When Heather Armstrong from Dooce decided to wind back blogging after 14 years, it became headline news – New York Magazine even ran a piece called “Dooce Talks Life After Mommyblogging“, which gave us a glimpse into how someone so successful could leave that life behind.
Heather needs little introduction – she’s a Trivial Pursuit answer, Queen of the Mommy Bloggers, an author, a speaker, a consultant, and a gal who’s come a long way from that day in 2002 when she was fired for what she wrote on her blog about her workplace.
Since 2004 Heather has worked full-time on the site, which garners up to two million pageviews a month. In April this year, she announced she was getting back to her roots: writing for the love of it, sharing stories, being honest about the unInstagrammable moments of which every day is made. Instead, she would be earning an income elsewhere, by speaking, writing and consulting, and the blog would be just that – a blog.
“Many friends who know about all the changes in my life have asked, “So, what will happen to dooce®?! Will you shut it down? What is your last post going to say?” And I always stand there and shake my head. I have no intention of shutting this space down. There are too many memories in these pages, and frankly, I still like to write stories. I still have a few contracts that I need to see to completion, and I will continue posting here. But eventually I’d like to get back to the reason I started “living online” in the first place: writing for the love of it, writing when the story inside is begging to be told.”
I chatted on the phone to her a little while ago to find out what life was like when you take the “must” and the monetization out of blogging, and just blog for the pure joy of it (tweet that!). What is it like to wind down a commercial machine and broaden your income horizons elsewhere? Is this the new normal?
I think you’ll like what she had to say…
Did you ever have a feeling one day your blog would end or slow down, or did you just blog without the future in mind?
I didn’t think of an end date in the early days, I just thought it was going to be a hobby. I was just going to write stories until forever. That was my scrapbook – I didn’t think about the possibility it was going to turn into the seven-headed monster that it has become.
Lots of people start blogs about their life musings, but why do you think yours was one of the ones that stood the test of time?
I was very lucky in the sense that I got on very early, I was one of the first ones. I think the reason it caught on and has been so successful is because I was very true to myself in the first place. People are drawn to my irreverence, they think it’s raw. My blog is not is not fine reading, it’s not high thought, its conversational, day-to-day how you would talk to your girlfriends. It at least makes people think, to a large degree. I am opening the heart of who I am and how I feel and that that has carried me through the ups and downs and valleys and peaks.
I assume writing and chronicling your life has become such a part of you – How do you walk away from your entire adult life published on the internet?
No actually, I never really did it. A big part of mormon culture is journaling. I kinda failed at that. One of the few points of mormonism I failed at, as I excelled at every other point!
In college I found myself excelling at writing. I knew I kinda liked to write. There was an underground newspaper I found out about, and I wrote several articles for this newspaper, and I realised people thought it was funny. I went to England in my senior year of college and I used to write letters back to roommate that would make her laugh.
I really just write with the idea: “how can I get my girlfriends to laugh on a Friday night?”
When did you know it was time to move on?
How do I even sum that up?
There’s been a huge shift in the industry since 2011. Nowadays you just cannot make a living off of banner advertising, you have to do sponsored posts. That kind of writing and selling alone with stories of your family will definitely take a toll on anyone who writes about their family for a living.
I don’t want to involve myself any more, and stage an event that I then have to write about later. That’s when I started looking for an exit strategy.
How does it feel to be the only person filling your publishing schedule – what kind of a toll does that take on you?
There has been dissatisfaction for about three years, but only since my ex-husband moved to New York has my publishing schedule changed. Once it was just me at home with the children, I no longer could keep up with the schedule I had in place before he left. I was the only one to take care of it. I often had to stop blogging when my kids were sick or needed me, so my publishing went down by about 30% because I had kids to take care of. It’s very difficult to be a single parent and a business owner.
With a personal blog, you just can’t delegate yourself to someone else. I always say if you want to make money from blogging, get into fashion or DIY blogging – They can have a team of people working on them, but I cannot delegate my persona, my tone, my conversational writing, I can’t have someone else take on many of the tasks that need to be done.
People noticed when I published less often, and and complained, but I was like: “what do you want me to do? My kid is sick, and this is the third day in a row I have to take off. There’s only so much I can do with a laptop while I’m sitting with my feverish daughter on my lap”.
It meant that I was panicking to come up with content – what can I do? What can I write about this week?
