[Second of 2 parts]
When you start a new author blog, you’re hopeful and expectant. Who knows how many people you’ll reach, how much fun it will be, whether you’ll start a trend or a revolution, become rich and famous, or be offered a 6-figure book deal? Hey, all those things are possible, they make the news all the time.
In this 2-part series, we’re looking at the unexpected traps that spring up after your blog has been successful. You’ve got lots of readers, people leaving comments and engaging each other on your posts, you’re subscriber list is growing. What could be bad?
Well, it turns out there are a number of things that can trip you up. Relying on my own experience that observations around the blogosphere, here are the rest of the “traps” I’ve identified, and tips on what you can do about them.
And if you missed the first part, you can find it here: Part 1
All bloggers rely on technology to operate their blogs. Being a blogger means spending time online, and there’s no way to avoid interacting with technology.
Now that wouldn’t be so bad, but as we all know, 2 things are always true about technology:
- It’s changing
- It doesn’t always work
Taken together, you can see that as a successful blogger, you’ll be dealing with a shifting landscape of software tools and platforms, products that sometimes create as many problems as they solve, and you’ll need to confront your own willingness (or unwillingness) to deal with all this technology yourself.
Right now on this blog I’ve got the following technology on board:
- The WordPress platform that powers the blog software I use
- A blog theme from another vendor that interfaces with WordPress
- Over 30 WordPress “plugins” (or small pieces of utility software) from as many different vendors that each supply a specific function to the blog
- A hosting account with a large company that functions as my Internet Service Provider
- A mail list account with a mailing list company
- Blog distribution software from Google that fills subscribers requests
I could go on, but I think you get the point. All this software has to work together and do what it’s supposed to. But that doesn’t always happen.
As you build your blog you don’t realize just how deep into technology you’re getting, until the day your ISP goes down and your site is offline for 8 hours.
Or when you upgrade to the latest version of one piece of software (usually a good idea, by the way) and find out you’ve just “broken” some other piece of software that relies on the first.
These technical problems never end, and blogging is a good way to see that despite the popularity of the internet for commerce and culture, a lot of it is still in the “hobbyist” phase.
Tips: There’s no way to avoid technology as a successful blogger, so your best bet is to be careful about the decisions you make:
- Wait to see how new versions of software work for others before you unconsciously hit the “upgrade” button.
- Always have an account and a working relationship with a real blog technician—you’ll be calling on him more than you might think.
- Deal with reputable companies as much as possible. You want ones that have real customer support you can reach out to when the time comes.
For most bloggers “being successful” translates into having lots of readers and subscribers, right? This attracts the attention of people with products or services that might be appropriate for your readers, but who don’t have an audience of their own yet.
One day you’ll open your email inbox to discover an email or a contact form message (you have a contact form on your site, right? Smart.) from someone who wants to make use of the trust and rapport you’ve built with your readers.
Because they know that means you can sell (their) products to your audience. Simple.
And many of these offers that are pitched to you may sound attractive. Like most bloggers, I feel that it’s part of my job to bring great tools and services to the attention of readers, who likely have a lot of other things on their minds.
In some cases these are free tools, in others there’s a cost involved. Part of the way people make a living online is by creating joint ventures where people combine their talents and audience to promote a specific product or service, and each makes part of the profit from the promotion.
I do this myself quite often, and partner with other people who have nifty, useful, time-saving products or services. On the other side, I develop a lot of book-related author tools myself, and partner with others to make more people aware of them.
Well, that all sounds fine and dandy. But what happens when you start getting 2 or 3 of these pitches a week? Or 2 or 3 a day? How could you possibly evaluate them all? And remember, these entrepreneurs and marketers aren’t asking your permission, they just ask.
The answer is that you can’t do them all justice, and this adds quite a bit of stress to your everyday blog operations. Getting requests like:
- “Can you have a look at my new (book concept/website offering a service/new app) and let me know if you think it will make money?”
- “I’d like to sell to your list. Let’s make a phone appointment and brainstorm some product ideas that will work!”
- “My (website/service/product) is still in ‘beta’ but I’d love to have you as a tester. Can you hop over to (link to site) and give it a try?”
is bound to sidetrack you from making progress on your own goals.
