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A Few Last Lessons On Blogging

The blogosphere’s a tough place. And to create a blog that survives and thrives under absolutely Darwinian conditions isn’t easy. Since this business week is coming to a close, I’d like to share a few universal lessons that I’ve learned over the past six months that have allowed me to enjoy a few successes that I’ve had, such as being paid for blogging, getting hired, then promoted, at a blog news magazine, growing a personal blog that cracked the Technorati 5000, and have it be mentioned by major blogs to mainstream sites, and of course, being offered this plum guest blogging spot. Oh, and all the while continuing with my medical residency.

1. Are you willing to do what it takes?
For the vast majority of you, you will try to start a blog AND have a life at the same time. A job. A spouse. Perhaps a kid of three. Relationships with your friends. TV to catch up on. Every single day you’re going to have a laundry list of reasons NOT to blog. And the fact is that this is going to be the case for any worthwhile extra curricular activites you’re going to want to do, whether they be learning how to invest in real estate, start a part time business, or learning how to ride a motorcycle. It sure looks like I hit a nerve with my first post, when I commented on the time commitment. Without beating a dead horse, let me rephrase things in a different perspective.

Are you willing to do what it takes to succeed in blogging? How dedicated ARE you to making it “work”? How dedicated would you be to ANY extra curricular project that you want to do? Life is short, and the number of extra hours you have in a day or week are limited. Don’t waste it on squandered and half-done efforts. Life is going to hurl all kinds of obstacles at you to prevent you from your blogging success. Ask yourself first — are you going to let it? Get that question out of the way, and answer it honestly. If you find there are other things you’d rather do, or other things that are more important, that’s fine. But have the awareness that to achieve a certain level of success will require you to take away time, energy, and attention from something you’re currently doing right now. And if you find that doing those things, whichever they may be for you, is more important than blogging, then its time to reconsider your blogging goals. Being a hobbyist blogger is fine, but I’m presuming that’s not the reason why you’re on this website, nor reading this post.

2. Find a mentor
What? You want to do this without having to talk to anyone or depend on anyone else? Get over it. You need to find someone who has done it before and who is willing, for a lack of a better phrase, to be your friend. Yes, they’re not easy to find, but in your checking out of other blogs, keep your eye out for potential individuals who might fit the bill for you. Don’t let the word “mentor” freak you out. All I mean is finding someone who is willing to answer emails, instant messages, and answer your questions about the challenges you’re facing and how to overcome them. A good mentor is available, friendly, and isn’t afraid to tell you the truth. A good mentor will also feed you opportunities, and extend their own personal network with you. Hey, as I said — you need to find a friend with experience. How do you find one?

It isn’t always easy particularly because any blogger who is worth is salt is busy. Real busy. But keep your eye out for blogs when you’re surfing. Try and find blogs that have a similar interest as your own. Then narrow it down to bloggers that actually respond to email. Be nice. Be courteous. Be helpful. And by no means should you straight out ASK for their help with your blogging career right off the bat. Always remember that they’re busy, and that they could be doing something else OTHER than replying back to your email. Let it evolve naturally. Participate on their blog. Or, their forum, if they have one. Reply back to their own posts with posts on your OWN blog. Send them useful information once you get to know what they need or want. If a relationship develops, you’ll know because they’ll be interested in replying to your emails or instant messages. Maybe they’ll start asking your opinion on things. The idea is over time, hopefully they’ll start taking an interest in YOU. If you find that they are not replying emails, or they’re not taking an interest in your affairs, don’t take it personally. Move on. But don’t give up.

3. Network like your life depended on it
Scary business, as I’m sure many of you are the introverted type who don’t cotton well to approaching strangers and striking up a conversation. Heck, I know I am to certain extent. I’m not sure how to say this other than to say “get over it”. You’ll accelerate your success if you find a mentor, or someone who has experience who is willing to be a good friend, and you’ll also accelerate your success if you just plain ol’ have more online “friends” period, and I don’t mean people you forward jokes to. I mean people who have a strategic worth to your blog and your blogging career. Sure, it sounds mercenary, but again, the benefit of a strong network is absolutely huge in blogging. A good network of contacts wil provide you with leads to stories, new blogging jobs, a foot-in-the-door to blog networks, introduce you to bigger and better bloggers, in addition to things like mentions and link-backs in their posts, potential interview subjects, more participation in YOUR blog and so on. So, how do you network?