How much do you think the pressure of publishing schedules has contributed to lots of bloggers either burning out or giving up in favour of something less relentless?
I would say from the conversations I’ve had with other people in my situation, the publishing schedule has been 85% of it. Bloggers are on a hamster wheel which is going faster and faster and faster.
I don’t know a single blogger who even enjoys it any more. There was a time when we loved every minute of it, we would gush and say oh my god, we love it. Now we say there’s times when we still love parts of it, but nobody sits down at the end of the day and pours a drink and says “Oh I had the most glorious day”. There are only now parts of it we still enjoy but there’s not that enthusiasm for the whole thing any more.
Do you think too the move away from storytelling and into more curated posts have been a part of that? Where once we could write without wondering if we were being useful or if we could be attractive to brands?
Storytelling is much harder than what’s going on now. It’s so much harder than an outfit post with a couple of links and “here, make your affiliate money”. It’s easy because brands know you’re not going to cuss or bring in a racist angle or anything that will cause trouble. It’s so vanilla. What it’s became now is just – it’s flatlined. I mean, I love Instagram as much as anyone else, but it’s homogenised, curated – no-one shows any of the dirty, no-one shows any of the real. Like, if I see one more latte art, a meal on the table taken from overhead… it’s just so tiring that way for someone who consumes this kind of media, and I do consume this kind of media. But I do love a bigger story.
I think what it’s done its that Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook has killed blogging. It put a knife into it and let it bleed out. With a story on a blog, you have to get past the first two or three sentences, and people are like “I’m out”.
What about things like having to ensure our headlines show up in search results, and crafting intros that hook the reader in, that sort of blog post creation?
That’s not blogging, that is journalism. That’s not the heart of blogging, it is not about that at all. This has all turned into something we never intended it to be. Those of us who were writing at the start, we never intended it to look like this at all. Did we ride the wave of this success? Absolutely, but now we’re on the other side having to worry about SEO and “is my headline going to get picked up”?
Now, how do you disconnect now from that constant feeling that you need to be online, chronicling everything?
I have spent the last 18 months of my life in an absolute panic. Sunday evening would come around and I’d be on a voxxer conversation with colleagues and we’d have our weekly panic meeting, all of us having no clue about what they’re going to post this week. “My child has this and this and this all week, and I have this meeting and now I have to publish in between all that”. I hate this.
It’s not like just walking into a job every day, it’s so different. I was talking to someone recently, and they asked if there was a segment of the population that are ridiculous in terms of their criticism of what you do – and there is. It’s people with no kids who go to an office job.
I used to do that. I’d get in a car and drive 45 minutes to an office and I would browse the internet, and I would design things and I’d do that for 9-10 hours. Then I would go home and I’d have a weekend off, and I’d take a vacation. That’s not the reality of blogging, that’ doesn’t look like what we do.
Our work is everywhere. As I’m putting my child to bed and reading a book, my mind would wander off to what I’m going to publish, you know, like “oh this time I’m going to think of something different”.
I realised I can’t let it infiltrate my bedtime routine. I could walk away.
What advice do you have for people who are feeling the pressure and may one day walk away from it all if they don’t have more of a balance? How do you keep in check the raging beast that is a blog?
You’re gonna burn out, it’s gonna happen. Sooner or later, it’s gonna happen. I’ve been doing this for 14 years and I talk to people who are burning out after three – it’s happening. Now you have to do Pinterest and Facebook and Twitter, and each one of those audiences is very different. Taking care of each audience takes up its own time. This is what the Facebook audience wants, that sort of thing. Everything is at an accelerated rate because basically you have to take care of seven blogs.
I guess it all depends on whether you want to make money. If you do, you can get into a niche that is sustainable. Start a fashion or DIY blog and hire a team of people.
In 2004-5, I was the first personal website to take advertising. Now it’s why you start one. If you’re doing it for fun there’s nothing to worry about. If you’re looking to make an income, this is not a good way.
Explain how this massive change has had an impact on your days now. How do you feel?
I’m not there yet, I’m in the middle of transitioning. My specific situation is probably different to most, but I’m the only person who brings in money, I’m it. It’s me. I have to be hustling non-stop. I thought I was going to be able to take two or three weeks where I could not look at my laptop, but it’s not a reality for me. If you’ve got a partner with a good income, please do take that time for yourself. But the transition out for me is all about the hustle, it probably has increased my workload about 40%, but at least I’m not worried about “what pic of my dog am I going to post today?”. My audience wants to see my dog photos but I’ve taken every photo of my dog, ever.
