Instant Messaging Conversation with Reader (used with permission – name changed to protect the innocent)
Rex – ‘Darren Darren Darren….I’ve decided to become a Professional Blogger!!!!’
Darren – ‘Wow that’s exciting Rex!’
Rex – ‘yeah I’m writing my letter of resignation as we speak….’
Rex – ‘I can’t wait to see my boss’s face when he sees it! :-)’
Darren – ‘that’s great…. but before you resign can I ask you a couple of questions?’
Rex – ‘sure’
Darren – ‘how long have you been blogging?’
Rex – ‘3 months’
Darren – ‘how many blogs do you have?’
Rex – ‘just one’
Darren – ‘and if you don’t mind me asking how much does it earn each day?’
Rex – ‘…around $1.50’
Darren – ‘do you have any savings to live off for the next year?’
Rex – ‘………..’
This is a real conversation and one that I seem to have about once per month – bloggers who are excited by the potential that blogging has to pay them an income – who are so eager to ‘Go Pro’ that all sensibility goes out the window.
Most people would make sure they have another job to go to before resigning from a current one (or at least they’d make sure they had a way to survive in the short term) – why wouldn’t they do the same with blogging?
I’ve written about this before at Monkey Bar Blogging (a public service announcement that I wrote for bloggers a few months back) – it’s a post that I’d highly recommend anyone considering ‘Going Pro’ has a read. What I write below is similar I guess and my latest thinking on the topic.
So when should a blogger ‘Go Pro’?
Let me start answering this question by saying there is no one way to enter into blogging on a professional level. I know quite a few bloggers who have gone full time into blogging and with virtually every one there is a different variation on the story of how they did it.
Below is some of the advice I give to bloggers with aspirations to full time blogging:
Don’t view going Pro as an event, instead see it as a process
You don’t just decided to turn professional in any area of life without there being some sort of process that leads up to it. Tiger Woods didn’t just decide to turn pro one day – he had practiced for yeas, he’d put a lot of time into his golf, he’d had coaching, he’d played tournaments as an amateur, he’d developed skills and had made sacrifices. There must have come a time in his development when he (and those around him) realized that he was ready and he officially became a Professional athlete – however in reality he’d been becoming professional for many years proceeding that date. I think bloggers need to take a similar approach. It takes practice, ground work, experience, sacrifice and planning to go pro in most cases – it’s not just a decision.
One step at a time
The temptation when embarking upon this journey is to behave like you’ve already arrived and to forget the reality of life that you’re currently in. Don’t just quit your job without having some way of surviving in the mean time. This is irresponsible. The way I did it was to recognize I was in a transition and to slowly back off the work that I was doing in my ‘real job/s’ and as my blogging earnings increased to increase the time I allocated to blogging.
In the beginning for me blogging was a pure hobby that I did after work. 9 months in it was something I was able to cut my ‘real job’ back to 4 days per week, 18 months in I was 2-3 days per week blogging….and the process continued. Even today – almost three years after I started blogging I have another part time job (this ends in a month). I have this partly because when I took it I still wasn’t sure whether blogging would sustain me full time and also because I didn’t want to spend all day everyday alone in front of a computer).
It takes Significant time
I always say that ProBlogging takes time on two levels. Firstly on a long term level – getting to a full time level with your blogging can take years. Some do it quicker but the reality is that for most that have achieved this goal it has been a long journey. In the IM conversation above, this was one of the key things that Rex didn’t understand – he thought it was like starting a job – you start work and you get paid. This is not the case. The work you do now many not really pay off for 12, 24 or even 36 months. In fact the reality is that it may never pay off (sorry to be the prophet of doom).
Secondly blogging takes time on a daily basis – significant time. You need to be able to find spare hours in your day for blogging if you want to build a career out of it. It’s not easy money. My tip to new bloggers exploring income from blogging is to put an hour or two each day into it. Get up an hour early, go to bed an hour later, sacrifice some time in front of the TV, do it in your lunch break – I don’t care where the hour or two comes from but if you don’t invest significant time into it in the early days it is very difficult to develop a blog (or blogs) big enough to sustain a large enough income to begin to cut back on your ‘real job’. Any small business owner will tell you that the set up phase calls for a lot of time and sacrifice – a blog business is no different.
‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ is the advice I was brought up hearing from my parents. This is a good lesson for ProBloggers. While I know of one or two bloggers that make a full time living off the single blog, most have a number of projects underway. In fact I was chatting to one full time blogger recently and he told me how he’d been full time on a single blog – but that Google had reindexed it in the last update to the point where it was virtually gone from that search engine – his income was also virtually gone.
So diversify – You can do this in a number of ways – start multiple blogs on multiple domains on a variety of topics. Take on some blogging work on someone else’s blogs. Do some consulting work. Have a non blogging part time job. Experiment with some websites that aren’t blogs. Partner with other bloggers to work on combined projects. Hire yourself to a business who wants a corporate blog. Write a book, start a podcast – just mix it up. You’ll find this also helps your sanity as you’re not just thinking about one topic and medium all day.
Blogging is a fluid medium (in fact online work in all its forms are fluid). One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt over the past few years is to expect the unexpected in my work and that the key to moving forward is to be flexible enough to maneuver into the right position at the right time as opportunities present themselves. Don’t hold so tightly to ideas that you can’t let them go if they don’t work out. Some of my best ideas for blogs flopped and some of my accidents are my biggest successes.
Experiment heaps, be willing to work with new people and see where collaborations lead and whilst you work your butt off be willing to let go of the flops and move onto the next thing.
Blogger for Hire
One thing that I do recommend for bloggers on this journey to full time blogging is to consider working for someone else – at least in part. I constantly get emails from readers wanting to start their own network of blogs (I got three yesterday alone). While starting your own network is a great way to earn an income from blogging its a very long term strategy and with the emergence of new networks every week or so it’s getting to be a crowded and difficult thing. Perhaps another way forward is to work for an existing network on one of their blogs. In doing this you generate an income (some networks give a guaranteed minimum each month), you gain experience, you build profile, you gather skills and make contacts.
Of course you need to realize that this approach means you’re building someone else’s empire, the reality is that most networks own the content that you write – this is seeing blogging as more of a job than a business. I think this is a totally valid way forward however and a great way to get into the industry. Perhaps as you write for someone else you can also be working on your own projects with the hope of one day being able to transition with more and more time spent on them.
Have your Say
These are some of the things I’d recommend bloggers keep in mind as they consider going pro. I am sure there is a lot more wisdom in our community though and so I’m interested in the experiences and stories of others who are both at the start of this journey or those who have made the transition and are now full time bloggers. Share your stories of going pro in comments below or write your own ProBlogging story up on your own blog and let me know the URL and I’ll include it in my next daily summary (I’d love to read the way it happened for others and am sure I’m not alone).