I’ve found its most helpful to do it the old fashion way — and not much different than finding a mentor. Surf blogs. Read loads of blogs. Email the authors. Start an interaction. Then follow up with other emails that they might find helpful. Keep contact regularly. Don’t let your friends grow stale. Be good to them, and see if they’re good to you. Again, if they’re not, don’t take it personally, and move on. But if they do, help them with their own blogging relationships. Introduce them to who you know. Maybe there’s someone who you know that can help them with their problem. The more you can help your new friends, the more they’ll find you useful to them, and the easier it will be to ask for favours when needed.

4. Spend time working ON your blog, not just IN your blog
So I’m going to regard the whole issue of “creating quality content regularly” to be a given. You need to do that, and without creating great content all else is moot. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Having said that, don’t forget to spend time working on all the other things OTHER than creating great content. I know — where are you going to find the time for THAT? Well, that’s a topic for another discussion. But if you *don’t* spend time on working “On” your blog, and not “In” your blog, you’ll find that all of your blogging efforts at creating great content will have gone for naught. No one will visit your blog. No one will comment on your blog. And you’ll feel frustrated, disappointed and a little cynical. So what are the “other” activies that need to be taken care of on a regular basis? Marketing’s a big one. A huge one. For every hour you spend writing, you should spend some time marketing.

You’ll have to decide what that ratio is, but the more you DO spend on it, the greater your return will be. And it can be all kinds of things. Seeding your post with links. Participating on other blogs. Submitting your site to StumbleUpon. Heck, I wrote a post on it already. Another is analyzing your blog’s log files. See where people are coming from. what posts do people find useful. What links are people clicking on. How long they’re staying on your site. Actually, measuring metics is a post in and of itself, but understanding where people are going and what people ar edoing on your site is pure gold, because it provides real time feedback on what you’re doing.

Long story short: You must spend time working other things AROUND your blog, not just the blog content. Both are necessary for survival and success.

5. Of course its a Marathon — I just wanted to remind you.

Even if you’re a lousy writer and spend almost NO time on marketing, if you’re willing to stick through it, you’ll discover something interesting. After a while, your competitors will start dropping out. The fact is that out of the tens of thousands of blogs that are started every day, only a tiny fraction will exsit after a few weeks, and less after a few months, and even less after a year. People get discouraged. There are other priorities in their lives. Life moves on. All are perfectly legitimate. But, it should be some solace to the seriously interested among you, because by just surviving, you’ll have outlasted a significant portion of your competition.

And in that way, although its great to have a sense of immediacy, a sense like “I gotta do it now”, just remember: Blogging isn’t a sprint — although there will be times when it feels like you’re running for your life. Blogging’s a marathon. If you’re willing to do what it takes, you must be willing to do it for the “long term”. Blogging in short and erratic bursts will never earn you the kind of audience you deserve. And you’ll never gain the respect from your fellow bloggers that they ought to give you. It takes time — perhaps months, not days or weeks — before reach the goals you set out for initially. And it takes time to reach the right amount of ‘escape velocity’ to separate and elevate yourself from the rest of the pack. The downside is that someone’s got to be producing fresh content. And someone’s got to spend time actually promoting your blog. Most of the time it’ll be you. But the upside is that if you’re willing to stick with it, your dogged determination will be a reward in and of itself as many of your would-be competitors will quit.

Blogging isn’t easy by any means, and many find it a long and hard road to travel before they find any personal success, cash or even validation. Sites like this are excellent because they give you tips and tricks on how to monetize your blog. But in my months as a blogger, I’ve found that the most important things I’ve learned about growing a blog have nothing to do with adsense positioning (mostly because I don’t have any ads on my site), the nuts and bolts of copywriting, or even the ins and outs of how to make WordPress “work”. Those are all part of the finer details in blogging.