What I’m thinking about is email – it’s still hustle, but in a different direction now, and I’m loving this new hustle. If l wasn’t travelling as much as I am right now, I’d be dancing with headphones on because [the changes] have been so amazing, I’m loving this.
One of the most important things I can do for myself, and the most feminist thing I can do for myself, and I can ask myself this as a white woman in America – is ask: “am I happy doing what I’m doing?”. I wanted to do something different. It’s terrifying but at the same time, I really need to be: “Heather, are you happy? what face are showing to your children? As their mother and as their feminist? What do you want to do to your children? What do you want them to learn about this?”
When you thought about moving on, did you know what you wanted to focus more on or did you mostly just want to move away from straight-up blogging, and find the answer later?
I wanted and do want to do much more speaking, that has always been a passion of mine. Here I have how many years of experience, and an untapped audience who have no idea who I am, but I have all these stories to tell. I mean, I still plan to write a story on the blog when the stories need to be told, but I can tell them in different formats now.
A lot of my blogging has been service-oriented on purpose – I’ve blogged about depression, I’ve blogged about maternal health, I’ve blogged about cancer. I say “I’ve encountered this, this is what is was like, and if there is anyone out there who feels this, I will advocate for you. Go do these things that I recommend, and feel free to reference this post if you go see your doctor”.
But with speaking… I gave a very small version of an upcoming talk to the audience at Alt Summit in Salt Lake City. I got up on stage and I don’t know… something happened. Maybe prayers to mom’s Lord kicked in, but I realized that the room wanted to hear what I had to say. I didn’t want the 20 minutes to end.
I was going to be ok.
So what do you think? Are you disillusioned with the turn blogging has taken? Or are you enjoying the new road? I’d love to hear!
Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.
I think blogging as a business is very all-encompassing. But I’ve watched entrepreneurs my husband and I know personally for years – and any business that you own is going to be like that. You’re going to think of it all the time – while on vacation, while putting the kids to bed, while in the shower. It’s sort of like having another kid. There are times when it’s so hectic and you have more to write about than you have time to write and there are times when you’re scrambling for content. Working with brands on sponsorships is one piece of the puzzle. But so are ads, and outside writing gigs and products (virtual or otherwise). Blogging has changed a lot since the beginning. Heck it’s changed since I started even five years ago. But I love getting to make my own schedule, choosing who I work with and creating for a living.
But then again I started a DIY blog specifically to be a business. :)
My heart goes out to Heather and those who were sharing personal stories as their blog. That definitely has to be a hard way to do it.
Agree with everything you’ve said!
Well, my blog oplevelserogefterskole.blogspot.com is actually for fun. I dont try to make money on my blog, I just write about things that are important to me – like my new school, my vacations/travels and (my) Taylor Swift.. So far I find blogging fun, but if I loose interest I will quit – i do this just for fun
yes, that’s a very different kettle of fish.
Thanks for this. Its so interesting to get Heather’s insights into blogging. I’m in my third year and can see how pressure to produce can build up. That’s why I post once a week. I tried doing more and turned into a mad woman. Finding that sweet spot helps ward off burn-out, at least for now. Thanks again for the great interview.
Yes, that ever-loving sweet spot! Just when you think you have it, it moves!
Great insights into long term blogging, I am at 3 years and still enjoying it, but I get the pressure!
It’s like any small business, I guess!
Over the years my own blogging has progressed in fits and starts and God help me if I had a dollar for every blogpost I’ve read that starts with “I know I haven’t posted in a while, but…”
Seriously though – blogging is a great way to engage but I am moving more and more to writing books and putting my writing, editing and publishing skills out there in this format. There is simply no effective way to monetize blogging that is sustainable long term unless you break through as a mega star.
That said, I love the idea of regular free content sharing and that is why I have moved to podcasting – I can still put the thoughts and content out there, but it is nowhere near as time intensive. I can create a podcast as I am doing and literally engage people from then on. Crafting a decent blogpost take considerably longer – and it steals content that might otherwise make great book content.
So yeah, blogging is an old friend but her demands and maintenance mean she might only come on on the weekend – it’s not my daily go to.
Thanks for bringing this up and I wish Heather every success in her new projects!
I think your experience is quite a common one (and the move to podcasting is smart!). It can be a tough gig to monetize sustainably long term and it can really wear you down.
