Blog as a business card
Ok, that’s the short answer to “Should I blog?”. The next question is: What do you have to lose?
Answer: Nothing. Instead you’ll be able to:
Explore ideas that interest you.
Get known for certain topics or expertise.
Have a testing ground for different ideas.
Create a community for like minded people.
Give people a portal to discover you. And maybe even hire you!
Build a support group of people you can turn to when you have questions.
Ok, the list goes on and on and on…
By this point you’re probably thinking, “but I don’t have time.”
My question(s) for you: Why not make time? What are your priorities? What are you doing now vs. what do you want to be doing?
I know you’re thinking, “But who will actually read what I write?”
My answer? Who cares! You won’t know until you try. But first you have to start.
Ask yourself these questions along the way:
Is this something I’m actually enjoying? (If not, try a different approach. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Work doesn’t always have to feel like work. It can be fun and satisfying too.)
Am I creating content in a particular way just because everyone else is? (Reminder: there’s no rule book to social media and blogging. Besides, rules are meant to be broken!)
What content can I create that can help others / answer questions I get asked all the time / that will save me time in the long run / that will help me get to where I want to be?
“But traffic and numbers” you say!
Bah, I say. Don’t listen to the gurus and marketing “experts”. Times are changing and their end goals are not the same end goals as yours. What are you goals by the way?
”Ok, ok. But I want to write about X, but then that means I also have to write about X, Z, and P too".”
In fact, I’d argue that niche blogs are some of the most interesting. Because they’re not trying to do everything, they do what they do better. You know what you’re going to get, but still there’s room for surprises. In fact, we can learn a lot from niche blogs to help create our own focus. For instance, for Prêt à Voyager, here are my unofficial guidelines I created that help determine what kind of posts I should share:
Encourages travel from different perspectives
Shares a unique experience, or a different view of Paris (not cliché)
Celebrates an interesting travel or design related projects with a compelling story worth sharing
Highlights creatives and people doing “interesting” things (not mainstream)
Connect the dots between ideas
Some posts may fulfil a few of these guidelines, but others may just be one. If it’s outside of these guidelines, it’s most likely not the right fit, or I need to rethink the spin. Or maybe I post it on my Medium channel, or business blog, or make it a long caption on Instagram. Anyway, it’s my list, and my blog, so I can do what I want. I can also update, refine, and revise as needed. We’re not carving anything in stone these days. It’s the internet. It’s editable. It’s also natural that, like any project, it will evolve over time. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather evolve over time than feeling stuck doing one thing.
When you break it down, my blog is ultimately about a lot of different things. It’s also very me. Not all blogs have to have the person injected into them, but personally, it’s what I’m most drawn to. I always want to know the story of the person behind what I’m reading or seeing. I find it enhances it. We may live in a bubble that makes it feel like everyone knows everything we know, but that’s not the case. And there’s a much wider world beyond our bubble.
Which brings us to your next concern, “But there are so many bloggers already writing about [ ______]”.
Let’s fill in the blank with Paris. OMG, there are SO MANY Paris bloggers. But also they all have their own twist and their own story. My blog isn’t designed to appeal to every kind of person coming to Paris. I’m creating content that I hope will appeal to “my kind of traveler.” For me, that’s no one particular archetype, but rather, a particular way of seeing. After all my mantra is “travel is not about where you go, but how you see the world.” That phrase alone also serves as a guiding force for what I write about.
Before you can butt in getting too into your head, let’s examine some other benefits of blogging in the form of awesome opportunities. Thanks to my blog, I’ve gotten to:
Make an awesome Paris Small Shops map with Herb Lester, a really cool independent business in London making awesome products.
Fly down to Nice x2 to work on a project at La Pichoune (aka Julia Child’s house)!
Give a storytelling workshop to a big room of Louis Vuitton employees. (I’m definitely not luxury but they specifically hired me for my “travel” side! I know. I was just as shocked as you, but we loved working together.)
Travel to Copenhagen where I got to meet some of the most fun bloggers who are dear friends to this day.
Visit Puglia and Williamsburg on exciting press trips (that valued bloggers).
Speak at conferences (The Hive and Blogtacular).
Consult with rad independent creative types and some of my favorite companies who do work I love and respect.
Feature tons of people on my blog who have not only gone on to do awesome things, but many of them I consider friends! We’re all also each other’s cheerleaders and unofficial business coaches.
And this is just the short list! I didn’t set out to do any of this. It just happened. I was open to opportunity. I was patient along the way. But now I’m in a position where if I want to pitch ideas, I’m legit. I’ve always said my blog is my best business card.
Compared to your blog that doesn’t exist yet or you haven’t posted on for two years, yes I have a bigger following than you, but in the grand scheme of the internet, my blog is peanuts. But still, all this awesome stuff happened.
