This guest post is by Kevin Cullis of MacStartup.com.
I don’t like writing. Or should I say, I used to not like writing. My reason? I found no reason to write other than writing a college paper or something for work; it was a requirement; I had to do it.
I was bored with my computer sales job and still had plenty of talent and motivation to do something—but nowhere to channel it.One day at work I had an idea: use my talents to write about my experience. Initially I had no clue where this was going to lead me, much like spontaneously taking a late night drive on a country road and only seeing as far down the road as your headlights will shine: let’s just head out into the open road of writing and see where it leads!
My book idea
To start, I just began writing, and days turned into weeks. My idea was to combine both business processes and computer solutions into one content document, not separating these into one subject or another and then into finer and finer details like other writers have done.
This writing was different from my previous efforts: I now had an outlet for my pent-up boredom and an engaging interest in my subject matter because it combined both my talents and experience selling computers to businesses. In addition, I had daily, ready-made access to content and a list of potential readers.
Whenever I came across something relevant in my work, I wrote it down—both the problem and solution. As my writing began to take shape, I organized the information into specific and logical sequential steps for my future potential business readers. My realtor wife even became a guinea pig in my endeavor. When I heard the familiar “Honey, I need some help,” I’d go in to help her, taking notes, and writing the solutions down when I was done.
Now for my blog
One day, a business customer recommended turning my writings into a book, and wondered when it would be done so she could buy one. Until then, it was just a writing idea, but now my idea took on a larger goal: to get a book published. I was now seeing farther down that lonely country road with larger and brighter lights of my writing journey.
In 2009, I started a blog because a fellow author said that during the one to two years it would take to write a book, my writing would improve and change. Talking with other bloggers, I was told that 250-750 words was an appropriate length for a blog post—and similar to having a goal of writing 1000 words a day for a book. Writing a blog would provide another outlet for increasing my monthly goal word output, and improve my writing skills. Later, I found out that blogging allows one to test out content ideas online and provides both personal and additional perspectives for the readers of the book. Also, an author’s blog almost always points to that author’s book.
In the spring of 2010 I attended the Colorado Independent Publishing Association conference and connected with other professionals in the publishing field. There, a local editor suggested that I use an initial (raised or drop) cap in my book design. I couldn’t afford Adobe’s InDesign or to pay someone to help me. I used Apple’s iWork Pages to write my book, and I had to eat my own dog food. But I did not know how to create a drop cap in Pages.
So I spent three hours finding the answer and, rather than lose this experience because of my infrequent use of it, I posted it on my blog. Within weeks it rose to near the top of my most-viewed articles, and still remains one of my most popular blog posts.
Not only were people hungry for my information, but I have personally referred to my site using my own blog to find long forgotten answers to problems. And if I hadn’t blogged about it, I’d have to revisit the process again. Oh, and when I showed my printed proof to the editor, she didn’t believe that I used a $79 office suite to produce what I did until I showed her the file on my laptop. Then she gave me a B+ for my results.
Book, blog, and business working together
As both my book and blog posts progressed, my blogging experience awakened me to how a blog could be more useful for me. Over time I began noticing trends in my blog statistics. An affinity surfaced when I looked at monthly, quarterly, and even yearly post view counts. Using this information, coupled with my day-to-day interaction with business customers needing computers, I was able to get a much clearer vision of my content for both my book and blog.
When I first blogged, I considered it to be like shooting in the dark in terms of working out what to write about, but over time this multi-sourced feedback helped provide me with content direction. Writing my blog also helped change my book’s content to today’s third version. It’s one thing to scratch your own itch, but it’s even more motivating to get actual, statistical feedback from others who have the same itch that needs scratching.
Going forward from today with my blog, I’ll be using Google Analytics and keyword research to help determine what people are looking for, so that I can provide immediate answers to my ideal blog audience. Using this approach will help narrow down my potential content and solve a customer’s points of pain in the short term, but I have also found that it may not provide a good focus for all of my content. Here’s why. Answers people are searching for comes in two forms and everything in between: I know what I want to know (my drop cap example), and, I don’t know what I want to know (I have no clue what to look for).
The first search is easy. The second one is more important, but it’s solved by awareness and education.
So my future content will take on many forms. While some of my blog posts might be the “thrill of the road hot rod” looking for an adventuresome driving experience of immediate answers, be sure that I’ll also provide “slow, steady, reliable transportation” posts to educate my blog readers to find the right answers to their many different journeys and destinations.
AJ Michalka’s song title states it right—It’s Who You Are—so I write my blog posts about my subjects because it’s who I am. And watch out for the occasional spontaneous “road trip” breakout blog post occurring before a long weekend that just might shake things up a bit.
Can you see potential in your work, interests, and life to combine blog, book, and business? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.
Kevin Cullis is a former US Air Force officer and considers himself an Entrepreneur, Mac
Evangelist, Business Geek, Husband, published author of a Mac business book, readaholic,
analytical, balding. He is the founder of MacStartup.com.