… this was very interesting and enlightening, but so many errorssssssssssssssssssssssss …if this was a transcribed interview, please get in touch with me. I can give you far more accurate and far better copy @ProBlogger.
Thank you so much for this post, it really resonated with me. I’ve just taken a break from blogging to work on other writing projects. I love it but I find I’m a better writer if I take breaks once or twice a year. I’ve also shut down sponsorship on my blog as I found it really affected my content negatively. I prefer to pursue paid opportunities elsewhere for now and keep my blog for me and my readers.
It can be a real personal thing, can’t it! We’re actually very lucky to be able to make these choices for our own blogs. I do love those breaks though :)
Love this! Fantastic questions and I can hear the honesty in Heather’s answers too. I’m really looking forward to hearing her talk at ProBlogger this year.
yeah me too! Some of them I would never dare breathe a word of online and she was so candid.
I’m heartened and depressed all at the same time after reading this. I’ve only been ‘properly’ blogging for six months and whilst I’ve hit a groove, I can also appreciate how hard it is to ‘hustle’ for business constantly and make a dollar. I think I’ve missed the Golden Age of Mummy Blogging and am simply writing for… I don’t know- the ether? Sounds like that’s the most fulfilling reason to write a blog. Thanks for an insightful post!
Ah the hustle. Can take the shine off anything!
I really was thinking of quitting blogging. Somehow it was draining me, i had no time for any other thing. This is just the inspiration i was needing. Thanks alot for this post!
Glad to hear it!
I’ve got so much love for my blogging business – it’s better and more dynamic than anything I’ve done in my career to date. I just keep on moving ahead, thinking up new ideas and thinking outside the square. I make that choice and keep on going because this is what I want to be doing. I understand that everyone could get to a different point with their blog – and never say never – but I’m so glad that right now I don’t feel like Dooce does.
I think it’s so interesting she’s exploring storytelling but in a different format now. I guess 14 years of the same thing warrants a new direction if it’s feeling a bit stale!
There’s no room for quitting in blogging, because search engines such as Bing, Google, and YaHoO! live off of content.
Search engines aren’t everything.
Awesome article. I am not a professional blogger yet but through articles like this I am learning more and more by the day.
Sorry, but the implied assumption that “people with no kids and an office job” are not thinking about their jobs after 5pm, can easily have vacations and weekends off, is a little tone deaf. What makes Heather think she even knows what an “office job” looks like now?
“Now we say there’s times when we still love parts of it, but nobody sits down at the end of the day and pours a drink and says “Oh I had the most glorious day”.
Welcome to life.
Could not agree more DL.
Just an example of the self absorbed attitude that bloggers can end up getting sucked into. ‘our work is everywhere’.
Meanwhile, my ‘office’ hours are extended with Blackberry, Laptop etc. but clearly I don’t understand the constant pressure to curate every last aspect of your live for blog fodder.
Couldn’t agree with Heathet more.
Hahah she’s touched a nerve! So many people saying what you’re saying (but less funny than you have!).
I completely LOVE my job! Now, that doesn’t mean that I love every moment of it or every aspect of it, but I am aware of what a privilege it is to have a job where I can reach so many and potentially impact other families and at the same time, be home with my kids. I can work while I watch them do their swimming lessons (the pool has great free WIFI), while we are on vacation, when they are sleeping, or when they are watching a movie sitting next to me on the couch (of course, always one that is incredibly educational ;) . What other career would allow me to pay the mortgage and be around to enjoy my children’s childhood?!
I also love the changes and challenges that come with a job that is constantly having to readjust to the technology or fast moving algorithm shifts because it means I am constantly learning and can never be complacent.
I do think this interview brings up a good point about blogger burnout though. I’ve had seasons of writer’s block or of becoming disillusioned or just plain being tired. Thankfully, I’m surrounded by incredible bloggers and friends who are encouraging and supportive and I’ve always managed to get back on track.
Yes, everybody has a different experience of it! I’m sure she felt the same way at one point.
hey there thanks for this article,
15 Thoughts on How Blogging Impacts Life
1. You’ll become a better writer. At its core, writing is communication. It is about recording thoughts on paper and compelling others to agree with them. To that end, writing (just like every other form of communication that has ever existed) improves with practice. Blogging will not force you to become a better writer, it’ll just happen as you do it. And becoming a better writer holds important benefits for the rest of your life—whether you are creating a book, a presentation, a résumé, or an anniversary card for your spouse.
