By Tiffany Monhollon
The challenges of holding down a full time gig while maintaining a professional presence are no small feat. In fact, in reality, it’s more like holding down two jobs, although one may not pay the same way the other does (if at all). Being a successful blogger requires time, creativity, and consistency. And if you’re maintaining a presence elsewhere – like on Facebook or Twitter, the amount of time you spend online can become overwhelming. But that’s no need to give up. Realize that, whether or not it’s on your resume as such, blogging is a job, and start to think about it that way.
As you’re thinking about your goals for your blog this year (or month, or quarter), think about your blog like the job it really is. Use these seven steps to help you along the way.
1 - First, write a job description. Want to know what it takes to be a great blogger? There are countless formulas and definitions of excellent blogging, but before you sign on to someone else’s ideal, first, ask yourself what a great blogger is. Sit down and write a brief job description for blogging on your site, as though you were going to advertise out the position. Include at least three things:
- Basic functions. Give an overview of all the tasks and projects performed on a regular basis. Include everything you can think of, such as research, writing, promotion, social networking, content management, etc.
- Qualifications. What skills and experience are necessary to blog in your niche?
- Organization overview. If you were going to source out the content of your blog, one of the most critical things you’d include in the job description is an overview of your blog itself. What do you want to write about? What’s your purpose or mission statement? Who is your ideal reader? If you don’t already know the answer to these questions, take some time to answer them. This will give you clarity and direction as you look at taking on the next steps in the process.
Taking time to write a basic job description for your blogging will give you a better feel for exactly what you expect of yourself as a blogger and help you define your niche. It will also give you a better idea of the amount of time you need to invest in your own blogging efforts to get everything accomplished.
But it has another added bonus, one that can help your career: a perfectly summarized description of what you do on your blog is a perfect start for adding your blog to your resume.
2. Interview yourself for the position. Now that you know what you think it takes to be a blogger, take a few minutes to mentally interview yourself for the standards you’ve set. You don’t have to talk to yourself out loud – but if that works for you, go for it. Write out your answers if that makes you feel more comfortable, or record your answers on your computer so you can play back and watch yourself. Ask yourself classic interview questions such as: What makes you the best candidate for the job? What is your vision for the position? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Why do you want this job?
Though it may sound a little out there, taking the time to interview yourself for the position of blogger on your site is a great exercise that can help you identify your motivators, diagnose challenges you may already have, or simply help you create new energy for your current blog.
3. Create short-term and long-term goals. Hopefully, in the two steps above, you can identify some creative ideas and vision for your blogging efforts. Use this vision to establish at least three long-term goals you have for your blog this year. These could be overall themes or emphases for your blog (or life) – Chris Brogan’s chosen three words to focus on this year. You could do the same.
I’ve been thinking about this, and right now, I like these words: Climb. Tree. Burn. Tree stands for growth and branching out – in relationships, in blogging, in life. Climb would be for exploring – my own tree and maybe other trees. But it’s about interjecting creativity and exploration into my life and work. And burn is the essence of my overall theme for the year – discipline. Burn is for passion, for taking risks, for taking control, and for getting rid of things that don’t matter.
Now, to make these words more than just great sounding ideas, set short-term goals you can complete and measure. For example, I’ll take my word tree and apply it to this blog. Some short-term goals I have are 1) apply a creative re-write to my tagline 2) revise my about page 3) grow my daily readership by posting more than once a month.
4 - Set and follow deadlines. For these short term goals to work and move forward my long-term themes, I have to set deadlines. It may just be me (I’m a very deadline driven person), but I doubt it. Creating deadlines is an important part of any job, so use this technique to help your blog. Set deadlines for your goals. I’m going to accomplish these short-term goals by the end of this quarter (this works for me because my work goals are on a similar calendar). You can also set deadlines for your writing calendar. Here’s an idea, try writing a loose editorial calendar for your blog each month, and then at the end of the quarter, give yourself a bonus if you’ve met your deadlines.
Here’s another secret to having deadlines for your blog: make them functional yet flexible. Try this: set dates that work with your work and your life so you will know when you need to post. This will help you prioritize and give you creative boundaries to propel you forward.
5 - Surround yourself with great co-workers. One of the hardest aspects of blogging is that it’s not just a job, but usually a virtual one. I don’t know about you, but when I’m writing for my blog, it’s much different than when I’m writing for my full-time job. I’m not surrounded by co-workers to bounce ideas off of or have proof my work before it’s published. For me, this is one of the greatest challenges for regularly writing on my blog. But there’s one sure way to make sure this excuse is no longer an issue: find some great virtual co-workers to hold you accountable for your blogging efforts. You can be as informal or formal as you like with this, but I find that a casual e-mail or gchat with a blogging peer can be just the motivator or inspiration I need.
Another great resource for this is Twitter. My Twitter network is purposefully a manageable size and made up of people who are generous and helpful, which is amazing, because when I need feedback or help or creative ideas, or just someone to affirm that I’m not the only one thinking about something, I can turn to my Twitter network and get the feedback I need to move forward.
6 - Use feedback, and follow up. One of the greatest things about blogging is the abundance of regular feedback, in the form of comments, conversation, traffic, and participation with your content. So to improve your blogging, treat comments from readers, network, or Twitter friends like you would feedback from your boss at work. Follow up on suggestions for other content or requests for resources. And if you’re not getting feedback, then ask for it. Try creating polls for your readers or use creative comment-building strategies to encourage readers to engage.
7 - Regularly evaluate your efforts. I was going to title this tip, “have an annual review,” but the performance review process in the workplace is arguably broken, so I won’t put a broken metaphor on this point. Instead, let’s focus on the desired results of a review. Evaluation is an important process in the workplace, and it’s just as valuable when it comes to blogging. So, once every few months, take some time to evaluate your efforts – just like an employer would evaluate his workers. Look at your progress on short-term goals, you vision, meeting deadlines, and feedback you’ve recieved. Be honest with yourself about your strenghts and weaknesses, and consider getting a trusted peer in on the action by giving them a list of things to evaluate you on throughout the year.
If this sounds like work, it is. That’s the point. But remember, it’s work that’s worth it.
Here’s what blogging like a job doesn’t mean: that you have to blog 40 hours a week to make it. That you have to sell ads on your blog for it to be worth your time. That you have to be a consultant or business owner with something to promote other than your ideas. That you have to sacrifice your life and relationships to your blog.
These ideas are already outdated in the workplace, so don’t carry this baggage over to your blog.
Here’s what it does mean: Starting today, you can embrace the freedom and possibility of working for yourself. Realize that your blog is not just any other job. It’s yours.
So treat it like the dream job you want it to be.
By Tiffany Monhollon | January 2, 2009