The most important things involve having the resolve to doing the thing, finding friends to help you out and commiserate when things have gone lousy, and plain old sticking with it. These might seem like tired old platitudes, but I find that if we don’t do some of these “higher order” things right, things that we intuitively know, but perhaps aren’t executing well … well, none of the details will make much of a difference in the long run.

By no means will these things guarnatee your success, but these are things that I’ve noticed that worked for me. And hopefully they’ll give you the best chance at success as well.

—– end article ——

Although the week continues for a few more days, this is the end of the business week, and I thought I would say a few things now (I will continue to post a few smaller things this weekend, don’t worry).

I’d like to thank Darren Rowse for giving me this tremendous opportunity. It showed a great deal of faith to be putting his baby in the hands of a single blogger, who, incidentally, doesn’t blog “full time”, doesn’t really post “tips” and “how-to’s”, and who doesn’t even monetize his blog at the moment (shocking!). Many thanks to the community here of probloggers and aspiring probloggers. Darren mentioned a few things about the community here, but he neglected to mention how amazingly warm and welcoming you would all be.

This past week I hope that my contributions to the site have provided something worthwhile for your time and attention, because its been a blast writing them for you all.

But by the same token, I’m looking forward to resuming my neglected duties as a poster and assistant editor at the BlogHerald, helping my buddy Thord over at BloggerTalks with some upcoming interviews, and continuing my own poor neglected blog at DeepJiveInterests.com. I had hopes of continuing them all to some degree this week, but the time to create the kind of posts that would make Darren proud required a little more time than I had anticipated.

Good luck to you all in all of your blogging endeavors, and should you want to tell me how things are going, always feel free to drop me a line at anthony{dot}hung{at}gmail.com

Cheers,
Tony Hung.

Comments
  1. Thanks for sharing all these posts Tony. Your first point is right on target: how dedicated are many of us to the concept and our dreams of blogging?

    Networking is probably one of the most important things, if not the most important, that a blogger with great content needs to be focusing on. Also, persistence is something that should pay off in the long run if one sticks to what they have in a right way. I agree that producing fresh content is somewhat like a “downside” for many; like every struggle in life, the path is always full of ups and downs, and even the small ups feel like big downs for most of us.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas and tips with us, Tony. I learned a lot from your posts! I will have to keep an even sharper eye on your site from now on.

  2. This series has been immensely helpful, Tony. Kudos to Darren for bagging this trick!

    Immensely helpful – and none more so than this final entry. Blogging is a marathon. I have got to keep telling myself that; not to worry so much about the short term, you’re in it for the long haul. If you don’t appreciate that, think again. This post is very encouraging. I will mark it and come back to it when I find myself flagging.

    Thank you so much for your obvious care and enthusiasm about other people’s blogging endeavours. It has been a great read.

  3. Well, Tony, I’m glad you’ve been here this week. Particularly loved your marketing post. It has kicked me back in gear, and I’m ready to be less neglectful of my http://www.blognanny.com blog. You’ve convinced me that marketing one’s blog is right behind good content in importance. So, I think I’m going to add a marketing category to Blog Nanny, and make adding posts to that category a priority.

    I suspect that bloggers in general neglect the marketing aspect, partly because we’re idea and information driven (that’s what interests us, and why we blog in the first place) and partly because we feel marketing is a not quite noble pursuit. That is, to put it less nicely, we kind of think it’s a bit beneath us. But, truth is, if no one knows your blog exists, your noble words will be completely wasted. I’ve been a writer long before I became a blogger, and like so many writers, had to learn that deathless prose that rests in a desk drawer or file folder might as well be dead prose, because no one is going to find it there.

    So, thanks for the boot, I’m back to marketing my blogs. Now if someone can tell me how to manage to care and feed all the multiple blogs I’ve created and cannot bear to not have, that would be a nice follow up.

  4. This is your best so far in my opinion Tony! WELL DONE!

    I have just begun to blog, and it’s tough work, no doubt about it. This post I’ll probably return to in the future for more prompting as it’s full of passion.