2. You’ll become a better thinker. Because the process of writing includes recording thoughts on paper, the blogging process encourages you to stop and think deeper. You will delve deeper into the matters of your life and the worldview that shapes them. Unfortunately, at this point, many will choose not to blog (or write at all) based on the faulty reasoning that they “have nothing to say.” But to that line of thinking I always respond the same way, maybe you just haven’t discovered yet what you have to say.
3. You’ll live a more intentional life. Once you start writing about your life and the thoughts that shape it, you’ll begin thinking more intentionally about who you are, who you are becoming, and whether you like what you see or not. And that just may be reason enough to get started.
4. You’ll develop an eye for meaningful things. By necessity, blogging requires a filter. It’s simply not possible to write about every event, every thought, and every happening in your life. Instead, blogging is a never-ending process of choosing to articulate the most meaningful events and the most important thoughts. This process of choice helps you develop an eye for meaningful things. And remember that sometimes the most meaningful things appear in the most mundane—but you’ll see what I mean once you get started.
5. It’ll lead to healthier life habits. Blogging requires time, devotion, commitment, and discipline. And just to be clear, those are all good things to embrace – they will help you get the most out of your days and life. Since beginning to blog, I have become an early riser, a runner, and can now properly identify my favorite drink at Starbuck’s (Caramel Macchiato). And even if those three habits don’t personally appeal to you, blogging will provide opportunity for new life habits to emerge in yours.
6. You’ll meet new people. Whether it be through comments, e-mails, or social media, you may be surprised at how quickly you meet people on-line. And by meet people, I mean legitimately form relationships that seek to serve one another. The blogging community is friendly, encouraging, and genuinely cheering for you to succeed—the only thing missing is you.
7. You’ll make some money. You don’t need to make money to enjoy blogging. In fact, sometimes making money from your blog can actually start to distract you from the joy that you found in the first place. That being said, whether you make $20/year or $20,000/year, it’s still pretty nice to have a hobby that actually pays you back.
8. You’ll inspire others. Blogging not only changes your life, it also changes the life of the reader. And because blogs are free for the audience and open to the public, on many levels, it is an act of giving. It is a selfless act of service to invest your time, energy, and worldview into a piece of writing and then offer it free to anybody who wants to read it. Others will find inspiration in your writing… and that’s a wonderful feeling.
9. You’ll become more well-rounded in your mindset. After all, blogging is an exercise in give-and-take. One of the greatest differences between blogging and traditional publishing is the opportunity for readers to offer input. As the blog’s writer, you introduce a topic that you feel is significant and meaningful. You take time to lay out a subject in the minds of your readers and offer your thoughts on the topic. Then, the readers get to respond. And often times, their responses in the comment section challenge us to take a new, fresh look at the very topic we thought was so important in the first place.
10. It’s free. Your blog can begin today without spending a single penny now (or ever). I use WordPress and highly recommend it. With an initial investment of $0, why not give it a shot? Or for just a few dollars/month, you can use your very own domain name. I use and recommend Bluehost.
11. You’ll become more comfortable being known. Blogging introduces yourself to the world. It causes you to articulate the life you live and the worldview behind the decisions that you make. Whether you have 1 reader or 10,000, the blogging process opens up your life to those on the outside. It is a good exercise in human-existence to be known by others. Over time, you’ll reveal more and more of yourself to the outside world… and you’ll be excited to find a world that relates to you and enjoys hearing your story.
12. It’ll serve as a personal journal. Blogging serves many of the same roles as a personal journal. It trains us to be observant and gives weight to the personal growth that we are experiencing. It trains our minds to track life and articulate the changes we are experiencing. Your blog becomes a digital record of your life that is saved “in the cloud.” As a result, it can never be lost, stolen, or destroyed in a fire.
13. You’ll become more confident. Blogging will help you discover more confidence in your life. You will quickly realize that you do live an important life with a unique view and have something to offer others.
14. You’ll find a platform to recommend. We all love to recommend something we have found enjoyable or beneficial—whether it be a nice restaurant, a good book, or a new outlook on life. The fullness of joy is not experienced until we have shared that joy with others. A blog provides an opportunity to do that very thing. It provides a platform to share the joy we have experienced and recommend good things we have discovered to others.