Want to know why it happened? It wasn’t because I said, “I want to get invited on cool trips, so I’m going to create posts about travel.” It was because I created content I wanted to write, that I believed in, and that I thought may interest or inspire others. There was no other ulterior motive. I stuck to my guns, and it paid off. But let’s remember it didn’t happen over night. It takes time. You have to plant seeds now, that will pay off later. You also need to tend to these seeds and nurture them over time.
So that example I gave in the beginning of the last paragraph was actually a fake out. Getting invited on press trips was fun for awhile, but the reality is often I was not paid, missed a couple days of work (where I could get paid), and lose even more time (often days) having to create the content to post online. Just because something looks amazing on the outside, remember there’s often a flip side. Here’s a little secret: what you see on the internet doesn’t tell you the full story or the reality behind what you see.
I went quiet on my blog for a few years — I focused my energy and time into work that paid my bills and kept a roof over my head. That’s fine. Priorities change. I’m only now realizing that my blog also can be a driver to my business – attracting those dream clients, whether it’s for tours, consulting, or something I don’t know that’s out there just yet. Don’t get lost in someone else’s dream. Take the time to figure out what success looks like for you. It’s not always an easy answer.
Who cares about tons of traffic if that traffic is not “my people.” I’d rather connect with a smaller group than the masses anyway. I’m an introvert at the core after all.
I’ve always loved the mantra, “show, don’t tell.” That’s what your blog does — it shows people what you do best. Rather than saying “I know how to [x]” you literally are showing you know what’s up, while also going way further, sharing your ideas and perspective along the way. But it also shows something else beyond your skills. It highlights your work ethic. These posts didn’t just happen magically. It took time to think about them, write them, share them, and promote them. It may seem like common sense to many of us, but for so many people it’s not so obvious. And they may have budgets and want to hire you to do what you do. Yes, people may actually want to pay you one day. Just be sure they pay you in money, and not only exposure. Save exposure to help support fellow creative friends or organizations you believe in; not companies that don’t value your expertise or time.
But getting paid to do the kind of work you blog about may not be your end goal. You may just want to blog for fun or as a distraction from your day job (that’s how I started). You don’t have to have it all figured out when you start. Blogs can be great for exploration, trying new things, and putting it out into the world. You can discover what you enjoy, but also what resonates with others. And if you do want to get paid for your blog keep in mind that there are other ways to monetize other than ads and sponsored posts. For me, my blog is my “freemium” model, and I have my tours as my paid model. Either way. You’re going to have to build your base and audience before you can make you blog your full time gig. But that’s great, overnight success stories are over-rated, because this way it also you more time to test ideas and figure out what exactly you want to be doing and working towards. Maybe you’ll realize what you thought you wanted to do isn’t at all what you expected. Blogs seriously are the best testing ground. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather “fail early” than when I’m stuck and in to deep. (That’s the UX-er in me talking again! But that’s for another post…)
~ T I M E W A R P ~
Oh, so you started blogging [again]?!? That’s awesome! Just don’t forget to share it. You never know who may see the work you do. And there are so many people who would love to discover it, if only they knew you existed. . . Self-promotion can feel like a slog, but not if you enjoy what your doing. You can have fun with it. Have a reason to reach out to the people you admire. You’ve got your new “business card” to back you up. You won’t know what their response will be (or if they’ll respond at all), but at least you know you asked. Play it right and awesome things can happen. Break the “rules” that you’ve told yourself about “the way things are done”. Observe what your favorite creatives are doing and see what you can do to adapt them to your own style. Think about it as putting what you do out into the world and seeing what sticks. Have fun with it, because, why not!?!?!
Still feeling stuck? Check out Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work: 10 ways to share your work and get discovered. He also has a new one called Keep Going: a guide to staying creative in chaotic times.
So I know you thought I was writing this post for you, but the reality is that it’s also a pep talk for myself. We all lose our way at times, but now I’m coming back to what I know, but with a refreshed twist. I realized to truly be able to do some of the projects I want to do, I need my community and my people as support. But first, I need to keep sharing ideas and putting my work out into the world. I’m figuring it out and exploring new ideas as I go.
Success takes time. This is 11 years of work behind the scenes. Start now. It will help you later. You won’t know what’s possible until you start…
Ok, now it’s your turn. Where are you feeling stuck? What’s holding you back? Don’t be shy. Share them in the comments below.
You can also find me online at Pret-a-voyager.com and on social media at @pretavoyager on Twitter and Instagram (aka my “microblog”). Sign up for my newsletter exploring the intersection of travel, design, and creative entrepreneurship where I’ll be exploring more ideas that may just become blog posts one day!