    Did you know that Darren looks like a world famous DJ?? You may be interested in checking it out at – http://www.armensblog.com/2007/01/12/judge-darren-for-yourself/

  5. Tony,

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your views on blogging this week, and its a credit to you (and to Darren) that you have managed to fit right into ProBlogger, in your writing style, content and honesty.

    If Darren had any doubts at all about allowing another person to run his (online) baby for a week, I think you’ve proved he had nothing to fear – other than maybe the effects of the huge surge in traffic after hitting the front page of Digg yesterday.

    And of course, blogging on here has perhaps opened some peopls eyes to your own work on DeepJiveInterests.

    Good luck, and hope to see you back here again sometime.

    Dave

  6. Tony, It’s been great reading your stuff. I don’t imagine that it was an easy task filing in for Darren, but you held your own.

  7. Damn, Tony! I haven’t even finished reading the last monster post and you drop this behemoth on us. I’m losing sleep because I’m up reading this blog all night. My wife doesn’t like me very much right now, which pretty much means she’s not too fond of your neither. Just a heads up. She’s vicious.

    Anyway, thanks for a week full of really great content. Darren is going to have his hands full next week just trying to keep up. Hopefully we’ll see you again soon.

  8. Great post again, Tony! Darren had the right touch when asking you to fill in.

  9. Nice job filling in this week! :)

  10. Great job on the articles this week Tony! I’ll bet you’ll have quite a few more readers for your own blog. See you there!

    FrugalTrader
    http://www.milliondollarjourney.com

  11. […] A Few Last Lessons On Blogging […]

  12. I’d also like to thank Darren for inviting you to guest blog here at Problogger.net, you’ve been an inspiration Tony!!

    God Bless!

  13. Hi Tony,

    Just a the post yesterday, this is pure quality. I agree, it was a good choice getting you in here :) I find your posts very informative and motivating! Keep it up! And thanks, again!

  14. You’ve really given us all a lot to think about, and a lot to act upon. In my short time blogging I’ve already seen people who are willing to throw in the towel after a few weeks with few visitors. The marathon analogy is a good one.

    So, hope to see you around in ten years!

  15. Dear Tony,
    This has been a great series.

    Cheers,
    Geoffrey

  16. Dear Tony,

    Your contributions have been great. The material is well thought out, helpful, instructive, and great all at the same time. Thanks again!

    Peter

  17. Terrific work, Tony. Big boots to fill. You did it your way.

  18. Will you be my mentor Tony? Amazing posts you have here. Yesterday’s entry hit the front page of del.icio.us! See you back at DJI.

  19. As a total blog newbie I would like to thank you for such inspiring advice. I started my blog as an extension of my hobbies and my life and have rediscovered my love for writing. You’ve been a great guest blogger!

  20. Excellent post. I definitely enjoy being a hobbyist blogger, so some of these suggestions probably wouldn’t suit my situation, but there are a lot of good ideas here.Good stuff.

  21. Great post, Tony! I hope you come back again in the future as a guest blogger – I really enjoyed reading your posts!!!

    As a “beginning” blogger, I can testify that to make a blog work takes a lot of time and effort. And because I don’t have a huge readership (yet), sometimes I feel like I’m just wasting my time. So what keeps me going? Well, for one thing, I look forward to the day when I can go from “hobbyist” blogger to “career” blogger!

    Cheers!

  22. I haven’t done much commenting on ProBlogger before, though I’ve been an avid reader for awhile now, but I just wanted to drop in and say that I’ve really enjoyed reading all of your articles during the past week. You’ve done a great job at creating valuable, interesting, and very readable articles. Best of luck with your own blog in 2007!

  23. […] A Few Last Lessons on Blogging: [Pro Blogger] Tony Hung has some great tips on what it takes to survive and thrive as a blogger. If you are interested in getting more involved in blogging (which I am) I’d suggest you read the post and look to implement some of his ideas. I know I will be. […]

  24. Tony, your articles this week were totally awesome. Thank you for all your efforts. :)

  25. Tony thanks for the great posts.

  26. Hi Tony,

    Just wanted to thank you for some really greats articles this week. I’ve printed them all out and i am going to implement some of your suggestions on my own blog..

