The Truth About Blogging in 16 Points (AKA: Be Prepared. And It’s Your Life, Pumpkin.)
2. If you do quit your day job, be prepared to scale back your lifestyle. Be prepared to make embarassing adjustments, at least temporarily. (And “temporarily” can be a very long time.) Be prepared to cross yourself before you swipe your debit card for a $4 purchase. Even if you’re not Catholic.
3. I’m not Catholic.
4. If you put yourself out there as an artist, take risks, violate taboos and social conventions, be prepared to be profoundly misunderstood. People really will say nasty shit about you and your work.
5. When I first started out, I interviewed Gretchen Rubin (best-selling author of The Happiness Project) and she gave me advice that I carry with me every day. She said, and I’m paraphrasing loosely, because I cocked up the recording (this tells you about my tech skills: darling, I am no online wunderkind),
Resist the temptation to be snarky. Remember that the people you write about are real people with real feelings and the world is small. One day you’ll be at a convention and you’ll be introduced to the person you said such-and-such about, and you’ll wonder: does she know what I wrote? And yes, she does. Because we all have Google Alerts set for our names.
6. Set a Google Alert for your name.
7. Try not to take what they say personally. Bastards.
8. Seriously, sometimes people – even The Bastards – fuck up. Sometimes they do and say mean things without necessarily being terrible people. They – we – forget ourselves and our home training. We forget to let Gretchen Rubin be our Jiminy Cricket. We forget #5. When I first started out, another blogger mocked me fairly successfully and comprehensively. I responded light-heartedly, with humor. I charmed him. We became friends. He’s not actually an asshole. He just plays one online.
9. If you take on this entrepreneurial gig (and darling, if you’re an artist, you’ve GOT to be an entrepreneur), be prepared to be scared all the time. All this “overcoming fear” is bullshit. Fear is part of our human hardwiring. It will shadow you wherever you go…especially if you go to a place where you’re not sure how the mortgage or rent will get paid.
10. I know people going out on their own and going broke. I know people taking the same risk and being rewarded for it. But the truth is, I don’t personally know anyone who makes money from blogging. I have a blog. My blog doesn’t make any money. I make money by writing marketing copy – case studies, corporate profiles, biographies, web sites – and by teaching people how to write. Some of my teaching is done online. Some of it is done in person. No seller really “makes money online”, just as no seller makes money from a retail space. The business is the business. The venue – physical, virtual – is the home for the business.
11. Actually, maybe I do make money from blogging. Sometimes corporations and businesses hire me to ghost-write blogs. I get paid for that, so technically speaking I do make money from blogging. Just not from my own blog.
12. I digress.
13. Confession: I’m not a particularly good entrepreneur. I’m not terribly interested in business or selling. I’m a pretty good writer and I’m becoming a better writer, and along the way to being a much better writer I sell my writing services and teach people how to improve their writing. I could do that out of an office or a university class room. I could go to networking events with business cards. Instead, I write and post pieces on my blog. People who like my work hire me to write for them or to teach them how to write. There’s no special secret to it. There are lots of learnings and techniques you pick up along the way. If you’ve got a lot of time and inclination, you can figure it all out yourself. Everything you need to know is out there, online, for free. You just have to spend the time finding it, reading it, trying it, applying it. One of my friends – an indie film director – told me that you can’t triangulate productivity. You can do something something fast, cheap, or well but you cannot simultaneously satisfy all three criteria. If you want to do it fast and cheap, you sacrifice “well”. You can do it fast and well, but it won’t be cheap. You can do it cheap and well, but it won’t be fast. So if you’ve got time but no money, you can still make it, honey. Or if you’ve got some money but not a lot of time, you hire people to help, either with advice or services. And so on.
14. There’s no guarantee you’ll make any money at your thing, whatever that thing is. There are months – not very many of them – that I make $9 or $10K. One month – one! – I made $11K and change. Some months I make $1-2K. There are more months on the low end of the scale than the high end, and for the most part that’s okay with me. It’s what I chose. I get by not because I’m killing it, financially, but because I scaled back my lifestyle (remember #2?) and because I’m disciplined and scared enough to save the proceeds from the big months to cover the tiny ones. I probably could make more money if I spent more time hustling but I’m just not so inclined. I’m not out to be a business savant. I’m here to write. Everything I do to make money is about keeping me consistently fed and sheltered so I can keep writing. One day I’m going to be a pretty good writer.
15. Ultimately, my goal isn’t to get rich by making money online (that much is already obvious, yes?). I just wanna be a writer. This platform building thang is about building an audience and a community so people will read my work, and about writing regularly. Having a blog is a writing practice. The copywriting and teaching is how I pay the bills while I’m honing my craft, becoming a better writer, and making inroads into the publishing world. Blogging isn’t only about content marketing – I’ve publicly taken issue with that model – it can be about developing as a person and as an artist. Blogging doesn’t have to make you a dime to be a worthwhile and transformative practice.
16. Do what you want to do. Don’t listen to me. This is your life, darling. You’ve got to make sure you’re happy with how you’re living it.