15. It’s quite a rush with every positive comment. There’s a certain little rush that accompanies the immediate positive feedback that you receive every time a reader posts a comment, shares your writing on Facebook, or tweets it out to their Twitter followers. While walking the fine line between finding encouragement in that feedback and obsessing over it may take some time to get used to, it’s far better to find that line than to never seek it out in the first place.
Did you just try to give Dooce 15 life lessons about blogging?!
OMG…omg…yes…yes they did just give Dooce 15 life lessons about blogging. I’m embarrassed for them.
Good points. When I was seriously blogging years ago – I had a six-year blog – I can add that everything you say is true. Didn’t make a fortune until someone bought the blog for the traffic – but then had a 6-month trip.
I really loved this post Stacey, and as for the ‘errors’ to me you just made it seem as if Heather was talking to us, in the room … I thought the post was fast, and smart, and well, bloggie. It’s so true that to keep pace with blogging everything has to be done at breakneck speed these days, and the creation and grammar (which I used to be so precious about) often goes by the wayside because there is so much else to consider and get done. I love Nikki’s comment that she wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, and she’s a great ambassador for how to run a blogging business really well – but as she says, she keeps on innovating and she manages to combine storytelling with the demands of her advertisers and sponsors so seamlessly. I often wonder where blogging will go to next, or what steps we should be taking next … for most of us I don’t think it will ever die, not in its purest form, but I reckon as Heather says, there will be more lucrative off-spins from blogging if we are agile and open to them.
It’s something to think about, isn’t it? Especially trying to make a personal blog a business, I think that would be incredibly challenging. Thanks for being so kind about my ‘errors’ :)
This was a great interview and had me hooked from the start! I have to say that the content creation hamster wheel is REAL and can definitely burn you out. I’m lucky to have diversified my business so that it’s not based on ad revenue, but rather we’ve got a combination of products, services, and other ways to earn income. This also makes it easier to bring in guest writers, too.
Seriously happy that dooce is realizing she can step off the hamster wheel and create the life she wants! :)
That diversification, it’s a lifesaver eh?
Such an interesting take. The face of blogging changes so much – I would never have imagined. I only really started blogging in November last year and I love the challenges it presents with having to work on so many difference facets – not just my writing. But I guess that’s the ‘blogging age’ I’m growing up in.
This has made me realise the importance of keeping my day job though. While blogging full time is my goal, I am also lucky enough to have a job that is vastly different and that I can reduce my hours to say, 1 day a week. Definitely something I’ll keep in mind to not only give me a mental break from blogging but to just add another diversification to my income.
I wish Heather all the best in her new purists and look forward to hopefully meeting her at PB next week (and you too of course Stacey!!!)
Can’t wait! Not long now. (And I think I’d be sick of just about everything after 14 years, to be honest!)
Fabulous insight and interview from someone who really has seen the transition of blogging.
Interesting to read that sponsored posts are viewed as the only way to make money now? What about affiliate income?
I got a lot of waste of time enquiries about placing sponsored posts on my site. Yet they want do follow links which is contrary to Google guidelines. This practise needs to end so that people can’t sell out anymore for quick bucks and easy link juice.
Heather has seen such a transformation in the online world. I know I find it hard to keep up and I’ve only been doing this for 3 years, not 10+. I agree with the sentiment of such as Instagram, sanitised pictures of beauty and desirability. Where is the reality? I never really got into IG and think FB is such a changed beast it is hard to find a strategy to work without paying for success.
Heather’s principles of honesty in her writing is what blogging truly was. A personality, a truth, a human connection.
I myself have put the brakes on for a while. I love my blog but I also know it is and was incredibly time intensive. I won’t say that I burned out, but I was approaching it. When I return I need a new strategy and at the moment I’m trying to figure it out.
Thanks for a great interview.
So glad you saw that burnout coming! It can make all the difference when you can take some time out. And agree – those dofollow requests have got to STOP.
This article hits the nail on the head. I’ve been at this gig for 8 years now. I started as a hobby, bought the monetization hook, line, and sinker and now find myself so immersed that it’s overwhelming. I truly miss when blogging was just about sharing. When interaction from readers was real and not based on SEO. This job is not easy. I’ve put my own site on hiatus for the last month because of these same reasons. I NEED time to focus on my family without the constant hamster wheel cranking in my brain. Thanks for the article.
If we don’t give ourselves breaks, nobody is going to do it for us!
Ahhh…. Where to start?
