We are still in the design phase but I’m looking into a lot of blogs for suggestions on how to make our blogs a success. Thank you for the great post!

  44. I have been a pro journalist for over 20 years myself and, as a new blogger, I am surprised by my own reactions to the almost complete freedom and to the lack of an editor with whom to share my decisions. Being a lonesome writer is tougher than I thought it would be, even if it has its own rewards.

    I also realized that my past experience editing images and videos is hugely useful now. Most bloggers seem to overlook the quality of the images they use.

  45. Every newbie blogger didn’t know many things about blogging. But i personally think a person can do many things being a blogger. But a blogger have to honest with thear content and way he interact. Nice information.

  46. Now a days visitors are more smart and they know the style of writing (talking about loyal visitors) Once you lost the credibility than your task will be more tough than a newbie.

  47. Here are a couple of tips I picked up as a journalism major and as a blogger (for about 6 months) and a YouTube video chef (for over 2 yrs).

    #1. A good copy editor is nearly as important as being a good writer. A diamond in the rough still needs some polish.

    #2. An editorial calendar of some sort helps keep your blog focused on the niche you’re trying to carve out for yourself. If you find yourself wanting to write a lot about a topic totally unrelated to your blog, you might want to consider setting up a separate blog for that topic.

  48. hi Alexandra,
    You do another job before you started being a blogger, and use your skill experienced to become good blogger. But i think the thing that make someone become better as a blogger not only the experience that she/he have before. She/he can use many experience that she/he have or another person have it or with read a book.

  49. I have been a pro journalist for over 20 years myself and, as a new blogger, I am surprised by my own reactions to the almost complete freedom and to the lack of an editor with whom to share my decisions. Being a lonesome writer is tougher than I thought it would be, even if it has its own rewards.

  50. I totally agree with you that it is difficult to maintain the post frequency, it is also important that you should not repeat yourself as a author and it seems to be a very hard.

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