Over on Twitter recently @jimlavin asked if I had any ‘ideas how someone with a normal day job can schedule time to blog on a regular basis?‘
Image by Helico
This is actually a great question and one that I’m sure many others will grapple with. While a handful of bloggers are able to blog full time the vast majority of bloggers can not and blog ‘on the side’ before, after (and I’m sure for some ‘during’) other work or life commitments.
This is how I started out. When I started blogging entrepreneurially I was working 3 part time jobs and studying part time (in addition to other ‘normal’ life stuff like being a husband. You can read more of how I progressed from a part time blogger to a full time blogger here.
Following are a few lessons that I learned through that process. It doesn’t just focus upon the topic of scheduling posts (although does give a few tips on that) – but rather probably gives more general advice for those juggling blogging and other priorities such as work, family and other commitments – particularly advice for those wanting to transition from part time to full time blogging.
When I first started blogging it was simply a hobby and something I did out of interest. I had no intention of making money from it or growing it into a business. However when I began to realize that there was potential for this medium to earn an income I (or ‘we’ as I always involved my wife in the decisions) had to make a decision as to whether I was seriously going to pursue it or not.
If you want your blog to grow into a significant income stream or to achieve other serious goals then you do need to make a decision to invest time, energy and perhaps even a little money into it. Making this decision doesn’t guarantee success by itself but for me it was important.
In actual fact for me there were probably a series of 4-5 such decisions. Each time I let go of a part time job to put more time into blogging was a decision that we thought long and hard about and was effectively a stepping stone towards going full time.
Set Aside Regular Times
This might vary a little depending upon your situation and personality and style of blogging but I found that I worked best when I set aside regular times to blog and established a daily pattern of when and where I did it. For me the times that I blogged varied a little at different periods depending upon my other commitments but I distinctly remember a time where I was getting up an hour earlier than normal to do a solid hour of blogging before going to work. At other times I would set aside time in the evenings (the same time each night) or arranged to have access to a computer over a lunch break at work.
I found that if I didn’t set time aside to blog (and to effectively diarize it) that I simply didn’t do it (or struggled to). For me it was a little like exercise – if I don’t set aside the time it doesn’t happen.
Boundaries are Important
One of the things that I struggled with particularly in the first year or so of blogging was the setting of boundaries. Working a number of jobs, studying, family life and blogging all competed for my attention and at times blogging encroached upon some of these other aspects of my life when it should not have.
My last point of setting aside time to blog was helpful in this but so was giving those around me permission to tell me when I was getting obsessed with blogging.
One practical tip that I would give those juggling numerous hats is to learn about Batch Processing. I’ve written about how batch processing made me more productive but in short it is a technique where you set aside concentrated time to do one particular task rather than trying to achieve lots of things all at once.
For me there was a time where I would set aside every Monday morning simply to write posts for my blogs. I’d take my laptop to a local cafe, stay offline, switch off my phone and church out 5-6 posts in a morning. I’d then schedule these posts for the days ahead and let them publish automatically. I would still do other shorter/newsy type posts during the week – but the posts I wrote on Mondays were my longer, deeper more feature length content.
I found this approach to writing suited me and released me during the rest of the week to concentrate on my other jobs as well as other areas of my blogging.
Gradually Increase Time Invested into Blogging
If you read my story you’ll see that ‘going pro’ as a blogger was a fairly gradual process which effectively involved me decreasing the time I put into other work to increase the time I put into blogging.
While this is not the only way to do it (I know 1-2 bloggers who just decided to go full time and live off savings) it is the approach I recommend IF you have the goal of going full time (and I say IF because I know many bloggers don’t want to go full time). I recommend this approach mainly because building successful and profitable blogs takes time – deciding to quit your job and go full time as a blogger is a nice dream but in reality most blogs earning enough to support a full time blogger take years to build. Unless you’ve got a nice nest egg to live off in the mean time you’re cutting off the income stream that will sustain you while your blog grows.
Bring Those Around You On the Journey
IF your goal is to go full time (or even to earn a significant part time income from blogging) it is probably going to impact those around you. For me it was something that impacted ‘V’ (my wife) more than anyone else.
‘Honey, I’m going to be a full time blogger’ is a statement that you might want to think twice about saying over breakfast one morning (or at least wait until her mouth isn’t full).
‘V’ was incredibly supportive of my vision to grow blogging into an income stream but it was a process for her as much as it was for me. It meant that we were giving up other income in order for me to concentrate my time upon blogging for starters.
One of the sad things that I’ve seen happen a couple of times over the last few years is bloggers forging ahead with their vision to ‘go Pro’ without bringing along their partners. Blogging is great, but it’s not that great!
Daily Posting isn’t Essential
When you’re starting out the pressure to post every day on your blog is great. In talking to many new bloggers I find that many struggle with this expectation of daily content. Those who don’t achieve it often feel guilty or as though they’ve failed. Others keep the daily posting level up but as a result let the quality of their work slip.
Here’s the thing – daily posting is not essential to grow a successful blog.
For example – when I while Digital Photography School has two new posts go up each day these days – when I started I posted just 3 times a week to it. My goal was to write 3 high quality, helpful, unique, engaging feature length posts each week for the first month or so and then as the blog grew to increase that frequency. I worked toward producing 4 a week, then 5, then 6….. and beyond. It took me over a year to get it to daily posting even though I was working full time as a blogger.
Daily posting is great, but don’t stretch yourself too thin early on. 2 quality posts a week is better than 7 average ones.
To help with the posting frequency it can be well worth thinking about developing an editorial calendar. For me at different times this meant setting time aside to set goals for the types of posts I wanted to write each week.
Some bloggers take this further and allocate a different type of post for each day of a week (ie Mondays might be the day for reviewing a product, Tuesdays might be a day to do a ‘how to’ post, Wednesdays might be a ‘reader discussion’ day…. etc).
I didn’t do this allocating of topics for days type editorial calendar (at least I never did it for long) but I found when I thought ahead about the content that I wanted to produce, identified topics ahead of time and even set myself deadlines for them that I was much more productive than if I just got up each morning and sat down to write with a blank mind.