Ok, I do love this piece. Heather broke it down the crux of what every blogger goes through: staying relevant and consistent while trying to be “you” in a sponsored world. the problem is that we aren’t THINKING of our blogs as a business. We still have this “butterflies and rainbows” mentality, that our blogs are an extension of us and that it’s our “baby.”
No. Our blogs should be run as a business: with a team of people, with strategic plans, marketing plans, as real businesses do. When we try to do everything and still operate in this “blog is my baby” mode, we kill ourselves and our love of it.
I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend everyone read “The E-Myth Revisted” which talks about this very phenomenon of not running a business like a real business. It’s eye opening. And is a lesson in how to move forward when you’ve gotten to the end of your rope in your business.
Thrift Diving blog
off to find the book. thanks!
Oh, I forgot to add, I’m not “there” yet. I don’t have a team yet, but that’s where I know I need to move.
And I cannot possibly cover all soci media, so I don’t even try. Facebook is my One Thing. I stay current with it, and occasionally post to Pinterest via Ahalogy. And I do video tutorials. But I skip over Instagram. Automate to Twitter, and I’m working on being more focused on doing the things that are most impactful without wasting time on the things that I can’t do well as a solopreneur.
I enjoyed reading this. I have been reading Dooce on and off for about 8 years, and it is interesting to read the story behind. I started a paper quilling craft blog several years ago. Almost 2 years ago I changed to self hosted so I could start a more professional blog and make some income as well. I am a teacher by training, and it has been great teaching people on my blog through tutorials. It combines my love of teaching with crafting! I don’t know where it’ll be in a few years, but I know all about having to switch gears due to burnout. It’s important to stay true to yourself.
It sure is.
“That kind of writing and selling alone with stories of your family will definitely take a toll on anyone who writes about their family for a living.”
Here’s a radical thought–why not try writing about something other than your family? Bloggers are losing readership because people get tired of reading the same stuff. Dooce might think about expanding her universe, and not just in terms of free trips with celebrites or sponsored posts.
Maybe she should try a screen-play, a novel, or reporting on someone who’s not a small child.
She is expanding her universe, that’s the entire point of this article.
Great timing. I was going to start blogging again to build an audience, authority, a network and then start developing services sometime next year.
This article, plus a lunch with a friend, has helped me re-evaluate the strategy. I will start writing very focused information and how-to posts and start moving on the services from day one.
In that way, I do not have to worry about advertising, affiliates and sponsored content. It will be tougher and I will have to buy in help, but thinking it through it is a better plan.
I really enjoyed this article. I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years in the health and travel niches and I’ve never been able to make much money off my blogs. However it has opened up some great opportunities. I once got to speak at a conference and it lead to a great contract blogging for company that I love. BUT since I blog about our full time travels as a family (even for the company I wrote for) it can be a bit much at times. Sometimes I just want to leave the camera at home but I really can’t. However I’m not complaining…to get paid to travel and write and take pictures with my kids and husband is pretty awesome for time being.
It’s a double-edged sword, right?
Wait, working life as a 25-year old single person is different than for a 40-year old parent? Get out of town with that crazy notion!
Everything that Heather said about blogging is true of office jobs. Every. Damn. Thing.
Office workers have to juggle conflicting schedules and don’t always love what they do and sometimes find themselves thinking of work when they should be present with their families. They get burnt out – but they don’t get to ‘retire’ when they do. They do all of that in an environment that is generally considerably less flexible than that enjoyed by bloggers or other people who work from home (having done both I have some perspectives on the perks of each).
Having a job is hard. That’s why they call it work, FFS. None of us are mining for coal so the whining is maybe a bit over the top.
This whole post is just ridiculously tone deaf and entitled; no wonder nobody reads Dooce any more.
PS: Asking yourself if your job makes you happy is not feminist at all, let alone the most feminist thing a person can do.
I’ve been blogging for 7 years, 3 years making an effort to do it as a business and I’m amazed at how it’s encroached on every single aspect of my life. I make a little money but to do that of course, I have deadlines that fill up the calendar and cause pressure…the work often bleeds over into my weekend and sometimes I find myself preparing for life- — staging life- instead of simply living.
Is that burn out or just poor work-life balance? Either way, I’ve been exploring what it would look like to pull back…or even stop. Thank you both for this interview-It’s helpful to hear Heather’s perspective.