Tips: Learn to recognize when an offer is likely to be nothing more than a gigantic waste of time, or where marketers are simply trying to pick your brain and use the results for their own ends. If you’re trying to monetize your blog—and I hope you are—start off by only partnering with people you already know and trust. There’s a lot to learn when you start marketing online, and “hooking up” with just anyone who keeps badgering you and promising all kinds of big results is likely to end badly.
Have you gotten to the point yet where you start to feel you’ve “run dry” on your topic? That it’s all been said so many times in so many ways, any more would be pointless?
I feel your pain. Keeping enthusiastic about your subject and your blog is easy at the beginning. The newness of it all is its own reward.
But a couple of years down the road things may start to look very different. And if you’re like most bloggers who end up with a successful site, you’ll be dealing with all these other issues on a daily basis.
Stuff like technical challenges and upgrades, bad behavior from commenters on your blog, filtering through hundreds of contact emails and trying to winnow the heat from the chaff can all sap that enthusiasm you had in the early days.
Burnout in the blogosphere is real and may account for a high percentage of the deserted, abandoned blogs that lie at the end of innumerable links that look promising on the surface.
And if your efforts to monetize your blog haven’t gone well, it can be doubly depressing. All this work, all these readers, and nothing for me? It would be tough for anyone to keep going.
But it doesn’t have to be that way:
Tips: If you want to keep serving the community in which you blog, you have to find a way to keep engaged in the work you do. Blogging, even if you only post an article a couple of times a week, requires a real, long-term commitment. Here are some ideas that may work for you:
- Invite guest authors to fill some of the slots in your editorial calendar. This can give you a much-needed break, and bring fresh energy to your blog.
- Change your publishing schedule to accommodate your own inclinations. If you’ve been blogging 3 times each week, cut back to 2 and see if the smaller writing commitment brings back some of your “juice.”
- Browse through your “Drafts” folder. (I’ve got 216 at the moment.) Many of these represent articles you began, or thought about writing, and one of them can stimulate you anew.
- Turn off the computer and go do something else. Some of the best and most invigorating ideas for blog posts come from mashing together lessons you’ve learned in another field, applied to the topic you write about.
- Brainstorm by yourself or with a friend. My favorite way to do this is with mind maps, and I’ve written about how you can use them to create an endless stream of blog post ideas.
- Read a magazine, newspaper, or book on your topic. Other writers are constantly stimulating us with their own take on things, so expose yourself to lots of input.
7. Life itself
Last, but certainly not least, is life itself. The constant stream of events and life changes that we never see coming can wreck havoc with even established blogs.
Illness can sideline you for weeks or months. What will happen to your blog then? Even illness of a close family member can drive you offline to tend to other responsibilities.
And happy events can be disruptive, too. You might be offered a rare opportunity, but it means spending the next year in a third-world country with spotty internet service. Or you could be promoted to a job with longer hours and more responsibility, seriously compromising the time you have available for your blog.
Getting married, welcoming a new baby to your family, natural disasters that take down your power grid for a while, the list goes on and on. We have a town in California where there’s been no tap water for 5 months. Think that would put a crimp in your editorial schedule?
It’s easy to be philosophic about events like these when they aren’t happening to you. Much tougher to maintain your poise and decision-making abilities when there’s chaos all around.
Of course, none of us knows exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow, or whether we’ll be able to overcome all the obstacles that could potentially rise up in front of us, unexpected.
Perhaps all of us committed bloggers should be meditating 20 minutes every day, just to acquire the equanimity to deal with the server meltdowns, comment trolls, shifting technology, and endless pitches we deal with quite outside the actual work of writing articles and maintaining our blog.
Tips: This is a tough one, and hard to prepare for. But it’s one of the main reasons I’ve had a virtual assistant with all the “keys to the kingdom” for years.
In a pinch, there’s someone else who can make sure my blog stays online and on target to serve its community of readers. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your community when you’re in need of help. You may be surprised at the response you get.
After all, as a successful blogger, you’ve found a powerful way to address the unmet needs of hundreds or thousands of readers. They’ve gained important insight, education, or entertainment from the work you do. Gratitude is a strong motivator, and having given a lot to your community, it’s likely that there are poeple would be delighted with the opportunity to give back.
Well, that’s my list. If you’ve got a blog you consider a success, what obstacles have you run into that arise from your own success? How did you deal with them? Let me know in the comments.