    Cheers

    John

  27. Your marketing post was the best I’ve read on the topic Tony. Thanks for all your great work!

  28. […] The trick is having reliable resources to keep yourself inspired. Reading other blogs is a great start. If one gives you ideas you can post a reply on your own blog explaining what you think. Link back to the original post for reference. For example, I started thinking about this after reading a post over on ProBlogger. […]

  29. Hey Tony, your stuff is gold. Thank you for sharing this week!

  30. Ahhh Tony, I don’t want to repeat what every one else has said but they’ve all said it.
    How about: “For a doctor, you’ve got an okay bedside manner.”
    Thanks for investing your time Tony. It must have been difficult and you’ve sacrificed yourself and your projects in the process.
    Thank you for that. I hope one day I can pay it forward to you.
    All the best
    Megan

  31. *
    Fantastic article Tony !
    I feel that you’ve shared a WEALTH of knowledge with us this week : )

    I believe Darren made a great choice in having you as a guest blogger, I must say that I’ve been very busy this week going over these articles and implementing the ideas into some of my sites & strategies !

    Thanks TONY & DARREN for this informative week of helpful advice !

    Michael (( QUESTION of the DAY ))

  32. I like you ( your stuff ) :P Thanks!

  33. Great information. I just hope I can dedicate more time to writing other than reading!

    All the best.

    KevinD
    fuelmyblog

  34. Kevin,

    No question that in the daily grind of things, “mindless surfing” can soak up precious minutes when we could be writing! :D

    Hang in there and all the best with fuelmyblog (see my email)
    Cheers
    TOny.

  35. […] 5. A Few Last Lessons On Blogging – where I dispensed a few universal lesson’s I’ve learned over the past few months, including on the will to do what it takes, and the necessity of networking. […]

  36. Michael,

    Glad to hear it … interesting website, btw. And to answer your latest question “yes I got into a fight before … and it wasn’t pretty!”

    Cheers
    Tony.

  37. Megan,

    I’ll take that as a compliment. Thanks for your time … looking forward to seeing you in “the future” :)

    Cheers
    Tony.

  38. John,

    I always try and write with the intent that my tips will be printed out and end up on a kitchen fridge somewhere. That’s the Ultimate Metric of how a good a tip is, I find ;)

    Cheers
    Tony.

  39. Barb,

    Glad you liked it … tried to be comprehensive and a bit of a reference with the marketing post.

    Cheers
    Tony

  40. Brad,

    Keep at it and keep on improving … let us know how your adventures go with the bradreader (hint: cut your teeth on blogspot, then if you can afford it, go at it on your own)

    Cheers
    Tony

  41. Mallory,

    Glad I could prod you out of your ‘lurker’ status … ha ha, another metric that I value :D Great work with missmalaprop … its a nice niche!

    Cheers
    Tony Hung

  42. Chris,

    Glad you’re taking the right approach with things — take what’s useful and toss the rest!

    Cheers
    Tony

  43. Donna,

    Glad I could be an energizing voice for you … but you know how I feel — getting started is only the first step. Hang in there and best of luck with all of your blogging efforts. ;)

    Cheers
    Tony

  44. Marlo,

    What did I say about asking outright? :D [seriously though, send me an email]

    Cheers
    Tony
    PS what’s the del.icio.us link?

  45. John,

    Glad you stopped by … I try to do it my way when I can. But thanks, man.

    Cheers
    Tony.

  46. Richie,

    who knows where we’ll *ALL* be in 10 years? :) Have a great one, and see you in the future!

    Cheers
    Tony.

  47. Jacob,

    Glad I could fill in Darren’s big boots! Let us know how Jacobdk goes ;)
    Cheers
    Tony

  48. Frugal Trader,

    I have enjoyed some spillover traffic, yes ;)
    For those interested in Tech / Web2.0 news with the occasional tip thrown in they know where to go now (deepjiveinterests.com!)

    Cheers
    Tony

  49. and some 1500 extra feedreaders in one week if I am not wrong… not bad, not bad

  50. Dave C,

    If you’re going to lose sleep, I’m glad its over stuff you find useful! :)
    My apologies to your wife, but hopefully its leading to bigger and better stufff.

    Cheers
    Tony

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