I hope you find that elusive balance :)
I’m sure that Raif Badawi is terribly concerned if Heather is happy. What a self-centered POV! If that’s the feminist act she can think of, I’d say she needs to broaden her horizons.
Great interview! Some people may take this as blogger burnout or the death of blogs, but I take it as a natural progression. Her blog has opened other avenues and she is pursuing those. I think that is what any business person does. You start in one direction, like opening a restaurant, and then you may become a teacher or cookbook author. ANYTHING you do can become stale. You have to take things in the seasons they are offered. It’s a new season for her.
What a cool time – being on the verge of new things. It’s bittersweet but also awesome.
As a new blogger, I’m not sure if I’m discouraged by your post, or if you’ve just given us a good dose of possible realities. I’ve decided that I’m a grownup and I appreciate your honesty, I can learn from it and I’m glad to have come across your site, because obviously there’s so much value here.
I also appreciated the 15 thoughts by Professional Web Design. That’s a viral post right there.
When times are tough, its very uplifting to have someone come alongside of you and remind you of the years of value you’ve created and the gift you’ve given to others.
It also reminds of the gift I could create and give to others as I develop my site.
Thank you, Heather and Pro Web Design, as well.
I think many of the bloggers would agree with what docee has to say.. I am curious then what is that other bloggers are doing? one of them is writing a book and actually started a podcast.
Fun is only so much, motivation is another thing.
Money is one of the biggest motivators. What is the motivation for you guys? and what are you hoping to do in the long run for your blog?
I agree with you.
This is the stage which every blogger passes, this is generally because of the blog not getting huge visits or our competitors taking over us. When I started my blog, I never even thought of shutting it down, but the competition made me “demotivated”, I posted on a social network, asking many of my friends what should I do, they suggested me to stay motivated and today the blog is perfectly doing well and I’m planning to do “Full-time-Blogging”.
Great story and I’m left wondering if she was a victim of her own success. This need to publish is based around the notion that you must always be growing. I think it’s a mindset shift that should happen before you think of giving up. I can’t believe with that many visitors she couldn’t just sustain a reasonable income and be happy with it.
I guess that’s the problem with just blogging about yourself, when your self-esteem is low so is your belief that you are worthy of attention.
If I was in her shoes I’d introduce full-time guest posting and put the blog on auto-pilot.
I think the problem would be that her readers don’t want guest posts, they want her. I guess now they’re just getting her in a different format.
This reminds me of my favourite Australian, the late Leon Noone, and his take on it all.
“Blogging’s important. But let’s always remember that doesn’t necessarily mean that bloggers are.”
I have been blogging for more than 11 years now and I still love it. You don’t last unless you are happy. That’s the most important thing.
I been blogging for around 6 years, 3 more seriously, and it is constantly changing and becoming more demanding. You have to worry about how everything looks on mobile and tablets, not just PCs, People want stellar photos and just the right titles, and SEO – ugh – don’t even get me started on all the little tricks and tweaks required to get a front page spot on google.
I still like that I can bring in some income from home on flexible hours, but serious blogging is serious work, and having multiple revenue streams is never a bad idea.
I noticed there are a number of folks complaining that they, too, think about work all the time and they are not bloggers. I know that’s true for a lot of folks, but while they may be thinking about work, they don’t have to think about how to constantly put their families and lives on display. It’s a different kind of stress. It also sometimes leads to stalkers, who think they “know you” just because they read your blog, which can be a little creepy.
I’m tired, so hopefully this isn’t too incoherent.
It is so true that those blogs which catch on are written by people who are just being themselves, writing about their passions. Of cuorse there is more to it than that, but that is definitely a necessity. This article really puts things in perspective. Thank you, Stacey, for this!
Thank you guys for sharing! I didn’t realize you were shutting things down Dooce.
I upped my scheduled from 3 to 4 times a week, and after several months, started feeling burnt out. So I went back down to 3X a week, and a couple weeks only 2X a week, and I felt like it was a vacation!
The personal finance niche, the one I’m in, has a lot of revenue opportunity. But if you read my stories about minimum wage, and stuff, I can’t be bothered writing review posts on products I never use, or credit cards, etc. It’s just too soul sucking!
I have been blogging for more than three years and I never hired any people to do any of my stuff. My blogs are like my child to me. I can’t think of shutting down these sites. I don’t know how long I can keep working by I will try my best to continue as far as I can.
Even though there are lots of change in seo but it kept giving me some extra cash which are very important to me.
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